Published: January 11th 2010December 30th 2009
Our refuge from the mad mad world of Marrakech the Toulousain hotel.
What a wonderful, crazy place to spend Christmas, The Toulousain hotel just off Mohamed 5th Ave was my base. The room was adequate and very clean and breakfast was good, they sorted a garage for my bike and recommended a hire car company that did me a decent deal after negotiation. All that was left was to be joined by my family, hmmm Ryan Air and a little snow meant that they lost three nights sleeping in the airport rather than dancing the night away here, when they did make it we headed off to Ouzerzate for a night with Peter at his Bikersrest B&B, on the way came across a broken down car, gave the guy a lift and he in turn gave us some songs of the Sahara, was about 25km so its a good job they go on a bit! On arrival at his home his father gives us mint tea and a insight into a proper Berber dwelling. Next day we headed for the Todra Gorge to stay in a cave, Kitty thought i was pulling her leg, but true to my word we stayed in a cave, was incredibly nice and warm, lit
Kitty gets Henna
Food stalls, snake charmers, storytellers, henna artists, monkeys, acrobats, medicine men, jugglers, ...all at Djamaa El Fna - Square
by candles and an experience not to be missed.
After the confines of a cave I thought the open spaces of the desert might be in order so we visited the Erg Chebbi and Kitty got her first taste of the wide open spaces of a desert not to mention more sand than you can shake a stick at. On the way back to Marrakech, just to round things off we stayed in a mud brick house in the mountains.
After their short stay and a little peek at Moroccan life they headed home and left me too it again, I got on the bike and headed to Rabat, overshot a bit and stayed in Tanger. Caught a ferry the next day to Tarifa and spent the night in the horseshoe pub in Gibralter, a little bit of Britain in Spain, very odd as were many of the people I met there that night. Headed for Seville the next day as I just thought it may be nice, found my way to the Hostal Villa Cabreros in a little village called Los Corrales and set myself to see in the new year.
What an interesting time.........
the old souk that is just off the Djamaa El Fna - Square
have had just lately, my stay at Los Corrales was bought to a close on the 2nd of January with an early departure from Seville to Valencia where Billy was on his way down to from the UK, taking the last of the Portsmouth to Bilbao ferries.
The New Year festivities in Seville were very low key but very nice all the same, went shopping with a lady from Belgium in the morning and in the afternoon was joined by a Dutch couple, she being a radio journalist. Was a little embarrassed when a cake was unveiled with candles on, but I very much appreciated the nice thoughts...it was my birthday, which they had noticed whilst I was booking in! A small headache in the morning ! and the rest of the day spent relaxing and preparing the bike for the ride north. Valencia was found and me and billy arrived with an hour of each other after both travelling around 750km in the day.Was a nice place right of the doorstep of the Celeste race circuit that holds the end of season MotoGP. The people were friendly and the self contained bungalow was nice.
From there we went to
sugar and spice and all things nice
ahhhh the smell, can imagine it now, close my eyes and inhale, takes me back in an instant.
Had a ride and a walk around Las Ramblas area and the center of town, and then found a hotel on the edge of town. Very tired but enjoying every moment.
Next day moved onto a little romantic village just into France called Collioure, shame I was spending it with a big fat rugby player who has a flatulence problem.....even so , found a nice place to sleep and a great meal in the port. Although the weather was turning, it drizzled incessantly that evening and rained in the morning, it was still warmish, going from 20oC in Valencia to 10oC in Collioure.That was all to change over the coming days ! We were well aware of the reports coming out of Britain of heavy snow falls and sub zero temperatures during the day. Villareal, near to Bergerac,what a great place this was, rustic ,cosy,friendly with great food and conversation ....will return for sure. Was apprehensive due to the weather forecast, and Billy woke me at an ungodly hour to tell me it was white over, great, went back to sleep and when i looked later it was white over but with frost not snow.Big warming breakfast I
achey achey tooth
Who feels brave or desperate enough to use this dentist
even had porridge...set off in bright sunshine, and very optimistic of reaching le Mans about 450km away. Alas the snow queen had other plans.....4-5 km's the other side of Bergerac only 50km from our starting point, it started snowing, not a little bit, but heavily, within another 5km the roads were white over and like a skating rink where the snow had been compressed by cars,it was getting bad. Trucks and cars were sliding or stuck in ditches, we ambled on slowly trying to ride on the grass verge as it gave slightly more traction than the road, first village we came to we stopped and looked at our options,it would have been foolish to continue as there seemed no respite to the conditions. Found a hotel with a garage and called it a day, this was at a little place called Mussidan, nice but dead, nothing to do, no way of contacting anyone......pray for no more snow this evening and a clear day tomorrow. Not sure if to head for La Rochelle or Le Mans, both north but Le mans in on route, as La Rochelle is west but that also means the weather will be warmer slightly and
Chilling in Marrakech and wondering just how do they make there tea taste so very very nice.
may miss the band of snow over the centre of France.
Later after myself and Billy had caught up on our beauty sleep, we decided to say hello downstairs and grab a beer, only one ! As we wanted a clear head to make what we already knew would be some hard decisions. The bar was warm, the beer oh so nice and cool and the people friendly even if conversation was not flowing as nobody seemed to speak the others language, this included the 3 French guys, one a Breton, one a Corsican and the other out of the local woods. I think you may see where this is going....many beers later we were fluent in whatever language we were singing in, the postman giving a rousing rendition of La Marseillaise, played through his nose (!) which brought tears to our eyes. Can not remember much else but woke with the mother of all hangovers, somehow in my own bed. Stumbled onto my bike and set off into the slushy landscape blindly following the sat-nav north, so much for all the discussions last night. We tramped on determined to make amends for folding under the threat of hypothermia and
The place of Marrakech is just a myriad of alleyways , a great place to get lost and fall upon great people and places to eat.
the real possibility of sliding down the road on ones arse, one town after another came and went, my fingers had long since stopped working but at least I couldn't feel them unlike my feet which seemed to swing between red hot and freezing cold blocks of ice . A grand total of 760 hard km's later we were installed in the Etap hotel at Abbeville, the roads were either packed snow or sheer sheets of ice, the television said it was -6 and we believed it. After a long, long, steaming shower went for a meal and pledged no alcohol, that didn't get past the aperitif stage....we drank and thanked our lucky, lucky stars as to why or how we didnt fall off, I'm still not sure ! If cars and trucks could not stay on the road it was just good fortune that we did.
Next day the weather did not improve,
It was sooo cold. We had 100km to do, should be easy. Done this stretch of road times but this time i was worried, the adage so close yet so far kept coming to mind. We had countless little moments and then with the traffic
Explored Las Ramblas and then other bits of Barcelona, was very nice.
going in the other direction stationary and the weather closing in all the time, meaning if one vehicle made a mistake, lost traction, slid into a barrier, we would all be stuck, we got to the slip for the tunnel and I made the decision to take the earliest opportunity to get back into Britain, this was difficult as we had a free ferry and other bits and bobs courtesy of Norfolkline pledged to us, but safety was paramount, not only for me but I didn't want to be responsible for Billy falling off after he had come all this way to accompany me. We got literally shafted by Eurotunnel and I urge anyone else thinking of using this money grabbing, faceless bureaucratic organisation , DONT PLEASE ,for me. They Knew we were trapped by the weather, they new our situation, I thought I could remember them offering assistance before the off, but instead of helping they were obstructive and even put the fares up as people had no options but to use the service .
Rant over, got back into Blighty and was instantly filled with a sort of regret, I so wanted to take my time on the
Our place of residence just north of Bordeaux , fabulous and i will return.
return leg, calling in on friends I had made earlier in the trip, this made it very bitter sweet as I rode the final few miles home on snow covered roads.
A nice warm drink, wash the bike and try to relax.
It is so strange to think I have nowhere to go tomorrow, no visa deadlines to chase. The people I see, I have seen before !!....This is mostly good ! And I know where I am going (well as much as I ever did ).I think it will take a while to get into a settled routine, but I am already thinking of something else, another challenge, I have to do it. You only live once.
PS If you have enjoyed reading my tales about the trials and tribulations of my journey please remember that this has all been in aid of the Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Rutland Air Ambulance, and if you haven't already done so please pledge whatever you can at the link below, thanks.
There are more photos below