27 March 2008

The last day in Czech!

The last day., originally uploaded by pauldevall.

It doesn't seem that long ago when I packed as much of my stuff as I could in the trailer. Then fitted the Swagmans over the rear seat, fixed the two retaining bungies round the footpegs and grab rail.

Got my bike gear on and then locked up for the last time. Then slowly set off down Sportovní in Zastávka for the last time.

Not too long? July 1993! Christ, it doesn't seem like that long!

Flickr - Pics and Group

It's a year since I started using Flickr to store pictures..... and there are load son there.... but.. what happens when the Internet goes tits up or I get bored?


26 March 2008

Flat Battery! Thing of the past?

For a few weeks I've been using a Maplin solar panel trickle charger. I bought it a while ago and used it with the bike on the drive until I found a cheap 2m wire with BMW plug at one end and a fag lighter socket at the other.

With no power in the garage it seemed like a good idea. Proof in the pudding will be on Saturday when I wheel the bike out and hope to have some charge to get it started!

The one on the Maplin site now is slightly upmarket compared with mine that cost £9.99 as it has a choice of connector, fag lighter plug and crocodile clips; when mine came only with a fag lighter plug. The new £14.99 version comes suction caps to mount it with. I have mine on a pile of bricks outside my garage door and the wire trailing to the bike inside. As it doesn't look too waterproof I have it in a tasteful clear placcy bag.

25 March 2008

Y Viva España - 2009

Oh yes, planning has to start nice for a trip, and early to fill those long and boring days sitting on the train on the way to and from work! I thought I might go to Czech and take part in the 25th Anniversary of the Czech Centre of the SOC, but Spain has always beckoned...

The plan, such as it is, is to go on the long ferry, either Portsmouth/Bilbao or Plymouth/Santander at the end of May covering the Bank Holiday and the school half term. Working in "education" means that it is easier to get a more expensive holiday for that period!

I posted a note on UKGSer's forum to get opinions of the boats and it was pretty much split down the middle. The problem for me is spending two nights on the P&O boat to Bilbao. On the plus side, Pompey is easier to get to than Plymouth!

Places to go? I'd like to take Claire to see the aqueduct at Segovia, the walls of Avilá and the museums of Madrid, like the Prado, the Santiago Bernabeu..... the royal palace...

SOC Kent Centre's Amazon Bookshop

For a number of years the Kent Centre has had a bookshop on Amazon.

If you buy stuff from Amazon you pay whatever, if you buy from the Club's website, you pay the same and the Centre gets a bit of commission. NO skin off your nose and we earn a few pence!

11 March 2008


It's MoT time again. It does seem to come around very quickly nowadays! Things should be okay, the lights and brakes work, and even the horn can be trusted!

A couple of years ago I tested everything, rode to Alford Brothers in Folkestone, and in the test area the horn decided not to work, we squirted some electrical contact stuff int he horn button and still it was dead. I got the fail notice, and feeling very pissed off, rode home. I'd got less than half a mile when some kid ran across the road by the Saga building. Automatic response to stab the horn and it worked.

Straight back to Alfords, they pressed the button and it worked, so it passed. And it has every time I've pressed the button since! Touch wood!

6 March 2008

The National Rally 2008 - 2

The entry card arrived when I was in Spain; entry number 314.

Now we let it lie until the checkpoints are announced.

3 March 2008

Y Viva Espana - Oropesa Day 5


I decided to park in an underground car park opposite the El Corte Ingles store. It makes it much easier when you can follow their signs as well to find where you have left the car! Getting into the city was straight forward with the GPS doing all the hard work for us, Although she did take us past the Valencia CF football ground twice as we had a problem deciphering the directions she was giving us.

The first pic I took was of the bullring at the end of Carrer Colon. Next door is the railway station but its ornate and early Edwardian facade was very hard to get a decent angle on with all the damned traffic!

From here it was a right turn towards the similarly ornate and hard to photograph Correos and then the Town Hall. This is easier to photograph,m even if the guide book is misleading when it says the city's coat of arms is left aloft by two naked females. Not quite what I had expected. The bat is there above the shield as this is in memory of the fact that a bat is supposed to have landed on the helmet of EL Cid before the city was recaptured from the Moorish invaders.

From here we managed not to go in either of the oldest horchateria in the country although we passed them and took a look in. Very austere with white tiled walls and stone floors, just like a few pie and mash shops I know in London!

From here it is a short walk to the cathedral and once again an opportunity for us to have lunch, yep, you guessed it, a boccadillo and cortado, but this time and opening course of a Coca-Light!

Circumnavigating the Cathedral lets you see the different architectural faces and the differences in the doors. Sadly, the cathedral was closed when we were there and so we were denied a chance to glimpse the Holy Grail. We saw the epic film with Monty Python actually looking for it, even Indiana Jones had a look and couldn't find it, and it was in the Cathedral all the time! Apparently, an eminent scientist has done a bit of work on it and to disprove the story that it is indeed the cup that Christ drank from at the last supper; he did various tests to prove that the goblet is pre-Christ's time. So what does that prove? The cafe he was in with the disciples was in fact very frugal and made sure their cutlery and glasses lasted as long as possible! Anyway, until Christ drank out of it is wasn't worth anything. How many million glasses are made each year in the UK, and then some celeb has their lips in the rim and it's suddenly worth a few quid. Why not the same with the Grail?

Once filled with a bit of Christian fervour we decided to make the 60 miles trip back. The car was in a car-park and there were no humans about. In the end to get the right change to fit in the machines I had to buy a couple of ice-creams to get the coins to go in the machine. An expensive day's parking at over €9 for about 4 hours in total.

The drive back was quite uneventful, sticking to the N340 through Vila-Real and all the massive porcelain and ceramics factories, the place where Spain's bogs and sinks are made!

Evening meal? The rest of the lentils and sausages.

Y Viva Espana - Oropesa Day 4

Day 4 - A day in the mountains.

First stop to check we were on the right track was just outside Cabanes, just 14km from the coast. Another "Spanish" village with loads of building of flats on the outskirts, and some at crazy prices. Crazy LOW! Two bed and two bathrooms with underground parking for €93000?!

On the outskirts they have rescued a roman archway and it is now sited in the middle of a new roundabout. It looks as though it could be quite new!

From Cabanes the GPS took us further inland and after a short distance we began to get cold feet about the lack of fuel in the tank. The Panda seems to have quite a small fuel tank and we couldn't find a local petrol station. So we opted to return to the coast, to one of the many stations that line the N340 towards Benicarlo and then tank up, returning across the mountains towards Morella.

Once we had a full tank we let the GPS take us off the N340 and into the mountains. Even up here there is evidence of building with roads being improved and the EU flag showing prominently all over the place on signs saying how many millions of euros had been expended!

We took a detour off the route into Sant Mateu. On the outskirts it was billed as a "national monument" although as we didn't speak Spanish or Catalan it was difficult to see why. I'll check the Internet when I get home I said!

As well as the Cathedral there is a really nice and quiet square. When we arrived it was lunchtime and apart from a few locals most of the bars were closed. Our lunch consisted of a coffee and a bocadillo. Very nice to sit out in the sun even if we both had thin fleeces on!

Once we had eaten we had a walk around the deserted streets, even here a lot of work going on renovating the old buildings in the square and some of the ones in the streets off it. The tourist office was one in question and the handiwork of local carpenters was there to be amazed at. Sadly, too dark to get a decent picture of.

At the end if one street was a still in use communal washing area, and I did take a photo of that.

After that we had a walk back round the outside of the old town walls that can still be seen and decided that as it was getting late we'd head back to the coast and to Peñiscola and this time have a look at the town itself.


Following the signs towards the old town took us along the beach and we decided to park just short of the fishing port.

We arrived just in time to see the boats begin to return after a day at sea and there was quite a lot of horns going off as they raced around the breakwater and into the quayside. From then it was all action as they unloaded the boats and rushed the boxes of fish into the market and the ice store. Some of the smaller stuff was being sold off small tables right by the boats.

From the port we had a walk across to the old town and up through the gates. I imagine this will be very packed in the summer, although the lack of anything even remotely in English may mean that the tourists are Spanish and maybe other Europeans.

The climb up through the narrow streets takes you around the edge of the walled part of the old town overlooking the sea. here and there are watch towers for the guard and above a new lighthouse to replace the old stone faro.

Although not actually the warmest day of the year, it was February after all, it was still mostly thin jumper weather rather than t-shirt weather. We stopped in a little cafe for a drink, Claire having a glass of rosado and me a cortado.

Once we had had a rest we made our way back through a web of small streets and steps back to the port and the car for the last leg of the day's drive out and back to the apartment.

By the time we got home we were a bit peckish, but we had bought stuff in and Claire cooked a rather "special" lentil and sausage concoction. What joy that it would last two days.

Y Viva Espana - Oropesa Day 3

Day 3

As it was Monday we thought that most of the museums etc might be closed as they are in France and so we set off for Castelló (Castellon in Castillian Spanish) to have a look around and maybe have a look in the El Corte Ingles store.

In the end the morning took on an altogether more exciting turn as it was the first day of the Fete of Saint Magdalene. All the shops were shut and the people were out in their thousands in the street, many in traditional dress and many more taking part in a carnival procession through the streets.

We stopped to look and Claire expended a few megabytes on hard drive from the borrowed video camera. I took a few pics of the processions and it reminded me of the carnivals we used to have when I was a kid in Oldham and more recently in Congleton.

Of course as soon as we saw the "Churros and Chocolate" stall we had to stop and have some. Churros is like having a long extruded doughnut and the chocolate is rich and very thick, you can either dunk your churros in it or drink it, or both.

Once we had munched it was time to get back to avoid any further street closures. Driving back on the N340 can be a nightmare as the trucks are all shifting at 100km/h and rarely give any quarter so joining in a small car can be quite a nervy matter.

The apartment we had has a sea view and over looks the gardens they have built along the seafront. In the midst of all the apartment block building this seems a rather strange thing to do. It also provides space for a bandstand/stage and a seating area to watch what is going on.

Most of the seats in the garden are made from patterned mosaics, which is not surprising as the local area's main export is ceramics.

Once back and with the car parked we had a walk around to see what there was to see in the gardens. As well as water, waterfalls and fountains, it is also stocked with huge koi carp. Each of the pond areas is separated from the others by a sort of dam and with the water level being quite low the fish were able to squeeze over the "wall" between ponds. There was quite an audience to watch them when we were there.

Plus there are trees from other parts of Spain and around the Mediterranean.

Y Viva Espana - Oropesa Day 1 & 2

Day 1

Luckily we set off with plenty of time built in to the trip across to Gatwick. Not that I was expecting too many hold-ups on the way, but you never know. In the end it was the car-park that was the stumbling block. I booked the same place we always use, Courtlands, just off the airport itself. Sadly, when we arrived the entrances were all closed up and it was deserted. A quick phone call revealed they had merged with a neighbouring place and the other entrance was in use. Actually easier to find off the roundabout not far from the South Terminal building.

Flight no problems. Easyjet very good and as we were there so early we got to hand in the luggage very early and earn ourselves a chance to get on theplane first. It is all very civilised at Gatwick, not the mad and unseemly scrum that you often get at the Spanish end!

Car hire with http://www.carjet.com/ no problems as usual. At Valencia we had booked the cheapest car available and expected a Ka but in the end got a four door Fiat Panda. Not a bad car as it happens and easily capable of what we needed.

We opted for the A7/AP7 route from the airport to ensure we arrived in Oropesa del Mar in daylight and in time to find the apartment and book-in. As we arrived we found that Marina d'Or is a newish complex of apartments about half a mile north of the main town in a self contained sort of world. Building going on apace still.

Further on were a series of campsites that seemed to be doing good business with the silver vacationers in their motor homes, although the "park it anywhere" brigade were out in some force practically everywhere there was a spot for them to stop.

The first night after booking in we parked the car in the underground car-park and went to a nearby restaurant. Our first calamares and chips was a little different; instead of chips we had patatas bravas and patatas con alio. Very nice.

Day 2

After a bit of a lie in we had breakfast and then had a run out up the coast towards Benicarlo where I have stayed before, twice in fact, at the Parador. The weather was so-so and we arrived in good time to park up and visit the supermarket for a few things and then have a walk round. We decided to have a picnic on the beach.

We called in the Parador to have look and get their brochure full of the hotels across Spain. I was surprised to see I have been to a few more than I remembered as the book triggered the grey cells. The only one I have stayed in twice is the Benicarlo hotel.

On the way back we went along the coast to have a look at Peñiscola, the next town south on the coast and the old town on the end of a promontory.

It was getting a bit windy and we took a few pics before heading off back to the apartment. We thought we'd end up coming back another time, maybe not even on this holiday and having alook around.

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