Category Archives: Travel

Like Birds

Like birds in September we are heading south.  The ride started cool and grey, and as we headed south it got progressively warmer and sunnier.  We got as far as Bar Sur Aube which all said is pretty good going.

As expected the Shuttle was hassle free and relatively expensive but it is so much faster than a ferry,   We met a few others on the road.  A load of guys on scooters heading to an event in ther Ardennes, and some Harley people off to an event in Normandy.

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Motorways in France are easy, and driving switches to the correct side of the road.  It really was odd being in the UK and being on the left – I’m no longer used to it.  Silly things like setting the mirrors before leaving Swindon and then realising I had a wider view of the curb than needed.

I’m not a fan of dayglow yellow.  Strictly speaking they do not need to be worn, they only must be worn by law if we get off the bike on a highway.  Reality is it’s easier to wear them and not worry about an official being officious.

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Tomorrow we head for the hills near Grenoble.

 

And So It Begins

Yesterday we picked up the bike, a blue Triumph Bonneville America. This was in Swindon, at Blade Triumph.  We really must say a special thanks to Steve who was excellent throughout the purchase and made sure everything needed for the trip to Greece was in place.  A +1 to Steve for excellent customer service.  We were given a good send off, some photos were taken, hopefully we will get copy in due course.

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The ride to London was not the greatest.  Come on England, it’s September not November, it was a chilly 15C at best and with fine drizzle.  It was the sort of drizzle that doesn’t make you wet but the continual forced evaporation adds greatly to the chill factor, so by the time we’d got to Dartford we were well chilled and not in the best sense of that word.

The bike handles really well.  It’s noticably lighter than the Softail so does get blown about a bit more.  It’s got quite long wheel base wise but this is fine.  I like the quick release wind shield, it does the job very well.  The ride position is low, I like that a lot.  The floorboards are fine, the controls all good, it feels and rides very good.  So yes, I’m happy.  It looks pretty good as well.

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We’ve been commuting into London by train, dealing with family matters.  Mostly stressful but now it is all done.  Dartford is good because hotels are inexpensive, the commute is easy and for tomorrow, it’s an easy road trip to Folkestone.  Everything else now done, including hi viz vests for France, a bit of retail therapy, and a bottle of very nice looking Bordeaux for when we get to St. Agnan en Vercors which will not be tomorrow. 

So in the morning we’ll grab a hotel breakfast, coffee and something light and then after packing the bike we hit the road.  Going to do the Shuttle because it is fast and convenient, so all going well we should be in Calais by 12.00 or so.  We shall see how far into France we get, south of Troyes is the plan – weather permitting and the weather looks good.

 

Road Trip

For those who may be interested pretty soon we are going to be starting a road trip.  We are going to blog about it most days, along with photographs, so there will be regular updates here and on facebook.

We will be picking up a Triumph Bonneville America in Swindon and riding it to Lesvos.  It’s going by way of London, we have a few things to attend to before hitting the road, but by 14th we should be well on our way.

There is of course a reason for this apart from the fun of it all.  We find ourselves living partly in Greece and partly in Turkey.  In Turkey there is a good public transport system, this is not the case on Lesvos, so it is in Greece that we need a vehicle.  The Harley is Turkish registered, trying to take it permanently to Greece would be a nightmare we do not even want to think about, so in time we’ll part with the Harley, and the UK registered Triumph will become Greek registered.  We intend to complete the registration process before March of next year, after then things might get more complex and we might as well take full advantage of EU membership while we can.

We will worry about the registration process when we get to Lesvos, there will be paperwork and expenses, but it does not look too hard.  Until then we get all the fun of the road and the delights of France and Italy.  More on this as it unfolds.

 

 

In which we lose our camera… (and other disasters) Though the trip was a lot of fun.

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Towards the end of June, during Bayram, we went to Greece again.  This was a rather mixed adventure. We did, of course, have a wonderful time, but a couple of not very good things happened.

The first day we rode up to Cannakale. A longish ride but, once we got past Izmir, a pleasant one. There’s a really great place right above Assos where we stopped for tea and to admire the view.  Canakkale itself was, as ever, a lively and interesting place to spend an evening. Come morning we headed for the border. There were a load of cars parked up in a sort of queue but we just rode past them. It was very hot and there was a longish wait to get across the border but, really, no hassle. Though being stuck in very hot sunshine for an hour or so was not all that pleasant. Other travelers reported waiting eight hours or more at that crossing so we were lucky.  Once over the border we had a smooth run to Loutra near the Evros Valley and Alexandropolis. Our hotel room was overlooked by a huge tree occupied by a large colony of Spanish sparrows who were a constant source of entertainment.

Dadia-vulturesThe village has three hotels and one restaurant (semi-attached to our hotel). We took several walks around the area seeing bee eaters and a whole load of different raptors, although it was not really the best time of year for birding in the area. We rode over to Dadia forest and walked up to the hide for viewing the vultures. Got some wonderful photos. On our last night, we gave some mosquito repellent to some fellow guests which, somehow or other, led to several bottles of wine, ouzo, cheese and dancing till the early hours.

 

Next morning we headed to Chalkidiki where we had arranged to meet up with some friends from the UK. We had booked a hotel in Afitos which is absolutely lovely.  OK, it’s a holiday resort and totally geared up for tourists, but that has distinct advantages. We found a bar with a wonderful view…

We met up with our friends and had a very good lunch and a long natter. Then it was off to Kerkini.

Well, we love Kerkini. We met up with Vassilis who is an expert on the local wildlife. His nickname is Πελικανος. We took a boat trip with him in the early morning out to the drowned forest and where the pelicans are. We took lots of wonderful photos. We went to where he told us the bee eaters were.  You can see Ashley searching for the bee eaters in the picture below.  We took lots of wonderful photos. We went out to where he told us the rollers were. We didn’t see rollers but…. On the way home we had a luggage malfunction and lost the DSLR. And all the photos. Except the ones I took on the pocket camera.  Which is why there are no high quality photos in this post.

We retraced our steps to the place of the rollers (still saw no rollers) then Ashley went out again on the back of Vassilis’ bike. And they saw rollers (but I was in the hotel with my Kindle).

That, sadly, was not the end of the bad stuff. The bike made a horrible clunk as we were leaving Chalkidiki. And, by the time we got to Kerkini, there was obviously something wrong. Vassilis called in a friend of his who is a mechanic and, between Vassilis, his friend and Ashley, they managed to shorten the clutch cable. But it was not right. When in neutral, the bike kept creeping forwards…

Next day we rode to Kavala. It was very, very hot. We arrived many hours before our ferry was due to sail and sat in a bar, drinking coffee, then in a restaurant where we had a meal. There was a huge air and naval show going on and it was entertaining to watch the jets flying formation and the helicopters making whirlpools around the harbour.  The show continued whilst we queued for the ferry and as we left the harbour on the ferry.

We didn’t have a cabin. We had booked airline seats but the lounge was very noisy so we attempted to sleep in the bar area. Got off the ferry at Lesvos and stayed for three nights at our usual Studios (Shine Studios – really well equipped and tastefully decorated studio apartments with lovely owners, highly recommended) whilst we waited for space on the boat back to Ayvalik. We went to visit the house again. At this point we were waiting for the formalities to be done and the vendor to fix a date to come out to Lesvos to visit the notary together and finalise the sale.

The bike got us to Mytilini, onto the ferry, off again and as far as just before Menemen. At which point Ashley decided it was not safe to ride it any further. We phoned Harley Izmir who were not able to send a recovery vehicle to us till the next day. The guys in the petrol station we stopped in phoned a friend and we got recovered to Harley Izmir.  Not cheap, but necessary and very efficient.

We sat for an hour in the café at Harley Izmir awaiting a diagnosis. It was a broken clutch bearing. Which was replaced and, after about 90 minutes, we were on our way.

There was an incredible amount of traffic on the way out of Izmir (did I mention it was really, really hot?), but it thinned out just before the (toll) motorway. We’d planned to do stuff after we got home but, really… we were pretty totally exhausted. So dinner out then bed.

Rio Lagartos

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Rio Lagartos is really all about the birds.  It’s a small fishing village in a quiet location, with a few hotels and restaurants.  Day trippers come in from all around to hire a boatmen to take them out to see the flamingos.  You really do need to AdolescentBrownPelicanhire a boat to get to see the flamingos.  All the way along the estuary we saw ospreys flying overhead.  And, of course, crocodiles (the Spanish invaders made a mistake as Rio Lagartos is not a river and contains crocodiles, not alligators).  Just strolling by the harbour we saw two kinds of pelicans (brown and white), including this youngster who had bitten off more than it could chew.  Apparently the fish do go down eventually!  There are royal terns all over the boats and cormorants everywhere.

One bar/restaurant where we took to hanging out feeds the humming birds which can be seen coming and going whilst the humans enjoy a beer.  Sadly none of the many photos we took of the hummingbirds came out very well.  It was a very relaxing few days at the end of our trip and the birding was wonderful.

Merida

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Our next stop was Merida.  Where we stayed in the Grand Hotel.  It was very grand and had a chandelier in the bathroom.  It wasn’t particularly expensive but it was highly atmospheric and full of interesting antiques.

Merida is a lively city and there is always something to do.  We booked ourselves onto a guided tour to Uxmal because it is quite difficult to reach independently.  We nearly didn’t go – we had been before and it was not on our ‘essentials’ list.  The site, however, is one of the most spectacular in Mexico.  There were a lot more tourists there than we saw last time we visited (when we had the place pretty much to ourselves) but the reliefs are amazing.  And we saw a great many iguanas.  Oh, and just look at that ball court!

The trip to Uxmal included a stop at a nearby site, Kabah, which was quieter (apart from a local school group) and interesting.

Uxmal-near

 

We experimented further with Margaritas, finding those in Merida much more to our taste and we were fortunate in that our trip coincided with some kind of festival which included a demonstration of Poc ta Poc – the modern incarnation of the Mayan ball game.  There was commentary and explanation in Spanish and English.  And, for some parts of the demonstration, they set the ball on fire.

All in all we were glad to have had time to revisit Merida.

Back to Mexico – Campeche

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Orange Walk and Laminai were last on our ‘must do’ list.  We had an extra three days due to Virgin Atlantic having changed our outbound flight to three days earlier than expected and we had allowed a couple of days in case we had any delays or issues.   So we debated what to do with the last week or so…

Well, there is so much to do in Central America that this was actually quite difficult. In the end we decided to head back to Mexico.  The border crossing was interesting as, apparently, something had not been done or not been charged previously, also the bus which told us it was going right through to Chetumal decided not to go through to Chetumal.  This left us somewhat stranded.  We were encouraged to take a taxi but, in the end, another bus turned up and took us through to Chetumal.

From Chetumal we caught another bus which took us to Campeche.  Campeche is a lovely City.  We had a lot of fun walking up and down the sea front and generally exploring.  We bought a hammock.  It was strange to be in a proper city again.  And we got to visit Ednza.  Occupied from 500-1500 AD it has a particularly wonderful plaza

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and more than it’s fair share of iguanas.

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Campeche has several museums.  One is in the walls and another is in an old fort complete with canons.  That one has some wonderful artifacts, including a jade mask from Calakmul.

 

AMargaritaTimepart from that, Campeche was where we started to experiment with Margaritas.  These are no longer a simple concoction of tequilla, lime, ice and bitters (with salt around the rim) but have come to resemble alcopops.  Unless you are very careful to ask for a classic Margarita.  But we did our experiments in some very spectacular places!