Where did September go?
Well not sure where September went, but it was a busy month with two of our largest tours back to back. The first was to Croatia and Slovenia, a new area to us, but after going out there last October, knew it was somewhere everybody would enjoy.
There is no doubt it is a long way and the first two days were spent crossing France and Germany to our hotel in Bavaria, here there was a collective sigh as the beer prices returned to a sensible level, the French having done their best to make us all tee-total ! This discussion seemed to follow us throughout the tour and there was positive grins as the price got cheaper and cheaper as we rode into Slovenia and Croatia.
Despite an Umleitung (diversion to you and me) – which some people who shall remain anonymous ignored - (Keith), we soon arrived at our first destination for the day, the Grossglockner. Although a toll road, your money is well spent as you enjoy 48 kilometres of high alpine road with 36 bends, and an altitude ascent to 2,504 metres! Continuing south past Villach we crossed over into Slovenia to a 4 star hotel which would be our home for the next 3 nights.
Our stay here was blessed with perfect weather and everyone enjoyed themselves doing what suited them. I used one of the days to take a circular ride round the Julian Alps, and spent the second, with 20 others, at the amazing Postojna Caves.
The good weather continued as we took the short ride to our next destination in Croatia. Here a 5 star hotel overlooking the Adriatic was to be our base for the next 3 nights. Whilst some of us took the ferry to some neighbouring islands, very little stirred in the garage below, and chilling out by the pool seemed to be the order of the day.
Time to head north, and into the dramatic Dolomite range, despite forecasts of rain we just had a sprinkling, allowing us to enjoy dry roads if not great visibility. Our day finished at a lovely hotel near Innsbruck just before the rain proper, having filtered through what can only be described as the tailback of the century over the Brenner Pass. My fault really I had chosen Sunday thinking there would be few Lorries but forgetting that it was the last day of the holidays! – Something to put in the memory bank!
Our journey continued through the Black Forest to an Ibis hotel, which I will be crossing off my Christmas card list, before arriving for our last night in the Champagne region. From here we bid our farewells as everyone headed to their respective ferry ports.
Keith of Kawasaki GTR1400 fame developed a transmission noise and had to crawl home, thankfully it turned out to be just a rear wheel bearing (apparently a common fault) – I am sure I heard some Bavarian road workers chuckling having watched him ride through their road closure.
We will be repeating this tour next year; however, have tweaked it a little, missing out Croatia to concentrate on Slovenia and the Italian Dolomites. This is no reflection on Croatia; just think it needs a tour on its own!
Another good sized group for our Spain & Portugal Tour, and the sun shone brightly as we set sail from Portsmouth to Santander. The Bay of Biscay was on its best behaviour and we had a good crossing, arriving in Santander as the sun began to fall. Fortunately we had not far to ride and were soon at our hotel and enjoying a drink before a ‘hearty’ Cantabrian meal. Parking was on the hotels function room dance floor, now that’s what you call bike-friendly.
The next day gave everyone chance to see the Picos de Europa for the first time, and it really was at its best with clear blue skies and good visibility. The good weather followed us for our journey across the plains of Castilla Y Leon and everyone arrived at our Portuguese mountainside hotel ready to hit the pool.
Having being there several times before, I was rather shocked to see that the hotel was surrounded by burnt hillside. Portugal is heavily wooded and prone to forest fires, and we were lucky to find our hotel still there as a fire had obviously burnt right up to its boundaries, just a month ago.
The next day everyone headed in different directions, whilst some had a day by the pool, many of us headed for the top of the mountain and its gorgeous roads. These are without exaggeration some of the best roads you will ever ride, and like parts of Spain, you can go for hours without seeing any other vehicles.
The evening saw the staff rather ominously taking in sunbeds as there was word of a storm coming in to break Portugal’s 3 months drought, (how do I do it!) So it was with some relief that we woke the next morning to more sunshine and blue skies. This forecast actually followed us every day, but I am pleased to say apart from a short shower on our return to the Picos, never materialised. Not that the area did not need it, like us, Spain and Portugal have enjoyed a good summer and many reservoirs that are normally full were completely empty.
We had a great ride through the vineyards of the Douro valley with views as far as the eye could see before returning back into the Picos via the lovely cathedral town of Leon. The tour was not without dramas, thankfully nothing serious, more a matter of injured pride and scratched paintwork, a special thanks to all those helped out and made sure everyone completed their holiday.
Due to popular demand this tour will be repeated in 2014, but with better ferry times we will be able to enjoy a two night stay in the Picos de Europa.
Although we have not yet completed our 2013 season, we are already been asked about next year, I understand that many of you have to get your holiday requests in as soon as possible, and so we have decided to depart from tradition and post the tours on the website as we arrange them.
I am pleased to say that we continue to get bookings for our tour of Arizona in April/May next year; however, still have some vacancies. Several people have already paid their tours in full, saving themselves their spending money due to the advantageous pound/Dollar rate at the present time.