Europe 2006 part 2

21st January Sarlat to Bayonne via Bordeaux
8am off to Bordeaux for lunch and then on to Cambo Les Bains just outside Bayonne for our house for the week. It was a good trip to Bordeaux with no trucks on the road. The city is large and attractive (pop 0.75m with 60k students)
Sat traffic is challenging. Two churches were exceptional, Cathedrale St Andre (15th century), the other one was rich in content, Notre Dame.

The trip south was uneventful with very flat roads, and maybe speeding ticket.
On getting to our destination in the late afternoon we found that our landlords were out until 8pm. So we went back into town
for a walk and then returned. A great place very well furnished and warm. We were both very tired.
22 January Cambo Les Bains near Bayonne
Great morning blue sky and we headed off across the border to Spain for a look.  It was lovely country with sheep, real hills that were brownish shades with green grass.
The typical housing of the area is 3-4 storey buildings, all rather similar in shape, colour and style. And there were plenty of chillies drying on the outside of the houses.
It was a very good initial trip.
23rd January
We needed an early start today as we were driving to Pamplona.  (Andrew had major difficulties still saying this name).  We drove over the Pryenees with some great scenery – a journey of 2.5 hours.  Diesel was noticeably cheaper across border 92c vs 1.03 in France.  Saw woman peeing beside her car 9am, then later saw her stopping at the same service station
-3 degrees most of the way and ice at the summit.
We did some shopping in Pamplona.  Andrew bought a new shirt in the sales and tried to pay with €500 note.  This caused major delays while the supervisor was called and she needed to approve the transaction and organise hundreds of euros change.
We found the Eolo Navarre wine we had so enjoyed in Amsterdam (y2000 whereas AMS was 2001) = at a fraction of the price we had paid in Amsterdam.
We went to Café Iruna to wifi and to enjoy the old fashioned decor. We also had had a morning tea stop at the department store.  The waitress had no English and we no Spanish.  Paula tried to order an expresso, a cappacino and 2 croissants.  Ended up with an orange juice and a cappuccino and the croissants. And for some reason the language of the road signs was more difficult than we had experienced anywhere else.
We drove back to France via another road, which had a few tunnels (one very long) which cut out some of the driving time.  Journey was one hour shorter than going.
24th January around Bayonne
We drove to La Rhune, home of the Petit Train.  The train was closed till March, which we knew, but we wanted to do the walking track.
In the brochure it said 2.5 hours up and 2 hours down.  It was a climb upward with rocks on the trail for footing and surrounded by gorse. Paula did not enjoy this and wanted to turn back after 45 minutes.  Decided to continue and it got better with more grass and the
ability to see the direction of travel.  Good views to the coast and being a clear fine day we had an unimpeded view.
Route had native short horses – Poittock.  They were very calm animals – but they kept one eye on you as you walked past.
Saw a hut at the top for stopping eating etc
After lunch we drove into Bayonne.  Andrew had a talk with a motorcyclist at the lights.  The cyclist had motioned/waved him through, but Andrew thought he was asking a question.  So he wound his window down and said “Don’t understand, Don’t understand”   This left a very
confused motorcyclist thinking the mad Englishman had started a bizarre conversation with him.  Andrew found leg of lamb for dinner €21 for 1.41kg
25th January Wednesday San Sebastion & Bilbao
We drove via the coast road to San Sebastion.  Traffic was absolutely horrific driving into SS, lanes and traffic.  We parked the car and wandered around.  It was an amazing beach and there was a cosmopolitan feel to city.  We can imagine it is a drawcard and overrun in the summer.
Entered old church Iglesia de San Maria del Coro that had a very elaborate façade.  Very wide and open.  Greater breadth than others
seen in France, but the ceiling not so high.  Very light.
Visited the vegetable market and got great broad beans, peas and Brussel sprouts. All very small
Then we headed for Bilboa along the coast, the non-toll road.  There were good views but road was very slow.  1.5 hours to do 45km, so we zipped on to the toll road and whizzed into Bilboa by 2:30pm. On the way the sea side towns we passed were virtual ghost towns, very reliant on the summer season.
Finding a park wasn’t easy and Andrew coped with horrible traffic with aplomb. We were very surprised there was no on site parking.

The Guggenheim Museum was a delight, had a great feel to it.  The audio guide walked us through the ideology of the building in a very
effective and interactive way.  It was built to fit in with the landscape in which it was situated, and to provide spaces for the residents of Bilboa.  With a titanium clad exterior, it was computer designed and robot created.  It was a real feat of engineering.  The space 3200-m sq. was large and welcoming and radiated from the central atrium – the analogy of a heart was used. There were no straight walls.
Curves everywhere.  The flow radiated naturally back to the centre.  This was the 1st Modernist museum for Andrew and he enjoyed the steel sculptures because they were huge, inviting and curving  – some thought provoking pieces.
We drove back via the toll road – 1:45 – much better time!  It was day of horrible traffic – teamwork allowed us to cope with lanes
and directions.  Temp today was 14 degrees after a minus 1 frost in Cambo les Bains.
26th January Thursday drive to Biarritz
We drove down the coast road to Biarritz, another summer coastal town with a beach. Temp about 1. There were surfers enjoying the
water, nutters.  Another 
extraordinary sight was 3 swimmers (one a women) swimming in a small bay with normal togs and caps.
Many of the buildings were obviously locked up and unoccupied.
27th January Friday Cambo
In and around Cambo having a cruisy day. We tried to get a box at the Post Office to send some stuff back to NZ, but only option was courier box – €71! No thanks
28th January Saturday Drive to Tarbes
We went into Bayonne to check the Internet by Wifi, it was freezing cold and we had trouble connecting well but we got the emails sent.
We drove to Tarbes.  There was snow in Southern France which meant that the motorway from Pau to Toulouse was closed so we
had to get off at Pau.  We were intending to take a trip to Lourdes, but the snow on the roads made that too hard and so the plan was abandoned. 


We stopped into a supermarket to pick up wine to take to the French cousins.  Andrew was keen to jump the queue for the
butchery department, because the women were ‘messing around and taking too long” but he showed some sense and decided not to incur their wrath.
We arrived in Tarbes by different route to one we had directions for.  But eventually we found our way by stopping and referring the maps at the a bus shelter.  
Catherine, Barbara & Jeff, Baptiste, and Annie were all there for lunch which was a lovely 5 course simple meal.  

We left Tarbes about 3pm and there was less snow and it was an easy drive down motorway.  we stopped at the butcher in Cambo and got
beautiful beef for dinner then had a walk around Urcaray

29th January Sunday Cambo Les Bains to Soria
It snowed steadily in Cambo early morning, but based on forecasts provided by Phillipe we decided to continue with our plan to drive to Spain.  The snow on the roads to Bayonne made it seem like a bad decision, but once we hit the motorway there were no problems and we could drive easily via Pamplona through to Soria.
The minute we passed Pamplona we were struck by the large number of wind turbines, and wind farms.  In some vistas every ridge had turbines on. The countryside was varied and had a mix of farming and industry.  There is some evidence of people leaving the rural areas due to the number of abandoned dwellings.  We passed one town that had originally been 3 or 4 houses deep but was falling into a ghost town with crumbling stone houses
There was snow on the mountains, but only minor dustings on the roadside –  blue skies and cold, big contrast to where we had come from. Not unlike Central Otago in parts. It is sparsely populated.
It was an easy trip into Soria, where we arranged a meeting with our apartment owner.  After we had installed ourselves we had a brief walk around the town. It is a compact town with plenty of multi story apartment housing.
30th January Monday Soria
In Soria, quiet and cold (1 degree) started with coffee and croissant total for €3.40. We walked the streets, and via internet made
bookings for Madrid on Friday.  We found a great deli when we started off their week with some food and wine. What a great shop, several wines cost more that €100.
We walked about this afternoon, there are many building sites for new apartments and the cranes are all unmanned. Found a shop that was having a sale so brought some gifts, silk scarves, belts, bag, ear rings and a couple of ties for Andrew. We checked out a restaurant ( the lamb looked like it would be special) and they only open at 8.30pm so some planning required to manage the time frame.
31 January Tuesday Soria
Got up later and went back to the Deli we went to yesterday for some of the fantastic ham for lunch (and bread and wine)
We drove to area 25km from Soria, the national park, Cuerda del Pozo.  It was based around a large lake with many arms..  We stopped at a large irrigation dam, then drove up to small village El Royo.  It was still well populated but we were unsure what the economic base for this place would be.
We blindly followed signs to El Castillo, which turned out to have good views and was an ancient abandoned church built ca 16 – 17 th centuries.  It was a good spot for a picnic lunch.  finished by driving around the lake which had low levels at present.

Came back to Soria and posted 2 boxes to NZ of surplus goods
We noted the local practice of posting death notices on the church doors (A4 sheet, standard format) There are large bird nests on chimneys, with equally large birds on top of these nests on many buildings.
1 February Wednesday Soria to Toledo
We left Soria in sunny weather but soon spent almost an hour in fog and behind trucks. –2 degrees. Eventually we lost the fog and could see the flat rolling terrain. There was snow on hills to right and a lot of trucks!
We drove around Madrid via the ring road.  It was initially clear and enjoyable but soon changed to congested traffic conditions,  with multi-faceted roading exits, lanes and traffic intensity.  Drivers are random and conditions were challenging.  Andrew did brilliantly.
Traffic eased as we headed toward Toledo.  Initially we had problems finding the old city.  Eventually we found car park and just walked.  We needed lunch and a big glass of beer to revive us.  We found our hotel got them to show us a driving route.  So we drove through the little winding streets, made more complex by the one way streets and building restoration etc. Large amounts of restoration being undertaken in this city.   Our Hotel Santa Isabella has recently been done and it had an underground carpark for 20 cars – currently used by 2 cars.  Excellent LP recommendation, but low occupancy at moment with a great location in old city.
Went for a walk to orientate.   We then went out for dinner at 9:45.  This was our 2nd restaurant in a week where we were the only people.  The menu looked enticing with reference to 1kg of beef for 2 people, which transpired to be thin slivers of beef, which we had to cook ourselves on a hot stone.  Andrew was certain the weight was only 200g, (maybe 300?) and was a very disappointed man!!!  Soup
was Castilliano, and had a poached egg in the centre.  We wandered in town briefly and saw almost no one.
2 February Thursday Toledo
We woke late – the shutters work well.  We went down to Cathedral about 10:45.  This is the 1st place we have seen tour groups of Asians. So we paced ourselves around, avoiding them.  It was a magnificent space, which was well restored and cleaned.  It reflected the wealth and influence of the Roman Catholic church to have created such a stunning edifice.  The sacristy had a wealth of paintings and included Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s signature (Pope Benedict).
Andrew used his binoculars to observe the detail.

We walked around the old town then headed down to new town.  We found excellent modern craft shops, and a number of gifts were purchased.  Observing local routines we had lunch at restaurant filled with locals (1:30pm) paella, lamb and tortilla.  We walked back toward old town through main shopping area and discovered old roman circus ruins, some still well intact.  Then took an escalator system back up the hill to go visit the Church San Juan.  It was decorated with chains from freed Christians from 14th century.  It sits on hill with great views over countryside.

Walked through Jewish quarter then went back to bar for drink.  On way back to hotel popped into cathedral where service was taking place.  Displayed on TV screens, good sound… Went out for dinner restaurant where there was another couple finishing their meal.  It was nice to see someone except us out.  eating.  We had excellent meal of mushrooms entrée and lamb main

3 February Friday Toledo to Madrid
We got up and went out for breakfast in the excellent little café we had been in yesterday.  Then came back and packed the car.  We headed for Madrid and had a smooth motorway journey down to the city about an hour away.  We had instructions for getting to parking near our apartment but the exit we were supposed to take did not eventuate and we ended up taking an exit further along.  This meant we had no idea where we were on the city map we had.  eventually (and luckily) we managed to get back to where we wanted to be.  Traffic at 11:30 was challenging particularly going around roundabouts where there were no indications of which lanes were straight and which were peeling off.  We did overshoot the desired destination and had some difficulty reversing that error but eventually got to a car park.  We met our landlady and although she spoke no English we got into the apartment and could unpack the car.
Went for a walk around Madrid streets and picked up some lamb for dinner.
4 February Saturday Madrid
We wanted to be away by 9:00am to drop off the car.  Again we had directions to the airport, but needed to follow Peugeot book to
get to drop off point.  This turned out to be more difficult than anticipated.  It was hard to find the small service road and we were not sure of the exact destination.  We accidentally passed the drop off point and when we tried to circle back we ended up totally in the wrong place.  We tried to go back to airport and start again from there but Paula sent us to Terminal 4 of the airport – the new terminal (officially opening tomorrow) which is separate from main body of airport.  Eventually got back to hotel for the drop off 45 minutes late.  Very stressed Andrew.  It was a tense trip back to Madrid via train.
We went to the Prado Museum from the train station.  It was huge, with a large number of Goya and other Spanish artists.  Goya was particularly varied in the style and nature of paintings, including some particularly macabre dark paintings.  We left the museum and went to botantic gardens then briefly visited outside the Real Palace.  Had a drink in the Plaza Mayor, watching people as the last warmth of the afternoon sun disappeared.  Quick trip into El Corte Ingles department store and supermarket.

We went out about midnight to see Madrid at night.  Many restaurants don’t open until 10, so it is a late living city.  In bar after bar we saw people packed in.  A very lively town in the middle of the night.  It is not often you see a traffic jam after midnight.  We got a little lost for a while and ended up walking further than intended, but it was a good excursion to see the town.  The town is cleaned at night with street sweepers and rubbish trucks.  The result is that Madrid is daily a very tidy city.

5 February Sunday Madrid
Got up and went to the Cathedral  for 10:30 service.  Not a lot of people there but more trickled in as the service progressed.  Solo male singer and organ.  We decided not to go to the Royal Palace as originally intended due to the number of people there.  Instead we walked
over to the Salamanca district, one of the high class shopping areas; Gucci stores etc.  However most were not open on the shopping Sunday – but it turned out most stores in town centre were open.  Had coffee outside then walked back to Centrum and did some Internet and shopping.  Champagne and Salmon for starters then great sausages.

6 February Monday Madrid
We finally went to the Real Palace.  There were not many people so delaying one day proved to be a good move.  The palace is no longer used by the royals but was used until not quite recently.  Some great regal, sumptuous rooms that one expects in a palace.  The chapel was a surprise and was very big and lovely.  The armoury contained a magnificent collection of coats of armour for both men and horse and weapons.  Had a walk in the small royal gardens.  Did some wandering after lunch in shops and Internet. Found a great restaurant, excellent value, really enjoyed it.
7 February Tuesday Madrid
Visited the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum in the morning.  Great collection of paintings (perhaps more enjoyable than the Prado.  Went down
to the Naval museum but it was 13:30 and it closed at 14:00.  Walked to the museum gift shop when we made some purchases. Unable to find easyjet’s bus station for tomorrow, thus decided to go to the airport by metro. Went back to the same restaurant as last night. Excellent meal.
8 February Wednesday Madrid to London
Got on the metro to the Airport this morning, but unfortunately headed in the wrong direction initially but at least we had left in plenty of time.  Easy trip to airport.  Posted some excess books maps etc to NZ.

Flew Easyjet to Gatwick, easy flight & 30 minutes early. Took the Gatwick express train to Victoria.  Dropped the bags at left luggage and walked down to the Strand.  Took District line to Hammersmith. Used Kate’s suggestion for restaurant round the corner

9 February Thursday London
We went to Harrods and around Knightsbridge.  Then to Aspley House, home of the Duke of Wellington.  Great house and interesting to
learn more about the importance of the soldier, statesmen and prime minister.  The funeral very interesting.

We went over to the British Museum to meet Hilly in the caf.  Some confusion about which of the 2 cafés it was, but eventually connected.  Had lunch.  Jo lost her contact lens and went home to get a new pair . Walked around the museum saw the Rosetta Stone, Elgins Marbles and a Thai Suretta.  Andrew, Hilly and Jo did the London Eye (Paula had been before).  Superb experience, a landmark must see experience – equivalent to the Eiffel Tower.  Return to Hammersmith and cooked beef meal.

10 February Friday Cambridge
Andrew went off to Cambridge to see Chazz, regrettably  she was very unwell. He walked around Cambridge with Hilly and then returned to London. Met with Paula then walked through Bond St, Piccadilly, and Jermyn St, Andrew purchased a suit, jacket and some shirts.  Hilly called that Chazzy had died this afternoon.
Met up with Kate and Brad for dinner at Putney and then to a local pub for a beer.
11 Feb Saturday London
Went by bus down Castelnau to the wetlands and then walked along the high street around to 63 Elmbank Gardens. Back to the Coach and Horses pub for a Young’s beer and lunch. Very much a local pub plenty of character. Purchased some bread from the farmers market.  Back to Fra’s easy PM before going to Gillie and Charles Russell in Richmond for dinner.
12 February Sunday London
Phillippa Swiss cottage.  Plan had included the idea for a walk on Hamstead Heath but it rained all day so a good alternative was to
stay inside eat and drink.  Phillippa had cooked a great stew with potato, sugarsnap peas and slow roasted tomato.  Great ripe cheese.
Beautiful apartment, great for one person with high ceilings.  Came back to Hammersmith and had soup for dinner.  (Tescos close at 5 on a Sunday)


13 February Monday London
Lunch at Gordon Ramsay Restaurant at Claridges.  Fantastic room provided a great atmosphere; sounds were muted allowing easy conversation.  Great initial appetizer soup with horseradish = outstanding.  Starter of Cream of Parsnip soup – tasted intensely of parsnip.  Main of Lamb.  Small tender noisettes of lamb (veggies a bit ordinary) followed by desert of Chocolate cake and pear ice-cream

14 February Tuesday London
Went to Sloane Square to look at glass at the William Yeowood shop.  Unfortunately they were moving premises and the shop was not well
stocked and the sales people had next to no interest in dealing with customers.   Had a look at a few shops while walking back to the tube
station.  Decided to go Covent Garden.  Andrew headed off to pick up his altered suit jacket and tweed jacket then went off to Hammersmith to see Fra who had come down for the afternoon.

15  February Wednesday London
It was a morning of culture and a visit to the Tate Modern.  Andrew found this art just a little too challenging and we only flitted through one
floor.  Great venue with the conversion of the old bankside PowerStation.  Walked across the Millennium Bridge to St Pauls.  We walked down to the crypt and climbed the stairs to the whispering gallery and the outside floor.  Really windy up there, but great views.

16 February Thursday London
A wander down Marylebone Road, which had an interesting mix of shops making it a good high street.  Visited the Fromagerie cheese shop
(recommended by Phillippa) then had a pub lunch.  Across from the pub was a fantastic chocolate shop where Andrew over purchased, again exposing his chocolate sweet tooth.  They were enjoyed later in the evening and were fantastic chocs.  Got some boxes from the Post Office for our excess luggage

17 February Friday London
Last day in Europe together.  Andrew got up early and headed off for the funeral in Cambridge.  We met up at Victoria station at 2:30.  Paula off to Gatwick for trip to Dublin.  Andrew off later to Heathrow for trip via Dubai to Christchurch.

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