November 04, 2003 GMT
Last week in the Algarve

Well it is November the 4th and we are on our last few days of having a home base for a while.

So I will take some time to give a quick overview of Portugal since really for the last 2 weeks we have been drinking and sitting in the sun.....

First of all the North of Portugal is much different from the south. In the north it is the real Portugal, meaning although there are still tourists running around, you know that you are in a different country.

Here in the Algarve you donšt have to speak anything other than English. It really is a resort for the English and the Germans so you feel that you could be in any country that has nice beaches.

Overall I find the Portuguese friendly and easy to deal with. It is cheaper here in Portugal then the other countries we have visisted so far BUT even then with our Canadian dollar it can still be pricey.

Gas is over €1.00 per litre and more like €1.07 once you are in popular areas. Going to the grocery store is your best bet for eating as the restaurants are pricey in the tourist areas unless of course you hit a McDonalds.

The road system on the toll highways are in good condition and you just have to watch the speed of the other drivers and stay out of their way. We were passed when we were doing 120 kms like we were standing still. The side roads and smaller highways do need some work and the road signs are a little confusing to say the least. We also saw the damage done by the fires this summer and there is a lot of cleaning up that will have to be done in those areas.

We have had fair weather during our stay but not the best. We actually had quite a few days of rain and storms off the Atlantic ocean and people are saying that this is not the normal weather for this time of year. We didnšt mind too much since itšs not snowing and doesnšt get below 9 degrees.

The way we ended up getting our 1 bedroom apartment was through a tourist agency in Toronto. So we booked through the internet and phone and payed in Canadian dollars. So we ended up paying €40 per night for this place called Pateo Villiage a new aparthotel in the Algarve. Our private patio is bigger then the living room and kitchen combined which we are calling high luxury but I would say itšs about a 3 star.

During our time here we met some great Canadians also from B.C. so hello Evelyn and Allan. I also dragged Patrick on a BUS TOUR - I know it almost killed him !!, and we met Ken and Deb from Ontario who we will hopefully run into when we head back home next year.

Banking in Portugal is a little tricky. The ATMīs here want a 6 digit pin number not 4 and will only give you €200 euros at a time. In order to master the pin number you put in your pin and hit the continue button. PLEASE NOTE that not all machines like this and if it doesnšt work then try a different machine so that you donšt lose your card.

So we are now trying to figure our route through Spain and southern France in order to get to Italy. We are also doing laundry and sending out the mail to my parents of maps and such get the luggage down to the bare minimum. I also had to buy a thermal undershirt and wool leggings for my motorcycle gear as I was getting quite cold up north.

So next update will be from Spain..........

Posted by Danette Harkness at 01:56 PM GMT
November 17, 2003 GMT
Back to Spain

Today is Monday November 17th and we have been travelling since the 10th from Portugal back into Spain.

We unfortunatly looked at the money we have left and have had to do some re-thinking about the last few months of our route. So we think we are heading along the Med. coast back into Southern France and then into Italy. We are trying to book a Gite de France for a few weeks to get us through the Christmas and New Yearīs holiday season.

For the trip back into Spain though we hit some really great spots. We ended up our first night in a town called Osuna. A very nice town in between the mountains and the sea. The city has a whole street that has been named on of the most beautiful in Europe of orginal archeture. The town is tiny, only about 12,000 people but full of great shopping and nice streets to walk around on.

We end up the next day taking a short drive and heading into Granda for 2 days. We stayed in a one star hostel that was cheap and had an interesting smell and shower system....... anyway.....Granda is a great town. There is lots to do and as it is a bigger city we were able to get on to the internet and get some chores done. The big highlight there was the Alhambra, a must see if you go. It was a muslim castle that sites on the hill side above Granada that is in excellent condition. We spend about 5 hours walking around it and through it. The interesting thing about Granada is where it is located. There are mountains between the city and the Med. sea so it is actually one of the coldest cities in Spain. The Sierra mountains are about 30 kms away and where filled with snow.

It made a beautiful backdrop to the city and are drive out of town.

We moved along the coast for the next few days as we are speeding up the program to get to Southern France. We spent one night in Lorca, another great small spanish town with lots of history and beauty. We had a very long day of riding on Friday. We were headed for a cheaper highway hotel just outside of Valencia. It was about 5 oīclock when we arrived and found out that it was full because of course there is a big convention in Valencia and the whole town is full. Itīs now getting dark, we have driven almost 500 kms and the last 2 hours of that was on a small highway to keep off the toll highway and had us behind, I think, every big truck in Spain.

The cheap hotel directs up back up the highway away from town as there is another hotel there. It is a 3 star hotel that looks very nice and Patrick sends me in to see what they have and the cost. They do have a vacancy - GREAT !! it costs more then a whole days budget - CRAP --- I take the room and the wonderful receptionist takes pitty on me and gives us a big room with the biggest soaker jacuzzi tub you have every seen. I do not tell Patrick how much we are spending and just get him into the room where the mini bar is free and has cold beer in it just for him. We get out of town the next morning and again vow to get off the road by 3:30 as even in the low season you can still get caught with a festival or something.....

We move on and end up in a town called Tarragona. Itīs a great place. We are in a new province of Spain and it is like the towns of Salamenca and San Sebastian. Not quite as beautiful but this town is full of Roman ruins and we have been walking around the town and hitting all of the museums as we go. We will be here for a total of 4 nights as the bike is going in for itīs oil change tomorrow. We think we will be in France by the weekend and hopefull in a spot for a few weeks by the 29th of November.

So far we are not having much trouble commuincating with people here in Spain. People seem to have at least a little english and the tourist bureaux all speak english with no problems. At the hostal we are staying at, we just make hand signals and such and we get along just fine !!

For the motorcycle people reading this the gas is cheaper here then in Portugal and France. We are paying about .88 cents for the Euro 98 (super unleaded). The toll highways are good but uneventful and there doesnīt seem to be a real speed limit. The secondary roads are okay but are not as well sign posted and have a lot of big trucks on them. They are only 2 lane roads so you are either waiting to pass or passing the trucks. We havenīt found any of the small empty roads in Spain yet and I think that is because we have stayed too near the coast.
Overall we have found a big difference in the regions of Spain and find that each are unique and have something interesting to offer.

Anyway thatīs about it for now, Iīm waiting for an email from my Gites de france to see if we can get a place and then itīs off to some more Roman ruins !!!!

Posted by Danette Harkness at 10:02 AM GMT
November 22, 2003 GMT
Vive la France

November 22

Just a quick update today. We are in a town called Perpignan France. We are staying here for 5 nights to get organized and to do some much needed laundry!!

The weather on the ride up was mild and sunny from Spain. We had to go around Barcelona to continue on our way north and that was certainly a scary ride. Everyone was doing at least 130 klm and the trucks were passing each other as well as cars. I closed my eyes and tried not to poke at Patrick as we seemed to be dodging trucks for about 25 minutes....i've aged about 10years.....

We then took a smaller highway that had no tolls to get through to the French boarder. This was a much smaller and slower road so Patrick and I could communicate a little. I was having trouble understanding why there were women standing on the road, I mean it's still a highway. Well they were hookers, I know, I know it begs a whole other set of questions where; who ; why ......

Anyway we made it safely to France and we have booked a Gites de France for 7 weeks just outside of Nice. This should get us through the holiday season and hopefully any really cold weather.

We are now enjoying our coffee and pain de chocolate on the riverfront and planning our next 5 days of travel before we get to our next rest stop which happens on the 29th of November.

Posted by Danette Harkness at 02:09 PM GMT
 


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