Canfranc We fancied getting the ferry over to France to go and see Judith's parents, but, for a change, rather than get the ferry to Ouistreham and drive south, we decided to get the ferry to Santander in Spain and drive north.For a few days before we set off there had been reports in the news of a heatwave across Europe, with temperatures up to 45C, so we weren't sure what to expect when we got to Spain.
Portsmouth Friday - The car's external thermometer was saying it was 27.5C out while we were queued up waiting to board the ferry in Portsmouth. But sitting in a metal box for an hour in amongst a mass of other metal boxes absorbing the sun's heat, it felt a fair bit warmer than that.
Spinnaker Tower Still, we were on our way soon enough.P.S. That's not our boat. That's the ferry to the Isle of Wight.
Beer Time for a beer in the bar before we had a lovely dinner. Brittany Ferries certainly know how to cook dinner.
Cloudy Saturday - Got up and went outside expecting to be cooked by the heatwave to discover that it was a) chilly, and b) very overcast and raining gently. Hmmm. Not what I was expecting at all. Still, at least the car wasn't perched on the back of the boat for the 24 hour crossing. It would have been in desperate need of a thorough jet washing after that sort of an ordeal.
Santander Approaching Santander.
Car Deck On the car deck waiting to disembark. When you mainly travel on the Eurotunnel, loading and unloading a ferry does seem like a massive palaver. Still, at least Spanish passport control were only checking about one in ten passports (obviously we were one of the few that got checked), so that helped to speed up departure a bit.
Limpias A short while later we arrived at our overnight stop, the Parador Hotel in Limpias, which was a short 30 miles or so from Santander.
Walking As the hotel's restaurant didn't open until 8:30pm (!!!), we had a couple of hours to kill before dinner so we decided to walk into the village and see what we'd missed the last time we passed through here ten years ago (as we arrived quite late on that occasion). Turns out they've got a lovely riverfront...
Massive Gun ...and this thing that looks like a massive gun.
Massive Gun Yes, that's definitely a massive gun. Seems like a bit of a strange place to find a massive gun.
Fish At one spot in the river, hundreds of these fish had congregated. It seemed strange that no-one was trying to catch them.
Another Massive Gun And then there was another massive gun. This one definitely looked like it was off a ship.
Riverfront Judith by the riverfront.
More Ship Stuff A bit further on there was more ship stuff, but still no signs at all indicating where it was from or why it was here.
River View The river definitely looked like it was tidal. We were only about ten miles from the sea, so that seemed entirely plausible.
More Ship Stuff More ship stuff and still no information. I couldn't even find anything on the internet about it.
River View Another river view.
Riverfront Judith on the riverfront on the way back to the hotel.
Door An interesting door to add to my collection of interesting door photos.
Hotel A short while later we arrived back at our lovely hotel.
Beer There was just time to have our complimentary beer in the hotel's bar before dinner.It had been quite a relaxed start to our drive back to the UK.
Sun's Out! Sunday - Sunday morning and the sun was well and truly out, with not a hint of a cloud in the sky. Time for breakfast before hitting the road.
Puerto de los Tornos We decided to try to stay off the motorways a bit (although we had quite a long way to go today, so we would likely need to use them later at some point) and headed south into the hills.The scenery was fabulous, but there were few places to stop and take photos, which was a shame.However, there was a view point at Puerto de los Tornos (620m).
Scorchio! It was low 20s when we left Limpias and crept steadily to about 26C as we drove inland, then the next time I glanced at the temperature it was 35C! As the day wore on we would see that creep further up to 40C!!! The last time I was in 40C heat was in Dubai in 2001.We grabbed a quick lunch in a very air-conditioned McDonalds (which was huge relief). But Spanish McDonalds don't have McWraps (which was a huge disappointment)!
Lake Aragon A while later we were driving along the A21 motorway (I said we'd likely need to use the motorways at some point) when it suddenly just ended and a slip road dropped us onto a regular N-road (like a minor A-road in the UK) by what I think was Lake Aragon.Given that the temperature was around 39C by this time, there were a fair few people cooling off in the lake.
Bridge I'm not sure if this bridge was even finished as there didn't seem to be any traffic going over it. It looked pretty impressive though.
Hotel At around 4pm, we arrived at our hotel in Canfranc-Estacion (not be be confused with Canfranc, which is a village a few miles to the south).
Canfranc Estacion This was the reason we'd driven all the way up here into the Pyrenees - to see this enormous abandoned railway station. We were booked onto a guided tour of the station the next day, but that didn't seem to be any reason not to take a few photos of it now.
Canfranc Estacion This is as close to the station as you can get without being on the tour. Only about half of the station is visible in this photo.
Tunnel A short distance away is the tunnel that the trains used to go through from Canfranc to France.
Tunnel Spooky illumination. Can find any information about how long it is though.
Hut I have decided to expand the scope of my door collection to also include this interesting hut, which was just outside the tunnel.
Fort Further up the valley towards France is this fort. I believe it's possible to walk there from Canfranc, but I might not have the time to do that on this flying visit. Maybe next time.
Beer As the sun had gone down a bit and the bottom of the valley became shady, the temperature cooled to a pleasant low-20s. However, it was still nice to get back to the hotel and have a couple of these lovely cold beers (which tasted like lemonade and were only 2% strength so you'd probably be able to drink loads of them before falling over).Time for bed.
Walking Monday - Up early(ish) for a pre-breakfast walk. There appeared to be a lot of hiking trails around Canfranc.
Mirador de Picauve After about 40 minutes I made it to the Mirador de Picauve, which offered a fantastic view down to Canfranc-Estacion
Ruta de los Bunquers The view point is also on the Ruta de los Bunquers, a trail that takes in some well preserved WWII bunkers. Here's one.
Ruta de los Bunquers And here's the entrance to another one.
Bunker View There was a great view up the valley, looking towards France, from the bunker. This would be because they were built to defend Spain from a possible German invasion that never actually happened.
Canfranc-Estacion After breakfast we headed into the village for a tour of the railway station.
Inside It turned out that we were the only non-Spanish people on the tour so we were given headsets to listen to while the guide talked.Here's Judith at the entrance to one of the tunnels that goes under the railway lines to the main station building.
"Tour" Then, much to our disappointment, the "tour" turned out to be standing in this room (the former ticket hall) for thirty minutes while the guide talked and we listened to recordings in English. Then it was back through the tunnel and the tour was over! Good grief! It's a good job it only cost EUR 3 each or I might have been feeling a bit robbed.
Village As we left the station, Judith got a call from her office regarding some technical issue they were experiencing. She had to return to the hotel to logon for a bit to investigate. Doh!
Walking So I decided to go for another walk.
Mysterious Building I passed this mysterious looking building in the woods. It was made of new looing concrete, so I don't think it was very old, but it served no obvious purpose and there were no signs up saying what it was for.
Sign Hmmm. I wonder what that says? Something about falling over?
Ledge Ah, now the sign makes more sense. Don't fall off the tiny ledge. Fortunately the path only continued like this for maybe fifty meters.
Village View Back in the village, Judith had finished working so we decided to head out for a look around.
Fuerte de Coll de Ladrones I thought it might be a nice idea to walk up to the old fort just beyond the north end of the village. There was a great view of the fort from the village, so it seemed likely that there would be a great view of the village from the fort.
Fort It turned out that the trail up to the fort was actually a gravel road and we saw a couple of cars just driving up. We even saw a woman who appeared to be taking her dog for a walk in her car. By which I mean she was driving along while her dog trotted along behind the car. Now that is lazy.
Climber With her eagle eyes, Judith spotted a climber on the cliff below the fort.
Climber Zoomed out, can you still see the climber? (He's about two thirds of the way across the picture and three quarters of the way down.)
Fort We finally made it to the front gate of the fort. Which was shut because the fort is currently privately owned.
Inside the Fort Still, there was nothing stopping me from walking up onto the outer wall of the fort so that I could see inside. It would be good if it's opened at some point because it looks pretty interesting. Apparently it was only built around 1900.
Canfranc View As expected, there was a great view looking south towards Canfranc.
Northern View There was also a pretty good view looking north towards France.
Eagles? There were also loads of these huge birds flying around.Anyway, time to walk back to the hotel for an excellent, and excellent value for money, dinner in the hotel's restaurant.
France Tuesday - It was time to start heading north. First decision was whether to leave Canfranc via the tunnel or the road over the Col de Somport. We decided to take the road over the top. Here we are crossing into France.A while later we picked up a hitchhiker for a bit and a while after that the temperature plunged to 17C and it rained heavily for a bit.
Plage du Cap de l'Homy We headed north west towards the coast. The weather steadily improved and after a couple of hours we reached the Atlantic at Plage du Cap de l'Homy.
Plage du Cap de l'Homy Despite the fact that it was cool (about 21C) and cloudy, there were plenty of people on the beach. This place must be rammed on an August weekend.This was the view looking north.
Plage du Cap de l'Homy And this was the view looking south.As pleasant as it was at Plage du Cap de l'Homy, there wasn't much to do there other than look at the beach and the sea, which we did for a bit before pressing on.
Dune du Pilat About 40 miles north of Plage du Cap de l'Homy is the Dune du Pilat, the largest sand dune in Europe. It's so large there are stairs to the top.
Stairs A view of the stairs from the top of the dune. You can see a long way from up here.
Dune du Pilat Looking south, you can just make out some people playing on the dune.
Dune du Pilat The view along the top of the dune, looking south.
Paragliders I've zoomed in massively on a tiny bit of the previous picture and you can just make out loads of paragliders launching off the dune in the far distance.
Arcachon The view looking north towards Arcachon, where we would be headed shortly to look for our next hotel.
Arcachon Again, zoomed in on a bit of the previous picture, you can just make out the seafront at Arcachon, about six miles away.
Dinner Having checked into our hotel, we went for a walk along the seafront in search of some dinner, which we found in the Grand Cafe Victoria. Excellent pizzas and literally as much complimentary bread as you can eat.
Sunset By the time we'd finished our dinner, it wasn't long until sunset, so we decided to hang around for that.
Room View Wednesday - It was looking nice out. The forecast for the day was 30C and sunny.This was the view from our room, which appeared to be in a fairly residential area.
Promenade After breakfast we decided to brave the heat and go for a walk along the promenade to the marina/harbour.
Marina/Harbour There were very many boats in the marina/harbour.
Iron Man? This is probably how Iron Man got started.
Iron Man? I reckon it was probably harder than it looked. And it looked pretty hard indeed.
Anchor The marina/harbour is pretty big and it took ages to walk to this massive anchor at the end of the marina/harbour wall.
Crabs There were loads and loads of these little crabs all over the harbour wall. How many can you see in this photo? (There are four.)
Beer As a bit of a respite from the heat we popped into the Restaurant Le Santa Maria, which was on the marina/harbour wall, for a beer. These two beauties cost £12!!!
Shock I'm in shock at how much I've just paid for the beer.
Citroen Mehari Before today I'd maybe seen half a dozen of these ever. I saw another half a dozen over the course of the day. They certainly like their Citroen Meharis round here.
No Promenade After our harbour walk we retreated to our air conditioned hotel room for an hour to cool off before heading off along the promenade in the opposite direction to earlier.After about half a mile the promenade ends at this tiny sliver of a beach. Evidently the people at this end of the town are posh enough to have direct access to the beach from their properties without having to navigate the traffic on a promenade.
Basilique Notre-Dame So we detoured inland to the Basilique Notre-Dame, which was pretty standard church configuration, apart from the fact that it was pretty warm inside when we expected to to be quite cool, which was a shame as we could have done with a break from the heat.
Observatoire Saint Cecile A short walk away from the church, through some streets of epic and old looking houses, was the Observatoire Saint Cecile. This also looked epic and old.There was a sign at the bottom saying that no more than eight people were permitted on the observation deck at once, but I don't know how you're supposed to know how many people are already up there when you start the climb.The spiral staircase was very narrow and wobbly as it was just suspended from metal cables. Judith wouldn't go up.
Observatoire Saint Cecile View There was a brilliant view from the top though (and fortunately there were only four other people up there when I arrived).
Cabanes tchanquees de I'ile aux Oiseaux There was also a great view of the Cabanes tchanquees de I'ile aux Oiseaux, which are two buildings on a sandbank (which is submerged by the high tide in this photo) about a mile out into the bay. They are a popular tourist destination, as you can tell by the many boats that are moored around them.
Passerelle Saint-Paul After leaving the Observatoire Saint Cecile we crossed the Passerelle Saint-Paul...
Parc Mauresque ...to the Parc Mauresque, which is a pretty park near the middle of the town. It was quite pleasant and cool under the trees there. It was also quite quiet as most people seemed to have headed for the beach.
Hate Why would someone put a massive sculpture that says "Hate" on the promenade?!
Love Because it's "art" of course. Here's the same photo, but flipped over so that you can see from the other side it says "Love" (I couldn't be bothered to walk round the other side to take another photo from there). It's the "LoveHate" sculpture.
Whale Tail Speaking of sculpture, there's a massive hippie whale tail sculpture thing out in the bay.My phone is telling me that I've walked over 25,000 steps in the scorching heat today so it must be time to retreat to the hotel for another rest and air-conditioned cool down.
Fuel Thursday - We'd driven from home to Portsmouth to catch a ferry, from Santander up into the Pyrenees, then north to Arcachon on the Atlantic coast. Today we were heading north again, but after 523 miles in the scorching sunshine, and with only 60 miles of range left by the time we made it to the outskirts of Bordeaux, it was time to give the car a drink of fuel.
Arrived We had an ineteresting cross-country drive from Bordeaux to Judith's parent's house (where the car kept directing us down roads that didn't seem quite wide enough for normal use, but I guess that's at least partly our own fault for telling the car that we wanted to stay off the mortorways). Here's her car parked outside.
Sunset As I'd taken hardly any photos at all today, I thought I'd best make the effort to walk to the end of the street to try to catch the sunset. Unfortunately I reckon I missed the sun by about 2 minutes. Doh! It's still quite a nice photo though.
Not Going Out Friday - Still scorching hot today so we didn't fancy venturing out far and spent most of the day watching the Wimbledon tennis.
Saint-Sornin Although we did briefly venture out to the winery at Saint-Sornin to buy some wine and support the local economy (and sensibly parked the car in the shade under some trees - not that it seemed to help much when the air temperature was 35C :o(
Thunderstorm It was hard enough getting to sleep in the heat as it was, but at about 03:30 there was a massive thunderstorm that went on for a couple of hours. I took this screenshot from the lightning tracker website at 05:40 and it was still showing 85 lightning strikes a minute in the local area!
Ouistreham Saturday - First day of the French summer holidays today apparently, so we got an early start for our 310 mile drive to the ferry at Ouistreham. Fortunately most of the traffic was going south and we only got stuck for 10-15 minutes around Caen so we arrived in good time for our ferry. First outing on the peage for our new Sanef tag, which, much to our relief, worked splendidly.Got home late on Saturday night.Total distance driven - 995 miles @ 49.1 mpg. Splendid.