Category: Uncategorized

Exploring Galicia – Foz to Razo, and Places in Between

We had a couple of fairly quiet days, with nice walks along the shore trails.

The weather was a bit crappish so we didn’t go far, and never even bothered to get out the bikes.

One morning there was a man that was teaching his son to surf – and the little fellow seemed to like it.

After a couple of days of rest we decided to head a bit inland again, and ended up in an aire at the edge of the lovely village of Castro de Rei.  It even had free electric.

We got parked, then took a walk into the village, where we encountered an elderly couple that were just leaving their garden and crossing the road to their house.  They took a great interest in the dogs, especially Henry.  We managed to converse a bit, even with my very poor spanish, and they were so sweet – wanting to know the doggies names, and also where we were staying.

We then walked back a bit and stopped at the bar to have a drink, and then a couple of very small tapas.  The bill for a really nice glass of rioja, a beer and two tapas was a grand total of three euros!

On the way back to the campervan I tried to take some photos of the almost-full moon – I was fairly disappointed with the results…it was much more colourful than I seemed able to capture.

We left Castro de Rei mid-morning the next day and continued on the short distance to A Feira Do Monte, which was also very nice, although quite a bit larger town.  The aire, however, was in a really beautiful area right next to a bird sanctuary.

It was a fairly busy parking area actually, with lots of cars coming and going – there are several nice trails going around the ‘lake’ and to various places in the town.

We took a lovely long walk around the ‘lake’ – it has many informative kiosks as well as a few strategically placed bird watching towers.

(No – this is not a real bird!)

The next morning we took a short walk along one of the many paved trails – it eventually led to a museum in the town but we didn’t follow it to the end, opting to get going to our next stop instead. I must say they’ve done a really good job with the trails and info in this area – very nice to see.

We went a couple hours almost straight west to what we thought was going to be an isolated beach aire on the coast near the small village of Razo.

It was a beautiful place, but not what we’d expected.  It was just bustling – mostly with surfers, but at least it had a couple of nice bars and restaurants.  We parked for the afternoon right across from the beach – directed by some fellows that looked fairly official, but we weren’t asked for any money.  We squeaked into a space, slightly scraping the canopy holder on the side of the campervan on a sign on the way in.

After a nice walk above the beach – no dogs allowed on the actual beach – we tried to order a drink at a bar, but no luck.  They were incredibly busy but didn’t seem to have nearly enough staff to service half of the folks.  Two people at the table next to us were able to order some of what they wanted but then the waitress pretty much ran away without taking our order.  When I said ‘well…maybe tomorrow!’ the two laughed and said ‘she’s very stressed’ but we’d waited long enough and left for another place.

At the second place we ended up not only having drinks – a very nice bottle of Rioja – but also lunch.

We relocated where we parked a couple of times to find the right place to spend the night, ending up on a large paved area at the edge of town, again right across from the ocean.

The sunset was beautiful.

From Rio Luna to Foz, with Lots of Aires in Between

On Saturday we took another ride into San Emiliano and Colin watched the barking/howling dogs – he thinks they’re enjoying the ride and are actually making happy noises.  I like that idea a lot better – they’re sitting up and looking forward, their ears flapping in the wind – who wouldn’t enjoy that?

There’s a large rock outcropping at the edge of the village and on top are some storks roosting – very large nests and all, but I couldn’t actually glimpse any babies.

On the way back one of the wheels on the chariot came a bit loose and began to rub against the side so I had to stop – it took Colin a bit to return for us as I pushed the bike along the edge of the road.

I envisioned him starting his second beer by the time we got to the cafe, but he did notice we weren’t behind him anymore and turned around fairly shortly.

He fixed the wheel and we were on our way, stopping for a refreshing beverage at the cafe in Rabanal de Luna.

In the late afternoon we headed down to the campground bar and asked if the tv could be changed from the soccer game to the Vuelta a Espana – it’s the first stage and is a time trial around Burgos.

At half time of the soccer game we got our wish and were able to watch the last hour or so of the time trial, with Roglic putting in the best time and taking the red jersey on day one.  We were told – in a very friendly way – that the channel would not be changed for us again tomorrow as some of the locals were coming to the bar to watch the next soccer game on the big screen.

Two of the little boys staying next to us approached me one evening offering me one of several braided strings they’d made but I said no.  I regretted my dismissal of them and as they came back around a little later I waved them over.  They were so sweet – I chose one in purple and pink and it cost me a whole euro.  I’ve tied it to my camera case and when I showed them the next morning they were thrilled.

We weren’t in any great hurry to leave on Sunday morning and didn’t get away until almost noon – we followed the same road north that we’d taken two years ago towards Oviedo.

There’s a nice pullout near the border of Castillo Y Leon and Asturias with great views south back towards San Emiliano.

We had intended to stop at one of the aires near the top of the Bear Trail so we could take a ride, but it was so packed we didn’t even try – we kept going downhill to just past the town of Proaza where we’d stopped two years ago.  Once again the lot looked very full but we pulled into a space marked ‘bus’.

There were so many people coming and going off the trail that we decided we’d take our ride some other time – August seems to be when everyone in Spain takes their vacation all at once and we can’t stand the crowds!

We did spend the night in the parking area, along with about a dozen other vans.  It’s a fairly busy little road but nothing kept us awake.

There’s a very interesting mural on the side of a building in one of the towns on the way to Oviedo – all about the mining that was prevalent in the area in days gone by.

We had a bit of a time finding the Lidl’s store as the campervan’s GPS took us miles and miles from where we were meant to be.  Luckily we have the backup of Waze and eventually got where we were going.

All stocked up once again we headed west and a bit south to find another aire, intending to stay away from the north coast a bit longer in order to avoid the crowds.  And once again we got mis-directed, so had to back-track and try a different aire.

Along our ‘scenic route’ we did get to enjoy some great sites, and much of it was, of course, near one of the many Camino routes.

The aire we ended up at was not bad, and was located in the lovely village of Sta. Eulalia de Oscos.  We parked the campervan and walked the doggies to a nice bar with outdoor seating for refreshments.

They had a large tv that I could see from my outside chair and the bartender eventually gave in and changed channels to the Vuelta so we could see the last of the day’s stage up Picon Blanco.

The village itself has put some effort into being attractive – there are several displays and murals, and all of the buildings are well maintained and don’t look derelict, like in some places.

There’s a large field next to where we’re parked and it has a very lonely donkey in it – they’re much happier if they have a friend, even if it’s a goat or horse.

Colin fed it some carrots and we saw that it has some sort of skin condition, maybe cysts or tumours.

As we left the village just after 11:00 we saw yet another interesting sculpture – I like that the cow is wearing her helmet, and is also signalling a left-hand turn – haha!

As I walked down to take a photo of the cow-on-moto I also some more wall art.

We still wanted to stay a bit away from the coast so headed to our next chosen aire in the village of Taramundi.  The village looked quite nice but seemed to be teeming with visitors so we kept going.

The next aire on our list was in A Pontenova – yes, that is the name of the place – but we couldn’t find it.  There was an occasional sign saying ‘800 metres’ but then nothing but going in circles so we continued on to the next place – Mondonedo.

We found the aire but the spots weren’t really big enough for campervans – we parked temporarily to have a bite to eat and I did a bit of exploring with Mo.

The town seems fairly nice and has some interesting buildings – also it’s a big stop on the Camino.

There was an adorable little kitten on the ‘Juliet balcony’ of an apartment across from where we were parked – it was out on the ledge for a bit and wasn’t concerned about the drop.

He made it safely back inside and we left shortly after.  We changed our minds about going to the coast and decided to head to a campground we like just west of Foz, stopping in Ribadeo on the way to refill our cooking-gas supply.

It was an extremely frustrating endeavour, but successful in the end, finding what we needed at a Peugeot garage.

The San Rafael campground was open and quite busy, although the nice bar – with the big tv – was closed.  We got settled and I made a vegetable soup with bacon and mushrooms for dinner – it was pretty good, if I do say so myself!

I took a nice walk to the ocean after dinner, encountering a couple of kite-flyers on the way.

I don’t doubt that kites fly well here as the wind was fierce.

Cappuccino in Spina, Lunch in Trevi

We go for a bike ride every couple of days – the most recent was over 31 km and we leave nice and early before it starts getting too hot.  We’ve stopped a couple of times now for cappuccino at a nice little cafe/bar in Spina partway through the ride.

The back road between Mercatello and Compagnano is one of my current favourites – the surface isn’t great but there’s hardly any traffic, and it’s far less developed than some of the other areas.

The view from the terrace is beautiful as always, and I spend a lot of time sitting under the umbrella with a cup of tea watching village life go on.

The fellow that had been doing stonework for ages last year has finally finished – we see him occasionally on his front terrace on a swing-chair.  The small house on the right has been sold and new folks are now in – they got a furniture delivery a few days ago.  The ducks are back, although there’s only three of them this year, rather than the twelve there were last year.

We both got haircuts a few days ago – it’s the shortest I’ve had mine since a cut I got in Spain four years ago.  So easy to take care of now, especially as we’re going to be on the road again very soon.

On Thursday we went to Trevi for lunch and our favourite place, La Vecchia Posta, was open – outdoor tables only, which was great.

For antipasto we shared a selection of mixed bruschetta, and I had wild boar stew for my main dish.  It was just delicious, and with a little help from Mo I actually managed to finish it.

They’ve been working diligently on both the Bell Tower and the condo building just below us.  I can’t believe how much stuff they’ve hauled out of the condo building – I think when the earthquake happened the folks were given 15 minutes to grab what they could and maybe haven’t been allowed back since.

I’ve been really trying to soak in the atmosphere here prior to our departure – having spent so much time here last year I feel like two weeks isn’t nearly enough time.

On the Road Again!

Bye bye to my home – I’m On the Road Again!!

Finally allowed to travel – within 5 hours of restrictions being lifted to Italy I had my flights booked.  Before the first flight I had a covid test at the airport – waited in the car in the parking lot for the results.  I passed!  Or was it failed?  In any case I got both emailed and printed pages to show I was safe to travel.

The first check-in was actually the longest – the lady at the counter looked so long at my passport I started to worry – but no problem.  I had my covid test proof, my Personal Flight Locator forms, my declaration for getting into Italy – I had it all.

After a goodbye to my patient, kind and loving partner I boarded the first of three flights.  The plane to Vancouver was packed, followed by a 3 hour wait for the next flight to Frankfurt.  Once again I showed all of my papers, and again no problem.

The flight was quite long, and right after serving us dinner they made us close the windows and shut off the lights.  I don’t think it ever actually got dark outside the whole way, but it was a long ‘night’ and I didn’t get any sleep.

Arriving at Frankfurt airport I again showed all of my papers, and again no problem.  I found my scheduled flight to Rome on the boards and limped a long way to the listed gate.  I had a few hours to wait so read for a bit, then decided to take a little nap – there was plenty of space on the lounge chairs to stretch out, and I was at the right gate so knew I’d hear the folks arriving for the flight and all of the boarding calls.

Wrong….I woke with a start at 3:01 – the flight was supposed to start boarding at 2:50 so I knew immediately something wasn’t right.  Still fuzzy-headed from my nap I grabbed my backpack and camera and shuffled to the closest check-in gate.  A lady in front of me had just missed her flight to Mallorca and I felt bad for her, while just hoping I hadn’t missed my flight to Rome.

I quickly showed the check-in lady my boarding pass and she said to ‘go that way and turn left’ – well, I was at gate A16 and my flight was now leaving from A56 – a very, very long way – in fact very close to the gate I’d arrived at three hours earlier.  I ran as fast as I could, given my injured foot, and arrived huffing and puffing and almost crying to find that I wasn’t quite the last one – about 15 folks were still lined up to board.

The last flight wasn’t too long and I arrived safely at Fiumicino a little bit ahead of schedule.  I collected my bag and headed to passport control/security – but there wasn’t any.  There were several armed guards standing around, but no one that wanted to see my passport or anything.  I simply walked out!

Colin and the little ones arrived only a few minutes later to pick me up and we were on our way ‘home’.  It’s not that far to Papiano so we arrived at a decent time, although to me I’d been up and on the move for about 30 hours.

I had a very nice welcome from several of the locals, especially Antonio at the bar. I took it easy for a couple of days getting used to the time change and everything.

On Sunday we went for a nice bike ride of 22 km., and another one this morning of just under 20 km.  

There are two major renovation projects going on near us.  First of all the bell tower is finally being fixed – they’ve had the funds for it for some time but apparently there was prolonged discussion about exactly what to do.  It’s now covered in scaffolding and work is progressing.

The other major project is right below us – a mutli-unit building that was damaged in the earthquake five years ago.  They started this morning by blocking off the lane way and have started removing debris from the inside. 

Bye Bye Papiano (sob!) – on to the Giro

The morning of my last day in Papiano was beautiful with a lovely sunrise.  Chairman Meow came to say goodbye – well, he came for food and a pat on the head…ok really he just came for food but I managed to pat him on the head without getting bitten or slashed.

I took a few final photos of the terrace and the view, and we were on our way around 11:30.  

As we passed the bar we waved again to Antonio – we’d said our goodbyes the previous afternoon.

We headed south to Terni, then southeast, passing many sections of roadworks.  It slowed the journey down some but lord knows most of the roads need it.

We stopped just short of our destination, right below the town of Rivisondoli. 

It was a lovely evening although it’s starting to get chilly as soon as the sun goes down.

The next morning was another beautiful one – we took the dogs for a nice walk along a paved path right next to the camper park, then I checked out some sculptures in a nearby park.

They’re made of metal and seem to be used for lighting fires in.  We figure there must be some kind if festival, maybe in the winter – this area a big for skiing, etc.

We continued on past the town of Roccaraso and followed the road to the top that will be the finale of stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia.  We’ve been watching the race every day on tv and this one stage will be the only one we’ll be able to get to in person this year.

The 7 km climb to the top isn’t that steep but it will be right at the end of a long hard day for the riders.

There’s no parking allowed at the very top, but lots of wide areas a km or two down.  Several campervans were already there but there was lots of space so we did get an excellent spot.

We put up the flags and had a quiet afternoon.  The folks that pulled in next to us came over with a cup of espresso for each of us – very sweet but packing quite a caffeine jolt.

Borgo Tossignano, Women’s ITT

After breakfast we walked to the nearest cafe and had a cappuccino, then took a long walk around the town.

It’s a lovely place right on the Santerno river and has very distinctive geography – the area used to be a provider of gypsum.

As we were walking on a path next to the river a lady on a bike stopped and chatted with us for a bit – she was very friendly and told us about her dog – a staffie named Cesare that she said was very gentle and friendly.

Just a short while later we passed her house and sure enough Cesare ran up to his gate – no barking or fuss, just looked like he wanted a pat on the head or something.

Back at the campervan we put the flags up and waited for the first racer – today was the women’s individual time trial.

Last year’s winner – Chloe Dygert from the US – was setting a blistering pace when not far from the finish she braked on a corner and went into/over the barrier.  She was taken to hospital in Imola for surgery for a bad laceration on her leg, and a dutch rider – Anna van der Breggen – won the day.

Good news is that the American should be ok, and hopefully will recover and be back to form and racing again next year.

TA Stage 7 – near Recanati, Bailing on the ITT

Yet another beautiful morning for the second last stage of Tirreno-Adriatico.  We re-confirmed that the race will pass our spot three times before the finish in Loreto.

This stage is called the ‘Muri’ because of the many small but brutal climbs.  We’re between Loreto and Recanati just near the top of one of the climbs.

There’s a cemetery just below us and Mo and I walked down to look around – it wasn’t exactly what I expected.  

There was part of one wall that had the usual small internments with plaques with flowers, etc, but the majority of the place was large individual ‘houses’, some of which were quite ornate and beautiful.

I got my bidon collection together and I’m not missing too many – maybe I’ll complete it today or tomorrow.

At one point in the morning, before we’d opened all the shades, Colin noticed someone outside about to put a piece of paper on our windshield.  I opened the side door to investigate – it was a policewoman who was going to leave a notice that we were going to get ‘locked in’ around noon when the road would be closed.  I assured her we wouldn’t be moving as we took photos of the race and she thought that was great.

For the first pass of the riders I went a bit down from where we were parked in the churchyard – I could see a ways down the road as they came up the hill.

Froome and Nibali were both near the front of the peloton.

For the second pass I stayed closer to where we were parked – I could see Loreto in the distance where they will finish the stage.

After the breakaway had passed all of the team cars pulled to the right-hand side of the road – the peloton was within two minutes of the break so the cars all got the order to pull over and get out of the way.

Yates was once again staying safe near the front of the peloton.

On the final pass a young Bora rider was alone in front, followed by several others including Mathieu van der Poel. 

At the end of the day Van der Poel won the stage, and Yates held on to the overall lead.  Our Belgian friends with the large motorhome had been in the churchyard parking area with us and came to say goodbye – they’re leaving right away to drive up to France and catch part of the Tour.

They gave us two gifts – a small box of Belgian chocolates, and maybe even better, a card with their home address, etc on it.  They live near Zwalm, which was our ‘base’ last year for all of the Spring Classics – nice to have some fellow fans to get together with!

We stayed another night in the church parking area, then headed south to San Benedetto del Tronto for the final stage – the individual time trial. 

We abandoned our plan once we arrived in the city – even more streets than usual were already closed and we realized we wouldn’t be able to take the dogs.  It was starting to get pretty hot and we felt we couldn’t leave them alone in the campervan for hours and hours.  After driving fruitlessly around the narrow, very busy streets I suggested zipping home to watch the stage on tv – this was a good decision.

It was only a few hours before we were in the comfort of the house with the air-con on cheering as Yates managed to hold onto the overall lead – even Geraint Thomas couldn’t pick up enough time to beat him.  

Another great Tirreno-Adriatico – getting to see seven out of the eight stages was pretty satisfying.  Next – on to the World’s in Imola!

TA Stage 4 – near Castelluccio

Up nice and early we headed for Castelluccio to find a spot to watch the next stage from.  The drive was thru very beautiful countryside and we even saw the trees that form the map of Italy on the hillside.

On the flat plain there were folks parked that were landing after para-gliding.  There weren’t any planes taking them up that we could see, so we assume they take off from one on the nearby mountains and catch the updrafts.

We were parked in a fairly large flat area and several team cars joined us to hand out bidons.

Michael Woods, wearing the overall leader’s blue jersey and his team’s distinctive pink helmut was safely near the front of the peloton, along with Nibali.

Since it was a large area near the end of a climb many riders were ditching their bidons – I ended up with my largest haul yet – nine!  I actually don’t know what I’m going to do with them all, but I really enjoy collecting them.

After the race had passed we backtracked to the town of Visso where we turned north and picked up the route for the next day’s stage.  Visso is one of many towns and villages in the area that were severely damaged in the earthquake of 2016.

We followed the route markers until a bit past the town of Tolentino where we pulled into a nice little flat space on the side of the quiet road – good place to spend the night.

TA Stage 2 – Canneto

When taking Mo for a walk in the morning I came across an old man that tried to warn me about something.  I understood that there was a danger to the little dog, but didn’t think it was wolf or wild boar – I know the words for those in Italian and this was something different.  I did understand that I should not take Mo into the field, so hustled back to the campervan along the road.

Colin googled dangerous animals in Italy and it’s the porcupine!  They’re usually active at night and tend to sleep in the bushes at the edges of the fields but they can be very fierce, especially when taken by surprise.

After breakfast we went back into Canneto and had a cappuccino, then went for a walk around the older part of the village.  

It was quite lovely with beautiful potted plants and flowers, as well as a couple of fountains and sculptures.

We backtracked about 1 km to find a roadside spot – it was nice and wide as well as flat, although it did get pretty hot.

A breakaway of three riders arrived at 2:57, followed about two minutes later by the entire peloton, and they were moving pretty fast.

I finally spied Froome in one of my photos, and he didn’t look too great – although it’s almost a miracle he can even ride again after his horrific crash at the Dauphine last year. 

Once again I scored some bidons – this time AG2R and Lotto Soudal.

We packed up quickly as we had a slightly longer drive south to our next stop.  A very large bright green grasshopper tried to hitch a ride on our table leg.

We’re still in Toscana (Tuscany) and have been travelling through very beautiful countryside and some lovely villages.  We drove as far south as Poggio Murella, a village on the next day’s route.  We had a nice drink with complimentary appies at a bar and spent the night at a pullout right in the village.

Finally Off to Tirreno-Adriatico

One morning I took my longest ride yet – almost 40 km, which isn’t bad for me – to one of the highest points around.

There’s a tower near the top, and you can see down to the next valley, with wonderful views in all directions.

We got going Sunday morning right on time – just after 9:00.  It was a bit of a drive north to where we’d chosen to watch the first stage of Tirreno-Adriatico from so we went most of the way on the peage.

We found the perfect place to park for the night for the following day’s race – right next to a cemetery in a church’s large parking area.  

There’s a war memorial, and also a nice water tap for free use.  

At one side of the church there’s an excellent view of the plain below, and the town of Camiore right in the Sea.

Around dinner time the parking area started to fill up – there was a special service of some kind happening in the church, and folks were very dressed up.

I asked a fellow that was outside with his little girl if it was a ‘matrimonial’ and he said ‘no – baby’ so I realized it was a christening.  The ceremony went on for quite awhile, with the priest doing a lot of talking and praying.