We made it to the finish! We all gather at Cap du Figuier (Cap Higer) to celebrate our achievement.

We actually made it!  Wow, what a fantastic trip.

We actually made it! Wow, what a fantastic trip.

We had all agreed to gather at the Cap du Figuier to mark the end of our challenge.  Originally we had hoped to drive straight there for a photo-shoot on the last day but as we were rather spread out on the road, we realised that it was going to be easier to postpone it until the next day.

So we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the Campanile and then we all made our way to line up in front of the Faro de Cap du Figuier (the lighthouse).

It was rather a wet morning and we all set off to follow Stuart and Irenes verbal directions to the Cape.  However, most of us were kind of brain dead after so many days of following Stuarts written instructions and therefore incapable of retaining more than one “First Right” “Second Left instruction” etc before everything just faded into oblivion.

This meant that when Stuart and Irene set off there was a Le Mans Start” of MGAs all trying not to lose sight of his car for the few miles drive through Hendaye to the Cape.  Unfortunately there are quite a few sets of traffic lights on the route through Hendaye and naturally we all become split up.  We managed to hang on to the Stuart convoy more by luck combined with some dubious overtaking and traffic lights techniques  than good judgement!

Following Bob and Rogers cars through a rather wet Henhaye.  Hoping the traffic lights didnt change.

Following Bob and Rogers cars through a rather wet Hendaye. Hoping the traffic lights didnt change.

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Following Bobs, Rogers and Richards cars over the river

Following Bobs, Rogers and Richards cars over the river.  Have a look at that road sign, it looks like something you would see on the board on Countdown!  I assume it is in basque?

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Looks like we are going to get a little damp.

Oops, make that a lot damp! :-)

Oops, make that a lot damp! 🙂

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Parked at last between Rogers red 1600 and Bobs twincan at Cap Higuer, with the lighthouse and the grey Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop.

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Lining up for the group photo, delayed slightly as Liz decides to do a quick “hokey cokey” along the line up.

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A lovely moment as we all lined up for the group photo.

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Nine MGAs all well over 50 years old and all them have run like clockwork, not one single mechanical problem. Amazing! And also such fantastic cars to drive.

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A very tall looking Stuart trying to get the best photo angles.

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Not wanting to be outdone by Liz doing the Hokey Cokey, Stuart does his own distinctive version of the “Egyptian Shuffle” in the opposite direction! 🙂       (Thats me off Stuarts Xmas card list!)

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Roger getting ready for his journey to Bilbao

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Me looking a bit soggy after our wet drive from the hotel, but also quite sad that we had finished this fantastic drive.

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Richard and Janet making their way home.

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Chas and Janice setting off for there trip to Bilbao, we catch up with them again at the Bilbao ferry the next day.

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Bill and Tom using scientific techniques to determine whether the fluids left behind by Bobs twincam is either oil or antifreeze. Fortunately, although I am a long term MGA owner, I never tasted these myself and so I was unable to give my opinion! I would hate to see there two at work if they were horse owners! 🙂

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Bob and Linda getting ready for their long ride back to the Channel ports.

Roger Martin took this picture of us as we left to try to find the hotel.  We look quite cheerful in spite of being quite sad to finish this adventure.  We didnt feel so cheerful an hour later when we still couldnt find the hotel!  In the end we had to set up the sat nav to get us there.  Embarrassing, we had just driven about 1600 miles with no real problems and we struggled to navigate the 4 miles to the hotel!!

Roger Martin took this picture of us as we left to try to find the hotel. We look quite cheerful in spite of being quite sad to finish this adventure. We didnt feel so cheerful an hour later when we still couldnt find the hotel! In the end we had to set up the sat nav to get us there. Embarrassing, we had just driven about 1600 miles with no real problems and we struggled to navigate the 4 miles to the hotel!!

These are the last video clips I took on the tour and they give a real impression of the friendship and real cameraderie we all experienced on the way.  It has been just fantastic.

Click onto this YouTube link to see them.

http://youtu.be/miUGEy1LJQs

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Jaca (Spain) to Hendaye on the Atlantic (France) Day 6 (151miles) 29th July

Well the plan was for a really early start of our last day of the Trans-Pyrenean Challenge, but the weather wasn`t exactly encouraging us to get going, (much cooler with low clouds over the distant mountains)  Then, when we saw the enormous choice of breakfasts on offer at the Jaca Golf hotel, (including for the first time for over a week, bacon and eggs!), a much more leisurely approach to the start time suddenly seemed to be more sensible!  A great hotel and we were sorry to leave it behind.

So it was a chilly start and the subsequent cold fingers didn`t exactly encourage me to take many pictures to begin with.  We decided first of all to look for a petrol station in the company of Richard and Janet so that we could forget about fuel for the rest of the day.

Fueling up with Richard and Janet about 10 miles after setting off. You can see the cloud building up over the mountains.

Fueling up with Richard and Janet about 10 miles after setting off. You can see the cloud building up over the mountains.

About 10 miles further on it began to get much cooler and wetter, as we approached the Col du Somport at 5400 ft altitude.

Driving through Canfranc, I think that we were the only one of the nine cars to actually drive through this little hamlet. Well, ok it was a mistake, we were supposed to drive past it on the new main road!    Stuarts instructions said to turn right after a tunnel into Canfranc, unfortunately I turned a tunnel too early and we must have driven through Canfranc 3 times ( fortunately it is only 300 yards long) before realising that I should have listened to my co-drivers protests that "the turn off is in another mile" in the first place!

Driving through Canfranc, I think that we were the only one of the nine cars to actually drive through this little hamlet. Well, ok it was a mistake, we were supposed to drive past it on the new main road! Stuarts instructions said to turn right after a tunnel into Canfranc, unfortunately I turned right a tunnel too early and we must have driven through Canfranc 3 times ( fortunately it is only 300 yards long) before realising that I should have listened to my co-drivers protests that “the turn off is in another mile” in the first place!

Coming up to the tunnel that if I had only listened to my navigator, we would have arrived at 15 minutes sooner.

Coming up to the tunnel that if I had only listened to my navigator, we would have arrived at 15 minutes sooner.

This is at the summit of Col du Somport at 5400 ft, it was chilly with a bit of rain and the only picture I took was of Chris putting on her waterproof!  Sorry

This is at the summit of Col du Somport at 5400 ft, a lovely spot we understand, pity we couldn`t really see much of it.  It was chilly with a bit of rain and the only picture I got was of Chris putting on her waterproof!

Coming down from the summit, feels like a damp autumn day in the Lake District.
Coming down from the summit, feels like a damp autumn day in the Lake District.

Descending through mist in the Vallee D`Aspe.  A lovely place made even more exotic by the drifting mist.

Descending through mist in the Vallee D`Aspe. A lovely place made even more exotic by the drifting mist.

A lovely

A lovely valley.

Climbing towards the Col de Soudet (5000ft).  This is the D441, a main road through the Pyrenees! It is virtually a single track, no barriers, no road markings, but boy is it exciting to drive!  A great discovery Stuart!

Climbing towards the Col de Soudet (5000ft). This is the D441, a main road through the Pyrenees! It is virtually a single track, no barriers, no road markings, but wow is it exciting to drive!  A great discovery Stuart!

Roger Martin who was driving some miles behind us has generously sent me some great pictures he took en route

Roger Martins beautiful 1500 enhancing the view on the Col de Houretate at almost 3700 ft

Roger Martins beautiful 1600 enhancing the view on the Col de Houretate at almost 3700 ft

There was virtually no traffic on the D441 over the Col de Houratate but you did have to watch out for the mobile bovine chicanes.

There was virtually no traffic on the D441 over the Col de Houratate but you did have to watch out for these mobile bovine chicanes and the subsequent slippery patches they caused!

The view as

The view from Rogers car as they drove through the Col du Suscousse at 4000 ft. Weather improving at last.

Roger and Tom stopped for a break near Larrau and Roger caught this great picture of Bob and Lindas TwinCam at speed as they went by.  Bobs car looks absolutely in its element!

Roger and Tom stopped for a break near Larrau and Roger caught this great picture of Bob and Lindas TwinCam at speed as they went by. Bobs car looks absolutely in its element!

I didnt take enough pictures today but fortunately I kept pressing the video button.

To see some video clips here of the descent along the Vallee D`Aspe and then climbing towards the Col du Soudet at 5052 feet;-

Click on the YouTube link below.

http://youtu.be/cZLoCGT4x5Q

Just thought of an original title for a wildlife  film, "Cows in the Mist!"  Sounds vaguely familiar though.  :-)

Just thought of an original title for a wildlife film, “Cows in the Mist!” Sounds vaguely familiar though. 🙂  This picture just cries out for a Caption Competition, Subject:- “What is the cow thinking?”

Pilgrims walking the same route as we had driven, some of them will have walked for over two and a half months and covered a distance of over 1000 miles!  Phew! it was tough enough ust to drive it!

Pilgrims walking the same route as we had driven, some of them will have walked for over two and a half months and covered a distance of over 1000 miles!  Phew! it was tough enough just to drive it!

We decided to stop for a lunch here at  the Gorge D`Holzarte as we approached Larrau.

We decided to have a Jambon et Fromage Baguette  just for a change.  Maybe tomorrow we will ask for a cheese and ham baguette just for a change.

Today we will be mostly eating a Jambon et Fromage Baguette.  Maybe tomorrow we will ask for a cheese and ham sandwich just for a change.

The  beautiful hillsides around Larrau

The beautiful hillsides around Larrau

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More pilgrims walking the Camino pilgrimage, these particular two must have been particularly ” blessed” as they appear to have survived a close shave from this dark blue MGA whose driver had one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a camera!  If they only knew!  🙂

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Just to clarify things, I didnt actually run into the 2 pilgrims, although I hope they survived the 500 ft fall as they leapt over the wooden crash barrier to get out of my way!   (Only joking)

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The banks along the roadside were covered in wild flowers and flowering heathers.

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The road is like a looking at the “Z” in the Zorro films, a slashed zigzag across this lovely hillside.

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The heathers growing wild by the roadside were beautiful and particularly poignant for us as they always remind us of our son Paul who we sadly lost 2 years ago.

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Click on this YouTube link to see some video of us driving these superb roads

http://youtu.be/1Oq9K5k_3Kk

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Driving into Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a lovely walled town.

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Driving into the city gates

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It was only an hour since our lunch break and so we had planned to drive on through the town.

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But then we spotted this delightful village cafe sitting in the shade of the trees and we suddenly developed a real thirst.

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It looked as if the towns entire population were eating here.

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We opted to just order starters, a glass of wine and a beer!

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Looking back at the narrow ledge that was supposed to be a road!

On the Col d`Ispeguy (only 2000ft) and pretty much the last pass we climbed on the Traverse of the Pyrenees.  Not the highest by a long way but still a beautiful place.

Rogers car on the Col d`Ispeguy (only 2000ft) and pretty much the last pass we climbed on the Traverse of the Pyrenees. Not the highest by any means but still a beautiful place.

Wild horses wouldn`t have been able to stop Roger from completing this superb days drive.........er, well...... in this case, it looks like they actually did!  :-)

Wild horses wouldn`t have been able to stop Roger from completing this superb days drive………er, well…… in this case, it looks like they actually did! 🙂

Richard catching us up on the final stretch en route to Hendaye

Richard catching up with us in spite of my car having about 30 bhp more power than his.  I can only presume that he was frightened that I may get to the bar first and drink all the beer!

Richard catching up with us in spite of my car having about 30 bhp more power than his. I can only presume that he was frightened that I may get to the bar first and drink all the beer!  Incentive is a powerful thing!  🙂

Parked up finally outside the Camanile hotel in Hendaye, we were all staying here and looking forward to a post adventure discussion, a meal and a few drinks.

Parked up at the Hotel Campanile Hendaye . Engines cooling down in the car park, drivers cooling down in the bar.

Parked up at the Hotel Campanile Hendaye . Engines cooling down in the car park, drivers cooling down in the bar.

2014 073001 MGAs outside Hendaye Campanile-1

Everyone enjoying a great evening meal in the Campanile restaurant.  All looking deservedly pleased with themselves for completing such a fantastic challlenge.

Everyone enjoying a great evening meal in the Campanile restaurant. All looking deservedly pleased with themselves for completing such a fantastic challlenge.

A great days drive.  Happy that we have all completed an amazing journey but at the same time sad that we have no more mountains to drive.  Tonight we are all having a celebratory meal to both look back on what we have done and also to say thank you to Stuart for organising such a fantastic trip.

Stuart, we salute you.

Bagneres de Bigorre to Jaca (Day 5) 28th July

 

Quite a damp start today and a few of our group were considering spending a bit of time looking around the local area before venturing forth, hoping that the weather would improve a little.

Not such a nice day but not wet enough to stop us enjoying driving with the top down.

Not such a nice day but not wet enough to stop us enjoying driving with the top down.

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We stopped to pick up some fuel and some oil, its not easy to find 20/50 semi-synthetic oil these days and so I had to settle for 15/40 which seemed to be ok.  The car has used more oil than usual, it does drip oil a little but more likely it has just burnt a bit more during those long hard climbs in mostly 2nd and 3rd gears.  After the high mountains of the last 2 days we kind of expected an easier day and for the first few miles it was, but then we hit the steep climbs combined with some scarily unprotected drops!

Coming up to the top of Col du Soulor, wondering if we maybe should have put the top up afterall.

Coming up to the top of Col du Soulor, wondering if we maybe should have put the top up afterall.

Just crossing the Col du Solour at almost 5000 ft and grateful that we are passing through in our MGAs and not living up there looking after our sheep!

Just crossing the Col du Solour at almost 5000 ft and grateful that we are passing through in our MGAs and not living up there looking after our sheep!

This YouTube clip shows just how exciting the roads are to drive.  And we thought we were in for an easy-ish day!

Click on this link to see for yourself      http://youtu.be/DyElSc0B5_Y

We called off at the pretty town of Argeles Gazost looking for a coffee and met up with Charles and Bill in a cafe overlooking the town square.  It was still raining a little and we just used the coffee as an excuse to get out of it for a while, hoping it would stop. It appeared to have worked as the rain stopped and we were soon on our way again.  I just had time to call in at a lovely little pattissierre across the square, I was heading towards the car when I was lured by the wonderful aromas wafting out of the open doorway. This would have unforeseen consequences a few miles along the road!

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The start of the ascent of the Col du Aubisque, lovely greasy roads, poor visibility, no crash barriers and 1000ft drops. It was certainly exciting, especially for Chris who sat watching me driving the car one handed whilst filming with a camera in the other! And amazingly, she loved this trip!

Its a form of gambling I suppose, looking at the road going into the cloud bank and then taking a wild guess at whether the road turns right or left!

Its a form of gambling I suppose, looking at the road going into the cloud bank and then taking a wild guess at whether the road turns right or left!

 

Richard following me at a safe distance!  :-)

Richard, sensibly, following me at a safe distance! 🙂

 

Click on the link below to see a YouTube video of the next section of the climb.  You will be amazed.

http://youtu.be/xrhUK1tRXBA

 

 

The link below is Tom and Roger Martins much longer video clip of the same section taken a little later, they are following Bob Cole and Linda in their TwinCam with Stuart & Irene Mumby up front in their 1600.   Click on the link below to watch their video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0-dcrXMHaI

 

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Nearing the summit of the Col du Aubisque 5600 ft.

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Years ago, when I was doing a bit of mountaineering, finding a pub on the top of a mountain was always just an impossible dream!

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Why is the car park full of horses?

Just a tantilising glimpse of the mountain scenery that the clouds were hiding.

This horse seems particularly attracted to my car!

This horse seems particularly attracted to my car!

Still making a beeline for my car!

Still making a beeline for my car!

Then I realise that the great attraction is the brown paper bag that you can see in my door pocket, it still has those cakes in it that I bought from the patissierie in Argeles Gazost!

I must admit that for some reason, I seem to be more concerned about my paintwork being damaged than Richard is! :-)

I must admit that for some reason, I seem to be more concerned about my cars paintwork being damaged than Richard is!  🙂

So it`s time for me to take drastic action!  I throw myself between the horse and my car in an act of supreme sacrifice!  Am I willing to be trampled in order to protect the delicate aluminium panels on my MGA?  Well, err, actually, No!  But NOTHING EVER eats one of my cakes!!!  🙂

Me selflessly throwing myself between the wild horse and classic car ( well actually I just wanted to save my cake!!)

Me selflessly throwing myself between the wild horse and classic car ( well actually I just wanted to save my cake!!)

Selfie of me and attacking horse.   I`m the one on the right!

Selfie of me and the attacking horse. I`m the one on the right!

In the end I just had to do the sensible thing, move the car away from the horses  (and eat the cakes of course!  🙂

The horse thinking"One more lick and I can probably get the rest of that paint off!" Richard looking on thinking "That horse is saving me a fortune in Nitromors!"

The horse thinking”One more lick and I can probably get the rest of that paint off!” Richard looking on thinking “That horse is saving me a fortune in Nitromors!

Trying to eat our baguettes and buns before the horses see us!

Trying to eat our baguettes and buns before the horses see us!

The waiter made a special effort to create this heart shape on top of Janets latte, when he realised that it was Richard who wanted the coffee he said " I make ze mistake, Je suis desole!". I dont think he found Richard quite so attractive!  :-)

The waiter made a special effort to create this heart shape on top of Janets latte, when he realised that it was Richard who wanted the coffee he said ” I make ze mistake, Je suis desole!”. I dont think he found Richard quite as attractive! 🙂

Driving through the gorge at Eaux Bonnes

Driving through the gorge at Eaux Bonnes

 

Half expected to see Guy Gibson and a few of his Lancasters flying over this dam!

Half expected to see Guy Gibson and a few of his Lancasters flying over this dam!

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Very much more rugged country here.

The next challenge is the drive over the Spanish border, up the Col du Pourtalet at 6000ft and it crosses some quite bleak high open mountain countryside.P1030272 P1030274

Much more rugged country here

This is late July and so I would bet that it gets to be positively arctic here in the winter.

A few miles further on I noticed something strange going on in the grassland 50 yards off the road and  then we came across quite a few cars parked just off the road with a couple of dozen people standing around peering intently through binoculars and telephoto camera lenses.  I couldn`t really make out what they were looking at to begin with, but they they looked like big birds, really big birds.

I pulled out my mini binoculars and took a look, I couldnt believe it, they looked like vultures!  Vultures?  In Spain?

They were gigantic and there were lots of them!  Apparently they are Griffon Vultures which have recently returned to Spain from Africa after many years of being extinct there.

At first I couldn`t really work out what these were.

At first I couldnt really work out what these were.

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These are Griffon Vultures and they are feeding from what looked like a dead sheep and they are big, really big. With over a 9 foot wingspan!  Although Im not a proper “twitcher” I quite like birds but to see these enormous birds just by the roadside was a.mazingP1030283

I managed to get this video clip of them with my tiny camera on full zoom and it has turned out surprisingly well.  You can here the MGA ticking over in the background.

Listen to Chris asking why the vultures dont just share out the carcass, its brilliant!  🙂

Click on this YouTube link to see the video clip I managed to get of the vultures

http://youtu.be/NxHY17_pHi4

Ariving at the top of the Col du Pourtalet at almos 6000 feet

Arriving at the top of the Col du Pourtalet at almost 6000 feet

The summit

The summit

Ariving at the Jaca Golf hotel

Arriving at the Jaca Golf hotel, a really superb hotel with superb rooms and underground parking.

A superb suite with wonderful views

A superb suite with wonderful views

Superb view from the windows

Superb view from the windows

An even more attractive view of the outdoor bar on the patio.

An even more attractive view of the outdoor bar on the patio.

Wait a minute, who is that sitting at the table?  Lets zoom in on it!

I should have known that Stuart, Roger, Pete, Heather and Tom would find the bar quicker than anyone else!

I should have known that Stuart, Roger, Pete, Heather and Tom would find the bar quicker than anyone else!

 

Rest Day (in theory!) – Day 4 of the Trans Pyrenean Challenge. 27th July

Well today the theory was that we took it easy, have a leisurely breakfast and do very little.  But I wanted to show Chris some of the places that I skiied over in the winter and take a gentle drive over the Col du Tourmalet and do some sight seeing.

The ski resort of La Mongie was first on the list, a modern ski resort without much charm in its own right but it is in a beautiful place surrounded by the most spectacular mountain range.  The plan was to call in La Mongie for a coffee, to show Chris the place and maybe board the cable car to the top of the Pic du Midi at 9500 ft high.  Unfortunately the cable car was closed on the day and we had to settle for a coffee instead.  Just as we ordered coffee Bob and Linda arrived and joined us having similarly had plans to go to the Pic.

Bob and Linda arrive and we realise that the Trials Bike World Championship Competition is going on right in front of us.

Bob and Linda arrive and we realise that the Trials Bike World Championship Competition is going on right in front of us.

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The view from the cafe in La Mongie.

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Some of the trials bike action we could see from the road.

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We sat in the car and watched some of the Trials action from on the roadside above before setting off to drive up the Col du Tourmalet, the word famous Tour de France stage of 19 miles and reaching almost 7000ft.

 

Driving up the Col du Tourmalet

Driving up the Col du Tourmalet

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The tour de France paint still fresh on the tarmac

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Just a magic place to drive an MGA (so long as you can ignore the temperature gauge!)

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Driving up the Col du Tourmalet

Driving up the Col du Tourmalet, the mountains are so perfect that they dont seem real.

Click the link below to see the YouTube video I took of our drive over the Col du Tourmalet

http://youtu.be/cjTE_ByCzRg

Bill Sharp also took a video of his climb up the Col du Tourmalet in his MGA accompanied by his wife Janet. His video camera records in full 1080p HD video and the clarity of his filming is astonishing.  Bill has kindly allowed me to post this YouTube link of his film.  Click on this YouTube link to see his film.        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=968fZJGyNgE

That impossibly steep mountainside in the background is actually a ski slope (red) that we ski down in the winter!

That impossibly steep mountainside in the background is actually a ski slope (red) that I ski down in the winter!

We had planned on calling at the Col du Tourmalet cafe for a bite to eat, a fantastic view from there and great food too.  Unfortunately it was just as busy as we expected it to be a couple of days after the Tour de France and we couldnt park anywhere near the place.  We decided to continue down into the valley to visit Bareges and Luz Saint Sauveur where I ski most winters.  We called at a superb moutain restaurant called Chez Loisette which  I have skiied  to many times.  It is a rustic old place and I expected it to enjoy a quiet lunch there, unfortunately it was so busy we couldnt even get into the car park!  So I took a picture of Chris by the car (see above) showing the extremely steep slope behind her that I ski down to reach the place and we then had to settle for more basic fare and at the self service restaurant in Luz St Sauveur.

The beer was good though!

Chris prefers wine but the beer was too tempting!

Chris prefers wine but the beer was too tempting!

The Col du Tourmalet range viewed from the central square of Luz Saint Sauveur

The Col du Tourmalet range viewed from the central square of Luz Saint Sauveur

Heading back over the Col

Heading back over the Col

We called at the Etape du Berger just over the Col.  Its a fantastic locally owned restaurant at 7037 ft owner by a well known local mountain shepherd called Erik.  He serves his own produce and to be honest it is the best food I have ever eaten on a mountain. Eric is an imposing presence, he rules with a rod of iron and his voice can often be heard echoing around the mountains.

We called at the Etape du Berger, just over the Col.   You can see the summit of the Co du Toumalet in the gap in the distance, this is seen from the car park of the Etape,  It is a fantastic locally owned restaurant at 7037 ft, owned by a well known local mountain shepherd called Erik. He serves his own produce and to be honest it is the best food I have ever eaten on a mountain. Eric is an imposing presence, he rules with a rod of iron and his voice can often be heard echoing around the mountains.

Eric prowling around the patio, probably looking for customers to kill if they dare to complain!  :-)

Eric prowling around the patio, probably looking for customers to kill if they dare to complain! 🙂  It is 25 degrees C but I can feel the chill of Erics piercing stare go through me  as he approaches!

Chris saying " For heavens sake smile!  Eric is behind you!"

Chris saying ” For heavens sake smile! Eric is behind you!”  She is probably grinning so much as she is expecting Eric to throw me over the balcony to the valley floor and she knows how much I am insured for!  🙂  Or it may just be the wine.

Me with back to camera sitting in exactly the same spot in February the same year, temperature -15 degrees C !

Me, with back to camera, sitting in exactly the same spot in February the same year, temperature -15 degrees C !

I found this YouTube link taken by Eric of the Etape du Berger which shows much more of its superb situation. (in French or Basque sorry)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTXTQXsnf1U

On our way back to the hotel in Bagneres de Bigorre and a great night out in the town with everyone.

On our way back to the hotel in Bagneres de Bigorre and a great night out in the town with everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

Bagneres de Luchon to Bagneres de Bigorre (Day 3) 81 miles. 26th July

After breakfast in Luchon we set off early for a leisurely days drive in great weather through some lovely countryside.  The road just flowed and I got a bit carried away with the driving, this had the result of me missing a signpost or two and adding 20 miles or so onto the first section.

Driving through some lovely old villages en route.

Driving through some lovely old villages en route.

As we approached Mauleon we began to see more and more of  the Tour de France bunting still on show from a few days before.

As we approached Mauleon we began to see more and more of the Tour de France bunting still on show from a few days before.

The road just flowed and I got a bit carried away with the driving, this had the result of me missing a signpost or two and adding 20 miles or so onto the first section.  We we heading for our first major checkpoint at Mauleron Barolouse (great name!) where Stuarts route plan advised us we to look out for a unique signpost in the town square.  It turned out to be so unique that I at first didnt even recognise it as a signpost!

Our un-planned 20 mile detour meant that when we arrived at the said signpost we were greeted by Chas and Janice who had already found the cafe in the lovely town square and were looking particularly cool and relaxed with their coffees.

Chas relaxing with his second cup of coffee, still a bit amazed at arriving 15 minutes before us in spite of our leaving Luchon 30 mins earlier than them.

Chas relaxing with his second cup of coffee, still a bit amazed at arriving 15 minutes before us in spite of our leaving Luchon 30 minutes earlier than them.

 

Arriving in Mauleon looking at the unique signpost in the town square

Arriving in Mauleon looking at the unique signpost in the town square and taking a picture of it.

The picture of the signpost.

The picture I was taking of the signpost.

Parking up having been lured over the road, Pied Piper style, by the smell of fresh ground coffee!

Parking up having been lured over the road, Pied Piper style, by the smell of fresh ground coffee!

Roger & Tom grinding to a halt having tried in vain to fight their way past the coffee aroma!

Roger & Tom similarly  grinding to a halt, having tried in vain to fight their way past the coffee aroma!

Chas in the town square in front of the start of the Port de Bale stage where we were heading next.

Chas in the town square in front of the start of the Port de Bale stage where we were heading next.

The start of the Port de Bale stage, 19km climing up to 1755 metres  (5757 ft)

The start of the Port de Bale stage, 19km climbing up to 1755 metres (5757 ft)  Its hard enough to do in an MGA, dont know how they do it on a bike.

No its not my new "camp" look, Im just trying to set up my camera to see if I can  catch Chas on video.  That`s presuming I can actually catch up with him after he has drunk 2 strong coffees!

No its not my new “camp” look, I`m just trying to set up my camera to see if I can catch Chas on video.  That`s presuming I can actually catch up with him after he has drunk 2 strong coffees!

Richard took this picture of us on the superb climb up to Pont du Bale.  Its a superb picture, one of my favourites of the whole trip.  Double click on it to get a full screen view of this.

Richard took this picture of us driving up the superb climb  to Port de Bales. Its a superb picture, one of my favourites of the whole trip. Double click on it to get it on full screen view.

Click on the link below to see how my first attempt at using the camera on the rear bulkhead,facing forwards, actually turned out.

( Watch the video carefully at the 2 minute mark as an unknown classic car flashes by in the opposite direction. It looks like a pre-war Mercedes SS sports car or a modern replica of it.  Does anyone recognise it? )

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The summit of Port de Bales at 1755 metres

When we reached the summit we found Bob and Linda who were parked up waiting for Bobs twincam to stop boiling.  It must have got really hot as it was still happily simmering away after 15 minutes or so.

The cloud of steam had dispersed by now and we all had to chip in with any spare water we had to keep Bob going.

The cloud of steam had dispersed by now but we all had to chip in with any spare water we had to keep Bob going.

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These MGAs look just fantastic from this angle.

Richard asking Bob if he had seen any of the paint that seemed to have fallen off his cars boot lid.  :-)

Richard asking Bob if he had seen any of the paint that seemed to have fallen off his cars boot lid. 🙂

 

With Bobs car letting off steam in the background, the 3 girls doing the same after a hour of being sitting in a noisy MGA and being unable to speak to anyone!  :-)

With Bobs car letting off steam in the background, the 3 girls doing the same after a hour of being sitting in a noisy MGA and being unable to speak to anyone!  🙂

 

We gave Bob a bit of a head start so that he could use the descent to cool down his engine.  The road was a quite stimulating one to drive down, you can see from the enormous drop off the edge that it pays to keep all 4 tyres on the tarmac!  We needed to give Pete a set of blinkers to persuade him to drive down this road.  Chris wasnt very impressed with my driving with one hand to get the pictures and video.

We gave Bob a bit of a head start so that he could use the descent to cool down his engine. The road was a quite stimulating one to drive down, you can see from the enormous drop off the edge that it pays to keep all 4 tyres on the tarmac!  We needed to give Pete a set of blinkers to persuade him to drive down this road. Chris wasnt very impressed with my driving with one hand to get the pictures and video!

I apologise for the length of this next video clip, I know that I should have edited it shorter but this was the first time on this challenge that so many cars were traveling so close together and I just couldn`t bring myself to delete any of the footage.  We weren`t racing but it kind of felt like it.  Brilliant.  Click on the link below

http://youtu.be/u2i22QeA7DE

I wonder why there isnt a sign that says "Please do not drive over the flowers?"  :-)

I wonder why there isnt a sign that says “Please do not drive over the flowers?”  🙂

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Drivers are advised not to look at the scenery too long so as to avoid becoming a permanent part of it!

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Parked up giving the cars a break and looking back at the mountain range that we have just crossed. Linda and Chris looking up at the eagles that are circling overhead.  No not vultures!

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Catching up with the “Peleton” of Roger, Pete and Bob.

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It turned into a superb fast drive down to Arreau.

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The locals had put some effort into decorating their villages to welcome the Tour de France. Pete and Roger pulled in for lunch, obviously attracted by the bright lights- a bit like moths I suppose. 🙂

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Bob and I drive on to Arreau to hopefully find somewhere for lunch.

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Richard and Janet soon find us in the town centre. Bob and I were drawn to the beer sign outside and decided that this was the place to go. Fortunately , the bar actually served food too and so everyone was happy.

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We really wanted a cheese and ham baguette but sandwiches weren`t on offer. So we asked for some cheese and some Palma ham as tapas,, some bread and when it arrived we made our own butties. Perfect!

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I said to Chris in Arreau, ” Not so far to go now, just one last climb I think”. Wrong! Only the Col d`Aspin at 5000 feet to climb! What a beautiful road to drive.

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Just in the interest of fairness, the engineers had put the deadly drops on alternating sides of the road with the occasional massive tree to run into if you prefer.    🙂

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Parked on the Col d`Aspin. The bikers, mostly Germans on tour were impressed by the MGAs, one of them kindly offered to take this picture. It turned out that he had an MGB and loved it.

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On our way down to our hotel in Bagneres de Bigorre for a well earned rest day after probably the best 80 miles that I had ever driven in an MGA. Fantastic, thanks Stuart.

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So we were booked into the Hotel Carre Py in Bagneres de Bigorre, a lovely hotel on the outskirts of the town.  Really modern with the added bonus of an after hours bar, great.  A two nights stay with the idea of a rest day mid Pyrenees.  Rest days and the Firths just don`t mix, so tomorrows easy day would probably involve moutains and an MGA!

 

 

Encamp in Andorra to Bagneres de Luchon, (Day 2) 136 miles. 25th July.

We stayed at the hotel Montecarlo in Encamp, a really comfortable modern hotel at amazingly economic prices.  The evening meal was a 3 course  and cost 10 euros including wine!

It rained heavily over breakfast but stopped as we got on our way and so we opted to go with the top down.  A good choice as it turns out.  An early-ish start but enough time to call at the local supermarket to pick up some ethanol based products at about a third of the price of the UK.  I decided on an MGA friendly bottle of Grants whisky,( it has a triangular section bottle that doesnt roll around in the boot!)  I saw a few others buying bottles of what they described as “Gordons” human antifreeze.  I presume that it must have worked as no one who bought it appeared to have frozen during the rest of the trip.

We also topped up with fuel as this also is about 40% cheaper than the rest of Europe.

Our first climb was up the El Canto pass up to 5600 ft, a bit cooler than the day before but the car still got a bit hot on the 4 mile climb up to the top.

At the top of El Canto 1763 metres (5600 ft)

At the top of El Canto 1763 metres (5600 ft)

Car and Chris taking a well earned break after climbing the El Canto pass up to 5643 feet altitude.  The cloud had finally cleared just as we reached the top

Car and Chris taking a well earned break after climbing the El Canto pass up to 5643 feet altitude. The cloud had finally cleared just as we reached the top

Lovely roads to drive on the way down the other side of El Canto

Lovely roads to drive on the way down the other side of El Canto

Bob and Linda following us down in their TwinCam

Bob and Linda following us down in their TwinCam.  You can just see Richards 1500 further back.

Bob and Richard chasing after me further down the gorge

Bob and Richard chasing after me further down the gorge.  The road surfaces are perfect.

I was delighted with the way the car drove over the twists and turns, virtually all of our route had been re-surfaced for the Tour de France which had had gone through just a few days before.  This suited the ultra hard suspension on my car just perfectly.

An over the shoulder snapshot which actually turned out really good.  It gives a really good impression of how much fun driving this car is!

An over the shoulder snapshot which actually turned out really well. It gives a really good impression of how much fun driving this car is!

Click this link to see what this mornings drive looked like from in the car.  http://youtu.be/nrFdkpzKGjg

Coffee break at Sort with Chris,me.Bob, Linda and Tom.   Tom is looking at his Dad Roger with an expression that says"  When did you get the digital camera Dad?  What happened to your Kodak Instamatic?" We should have a caption competition here to guess whatTom actually said!

Coffee break at Sort, with Chris, me, Bob, Linda and Tom.
Tom is looking at his Dad Roger with an expression that says ” When did you get the digital camera Dad? What happened to your Kodak Instamatic?”
We should have a caption competition here to guess what Tom actually said!

A second stop with Tom and Bob at Llivia (Spain)

A welcome break with Tom and Bob at Sort in Spain.  Bobs will only stop his twin cams engine if there is some sort of useful incline to use to restart his engine, so you will always find his car parked higher up the hill than any other MGA.

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A little out of Sorts!  Well to be absolutely correct we are actually driving out of Sort.

Driving on from La Pobla heading towards our next stop for lunch at Vielha

Driving on from Sort heading towards our next stop for lunch at Vielha

The amazing scenery as we approached Vielha

The amazing scenery as we approached Vielha

Vielha for lunch at last.  114 miles covered.  Funny how the first course of lunch always seems to be beer!

Vielha for lunch at last. 114 miles covered. Funny how the first course of lunch always seems to be beer!  And the main course always a ham & cheese baguette!

Richard and Janet adding a beer as a dessert  :-)

Richard and Janet adding a beer as a dessert 🙂

Great choice  for a lunch stop Stuart, Vielha is a lovely old town.

Great choice for a lunch stop Stuart, Vielha is a lovely old town.

Really interesting old place to explore.

Really interesting old place to explore.

We weren`t going to go into this alleyway until Bob spotted the fascinating sign!

We weren`t going to go into this alleyway until Bob spotted the fascinating sign on the left!

Janet and Chris discussing the finer points of all the beautiful antique timberwork on the buildings or,more likely, saying,"Think of all that extra dusting!"

Janet and Chris discussing the finer points of all the beautiful antique timberwork on the buildings or,more likely, saying,”Think of all that extra dusting!”

Richard and Bobs best chat up lines seem to have fallen on deaf ears, she has obviously seen me first!

Richard and Bobs best chat up lines seem to have fallen on deaf ears, she has obviously seen me first!  This is what happens if you sit on the Vielha town hall steps for too long.

Only about 30 miles left to drive today but it has been a fabulous drive.  Looking forward to staying over in Bagneres du Luchon.  Wonder what the hotel will be like?

The Hotel La Petit Auberge, a beautiful building which looks like a superb 18th Century French Chateau.  Unfortunately, the interior was last decorated in the 1940s and needed a lot of work.  But we were only there for one night and were moving on to better things.

The Hotel La Petit Auberge, a beautiful building which looks like a superb 18th Century French Chateau. Unfortunately, the interior was last decorated in the 1940s and needed a lot of work. But we were only there for one night and were moving on to better things.

Luchon was a beautiful town and had lots of great restaurants for dinner and the mornings petit dejournee.

The best section of our room

The best section of our room.  Would have been nice to have pillows!

Someone  must have tipped them off about me!  It kind of explains why they gave me a padded cell!  :-)

Someone must have tipped them off about me! It kind of explains why they gave me a padded cell!   🙂

Luchon was a beautiful town with lots of great restaurants and cafes for dinner and the mornings petit dejournee.  They had obviously gone to great lengths to decorate up for the Tour de France

The Hotel de Ville dressed up to welcome the Tour de France

The Hotel de Ville beautifully dressed up to welcome the Tour de France

Our Grand Depart (Day 1) 176 miles. Cap Cerbere to Encamp in Andorra. 24th July 2014.

Packing the car for the off at sunrise-6.30 am.

An early start, packing the cars at 6.30 for an early departure

Gathering at Cape Cerbere for the start. Lighthouse visible at the rear.

Gathering at Cape Cerbere for the start.
Lighthouse visible at the rear.

Stuart shepherding in the last two MGAs

Stuart shepherding in the last two MGAs

The rising sun as a great backdrop for our Grand Depart.

The rising sun as a great backdrop for our Grand Depart

A real early start for a long day ahead

Driving off up along the Med.

Driving off up along the Med.

Bill & Chas leading the way

Bill & Chas leading the way

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Bills car taking a breather on a bridge.  Got a bit hot under the bonnet again and needed more some cold water poured over the carburettors.

 

Chris enjoying the run. Its really hot 35 degrees but she is navigating brilliantly.

Chris enjoying the run.
Its really hot 35 degrees but she is navigating brilliantly.

It turns out that this is the “Route of the Cols” obviously they named it for me.

It was so hot that we had to stop again an hour later for a beer but didnt take any pictures because the cold beer seemed to prevent me from operating the camera!

This is hopefully a youtube link which, if you click on it, should give you an idea of the kind of driving we were experiencing. http://youtu.be/k4O61U9rJus

We were heading for an overnight stop in Andorra and we arrived late afternoon, a brilliant day.