The Big Trip

SIX MONTHS IN THE PLANNING......... was going to be some tour, for us The Grand Tour of Europe. It all started when Ray and I fancied different Panther trips. With both of us still working it wasn’t easy to get that amount of time off. Ray spent many long hours on the computer working out the best routes, times, miles, ferry crossings and Hotel bookings. The whole tour was undertaken by 2 Panthers as we were joined by Dawn and Brian. So the day eventually arrived. 3rd June ….Smooth journey up to Dover arrived late afternoon most were already there not having quite so far to come. Now we were 11 Panthers.

4th June…. Hopped over to France on the ferry and on to Mainz.

Mainz hotel

5th June…. Super trip along the Rhine led by our German friends Uli and Peter. It was Rays Birthday and I had (with a little help from my friends) arranged a surprise party held in Terry and Mick’s room. It was at this point that Brian received the nick name of Wishy Washy as Dawn had sent him back to their room to fetch glasses. But Brian had taken the wrong lift and ended up in the laundry and was unable to find his way out. Dawn found him in the end with tales of a tall leggy 20 yr old in the lift.


6th June…. On to Fussen. We had a super 3 days here at Brewery Gustoff. Beautiful Scenery, lovely weather, 1 day we spent on the lake and in the town, another we visited King Ludwig Castle, and on the last day some wanted to cycle. This included Brian who had often mentioned his desire for the sport. Dawn on the other hand had no desire what so ever. Now Ray and I off road as a hobby and I haven’t been on my bike for some months (what we studying etc) I knew exactly how botties would feel at the end of the 22 miles around the lake. So Dawn and I spent a gruelling day shopping. And as expected main topic of conversion that night was how sore is my bum. 10th June…. We planned an early start having said our goodbyes the night before and we were on the road by 8.40. We had a very smooth run down through Austria and into Italy. Stopping for the night at a town on the Med close to the French boarder called Allassio. We found an unusual Hotel very modern in appearance, lots of marble, but being run by a little squat Italian family quite in congress but they were really friendly and the room had a great view straight over the beach. Ray and I slept lulled by the sound of the breaking waves of the Mediterranean Sea incredibly romantic only beaten by the next night in Jean les Pins.
Alexandra hotel garden

EZE Village

11th June…. As ticking boxes go this was a good one. Less than two weeks after the Grand Prix 2 Panthers could be seen racing around the circuit of Monaco, vroom vroom. We stopped at the Palace for Ice cream (doesn’t everybody) and the view. Motoring on we visited a 15th century village perched on the edge of a cliff called eze (or ez as the little French man pronounced it that night for us) fascinating place every other building was a shop. We stopped that night in Jean Les Pins. We found a Hotel called the Alexander on booking in was offered the evening meal to be a barbeque in the garden. We showered, changed and sauntered down to the garden. Dusk was falling and the garden was lit by fairy lights, there was a wonderful array of flowers their scents were mixing with the smells of food, couples were sitting around eating and chatting and there was music paying in the background. We had a most enchanting evening in a magical setting and I think none of us will forget it.
Alexandra Hotel

12th June…. We journeyed on to the Camargue. Saw the Horses (another box ticked) and pink Flamingos by the hundreds. It was a very hot day hitting 40.07deg at one point. Mid afternoon we decided to get out of the blistering heat and pulled up outside a bar on a beach. This we found to be like an oasis, we walked in noticing the cool breeze wafting through the place we sat on comfy wicker sofas refreshed our selves and journeyed on stopping for the night just outside Narbonne. Hotel de la Plage suggests on the beach, but we found the Hotel to be a second row back with a road, river and about 1 mile of mud flats before the beach.
Hot on the Carmargue

13th June…. Over the Pyrenees (box ticked), starting our ascent the clouds gathered a little ominously, D and B said this was to be expected, they had never crossed without it being cloudy and raining. But as we motored on the clouds disappeared and the sun came out, the road over was beautiful, the tunnel as the top was very long, Brian reckoned about 4 km, and so into Spain. We pulled off the road just after Jaca for the night.
The Pyrenees
The rain in Spain

14th June….There was a spit in the air as we loaded the cars and set off back on the road. Time was tight this day as we were meeting up with our second group of Panther friends in Toro. What a fabulous road it was. Very dramatic high pink cliffs with a milky turquoise river running down through the middle for miles and miles. We enjoyed this immensely. Several times I commented on the road numbers in Spain not matching up but I had found the continental numbering a little hard to work out, never sure if we were on the number road or it was coming up. About an hour and half in I caught a backward glance at a road sign, Pamplona, the city we were heading for, in the opposite direction. Neither of us could believe it, we hadn’t passed a turning to the right. Eventually it dawned on me we were going in the completely opposite direction to what we needed. Stopping the convoy and explaining to D and B. we back tracked to see where we had gone wrong. Realization I’m afraid came when I eventually found our position on the map and my mistake had been assuming we had turned off the road to sleep when in fact the road had turned left and past the hotel. My only consolation is that we all thought we were on the correct road to begin with. The weather could have been kinder to us on the road to Toro but you know what they say “The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain” and boy did it rain. But the sun came out for the last part of the journey and we arrived at the Hotel Juan 11 or as we renamed it one two. Knowing where to find our Panther friends we headed straight for the bar and spent the next two hours catching up and thrilling over where we were and where we had been. Our room along with most had a magnificent view from the balcony, the Hotel was perched over a 200 ft cliff of wild shrubs and trees dropping away to a river ambling towards us and then turning sharp right through a weir and racing out of view in the distance. A great place to watch the local birds, the Storks circled effortlessly, Herons fished by the river and a Bee Eater could be seen, by most, hovering looking for dinner.
Hotel Juan II
Cars lined up aat the Wine tasting

15th June…. Breakfast over and Andy had arranged a wine tasting for us locally. We found we were in the Toro area which makes Spain’s best wines (we were told). The tour was very informative. The rest of the day was taken up with a stroll around the town all ending up out side the same café where we had a very leisurely lunch.

16th June…. Dawn and Brian’s 49th Wedding Anniversary. Weather a little unsettled, we decided a drive into Zamora the local city. We got involved in two weddings, but no funeral, had a super sandwich watching one wedding, walked miles around the town seeing church after church till we found the cathedral, found the river, got a little damp again. Arrived back at the Hotel to find another wedding going on.

17th June…. Our 35th Wedding Anniversary. Not a lot to do in Toro its self so we set off with D and B, Sally and Phil to the border with Portugal and a boat trip along a deep gorge. A technical hitch stopped Sally and Phil from making the boat. It was well worth the trip the scenery was stunning we lunched in the village and meandered our way home in time for pre dinner drinks as usual.
The Douro river
 The Picos mountains

18th June…. Panthers packed we convoyed through the Northern Spanish countryside and up into the Picos Mountains to our next Hotel. Hotel Del Oso (of the Bear) was very pleasant and their pool most inviting, so we made this our first stop, some felt the bar more important and headed there.

19th June…. With only 1 day in the Picos Mountains it was difficult to know what to do. But D and B having been before wanted us to see the lakes way up in the mountains and so it was decided. It was well worth the trip and we had beautiful sunshine going up lunching at the top by the lake. As we dallied there the mist rolled in and then the rain started. So hoods up we descended back the hotel.
Hotel Del-Oso pool

20th June…. This was another early start for the 4 of us as we were leaving our friends to drive back up through France and catch the Roscoff Ferry as neither men were prepared to spend 18 hours on a ferry when they could be driving their Panthers. Everyone rose early to wave us off and the journey proved uneventful. We turned off the motorway and headed through the Medoc region catching a ferry to Royan, finding a rather average Hotel, in need of a lick of paint, but with secure parking (get your priorities correct). That night we dined on the beach at a little café.
Our own deck on the Royan ferry

21st June…. Next morning Dawn claimed the best night sleep of the trip. After le petit dejeuner and the usual photo call out side with the proprietor and his wife. With hoods up as the weather was a little iffy we journeyed on to Vannes a very pretty old port with lots of hotels. Things often are not what you expect and a pair of rooms could not be had any where in Vannes not even for ready money. I ended up back in the office de Tourism and with a little help found rooms about 8 miles at a place called Larmor Baden. This turned out to be a super hotel with sea views run by a lovely English speaking couple who would love to have us back with more panthers, and after a few drinks the hustle and trouble of Vannes forgotten, we thought of our friends now on the ferry back to Plymouth and was hoping for a smooth crossing for them and us the next day.

22nd June…. Just a short run to the ferry at Roscoff. It was a beautiful smooth crossing with blue skies over the Channel. On our arrival in Plymouth we said our goodbyes to Dawn and Brian, and thanked them for their company as it would not have been as enjoyable without them.