Our Adventure Driving Back To UK

Published on 19/04/2010 in Real Life Stories

In October 2009, my wife and I visited our family in the UK. Normally we would fly out from Alicante airport to begin our travels, but we decided to do something very different this time.

We flew from Biarritz, France to the UK.

Ryanair were doing very good deals at that time.

We commenced our journey from Pinoso with a stopover in Zaragoza. I have always wanted to drive across Spain, just to see how different other communities are compared to our Alicante province.

The drive along the A35 motorway from La Font de la Figuera towards Valencia is very interesting, with a diverse range of countryside to admire. Along the way I noticed some interesting towns which deserve a later visit.

ZaragozaFrom Valencia, we travelled along the A7 towards Sagunto. This is obviously a major shipping port area, but on the outskirts, I noticed a Castle up on the hillside on the outskirts of the town, this is another area I would like to visit in the future.
From Sagunto, we travelled inland on the A23 passing Teruel before arriving in Zaragoza for our first overnight stop.

The A23 is a very long motorway, with a lot of wide open spaces. On the outskirts of Zaragoza we saw a huge amount of Wind turbines which must be good for Spain's eco awareness, and they do have the open spaces to accommodate these machines.

I had read an article in a magazine about Zaragoza, and we did have sufficient time to drive into the city and have a quick look at the old quarter and in particular a look around the Catedral Basilica de Nuestra Senora Del Pilar. This is a very spectacular cathedral, very ornate on the inside and out. On the particular day we were there, a festivity was taking place in the Square in front of the Basilica, with a number of groups performing dances to accompanying musicians.

I would certainly recommend a visit to this city.

The following day was a drive to Biarritz.

This drive took us through Tudela, Pamplona and Irun.

As you enter the Basque region, one notices the big change in scenery, everything is so green and we saw 'cows' grazing! We haven't seen any cows for 5 years!

A lot of the properties we saw reminded us of Swiss Chalets. It was all so very different to our province, but of course we have a totally different climate to that of the Northern areas of Spain.

A night stopover in Biarritz gave us our first chance to have a quick look around the main Bay of Biarritz. It has a nice picturesque cove and it was pleasantly warm for the 19th October with plenty of people promenading and to my surprise there were a large number of surfers in the sea here.

BiarritzWe managed to find a nice restaurant, which provided us with a decent steak and chips meal for around 8 Euros each, but I was very distraught when I discovered that the 2 large beers we had with our meal cost 6.50 Euros each.

Don't ever moan about Spanish inland bar prices ever again!

Biarritz is a small airport, I parked my car in the 'Parking Economique' area for 2 weeks and I don't consider that the charges were excessive for a 2 week stay. There were no problems at the airport and the Ryanair bag drop procedure was trouble free.

On our return to Biarritz on the 1st November, we chose to have a 2 night stop in Tarbes, near Lourdes. This was a one and a half hour drive from the Airport.

We stayed in an Ibis Hotel, which I have to say was very nice and clean and comfortable with helpful English speaking staff.

The following day, we explored Cauterets. This is mainly a winter skiing resort, but the scenery is so spectacular here. To me it looks as if it is a nice summer holiday location also, but in November, everything appeared to be closed as if they were have a break from the summer activities and waiting for winter to arrive.

Saying that, we went to the Pont D'Espagne located in this part of the Pyrenees National Park. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Mountains, rivers, waterfalls, it is all very spectacular. We walked around this section of the Park for hours, taking in the beautiful scenery. I would love to have a week summer holiday here in the future; it is such a lovely picturesque area to be in.

Pont d'EspangeAfter a morning of taking in our fill of the Park, we drove back to Lourdes. Having seen programmes on TV about Lourdes and its religious connection, I was curious to see what it was like.

I parked my car on the outskirts of town and walked along a particular road towards the Basilica, which was full of tourist shops selling items of a religious nature, they all looked a little tacky and out of place to me. The main town centre itself though is very nice.

After passing through this tourist street, it opened out onto the view in the distance of a very spectacular looking Church - The Basilica of the Rosary. All I can say is that it is a very large and imposing Church that makes you stand there for a few moments just staring at its grandeur.

After spending some time looking around the outside of the basilica, we took a walk to one side of the church to the famous Grotto of Lourdes, where people go on their pilgrimages for a cure. It is not as big as I thought it would be and there were not many people there at this particular time. But I can now imagine that when there is a specific event organised this place would be packed with thousands.

What made it feel poignant to me were the few people we saw, with obvious disabilities, some who could hardly walk, walking to The Grotto to touch the walls and praying for their cure. It makes you think!

To complete our day's tour, we travelled to the edge of town and had a ride on the Funicular Railway to the summit of the Pic du Jer Mountain. This is a 100 year old Funicular 'train' ride to the peak at 1000 metres high, taking 6 minutes or thereabouts to the peak.

Needless to say, there is a 360 degree view of all the peaks around this locality and stunning views of Lourdes way down below.

The following day was our return back to Pinoso. After a 7.30am start from Tarbes, we arrived home at 6.30pm, which included a lot of comfort stops.

Unless you are a really keen driver, I do not recommend driving that distance in one go, it is much easier and safer to have an overnight stop. If I do this sort of trip again, I will definitely incorporate a stopover.

Through the borders of France into Spain, we drove for almost an hour through a section of the Pyrenees National Park, crossing the border at El Portalet, which has an old unused Border Post building.

El Portalet is another Ski resort and driving through the area, we saw many ski lifts lying dormant, waiting for the season to begin. Once again, the scenery, ruggedness of the countryside and waterfalls, were all spectacular with much to admire as we drove along the zig zagging roads. I believe that this pass is1794 metres high at its peak and can be closed during winter months if the snow is that bad. It was quite cold and raining as we drove through but nonetheless it is wonderful to look at.

We are possibly like other Expats, careful with money during these uncertain times, but we found hotels for less than 50 Euros per night. I did not use any toll roads and my fuel costs were not excessive. I do like to visit relatives in the UK, but it is not like having a holiday as such, so adding these little trips before and after, made this break feel more like an adventure and we saw some fantastic sights that normally we may never have thought about exploring before!

Written by: David Billington

About the author:

Desiree & David are early retirees who moved to the Alicante province of the Costa Blanca in October 2004.

We like to explore inland villages of Spain and enjoy the countryside that we live in. David enjoys writing articles of places visited and Desiree enjoys painting landscapes and sunsets. www.art-desiree.com

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Janet said:
29 May 2010 @ 18:23

We are travelling from Santander to Alicante via Zaragoza in early July. I was very pleased to read your article as there appears to be very little information about the drive from Zaragoza to Alicante and I now feel reassured. We are spending 3 weeks in Spain and a week travelling home. We will be making our way along the Spanish coast and then into France where we plan to cross the Millau viaduct and then make our way up to Cherbourg for the ferry home. Normally we fly to Alicante but we have promised ourselves for some time that we will do 'the drive '. Our friends who retired to Spain are coming back with us as travelling through France is something that they have also wanted to do. Hopefully a good time will be had by all!

Juliette said:
21 April 2010 @ 12:41

Fascinating, thank you! I have often thought about doing this (if time and money EVER permit!) and your lovely photos have inspired me to want to visit the Pyrenees nature reserve for sure. I've done a few short driving holidays in France and they are such a pleasure - full of little surprises.

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