1974 - The rain in Spain...

Times had definately changed by the time summer 1974 rolled around. I'd started a new job back in January so long student summer holidays were rapidly becoming a distant memory. Only four weeks for the whole year, how far could I get with that. After some thought I decided upon a two week trip to the Costa Brava area of Spain. We'd passed through the area in 1970 but with the pressure of that year's schedule hadn't seen much. This time I was going to fill in the gaps. It was also going to be a solo trip; the fallout from the previous year was still weighing heavily upon me. Transport was still the 650cc Yamaha XS2 I'd used in '73 although more out of necessity rather than choice.




















So, where to go? Ticking off capitals, so far I'd been to London (obviously), Madrid, Athens and Rome. Berlin was still locked up behind the iron curtain so that just left Paris on the A list. Without a schedule to keep or anyone else to consider I thought I'd head south via the French capital. No travelling throught the night this time though - I'd learnt that lesson, so it was an early morning ferry to France and a slow ride along the N roads to Paris.


The first photograph was taken during my somewhat rudimentary lunch stop that day - proving that there was still some distance to go before all of my student habits were behind me. Actually I shouldn't be too hard on myself, writing this from a 21st C perspective.

Things were simpler then and I do remember that I wasn't hungry and just wanted a break from the riding more than something to eat. The XS2 wasn't a bad bike by the standards of the time but it did vibrate and that just got tiring after a while.


























The route



In keeping with the somewhat haphazard approach to touring that the Pisquick Tours philosophy encouraged I didn't have any tourist information about Paris - no guidebooks or maps or anything else to give me some idea of where I should go. So I just headed for the middle of the city and hoped I'd recognise the more obvious sights. This photograph of Notre Dame was taken before I realised what it was, althought the Eiffel Tower was fairly obvious when I rode past it.


The lack of guidebooks or even basic information about somewhere as tourist centred as Paris seems strange from the present perspective. If I could afford to do the trip why didn't I just spend a little more and buy the Rough Guide to France or something similar? That way at least I'd have some idea of what I was looking at. Well, partly because the only Lonely Planet available in 1974 covered the hippy trail to India and the first France guide was still over ten years in the future. Rough Guides were even worse - the first one covered Greece and that only came on the market in 1981. I did still have the AA route guides but while they helped me get into Paris they didn't help much when I was there.











































Wandering around the Ile de la Cite I came across a group of buskers that had gathered a substantial lunchtime audience. I was happy to spend a relaxed half hour just taking in the atmosphere and then, after another couple of hours wandering around the centre of Paris, decided I'd had enough of urban life and continued the trip south.


There was a quick diversion via Versailles (I'd heard of that!) and then the road south.








A couple of days later and a few hundred miles south I was riding along the N9 about five miles north of the town of Marvejols and I saw a broken down bike at the side of the road. As I wasn't in any rush I stopped to see if I could help and met Guy and his girlfriend Marie-Helene.

























Their Honda had a rear wheel puncture and they'd been stuck at the side of the road for a couple of hours waiting for Guy's father to finish work before he could come and rescue them. I did have a puncture repair kit and offered to see if we could fix it but they said it wouldn't be long before help came.


Just in case no one arrived I stayed with them for another hour or so and helped load the bike into the small Renault that Guy's father eventually arrived in. They then insisted that I follow them to their home in Severac le Chateau, about 20 miles further on. I spent three days there with them, meeting their family and being shown the area.


It would have helped if I'd spoken more than half a dozen word of French but they were very patient and I llearnt more of the language with them than I did over five years at school. The picture on the left shows Guy in the middle, Marie- Helene on the right and Guy's sister, Joella on the left.













































Somewhere over the next few hundred miles my own problems started when the tent fell off the back of the bike. I know it was there at Severac le Chateau as you can see it just behind the seat in the picture above but in the next picture taken at the Spanish border it's missing.


You'd have thought that after losing all our money from the bike the previous year I'd have taken more care but obviously not. Losing the tent was somewhat annoying but as the weather was warm and sunny with no sign of rain I thought it was more of an inconvenience than a disaster and decided to carry on. I wasn't going that much further anyway so even heading back wouldn't have made much difference.























Once through the formal border proceedures I rode down the coast past Barcelona and stopped at a campsite near Tarragona with easy access to a decent beach. This is where the lack of tent could have been a problem. The best I could do was construct a kind of lean-to shelter using the groundsheet intended for the front of the tent. I did wonder whether my makeshift shelter might cause a problem with the campsite authorities but over the week or so I was there nobody said anything.


Spending nights like this wasn't that strange an experience as we'd done it out of choice on a number of occasions in previous years but this was the first time in a formal campsite location, surrounded by other people and for more than one night at a time. I was a bit worried that things might go missing as there was very little security when I wasn't around but nothing was taken














































All I was looking for on this trip was a kind of ride and flop holiday so as long as the weather was kind I was happy to spend the days on the beach and the evenings in the local bars. I read a number of books, swam a bit (not much as the beach wasn't the best for water sports) and just explored the local area. This was the first time I'd spent any time in any area of Spain as opposed to just travelling through so I was interested to experience the country. The early 70's were a time when package tours to the Costa Brava were just getting into their stride so the region was heavily promoted back in the UK.


It's not the best of images but the picture on the left shows the nearest beach to the campsite - taken from one of the bars that provided periodic refreshment and welcome respite from the midday sun.






Continued on page 2