Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Escaping the snow

Snow - that was not what we signed up for when coming to Spain. The cold weather did catch us somewhat by surprise and even the locals told us it is too chilly for their taste. At San Sebastian the temperature meter did not climb over 10C and it seemed to rain and drizzle almost all the time.

Of course heading south meant also that we needed to cross a few mountains :-o
The first leg from San Sebastian to Logrono was rather boring. We climbed up to 1000m and we saw some snow. That was not too bad and once we went over the hill it rained less and we arrived safely in the hotel's underground car park.
The hotel was located in a shopping mall and we wanted to experience a movie in Spanish language as well as go bowling (we've been talking about this for 6 years now :D and it hasn't happened yet). Skippy was totally frozen and got sick. There were some sunny moments, but the wind was strong and the meter was still max 10C. In other words it was damn cold and I wore my biking gear when I walked with girls.

View from our hotel window in Logrono (click on the picture to enlarge)
Surroundings gave me the feeling of end-time movies ... 
The next leg from Logrono started with rain (again). I did not see the height of the passes on my big-scale map and once more we got caught by the winter. Starting from 1100m height it started snowing and the pass was about 1400m (help!). The streets were lovely curved and once more we saw stunning landscape, however we could not enjoy it and I developed a tunnel vision. I was too stiff to look much left or right. Later the weather got better and it stopped raining.

Somewhere along the road - this was too magnificent view to let it pass by (click on the picture to enlarge)
Once we arrived in Calatayud we were dry but deep frozen. Lucky for us this place knew how to heat the rooms and we slowly got melted. Typically Skippy jumps into a bathtub (she got lucky here again) and melts herself in a hot bath for many minutes.

Locals dumping trash just "behind" the fence
The next legs to San Antonio and further to Alicante were a bit easier to ride. The temperature was between +2..+10C, however sunny and that helped - at least - mentally. I did not stop much to take pictures, therefore I have another video here with some road impressions - enjoy... :)

Click here if you have trouble to watch the video.

~ Wolfi

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fruity salad dressings

Oranges, pears and avocados are now in season here in Spain, and boy, have we enjoyed them a lot! Quite often each of us eats about 1 kg of oranges for breakfast, plenty of pears and other fruits during the day and a yummy salad for dinner with fruity sauce.

Here are three of my favorite salad dressings at the moment. The recipes are all for one and meant to enjoy with one head of fresh lettuce (300-500g). I enjoy very simple salads with only few ingredients, because it's healthier/easier for metabolism and that way you also taste easier all of the delicious flavors. I highly recommend to test even if you're not vegan or even raw vegan. You might easily find some new favorites to fruit up your life!!! :D

Fruity & Creamy: ½ avocado, 1 orange, 2 very ripe pears

Nutty Orange: 8- 10 walnuts, 2 -3 oranges

Sweet Pepino: 5 walnuts, 5 pecans, 2 small cucumbers and 2 very ripe pears

  • Shell / peel the ingredients. Chop into smaller pieces, put to a mixer and blend until smooth sauce. Pour over desired lettuce / greens and enjoy!
I like my salads well stirred! Not too photogenic, but absolutely delicious :)

~ Ilta

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dinner for two: raw vegan roadfood

Here is a video about what we typically have for dinner and how we prepare it. Enjoy the show...

~ Ilta & Wolfi

Friday, November 22, 2013

Northern Spain on video

Here is a modest attempt to capture some of the beauty and stunning roads of northern Spain on video.

Click here if you have trouble to watch the video in youtube.

~ Wolfi

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Northern Spain

The weather forecast for Andorra promised more snow for the next night, so we were more than happy to leave before. The morning was again beautiful, sunshine with some clouds and about +10C. The sun was heating us up a little and it did not feel so cold. Just before crossing the border to Spain, we filled our tanks - petrol was the cheapest so far on this entire journey with 1.215EUR/l. Good for our budget. There were so many filling stations along the main road that I lost count of them.

We made quite a dip of about 1700m height difference in 47km distance, this seems to be still fine for all the ladies and me.

Northern Spain welcomed us with curvy roads in best conditions and a stunning landscape. I have never been there by bike (neither has Skippy) and I needed to make a few stops to enjoy the scenery. We rode mostly along N260 and we can both highly recommend this!

Lunch break in northern Spain.
We stayed for a few days in a tiny village called Escalona. It was so tiny that it was not even on my Spanish streetmap ;)

Neighborhood when walking the dogs.
Evening show from our hotel window: Plenty of hawks, eagles and vultures
We continued to ride small roads, often they were not on my map and I relied fully on my Garmin. I also became kind of seasick when riding those tiny roads - not very nice. I found some hints on what to minder the effect: no booze the night before (surprise!), no coffee in the morning and focus on the street and less on the GPS/maps. That seemed to help me :)
Another place where we needed to stop. Click on the picture to enlarge it and see the magnificence of those rocks.

Click on the picture to enlarge.
Finally we made it to another super tiny village - Fago. Since it was deeply off-season, only 15 people lived there when we were there. The village gave us a little chill, since it almost looked like a ghost town. The houses have only small windows and thus it was hard to see the inner lights in dusk which made it really spooky. Streets lights went on very late in the evening and then only the street lights were shining.

Fago - great place to be if you seek peace and want to be in the middle of nowhere.
When we booked this hotel, it said that no parking was available. Since the price was decent and dogs were for free we decided to take the risk and bet on the fact that with our small bikes we always find a parking place... and so we did. The owner was so kind and offered also to use his garage, but there was no need to start hassling around. The spot was ok for all.
Our hotel and perfect parking place for our tiny motos.
Cats guarding the door.

Since recently, we stayed two nights in one place. Then we felt somehow stressed with this rhythm and we decided to change it to staying at least three nights in one place. So we have two full days to explore the surroundings, write the blog, do some minor maintenance, have a short day ride or do whatever we want or needs to be done at that moment.

Around Fago there were many small marked-as-scenic roads, which means those are typically curvy and/or something to see. So we did. We passed by the stunning Mallos de Riglos on our way to Castillo de Loarre. The point we missed was that we left late and the driving took more time then expected.
Mallos de Riglos in Hoya de Huesca comarca, Aragon
Castillo de Loarre (no dogs allowed, so we stayed outside)
View from the castle and all is flat behind here. Good point to see who crosses your land and collect taxes ;)
Mallos de Riglos in sunset.

This together meant we were driving the last 50km on really tiny roads and some 30km on some major road in complete darkness. Not very nice and extremely dangerous. I started to pay much more attention to my inner voice (especially after my last ticket in Finland where I did not listen to my instinct). When there was a car standing on the opposite lane with driving lights and emergency lights on, I slowed down as I thought there might have been an accident with a wild animal (I saw only one car). When I came to an almost complete stop I saw a brown cow blocking my lane. I am really not sure if I would have seen it in time to stop in time when riding 100km/h. Thank you very much my guardian angel :)

It was time to move on towards San Sebastian. The weather was first nice and sadly in the last 20km or so it started raining slightly. The next day we saw this when we had our morning walk with girls: SNOW just on the opposite mountains. This made us heavily re-think our plans for the next weeks.
San Sebastian hillside
This is not the way to keep such birds!
Neither those chicken and Indian Peafowls - far too small cage and dirty as hell!
Some rain washed this steep slope and left a mess on the lower street. This section was closed for traffic, so peaceful for us to walk with girls.
Howdy - no need to panic... we come in peace :)
Locals grow their own chilli in their backyard.
The reason to come to San Sebastian was that Skippy had a photo shoot there. That cheered her up a lot and it brought a welcome change of things-to-do. The photographer brought an assistant and it was her first photo-shoot and it sounded that she was more excited then Skippy :D (click here to see Skippy's portfolio)

Instead of continue to ride through the Cantabrian Mountains and towards Portugal, we decided to head south towards Alicante and warmness. There are several things to do and the bikes need their next maintenance.

~ Wolfi

Friday, November 15, 2013

Andorra - road impressions

As promised earlier, here is a short clip of how we experienced Andorra

Click here, if you have trouble with the video.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Wolfi's original idea was that we would just drive through Andorra, because it's so tiny country. I had never been there and got really interested of it after reading some pages in internet. Very peculiar little country with long history and interesting political status. So I wanted to spend few days there and look around a bit...

The drive from Toulouse to Andorra was one of the worst legs on our trip, at least for me! The whole 160km we had heavy rain and extremely bad side wind and in the end we came to a winter wonderland!

When we arrived to our hotel Wolfi dared to say that it wasn't so bad... I almost strangulated him, because I barely survived alive!!! The last few kilometers before Andorra on the mountain road were very bad for me: the wind was heavily trying to slide me of the road and I had to use all my powers to stay up and few times I slided so badly, that I was just few centimeters from the edge of the road! Not fun at all :( We didn't have to drive in snow, but the streets were still pretty slippery. It was only +8C degrees in the last half of the leg. Check out the video in the next post...

In front of the hotel I also got stuck in a pile of soft snow, but luckily there was a very nice man who gave me a push :) Haven't had such experience before with my Suzi!
The snowy view from our window. This is actually France, the border river runs just in front of these buildings.
The heavy wind bent even some street signs down!

Andorra is all about tourists and shopping, that's why it was great to be there off season! In Pas de La Casa we just had a small problem: where to find food? All we could see was shops full of alcohol, tobacco and perfumes! So we had to ask help from an Info-place and the guy working there instantly knew who we were! "Are you the Finns with the motorbikes?" Well, we must have been quite a scene when we arrived. The only motorists in snow and doing about three circles around the town before finding our hotel... :D
We got instructions to a grocery shop and on the first visit the guy there was a bit amazed about our veggie bags, but on the next day he was heavily talking about the differences in plastic bag usage between northern and southern Europeans... Obviously he had done some thinking in the night :D
Tax free paradise.

The next day everything was totally different! No signs of heavy wind, snow or coldness anymore.  So we had a nice hike on the hills and enjoyed some sun :)
Pas de La Casa.
On the second day we had a small ride around the country. Gorgeous mountains with snowy tips, beautiful forests and extremely fun curvy roads, and amazingly hot in sun!
We had a delicious, although a bit unhealthy, lunch in the only veg-friendly place we found from Happy Cow. Tot en Pita is a pita/falafel-place and we had yummy vegan falafels with huge amount of hummus! The portions are enormous and I had to take some of mine with. No chance I could've eaten it all at once! The service was also very nice and helpful, so we can warmly recommend the place :)
Huge falafels with hummus and some salad.
The parking lots for 'Motos' are not made for big bikes or sidecars!!!
btw. On our three night stay in Andorra, girls didn't pee or poo there a single time... :D

~ Ilta

Exotic pancakes

Here's the recipe for the extra delicious pancakes I made for Wolfi back in Cannes. Hope you enjoy! :)

These are of course vegan, but also gluten and sugar free. I would assume you can use almost any flours instead of quinoa flours, if that's not your thing. Flax seeds are not needed with gluten containing flours, they are just for the binding effect. If you use coconut oil, remember to warm the milk a bit, so the oil stays liquid! The agave nectar is not necessarily needed, I just think it took away the bitter edge of the quinoa.

Exotic pancakes (inspired by my favorite Katie)
makes 26 small pancakes
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 2 very ripe pears
  • 3 dl rice-coconut milk (or other desired veggie milk)
  • 1 tbsp melted coconut oil (any veggie oil is ok, they just add a different flavor)
  • 3 tbsp agave nectar (or some other sweetener or none)
  • 3 dl quinoa flours
  • 1 dl coconut flakes
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 - 4 very ripe persimmons for the "jam"
Mix the flax seeds, the fruits and all the liquids in a mixer until smooth. Pour into a bowl and let set for about 10 minutes. Mix the dry ingredients together and stir into the wet. Let the dough set another 10 minutes before baking. Use e.g. coconut oil for baking. If you make gluten free pancakes, I recommend to make small ones.  Serve with smashed persimmons, delicious!

~ Ilta

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Verona - Genova - Cannes - Avignon - Toulouse

Back in Finland this spring I noticed that many of my favorite bands/artists (Nick Cave, Pet Shop Boys, Rammstein, Suede...) were going to tour Europe this summer/fall. As a huge music fan I started to plan our trip according to the tour plans... but as we have noticed plans change and in the end this wasn't too easy thing to do, e.g. because I have to listen Wolfi as well (at least occasionally...), so we didn't manage to go to a single concert! :(

Well luckily when I was bound to bed in Croatia I had some time for planning and dreaming again... and then I discovered that Suede is going to be in two weeks in Toulouse! That would be possible for us to reach! I've been wanting to see Suede for almost 20 years already, so this was really a big dream come true!!!

So I started to plan our trip towards Toulouse... Back in Finland I was also dreaming to visit Venice, but after some experiences and discussions I understood that it wouldn't be much fun with bikes or with our girls. The second thing I wanted to experience in Italy was "Shakespeare's" Verona and finally after some persuasion and sweet movie (Letters to Juliet) it was fine by Wolfi as well. Yes! :D

So from Croatia we went mostly highway to Verona, because there was no nice little streets or it would be just a boring 'village to village' -drive. The day started as extremely foggy, but in the end turned out to be rather nice and warm. Highway went quite painlessly thanks to the good music in my mp3-player and my back was doing much better already!

Unfortunately it was Sunday when we arrived to Verona and all the nice vegan restaurants we had planned to go to were closed! (even though some advertised to be open...) So we ended up eating very boring and tasteless side dishes from one pizzeria. Never had so tasteless and porridge like polenta before! Yucky! At least the 'Promised Land' -movie we had for desert was great :) I recommend to watch it!
After walks we always try to wash girls feet, so they don't lick all the shit what comes e.g. from city streets. In Verona the shower hose was too short to reach the ground, so we had to use the bidet for the little ones :D
We found really delicious vegan ice cream in one coffee shop and were able to enjoy it outside in T-shirts in November! Terveiset Suomeen! :D
Southern style toilet! I had seen these in TV before and now finally in real life. Not fun at all when you have stiff back or heavy biking clothes on...
Entertainment in the downtown Verona. The middle guy is a real human also!
I got to touch Juliet's boob! :D Let's see did it bring any luck...
Juliet's balcony and so much different than in the movies. Set designers really do a good job!
This was a human trying to squeak like an unhappy doggy. If the money would've gone to charity, I could've donated some.
I got trapped by some Romans...
Finally on our second day in Verona we found a nice vegan place to have lunch/dinner. Universo Vegano was a very sweet little fast food place and we can warmly recommend it to everyone! Just be prepared to wait your order for quite some time if you come in rush hour... there was only one man working!
Happy Wolfi with a very delicious vegan burger!
My wrap was also pretty good, just unfortunately extremely salty! I'm not used to much salt anymore!
Our hotel in Verona was very close to the old city wall park and that was very nice for girls. We could enjoy some lovely walks and girls got plenty of play! Besides the park was also a good big bio-shop from where we finally found vegan kibbles for girls. Wow, we really were lucky! Just that morning we ran out of food and then in the evening found this place, fantastic! Oh and Wolfi got some more vegan ice cream...

Next day we continued to Genova in a very nasty weather. Very heavy rain and in beginning even some thunder! The last half of the way was even very nice mountain road, but unfortunately couldn't enjoy it much :(

Genova was a shocking surprise for both of us. The whole city (expect the little part of the old town) looks like one giant slum! Not much green anywhere and the little green there is, is heavily fenced! Horrible big block houses right next to each other and very narrow roads in between! We got totally lost there and had huge trouble to find our hostel... Luckily there were two nice guys who tried to help us even with their very poor English :) Finally in the already dark city we found our hostel and were very happy we booked it only for one night. Genova definitely isn't for us or for dogs! I must say that it's so far the most ugliest place I've seen on this trip!
The view from our room in Genova.
I don't understand why can't everyone use the same toilets...? Well I certainly didn't start going to downstairs every time and anyway people think quite often I'm a boy! And if somebody would start complaining, I'd just say "You want to see into my pants?" :D
After finally getting out of Genova and finding our highway towards Cannes, we were very relieved! No meaningful little roads, so again the whole leg on a boring highway, but at least the weather was very beautiful and warm.

btw. the petrol in Italy was horrible expensive, about 1.88e/l !!! So we tried to manage with very little filling until France...

For our surprise we found a rather big bio-shop in Cannes with very good selection on vegan foods. (earlier we haven't been too lucky with finding bio stuff in France) We also had a nice little apartment with pretty good kitchenette, so I decided to pamper Wolfi a bit and made some unhealthier (but of course delicious) cooked food for a change! :)
BBQ-spiced onion-paprika-couscous with fresh tomatoes, lettuce and seitan. 
The beach at Cannes, France.
I saw for the first time in my life date palms! Full of delicious looking golden dates and I was just drooling :P
Last evening in Cannes was Halloween and also Wolfi's names day, so I made some pancakes :) They turned out to be extremely delicious and I'll be blogging the recipe soon!

Cannes was pretty ok place to visit, but not really for us either. Not much green there, except just in the beach side and in the small parks and dogs are forbidden almost everywhere (and ball games!). Well locals didn't seem to care much about the signs and we of course followed their example... At least our accommodation the Kimi Residence was an excellent place to be and the Icelandic guy working there was a very helpful and kind person! There is also a nice little peaceful inner yard and girls could play there a bit :)
Making pancakes takes rather long, so I needed some entertainment :D Wolfi just didn't like too much of my idea to hold the tablet...
The leaving from Cannes didn't start too easily, because we couldn't get our tanks filled! Some French petrol machines don't except foreign credit cards!!! Well third times the charm and off we went to really beautiful and curvy roads... The Grand Canyon du Verdon was just spectacular! I had no idea there would be such place in France. Extremely wonderful 300 km on the bike, but also way too much for me! I'm not made for sitting 6 hours on bike a day, 4 hours is my maximum! So only in very needed occasions I'm willing to do this sort of legs. 300km on highway is totally different than 300km on mountain roads!!!

View from 'Route Napoleon'.

View to Grand Canyon du Verdon
Germany in Provence :D
In Avignon we stayed again in Premier Classe hotel, which we have found to be pretty ok for a short stay. Cheap and quite often they're also in some sort of industrial area, which are nice and quiet at weekends! There were also two very good bio-shops nearby and some green, so no worries :)
French tampons don't look too comfortable... I wouldn't recommend! :D
It was 3rd. of November when we arrived to Toulouse and our 6th. monthiversary of this trip! We wanted to celebrate with some nice dining out, but it was Sunday and almost everything was closed already, so we ended up in Subway.... How boring :(

The weather in Avignon was mostly wet and windy, which was pitty, because we even had some rather nice green areas around us to have proper walks. Well at least the last night brought us a great award: the Suede concert! That was amazing! Really great from beginning on and even Wolfi liked, who isn't a fan! Brett Anderson was full of energy and devotion, and my favorite song 'Flash Boy' (+many others!) he came to sing to the middle of the audience!!! Fantastic concert! Even the warm up band 'Teleman' was great and we also met them in our hotel after the concert :) They happened to live in the same place as us and we had small chat when we were taking girls out. They really seemed to like girls and took pictures of them! Let's see how famous our little stars will be one day...
Brett singing with great devotion! Almost got tears in my eyes... this was a real dream come true!!!

~ Ilta

And here are some road impressions:

Click here if you have trouble to see this video.