Northern Spain in a Z3M

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Thesurveyor
Joined: Tue 15 Oct, 2013 14:36
Posts: 119

  M roadster S50
Location: Kent

Northern Spain in a Z3M

Post by Thesurveyor » Tue 25 Oct, 2016 17:30

So a bit of an explanation is called for before the pictures I think. Mrs Thesurveyor and myself have an empty nest; a situation that I know is not unfamiliar to a few of us on this forum. We also both work full time and so when it came to a holiday this year we basically had a wide choice available. As a wise songwriter once said, "A point in every direction is the same as no point at all" and we could not make up our mind.
We have had a Z3 for 3 years and the M for 2 and despite a couple of trips to Le Mans in the M I was still hankering after a proper road trip, Scotland had been discussed but my wife was really not all that keen on hundreds of miserable motorway miles. Then a chance Telegraph article about what was possibly "The best restaurant in the world" caught our attention. The place in question is called "El Celler can Roca" and it is a three Michelin star establishment in Girona, north of Barcelona. It sounded fantastic and since my wife is an excellent cook and becoming a real foodie, I sent off a speculative email to them, not expecting much because; a) the online booking system was broken b )it was Christmas 2015 and c) the article said you had book up 9 months in advance to get a table. The email was not even acknowledged by them but then in early February, came a reply offering a table for 2 on the 11th October at 8.30pm. So a plan started to form around this date. Since Girona is on the east coast of Spain the options were either fly or drive through France or drive across Spain from Bilbao/Santander. The prospect of the restaurant was enough to lure Amanda into the car, so we chose the latter option and got booking. This was February and much of the reason that our trip was a success lies with early booking.
So much for the human background. The third member of our party was the car. I bought it in May 2014 and have done loads to it since. Noting was really major but there were many niggles. It is essentially in 100% working order but at one point I thought it didn't want to go at all. In early September the near side front brake caliper began to bind, so not wishing to take a chance on this happening in the Pyrenees, that meant two new calipers. Then came noisy trouble with new performance suspension (documented under a separate thread in the Z3M section) which meant that on the day before we left I had the car in the air, swapping out the nice new springs for the slightly rusty original equipment.
So off we go on the 4th October. What follows is a basic itinerary and lots of pictures of an estoril blue roadster.

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So this is a dull picture but it was the first at our coffee stop on the way down to catch the ferry in Portsmouth. Worth noting that the lack of cupholders in the car caused me to spill coffee over my navigators mohair cardie at this point; an inauspicious start. You may notice that at this point there is no visible luggage. I bought a "Boot Bag" that straps on tot he boot lid but since this is essentially a squashy waterproof suitcase, we started with this inside the boot and then only fixed it outside later in the holiday when the boot space began to fill up with purchases.

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Now we are in the queue for the Baie de Seine. This is a Brittany Ferries "Economie" serice but if like us you book a premium cabin you will discover that it is anything but "Economie", just superb on the top deck and as big a reasonable hotel room with en- suite and 3 windows. Cant recommend highly enough. Some of the cars did end up barely under cover on this ship it must be said. If there had been a lot of salt spray around then I think that the hood would have been a right state when we got the Bilbao 26 hours later. As it was, we were amused by what seemed to be a resident population of robins that flitted around the boat deck. Then when we returned to the car...........there can only have been one, perhaps two canvas roofs on that whole ship, why did it choose to relieve itself on mine!

Bilbao was reached at about 13.30 on the 5th October and we drove straight to our hotel in San Sebastian about 60 miles away. First impression of Spanish roads was good. Its a mountainous region so lots of bridges and tunnels plus random speed limits than go all over the place. Its basically 120kph in dry conditions but they then whack them down by 10, 20 or 40 kph depending on tunnels bridges, tight corners etc. There are also loads of speed cameras.
So anyway, luxurious hotel close to the old town in San Sebastian, with lovely private parking. A good start.

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Oh and for those that are wondering. This is Mrs. Thesurveyor and San Sebastian

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7th October and this was the big driving day. There was you see another "must make" date and this was in the tiny village of Montserrat high in the mountains above Barcelona. Despite booking 9 months in advance this small hostel/hotel only had one free night around our dates (you can see why below). The hotel is... basic, but the food is good and the views are outstanding, The fixed date meant that we had to go from San Sebastian to Barcelona in one day (350 miles). No problem as it turned out, the motorways are superb (and largely empty) across the centre of Spain. There are tolls but they are mainly cheap (one long tunnel cost us 10 euros later in the trip). If you are planning this trip and don't have cruise control enabled then I highly recommend it. I have barely ever used it in England but here it was essential if you don't want your right foot to go to sleep. It took 7 hours and was one of those journeys where you fill up with fuel then just drive out and burn through it. Fuel you say? Well the sedate first tank saw 29 mpg and the more spirited less level second tank was 27 mpg. I think later tanks were similar at 25-27 (I carefully logged miles and kept receipts only to find that they don't always put the number of litres purchased on the receipt).

So here's the M looking up at the peaks of Montserrat.
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and the view from our room.
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We took loads more lovely pictures from Montserrat, but its a place that religious people (not us) go on pilgrimages and this is a car web site, so enough. Parking here is a nightmare. If you are booked in the one hotel they will let you go up to the door briefly but then you must park in one of the 400 spaces that are sought after by 1200 cars. Our timing meant we were OK but when we left next morning it was a real scrap for places.

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So off we go again. This time to our first Parador. These are hotels that are run by the Spanish Government. Many of them in old castles and manor houses etc. They are not all spectacular but a certain good standard can be guaranteed and with a little research you can make sure you end up in a split level apartment with amazing views somewhere like this............

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So that is where we spent our wedding anniversary and Mrs Thesurveyor's birthday. Its called Cardona by the way. Just a beautiful spot high on hill north west of Barcelona. Cardona is associated with a mountain of salt. I took my wife down the salt mine as a birthday treat. She looked fabulous in a hard hat.

We started this adventure in Basque country of course but are now firmly in Catalonia, where they also would like independence from Spain and have their own language. Its time to go to Girona because the big meal is approaching fast. An easy journey through mountain roads and across plains form Cardona to Girona. I am now being guided by the navigator with a proper old fashioned map. This enabled us to log exactly where we went and note times, places and stops for coffee etc. Much more fun for the passenger than just sitting there.
We couldn't find the hotel in Girona though.........having carefully chosen the No1 Trip Advisor hotel (book early) it turned out to be in the pedestrian only old town down tiny narrow streets. We finally made it to the recommended underground car park using Google, but if they have cameras in that medieval part of the city, I might yet get an unpleasant surprise in the post! The picture here was taken when we left. The receptionist said that we could leave by driving over one of those retractable metal posts that disappear down into the ground. She would not however guarantee that it wouldn't rise up as we passed above it! No views from this hotel. The parking was excellent though for 10 euros a day. Those 'Game of Thrones' fans among you will know that Girona was used extensively for the filming of the series (the walk of shame started on the steps of the cathedral).

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We walked to the best restaurant in the world and got a cab back to the hotel after the feast that lasted more than 4 hours. There were 6 courses of hors d'oeuvres, followed by 14 courses of the meal itself with wine pairing. We were not going to scrimp after waiting 9 months, but I wont go on. Its a motoring forum you know not food.

If you go north from Girona (and we did) then you will find the Pyrenees and signs for Andorra. On tot he next Parador at Seu d'Uquel. This is a regional capital in stunning scenery. The hotel was based around ancient ruins but the rooms were merely adequate. We were half board at these places and the menus were similar but always had regional specialties as well.

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Look carefully at this picture and you will see a hill top village perched precariously on a mountainside. The Spanish (Catalans?) go in for this sort of thing a lot in those parts. The mountain passes were often at 1100m above sea level and I think the maximum height we went to was about 1700metres. I never had a problem getting 98ron petrol for the car but up a mountain pass, I did experience "pinking" once or twice.
You can't exploit the performance of your car really, and though out weather was mostly ok, we did find ourselves driving in the clouds on several occasions. A little scary but the roads were safe, reasonably wide and well marked so there were no dramas. The lsd was great around the tight bends, you can get the nose around the apex and then as long as its dry, prod the accelerator and it will just pull cleanly round and up.

Then we were off yet again (9 hotels and 2 ships altogether) to Bielsa. This is a really unusual Parador. Its like a giant Swiss ski chalet and its up what amounts to an 11km long private drive through mountains alongside a river. Our room was at the front and we could look at a dozen separate waterfalls. Its the edge of a national park called Monte Perdito.

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If you look carefully you can just see the M against the back drop of the snow capped mountains. (remember the blue seas at the start?). We got here about 4pm and spent a couple of hours drinking and reading in front of a raring log fire. Blissful, peaceful place with amazing walks around the area. The rooms are a little bit 'log cabin' but he food was lovely again.

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We saw a couple of English cars here. The first (and last) of our entire trip.
So on again of course. This time to a tiny village called Alquezar. We chose this because there are no Paradors in the centre of Spain and we were glad that there weren't in the end. My wife is not prone to displays of emotion but she literally jumped for joy when she saw this view from our private balcony. Once more I found myself driving into a tiny ancient village but this time I got a prime spot outside the hotel.

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This was probably the high point of the trip in many ways. Its a prosperous little village that makes money from French teenagers who go "canyoning" along the nearby river. (Don't ask me what canyoning is, I'm 53).
From here we are heading home really. We went to Argoniz, another Parador, but used by us and others as a convenient motel near Bilbao and it's one we wouldn't pick again. This is Rioja country and with a bit of thought we could maybe have stayed on a Bodega.This picture shows its best feature.

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On the way there we found this amazing place. Its a reservoir formed by damning a river and flooding a valley complete with a village in it. Recent droughts have then resulted in the water levels dropping to the point that the village has emerged from he depths after 30 years. A few naked Spaniards were frolicking in the warm sulphorous streams that feed into the waters.

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Some of the best driving conditions of the whole break here. We had the top down for perhaps 30% of the driving overall, and on this topless leg there were some sinuous roads that were flat and empty. This was perhaps the only time when I was able to push the engine and a less powerful car might have struggled to keep up with us

And so we return to Bilbao. A modern city centre hotel we paid for in full in February (a good rate before the pound imploded!). The underground parking here was just luxurious and since we were buying stuff to bring home it seemed well worth 26 euros a day. More Pintxos (like tapas but bigger and never free) and much more authentic working city than San Sebastian which is lot more touristy.
Oh and we went to the Guggenheim museum on the Sunday. What a brilliant building that is. A big Francis Bacon exhibition on there at the moment.

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So now you can see why we bought a Boot-Bag. This is the queue for the Cap Finistaire that brought us back to Portsmouth on the 19th. This is a much bigger ship, that even had its own magician, but the cabin was nowhere near the size and quality of the so called basic one we went out on. The weather was ok and so this seemed like relaxing end to the holiday.

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Then on the way home, this lovely car that had been completely reliable for the whole trip (I did take out top end AA cover) became suddenly less valuable than when we started. As we neared home after 1350 glorious miles, the odometer ticked over 100,000......amazingly, nothing fell off or blew up.
If you have stuck with my tale this far then thank you and well done. If you are not bored silly, then please come round and sit through the real photographic record as taken by my navigator. It includes many of the works of art we looked and every worthwhile meal (1200 pictures or so)!
If anyone would like the route in more detail then please feel free to pm me.

John Wilson
Joined: Fri 12 Jun, 2009 13:11
Posts: 240

  Z3 roadster 2.0
Location: Diss

Re: Northern Spain in a Z3M

Post by John Wilson » Tue 25 Oct, 2016 21:01

Really interesting account. And fortunately the views didnt get in the way of the lovely Z3M.

Tilly
Joined: Wed 26 May, 2004 20:45
Posts: 430

  M roadster S50
Location: Sussex

Re: Northern Spain in a Z3M

Post by Tilly » Tue 25 Oct, 2016 21:08

Great read from a great trip. Thanks for taking the trouble to post.

Problems is once you have done it in the M what to do next. The world is your oyster!

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pingu
Joined: Fri 30 Apr, 2004 17:01
Posts: 3337

  M roadster S50

Re: Northern Spain in a Z3M

Post by pingu » Tue 25 Oct, 2016 21:32

John Wilson wrote:Really interesting account. And fortunately the views didnt get in the way of the lovely Z3M.
What views?

You've given me itchy feet - I need another road trip 8-)
Pingu

bertiejaffa
Joined: Fri 26 Jul, 2013 10:28
Posts: 1725

  M roadster S50
Location: Manchester

Re: Northern Spain in a Z3M

Post by bertiejaffa » Tue 25 Oct, 2016 22:59

Great thread - thanks for sharing !!! :cheers :cheers
Here come the girls.....
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Brian H
Joined: Tue 16 Dec, 2008 19:55
Posts: 2503

  Z3 roadster 3.0i

Re: Northern Spain in a Z3M

Post by Brian H » Wed 26 Oct, 2016 19:12

Enjoyable read, thanks for sharing :thumb:

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Brian H
Joined: Tue 16 Dec, 2008 19:55
Posts: 2503

  Z3 roadster 3.0i

Re: Northern Spain in a Z3M

Post by Brian H » Wed 26 Oct, 2016 19:13

pingu wrote:You've given me itchy feet - I need another road trip 8-)
Here we go again :P

Thesurveyor
Joined: Tue 15 Oct, 2013 14:36
Posts: 119

  M roadster S50
Location: Kent

Re: Northern Spain in a Z3M

Post by Thesurveyor » Thu 03 Nov, 2016 15:13

There are a couple of "Z" related things that I forgot to say in this write up. The first is the number of Z series cars seen whilst in Spain, and this amounted to 3: a red Z4 that I glimpsed on the move in San Sebastian at the beginning of the holiday and then two Z3s that were parked up in Girona. One looked dusty and unloved in our underground parking garage and the other was almost equally sad in a tiny little road within the old part of the city. (Girona is where they filmed some of "Game of Thrones").

The second point is a word about the reaction to our car..................very little if I'm honest and I perhaps expected more attention to be paid to an English sports car abroad. In a Pistonheads thread about driving M cars on the continent, one poster went on about how knowledgeable the drivers were in appreciating how different his M3 was from most E46s (or whatever).
As for us? Well one receptionist did ask if we owned the blue car; "Yes" says I, "Is nice." she replied.

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Gazza
Site Admin
Joined: Tue 04 Oct, 2005 21:58
Posts: 9203

  M roadster S54
Location: East London/Essex

Re: Northern Spain in a Z3M

Post by Gazza » Thu 03 Nov, 2016 20:27

Thesurveyor wrote:
The second point is a word about the reaction to our car..................very little if I'm honest and I perhaps expected more attention to be paid to an English sports car abroad.

English sports car ???????? :)
Gazza

"Understeer is when you hit the wall with the front of the car, oversteer is when you hit the wall with the rear of the car. Horsepower is how fast you hit the wall and torque is how far you take the wall with you"

S54 M roadster Image, BMW Z1, BMW M3 CSL, Mustang Fastback

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Desiro
Joined: Thu 31 Jul, 2008 16:59
Posts: 249

  M roadster S50
Location: Sheffield

Re: Northern Spain in a Z3M

Post by Desiro » Wed 09 Nov, 2016 18:09

I do like a nice road trip and that was a very good road trip.

Thanks for sharing.

imi89imi
Joined: Thu 10 Nov, 2016 21:25
Posts: 16

  Z4 M coupe

Re: Northern Spain in a Z3M

Post by imi89imi » Mon 28 Nov, 2016 00:47

Nice write up sir.

that picture of the z3M looking at the mountain Montserrat is awesome. Brilliant photography skills.

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