A Travellerspoint blog

Barcelona - Montserrat

City Navigation - Old Friends - Black Virgin - Catalonian Identity

sunny 71 °F

725 kilometers, through foothills to Valencia then along the costal motorway Northeast brought me to Barcelona - my new temporary headquarters. Arriving in a city for the first time and trying to find a destination has proved to be a consistent challenge on this trip. One must immediately adapt to the local motorcycle protocol (I usually opt for a more conservative driving approach compared to the common local 'anything goes' and 'just get there' methods), translate road signs, navigate through hectic roundabouts, all while consulting the map which in my case is never good enough. This time a straight shot down Barcelona's palm tree/eucalyptus lined Avenue Diagonal and a left at my fourth roundabout (Its a right at the roundabout technically) brought me to my target.

An old hometown friend of mine, Tia Lovisa has set up her semi-permanent home in the city in hopes of finding a job teaching English. With her help, by the end of my five days in Barcelona I had soaked up quite a bit of the city's life blood: The beach culture, the tight streets and small shops of the Gothic Quarter, the Soho-esk Bourn district, A Catalan Brass concert at the Palau de la Música Catalana, and the unmistakable 'Dr. Seuss' architectural style of Barcelona's favorite designer, Antoni Gaudi. I now know there's a difference between Catalans and the Spanish. Until the early 19th century the Catalalonia providence of Spain was under its own rule with it's own identity. Fighting over the past 200 years has left them under Spanish rule until in 1978 the democratic Spanish Constitution gave them the ability to retain much of their political and cultural autonomy. Basically, Catalonians want you to recognize their not just another providence in Spain.

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In route to Montserrat

Mid-stay, Tia, Bonnie and I took a day trip to Montserrat, translated in Catalan as 'jagged mountain'. Resting atop this mountain is Benedictine Abbey Santa Maria which is known principally for its boys choir and its statue of 'The Black Virgin,'a Romanesque sculpture in wood of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, dating back to the 12th century. The day was capped with a few cocktails back in Barcelona in the offbeat very local 'Gracia' district where we mingled with laid back Spanish and English speaking folk. In one joint I met two Colombians who spoke highly of their country insisting that it's not in the rebel run state that everyone believes it to be in. I guess in Barcelona it's tough to find true locals. It seemed like one big Melting pot where it seemed Tia is just another ingredient. I can't thank her enough for taking me under her wing.

Posted by meIan3 02:33 Archived in Spain Tagged motorcycle Comments (0)

Ronda-Grenada-Madrid

Spaniard Moto Enthusiasts - Alhambra - Prado - Co-Pilots Part

sunny 86 °F

A slower than expected but well worth it mountain road brought us to Ronda, a medevil town off the beaten path. Here we grabbed a nourishing meal, lentil soup with sausage, tea, and a shot of Jager that our waiter insisted would kick our gears over. When we finished our meal around nine, Ronda´s streets were saturated with Spanish spirit. Upon returning to our faithful steeds we were greeted by two curious Spaniards. We were all curious and were able to ¨talk bikes¨with the two fellows. After sharing some info and snapping a few photos, we were on our way for a quick and refreshing moonlit haul to Grenada.

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Friends in Ronda

We had the privelidge of spending 2 more nights in Granda than we expected, which allowed the youth-filled town to really leave its impression on us. The declaration of free tapas with every drink makes this town especially appealing to the local students as well as the crowds of toursts from all across the globe. Free Tapas, however, are only second to the Alhambra. The Alhambra, an old Moorish palace ovelooking the city on one side, is the centerpiece of Granda, while the snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains provide an icy chiseled background. Here are some facts- the palace proclaims the highest point in Grenada; was taken in 1492 by the Christians; inhabited since by Spain´s Ferdinando and Isabel and Emperor, Carlos V; adorned by intricate plaster work and an everpresent water moteif, the Alhambra comes highly recommended by these visitors.

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Granada from the Alhombra

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Sierra Nevadas Atop the Alhombra

After our last big ride to return Jaime´s bike to BMW Moto Rental we arrived in the capital city of Madrid, home to the Prado Museum which boasts an exceptional collection of artists, including: Goya, Velazquez, El Greco, Rembrant, and Van Dyck to name a few. This entry ends a chapter in the expedition as Jaime heads stateside. We hope that the Spanish countryside, tasty tapas, and memories of quality family time abroad will never leave his side.

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Posted by meIan3 13:41 Archived in Spain Tagged motorcycle Comments (0)

Sevilla-Arcos de la Frontera-Tarifa

Bullfight - Pig´s Blood - Africa

sunny

Well, unfortunately there was no bullfight. It was cancelled due to the condition of the ring - too wet. We still got some culture out of it though. The fight wasn’t called until everyone was seated down, five minutes after the fight was due to start. At that moment, rather than post an announcement on a jumbo-tron as may be seen at Yankee Stadium, a fight official walked around the ring carrying a sign on a stick scribbled in chalk that the fight was cancelled. In response to this declaration, the locals all threw their seat cushions into the ring to show their disgust. Despite our disappointment, we still appreciate what we got to see of the ring and the culture.

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Inside the Bull Ring, Sevilla

In Sevilla we continued our tapas tasting and stepped it up a notch in the form of coagulated pig’s blood. Once you get past the mental image and creepy texture, it’s really not all that bad. Another interesting dish was fried patties of whole baby shrimp. A specialty of Sevilla, this dish got 4 thumbs up from these tapas critics.

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Co Pilots, Plaza De Espana, Sevilla

On our journey from Sevilla to Tarifa we enjoyed some of the views of classic Andalucía - the bluest skies you’ve ever seen, rolling glowing green hills, eucalyptus tree-lined roads, and even passed a sheep herder driving his flock on the shoulder of the road. An hour later it was hard to wipe the smiles off our faces when we rounded the final stretch of coastal road to Tarifa and the mountains of Africa appeared across the Straight of Gibraltar.

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White, Arcos De La Frontera

We’re settled in Tarifa, the most southern town in Spain, for the afternoon. The high coastal winds have made this town a kite-boarding and wind surfing hot spot.

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Morocco, Africa

After a few hours in the sand, we hope to push northeast to Granada.

Posted by meIan3 01:37 Archived in Spain Tagged motorcycle Comments (0)

Madrid-Teledo-Consejero-Cordoba-Seville

Co Pilot - Tapas - Bilengua Small Talk

storm 0 °F

Writing from Seville, scrubbed clean and aired out after a long damp push from Madrid. The package pick-up went smoothly and I´m happy with the condition of the cargo. His name is James (For the sake of the blog we´ll call him Jaime, pronounced in the spanish way) and he´s my cousin and co-pilot for the next week or so and is a perfect complement to the wide array of skills that I bring to the mesa. A squishy tandom ride on Bonnie from the Airport in Madrid brought us to the BMW Moto rental headquarters where Jamie picked up his mount. From here down and for the next week we´ll be operating tandom posts.

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Toledo´s Cathedral

We find the Spanish culture to be extremely laid back in every sense, from the way they run their businesses to how they party. For example, from about 2pm to 4pm of every day is devoted to the Siesta, which is essentially a R&R sesion to break up the day, nap, and just enjoy life. Meals are late a long. Just last night we finished our meal at 12:30 AM before the night life picked up around 1 or 2 AM. Back to the meal though - there was an executive descion made to bypass the budget friendly plate of the day. Instead an assortment of tapas were laid before us, lamb burgerettes, sardienes and pasta, and eggplant omlett to name a few.

On our soggy journey stopped off in several small towns where we were received with some smiles, some laughs and some fairly awkward moments. Every trip to the gas station has involved some sory of cultural learning on both sides. Typical conversations include phrases like, ¨You´re country is beautiful, is this weather normal?, have you been to New York?... why not?¨ and on there end, ¨¿what the hell are you guys doing?¨

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Typical Scene in the Streets of Cordoba

Some quick highlights up until this point - We´ve seen the infamous windmills that posed a threat to Cervantes´ DonQuixote, perused the narrow streets of Toledo, and wittnessed a pre-marital bachelor celebration in the streets (major ingredients include: bull fighting attire, loud music, hard liquor, and impromptu acting).

On our horizon, a few things - A bullfight, Paella, coastal waters, and sunny skies.

Posted by meIan3 02:53 Archived in Spain Tagged motorcycle Comments (0)

Normandy-Coutances

Omaha-Fellow Campers

overcast 45 °F
View Euro-Moto-Expedition on meIan3's travel map.

Normandy, a region of green landscapes, narrow roads sandwiched between 15th century timber and mud houses covered with vines and moss, apple groves and the cider to go with it. You could see that the war has been here. It wasn't difficult to notice a lot of the historic buildings had been repaired from the fighting the Americans, British and Canadians waged with the Germans who used the small towns as headquarters. The whole region smelled like manure. If farming ever had to be invented I would guess it was born in this region of North France.
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Weather in Normandy changes pretty quick
A top the beach at Omaha is one of the larger of the American cemeteries. While walking along the beach below a few days ago, I can,t say I felt any vibes at all. Very few of the German bunkers remain and not a trace of the barricades that people visualize when they picture the D Day beaches.
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Cruising the back roads I found the sun setting over a small town called Coutances. Municipal camping signs in the town brought me to a cozy plot right on the fringe of the village. Right away Bonnie attracted attention and I met some good friends because of her. Pierce is a native to England but a traveler at heart. He,s helping his mother Jillian, a writer with classic British wit, find a permanent home in Coutances. Having explored much of Europe on his Triumph, Pierce tipped me off on some local scenic touring roads down South and pointed out that I could save up to 10cents/liter by using the supermarket gas stations. The bottom line is, he told me, It,s all about smiles per miles.
I got a real taste of the local flavor at this joint Pierce and Jillian knew about that had 4 course daily lunch specials. It just so happened that across the street was a bridge blown up by the allied forces to stop the German retreat. I was told the French have great respect for the monuments left after the war
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Posted by meIan3 03:12 Archived in France Tagged motorcycle Comments (1)

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