ray ban
 
PAT & CAT SPIN TALES OF THE TRAIL

SPAIN

 

 
Section 3: Spain - December 12, 2002  to January 12, 2003
Posted on 2/24/03

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ESPANA AND COSTA DEL SOL

We were really ready for change and Spain was change. Though the language of Portugal is similar it is quite different, too. Since I had studied Spanish in High School I felt certain that it would be easier to get by here. Well, it has been almost 50 years since those classes and I’m not sure I paid very close attention back then. There was also a change in food and thanks to our course correction, a change in the weather, too. As always, it’s our hope that you enjoy what we’ve written and that the pictures will speak for themselves.

Salamanca was a flurry of traffic. Every time we get into city traffic it’s tough but dusk and rush hour really added to the challenge. Circling in the narrow one-way streets we finally pulled up on the curb at a Hotel. I went in and found it to be less than so-so. More circling and following the arrow signs led us to Hotel Don Juan. It sounded romantic but was just slightly better than the other although it was a better location. Oh yea, and the price was almost inside our budget.

I was dealt the duty of finding a bottle of Vino. The very nice lady at the front desk gave me a map and simple directions. Of course I was soon so lost I couldn’t even find the streets on the map. How could I have missed so badly? As if to add insult to injury, it started to rain, cold wet rain. After passing the same steps twice I decided that I needed to turn to the left. Then things began to look a little more familiar. The Plaza Mayor was there but it had turned around since I last walked past? It was the signs for Don Juan Hotel that finally led me back home. I bought the only bottle of white Vino they had, tucked my tail between my legs and went back to the room.

December 12 and 13, 2003
Falling in love with Salamanca

Our normal Motis Operindi, fruit in the room then coffee down the street. The never ending quest for the perfect Internet connection then the need for urgent care for Lil’ Scotty. After asking for mechanics at the desk we gave up and found the Renault Dealer. Once there, we were the only ones who could understand what we were saying. Through sign language and pointing we got the point across. The price was right where Nuna said it should be but we were caught off guard when he indicated we should leave the car. At first we thought he meant they would work on it in a day or two. We explained that we were leaving in two days. (Simple words like “Iramos en dos dias” hadn’t completely escaped me in the past 50 years since Spanish classes.) He assured us that he would have it ready for us by 5:00 PM, today. Wow, great service. We grabbed a taxi and headed back to Plaza Mayor.

Food is a whole different problem. None of the words appear in the Lonely Planet food guide. We parried with the waiter until he seemed to be tiring of the charade game. Then we went to plan two and took his suggestions. I knew that conejo was rabbit so I ordered. Cat wanted something less meaty so she ordered an egg dish. My rabbit was tasty her egg thing, chopped egg with mayonnaise and catsup, was pretty bad.

It was cold as we walked around the area, found the Tourist Office and got maps. We strolled through the Plaza Mayor (Main Plaza) and window-shopped. Some of the places are very upscale then there are street vendors with the same old stuff. It was off and on again showers so we went back to the room and relaxed until 4:30.

We taxied again and at 5:00 we were pleasantly surprised to fine Lil’ Scotty fixed and ready to roll. On the way back in we found the Champion Super Market that had completely escaped me last evening. Even inside the center it wasn’t that easy to find. We bought Vino and food for breakfast.

Back to our room, relaxed, sipped the wine and watched BBC World in English. What a treat. By 7:30 we were on the pedestrian street. It was beautiful but cold. We just had to use up some time, as Restaurants don’t open until 9:00 PM. It was an easy choice, the restaurant, allowed us in at 8:30. We were the only people in the place. By 9:30 we were just finishing as the next customers were being seated. How will we ever adjust? Our mistake, we had Paella. The tour book says that it is heavy and that most Spaniards have it for lunch. It was like lead soaked in oil. Too rich and too late.

Frog Spotting in Salamanca?

The next morning I got coffee from the café downstairs and we did breakfast in. It’s Friday the 13th, and my brother Bob’s 57th birthday. Some think it is an unlucky day but for Brother Bob the Friday thing must happen every few years. I think any day you get another year is a good day! We reserved today for a walking tour of Salamanca. We walked and looked, following the Tourist Map. Even though the season is finished we were amazed at how many others were walking around studying the same map in different languages.

Salamanca will become our favorite city in Espana. It is a University City and that always seems to add life to a community. In fact, the University was established in 1218. It became equal to Oxford and Bologna, and the focal point of rich artistic activity by the end of the 15th Century, according to our Lonely Planet, and thanks to the patronage of Queen Isabella. Salamanca was designated the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2002. The old center is compact and the Plaza Mayor that I mentioned earlier that has been said to be Spain’s grandest plaza.

 
Cathedral at Night Cathedral by Day Inside Cathedral Nuevo
Mass in Cathedral Nuevo
Library, Casa De Las Conchas Touch the Cross Back to the CAT-a-combs
These Little Piggies Flute and Drum Mercado Salamanca

Churches, college, two wonderful open markets. Pizza at Pizza Hut for lunch. It was as expected, not great but filling. More walking map in hand. At the Universidad Civil there is a frog, or they say there is a frog, sculpted into the facade. We had read about it and weren’t surprised when we rounded a corner and ran into a group with heads back pointing upward. The story goes that if you can find it without help you will have good luck. Students say that it will guarantee good grades? We tried and failed then checked our guidebook for directions. That too failed and our efforts degraded to trying to understand directions in Spanish of those who seemed to know, as they pointed upward. We blame the rain, it started spitting down and the crowd thinned. Without those uplifted arms we were destined to leave Frogless and face the possibility of bad luck. We decided that it was time for a glass of wine.

 
Promontory Walls and Domes Back to Ventura?
Padre and Cathedral Padre and Cathedral  

 

The only place on the street that was open at 8:00 PM was definitely a tourist trap. Nice enough looking but pricey. There were a few other foreigners eating early. We had another tough time choosing food. I had the suckling pig, a whole half of the little guy. No vegetables or potatoes offered. Cat chose Salmon and it was good but very oily. My pig was a pretty big baby and the meat was rich and greasy but good. We both needed antacids for dessert.

South toward Marbella

Packed up and headed for Plasencia, we stopped for gas and that led to a broken key in the gas cap. The more I get to know Lil’ Scotty the more protective I become. She is old and fragile, I don’t know how she ever survived without me? I got that sinking feeling when the attendant held his hand out, asking for the key. I knew the gas cap, it was interesting, it doesn’t turn, just the key turns. When he took the key I assured myself that he must open these types of caps every day. I watched him struggle but he couldn’t get it off. I stepped up to take over but it was too late, he had broken the key off. We tried to work it off, he used pliers and a screwdriver, all to no avail. He would only look at me out of the corner of his eye. Then he gave up and sent us back into town looking for a Ferreteria, (Hardware Store.) to have a key made.

The problem was greater than that because the old key was in the cap. I love solving problems but this one was tough because of the language gap. I remember a few words but the lessons taught 48 years ago in Spanish classes had somehow escaped me. It was like a treasure hunt. Each stop led to another then the search for another. Maps drawn on scratch paper, notes on our city map, soon we were completely across town. Finally a very nice lady in a Locksmith shop got the point across that they couldn’t help but a mechanic could. She tried to explain how to find the shop then gave up and set out at a fast pace to show me. She was worried that he would be closed because it was Saturday. He was there but we had the same language problem. I tried to ask if I should bring the car there. He used sign language to have me lead him. When we got to the car he put his screwdriver into the key slot and twisted until the cap broke. He handed it to me and pointed across the street to an Auto Parts Store. Using my very best Spanish I asked, “ Cuanto Senior”?

He almost laughed then shook his head, “No Charge”. Well he didn’t actually say that in English but I got the point. What a nice guy.

The store did have a cap with 2 keys that worked. It cost 6€, a bargain in Euros but the cost in time had added up to 2 hours. Oh well, another opportunity to solve a problem and what’s time to a WorldRider? Of course we went back to the same Gas Station. The guy sort of waved back from a distance and had another serve us. He probably felt guilty because he did break the old cap. I didn’t fault him because I had been saying for days that we should get another key OR a new cap. Cat had found bread, meat and cheese close by while we fueled up. We picnicked in Lil’ Scotty as we drove in the rain. Yes, it began to pour down as we drove the narrow road toward Plasencia.

After cruising the tiny streets for half an hour we decided to treat ourselves. The only inside parking available was at a place called The Parador Hotel. It’s an old Convent and absolutely beautiful, inside and out. The room was a suite, all of their rooms are suites. One of the unique features of the parking was that we drove into an elevator that took us up to the garage. There was a wedding rehearsal going on. Cat climbed the stairs to get a look. That led us on a tour of the hallways. Almost a step back, into a time when silence and prayer ruled. We wondered what use the booth for a pay phone had before phones were invented? Dining was in the elegant surroundings but the meal was only so-so. They begin to serve at 8:30. We were the first patrons of course. The room was filling fast, as we made our exit.
Couple in a Convent Entrance to a Convent

 

The next morning we hunted down a great cup of coffee and walked around the old Convent. A family of Storks lives on the rooftop, on the facade. They made for interesting pictures. There is a feeling of history and beauty that surrounds the place.

 
Storks Nest on High The Stork Family St. Cat’s Convent Call

 

We continue to take Spain in baby steps. Yesterday was only a 130 Km day and today, Merida lays only 165 to the South. This is the famous Spanish plain. There are giant black bull silhouettes on the rolling hills and plenty of the real deal in the fields. They say the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain. (Shades of Henry Higgins.) We found no rain on the plain but it remained cold and windy. I have long been an admirer of Don Quixote de la Mancha. The idea of the crazy old wanderer was born unto Don Miguel de Cervantes just north of here. When we almost ran head long into the Hotel Cervates, we had to take a room. They did have secure parking, another elevator ride down, but the room was just a room. The offsetting factor between Cervantes and The Parador was value. The cost was less than half that of the Convent.

Somewhere on those plains, in a damp moment, a young couple was married and we were there to witness the celebration. It was cold but the girls in the wedding party, as girls will, wanted to show off their dresses so they went without coats. Everyone milled around as we ate inside, they were waiting for the food. They had a tent set beside the restaurant and a big beef barbeque crew working hard to feed them. We love to observe social circumstance and this was a special moment. Not much unlike a wedding party in California, with our Hispanic roots, there was obvious family pride.

 
Hear Comes the Bride Brides Barbeque
Bride's Barbeque
Brides Barbeque

 

Merida is a little larger than Plasencia and older, dating back to 25 BC. We scurried out to get a look at the Roman ruins. Our first views were of only moderate housing that was far from ancient. Finally we backtracked, rounded a corner and there they were. The Aquiducto is like all we’ve seen but across from it lays the Circo Romano. They say that it could seat 30,000 spectators. It was witness to the usual chariot racing we think of in a place like this but this one could also be flooded for spectacles involving ships. Today it is only a depression in the ground with several low walls of stone scattered around. By the time we reached the Teatro Romano and Anfiteatro it was near closing time. We bought tickets but only made a hasty visit and decided to come back in the morning.
Circo Romano Aquiducto Romano Aquiducto Y Circo
Anfi Teatro More Anti Teatro Anfi Teatro
Teatro Romano Cat in Arch Cat at Teatro
Teatro Columns Actors Entrance
Teatro Seating Columns & Torsos Ancient Moss
Portico Del Foro Statue Romano  Portico

 

There is a walking street but it was fairly empty. They did have holiday décor up but no music. The cold and ascending darkness chased us back to Cervantes. We waited as long as we could then asked the guy at the desk for a restaurant that would start serving early on a Sunday night. He suggested one that was nearby. It was a Tapas Bar but had a room in the rear for serving dinner. All in all it was a strange evening. We would be the only people seated there and the server only checked back occasionally. A bit cold, lonely and the food was less than so-so. It was almost 9:00 PM when we left and still no sign of any other diners. In fact even the bar area, where there had been 6 drinkers when we entered, was vacant when we left.

December 16, 2003
Stephanie Patterson-Haney’s Birthday

Stephanie is the youngest of our children and perhaps our most courageous. She is the single Mom of three and works hard to keep her little family together. We are really proud of the way she has picked up the pieces, gotten an education that led to a Medical career and provides for them. It is tough and we know it. Sometimes we think of it as her continuous tread mill. Up early every week day, kids off to school then she to work by 8:30 AM. The kids go to a Day Care Center after school where she picks them up at close to 6:00PM. Then there is homework, dinner, baths and bed just to get up the next day and go at it again. The only words of consolation we can give her is it will all be over in another 15 years but then it will seem like it all past by in moments. Life is like that. I often think that I will try to spend more time with the Grandkids when we get back to reality.

Well, although Steph is 33 today we will spend our day surrounded by rocks put into place more than 2000 years ago. Yesterday there were quite a few people wandering around the ruins, today we have them to ourselves. The guard at the gate looked at our tickets and shook his head. We argued that we were told they would be good for today. I doubt that he knew what we were saying but he could tell that we adamant and wouldn’t back off. Besides, what did he have to lose, we were the only people there. It is a wonderful place and must be even more so during musical and dramatic presentations held and warmer times here.

As a continuation of today’s exercise program we decided to walk to the Alcazaba. It is across town and overlooks the Rio Guadiana. The Muslim Fort was constructed in 835 AD on the site where there were already Roman and Visigoth ruins. It is only partially reconstructed with the exception of one part that is now used as offices for local government. In fact we thought they were ticket takers and went inside only to be directed around the corner. We did walk the wall above the river and take pictures of the river and bridges. In fact we enjoyed the day so much that it was well after noon before we got under way toward Seville.
 
Banco Y Fontana Modern Monument Gate Guard
Moorish Arches Alcazaba & Roman Bridge Bridging Centuries
Porto Romano Vine, Grape, Wine!  

 

Our longest drive, 200 Km, in several days took us up and over a fairly mountainous area that challenged Lil’ Scotty. It was rush hour and nearing dusk as we drove into town. A series of hotel signs led us directly to our second Hotel Cervantes. Our basic criteria was that it should have secure parking and be walking distance to the heart of old Seville. Although it would be a pretty good walk it was again do-able. Lil’ Scotty had to zig and zag to make it into the elevator and down, again, into the garage. We were at home in Seville for the next two days.

This Cervantes is totally unrelated to the other and it is a nicer place. The walk is through several tiny streets and pedestrian shopping streets to the center. It is probably close to a mile but a good walk for us. We strode briskly to the Tourist Info Center, which wasn’t that easy to find. The girl working there was very good. She offered information and ideas including the best places for Internet connection as well as National Treasures. We just walked, enjoyed and yes, even found an Internet place. It was jammed full of students, many of them from the US. They were all giddy, in anticipation of the upcoming Holiday break. We wanted to meet Brandon, the young guy who shared our sandwich in Portugal. He is a student here and we don’t know whether he will be going home for Christmas or not. We sent a message and were hopeful he would catch it before leaving.
 
Takin’ a Break Horsemen of Seville

We have found the best way to have an early dinner here in Espana is to eat in. We bought food, too much of course, and set the spread on the bed. Our feast was accompanied by English language television, another treat we haven’t had in several days. Oh, in a minor quest, I did find a model of Lil’ Scotty. It is rare here and will be unheard of back home.

Tuesday, December 17 would be a day of sight seeing. First though, we went to the Internet. One of the disappointments was that the message to Brandon had been returned, undeliverable. We were working on memory only as we had lost his e-mail address to thieves in Portugal. We had transposed part of it. Ironically, he had sent us a message at almost the same time last night asking where we were. We shot an answer back and suggested that we get together for dinner.
 
Ventura Food? Plaza De Espana Tower de Plaza de Espana
Friends From India Cat in the Plaza Plaza Espana

Our first idea was to take the city bus tour but the cost and ideas from our friend at Tourism led us to walk rather than ride. Most of the interesting things on the tour are in the center. Our first stop was the nearby Plaza de Espana. We think most of the space is Government offices. The exterior is a wonderful collage of architecture with towers at each end. The huge area out front of the buildings has a fountain centerpiece and the tile paving is that wavering style that feels as if it is in motion. During our wandering we came upon a young couple. He was taking a picture of her in front of the reflecting pond. I volunteered to get a picture of both and that led to conversation. They are from India and on Honeymoon. It was a treat for us to meet and talk with Maridra and Naride. We even had them do the “You must be crazy” thing in Hindi. You Must Be Crazy, Hindi

The University covers several square blocks and was in our pathway so we just walked through. It is several buildings with courtyards between. All were full of chattering students, hustling to and from classes. Exiting on the opposite end, we crossed the street and found a Tapas Bar for lunch. We were seated when a couple came in, surveyed the lack of tables then asked if they could share our table. They were a delight. He is a retired publisher she a Medical Scientist in the Cancer field. They’re from London, they take several weeks each year and spend most of them in Spain. They love it here.
 
New Best Friends Pat in Poinsettias Columbus Monument
Oranges in Arch Pink Patio Phantom?

 

Though the weather’s cool and damp it is a far cry from the cold we have experienced in the past couple of weeks. We walked in the Jardines de Murillo, a park full of trees, plants and statues. We had to have a picture of the Poinsettias, they like the orange trees that line the streets, reminded us of home.

Having just visited a Moorish Ruin in Merida we almost passed on the Alcazar and that would have been a tragic mistake. What a fantastic place. We rented the recorded tour guide and immersed ourselves in the atmosphere of a blend of histories dating back more than a thousand years. It was a Moorish Palace for over 300 years when it was lost to the Christians in 1248. Fernando III, the conqueror, moved in and died here in 1252. The image on tapestry and the taped commentary of his last days were poignant. I hope you can view the movie we took, you can hear for yourself. Later the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella set up court in the Alcazar. It is said that the 1492 voyage of Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon) was planned here. She, Queen Isabella, took the risk on the Italian mariner and it paid off, for sure, for Seville. It was granted the rights to trade with the Americas which brought great wealth and made it one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities. We spent hours wandering and wondering. Even met a family, brother-in-laws and a daughter. They just came to visit, she is a student here.
 
Alcazar Fountain & Arch Ferdinand III Alaczar Arches
Reflected Arches Another Alczar Fountain Bike Parking Only
Michigan/Texas Friends Fellow Cyclist Dying, Ferdinand III
Through the Gate
Some Float
Alcazar Garden

Lost a little in time, we went back by the Internet Connection only to find that Brandon had sent a message right back that he would be available at 5:00 PM. It was just a few minutes after so we immediately left one telling him our Hotel phone number and the Pizza place we were going to dine in. We waited until 8:00 then left without a call. The rest of the evening was just walking around and enjoying the sights and sounds of the shopping streets of Seville.
 
Felicidades Seville Pat and Pal Orange Tree Lined Streets
4 Shopping Days til Christmas

The next morning we stopped for café con leche at a place we had walked past. We were drawn in by the weird looking churros in the window. Churros in Mexico are straight, fried like a donut and covered with powered sugar. These were coiled like a long snake. Curiosity more than culinary desire made us order them. They were almost salty and the grease ran down our arms and dripped off our wrists. Feeling freshly lubed, we went on to the Internet Connection and tried to get together for lunch with Brandon. The best we could do was to leave him an e-mail message and tell him we would check by 11:00 AM.

We spent most of the morning in the Seville Cathedral just across the street. What a spectacular building. Started in 1401 it wasn’t completed until1507. It is a Gothic Monster. The interior is broken into lots of small Chapels. It almost takes from the grandeur until you look up at the columns and vaulted ceiling so far above. And, we must mention that the remains of Christopher Columbus are entombed here. Well, they are assumed to be his but they made the rounds of the globe from the Caribbean. They were moved here from Cuba in 1899.
 
Here Lies Christopher Remains of Cristobol Colon

Of course, when you go you must climb the tower and view Seville from the belfry vantage point. It was spitting small drops of rain but didn’t dampen our spirits. It’s a sweeping 360-degree panorama of the entire city. While there we were subjected to the ringing of the “One o’clock and all is well, bell”.
 
Carriages in the Square Bridges of Seville Roof Tops of Seville
Orange Tree Courtyard Spires and Buttresses Spire
Valencias and Spire One Bell, All is Well  

Brandon was taking finals in class until 5:00 PM again, today. Our visit was not to be. We suggested that we would be back in this direction on our bikes in May/June. He would later send back the message that he was going home in April. What a shame, we love to make contact with those we have met along the way.

It was 2:00 Pm and raining by the time we finally got up the elevator and out the door toward Malaga. We noticed that one of our headlights was out as we drove into the elevator. We really didn’t want to drive after dark and that discovery sealed the deal. By 4:30 we decided to stop in the village of Antequera just 160 Km east/southeast of Seville. Off the main route, it is a small historic village in a hilly area. We found a modest Hotel, 35€ with covered, secure parking. It was dusk and the temperature was plunging as we settled in. The room was stone walls, marble floors and cold. We talked with the young girl, daughter of the owner, we think. She wheeled one of the Ostersund, Sweden type radiator heaters in, we cranked it up and went to dinner.
 
Antequera Cathedral, night Antequera Catherdral, day

 

The sign said they opened at 8:00 and that was a good thing for us. When we walked down the courtyard area the place was dark. We could see a guy in the kitchen through a window. The door was open but it was dark inside. We knocked then let ourselves in. After a few minutes, lurking around in the dark, a woman came in the front door and turned on the lights. We surprised her, she pulled herself back together then told us to sit anywhere. We had our choice of seating because we again were the only ones there at 8:15. We chose a table near the wall heater and the lady brought a pole with a hook on it to turn it on. She struggled then I finally stood on a chair and got the thing going.

The lady disappeared then reappeared in a few minutes dressed in a black and white tuxedo looking dress. She would be our server. The food was rich. We met a couple that came in later. They were from Israel. When we discussed the difficulty of dining so late they told us about their problems with food. They were devout Jews and couldn’t find any kosher foods. He seemed especially cynical about Spain and it’s only real tourist attractions, Churches.

Back home, the room was still pretty cold. It is actually an apartment and the bedroom was an icebox. We moved the heater in next to the bed and pulled up the covers.

Antequera was a great walking tour. They have a little map that was hard to follow but it had all of the sites spotted. We walked up the steep narrow streets to the top and reveled in the views of the town. The old church is now a museum and another treat. Below it, off to the left, are the ruins of early Roman citizens. Antequera itself is very picturesque and we hope you will agree when you view our photos.
 
Crosses and Bells Ramparts and Hills Down the Street
Antequera Rooftops Through the Arch Pedro Espinosa 1578-1650
Roman Ruins & Beyond Mansion on the Mountain Rock Walk
Holiday Furniture Old Cathedral Antequera  

Of course it would rain as we drove over the foothills toward Malaga. We were there in short time and in shorter time we decided that it was too big, too overcrowded and not our kind of place. We chose to move back toward the west. We considered the town, Torremolinas but had a tough time trying to get off the freeway. It didn’t feel good either so we moved on to Marbella. We stopped in the next little village for lunch. It began to pour down rain as we ate. In fact the water ran deep at the curb and held people on our side of the street for several minutes. We had hoped to find sun and warmth but it was to be a rainy welcome. Even in rain we decided that this was a beautiful place, it reminded us of Santa Barbara. Oh it was definitely a mid-rise jungle along the beachfront but it seemed to have preserved the charm of earlier days. After driving back and forth several times we chose to splurge. We took a room at a beachfront Hotel. They did give us a small discount but we were definitely beyond budget.

In the morning we took a walk along the Promenade. There were several rental signs in windows of mid-rise buildings on the beachfront. We loved the place and knew that we wanted to stay for a week, at least. Maybe it was the sun that came up early and began to warm the air, or the look of the place. Whatever it was, we were sold on the place. We took a brisk walk on the promenade interrupted by stops to write down phone numbers from signs on the mid rise condos. Back at the Hotel we partook of the of the included breakfast, a concession made by the guy who checked us in. It was as good as it should be for a 4 Star Hotel.
 
Sunrise in Marbella Marbella

After breakfast we went seeking help in finding housing for a week or two in earnest. We drove into the old area of town, the NO PARKING SPACE part of town. There were cars parked and double parked, everywhere. Cat jumped out and stopped a couple that was walking. They pointed up the hill and told her that if we were walking it would be easy to find the Plaza de los Naranjos. The Plaza of the Oranges in the heart of the old town is where the Tourist office is located. You can’t drive into the plaza, the streets are pedestrian only. After driving in circles for half an hour we finally found a parking space and walked in. The guy in the Tourist Office seemed detached from our questions? Maybe a language thing and he didn’t want to admit it? He finally got one of our questions, walked to the door, raised his arm and said, “There.” He was pointing at a sign across the square for an Internet Café.

Well, that semi-unfriendly guy would be the impetus that would lead to the best thing that would happen to us in Marbella. Jesus and his wife Sonia just happened to be working that afternoon. They are partners in the shop. If we had met their partners we would have used the machines and gone on our way. However, Jesus and Sonia could both speak English. They had even spent their Honeymoon in California. When we told them that we would like to find an apartment Jesus said, “My Partner, Jose has a place,” and he called him. He turned to us and said, “He will rent for 60€ per day.” We told him that we wanted a place for a week or two and 60€ was above our budget. He talked with Jose on the phone then hung up and said, “You wait, Jose will come here.” (Just a note regarding pronunciation, we’re in Spain now to Jose is “Hoe-say” and Jesus is “Hay-Soos”.)
 
Jesus, Sonia, Elaina and Alejandro Internet Marbella SPANISH: You Must Be Crazy!

We took a computer and had just started checking our e-mails when a Cop, excuse me, a Motorcycle Police Officer, walked in. Knee high leather boots, and helmet under his arm, it was Jose. He and Jesus are both Police Officers. Jose didn’t have the language skills of his partner and he sort of gave orders like a Cop. We met him when he got off work, at the Police Station, and followed him to the Condo. The toughest part of the decision for us was, Location, Location, Location. Jose said it was just 5 Km out of town. It seemed further and down a road that we would hate to cycle. However, the place was very nice and he offered it to us for 300€ per week. (For you non-math types that’s about 43€ a day, less that half what we paid for our room last night. We took the deal but in order to bridge the language gap he called his girl friend, Naomi on his cell phone. She talked with Cat to make sure we were all on the same page. Jose was shocked when he asked how soon we would move in. “Today, right now,” we told him.

Home, Sweet Home in Marbella
December 20, 2002 to January 3, 2003

We had a home and the weather was clearing. The condo had a strange floor plan and a few flaws that we would discover once we took residency. We have been witness to the best and worst of design in houses. It never ceases to amaze us how two people can take two lots, side by side, and develop two totally separate buildings, one great and one terrible. This place was okay except Jose had opted not to have heat when he bought it new from the builder. That is one thing that is never an option in California. We were freezing that first night so Cat called Naomi. Jose showed up with a heater that we would move from the dining area to the bedroom and back, as needed. Another anomaly was the lack of an oven. The range top was electric and very high tech but, no oven? There was a microwave and a dishwasher but no oven? We even had a washing machine but then again a missing link. There was no dryer which meant that we spent several of our days working around clothing hanging in the living room or on the patio.

The bikes had their own room, the second bedroom. The floor plan put the kitchen in the first door on the left as you enter. The bike’s bedroom was on the right. There were two bathrooms, across the hall from each other? Then came the master bedroom on the left and the combination dining/living room to the right. The patio, through a large sliding glass door, was almost like another room and we took advantage of it every sunny day. The difficulty of course was that the kitchen was completely separated from the dining area. With two baths in the hallway we soon settled on which belonged to Cat and I got the other.

Our new best friend, Jesus, told us of a bike shop that he used and liked. Between the time we met Jose and followed him to our new home we dropped the bikes for service. The mechanic, Hugo, is from Chile and spoke no English but he did know las biciclettas. A guy there sort of helped translate but Hugo really didn’t need language, he spoke bicycle. I made a mistake when we first pushed them in. I leaned mine against a small fence. When we began talking and pointing Hugo grabbed it and pulled it away as an elevator came extremely close to crushing my handlebars and front fork. They have a parts room upstairs, they sell bicycles and motorcycles.

The next morning we excitedly started our first load of laundry. That was when we learned that it takes 2 hours to finish a load. We waited then hurried to the Internet Café to check messages and to the bike shop because it would close at noon. The bikes were ready and they looked like brand new. We checked them and took short test rides. They were running like new, too.

We were so anxious to take a ride that we threw them on Lil’ Scotty and headed back to the Condo. With bike cloths on we decided that we would take a picture to put up on the site for our Christmas card, first. It was a tougher job than we had thought. At first we took some shots just outside the Condo gate. We had Santa hats, Cat’s had braids on it. There was a family from Germany who could see us from their deck. They really had a good time watching, laughing and getting into the holiday spirit. They had rented their place for a week and were very friendly from a distance. We never saw them again after that moment. Wanting a Christmas picture with the ocean in the background we cruised around looking for the perfect spot. We shot lots of seemingly perfect pictures then ended up choosing one of the first we took near the Condo.
 
Our Christmas Pic Bike on Beach Marbella Mare

On our second morning there we decided to take the bikes into town. We set off riding but were soon pushing and struggling on the side of the busy road. It is free of cross traffic and there is a 3-foot high divider in the center. We had to drive more than a Km east before turning back toward Marbella. Rather than attempt a crossing we decided to push along the shoulder facing traffic until we could find an overpass. Marbella Mountains The roadside narrowed so we lifted the bikes over the guardrail. Soon we were pushing through bushes and trash. It took a long time to get to a street and it didn’t have an overpass. We chose to try to ride down toward the beach hoping to find a street or even a path leading to town. In a short time we were on the beach. At first there was a walkway but it dwindled down to the sand. We tried riding, it was impossible. Pushing, we finally found another a path that led back toward the road to town. Finally we crossed over the big road and decided to try going further up the hill to find a route to town. Another dead end but one heck of a climb to find it.

We had to back track and finally give in and rode the narrow shoulder in fast, heavy traffic. Pretty scary! Jesus had told us about a local favorite ride that had a big climb in it. By the time we got to Marbella we had done enough climbing and we had spent two hours on the bike seats. We did cycle the promenade all the way to the end, about 5 Km. 10 Km round trip.) It is a wonderful ride but hampered due to the number of strollers encountered along the way. A lunch stop, at a waterfront place without a toilet. The nice lady told us we would find one in the nearby park. I went, only to find it locked. The walk set the urge aside long enough to finish my sandwich. Ride in a Restaurant   Promenade Marbella

The route home was a tough one. We tried to ride the side roads and outside the guardrail but finally had to give in and make a dash for it on the highway. Traffic, at rush hour, really motivates you to ride like the wind. We may have set our personal best, land speed record on that leg of the journey.

All right, lets talk about cycling in Marbella. All cycling in Marbella began with us loading the bikes on Lil’ Scotty. Yes, we would never again challenge the freeway. On Christmas Eve we loaded and decided that we would find the hill that Jesus had told us was his favorite. We parked and unloaded at the Marina and stopped to say hello to our newfound cycling friend, Luis, who works as a waiter at the restaurant adjacent to the parking lot. He is from Argentina and ride to and from work every day on his mountain bike. He has in the past, completed a tour of Argentina on his bike and dreams of starting in the USA and riding back down to Argentina. From that pleasant experience we started by going back down the Promenade then up Marbella City streets trying to get to the climb. Traffic was horrendous and we blamed that on the Holiday. When we finally got to the real beginning of the mountain the narrow road and the wide stream of traffic intimidated us. We turned back and rode the Promenade out to the end, again. The good news was that we met a couple from New York and one from Iceland while we had a Christmas Eve sandwich.

 Paul and RoosPushing the bikes up toward our favorite Internet Café we met a couple from Holland. Paul and Roos are avid cyclists. They were inspired by us and went looking for rental bikes. We only saw them one other time, from a distance, on Bikes. They found them!

Over the MOUNTAIN from MARBELLA
WorldRiders2, back on the bikes

On the 29th we drove up the hill, past the point where we had turned back and parked at the tiny town of Ojen. Ojen (pronounced O-Hen) clings to the side of a very steep mountain. We thought that we might have climbed most of the climb so we unleashed the bikes from Lil’ Scotty and started toward the summit. Whew, we soon knew that we were still in for one heck of a climb. The road slithers back and forth up the canyon like a Diamond Back on sand. It would prove out the fact that we were not in condition! Our goal was to ride to Coin but we fell short. The road out of Ojen is steep for about 5 Km then crests out and it is down toward Coin. There is a village, Monda, on the way down then the road takes a turn for the up. It was cool and getting on toward dusk so we turned back after a little picnic on the roadside. The pull back up warmed us and the glide down to Ojen was exhilarating.
 
Climb out of Ojen Monda Ojen

With renewed confidence, having seen the road, we rode from town up to Ojen on the 31st. Funny how things seem almost impossible then you just do it and the second time it is so simple? Isn’t that just like so many things in life? It was a 40-minute climb and a 15-minute descent. We felt full of renewed confidence and strength on this, only our second climb. The legs still have it but they need more of it. We did ride the Promenade several more times and build up seat time. That is almost as important as building the leg muscles.

A late night with Luis and WorldRiders2 Holidays

On Christmas Eve we drove into town and parked at the marina. Luis, the young guy who cycles to work at the restaurant near the Marina invited us to come to his place for dinner. Hesitant at first we cycled and talked about it then stopped and accepted his invitation. He was really excited but when we asked what time we should come he said, “How about 10:00 tonight?”

We had to laugh, he was almost offended until we explained that we’re usually sleeping by 10:00 PM, and then he laughed. We compromised, had dinner at the condo then joined him for after dinner hors d’oeuvres at 8:00. He had several friends there, all guys, and none of them spoke English. It was a little intimidating for them and us, we all shook hands, Luis interpreted a little then they drifted off into the kitchen. He told us that they would eat later then go out and party the night away.

Luis de ArgentinaThough Luis has a pretty good English language vocabulary it soon became a limited conversation. He is a very spiritual guy, and quite true to his Catholic upbringing yet he also seems to be searching. He is a fan of Depok Chopra and was surprised to hear that we knew of Depok and had ordered some of his tapes. He talks of his mother but never mentioned a father. He seems close to his mother but hasn’t seen her in almost a year. His goal is to work and save enough money to take a 6-month bike trip. He had pictures of his previous cycle tour of Argentina. We enjoyed them and his stories and time escaped us. It was 11:00 when we finally said our goodbyes to him and his friends who had spent the evening in the kitchen. (2 or the guys were Luis’ roommates. Sharing the flat and rent. It was a nice place and nicely furnished, too.)

Christmas Day we had intended to ride again but Cat felt terrible when she woke up. Her nausea and need to stay close to the toilet defined our holiday. We just watched music videos and were fortunate to find a couple of English language films with Spanish subtitles. We read the Lonely Planet books on Spain and France, getting acquainted with the places we would visit. Poor Cat, feeling bad and going stir crazy. I can just relax, read or watch TV but she needs to be on the go.

Wally got our Christmas message out on the web site the day after Christmas. We knew the minute that we opened our e-mail that it had been delivered because we had more than 100 messages. What a great gift for us, to sift through and answer the friends, old and those new that we have met along the way.
 

A WORLDRIDERS HOLIDAY WISH


PAT, CAT AND LIL' SCOTTY

Where ever you are in the WORLD
What ever the HOLIDAY you celebrate
We hope it is filled with
Family, Feasting and Festivities

We are in sunny (sometimes) Marbella, Spain.
We hope that Lil' Scotty will get us back to Finland.
Thanks you for all of your encouragement and support.
We're anxious to get back on the bikes ASAP (Let it thaw, Let it thaw, let it thaw.)

WorldRiders2
Pat & Cat

 

Merry Christmas MarbellaNew Years Eve would be the day we rode up to Ojen. As is our custom, we were in bed by 10:00 that night but felt almost at home when we heard the commotion and fireworks at midnight. (Randy and some of our other neighbors back home always party then shoot off fireworks.) One interesting thing about this year was that when we got up on New Years Day and turned on the TV they were celebrating, shooting off their fireworks and hoopla at 9:00 AM Marbella time. This was the first time we could remember being awake at the stroke of twelve, Pacific Standard Time. One Year Ago!

It would turn out to be another lazy day. We threatened to take a walk on the beach but never got around to it. So the first day of 2003 would be just another reading and TV day. I again enjoyed the rest but Cat felt cooped up. We made a run to the only market in town that was open about 4:00 for goodies and that was the extent of our celebration. Happy New Year!

The other special Holiday for us is December 27, our 5th wedding anniversary. As a treat and a gift to ourselves we called Cat’s parents, the kids and grandkids and our adopted Mom, Celeste. It was great to hear their voices. Unfortunately Cat’s Mom was already out getting her hair done. We did have a good talk with Earl, her Dad. I’m sure that we liked talking with the Grandkids more than they enjoyed being on the phone with us. Well, I take that back, the boys, Timothy and Patrick were pretty quiet but Aubrie who is now 6 years old, was very talkative. She even got back on the phone twice to tell us little things she had forgotten earlier. All in all a really great connection with home and it didn’t cost as much as we had feared it would.

A WorldRiders2 Health Report

Pat’s Health

Cat is and always has been a product of her Mother and Adopted Mother. They are both “Itchy Pickles” as Celeste always says. She was ready to get out of Marbella by Friday, the end of our first week. We are really getting to be Gypsies. We both feel a need to move onward, even when there isn’t really a place to move to. On Thursday morning, when we were ready to call Jose and tell him we would leave the next day I broke a tooth. Well, I didn’t experience a moment when the tooth fell apart as I took a bite but woke up and felt a real change in my mouth. We called Jesus and Sonia to see who they use as their Dentist because they have such great looking teeth. Unfortunately, they go to Malaga and their Dentist is not easy to book. They called friends and taking their word, including Jose and Naomi, they recommended Clinic Ortega. I called but the earliest appointment, even with my emergency, was Monday.

So, we were locked in to being here until Monday and I used my best persuasive effort to convince Cat to stay another week. Getting to the Dentist was not a problem, getting a parking place was a major issue. We toured the streets until minutes before my appointment then I jumped out and dashed in as Cat continued to cruise and search. What a surprise, the place is an entire clinic, medical and dental. The Dentist is in the basement. Checked in, I was in the chair and talking with a Dentist and Technician who couldn’t understand a word I was saying. However, they did know how to diagnose and fix a broken tooth. We were sure that they would prepare the tooth today then complete the job during another visit. That would be the way in the good ol’ USA. They cleaned up the tooth then began putting layers of material on and drying them with a sort of heat lamp. I asked if this was temporary, well somehow I got that across and the lady Tech shook her head and said, “Permanente!”

I was out of the chair, paid the bill, only 60 €, and upstairs where Cat was waiting all in less than an hour. She was as surprised as she had just finally found a parking space.

Cat’s Health

The other health issue would be Cat. Because she has suffered a heart attack just two years ago, we get nervous when it acts up. It all started on Christmas Day. First she started a bout with diarrhea then she felt weak and her heart began to pound. She was nauseous and weak, too. Most of the day was either on the couch or in bed for her.

At 4:00 AM the next morning I woke up to find her shaking uncontrollably. It was as though she was cold but she was actually clammy, sweaty feeling. Her heart was now pounding in an irregular beat. We didn’t mess with it, we bundled up, loaded up and drove to the Hospital. The place was sort of like County Hospital back home. Poorly furnished and staffed. We couldn’t communicate with anyone. Cat wanted water, the girl motioned toward the door? We didn’t get it, finally she walked over to the window and pointed to a vending machine, outside. I put a Euro in and got nothing. I complained to her and that got even less. Finally we got in to see a Doctor and she got Cat a cup of water. They made me leave the room while they did an EKG and took blood. The Doctor seemed to know what she was doing. They sent Cat back out into the hall and we sort of camped out for almost 2 hours. When we would question they motioned for us to be patient. They gave Cat a sedative, a pill to put under her tongue and let dissolve. She drifted off to sleep on the awful chair in the hallway. Finally the Doctor had us come in and she reviewed the tests. All were normal and of course Cat was feeling fine by then. We’ve both had our share of these kinds of events. They are scary when they seem to have taken over your body.

Language kept us from discussing the issues further. We were just happy that there were no signs of heart problems. Our own diagnosis was that she had become dehydrated from the diarrhea. That led to the clammy feeling. The heart rate thing may be related to the change of life that she may soon be facing. At any rate, we were glad that she was okay so we went home and back to bed. When we woke up she felt almost normal.

Lil’ Scotty Health

The other member of the family, Lil’ Scotty had a health check-up. Well, we had the oil and filters changed and had the Renault Dealer check the brakes and adjust the headlights. We were now all felling healthy and ready to roll on up the road.

The final health issue for WorldRiders2 was an end to the sick feeling we’ve had since our computers were stolen. We are used to Sony and we liked what we had. They sell Sony cameras, televisions, in fact almost everything electrical but they don’t sell Sony computers here in Spain. We learned after several e-mails back and forth with Sony that they can’t even ship a computer here from the US? Trade restrictions? We don’t know what creates the problem but it is a problem, for us. Then, there is the other problem, if they did sell them or, if we chose to buy a different brand, we would have to adjust to the European, Spanish, keyboard which is quit different from the keyboard we’re used to.

Computer Health!!!

It was Cat who spotted a commercial on the TV that would lead to our purchase and a trip to Gibraltar. Yes, just 100 Km from Marbella is a very British place where they do sell Sony. Our plans didn’t include Gibraltar now because that is where we will jump off into Africa later this year. Plans changed and we made the hilly drive. It turned out to be well worth it. Strange, it sort of felt like going from San Diego into Mexico to us. Everyone recommended parking in Spain and walking over then taking a bus into town. When we drove up there were a lot of people doing just that so we followed suit. The street parking is metered but there was a crowd gathered around a guy who had a small badge and look of authority. He was telling everyone that the machine for parking tickets was broken and he was the official parking person. He looked about as official as a Tijuana taxi driver but we all gave him money. He made a note of our license plate numbers on a very unofficial looking piece of cardboard but offered no receipt.

Sony @ The RockWe had a very British lunch of Pizza and salad, watched as the unofficial changing of the guard took place for the tourists then got down to business. It’s easier to ask questions of people who speak English but their answers don’t always make sense. After walking up and down the street and up and down stairways we finally happened upon THE ONLY STORE that sells Sony products here. Our salesperson had a very British accent, for a guy from India. He did know the product and was quick to display the computer most like the ones we had lost. Red Coats at The Rock

Friends in HIGH PLACES

On our last day in Marbella we loaded the bikes on Lil’ Scotty and took them to town. First stop was the Internet Café. Sonia was there and helped us. She called Jesus to tell him that we were leaving. He got me on the phone and asked us to stop by the Police Station. I told him that we had several e-mails to read and send so he said that he would meet us here. When he came in he was all smiles, he had wanted to do a little ceremony for us at the Police Station but rather than miss us he came to present me with a Police Officers Patch from the City of Marbella. What a great surprise, we took pictures, he even put the handcuffs on me and we sat on his Motorcycle. These guys are the great ones that we would meet here! The two kids were there so we hugged and promised to see each other again when we cycle back through Spain in the spring. It was an emotional goodbye with the traditional kisses on the cheeks and handshakes then hugs.
 
Honorary Arrest Police Riders2

We cycled the Promenade for a couple of hours then went back call Stephanie in California. I wanted to talk to the kids when they were at home and not up to their elbows in Christmas. Oops, we didn’t have the phone book with us so we couldn’t make the call. We bid Sonia one last goodbye a cycled back to where we had parked Lil’ Scotty. There was a lot of Police activity all around her. As we cycled up the tow truck was hooking up the car next to Scotty and preparing to haul it away. We didn’t understand what was happening when we heard a familiar voice. It was Jesus, he was running toward us and had the look of a nervous father whose teenaged kids were late coming home. “Where have you been,” he barked with authority?

Tow Away ZoneAlthough he had never seen Lil’ Scotty he recognized her from the photo he helped us e-mail to Wally for our Holiday Greeting. He saw our cards on the dashboard and knew that we were going to be towed away and there would be nothing he could do to help us. Yes, we would have been the next car towed away from the bus stop where we and the others were illegally parked. This really capped off our relationship. He saved us 130€ fine and a day of aggravation by letting us load the bikes and drive away. It pays to have friends in high places!

From Costa Del Sol to Costa Dorada
Marbella to Barcelona January 3 to 16, 2003

Hard to believe that we had spent 14 days in Marbella. That is the longest time we’ve spent in one place since we set off on the Odyssey, last April. Our initial quest was to Malaga to retrieve drugs that our pal Charlie had sent. It was supposed to have been delivered to the condo in Marbella. When Cat finally connected with FedEx they had record of Chrono Express, their Spanish affiliate, had tried to deliver but failed. They had the package in Malaga. It was noon by the time we finally rolled west along the Mediterranean coast and what a beautiful coast it is.

Once in Malaga we reconfirmed our feelings about the place and were again, glad that we had discovered Marbella. The ever-helpful Tourist Bureau wasn’t very, but they tried. Phone calls went unanswered, they felt that it was due to that long lunch hour that the Spanish love so much. They gave Cat an address so we went looking. Hunger overtook us during the quest and we stopped at a local place in an industrial area. The food was very good and the people there treated us like we were extraterrestrial. Well, they were strange to us, too. One guy even pulled up in a horse pulled cart.

We found the place and found it to be deserted? Cat walked around and knocked, pounded, on the doors and windows but to no avail. We had planned on making it to Granada but the side trip and time driving in circles, trying to get into and out of Malaga changed that plan. Salobreno is a tiny town hanging on the coast at the junction of N323, the road that goes inland toward Granada. Convinced that there would be better Hotel accommodations in Motril, the next town to the west, we drove into and around and around the place. If there was a Hotel there it escaped us. We backtracked and took a room on the top of a cliff overlooking the sea and a setting sun.
 
On the Rocks Day Coast Sunrise Coast
Castle & Cacti Sugar Cane?  

There was no secured parking so we spent time searching for the perfect spot. Once inside I noticed that they did have surveillance cameras and moved Scotty under one. Dinner was a buffet, not that great but we did meet Willy, a guy from Germany and that was great. He is here on his one-month vacation, fishing, drinking and hanging around. A very nice guy, Willy told us that his wife is recuperating from surgery and She urged him to take his time away while she healed. He told us that he gets 2 months vacation each year. After dinner we strolled around the pool then went out front to check on Scotty. She was sort of hidden in the darkness on their security TV so we went out and pulled her right up under the lights, in front of a big black Mercedes Benz. She really made the Mercedes look good!

Today, January 4th was my Mother and Father’s Birthdays. Yes, they were born on the same day, two years apart. Pappy would have been 87 and mammy 85 today. They have been gone for sometime but you just never forget big days like this.

To GranadaOh, an interesting piece of trivia, there is a sugar cane farm near the beach, they say it is the furthest north that cane is grown. Maybe because of the moderate temps the Med. Provides? Breakfast was another bad buffet then we were on our way. It is a climb, away from the coast and up toward our second Sierra Nevada Mountains. The road follows a river at first, under imposing cliffs. Once it started up in earnest Lil’ Scotty had to work hard and I had to shift down, a lot.

Cliff near GranadaWe pulled in to Granada at noon but spent an hour driving round in circles, trapped in one-way streets with hard to read signs. Since we were only interested in seeing The Alhambra we decided to drive up and find a place, there. The chance of getting a room just across from the gate and parking would be impossible in the summer but we just drove up and got a great room. Our view of the pool wasn’t that impressive. It was full of leaves and junk but the snow covered mountains were majestic. We planned to stay two nights so we unloaded the bikes. That worked out well because their parking is across the street in the Alhambra lot.

Peace on EarthSnowy Sierra NevadaAnother feature of the place is that the bus into town stops just down the street. We got settled in then ventured into the heart of Granada. The air is crisp, fresh and cold. We found a terrific Internet place, lots of machines and cheap rates. You buy time and enter a password. It is only 1€ per hour. Back up the hill on the return trip of bus 10 then we just lounged in the room and watched the hills turn orange as the sun set off to the right. Too darn cold to walk so we just went down and had another Buffet but this one was great and only 10€ each.

The next morning our plan was to skip The Alhambra because it was Sunday and even though it was off-season yet the parking lot was pretty full yesterday when we pulled in. As we started out, the crowd didn’t look imposing so we chose to go in. Although it was cold it was clear and still. Alhambra is derived from an Arabic word that means Red. The exterior walls are sort of red-ish? We spent 7€ each to get in and another 3€ for the audio guide. The girl was sort of disappointed that we only took one but we had learned that we could both hear and neither of us likes to stand for long with the thing in our ear. We also spent 2 ½ hours walking around, up, down and through the marvels of the place. Although it’s wonderful and a must to see, when you visit Granada, it only dates from the 9th Century. It was, of course, Moorish in the beginning then slowly drifted down to barracks for the military during the Napoleonic occupation and was almost used for target practice. Rescued from decay it is most famous for “Tales of the Alhambra” written by Washington Irving in the 1820s. We weren’t disappointed but after you’ve seen Alcazar in Seville, it’s a tough act to follow!
 
Alhambra Place Mat View From Alhambra Reflections Of
Alhambra Window Lion Fountain Ornate Alhambra
Alhambra Courtyard Grand View alhambra Alhambra View
Bells, Bells, Bells

We walked down the hill and to the Internet place in the afternoon. I had all the photo disks that we’ve accumulated, transferred to large CDs so that we can work with them. It began to drizzle we walked through the small streets of the old area and out along the creek that runs into town. When the rain began to pour down in earnest we took the bus back, hibernated in the room and worked the pictures and journal. We felt lazy so it was the Hotel Buffet again and sleep.
 
Moorish Arch Cathedral Granada Spitting Ram

When we got back to our room from dinner it sounded like all HELL was breaking loose somewhere in town. Flashes in the sky were followed by claps of thunder rolling off the hills. Perplexed, we turned on the TV and became witness to the final day of Christmas Celebration. The parade is like Carnival in Rio and of course the fireworks put the finishing touch to the holiday. We thought about taking a bus down the hill and rubbing shoulders with the locals but decided to just watch in comfort. Granada Holiday Parade   More Holiday Parade

When we woke up it was pouring down and cold outside. We were really glad that we had made the trip to The Alhambra yesterday. In fact we though it over and decided to move on, we had seen all that looked interesting. We did walk back down to Plaza Nuevo at the bottom of the hill, check in at the e-mail place then ride the bus back up. The bus driver had to race with a bike on the way. Bus Beats the Bike

Cat headed up to get us packed and I liberated Lil’ Scotty from the Alhambra Parking Lot. She was a little cranky after sitting idle for a day. I drove her down to the Parking stand then had to wait while the guy finished his coffee. Scotty and I were both out in the cold rain watching him. When he finally opened the window he didn’t want to accept the discount ticket that the Hotel gave us. Then when he did give the 2.50€ per day deal he tried to charge for three days. It may have just been a misunderstanding, he may have been getting even for the way I stood and watched him drink his coffee or he may have just been having a bad day? At any rate Lil’ Scotty got the chance to warm up thoroughly.

We got the bikes and bags down to the lobby then loaded under the awning, almost out of the rain. We were off for the coast, we were off to look for warmer weather. The tail of the Sierra Nevada stood between us and Alicante. Lil’ Scotty earned her keep today. There was a lot of UP involved and the weather, God that weather. Scotty made the hills, we were grinding them out in third gear with an occasional drop to second but it was the wind that really held her back. We had rain, hail, snow and sleet but it was the wind that felt like it would rip her doors off! In the end she delivered the mail, so to speak.

It is only 200 Km to Lorca but we felt we had pushed Scotty as far as we should for one tough day. Lorca is about 40 Km off the coast and it looks like desert. We awoke on January 7 to a gorgeous, sunny day. We couldn’t believe the change. It was like walking down a street in Palm Desert, California as we sought out coffee. In fact it was like driving to Palm Springs, among the rocky desert mountains and cliffs. Almost a vacation for Lil’ Scotty, we would only be on the road 120 Km today.

In to Alicante early, we then suffered the fate of the unknown. Circling and struggling to read the signs we finally made our way to the Tourist Office. Traffic was horrendous, and I had to wait in a “No Parking” parking space while Cat got info. The Office recommended a Hotel on the Port with rates from 60€. When we finally figured out how to find the place they informed us that the T.O. was mistaken, their rates started at 84€ and Parking was public. Great place but not for us, we moved on. Almost by accident, we found The Maya Hotel. It looked like something out of Mexico. It has a hard looking maroonish colored brick exterior with a Mayan, sort of, design. It was the Parking sign that drew us in and the rate made us stay. We assume that it was because they are re-doing the place or off-season or both but it was a bargain. We may have been the only guests they had. They gave us a room at the top, corner with a fabulous view of Castillo Santa Barbara.
 
Castelo Santa Barbara en Noche Castelo Santa Barbara en Dia What a View!
Panorama Alicante
Mas Alicante

It was 2:00 by the time we got settled in so we just went downstairs and had lunch. Walking back into town was tough at first as we were on the tiny sidewalk of a really busy street. Once on the main, it was like old home week. Our driving around in circles now had value. Our quest was to find an AOL disk to install on the new computer. That was to no avail but it did lead us to a combination video game/Internet connection place. It was loud, the combination of the crashing and din of the games and the screams of dismay and joy from the players. The guys there were great, they helped us print some pages that Charlie had sent to Cat for income tax accounting. They tried to print the picture that Dave and Lori had sent us of the family, for Christmas but that effort failed. It proved to be impossible for them to get the AOL downloaded onto a disk, too.

Our favorite store, El Corte Ingles, is a department store with a food market in the basement. We have shopped there in other cities and they have a great selection of foods and wine. The food looked so good we decided to buy and picnic in the room. So it was dinner on the bed, guidebooks and maps of Spain and lights out, early. We did enjoy the sunset and the lights on the Castle.

It was clear but windy and cool but that wouldn’t stop us. We bundled up and walked up, up, up to Castillo Santa Barbara. The view was spectacular and it was inspiring being swathed in history as we scanned the Alicante skyline and sparkling Mediterranean. Very good exercise, too. After a quick breakfast we were off to Valencia.
 
Alicante Art in Alicante Marina Alicante
Cat in Castle Courtyard Matador, Manolette Cacti & Alicante
Cacti & Castle Castle Guard  

Three Days in Valencia January 9, 10 and 11

Another easy day for Scotty, except for a few hills. The road follows the coast out to a point or cape then turns almost due north. We were in some of the most spectacular scenery we’ve seen. The mountains again were like those around Palm Springs but much larger and more severe. It’s only 120 Km to Valencia so we arrived early. Lost, again, we found the Tourist Office then began the process of circling and searching. We pulled up to a space near a restaurant and parked. It wasn’t a legal space but we were just going into a place right there so we chose to take the chance. As we stepped out a guy walking by said something to us. We didn’t understand but thought he was telling us not to park there. When I tried my lame Spanish on him he shook his head, walked around the car and pointed to the rear tire. It was flat.

Hungry and in a hurry to get food before the place would close, we decided to eat then deal with the tire. A girl seated next to us and eating, helped us order. She didn’t have great English but it got us by. We were surprised when the guy got our sandwiches ready she delivered them. She was the waitress. Once we finished both she and the guy tried to be helpful as I struggled with the tire. When we bought it I checked to make sure that it had a spare and tools. There was a scissor jack and jack handle lug wrench so I assumed? You know what they say about ASS/U/ME! Of course, the lug nuts were smaller than the wrench.

The guy and gal were clearing the tables and chairs from their patio seating and keeping an eye on us. He got his lug wrench for me but it was too large, too. Using my best pigeon Spanish I asked about an Auto Parts Store. Yes, fairly nearby but closed until 4:00 PM. Then in a flash of brilliance that shone on his face he said, “El Corte Ingles!”

Scotty Goes LameTerrific, they even pointed it out on the map. It was almost a mile walk. I took our little adjustable end wrench set at the size of the nuts and walked. Language was a handicap but after a charade kind of struggle I got the point across. They had a star wrench, the kind with 4 different sized lug wrenches. I checked and the smallest one matched the end wrench. Once back I realized that we had another problem. When the bikes are on the car we can’t open the trunk. It wouldn’t have been a problem because the spare hangs under the car but the bolt that holds the rack it is on is in the trunk. God, I hated to think about unloading so I held the trunk lid open slightly and got a wrench on the bolt, ingenious, and very lucky. I do love to solve problems, especially when it works out like it did today. Lil’ Scotty was back together and road ready by 4:00. The walk paid off, both in exercise and time.

Just luck led us to a very nice little Hotel in a great location. The only problem with Hotel Excelsior was parking. It was public but secure and we were unloading the bikes and bags since we would be here 3 days. The problem was 15€ a day, that was 25% of what the room cost. As I waited when Cat was checking us in I watched a guy in the parking area. He was like so many and we have always thought of them as homeless who watch cars and take handouts like the ones who wash windshields back home. Well this guy seemed in control and knew the people who were coming and going. He came to the car and said, “If you park here the Police will give you a ticket.” That sort of caught me off guard, not the ticket thing but the fact that he spoke very good English. His name is Raphael and it was soon obvious that he was the BOSS of the parking area.
 
Raphael Parks Cars Raphael the Hustler Valencia at night

For dinner we found a place that opened at 8:30 PM and as usual we were the only customers. A family came in and they were seated near us. When we heard English being spoken I turned and said, “We knew you had to be tourists, you eat too early.” They laughed and we talked. They told us they were from Australia but their accents didn’t quite sound Aussie. Well they have been living there but came from Israel and have live all over the world including the US and California. The Mom told us that we should check in with the B’Hai’s they really take care of their members and there are groups everywhere in the world. We think that they work for the church. They weren’t pushy about it but talked about the places where they’ve traveled and worked. I checked the Web Site and it isn’t Jewish, as I thought and the name seems to imply. It is like a new religion, less than 100 years old and it seems to base the beliefs on the usual Churches with a sort of Middle Eastern twist. At any rate we enjoyed chatting with them in our native language.

Although we had hoped to ride the bikes the busy streets and crazy traffic kept us from it. We did discover Jardin Del Turia, the old riverbed. It was has been converted to an exercise park with jogging and cycling paths as well as soccer fields. We spent our mornings there, fast walking for as much as 2 hours up and back the 10 Km length. The weather remained cold and rainy at times but we did have some sun, too. A couple from England told me that the locals told them that they only have one cold week each year and this is the week. We were lucky to have gotten out of Granada when we did. The rain, sleet and wind that had buffeted Scotty was the leading edge of a real storm. We watched as the TV reports showed pictures of the streets of Granada and The Alhambra under more and more snow. Just two days later, we would have been stuck. We wouldn’t have tested Lil’ Scotty’s tiny wheels and tires on ice and snow.
 
Jardines Del Turia Jardines Del Turia Jardin Turia & Torres
Torres De Serranos Lookin’ in the Gate The Backside of El Torres
Main Man and Eight Maidens Pigeon People Curso de Filosofia
Ornate Ornate up Close Museo de Ceramica

We did a little sight seeing daily but spent our last day in town visiting the narrow streets of the old city, the monuments, statues and buildings that are Valencia. In the midst we checked with CitiBank, they have purchased our bank, CalFed. The girl there tried hard to help us with a signature card problem. After several attempts to find e-mail addresses of the people at our bank she learned that they wouldn’t be completely combined until March. We tried to use the ATM there but it wouldn’t spit out the cash we needed. We had been having a problem the past two days and were getting worried. Leaving, we decided we would have to call our bank to make sure the cards were still valid. Just across the street was another bank, we tried their ATM and hit pay dirt. Oh what a relief that was!

Walking the streets we found the Market Place. Cat always loves to walk through and look. The Cathedral is famous as the home of “The Holy Grail”, a goblet that Jesus purportedly drank from. There is also an interesting tour of the Crypt, Roman ruins that have been excavated and a building built over them. The streets, monuments and Cathedral were all well worth the walk.
 
Main Market Main Market meat and Cheese
Paella Pans Valencia Cathedral Horse and History
Valencia Cathedral Cathedral Carvings Seeking the Holy Grail
Mass in the Cathedral
Inside the Cathedral In the Crypt Cross & Bells
The Man Saint and Dome  

Other major events that filled our time in Valencia, we did our laundry. Not earth shaking but when everything you won has been worn for almost 2 weeks it is a BIG deal! Scotty would get new shoes, well we found a place that installed two new tires on the front wheels and took the other two best and put them on the rear. The tires look good, the guarantee will last a lot longer than our time with Scotty and at 58 € it was a bargain.

The other interesting story of our stay in Valencia would be Raphael, the parking guy. He really is an entrepreneur, of the truest sense. He doesn’t just watch cars, he manages parking spaces. That is, he knows the people who work and live in the neighborhood so he holds spaces for them when he knows they are coming or going. It was pretty amazing to watch him. Locals would pull up and he would have them wait for a few minutes until a car would leave and he knew, when they would leave! He really managed the parking lot. He convinced us that we could save a lot of money by parking in his area. It is metered and you must get a new ticket every two hours. He performs that service, too. We moved from the 15€ parking to Raphael’s discount deal parking. Everything went well until Saturday morning. He moves tickets that aren’t expired from car to car, too but he didn’t get to the lot early enough to beat the Police on Saturday. We got a ticket?? He was really upset, he took the ticket from the windshield and disappeared. The guy at the Hotel knew about our ticket. I was upset because it would cost 90€. He told us that Raphael was going to fix it with the Police?

Parking is free on Sunday and Raphael takes the day off. He was there early Monday morning and told us that he had talked with the Police and fixed the ticket? It was gone from the windshield so we decided to forget it? Could he really fix a ticket? Or did he just tear it up and throw it away? Only time will tell! One way or the other, I really admired the guy’s business know how and his chutzpa.

January 12, Our 9 Month “On the Road” Anniversary!
Onward toward France

Yes, nine months ago we were just riding away from Oxnard and today we’re just a few days from France. We’re ready for a change and for some French Wine! We had reason to be homesick, the drive was along the coast midst alluvial plains covered with orange groves. We stopped at a truck stop for lunch. First one we have visited in a long time. It had a lot of similarity with those in Nevada and Wyoming back in the USA. Cat really clobbered her head when she bent though Lil’ Scotties door. The blood flowed and a bump swelled up almost immediately.

How Little is Lil’ Scotty?Speaking of Lil’ Scotty, we cruise at 90 Km per hour. We could sustain 100 but feel safer at 90. Everything on the road passes us. The legal limit on some of the freeways is 120 Km per hour. When some of the cars go by they almost draft us into them. They must be going 140 or more. However, it’s the trucks that present the challenge. They all run at 100 or more. They all pass us but they have to catch us then follow, right on our bumper, until the fast lane is clear for them. Then in a mighty burst they come past and really tug at Lil’ Scotty as though they want her under their wheels. When we are pulling an uphill Scotty climbs faster than the trucks. Oh, we get down to 50 Km an hour on some of them but we still out pull trucks that are loaded. That means that they pass us on the flat or down and we pass them going up. Kind of a game, a scary game sometimes, but a game. They get to know us, flash their lights or waggle their blinkers. Some even give us the THUMBS UP. Thinkin' about Ventura

The otherwise uneventful drive had us in Tarragona by 3:30 PM. Using the Lonely Planet we found a Hotel and were in camp shortly. This is a working town, like Porto, Portugal. Our view, over some pretty plain and rundown buildings, was of the harbor and several large freighters. Just nest door was an Internet Café and next to that a Sushi Restaurant, we were in heaven. This was the first Sushi we have eaten since Cat’s birthday in Trondheim, Norway. We felt like we were in Long Beach, CA except for the almost freezing temperatures.

Our Days in Barcelona

It’s only a couple hour drive, even in Lil’ Scotty, from Tarragona to Barcelona. Though we got there before lunch we did the circling thing then gave up and parked illegally and ate lunch. We were so concerned about avoiding a ticket that we sat near the open door and froze while we ate. Cat spotted the Tourist Office at the huge Plaza Catalunya. I double-parked and she dashed through traffic and out of sight for more than a half hour. When she returned, she was a little shaken, she had strayed in the wrong direction in the subterranean shopping area. We were glad to see each other.

We were especially paranoid about leaving Lil’ Scotty out in the streets of Barcelona. It has a big, bad reputation for theft and we didn’t want to go through the parking problem we had in Valencia. Hotel Rhonda had parking and a good rate. The street was so narrow that we had to jump up onto the curb to pass a parked car. The ramp down was narrow and steep, too. We loved the location, we walked everywhere, we even cycled on one bright sunny day.

We also walked, miles and miles, through the streets, squares and historic sights. We ate our favorite meal in the room. We wanted rotisserie chicken. When we finally got the point across to the lady at the desk she said, “Oh yes, Queenie’s is best!” She sent me off winding down the tiny alleyways and streets with map in hand. I was ready to give up when the smell sort of led me in. Queenie’s does chicken and potatoes and they do them well. Surprisingly, the owner and all the employees were Philippino. One guy who spoke some English filled me in on the fact that this is a big Philippino neighborhood. Needless to say the chicken was fantastic and the potatoes, wow.
 
Streets of Barcelona Poster Art Life is Art
Art is Life Strange Poster Art Copyright Art
Door & Tree Modern Art of Skateboard  

Another great find was CLICK-ON, the Internet connection just down the street from Rhonda. Spanish Internet has been reasonably priced ranging from 1 to 2€ per hour. When we first walked into CLICK-ON we were disappointed when we heard 4€ for an hour. When we expressed our dismay she said, “You should buy a 6 day pass.” We explained that we would only be here for 4 days and she said, “Too bad, it is only 6€ for 6 days.” “

“Wait a minute here, how often can we come in and how long can we stay?” we asked. She said they open at 8:00 AM and close at midnight and we could be there as often and stay as long as we wanted. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure the math. We bought two tickets and it was a great investment. Cat worked hard on getting our contact list back after the loss of the computers and I completed and e-mailed the second part of the Portugal Journal to Wally our Web Master.

There were two couples from Ireland staying at The Rhonda. One couple owned an electrical contracting company the other a Pub. They were on an eating, drinking and laughing holiday. The electrical guy asked so we explained our trip then he asked where we got the money. I told him that we are spending our children’s inheritance, which made him laugh. Then he sort of pushed up against me, looked me in the eye and said, “In Ireland we have a saying, They aren’t sewing any pockets in shrouds!” We enjoyed a great Irish laugh, together.

ArchitectoArtist Another was a man I saw through the window of his office. He is an Architect with a wonderful classic look. Another fun stop in an artist’s shop and I caught a picture of the Artist, Evan Deval and what I thought was his son. When he talked with the boy he seemed to be teaching him Spanish. I asked and he informed us that the boy’s father works with him and they are from Pakistan. In fact there is a large Pakistani population in this neighborhood. I was on a roll, taking portrait photos of the faces I thought had “The Look”. There was a young girl, a student, just leaning on a post and smoking. When she tilted her head back a light shone off her face. I asked, then took her picture, too. Did she think that I was an old weirdo, maybe she was right?

Barcelona StudentWe were on a mission, headed for El Cote Ingles, when a woman with a bomb box caught our attention. She was dancing around and asking for tips. Most of the young people near her were making fun of her cavorting. I thought it was creative so I pulled out the camera and started to take a video. She made a fuss then I figured out that she wanted money before she would perform for the camera. I let the camera fall as I dug out 2€ and put it in her basket. She flipped her skirts, undulated her hips and did her dance. Then she sang our “I love you, capitalist”? Or something like that? Then pulled her hat back over her face, again. The show was over! Dancer for Money


So there you have a look at Spain, through our eyes. We have loved the experience and know that it will help us tremendously when we cycle back through later this year. We’ll have reports on Picasso, Dali and Van Gough in the next segment. France is a favorite for more than just wine. We’re definitely moving north and it is definitely getting colder. Join us for the France to Finland segment. Will Lil’ Scotty take the strain? Will we survive the cold? Stay tuned, there’s lots more to come!

POST SCRIPT, The words of war have been flying around in the news. Many of our friends have e-mailed messages urging us to be careful or asking if we have had any problems. People here seem to reserve their dislike for the Government or the Iraq Policy. Several have expressed dismay with the tremendous build up of troops going on near here. We’re hopeful that it is just a saber rattling show of force. It will be interesting to get into France, one of the most vocal opponents to war. Don’t go away, we’ll keep you informed, from our perspective.