When thinking of Spain, warm sunny beaches certainly come to mind, and yes, there are certainly those a plenty. Rocky mountain ranges and snow, did not come to mind, however we were to be surprised and delighted by the rugged and craggy mountains, ravines and rivers as we made our way to Barcelona.
Friday 15/5/15 – After a €3 each breaky at the hotel, we left Andora in bright sunshine with the temperature around 12 degrees.
We climbed through the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, with more lovely windy roads which were simply spectacular, indeed breathtaking. The sheer grey rocky cliffs that at times were a pinky brown, with tunnels cut through them where man decided a road must be, and with nets to catch falling rocks; rivers that snaked their way through the valleys; mountains dotted with the green of trees, that dipped in places, teasing us with a view of more to come, and all the while, huge eagles soaring and dipping effortlessly above us in the air currents. Such beautiful and magnificent creatures. The rocky mountains would at times look quite prehistoric, and would give way to magnificent green valleys, with small villages and old stone houses ……This was the beginnings of our ‘eye candy’ for today.
We usually plan where we hope to finish each day, and Barcelona was our target for today, but what happens in between…. well…. what will be …. will be. Turned off onto a backroad through the Spanish national parks in the South East of Spain. The roads once again did not disappoint, and we turned back time and again to take photos, or to go to a town or sign that looked like it may be interesting, beautiful, something different .. etc.. etc.. etc.
One adventure we had, was a ‘little trip’ down a dirt road. We spied what looked to be several very large bird enclosures, and a sign that said Roc Falcon.
Well we put one and one together and decided they were enclosures for birds of prey that we could visit. Off we go again…. down this dirt and stone road… very tricky indeed, cause the stones were like being on ball bearings. Again John’s skills came to the fore, and we made it in and out without a hitch, although it was breath taking on a couple of occasions, and very slow going.
As for the birds, well who knows.. .. We could not get in, cause we were ‘not authorised’. Mmmm, we will just have to wonder what that was all about, although our suspish is that it was still a work in progress and perhaps a breeding program, as we saw some men working inside, high up on the mesh walls.
We did however, get to meet a couple of very cute donkeys who looked somewhat interested, if not bemused at our intrusion into their peaceful existence!
There were so many deep ravines, some treed, others just rock of different textures. The views simply stunning, indeed breathtaking, with the contrast of the blue, blue sky.
We would be motoring along in these magnificent mountains, when low and behold, we come out into a magnificent green and lush valley, such a contrast!
We saw a turn off to Canalda, interesting name, so worth a look! It turned out to be another gem. It was a very old village, with many of the stone buildings deserted, however some were still being lived in, although we saw no-one, only the odd dog or two, outside a house barking at us. There was a sign board, that showed/described the buildings and cave dwellings, but it was in Spanish, and well we made our determination, so will leave you to make yours!
We also saw the far off cave dwellings (also on the sign board), similar to those in Matera in Italy (a previous blog). As we continued our travels through the area, we noted more and more cave dwellings in the rocky mountains. One can only imagine the living conditions in these caves, and we can’t help but wonder that we as a generation are somewhat soft by comparison.
The wind has been shocking today, buffeting and blowing us about. We were going over yet another mountain pass, and it really felt like the wind would sweep the tyres out from under us. It is times such as these that I am always so very appreciative and grateful for Span’s skills as a motorbike rider. He handles the ‘very well’ loaded (some may somewhat overloaded) Vstrom so capably. The bike fully loaded weights in at around 450kg…. and only 45kg of that is me….. ya right!!! Seriously though, it is tiring as a pillion in the buffeting wind, so I have nothing but admiration for the way he handles the bike each and every day. His skill keeps us safe, and it is because of this, that I have no fear….. which is why I go to sleep so darned often!!!
Another gem we found was the town of Solsona (a couple of hours out of Barcelona). We were supposed to turn off to Barcelona at that town, however decided to go in for a looksee….. just cause we could.
WOW…. First thing was the smell of food being cooked on coals. That was a street vendor cooking chicken on an open coal BBQ… Yummmm, and mouthwatering to say the least. Next we noticed the gates to the old town, with what looked to be a market inside…. Deal done, it was definitely time for a coffee and some exploring; couldn’t get off the bike quick enough. Off we went, and yep it was definately chook on the BBQ…. smelled sensational, and certainly sent the salivary glands into overtime!
Through the arch to the old town we goes. First there is a truck loaded with oranges and lemons for sale. Up the very worn and shiny cobbled street we wander. It certainly was market day, with many people going about their shopping.
There were several cheese stalls, and the aroma of the different cheeses was simply mouth watering. Beside them were sausage stalls, and again the aromas, blended with the cheese was just… just… just….Ummmmm lost for words, it was that good! None of the food stalls were refrigerated, their goods simply arrayed on the tables for all to see and buy. The variety of cheeses and sausages was amazing! So many varieties, shapes, sizes and colours, that it makes our deli varieties look very ordinary indeed.
We continued walking past the stalls, and one trader called John over to taste his seeds. Clever bloke….. of course we bought some. They had been cooked with some sugar and other spices we could not quite understand, and were simply scrumptious. We ended up buying a bag each of sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds.
Opposite the seed man was a wine stall, and beside them a cake stall. Yum and double yum! Could not buy any wine, cause there was not enough room to carry it, so instead, bought what looked like coconut macaroons. Well we could eat those as we walked couldn’t we? Poor Vstrom! They had plain and choc coated, so of course we had to try both, we bought two of each. Tried the plain one as I walked across to another stall for a looksee…so lite, fluffy and tasty. Hurried back to Span (who in hindsight had a VERY guilty look about him), and asked for my choc one……. His response, with what can only be described as the most pathetic attempt at looking innocent was….. ‘Ohhh.. did you want one’? It is at this point that I take back all the nice things I just wrote about his riding skills!
On we walked, through the narrow streets. There were more cheese and sauasage stalls, as well as some crafts. We wound our way through the streets, until were were back at the cake stall. What a stroke of pure luck…. NOT!
Decided to have a coffee n cake before we left.. The poor bike!!!!
As we were heading to the coffee shop, we passed a stall that had the most spectacular array and variety of olives. There were stuffed olives, and olives that were natural, marinated or wrapped in something else, such as white bait etc, etc! Thought I had died and gone to heaven again, with all these wonderful natural foods.
Well, that was until I saw a BIG pile of assorted tripe…. some dried, some crumbed, some just wet and soggy looking! Brought back horrible childhood memories of when dad used to force feed us milky, tough, leathery tripe when we were kids. And, as was the custom of the day, we were not allowed to leave the table until our plates were empty!
What a delightful hour we spent in this town. So much ‘eye candy,’ and so unexpected and unplanned. This is just one of the things that we love about this kind of travelling, it suits us right down to the ground. We love taking a turn or detour, and coming on unexpected delights and experiences such as this. The older folk that we encounter along the way have so many stories and such character etched in their beautiful faces, that one can only wonder about.
Yet another turn off was to Cardona; we will get to Barcelona before nightfall…. hopefully! Saw a sign that read Castell de Cardona, and thought it may be worth a look. Again, we were not disappointed. It is a medieval fortress set high a top a hill, as it solemnly watches over the valley of the Cardener river. It is built in the Ramanesque and Gothic styles, and the walls were still pretty well still intact in parts, which is not bad given it was first constructed in about 887. It has however had repairs and additions along the way, and the stand out today is the 11th century tower that stands 15 metres high. Today the fort is used as ‘Parador’ (a luxury hotel run by the state).
Off we went again towards Barcelona, hopefully we will be there before 8pm!
The temp has risen to 27 degrees, so it is getting warm. Time to open the panels on the new jackets for some flow through ventilation… worked a treat, these Macna jackets are good.
As we were getting closer to Barcelona, the outline of the rugged, multi peaked Monsterrat (mountain) was just a silhouette, but what a silhouette it was. So jagged and stark against the green and yellow of the countryside before it. It forms part of the Catalan pre coastal range that runs parallel to the Mediterranean Sea. The name Monsterrat means ‘saw mountain’.
Stopped just short of Barcelona at the port of Montagvina, where we had some fruit whilst we watched the local surfers. Very relaxing indeed, on such a warm day. The waves were quite small really, but those in the water were clearly enjoying it, and more surfers were arriving as we watched.
There are many, many boat harbours along the coast on the way to Barcelona. So many yachts and pleasure craft at their moorings, just waiting to be enjoyed. Either side of the harbours are beautiful sandy beaches that stretch for miles; so very pretty in the late afternoon sun. Made us a wee bit envious indeed.
Stopped for some fuel and to get some air in the tyres. Mmmmm… a bit tricky when one does not speak let alone read the lingo, but as always we managed, and Span did a great job.
We passed so many quarries today, and were forever getting grit in eyes. As we arrived in Barcelona, there was such a dust haze, that the temp dropped by 6 degrees within about 5 minutes, just before we came into the city . However it was all clear skies by the time we arrived.
We hit the outskirts of Barcelona at peak, and it made us feel right at home. It was just like being on the Monash carpark. Only difference was the number of bikes and scooters weaving and scooting past, and the high volume of traffic in general….. so many cars and bright yellow and black taxis.
Found our way into the middle of Barcelona, and stopped at a coffee shop with wifi to look for some accommodation. It was now 7.30pm, so we did make it before 8pm… just! We had planned to get here around 4.30pm, but those inevitable detours certainly add a ‘few minutes’ to the ETA at the end of the day.
Found a great hotel (thanks to booking.com), and decided to stay 2 nights to have a look around this lovely city. Just as an aside, it is amazing how peoples faces light up when we say we have been to Barcelona. It most certainly is a city of reputation, and indeed it lives up to that reputation very well.
We found the hotel, and first job was to unload the bike and park its safely. Spoke with the concierge, who advised there was pay parking just down the road, but then we noticed other bikes around, and given the doorman was working 24/7, we felt the bike would be safe on the pavement just near the hotel. Span cabled it to a pole, and also put the wheel lock on, just to be sure.
We had to take all the luggage off the bike, so we grabbed the luggage trolley that was in the foyer and loaded it up. Mmmm…no sign of the door man to assist us… think we may have been in the too hard basket, or more likely the too embarrassing basket!
Gear unloaded and bike secured, we were off to get some Spanish food for tea and bed!