Thursday, 14 July 2011

Head For The Hills!


I am way behind with my blogging, so am trying to catch up and post about the journey Paul and I are taking through Spain.

Riding here is so easy. We are mainly keeping away from bigger cities and are taking as many back roads as possible, where the traffic is very light. We are of course riding on the wrong side of the road, which means the right, but it is surprising how quickly we have got used to that and rarely think about it. Like in many countries, the roads here are generally straight when the land is flat and only become more interesting in areas of hills and mountains. So, for our journey south through Spain, that is where we headed – for the hills! We did under-estimate the amount of time it would take to ride some of these roads. While 350 – 500 miles a day are possible when on motorways and large straight roads, we have been riding on very twisty roads and managing between 150-300 miles after riding all day.

On day 3 of this trip we clocked up just 191 miles.

The route we chose gave us a few surprises and undoubtedly that is one of the great benefits of touring – you just don’t know what you might find. For example, we went through a town called Santa Cruz, a timely co-incidence as I loved what I saw in Santa Cruz in California when I was there last year, so much that I will be back there in August....




















We took an unplanned detour and found a dam-formed lake that we didn’t expect. This is Lake Ezquiza just to the east of Burgos....






































Our route planning was relatively easy – we chose to ride on the roads marked green on the Michelin Maps Series I prefer to use, and this means they are scenic, and invariably located in the hills. Motorways are generally dull and provide almost nothing interesting to see, so we avoid them whenever we can. You really get to see what a country or area is like on the smaller roads.

When in the remote parts of Spain, towns are cities are few and far between. The towns are small and you stop for refreshments at tiny bars / restaurants, many family run. This was the case in Pineda, where we were the only customers at 11 am....

















While people speak English at the majority of the coastal tourist locations, few speak anything but Spanish in the central and more remote parts of Spain. Neither Paul or I speak anything than just a few words of Spanish, but with a gestures, pointing and speaking very simply, enough basic communications are possible and we can get by. Most of the staff working at hotel receptions thankfully do speak English.

One of the benefits of heading for the hills is this is generally where the better scenery is. In northern Spain the mountains are not huge or very tall, but they can still be spectacular....




















After having a good breakfast at the Parador we stayed at last night, we didn’t need a big lunch. In Spain, many bars serve ‘Tapas’ which are small dishes often cooked on the premises. With our poor Spanish, it is often fun trying to guess what the food is and ordering dishes by pointing and guessing what they might be. It always seem to work as we have never gone hungry! Paul and I headed for the main square in one mid-sized town and enjoyed just resting from the midday sun as we ate Tapas and drank....


























This was the view of a church we had as we ate....






















History is everywhere in Spain. The buildings are generally very old and have many stories to tell. This is a castle built on top of a hill. We of course had to stop for pictures....








































As we neared Sigüenza we were stunned by the view of the town where we would spend the night. The castle atop the hill, was originally built in the fifth century, converted to a Bishop’s Palace in 1123, fell into disuse in the 1800’s and a restoration began in 1964 when the castle was turned into a Parador Hotel....




















While the castle may seem a grand place to stay, the room rates are not at all unreasonable and no more than would be paid for, say a modern chain hotel in a large city.

This is the inner courtyard....






















Some of the castle walls and the gateway entrance....






















Paul and I had rooms on the upper floor that had a balcony, facing into the courtyard....





















From high on the hill where the castle was, we walked down into the town to take a look around. First we went to see the Cathedral. It looks only moderate from outside....






















But, when you walk inside, your eyes feast upon such majestic beauty....











































The magnificent vaulted brick roof....





















We sat in the town square and had a drink. It was a very hot evening....









































We were very lucky, as we had no idea that at the time we were there, a medieval festival was taking place in the town and in the grounds of the castle. We had arrived on the opening evening of the festival and stalls were being set up in the streets to sell medieval related wares....





















Back at the castle....





















We were very surprised to first hear and then see, 55 Harley-Davidsons enter the courtyard of the castle....




This was a Chapter from Toulouse in France on a week-long outing to northern Spain....





















Paul and I walked back into the town to see what was involved in a medieval festival. There was food, band playing music from centuries ago, a band walking through the streets, sword-fighting demonstrations and even people dressed as monks cooking on the barbeques....




























































It was an excellent evening and one that I would thoroughly recommend, should anyone reading this be in northern Spain at this time of year.

7 comments:

Geoff James said...

Gorgeous blue skies and warmth Gary - what me, jealous??? We're into our second week of almost continuous rain and high winds.

Fantastic photos mate - the cathedral is breathtaking. Enjoy the rest of the trip and safe travelling, you lucky bu**er!

SonjaM said...

Ah those architectural gems, and the history of these building... If those walls could talk...
Thanks for bringing back lots of memories to me. I definitely need to return to Europe for some serious two wheeled vacation.

Raftnn said...

What Geoff said!!!!!!!

ALot of what you say about twisty roads is very true of what it is like here. Some time you can ride al dai and do no more that 320kms. Just great1

mq01 said...

OMG amazing! thank you for the ability to ride vicariously through you and your blog btw :)

VStar Lady said...

Stunning photos - Unbelievable history. Looking forward to more.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Gary:

What an amazing ride! Your pictures have a soothing quality to them with a damn-near therapeutic effect. I love old Cathlolic churches. I would have spent at least an hour in each of the two depicted in this blog episode.

I am stunned by the popularity of the Harley-Davidson marque in Europe. From your blog, I rather get the impression that you're just as likely to pass a Harley as you would any other motorcycle in Europe.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep
Twisted Roads

Gary France said...

Geoff – Sorry about your poor weather. The cathedral was amazing and one of a few that we saw!

Sonja – The history in Spain is everywhere! I guess the average age of the building in some towns is about 200-300 years old! I hope you get back to Europe to ride here soon.

Raftnn – I would love to ride in NZ. One day, one day....

mq01 – I am glad you are enjoying it.

VStar Lady – Thanks for reading my stuff. I am enjoying reading about your current ride!

Jack – We didn’t spend an hour there, but easily could have done as there was so much to see. I understand H-D’s market share in Europe for motorcycles over 600cc is about 11% of total new sales, which is relatively high.