November 17, 2003 GMT
Back to Spain
Today is Monday November 17th and we have been travelling since the 10th from Portugal back into Spain.
We unfortunatly looked at the money we have left and have had to do some re-thinking about the last few months of our route. So we think we are heading along the Med. coast back into Southern France and then into Italy. We are trying to book a Gite de France for a few weeks to get us through the Christmas and New Yearīs holiday season.
For the trip back into Spain though we hit some really great spots. We ended up our first night in a town called Osuna. A very nice town in between the mountains and the sea. The city has a whole street that has been named on of the most beautiful in Europe of orginal archeture. The town is tiny, only about 12,000 people but full of great shopping and nice streets to walk around on.
We end up the next day taking a short drive and heading into Granda for 2 days. We stayed in a one star hostel that was cheap and had an interesting smell and shower system....... anyway.....Granda is a great town. There is lots to do and as it is a bigger city we were able to get on to the internet and get some chores done. The big highlight there was the Alhambra, a must see if you go. It was a muslim castle that sites on the hill side above Granada that is in excellent condition. We spend about 5 hours walking around it and through it. The interesting thing about Granada is where it is located. There are mountains between the city and the Med. sea so it is actually one of the coldest cities in Spain. The Sierra mountains are about 30 kms away and where filled with snow.
It made a beautiful backdrop to the city and are drive out of town.
We moved along the coast for the next few days as we are speeding up the program to get to Southern France. We spent one night in Lorca, another great small spanish town with lots of history and beauty. We had a very long day of riding on Friday. We were headed for a cheaper highway hotel just outside of Valencia. It was about 5 oīclock when we arrived and found out that it was full because of course there is a big convention in Valencia and the whole town is full. Itīs now getting dark, we have driven almost 500 kms and the last 2 hours of that was on a small highway to keep off the toll highway and had us behind, I think, every big truck in Spain.
The cheap hotel directs up back up the highway away from town as there is another hotel there. It is a 3 star hotel that looks very nice and Patrick sends me in to see what they have and the cost. They do have a vacancy - GREAT !! it costs more then a whole days budget - CRAP --- I take the room and the wonderful receptionist takes pitty on me and gives us a big room with the biggest soaker jacuzzi tub you have every seen. I do not tell Patrick how much we are spending and just get him into the room where the mini bar is free and has cold beer in it just for him. We get out of town the next morning and again vow to get off the road by 3:30 as even in the low season you can still get caught with a festival or something.....
We move on and end up in a town called Tarragona. Itīs a great place. We are in a new province of Spain and it is like the towns of Salamenca and San Sebastian. Not quite as beautiful but this town is full of Roman ruins and we have been walking around the town and hitting all of the museums as we go. We will be here for a total of 4 nights as the bike is going in for itīs oil change tomorrow. We think we will be in France by the weekend and hopefull in a spot for a few weeks by the 29th of November.
So far we are not having much trouble commuincating with people here in Spain. People seem to have at least a little english and the tourist bureaux all speak english with no problems. At the hostal we are staying at, we just make hand signals and such and we get along just fine !!
For the motorcycle people reading this the gas is cheaper here then in Portugal and France. We are paying about .88 cents for the Euro 98 (super unleaded). The toll highways are good but uneventful and there doesnīt seem to be a real speed limit. The secondary roads are okay but are not as well sign posted and have a lot of big trucks on them. They are only 2 lane roads so you are either waiting to pass or passing the trucks. We havenīt found any of the small empty roads in Spain yet and I think that is because we have stayed too near the coast.
Overall we have found a big difference in the regions of Spain and find that each are unique and have something interesting to offer.
Anyway thatīs about it for now, Iīm waiting for an email from my Gites de france to see if we can get a place and then itīs off to some more Roman ruins !!!!
Posted by Danette Harkness at 10:02 AM
October 25, 2003 GMT
Moving along in Spain
So, where am I ??? Dark room, lumpy bed, small bathroom. Could be any of about 7 different countries. Open curtains and discover that it is a beautiful sunny day in San Sebastian or Donostia depending on your political views and ETA affiliation. We have had a great time in S. Sebastian. It is a beautiful city that is overrun in the summer time but offseason is great. We stay for a few days longer than intended as we are really enjoying the place.
We decide to move on after we have covered all of San S. and would come back to this city in a heartbeat. Salamanca is the next destination. It is a long day on the bike. We travel at about 120kmh when on the larger highways. This means that most other folks in their Mercedes and BMW's only pass us going about 80kmh faster than we are going...... We have not even seen a police car on the highway in Spain.
But I digress. Salamanca is a midsized university town that seems very popular with students from all over the place. Not to mention all the old stuff lying around!!! We do the usual entry into a new town, get lost, find tourist office, get map and become unlost. We find a likely hotel and try to use our guidebook Spanish to ask for a room. The usual pattern is that we ask if the person speaks english. They say no and look at us blankly. We then attempt the process in Spanish which ends with the hotel person laughing and saying that his english is better than our spanish. You get along easily.
Salamanca could have one of the best central squares in Euroland. Sitting at your table with a beer at the end of a long day on the bike and watching the world stroll by is a pleasure not known in Vancouver. The whole place is lit up at night and looks fantastic. Families,students,lovers, and tourists all looking relaxed and happy. I like Salamanca.
Once in a city we tend not to use the bike much. It just sits all locked up. I have started to worry about it less and less as the trip goes on. I now only get up and look at it once a night!!!
Salamanca is another good food city. We think it is the Basque influence. Lots of different stuff to try and lot of cheap wine to guzzle. Huge party town as well because of the student population. If any of you guys out there are thinking of getting married or are looking for a girl please come to Salamanca as the girls are fantastic in this town. Danette agrees and has not hit me. Chad ?? Are you listening???
We decide that after a few days we must move on. Portugal beckons. We have booked a place in the Algarve for 3 weeks as a vacation from the vacation. So it is back on the bike and off to Portugal, The land where everyone looks like Joe!!!
See ya !!
Posted by Patrick Harkness at 01:31 PM
October 08, 2003 GMT
Today is Wednesday October 8th and I am really writing this on todays date... finally up to date with this stupid blog... I hope you guys are enjoying our travels and we would love you to email us at any time. Remember we only have each other to speak to in English and considering we have exactly the same day as each other it can get a little dull......
So we have arrived in Spain !!!
We are in San Sebastian to be exact which is really just over the French border by about 100kmīs or so. Itīs a fantastic town. Tons of shopping, bars restaurants and places to see. Itīs a mixture of young and old in the town and the pace is a nice easy one.
We arrived into town only knowing where the tourist bureau was supposed to be. Neither Patrick or I speak any Spanish and of course with being on the motorcycle we canīt have a library of guide books in our bags.
So here is day one in Spain....
Drive for about 3 hours
Get into Spain and realize that they are all driving a little bit faster than they should.
Watch very big trucks go through red lights
Find the sign, finally to the tourist bureau
Follow the signs to the tourist bureau
Yelling at each other, while riding down the street, about why isnīt the tourist bureau there (neither if us know where the damn thing is but itīs a good way to vent)
Pull over to the side of the road and ask for directions and get a good solid vague over there wave of hand sort of gesture..... now this is fun because I went to get the directions and then had to go back to Patrick with the vague hand movement of well itīs kind of over there. Did you know when Patrick starts rubbing his forehead itīs not a good thing ???
Decide to walk, in all our motorcycle gear in the vague hand gesture of that way.
Find a bookstore that has an english copy of a Spain guidebook !!! HUGE !!! The man in the shop speaks english and tells us the tourist bureau has moved but he knows where it is !!!!! There is a god.....
So melting in our motorcycle gear we get to the tourist bureau with 10 minutes to spare before they close for a 2 hour lunch.
Start the search for a place to stay ( so weīve been in town a good hour already )
Drive to the first place - itīs full
Drive to the second place that has 4 pensions (small hotels) in a 2 block radius. Get to the second place. The is a bomb apparently in these 2 blocks and the police are there blocking traffic and some men are around in these high tech blue and red outfits with big guns and face masks...... we turn around and walk quickly away. Our new spanish word for the day is bomba........
The sun has decided to come out and it is now 25 degrees and we are suffering heat stroke.
We brave traffic again and head to the next area of pensions. We make all the traffic and a very big bus come to a halt as we park the bike and I almost fall off ( iīm a little tired and cranky by this time)
Finally - we find a pension, it has a room, the lady is very nice and speaks a little english - she is Portuguese - love the Portuguese.
Later that night we head out for dinner. We are in Basque Country. We have a fantastic meal in a nice restaurant. The beer is good and cold and only .75 cents a glass. My wine is only a 1.50. Have we finally reached paradise????
Posted by Danette Harkness at 02:17 PM