May 03, 2005 GMT
Cordoba to Barcelona

We are saying a sad goodbye to Spain today. We would really like to stay for months but there is the rest of the world waiting for us.

We are quite proud of how we have coped with the language. A typical example of our interaction with the locals:

Spanish person: Blah, blah, blah, blah
Garry: Si, si
Jo: What did they say?
Garry: I think they said “Life´s a bed of roses”.
Jo: Roll eyes

Cordoba was a different type of city to Seville and seemed to operate at a slower pace. It is known as the “frying pan” of Spain so we were expecting it to be nice weather and it was. We spent a day walking around the old town and visited the Mezquita which was originally a Muslim Mosque but then a Catholic Cathedral was built in the middle. Quite a strange concept but one that was repeated at other sites around Spain. Unfortunately the cathedral in the centre ruined the effect of the mosque. Although it was still beautiful it would have been breathtaking to having the light stream into the mosque through the rows of arches (when building the Cathedral they closed in the walls). The contrasting designs and styles were fascinating and amazing to say the least.

Our next stop was Granada. We had a pre conceived idea that it would be a small, quiet place but it is actually quite bustling. We headed straight for the mountains though and after a few wrong turns (we entered the wrong details in to the GPS and were guided down dirt tracks and along river banks – user error, not GPS error) we were greeted with the best campsite we have ever stayed at. It was at an altitude of 1100meteres and looked out over a huge turquoise reservoir with snow capped mountains in the distance. After a relaxing day (believe it or not we do have busy days!) at the campsite we spent a day in Granada sight seeing. We visited the Alhambra which was a Castle and fortress in the hills above the city. It was beautiful and there was so much to see in one day. We were still in relaxing mode though and after a long climb to the top of the hill and 1000000 tourists we just weren’t interested. Jo´s exact words were “I´m tired, I´m hungry and all I want is an ice-cream”.

We spent so much time looking at the snow capped mountains from the campsite that we thought we should go and see what it was all about so with a combination of horse power for the first 2,700 metres and leg power for a further 300metres we climbed our way to 3000metres. We didn’t make it to the top (3,400m) and probably needed more than the bottle of water and packet of crisps that we had as supplies but the views were still amazing. It was strange walking over rocks and slate that are normally under a metre of snow in the winter time and home to one of Spain’s biggest ski resorts.

Coming down the mountain is always easier on the bike (and us) and we were back at base camp (the tent), in time for dinner overlooking the lake.

It was hard to leave Granada (the Sierra Nevada mountains in particular) and it’s the one place that we would love to come back to in the future (don’t start thinking that this trip is one of those once in a lifetime things!).

The speed at which the scenery changed was amazing. The view in the rear mirror was of snow covered mountains but in front of us it was dry, dusty, orange plantations for as far as the eye could see. It was not only the scenery that was changing but also the pace of life. The east coast is much more populated than western Spain and it was not long until we were in traffic jams, smoke and high rise buildings again. It was as if we had just come out of hibernation.

I had read about most towns and cities we were passing in holiday brochures but to see places like Alicante and Bennidorm for yourself is amazing. Just one big concrete jungle with each apartment block competing for the best view of the ocean. The English didn’t invade these places with guns and bombs but more with spending their pounds on beer, fish and chips and accommodation. You end up wondering whether the Spanish should be grateful or resentful for the amount of English holidaying and now living around there?

We rode straight past all that though and spent a few days at a quieter beach just north of Bennidorm (Gandia). The tourists had yet to invade and it had a great beach which we walked up and down every day. It was still too cold for a swim although Jo thought it was warm enough for an ice-cream!

And now on to Barcelona where we have been since Friday (29th April). Jo´s friend from the UK, Charlie, is now living in Barcelona so we were delighted to have a roof over our heads for a few days. And yes a TV and couch as well!

Charlie was our tour guide on the Saturday and we must have walked for miles looking at all the sights and taking it all in. It really is a fantastic city that grows on you as you see more and more. We can understand why Charlie loves it so much. We visited the main Cathedral – Seu. It was the most beautiful Cathedral we have ever visited. Every detail was amazing. There is a cloister (garden area) in the centre with fountains, ponds and geese. It is so tranquil and beautiful.

We are still trying to work out where the Spanish get their energy from. When the rest of the world is watching the nine o’clock news the Spanish are still getting ready to eat dinner! And by the time the English are being turned out of the pubs the Spanish are getting ready to go out!

We had dinner at a nice quiet Spanish restaurant and then went out clubbing until 7am! A new world record (for us!). The music was great and nice and loud and kept us dancing all night, something that the Spanish didn’t seem to bothered in doing (they don’t really move much on the dance floor – unlike a few crazy tourists ;-) They also seemed to drink a lot less than the English, not one drunk in sight!

Sunday was at a much slower pace and after waking up at 2pm (still too early!) we went for a ride on the bike in the hills to Tibidabo which looks over the city. It was one of the best city views we have ever seen but was blighted by a fun park right in front of us with the sounds of roller-coasters, kids screaming and bands playing. And to add insult to injury all of this was right next door to a cathedral. When we were in the cathedral you could still hear the noise from the fun park – it felt wrong. We were amazed it had been approved to put the two next door to each other.

This afternoon (3rd May) we catch the ferry to Rome. We travel overnight and so arrive tomorrow afternoon. Although sad to leave Spain we are extremely excited about being in Italy and stuffing ourselves with pizza and pasta! Two countries down 27 to go!!

Posted by Garry Scutcher at May 03, 2005 01:22 PM GMT

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