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Photo by Josephine Flohr, Elephant at Camp, Namibia

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Josephine Flohr,
Elephant at Camp, Namibia



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  #406  
Old 12 Jan 2015
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Glad to read Neda is feeling better. Hopefully it's as simple as an allergy to Nutella. Gluten-free through France and Italy would be quite the challenge. Kind of like going alcohol-free in Ireland. Lori is horrified that such an allergy exist. She can't get enough of these rolled up Nutella tortillas they sell at roadside stands here in Mexico.

We both try to go gluten-free for the most part due to health reasons, something that concerned us a bit heading into Mexico. So far we find that bread type products here aren't quite the same as back home. Maybe less preservatives? We're not sure. We had Subway once and that seems to be an exception, we both felt crappy after that.

Wanted to ask if you could recommend a Spanish school in Guatemala, I think you guys stopped in Antigua for a month where Neda was teaching Spanish iirc
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  #407  
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Hey Mark,

In Guatemala, we both took a couple of weeks of Spanish lessons in Quetzeltenango (Xela) at Utatlán Spanish School. In Antigua, I kinda gave up and Neda continued her studies at Antigüeña Spanish Academy.

I liked our Spanish school in La Paz, Mexico a lot better than the Xela one. The curriculum seemed a lot more polished, but then again it was way more expensive. Not having taken classes in Antigua, I asked Neda about her experience and she said that both Guatemalan schools were the same and that you could basically pick any one off the Internet, it'll come down to the individual instructor anyway.

Hope this helps, good luck with el Español!
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  #408  
Old 12 Jan 2015
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Originally Posted by lightcycle View Post
Hey Mark,

In Guatemala, we both took a couple of weeks of Spanish lessons in Quetzeltenango (Xela) at Utatlán Spanish School. In Antigua, I kinda gave up and Neda continued her studies at Antigüeña Spanish Academy.

I liked our Spanish school in La Paz, Mexico a lot better than the Xela one. The curriculum seemed a lot more polished, but then again it was way more expensive. Not having taken classes in Antigua, I asked Neda about her experience and she said that both Guatemalan schools were the same and that you could basically pick any one off the Internet, it'll come down to the individual instructor anyway.

Hope this helps, good luck with el Español!
Excellent, thanks Gene!
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  #409  
Old 13 Jan 2015
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Hi Gene, if your still in France, have a look at Carcassonne. Its a mediaeval 12th century cathar fortified city.
You can stay in the city itself, there are 2 hotels, the best western is the cheaper of the 2. There is also secure parking for the bikes.
I fully agree with XS904. It would be such a pitty if you missed this beautiful mediaeval city.
While in Carcassonne, I stayed in Hotel Astoria on 18 rue Tourtel in Carcassonne. This hotel is a member of the "Relais Motards" so bikers are very welcome and there is a big garage for the bikes. It is on walking distance from the mediaeval fortified city.

Here are some pictures of Carcassonne on my weblog;
http://jkrijt.home.xs4all.nl/trips/n2g2/page11.shtml
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  #410  
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/193.html



It just won't stop raining in the south of France. We wanted to see a little bit more of this country before heading to warmer climates. Neda had researched a great medieval town called Carcassonne, not too far away but the forecast showed heavy rainfall for the next few days. Not good weather to explore castles or go riding around. It'll have to wait for another time.


Preparing to leave France. In the rain...

I feel like we're just single-cell organisms responding to stimuli. Too cold? Too wet? With no sentient thought or plan, we just swing our flagella and move somewhere drier and warmer.


Pit stop in Perpignan

On our last night in France, someone stole my motorcycle cover. Or so I thought. The next morning, we hopped on our bikes and headed to the border. We were immediately kicked around by strong cross-winds that threatened to blow our motorcycles off the side of the road. I was hit worse than Neda because of how much luggage I've piled on the back of my bike: my side-profile looks like a giant sail. It was so bad, we had to get off the highway and putter ahead on the backroads riding 20km/h under the speed limit with our 4-way flashers on.

I realized then that my motorcycle cover wasn't stolen. It was the wind that whipped it off last night. I felt really bad about blaming some random French person for something that didn't actually happen, meanwhile some tree is probably wearing a really expensive rip-stop nylon winter jacket right now...

I hate losing stuff, especially the things you can only get online. Where do we even get it shipped to when we're on the move all the time?


Skirting south of the foothills of the Pyrenees

Once we got west of the Pyrenees, it was like someone waved a magic wand and the skies cleared instantly. It was a colour that we hadn't seen for a very long time. Neda's mood was visibly improving. Perhaps it was the weather. Perhaps the Nutella mourning period was over. Maybe it was because her stomach is feeling a lot better and she doesn't have any more washroom emergencies, but the instant we crossed the Spanish border, it was like she came back to life. Like she was reset. Re-animated. Rebooted.

She radioed me: "I can speak Spanish again!" Ah, that's the real reason.

I think with all the Français she was feeling a bit removed from everything. Now she was finally able to break out of her cocoon and be herself. Time for me to relax and let her drive the bus once again.


A new tankbag hobby

Neda gave all the seashells she was collecting in her tankbag to her niece. She's moved on to collecting leaves now. This one is from Switzerland. Somehow, I don't think her collection is going to survive intact as long as the seashells did...


We've stopped in a sea-side town of Calella, about half-an-hour outside of Barcelona

And just like amoebas, the minute the conditions start becoming favorable we stop moving and enjoy the sunshine and lack of rain. Calella is a weekend beach destination for a lot of Barcelonans, and is absolutely packed with tourists in the summer, but now we're in the off-season and it's a ghost-town during the week. Nice and peaceful, just the way we like it.


Can you imagine this beach packed to gills in the summer?
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  #411  
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Too cold to suntan

Although the sun is shining, the temperatures only climb to about 15C during the middle of the day. Still a lot of people wearing thick layers walking around town. It's not raining so we really don't care.


Namaste on the boardwalk


Some rock climbing on the outskirts of town


Better view of where the rock climbers were hanging around


Calella has about 3kms of beaches, some open, some secluded. There's even supposed to be a nude beach around here somewhere!


Either Neda is really enjoying the sunshine or she's spied the nude beach...

The cold and wet weather makes for a very draining ride. It's not just having to bear through the elements while on a motorcycle, but all the gear you have to put on: base layer, protective layer, waterproof layer. I really missed just throwing on a riding jacket to go out for a spin. Everything seems like such a production when you tour through these conditions!


This guy has the right idea
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  #412  
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Birds eye view of the coast


Parallel to the beach is a nice tree-lined promenade where families go for a stroll during the day

We've rented a small apartment in Calella with a nice kitchen so we can make our own food once again. I think we're going to stay here for a while.


This is the market that Neda goes to every morning to get fresh groceries


This is our fish lady. Neda buys fish from her every few days so we're regulars now

She's cutting up something called "sepia". Neda knew what the Croatian word for it, but couldn't tell me what it was in English because she's never prepared it in Canada. A quick SpanishDict search: It's cuttlefish. Very tasty! Our fish lady asks what the English word is and we tell her. Apparently "cuttlefish" is really hard to pronounce for Catalans...

Calella and Barcelona are in a region of Spain called Catalunya. The people that live here don't really consider themselves a part of Spain. They've been trying to separate for a long time. Kinda like Quebec in Canada. Catalan is also different from the Spanish spoken by the rest of Spain. Same as Quebecois being a different kind of French that's spoken in the rest of the world...

We're having to get used to different phrases here. A "Buenos Dias" will automatically give you away as non-Catalan. Here it's "Bon Dia". "Hablas español?" Nope, it's "Que parla català?". "Please" is "Si us plau". It almost sounds kind of French! More Quebec parallels!


Checking up on our bikes one evening

The apartment complex we are staying in wanted €10 for underground parking. A night! Whatevs! We'll just park for free on the streets like the rest of the Europeans do. I get a bit nervous and peek outside every couple of days just to make sure the bikes are still there though...


On the weekends, all the Barcelonans come into town to wander around the stores here

We're staying in the old part of town where 14th-century buildings are mixed in with modern storefronts on a pedestrian-only street called Calle de l'Església (street of the church). The lights are all up for Christmas and we mingle with the weekend crowd one evening.


One night, we spied Roman Centurians marching down the street!


They were part of a Christmas parade. The Catalans must really not like being Spanish... No Conquistadors here!
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  #413  
Old 14 Jan 2015
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Gene, if your waiting till later in the year to do more of France, also look at Pic du Midi in the Pyrenees
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  #414  
Old 16 Jan 2015
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I just googled that. Wow!

Probably not that nice at this time of the year though... If we come by this way again later in the season, we'll have to check it out. Thanks!
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  #415  
Old 17 Jan 2015
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It will be closed at the moment, we tried one year in January with a Land Rover and couldn't get near it!

About May/June onwards. Lots of nice places to see as you head north! Where are you planning later in the year?
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  #416  
Old 18 Jan 2015
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Where are you planning later in the year?
Plan? :confused1:

Europe?
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  #417  
Old 18 Jan 2015
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If you get to the UK, shout up!
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  #418  
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/194.html



Just a quick update as to what we've been doing the last couple of weeks, which is not very much.

We're really enjoying staying in our apartment here in Calella. The weather is sunny most of the time. Neda has taken up jogging on the boardwalk every couple of days, shopping in the market in the mornings and coming up with new dishes to cook for us. I've taken up doing nothing. Life is good.


Wet ride to the Dali Theatre-Museum. Yes, those are eggs crowning the top of the building...

We found out that the Salvador Dali museum was nearby. It's in Figueres, about an hour north of here, near the French border. Dali was my favorite artist when I was in university, I had a print of his melting clocks, "The Persistence of Memory", pasted up on the wall of my dorm room just like most of the undergraduates I went to school did.

Of course, the day we planned to ride over, it rained. Of course. But we were stubborn and decided to go anyway. The thinking was that we were going to spend the entire time inside, so this was a perfect day as any to do it and not miss any sunshine.


Outside the Theatre-Museum. Yes, that is an egg dressed up in papal robes. Yes, that is a deep-sea diver on the balcony.
Yes, those are statues holding gold loaves of bread over their head...


I love the surreal and absurdist style of Dali. It's just so weird and appeals to the side of me that likes to poke fun at everything, making comments and jokes that most people don't get. In my mind, I always picture Dali creating his works of art while snickering away, amusing the only person that he ever intended to amuse: himself. I totally get that.


Part of the fun of Dali sculptures and paintings is verbally describing them to someone who hasn't seen them

"Yeah, so there's this old black, vintage car in the courtyard. There's a hood ornament welded to the car. It's a huge Venus-de-Milo type of statue - big boobs, big hips. It's huge. No, it's not a foot high, more like 10-feet tall. Yes, welded onto the hood like an ornament! But wait, there's more... Behind the car is a stack of tires, it's even taller than the hood ornament. Then on top of that stack of tires is a long pole with a boat on top of it. Dripping from the boat are these huge drops of water that look like testicles!

I swear I'm not making this up. I have a picture of it!"

I love Dali...


One thing I never knew about Dali is that he also made jewelry

A separate building houses a collection of jewelry, most of them made of gold inset with precious gems. The rooms are dark, the only thing lit up are the jewelry. Dali himself is entombed in this building in a crypt on the first floor.

The pieces are quite beautiful and show a different side of the artist I never knew about. The above is a hand mirror decorated with gold coins and a stylized Dali signature that he stamped on all of his works.


"Figure at a window"

Dali's primary muse was his wife, Gala. Almost all of his paintings and photos are of her. The only other female model that he used was his younger sister, Ana Maria, shown here in his famous painting, "Figure at a window".

My primary muse is Neda's yellow F650GS. Almost all of my pictures are of that bike...
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  #419  
Old 18 Jan 2015
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This style of painting is what Dali is most known for.

I was a bit disappointed that his most famous surreal paintings are not on display in Figueres. The Persistence of Memory is currently housed in the Musueum of Modern Art in New York City.


That's a neat looking couch...


Sometimes a different perspective is needed...

I'm sure Andy Warhol was in part inspired by the works of Dali. He once said his paintings are "hand-painted dream photographs". So apt. He was one of a minority of artists that actually became famous during his lifetime, due in large part to the self-promotion he and his wife did.


You can see part of Dali's upturned moustache reaching up to his eye here

We didn't really do a lot of riding in the last couple of weeks, but we did get out to see Montserrat on another occasion. This time we looked for a nice, sunny day to go out.


Unfortunately, the weather is very different up in the mountains than by the coast

Montserrat is set amongst the peaks of Catalunya, about 50 kms north of Barcelona and only 45 minutes away from where we were in Calella. It's a great area to go hiking and to get some spectacular views of the hills and valleys below. Surprisingly, it was me who organized this hiking excursion. An early Christmas gift to Neda...


Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey amongst the clouds

Our bikes climbed over 1200m (4000 feet) above the coast and the temperatures plummeted as we ascended. The sunny day in Calella was replaced by a cold, heavy fog and as we reached the town of Montserrat, the famous Benedictine monastery (Santa Maria) was shrouded in mist.

We had brought all of our hiking clothes, but because everything was obscured by the haze, we debated about whether to actually go or not. We didn't really feel like hiking around inside a cloud for the entire afternoon. After a quick sandwich break, the early afternoon sun started burning through the mists so it was Go Time!

Truthfully, part of me was hoping that it would have been too cloudy to hike: "Hey, at least I made the effort, right Neda?"
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  #420  
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The Monastery is the most-important religious retreat in Catalunya, many residents do at least one overnight pilgrimage in their lives to watch the sun rise over the peak of Montserrat


View of the Monastery from the cable-car, mist is slowly being burned away by the sun

We take a cable-car up to one of the peaks of Montserrat so we can hike down the mountain. Hey, this may be a Christmas present to Neda, but I'm not that crazy as to offer to actually hike *UP* a mountain!


Neda is excited to be hiking above the clouds

We never got to use our hiking clothes. It was way too cold so we just hiked in all of our warm motorcycle gear and boots...


One Tree Hill


Montserrat means "Saw (serrated) mountain" in Spanish

On our hike at the summit, we were surrounded by these jagged fingers of rock that reached up from the valley due to the differences in erosion and weathering of the limestone rock throughout the ages.


You know how you can walk around with a pained expression most of the time and when someone points a camera at you and tells you to smile, you can turn on a happy face for an instant? Well, this is what that looks like...

It wasn't that bad, the weather turned out to be sunny, although it was sooooo cold up there!


More saw-tipped peaks


Tall fingers of rock overlooking the valley, must be popular with rock climbers


Going back home, the weather turns nice again!
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