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Photo by Igor Djokovic, camping above San Juan river, Arizona USA

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


Photo by Igor Djokovic,
camping above San Juan river,
Arizona USA



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  #436  
Old 5 Feb 2015
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We walked the back alleys trying to find a flamenco show, but they were all very expensive


Strolling along the Carrera del Darro


These street musicians were fantastic and kept the crowd entertained with their Spanish Raggae


Quite by accident, we stumble onto the workshop of the famous luthier family Ferrer

There is a rich history of guitar-making in Granada, but many of the lineages of the current master luthiers can be traced to Benito Ferrer's workshop above which he started in 1875. Benito once gave a classical guitar to a young man because he could not afford to buy one. That young man's name was Andrés Segovia, who turned out to be one of the greatest classical guitarists of all time (his version of Leyenda was the soundtrack to our previous blog entry's video).


This guy looks a bit sketchy


Enjoying yet another sunny day with our good weather charms, The Pula Girls!


A bit of foreshadowing in the background?
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  #437  
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Long day ahead of us, so we're waking up extra early.

The Pula Girls had originally planned to come to Granada to see the Moorish palace, Alhambra. We had booked our accommodations for two nights only, one day to see the palace and then leave the next day. However, we had no idea that you had to pre-book tickets to see Alhambra in advance. You can't just show up and go in and because the tickets are limited, they only allow you a small window of time to enter the palace.

So we didn't get to see Alhambra yesterday and we have to check out today so it's all got to fit in, somehow. I'm really appreciating the luxury of time that Neda and I have, compared to how Iva and Tajana are having to squeeze their tour into their jam packed and tight vacation schedule.


Neda woke up to find that her bike had sent her a message overnight...


Early morning ride to Alhambra, you can see snow capping the mountains of the Sierra Nevada in the distance. Brrr....


Finally! We got tickets!

Truthfully, Alhambra wasn't even on my radar for Spain on this trip or our last one seven years ago. Neda had at least heard of it. The Pula Girls organized this excursion and I'm glad we got to go because it's a beautiful example of Medieval Moorish architecture. From all the readings I've done, they say Alhambra is the most visited site in Spain. For good reason too!

I have to be honest and say that I've never read One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, but I did see the Disney Alladin movie... I could imagine flying carpets all over the place and Robin Williams bottled up in every lamp here!


The palace walls overlook the city of Granada


General admissions lets you walk around the palace grounds. Tickets are for entry to the palace itself. Picture by Iva
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  #438  
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Alhambra is taken from the Arab "al-qala’a al-hamra" which means "The Red Castle". It was originally a small fortress built in 889, but it lay in ruins until the 11th century when a palace was built on the site. Renovations continued through the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries and most of what we're seeing today is the architecture of the last Muslim emirs in Spain in what's known as the Nasrid dynasty.


Mysterious Tajana. Picture by Iva

I feel bad for not understanding more Croatian. From the way Tajana makes Neda and Iva laugh, I am missing out on some really funny material. Neda tells me she has a really insightful and acerbic sense of humour and attempts to translates some of Tajo's quips later on, but like most humour of that kind, it gets lost in the translation and it really has to be in the moment.


Fountains in the palace grounds


In the summer, the grounds must be rife with flowers. These arched trellises bare all in the off-season


You aren't allowed to touch the intricate stonework, but they did provide a replica for visitors
to paw at the reliefwork. The Pula Girls use it to showcase their nail polish handiwork.



Inside the Palace of Charles V. Picture by Iva

It's very rare that the two of us are in the same picture, but now we've got so many shots of us together thanks to Iva. She borrowed our camera with the wide-angle lens for the day and had some fun playing around with it in Alhambra. She's a really good photographer as you can tell by some of the pictures I found on our data card later on.


Official RideDOT.com videographer/photographer
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  #439  
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Jump for joy!

The Palace of Charles V is a Renaissance-style building that was constructed on the grounds of Alhambra for Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, because he didn't want to stay in the existing palaces after the conquest of Granada in 1492. It has a huge circular patio enclosed inside which was originally supposed to be covered, but the construction was never completed and it remains roofless to this day.

The expulsion of the Moors by the Spanish was unmerciful. You could say they were quite roofless as well.


Granada through the porticos of Alhambra


Casa Real Vieja (Old Royal Palace). Picture by Iva


Gorgeous picture that Iva took of us inside a ḥammām‎ (a Turkish-style bath). I love this shot!


I like how the exquisite arabesque detail intermingles fluidly with the calligraphy
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  #440  
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Cool tiling? But wait, there's more...


Moorish tessellation

These tiles all over Alhambra are an example of tessellation, a repeating pattern of shapes that fit together without any gaps or overlap. We all take this for granted in our wallpaper and flooring, but there is actually a branch of mathematics that studies the rules of tessellation. A tessellation that has translational symmetry, meaning it repeats in two directions (up/down and left/right) make up something called a "wallpaper group", because it can be used to make wallpaper (duh).


More complex tessellations. What do you call a happy Islamic mason? Merry Tiler Moor.

What is fascinating is that mathematically, there are 17 different kinds of translational symmetry or wallpaper groups. They say that all 17 kinds can be found all over Alhambra. This is astounding for 14th century medieval Islamic art. M.C. Escher, the famous mathematics-inspired Dutch artist visited Alhambra in 1922 and was so captivated by these tiles that he made several copies in his sketchbooks. These Moorish tilings eventually influenced his style of art, leading to countless drawings of his own tessellations of which he is most famous for.

I did an art project on M.C. Escher back in high school and he was my favorite artist back then, so while the math is interesting, I really find it cool that Escher thought these tiles were cool. Because Escher is cool.


Beautiful day for a ride!

We left fairly late from Alhambra. The road from Granada to Cordoba is a nice twisty highway and the countryside is lined with thousands of olive trees planted in uniform rows on either side for as far as the eye can see. The late afternoon sun lends a little bit of warmth, but this is January and most of Canada is blanketed with a thick sheet of snow right now.

I don't complain one bit as I follow Neda's line through the sweeping turns on the smooth blacktop underneath us.


What a long day! The sun is disappearing in front of our eyes as we get closer to Cordoba


Arriving at the hotel moments before sunset

Not that I am counting, but it's now been ten days without rain with The Pula Girls. My thoughts turn towards kidnapping...
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  #441  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lightcycle View Post
Lori wants you to know that the Canary Islands are still part of Spain and are TOASTY warm!

Quote:
Originally Posted by lightcycle View Post
Not that I am counting, but it's now been ten days without rain with The Pula Girls. My thoughts turn towards kidnapping...
Maybe you can have a couple of bobble heads made in their image and stick em on the bikes for when they leave...
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  #442  
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I'm pissed. Angrier than I've ever been in a long time.

The apartment in Granada double-billed us for our stay. They charged our credit card for the full amount and also knowingly asked us for the same in cash when we arrived without giving us a receipt, despite us asking for it. We know all this because they've done it a dozen times to other guests - we checked their booking.com reviews and it's all recorded. We should have read all the reviews before checking in.

It's a lucky thing that I check our credit card statements online regularly and caught it last night.

I called the credit card company to dispute the charges but they told me it would be next to impossible without a receipt. All the comments on booking.com reported the same thing, that they were unsuccessful in getting the charges reversed because they purposely *forget* to give receipts.

We called the apartment and they apologized and told us they would initiate the reversal on their end. Again, booking.com reviews also mentioned this and said it never happened.

We got scammed.

I wanted to ride back to Granada and get our money back, call the cops or something. Iva and Tajana offered to cover their half of what we lost, to just forget about it and continue on with our trip, but I couldn't let it stand like that. I know their vacation time was very precious and they didn't want to waste a day, but I couldn't get over the thought of someone willfully scamming us and getting away with it.

Cordoba was supposed to be an overnight stay, but I begged The Pula Girls to stay just one more day in Cordoba while Neda and I rode back to Granada to confront the thieves. So that's what we did.

Long story short, the next day we rode two hours back to Granada, stood in their office while they pretended that it was an accident. We demanded our receipt as well as made sure the charges were reversed on our credit card. Then two hours back to Cordoba again and a whole day was wasted. I was angry the entire day. In the end, we were only out €16 for the gas in Neda's bike as we two-upped there and back.

Thank you so much, Iva and Tajana. They even offered to pay half of the €16 gas bill! So nice of them, but the fact they gave up a day of their vacation to hang around Cordoba was more than enough.


Got a chance to walk around Cordoba the next morning


More orange trees here!


Trying to find a place for breakfast

I was feeling a bit wiped from riding to Granada and back the previous day so I opted out of today's activities. Neda accompanied the girls to visit the Medina Azahara. These are some of the pictures that she took:


Traveling through Cordoba old school


One of the doorways to the Medina
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  #443  
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The Medina Azahara was another remnant of Muslim Spain from the 1st century.


Sunlight streaming in through a window in the ceiling


More pretty stained-glass sun patterns

We left Cordoba for our next stop in The Pula Girls Tour d'España, Seville. It's a fairly quick highway ride and it was quite uneventful, albeit windy ride. Except we did see this in one of the fields off the highway:


We pulled off to the side of the road to check it out more closely with the zoom lens

At first, we thought it was some kind of high-tech lighthouse, but it seemed to be reflecting sunlight down to the fields below. Neda thought it may be beaming extra sunlight to certain crops. Later on, I did some research. It's actually a power generator called a Solar Power Tower. There are hundreds of computer-controlled solar reflectors on the ground called heliostats. They are programmed to aim and reflect sunlight to a certain point at the top of the tower where a molten salt solution is super-heated to over 500°C and then transported back down to boil water to run steam turbines, generating electricity.

Cool, eh?


Found this picture on the Internet: Gemasolar Solar Tower.


Another picture from the Internet: Closeup of the heliostats that reflect sunlight to the tower

It just so happened that the day we rode by, there was dust in the air that showed the sunlight reflecting off the heliostats to the tower. Someone must have heard The Pula Girls were going to vacation in the area and decided to profit off their Sun-Attraction Powers.

12 days and counting. No Rain. Amazing!
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  #444  
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Free parking under the oranges in Seville

We are going to be staying in Seville for a couple of days. The Pula Girls and Neda go out and explore the city while I stay in the apartment to relax. The pace is too frenetic for me, plus the apartments we are managing to score in the off-season with the four of us are getting more and more luxurious!


Everywhere the Pula Girls show up, the sun shines and orange trees miraculously sprout from the ground!


Plaza de España

I did manage to get a little sightseeing done in Seville. Neda told me that she went with the Pula Girls to the Plaza de España and was really impressed and that I should see it before we leave.


Beautiful hand-painted ceramic details all over the buildings

The Plaza de España doesn't really have much historical significance. It was built in 1929 for the World Expo in Seville that year and today it houses some government buildings.


Ceramic posts


Ceramic banister
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  #445  
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You can pay for a horse and buggy ride around the plaza. Or take a picture for free.


This couple was from Mexico!

We overheard them talking with the rest of their family and their accent was so familiar! You know you've spent a lot of time in Latin America when you can pinpoint people's Spanish accents! This couple was getting married in Seville and they were getting their wedding pictures done at the Plaza de España.


Along the bottom of the building are 48 tiled alcoves representing all the provinces of Spain


It's a popular thing for Spanish tourists to take a picture in front of the alcove where they are from.
Since we're not Spanish, Neda just chose the one that she went to camp at once...



You can rent a boat for €5. Or take a picture for free...

Did you know that they filmed a Star Wars movie here? It was the Royal Palace of Naboo in the Phantom Menace! That's cool.

I later found out that I missed seeing the Alcázar de Sevilla, an ancient Moorish palace. It's kind of like Alhambra in Granada. I really wanted to see it not because of it's history, but because I just found out that they are filming the fifth season of Game of Thrones at the Alcázar...

Dammit!


Leaving Seville through the cobblestoned streets of the historic centre
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  #446  
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We are going to be facing a sad day very soon. After two weeks of traveling with The Pula Girls, they will be turning around and heading back to Croatia. They've been really fun company and we'll miss them, but really, we are scared to see what will happen with the weather once they leave us.

Surely it's just a coincidence that the longest stretch of good riding weather we've had was when we were traveling with them, right?


The White Village of Vejer de la Frontera

Although the sun is still shining brightly down upon us, the ride to Vejer de la Frontera was fraught with high, gusty winds coming from the south, as if somebody had erected a gigantic wind machine on the Straits of Gibraltar specifically designed to blow us off our bikes.

We can handle heavy winds, you just maintain a constant lean on the motorcycle. But when they blow on and off unexpectedly, it becomes very tricky with a top-heavy motorcycle, especially one with so much lateral surface area like mine. From the side, I am basically one giant sail, and the random, powerful gusts feel like someone has laid a large tablecloth on the road and is violently yanking it out from underneath our motorcycles.

I watch how Neda's bike moves in front of me, hoping to predict when the next gust of wind will kick the front wheel out from under me, but I quickly find out that they're not location dependent. The tablecloth will be pulled out from under us when and where it pleases. My hands hurt from clenching the handlebars so hard and the grips now have a permanent impression of my tightly closed fist.

So obviously, no pictures of us while on the bike...


*whew* made it safely into town

We've been to the Pueblos Blancos in Andalucia before. On our last trip, we visited Arcos de la Frontera as well as Ronda, but because we are just following Iva and Tajana on their tour of southern Spain, this is obviously something they wanted to see. They picked this town because we had not visited this one before, which was nice of them.


Roaming around the narrow streets of Vejer de la Frontera
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  #447  
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Traveling at their own accelerated pace, the girls were completing an extended tour of Andalucia, which left us to find the apartment by ourselves. The GPS maps that we have have let us down before, often leading us down one-way-roads the wrong way or sending us through shortcuts that really aren't shorter. We always tell ourselves to check and double-check the larger picture or corroborate with Google Maps beforehand. But when we do, the GPS tends to behave and does so for a long time, lulling us into a false sense of confidence.

And then we stop checking...


The road gets steeper and narrower. This doesn't look like the right way? (part 1 of 3)


It's not. The road ends at a flight of stairs. Our GSes can go off-road but this...? (part 2 of 3)


Neda makes the backing up noise in her helmet *beep* *beep* *beep* (part 3 of 3)

Some of the villagers peer their heads out the door and watch us back our bikes down. I bet they've seen a lot of tourists cursing their Garmin GPS as they slowly reverse down their narrow street.

Time to start double-checking the GPS routes again.


Riding through these streets reminds me of this


Finally, we reach the office for the apartment we're staying at.
We slowly follow behind the caretaker as he walks us to our apartment



Free parking right outside our apartment! We take off the panniers so traffic can squeeze past our bikes.

Iva and Tajana have the same troubles finding the apartment, and to compound their problems, there's no space on these narrow streets for their car, so they they have to park quite a ways away. We help them carry all their luggage back under cover of darkness when they finally arrive. I love being on a motorcycle!

We've booked four nights at this rustic little apartment. I have a feeling that the girls are a bit travel fatigued as well after 14 days of non-stop sight-seeing. I know I am.
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  #448  
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Neda makes some octopus stew. Another delicious home-cooked meal!


Our apartment has a terrace overlooking the town

Obviously I was mistaken about the girls needing downtime. After one day in the apartment, they hopped in their car and left to visit nearby Gibraltar for the day. Neda and I spent the time relaxing and enjoying the sunshine that the Pula Girls left for us here.


A great view from our terrace


Back to her book. Neda loves three things: dogs, her Kindle and me. In that order...


Taking a leisurely walk around town

I used to watch a TV show called The Prisoner when I was a kid, and I was fascinated by the idea of being trapped in an enclosed town. Although this Pueblo Blanco looks nothing like The Village, while walking through its deserted streets during the off-season, I could easily picture a re-make being set here - retired secret agents spying from behind every shuttered window above the claustrophobically narrow white-washed buildings.

"I am not a number!"


Iva has a favorite pose where she's looking up and off to the side in pictures.
This is our homage to the "Iva pose"



Just like in Seville, this is called Plaza de Espana.
I think like "Main St" in the USA, every town in Spain has to have a Plaza de Espana.
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We found out from the owner of this cute pup that she's a rescue dog.
Neda told me that when we settle down, the dog that we get will be a rescue as well.



Lots of neat little nooks and crannies around town


The old villa of Vejer de la Frontera is walled in and this is one of the gates: Arco de Segur


Hanging out atop the ramparts of the old villa

The Pula Girls don't let up one bit. Tajana has taken the last couple of days to do some work remotely on the computer and Iva goes on a day-trip to sight-see in Cadiz. By contrast, Neda has been stuck in bed with a really bad cold, fighting a high fever as well.

She's not fully recuperated when we finally bid farewell to the Pula Girls as they set off back to Croatia. Neda and I talked about staying another night in Vejer to give her a chance to rest and recover, but we can't afford this apartment alone and if we're going to move to another place, we should find something more in our price range than Andalucia.

Thank you so much Iva and Tajana for letting us travel with you! We had such a good time together! And thank you for bringing the sunshine with you!!!


Sidecases back on, getting ready to leave Vejer de la Frontera

Without The Pula Girls guiding our destiny, we're left to our own devices (GPS, iPhone, Kindle, laptop). It's been so long since we had to pick a destination. Where to now?
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Let's go to Portugal!

We're very excited because we've never been to Portugal before. Ever since arriving in Europe last summer, we've basically ridden through a bunch of countries that we've visited before, just exploring them in more depth. But Portugal is uncharted territory for us. A friend of ours told us that it's really inexpensive compared to Spain, so after losing our cost-sharing friends from Pula, this might suit our budget a bit better.


Lunch on the road, Neda prepares some parking lot cusine!

We're doubling back through Seville to head west to the southern coast of Portugal. Before leaving, Iva told us that she had been to Faro and that the whole area was very nice. Then we looked at the prices on AirBnB and decided to go to nearby Albufeira, which was cheaper...

It was mostly highway on the way to Portugal. We battled the same strong winds that plagued us in Southern Spain and we crossed the border with very little fanfare. This whole Eurozone thing really takes the pomp and circumstance out of arriving in a new country! Gimme a stamp on my passport, dammit!


Albufeira and the sky is darkening overhead...

Our first day without the Pula Girls and it looks like it's going to rain. I'm not a superstitious person, but this might just make me believe in hexes and curses, rain dances and black magic. Because it really seems like someone has placed a permanent rain cloud over our bikes...

We're changing the logo on our website, BTW:



Our first task before bunkering down is to hit the grocery store. That's when we realized that for the first time in two and half years, neither of us speaks the local language! I did some work in Brazil many years ago, and Neda joined me for a week as we visited a few places in the country, but the only words we remembered from back then is, "Obrigado" (thank you).

We both feel so ashamed for not checking on the Internet beforehand for some basic Portuguese phrases. We feel like such clueless North American tourists....

The check-out girl at the grocery store spoke English, and she gave us a quick language lesson on how to say, "hello", "please", "good day", etc. Surprisingly close to Spanish...
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