|12-19-2008, 11:26 PM||#79|
I left my heart in Barcelona
If someone, sometime ago left his heart in San Francisco, he was surely struck by something ethereal, maybe mystical even. Indeed, Barcelona surreptitiously, during the few days we were there, took a piece of mine.
Through all my travels in many years across the world, this sentiment had happened only twice before, hence my familiarity with the symptoms. I am forever torn between my love for Paris and Amsterdam, and now further irresolute, I must add Barcelona to my vacillations.
This feeling of familiarity, if hard to describe is impossible to forget. A sense that you belong... you belong even among strangers speaking a language that you don’t fully understand.
These cities are anything but homey, yet unexplainably they each grabbed a little part of my heart, and every time, no mater after how long, after how many times, under this or that conditions, when I go back, and find myself amidst their streets, I feel like I belong. I can now call Barcelona my home.
If cities have such things as soul, Barcelona's is embodied in the legacy of Gaudi.
La Casa Batllo
His forms permeate the city in so many ways, just look at the tiles that you unthinkably step on, as you wander among its streets, be it in La Rambla, the Gothic quarter in la (Ciutat Vella), the port, Plaza Catelunya, and so many other spots.
The ceilings of the entry.
There are no angles in this building, all is pure fluid arches and smooth curves.
The roof top.
Of course many come to Barcelona for Gaudi’s masterpiece; La Sagrada Famillia. You cannot escape her spell, just think about this for a minute:
Is there any other city in the world that is currently erecting a building, scrupulously following the plan of the original architect, more then 80 years after his death (Gaudi died as a result of injuries caused when he got hit by a tram), the construction of the Cathedral started in 1882, and is not scheduled to be finished for the next 30 to 50 years.
It is sheer madness. This allegoric temple was originally built by unpaid labour, and volunteers, now entry fees, the city, private investors, as well as other illustrious unknowns finance it.
A church that would belong not only to those who build it, but to all regardless of faith.
A temple for the people, it depicts 3 periods of the life of Christ, the nativity, the crucifixion, and the glory, it has 12 towers, the highest mast, representing Jesus, one for the Virgin Mary, four for the evangelists and six more for the remaining apostles.
For if Gaudy dedicated his masterpiece to the memory of Christ, his true love was with nature, as is reflected in his encompassing legacy.
Jackie was having the time of her life
I am far from religious, but who ever said that spirituality has anything to do with religion? This is a debate that we would be willing to wage at anytime, but right now I would rather keep on talking about Barcelona.
The Ciutat is easy to get around in, only the old quarter will make you look at the map a few times, it is largely build on a grid system of many one ways, crossed by very wide diagonals.
Its amazing how despite the chaotic traffic how fluid it is to get around the city.
There are very little stop signs. Large areas of the city are dedicated to pedestrian only.
No matter what you like you can find it at the market.
The egg stand.
Oups! Caught with her mouthful.
Many street corridors are dedicated to taxi, and buses only (scooters and motorbikes use them without interfering). All types of motorized two wheel vehicles are omnipresent, from the old fifties' Vespas, to custom made choppers, and everything else in between. There are a lots of people traveling on two wheels in Barcelona. Many streets have dedicated parking for two wheel contraptions with an engine.
Even when not parked in designated spots, their sheer static magnitude, seem to respond to one of the law of chaos, or some other mythical universal order.
ST made lots of friends.
A funky office tower.
Another cool structure
The city is also bicycle friendly, not like Amsterdam, but Barcelona, as Paris with “le Velib” allows you, for just a few cents to grab a bike from one of the many distribution stops, use it to get to a short distance and drop it at another pick up point so it may be used by someone else. The bikes are in good repair with a light for the night, and an adjustable seat to fit any rider.
The subway grid is as complex as the tube in London or le metro in Paris, lots of tracks with many junction points. However, the system is idiot proof, the cars are equipped with maps; TV’s continuously scroll the next stop at the bottom of the screen as you watch the news, or a commercial. The stops are also announced over speaker, and there is an electronic display of the track you’re on lighting up a red LED over the name of the station, as the train leaves for the following stop.
If you can't figure it out, I suggest you stay home and watch another episode of the Trailer Park Boys.
There is even a cable car suspended high above the city that gets you to Mount Monjuic. Yet Barcelona is so much more, just take a walk to Barceloneta and you can enjoy several beaches, the waterfront has been cleaned up. And even under grey sky it was perfect.
The average high temperature in January is 13 C and 27 C in July. The city receives about 73 days or rain per annum. We got to enjoy 0.5 of one BTW, so we decided to go to the movies and we saw the last Indiana Jones.
Jackie and Valentino playing in the rain.
Barcelona is also parceled by hills, and surrounded by small mountains. There are lots, and lots of threes in the city, and even more green-spaces. It is one of the greener cities in Europe with green spaces expanding by about 25 acres per year. It is also clean and pampered, as in other smaller Spanish city we visited, we saw garbage being pickup everyday, even late at night, city personnel constantly sweep, and pick up detritus.
Yet Barcelona is so much more (or did I say that already).
So, forget all I’ve said so far, what truly defines Barcelona IMHO is its culture; think about Montreal, or Brussels on a good day. Barcelona is the capital of Catalunya, a cultural island of Catalan amidst a sea of Castillano.
Catalan is at time closer to French than it is to Spanish, it is the prime language of the province, street names are written in Catalan, and official services are offered in both Catalan and Castillano. Most Barcelonian speak both languages, and many have fought feverishly, at times violently to preserve, and maintain their cultural uniqueness.
If it remains profoundly divided by the singularities that form it, both cultural identities rejoice in proud common Spanish plurality. Despite Madrid been the international metropolis it deserves to be, in my mind it pales in comparison to the true cosmopolitan nature of Barcelona.
My only disappointment is that I only got to sample it for a few days. But I know we will be back.
On the road again.
Can you tell I loved it.... See you in Italy. We ride for another 1000 km or so through the Pyrenees, France, Monaco, and I feel the Stelvio getting closer and closer...
Hasta pronto Barcelona, muchissimas gracias.
Work is just the time you have to spend between rides.
The motorcycle chronicles of Jackie & Valentino
Valentino's 2010 Winter Olympic Run
ac_elite screwed with this post 12-20-2008 at 08:27 AM
|12-20-2008, 05:04 AM||#80|
Joined: Feb 2007
Location: Western NC
Reading your RR was a perfect way to spend the day yesterday. We had Winnipeg weather here in Rochester (as you may recall, I know whereof I speak). We had 12" of snow and high winds. But I got to stay in my cozy den and travel through Europe thanks to you and your RR.
God I love Europe!! France in particular has become my favorite country in the world: Paris, the Alps, the Dordogne, it goes on forever and you can find whatever you love. Lucky for me my brother has a place in the south in a small town just outside Beziers. It's only a few hours from there to Barcelona and now you have me aching to see that city and more of Spain. (As an aside, did you happen to learn some of the history of the Cathars from that part of southern France and Spain? A fascinating but very sad story. They were a heretical religion - not too bright I think. "Let's see, why don't we follow a religion that is opposed to the Catholic Church AND the Feudal System - that will win us some powerful friends!" They were wiped out in a series of crusades and the Inquisition actually began as an effort to weed out remaining Cathar faithful. I never learned any of this until I visited the region.)
Anyhow, I'm loving this report, learning lots of things as I read, and finding new "must visit" places.
When will you be moving and able to say "Winnipeg is a great place to be from!"??
Thanks a bunch and have a happy holiday!
|12-20-2008, 08:55 AM||#81|
From Winnipeg soon
You are very right when saying you can find whatever you love, in my mind Europe has it all -the good and the bad- great natural beauty and extraordinary man made artifacts, bundled in a very civilized package. Plus as another inmate posts in his signature block ''traveling is extremely detrimental to prejudice''.
We could have opted to spend more time in France, but had to make some tough choices, on where to go, next posts I'll take the RR through La Camargue and La cote d'Azur.
I know about those crazy Cathars, maybe it seemed like a good idea at the time, but in the end it turnout to be little more than another Jim Jones Guyana/Waco type endeavor, this time with a middle age flavor.
I know I am vulgarizing, but sometimes you have to do what makes sense and pick your battles.
We are or will be able to say ''From Winnipeg'' very soon, I start my new job in Victoria, BC at the beginning of February.
Can you say: ride your motorbike all year long yeahhhh!
|12-20-2008, 07:47 PM||#82|
Joined: Nov 2001
Location: Vancouver Island, Bitchin' Columbia, Canada
Awesome ride report. Ingrid and I hope to do the same type of trip soon.
Deuce screwed with this post 12-25-2008 at 11:17 AM
|12-22-2008, 07:03 PM||#83|
And more to come
Someone told me to bite my tongue, with more still to come, you might want to get a shovel.
I know for sure I'm going to throw one in my bag when I go look for a house.
Better get back on the road to Italy...
|12-22-2008, 07:26 PM||#84|
Joined: Jan 2005
Location: Carlsbad (Not NM)
Thanks for all the great Pix.....
Your photo tour of Barcelona brought back a flood of memories from our time there in 01.
|12-22-2008, 08:34 PM||#85|
3 days of Magic, May 27 to May 29
Barcelona was our last Spanish stop, and marked the first third of our trip already behind us. For the next few days we will be hugging the coast (Spain - the Eastern Pyrenees - la Camargue - la Cote d'azur - Northern Italy to spend a night in Genova.
We left Barcelona under cloudy skies light showers on and off, it took a while for the coast to get pretty, the railway tracks were kind of in the way.
Sometimes looking to the left is better.
But when it did get nice, it got reeeaal nice!
Very narrow roads giving out to even steeper cliffs, and endless blue sea.
My riding skills in the twisties have really improve, you got to understand that I bought ST at the end of 2006, after a long riding drought of about 12 years. Living in Manitoba does allow you to go very fast for very long, but no need to turn.
Summer 07 we tested rider pillion and gear by doing a mini IB of 5000 km turn around Winnipeg to Montreal and back in 10 days, but not so many twisties there either, I mean a few but not like Le Vercor, or the Pyrenees.
So when I mean improve, I feel more relax maneuvering the heavy beast, my turns are much smoother and with more velocity. I am neither getting cocky, nor overconfident, just a lot more assured.
For instance I have stop closing my eyes when making hairpin turns...
That Valentino dood s'got game.
The Russell Day Long saddle is truly a blessing, and neither of us is reporting any sort of cramps.
View from the top.
The ride was just amazing, and for the most part the weather held.
Of course in Europe there is always a old building somewhere.
We stopped to purchase a bottle of water and ended up with samichs, freshly grown tomatoes, queso, jamon and a bit of EVOO.
Hasta luego España-Salut les potes.
Just a few more km to go for the day.
Time to rest for the night. This place looks good.
And to the left.
Sometimes you just gotta have fish.
It doesn't get any better than this.
More to come...
|12-22-2008, 08:43 PM||#86|
Glad you are enjoying the RR, neat to see the city growing a bit older from your pics to ours.
|12-23-2008, 08:51 PM||#87|
At our first night stop, we were waken up in the middle of the night by a hailstorm hammering the roof of our small hotel in the sleepy coastal village of Cerbere, the first French town after Spain in the Eastern Pyrenees.
This I thought, as I laid in bed with my eyes open starring at the ceiling of the darken room, did not forecast anything great for the coming day. And we had a challenging pass ahead of us.
Not very long about 30 km or so, but mountainous terrain on narrow roads in heavy rain and thick fog would require extra care. So we would proceed cautiously as we entered Languedoc-Roussillon to cover the road from Cerbere to Racou-Plage.
As expected we woke up to find gloomy dark skies filled with low hanging black clouds just waiting for us to take the road to unload their fury. And so it rained, and rained, and rained.... Steady and at times hard for the next four hours.
Well this was a chance to further test the adherence of the Michelin PR2’s, and get a chance to practice my cornering skills under wet conditions. And so I did.
What I did not mention is that today’s forecast included a violent wind warning for the southern coast of Corsica. Although I did not worry too much about it, a little voice in the back of my head told me that the day was not only going to be wet, but maybe a bit windy. The great thing about very wet, then very windy weather when you are riding a motorcycle is that you get very dry, very fast.
As we entered Camargue, the salty-marsh region of France just ahead of Marseille, famous for among other things spectacular wild white horses, sea salt, sea rice, sand wine, and an indigenous species of Bulls.
And Flamingos too apparently.
We got hit hard by the wind, but I mean hard. I am used to riding in the Canadian Prairies where it can get pretty gusty, but this was out of this world.
Coming from the south over the sea, the wind stroked, spanked, battered, and pummeled us as never before. What a wallop it was. Because we were so close to the sea, we actually tasted salty-grainy-wet air through our helmets.
Once we entered the actual Park of La Camargue, the rain eased up, but the wind pick up even more. During that stretch my top speed never exceeded 82 km/hr on the straights, I was leaning on the tankbag, and Liliane was leaning on my back to reduce wind resistance as much as possible.
The elusive white horses, they brought back childhood memory of the stories of Crin-Blanc.
The top box was creating a lot of turbulence, and the wind was hurling through the microphones in our helmet. We could not stop laughing until we had to close our mouth, so we could lick the salty taste of the ocean of our lips.
By the time we hit the busy port of Marseille, and heavy traffic, the elements had beaten us into submission, we had enough tumultuous riding for one day, and we were ready to call it a night.
We slept in Aubagne just a few kilometers from Marseille for a well-deserved rest.
We woke up the next morning after spending a night at l'Étape (a chain of cookie cutter motel type), but clean, comfortable and only 39.00€.
We woke up rested the next morning, and after having made the minor gaffe of draining the battery, from having GP on while we loaded and geared up, we were on our way to Italy via les Crêtes.
The first thing I noticed was the flags dressing the entrance of our motel now resting softly against their mast, as opposed to the violent bat-out-of-hell flapping of the night before. The weather called for possible thunderstorms, but more to the west of us, Italy promised a bit of clemency.
The ride from Aubagne to Genova was extraordinary.
More twisties overlooking the sea’s crashing waves. Sheer cliffs of red earth sculpted with deep grooves by the relentless motion of the white foaming, blue breakers.
It was magnificent. Denime, Juan Les Pins, La Napoule, Cannes, Aix en Provence, and Nice came and went.
Into the village.
And back on the road.
Entering Cannes, just a few days past the Festival.
Jackie felt right at home.
A few glitzy hotels.
Then headed to Monaco and even glitzier (read full of hot air) Monte-Carlo.
We took a ride on the Grand Prix, and it was a good thing that the streets were busy, or I might have been tempted to see how much of the 260 km/hr showing on my speedo I could try to reach with the red needle before I chickened out.
We toured the small principality, and opted for the Auto Strada to enter Italy through Andorra, and San Remo so we could sprint the last 165 km to Genova where our first night booked in a youth hostel awaited us.
A classic -The famous casino-.
And a couple from the top.
As we entered the province of Liguria we were so impressed by the topography of the highway, long bridges closing the gap between very deep gorges, only interrupted by even longer tunnels plunging us into the depths of the mountains, some a long as 5 km.
We were now in Italy
This went on for a good 125 to 150 km, until we reach Genoa our first night in Italia.
Despite a few wrong turn, GP safely got us to our youth hostel, which sat completely at the top of the city. We were disappointed, not that we had high expectation but, call it clean and clinical, a huge building that could have once been a school or something of that nature, the place was mostly empty (we had a eight person dormitory for the two of us). Charges 20 € each instead of the advertised 16.
In Madrid we paid 37 € for a one star hostel, super well located in the downtown area with a TV and the internet in the room. At the youth hostel we had to make and strip our beds, and used our own towels for the first time of the trip. We are not opposed to doing any of it but the price should match.
Ok ok! We had a nice view.
Nighty night, tomorrow we look for the Stelvio.
|01-01-2009, 09:19 PM||#88|
The Italian Alps
After our incongruous night at the hostel, we woke up relatively rested, but nonetheless ready to head for the mountains.
It was a bit rainy but not so bad, the forecast was calling for partly cloudy skies so we should be ok to make our way out of Genova to Bormio.
About 360 km to cover.
We opted to bypass Milano and Turino. Broke my heart but we have to make choices, its May 30th and we still have a lot of ground to cover.
First glimpse of the Alps.
I had little prior knowledge of Northern Italy, and it was great to discover this beautiful alpine region that at times felt more like Switzerland than anything else.
Just a second before backing out please.
Maybe Heidi was Italian after all.
So we maintained a straight Northern heading, and entered the Val Camonica valley, just between Bergamo and Brescia.
We stop in this town right on the shore of Lago d'Iseo in the province of Lombardi, and had a great meal of pasta e Arugula and cinghiale salsiccia.
With a great glass of red that maybe came from here.
Then back on the great Italian tarmac to find these great roads tunneling through the Alps.
And on the other side.
And of course an old church.
At times under cloudy skies and even torrential rain, ok ok... and a bit of sun we headed for the mountain, what a smooth and beautiful ride, the Italian Alps were.
As you can see, traffic was again a real problem.
And we made it to Bormio at the foot of the Stelvio.
This time of the year we are just after ski season and before the bicycle season start, a lot of hotels were closed in Bormio.
But we found this place with an ok view.
Perfect, just what the doctor ordered, a great place to spend the night while I dream of the Stelvio Pass.
Work is just the time you have to spend between rides.
The motorcycle chronicles of Jackie & Valentino
Valentino's 2010 Winter Olympic Run
ac_elite screwed with this post 01-02-2009 at 09:17 PM
|01-01-2009, 09:35 PM||#89|
Keep on riding
Joined: May 2008
You two having way to much fun. These pics of Saint-Tropez, Nice and Monaco bring back memories. But this part of France is sooo expensive that it can brake your wallet very fast.
Take care and stay safe.
|01-01-2009, 10:43 PM||#90|
Citizen of the World
Joined: Apr 2006
Location: Luxembourg, Western Europe
V & J
Thanks for the great ride report! I am living in Luxembourg since August and will travel many of these same roads in the next 3 years on a Honda XL 1000 Varadero. You have given me a good road-map, and a Goal.
"In life, it does no good to own more than you can carry on a motorcycle"
"Allways ride faster than the car behind you"
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