Grenada, Spain - May 8, 2012
Hola Amigos!... again...
I'm in Granada where I have been since late yesterday. I'll probably stay one more, then boogey. The weather is supposedly going to improve up north "any day now" as the low is finally breaking down. It was quite sunny and hot here earlier today, but I see that even in the last couple of hours it has clouded over completely. Hope that is not a harbinger of things to come. Beside, I have my underwear drying outside and I'd hate for it to get wet again.
I know I haven't written since getting to Barcelona now several days ago. It was a very slow internet connection, sometimes taking upwards of 30 minutes just to check my email. This is better, although the connection seems to disappear when the front desk closes at night.
So Barcelona was pretty fun. To orient myself, I got a two-day ticket for the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus. They sound corny, and they are, but you do get a real good orientation to a city and can always just hop on the bus to go back to places you want to spend more time. They actually beat a transit pass sometimes. I took one in Prague and Budapest last trip. They're great. You just put in some earplugs and select your language for the tour part. The English selection was given by a woman with virtually no accent, but whose first language must not have been English as she informed us that Catalan and Spanish were the two official languages of all the "civil organisms". Very funny I thought. Anyway, my favorite thing to do actually was just walk around. I went to the market place down along the Rambla... all fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. I took a picture of a woman selling tuna. It is my favorite picture so far of the trip. Something about the lighting on her face and the tuna head. All very nice.
At the Fruit Market
The Fish Lady
Two things I especially wanted to see I missed out on. I went to the Maritime Museum which is housed in the best preserved medieval ship factory anywhere. It now sits back quite far from the shoreline, although in times past, the Mediterranean was right outside the door. Unfortunately, the great bulk of the museum was closed for renovations. And I also wanted to go to the Picasso Museum. So I went there, and saw quite the line-up.... most of a block long. There was what I assumed to be the ticket window with no line and so I asked if I could get a ticket and the woman looked at the line and said that she didn't think so. That line WAS the line for the ticket window! Anyway, looked like I wasn't going to get one for that day. Oh well. Next trip. I guess that this is high season for Spain as people try to avoid it in the heat of the summer.
Another World Traveller
The Ritzy Side of Barcelona
Had two very nice days of riding down to here. From Barcelona it was quite lush. Reminded me of Florida, only better because it wasn't Florida. But farther down it became much dryer (fine by me!) and the last hour into Grenada was just spectacular. I didn't know that southern Spain had snow-covered peaks. South of Grenada is the real Sierra Nevada. Very nice. I was tricked the day before into thinking that there were mountains off in the distance, only to realize they were towering cumulus. So I had to do a double-take on these. No... they're real.
But coming down here, I kept seeing official road signs saying "Bandas Senoras". Bands of Women? What? I had seen some "Bandas Senoritas" lined up along the road displaying their wares right after entering Spain. Hadn't seen that since the Czech Republic. But Bands of Women? I thought it was nice of the towns to warn you. I visualized either packs of old ladies showing a little leg, or a bunch of them coming after me with rolling pins. And it always seemed to be in 20 and 30 km zones... so they actually had a chance of getting me! Several towns and signs later...ah no... the signs didn't say "Bandas SEnoras"... they said Bandas SOnoras. Those little strips across the road that make a whump-whump to slow you down. Oh... I really do need to read more carefully... and take some Spanish lessons.
Warm in the Spanish Countryside
So I eventually got to Grenada. Unfortunately, it took me nearly an hour of driving around to get to the hotel. They are tearing up the main drag for some reason and they have reversed some of the one-ways. You can't turn for blocks and blocks. You see trucks disappearing into big holes so maybe they are putting in a subway or something. But it was crazy routing just to get here. I had to give Karen... the Australian who lent her seductive voice to my GPS... and hence the name... well she was just having a hissy-fit earlier in the day. I finally just had to stop by the road, turn the bike 90 degrees to the curb so as to not influence her and let her have some time to collect herself. I don't know what was going on. She would take me one direction and absolutely turn me around and go back the same road. It really was like she couldn't make up her mind. So getting around Granada was causing all kinds of chaos. But given enough permutations and combinations, we eventually made it.
Relaxing in a Bar in Grenada
She was probably struggling with the restrictions I had place on her... no U-turn, no highways, no toll-ways. I had done that because the day before, trying to make some time from Barcelona, I had given her the option to pick some tollways. I mean, how much can they cost? So I drove for a bit, stopped and paid 81 cents. Cool. Then drove on... got a ticket from the machine and drove on some more. I had only gone about 200 miles when I got to a toll booth. Well, planning ahead, at a gas station along the tollway, I had taken a 20 Euro note, wrapped it around the ticket and put it in the top of my tankbag. Toll booths are always a pain on a bike because your wallet is always buried someplace, you've got gloves, etc. When I got to the toll booth, I was 5th in line and so figured that I had time to get out something smaller so that the guy doesn't have to make change for a 20 and have that blow away. So I dug out a 10. Got up to the window... 31.75 Euro$$$!!! Are you kidding me??? That's over $40 for a motorcycle for 200 miles? I just looked at the guy and he pointed to the readout. Hence the restriction for Karen for the next day... no more tollways. That's nutso.
So they have underground parking at the little hotel here. That's pretty unique. Before putting the bike in, I thought I would scout it out from the inside. The elevator goes down to "Parking". I go down there. What do you make of this? Big room, cement walls, 5 stalls, no door... oh, and a puddle of water on the floor. I walked all around. No way to get into the garage. I was looking for secret sliding walls or something. Nothing. Now this IS a mystery. So I went upstairs again and up to the street level. Outside now. Go to the garage entrance. Oh... the entrance is via a freight elevator. The freight elevator drops down into the room under the hotel. The room underground has a false ceiling in the corner. So the bike got a little ride in an elevator. Clever.
Anyway, spent this morning going to the Alhambra. Definitely a beautiful place although one of tarnished beauty. The mosque is gone and only the Sultan's living quarters remain. The guide there kept saying, "Now imagine this room surrounded with stained glass and all the plaster painted and decorated in gold leaf." Well, after 500 years of Christian redecorating and neglect, you do need to imagine quite a bit. I have to admit to being partial to the living art of Islam as one sees now at the Blue Mosque or almost any active mosque. Most of that is breathtaking... no imagination required. But the Alhambra is quite the magnificent place nonetheless.
In the Alhambra
So I'll take a "health" day here tomorrow, then head for southern Portugal, probably by way of Algeciras. I was doing a little research on taking the bike to Morocco and not sure I have the energy right now to tackle it. Maybe save Africa for another time. I don't know. I might convince myself to go. Still need to check up on a few things... like import procedures and insurance and the like. There's still lots here I haven't seen.
A little behind time and over-budget... so everything is running as expected.