Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sept 21 2017 Cordoba to Liam’s

Today’s photos are a collection of night shots from our evening out in Cordoba and playing with the camera in the backseat. Last night was a really fun evening spent in a typical Spanish restaurant getting totally stuffed with an amazing collection of tapas.  The walk back across the river to the hotel in the warm evening air was very nice and the lights on the old town and bridge were very pretty, so I have included some of those shots.  
We had a 550 kms journey home this morning from Cordoba.  Even though it was mostly on the freeway it was still a 6.5 hour travel time journey.   As we wanted to be home at a reasonable time and didn’t want to have too stressful a journey we were down to breakfast at 8:00 am and packed up and on the road by 9:00 am. 
Like all good car journeys it was pretty uneventful.  Liam and Suibhan did a masterful job of navigating us out of the city of Cordoba and down the freeway. 
As for Agnes and I, we had the easy job of napping in the back seat.  I played with my camera and took a lot of pictures of things along the way.  This is the beauty of digital cameras.  You can take a lot of pictures that you would never do with a film camera.  
In Europe when you order a coke and you get one bottle with no ice and I had been thinking that I would like to go to a place which had a soda fountain with North American style unlimited soda and ice.  Later on we stopped at a mall along the way and went in and had a burger for lunch and they had a soda dispenser with unlimited refills which is quite unusual.   I made sure to tank up on Coke.  Of course I had to take a lot of heat about how far down the road we would get before a pit stop was required.   In the end it wasn’t me that made the call for the pit stop so I was vindicated.
I think everyone was glad to be home and everyone is looking forward to a sleep in day. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sept 20 2017 Granada- Alhambra and Córdoba

After yesterday’s major outing the 6:30 alarm was not a welcome noise.  However there was only one opportunity to visit the Alhambra and I wasn’t going to miss it.
It was still dark but the taxi pulled up spot on 7:30 am and we were off.  It was a very short ride and with almost no traffic we were dropped off at the Alhambra only moments later.   I had booked tickets on line months earlier however the booking process on the Spanish cites was unclear and what I had actually booked was a big question mark. So finding the lineup was a bit of a panic however we did get into the right line and spot on 8:00 am the gates opened and we went in.   
Alhambra was originally constructed on 889Ad as a small fortress on top of an earlier Roman fortress. It was continually expanded and reinforced by the 1333 was made into the royal palace by the Moorish Emir Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. When the Islamic kingdom fell to the Christians im the 14 th century is was intended to be taken over by King Charles V of Spain and he constructed a new palace on the same grounds but it was never finished and the place fell into disrepair.  Fortunately it was recovered and has since become a world heritage site.  The place is a beautiful example of Islamic architecture.  The tile and plaster work is beyond belief.  The huge carved panels and engraving are incredibly beautiful.   I cannot imagine how the walls could have been carved with so much skill that panel after panel is totally faultless.  
Agnes and I were on a bit of a tie crunch as we had to be back at the hotel by 12:00 so we hurried through and the 4 hours just flew by.   We jumped back in a taxi and pulled up just as Liam finished loading the car and bikes.  What timing!   In the car and down the road to Córdoba.   We are staying here for the night before heading back to Liams tomorrow morning. 
Córdoba is a beautiful city on to itself.  We are staying in an interesting hotel just across the river from the old down town so we all walked into the town across the Roman bridge.  The Roman bridge has been rebuilt several times and is now a modern walking bridge.  In the old town we had a wonderful supper of tapas and walked back to the hotel.
What a great day!

Sept 19 2017 Pico de Veleta

This morning was the day for the assault on Pico de Veleta.   Pico de Veleta is the highest paved road in all of Europe.  The final summit is at 3395 meters. The public road ends at 2764 m and the last 8 kms takes you up a ski service road.   This climb lacks the fame of   Tourmalet, Ventoux or Alpe d'Huez,  but Veleta is longer and tougher than all of them.  In fact the Pico de Veleta at a net climb of 2700 meters has twice the climb of Tourmalet.   Liam has been planning on doing this ride for over 25 years when he first read about this climb in an article in Cycling World, and it had become a bucket list item for him.
 We were up and down at breakfast at 8:00 am all ready to go.  By 8:25 we were rolling out of the hotel and down the streets.  I looked like about 2 kms to reach the edge of town.  In town the route took us up a lot of really steep residential streets however as we were following the suggested bike route we weren’t too excited.  The total climb was  43 kms.  So when the track turned to gravel at about the 8 kms mark we knew we were on the wrong track.  We tried a couple of other directions and finally decided we would head back to the hotel to rework the routes and get them put into our Garmins.  Finally on the road at about 11:30 am about three hours behind schedule.  
At about the 8 kms mark the hills started getting steep and Liam’s bike was not shifting properly.  When he down shifted it threw the chain over the top of the rear cassette.  After a stop to put the chain on is was obvious that the rear derailleur had been bent when it was dropped in the garage that morning.  After a bunch of very dirty work we got the derailleur bent back and on the road. 
Unfortunately we are now about 3.5 hours behind schedule and the heat of the day has set in.  My Garmin is registering around 29 C. Having said that it was actually the perfect day we were just too late getting on the road.  Because of the huge difference in altitude it has to be hot at the base to be reasonable at the top.   We have only climbed less than 20% of the way.  I am sweating so badly I cannot see.  I have to stop constantly to wipe my face and so my eyes are just on fire. 
As we get further along we are getting more and more amazing views of the valley below.  The road is averaging between 6.5 and 8 % grade with not a single flat spot anywhere.   There is just one switchback after another and one amazing view after another. 
We stopped at the 25 kms mark at a little hotel and filled our water bottles and sat in the shade trying to cool off a little.  However as time was not on our side we pedalled on. 
At the 27 kms mark the came across a cluster cafes and there BMW, Porche and Mercedes had a selection of new models all dressed in dazzle camouflage and were testing the new models.  The cars  would come flying past you in a four wheel drift with the tires just whining.  It was quite interesting to see however a little unnerving as you could hear them coming two or three switch backs below you or above you. 
By time we got the ski lodge at the 35 kms mark it was 4:00 pm and I was done.  I was feeling a little light headed as we now at 2764.  My water bottle was empty and my Garmin was dead.  There were a pair of workmen working on a building and I got them to fill our bottles.  I had still made it to the highest paved point in Europe and had a great day cycling.
It was still 8 kms at 8% to the top.  Liam decided to soldier on the last bit and I rode back down to the place where the test cars were.  It took Liam another 4 hours to climb to the top and back down to where the test cars were. By now it was dark and Agnes and Suibhan came up and got us with the car.  However he made it.  I take my hat off to you Liam.  This is an achievement which you have been dreaming of for 25 years and you made it happen.  Congratulations!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sept 18 2017 Granada

After a very nice breakfast buffet in the hotel lobby we were on our way to Granada.   The trip down was quite uneventful and I was able to catch a few little cat naps.  It might seem like a long way to drive down from Obidos Portugal to Granada for what is basicly a one day bike ride up to Pico de Veleta. However Liam has had this on his to do list for over 25 years.  Getting to do stuff which is on your bucket list is a pretty important thing.  Maybe something we should all be working on doing.  A little more doing of things which are important to us.  Actually I feel kind of honored that Liam has chosen me to do this with. 

Upon arriving in Granada we check into our hotel which is the quaintest place I think I have every stayed.  There are only five rooms in the hotel even though it is a quite large building.  The place is filled with fine furniture and interesting little knick-knacks.  Each room has a huge jetted bathtub, a king size bed and a little balcony with a set of café chairs and a table overlooking Granada.  There is a beautiful pool in the back yard surrounded by a very nice garden.  On the roof is a sun deck with loungers and an amazing view of Granada.  Breakfast is served in the main dining room and it looks great.  

I was relaxing on the sundeck upstairs when this other couple came up to enjoy the view.  As they spoke I knew that was a Canadian accent and sure enough they were from Montreal.  So we chatted and they were here for two weeks.  Their children had given them tickets to see the Rolling Stones in Barcelona for his 70’s birthday.   They were busy humming Stones’ tunes and just having a great time.  It was pretty fun to meet them.

Tomorrow is the big day and after a quick breakfast Liam and I hit the slopes.  We had thought we would need mountain bikes to go the last 14 kms but upon talking to the folks in a local bike shop we have been assured that the road bikes will take us to within a few hundred meters of the summit. 

Stay tuned for the big adventure to the highest paved road in Europe.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sept 17 2017 Seville Spain

This morning we loaded the car and headed south towards Seville Spain.  It is a two day trip down to Granada Spain where Liam and I are planning our assault on Pico de Veleta.  It is a tough 43 kms of climb averaging 6.2%.  
In the mean time I enjoyed 8 hours of snoozing in the back seat.  Liam and Suibhan taking turns driving and Agnes and taking turns snoozing in the back seat.  Kind of reminds me of that old joke how I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandmother, not screaming like the other passengers.   Seriously Liam has a very nice BMW touring car which is extremely comfortable and cradled into a soft leather seat isn’t too hard to take. 
We took the freeway all the way so apart from a couple of breaks there wasn’t a lot to see.  Taking pictures out of the car window is less than satisfying.  Most of the freeway is toll road so you have to pull in and get a ticket and then pull in to pay.  I understand that residents can get a transponder for the tolls but as Liam lives in Aberdeen he does not have a transponder.  I am not use to tolls so I cannot comment on the price of the tolls other than one section was 25.85 euros which seemed like a lot.
We stopped at about 4:00 pm for lunch at a local Spanish restaurant.  For the very nice price of only 10 euros each we each got a huge roll (more of a small loaf of bread), a bowl of soup (it had noodles in it), a tuna salad, a coke, bottle of water, pork lion slices, fries, a very nice cheese cake desert, and a Café Grande Negro (which was so strong the spoon melted). It was a very interesting experience watching the locals who were all dressed up in their Sunday best and out enjoying a family outing.  I thought that considering that not one of us knew any Spanish and the waiter no English we did pretty well.
We arrived in Seville and got checked into our hotel which is an ultra-modern Hilton.  It is a gorgeous facility and at a very reasonable price.  Liam did great.   We talked about doing a city driving tour but the bikes are on the car and nobody really felt like being in the car after about 8 hours in the car.
Not much for pictures just a couple of castles we passed on the way and the welcome to Spain signs.
Stay tuned for shots of Granada and Pico de Veleta!