By Larry and Joan Dolinski
Continued from update #16
Right in the village center is an inviting thermal pool. We experienced the pleasure of sitting on the edge of the pool with bare feet in the warm water while gazing over the rooftops to the ring of snow capped mountains surrounding the village. People were still skiing there.
While the bulk of the riders were preparing to spend another whole day in the Pyrenees, we decided to short circuit a couple of days of cycling in favor of a direct train journey to Barcelona (Larry has actually been to Barcelona twice before, once on the battleship Wisconsin during his Navy days and once on a motor scooter).
The train journey began that morning in France. It then carried on through the beautiful mountain landscape near the border with Andorra and then on into Spain. We had quite a time making the connection to the second train at the French/Spanish border. We had only 12 scheduled minutes between train connections. The first train was 15 minutes late. The train we were supposed to connect with was just about to leave. Larry put on his best marathon stride and raced to the engine to get the attention of the engineer, persuaded him to wait for our little group of 4, and so we were accommodated. It took us another 10 minutes to move the bicycles and luggage on 2 trips from a distant track to the waiting train. We threw our gear aboard and before we could get to our seats we were underway. (Larry played conductor and signaled the go ahead to the engineer).
We loved our 3 quality days in Barcelona, a FABULOUS city, and one of our all time favorite cities. It is pedestrian friendly, is on the ocean, has spectacular placas (squares), wide avenues with pedestrian walkways wider than the space set aside for cars, rational and courteous drivers, a superb, clean and EASY to navigate subway system (same with buses), handsome architecture (even on ordinary business and apartment dwellings), special world class architectural creations by the famous architect Gaudi, great restaurants, one of the most impressive farmer's markets anywhere, friendly people, and a "feel good" ambiance overall.
From Barcelona we took a half-day bus tour to the famous monastery at Montserrat. This has been the destination of pilgrims seeking blessings, for centuries. We are told that Christopher Columbus made a visit there before his first voyage.
Next, we made an overnight bus trip to Gibraltar, that very British enclave which boats the famous rock, the symbol of strength. We can now report that "solid" (as the Rock of Gibraltar) is a misnomer. In fact, there are miles of tunnels, tunnels, and more tunnels burrowing their way through the "Rock". The tunnels evolved primarily for military reasons. From Gibraltar one can see across to North Africa (Morocco). Some of the group made a quick dash over to Tangiers for the day. We preferred to remain in Gibraltar to tour the caves & tunnels and visit some of the landmarks.
Off again by bicycle, this time easterly along Costa del Sol, visiting Tormolinos, Malaga, and Granada; then westerly to Cordoba, Seville and on into Portugal and eventually to Lisboa (Lisbon), its capital. Some highlights:
Continued on Update #18
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