11 January 2010

Andalusian Christmas

Went back to St Louis for Christmas, but had to come back to Moscow before the end of the year for work. Got a few things done by the end of the year, and was ready to go to Spain for a few days, from January 4-9. The people storing my bike were in Morocco, but they arranged for a friend to pick me up, take me to the bike, and take me to a hotel. Here is the bike in the morning, ready to go: Note the new offroad tires I had installed for Morocco; I was a little concerned about how they'd handle on pavement, especially wet pavement, but they were OK....

January 5, 2010
Anyway, I had planned to ride to Barcelona to visit a friend, but it was just too far, and the weather too crappy, for that to be worth it, so I decided to stick closer to Marbella. I decided to visit Gibraltar, Trafalgar, and Cadiz, which are all within a couple hours of Marbella.

Here is a decent shot of "the Rock" which shows the kind of weather I was dealing with...
Zipped right through customs and there I was in Gibraltar. Didn't really know where to go, so just followed signs that sounded promising, like "Lighthouse ->", which led me here:
Kept going past this lighthouse and after a couple of kilometers the road disappeared into a tunnel into the rock, with gates and guard towers--cool, but I'd hit the end of the road, so I turned around and headed toward the "Upper Rock".While fussing around at the gate, a fantastic rainbow appeared:

Anyway, there were signs for various attractions on the upper rock (cave? tunnels?) but I wasn't that interested in anything but the monkeys...apparently Gibraltar has the only wild monkeys in Europe, apparently brought from Morocco a few hundred years ago. So there were a bunch of monkeys running around, but not very photogenic:
But there is great view of the city from up there:
So after the monkeys was a rather steep and curvy descent from the rock, stopped for a couple of pix:
After this pic I rode out of town and followed the coast toward Trafalgar, site of the famous naval battle. Didn't know if there would be a museum there, but thought I would check it out, and it was on the way to Cadiz anyway. It was kinda cold, so I had to stop on the way for some coffee, and then arrived at Trafalgar, where there were quite a few cars and even some people surfing...
Rode another hour or two to Cadiz, where I wanted to spend the night. The old town is on a cool narrow spit of land, so I looked for a hotel down there. The city is on the Atlantic rather than the Med, here are some of the waves beating on the seawall:
The city also has lots of palm trees and churches, like this:
Apparently January 6, Feast of the Epiphany, is like Christmas in Spain, or at least in Andalusia...its when people give presents, etc. Don't know why they do it now rather than December 25, but whatever...Anyway, so today, January 5, is like a combination of Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, here are some pix of the festivities:
Even after the festivities had peaked and the crowds dispersed, Cadiz was a very nice town to walk around in at night:
January 6, 2010
Got up early this morning, but absolutely nothing was open, it being like Christmas morning and all...finally I found a little cafe near the hotel, parked the bike, and had breakfast:

This morning I had planned to go to Portugal, just because I didn't really have anywhere else to go...to get there as the crow flies was very close, but in fact I would have to go much further because I had to ride around some national park/swamp where there did not seem to be any roads. So I set off up the freeway (actually a tollway, but whatever). The countryside was pretty dreary, the weather was the same; by the time I got off the freeway and rode about an hour through some dreary little villages I decided I'd had enough fun for the day and I'd be better off turning around and going to Sevilla. So that's what I did. Here's a shot of one of the olive groves I saw:
I got to Sevilla early afternoon; the weather was crappy, and it started raining right after I found a hotel. I started walking around, but almost everything was closed because of the holiday. All stores were closed, and most restaurants. And did I mention it was raining? Got tired of sitting the hotel after a while and went out walking with my camera for some shots:

January 7, 2010
I had planned to stay another day in Sevilla, and got up early to walk around while it was still dark to take some more pix. It was raining still, and I succeeded in getting completely and totally lost, wandering around all of the alleys and squares of old Sevilla. Finally after about an hour and a half I stumbled on the main drag, right at a Starbucks, so I went in for a very welcome cuppa joe. When it was still raining when I got back to the hotel, I decided it was time to get out of dodge, and I decided to go to Jerez de la Frontera, which is nearby.

So off I went, only a couple of hours, mainly the on freeway, kind of boring. Used my tried and true method of find a hotel (GPS to "Alcazar", look for hotel) and found a nice place in the center for Euro 50 (again). Here is my bike parked right in front--no worries about parking on the street because the hotel was literally right next door to the police station.
Jerez is a nice little city, and I walked about the center looking at the Alcazar, the inevitable churches, etc. Jerez' claim to fame is its famous sherry and the factory which makes Harvey's Bristol Creme, whatever that is...Anyway, the Alcazar and the churches were nice, and there was a very nice little pedestrian zone with lots of shops, etc.
My hotel overlooked this church, so I got lots and lots of pictures of it under various lighting conditions, here are a few samples:
Jerez is a really photogenic city at night, I should have gone to the Alcazar as well but it was too cold!
All in all, a very nice afternoon and evening in Jerez...

January 8, 2010
This morning I had to go back to Marbella, and wanted to go via Ronda, which I have heard is a cool town, and which is on a very good and twisty road to Marbella. Anyway, it was quite chilly in Jerez--about 2 degrees Celsius--and I had to pull out my winter gloves for today's ride. Here is a self-portrait just before I set off.
I headed basically straight west from Jerez toward Ronda. I'd never been to Ronda, but apparently it is in some little mountains. As I got further from Jerez, the countryside got hillier and the mountains were visible in the distance, covered by big clouds--that didn't look good! The weather go a little warmer, maybe 8 degrees Celsius. Here is a shot of the countryside, with the mountains (and clouds) in the background):
So I got into the mountains, and it got colder, right around freezing. I was worried about ice so was going really slow, but soon came across this scene--couldn't figure out what the cop was saying, but obviously the road was closed--crap! I pulled out the map and the cop told me the route to take to bypass the closed road to get to Ronda, so off I went.
So I looped around the closed road and got back on the road to Ronda, and as the road started climbing into the mountains the temperature started dropping--there was soon snow on the side of the road. By the time I got to Ronda, it was right around freezing, and I was very cold. I had planned on doing some sightseeing in town, but it was too cold so I decided to just grab a hot lunch and get back on the road. I rode around town trying for about 15 minutes to find a good lunch spot, but I didn't see many places, and most of them seemed closed...finally a found a spot and had a kind of crappy lunch, but at least I got to warm up.

After lunch I set off partially refreshed, thinking that the worst was behind me. Unfortunately, the road kept climbing and temperature kept dropping. Soon is was -2 degrees Celsius, with ice patches and slush in the road--not good at all! I didn't want to hit a patch of ice on the twisty mountain road so slowed way down but kept going. Plenty of cars were passing me, but that was OK, I wasn't going to speed up. Here is a shot from up near the top:

Finally I was over the hump and started down the other side. Here the weather got a bit warmer (+5 degrees?), there was no snow, and some very nice views over the Med. Near where I took this shot I saw the only other motorcyclist of the day (also on a BMW...), who had stopped to look at the view--not sure if he was heading further up into the snow and ice...Anyway, finally got back down to Marbella and had the usual problem finding a decent hotel. Finally found a decent place, but kinda far from the action (or should I say, I never saw where the action was...). Thus, the search for a good place to stay in Marbella continues...because of the this problem, and the difficulty with getting direct flights to Malaga (Aeroflot is always booked up), I look forward to moving on to greener pastures...

1 comment:

Zoltan said...

It's a pity you didn't give Ronda a chance. Ther are some good and cheap restaurants at the viaduct, on both sides of the gorges... with brilliant view and good food. Maybe next time..