But we didn’t want to leave…

As we publish this, we have added 3800km to our odometer between Montréal – mid October and Austin ,TX – mid November. We had such a great time in Europe we procrastinated in getting our European travels posted….

We bid farewell to our friends with a mixture of sympathy (for their journey back to snow engulfed Calgary on Sept 30) and celebration (for such an amazing shared experience through Cognac, the Basque regions, and, now the outskirts of Barcelona). The route we had taken to get to Barcelona sorely lacked something – A beachside accommodation! We knew something was amiss when we saw some pics from our friends Luba & Bill who took a different route than us for a few days. They had detoured along the way in St. Jean du Luz to take in the amazing coast from the comfort of a great Air B&B. Their pics had us rethinking our next stop. “The hell with staying and hiking in the mountains” (that can still happen) we need some beach time! 

Anywhere along the Mediterranean Coast, north and south of Barcelona, there is a multitude of destinations worthy of exploration. Lori and Mike had chosen Casteldelfels as their final accommodation destination (close proximity to Barcelona Airport BCN being a significant motivating factor). After researching the general area for inexpensive properties, we found Vendrell Platja on the Costa Dorada; a campground resort 50 meters from Calafell Beach. Perfect, a small cabin with kitchen, 2 bedrooms, living room, bathroom/ shower and outside deck and chairs for $80.00 CDN. It had a massive pool and playpark, restaurant, grocery store and laundry too.

We checked in and aimlessly wandered the endless paved beach path from quaint beach to quaint beach as the sun set. All this aimlessness can work up an appetite and we soon found ourselves ogling the abundance of menus presented to any hapless, half-starved wanderer within aroma reach of the strategically located restaurants at hand. “You know, we haven’t tried a Paella since we arrived in Spain”?  Like magic, as the sunset, the very place presented itself. We kicked back on the beach devising a plan of attack for the local area and Al’s wine culture fascination won out for the next days’ foray of regional, tourist interest.

The Villafranca del Penedes is home to the Taverna de Vinseum and many international Cava producers (Cordoniu, Segura de Viudas) have representation here. Parking seemed as scarce as needles in haystacks and when we did find a spot it was a king’s ransom, so we cashed in an RRSP for ½ hour and set out. Alas, after considering the $20 EU admission and the many wine related attractions we had absorbed along our journey, we passed up this attraction. We trekked through the town taking in the great post-modernist architecture and returned to the sanctuary of Vendrell. The next day, we were going for a mountain hike.

Montserrat is a study in how nature creates and inspires the human manifestation of art and by default religious reverence. It is spell binding as you approach. The distant furtive glimpses leave one slack jawed and groaning woowww! If you have seen the Hoodoos around the south-central interior of BC you have a sense of the shape of the mountain peaks in the overall massif that encompasses this formation. The scale comparison is a completely different subject. Larger, much Larger!

After winding around the precipitous, serpentine road that leads to the tourist access for the attraction, we parked and set off feeling giddy as the full multi peaked spectacle presented itself to us from the diminishing road. We noticed both train and gondola access as we snaked up that skinny road with tour busses and cyclists training for the next Tour. Thank goodness someone had the clear-headed foresight to establish a tourist center at the entrance that offers, among other indulgences, Cava! We imbibed in the spirit of the place and from the vantage point of the terrace took in the scope of what we had found here. Now what? It seemed that many found this to be enough?! We found our way to the funicular and paid the fair for a ride to the top. 

The funicular is an attraction on its own. Originally built in 1929 and regularly upgraded, the route climbs 248m to an elevation of 970m, it has a gradient of 62.5% and lasts about 6 min. With the thought of hiking at the top, we set out from the funicular terminus with the intent of hiking back to the tourist interpretive center where we started. The trail-ways were excellent with many steps cut into the stone. We caught glimpses of what looked like vertical climbing routes on adjacent peaks for those so inclined. As we walked we became cognizant of all the other trailways built into the massive. These trails were well beaten paths from all directions as part of The WAY that hikers take on their Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes. The place had an ancient, mythical feeling of the human multitude that preceded us for a glimpse from the top. We continued descending past religious relics that marked significant spiritual events for Christian pilgrimages to these unusual mountainsides through the ages.

There is a monastery honouring the cave where the carving of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus were found. The divinely conceived statue is now enshrined in the Basilica at the center of the village on the mountain where the hotels and services can be found.  Deb’s skeptical side was sure that the carver was never found when that Santa Maria carving was discovered in that cave. We hoped the route we chose would lead us to the monastery, but our trail of choice took us around the back of the mountain and back to the start of the funicular and the Basilica where this divine effigy presides. The line to see this important icon was intimidating with the solemn tone of the procession. Many in the line were presumably teared up with prayers for the loved and lost.  Ones immersion in surrounding religious art began to impress on your own motives (even if you are not a practicing Catholic) for the patience prevailing in the lineup. Plus, the spiritual curiosity of what an (alleged) divinely created carving looks like. We had never seen one. Unless you include the odd cheese toast that might resemble Jesus. After the innocent, unavoidable “moth to a flame” journey in the narrowing halls you get your up close and personal moment with the “La Moreneta”. Part of the lore of the statue is, with the progression of time, the darkening colour of the faces of the two Christian deities has created a unique identity to the carving that only religious devotion can make well… spiritual. Behind the bullet proof glass is the legend and you have a moment to make your introduction, ask for a miracle or two, and bid farewell. It felt anticlimactic and somehow thrilling to have been so close to the myth and legend, the experience lingered for quite a while with the unanswered questions, mostly the why questions. 

Our time in Europe was fast approaching the end and so on check out day for Vendrell Platja we headed to BCN to return our car and hit the city. We found the rental car drop off without trouble and began the final stage of our adventure in Spain without wheels. The car rental people were impressed that we had added 3500k to the odometer over the last 4 weeks.

Backpacking Europe! just like the old days. Selfie in the window near the Hotel Barbara.

We had booked into a small, inexpensive hotel in the “old city”, Raval neighborhood of Barcelona, called Hotel Barbara. This accommodation is definitely no frills but friendly, secure and location, location, location (at least as far as being at the heart of this historic city). The room we checked into was clean and the shower was quite possibly the best we used while in Europe. The staff were extremely helpful and assisted with any questions in a caring and courteous manner. This general area of the city is older and has a vibrant but edgy multicultural atmosphere. A labyrinth of old narrow streets and market squares seem to never end. We had made plans to meet up with Luba and Bill at the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia which is an amazing church designed by architect Antoni Gaudi.

Awe-inspiring is the best description for this attraction. We stood agape trying to grasp the scope of the work, which by the way, was not completed when Gaudi died (as a result of an unfortunate encounter with a streetcar in 1926) and may never be completed. However, tourism is high, and those tourist funds have grown the cranes that are building the rest of the towers and facades.

For years the cranes stood still until funding was available to continue the work. Now it is a work zone as skilled artists, sculptors and trades people bring the legacy to fruition. Gaudi is buried in a crypt inside.

Artists and skilled carvers are involved with the project that will take decades to complete. Thousands of people tour this remarkable Basilica every day and by the time we arrived all tickets for that day of touring were sold out. Oh, what to do? We grabbed a street-side table, ordered Cava and waited for our friends to arrive while we sipped and stared up at the surreal structure.

We found our way to a great Tapas restaurant and enjoyed some creative dishes accompanied, of course, by more Cava the whole experience was the best way to celebrate the introduction to Barcelona.

We said buenas noches to our friends and made our way back to Hotel Barbara. But along the way we walked through the legendary evening street festivities of Las Ramblas. After the workday world and the heat of the day start to wane, this street comes alive around 9PM. There are street vendors hawking their trinkets, strategic food kiosks tempting your appetite and an endless progression of lively street restaurants for tapas, beverage, people watching et al. We absorbed the scene with a curious but overwhelmed amusement, content with the evening’s previous indulgence to carry us through.

As we meandered the Ramblas our curiosity guided us to the world of numerous market squares off the beaten track and we soon found ourselves in the familiar surroundings of narrow, old and edgier street passageways resembling those surrounding our hotel. We knew we were close to “home” and as the realization of a conclusion to this adventure filled day became more relevant, we decided a nightcap would be fitting before turning in. But what would be the perfect place – there was every possible choice of purveyor for nightcaps that can be imagined.

Magically and just before we gave up trying, a perfect venue presented itself. Licoreria Lateria is a place you read quick notes about in a tourist info “Must See Places” while you fly out of the given airport. This time we found it before the publication found us! Do you want our sommelier to recommend a flight of wine in a range of criteria? Do you want us to recommend wine by the glass? How about a bottle of just the right this or that from here or there in this colour or that colour with bubbles or no bubbles or little bubbles in the price range that suits your budget? Oh, and how about a comfy chair after walking all over finding us? Yes, we found the treasure at the end of the rainbow of a day! We chose a bottle of a most delicious Rioja, luxuriated in the cozy atmosphere and consumed the proffered spirit with appropriate hedonistic indulgence. After, within close proximity, we found our accommodation and were quickly asleep. 

Our next and final day in Barcelona was spent on and off those double-decker sightseeing buses that are in every tourist town. They are a great way to get acquainted with the various locales that interest you and we have indulged in them more than twice. In addition, they often offer great vantage points for snapping relevant picture of worthy attractions. We toured around the city passing by four of the seven Gaudi UNESCO World Heritage sites in Barcelona (Sagrada Famillia, Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, Casa Vincens) the hospital Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site, the hillside church and ended our tour on top of Montjuic the hill that overlooks the city from the Palau Nacional / Nacional d’ Art d’ Catalunya.

St Pau Art Nouveau – hospital that is now a university and an art piece. Our smart-phone photos don’t do it justice. Worth googling.

At the Palau we marvelled at the ornate art painted on the cupola, the exhibitions on display and the vast Great Hall that is used for concerts and other performances. We meandered to a quiet tree covered concession that sold an icy cold beverage, sat and enjoyed the view and slowly walked down and into the city to find some dinner. Favouring the out of the way restaurants we found a promising purveyor of all things tapas and enjoyed a reasonably priced meal with little pretense. With the final day concluded in this historic city, we felt we had seen and experienced many aspects that others would turn their backs on but the edgy features enhanced our experience, enriching it with more visceral moments (especially the evening forays into sections that didn’t feel like the path most commonly chosen). We were never in any tense situations and the atmosphere was more festive than sinister but…

We hopped a train out of “Barcelona” for Sitges the next morning. Sitges is south down the coast about 40 Km. It is a pleasant artsy town with a penchant for zombies. In fact, they host a long running Zombie Walk with over 1000 participants, that is attended by at least two generations of zombies. The horror film festival is the main attraction here, is into its 52nd year and draws thousands to its movie presentations and related festivities. The zombie walk was being held on the first night of our stay and we found ourselves right in the middle of it all while meeting our friends Luba and Bill for dinner. The costumes and makeup were impressive, with professional makeup stations set up around the city throughout the day and the polished art of zombie walk was, well positively ghoulish! We had a great dinner while taking in the finale of the parade and went back to our accommodation. We had a rooftop apartment for four nights, a block from the beach that had a great location but also was central to some raucous parties that, no doubt, were celebrating the famous film fest. 

Our stay in Sitges was great. We visited at Luba and Bill’s seaside accommodation on a couple of occasions. They were a ½ hour walk down the beach from us with a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean. The town of Sitges was very picturesque and walking the streets was always fascinating. We managed to hit the beach twice to soak up the sun for what would be the last of some suntanning in quite some time. The novelty of swimming in the warm Mediterranean in October was a great motivator too.

During our time here the fine art of denial was creeping into our consciousness – our inevitable departure and conclusion to this epic adventure was fast approaching. We checked off the days until our final evening and dinner with Luba and Bill. We chose the same tasty restaurant that we viewed the Zombie Walk from on our second night here. They had one more night to take it all in, but we were flying out around 11 AM the next day and had a bus to catch, early. During dinner we remarked about what an amazing journey this had been, how we had all (the four couples) carried through on the planning and varied stages of getting here. The idea was theirs, and I think they were at least (or even more) surprised that we had pulled it off! We said our last salutations, bid our friends goodnight and continued safe travels. “See you in the spring!!” As we would be heading back to eastern Canada to pick up our trip from there.

We made our plane (those of you closest to us know we have had our share of angry looks from seated, belted co-passengers as we usually run for our seats with the cabin door clamping shut behind us) and watched, through clear skies, the city of Barcelona disappear beneath us. Our continued travels through New York, Jersey City, Montreal were ahead. Getting reacquainted with our “Escape Pod” was something we both looked forward to. Was it still there, unscathed in the storage facility? Was it out of battery power? Flat tires? Rotten odours? Stale and rancid water in the lines?…

Stay tuned we have another 4,000 miles of adventures awaiting you!! Or more…    

Salut France, Hola Espagne!!

While Bordeaux left butter and Cabernet taste in our bellies, we were on our way to Spain.

Biarritz surf beach called “Plage de la Petite Chamber D’Amour”

Ahhh, BUTTER…I forgot to mention that when we were on “le Boat” we had a delicious seafood risotto dinner with the Seaweed Bordier Butter stirre, (monté) into it at the end. This touch added the necessary umami of not having a rich stock to use. The butter was sweet, salty and full of oceany meroir. I knew you were wondering, “What about the butter?”…

Lori and Mike and all our gear fit nicely in the Sporty 6 speed Ford Focus we rented and we were off to the mountains. That little car purred in 5th gear at 130kph so we hung there without feeling the need to find, and use, 6th. We started out on the toll free roads but it was going to be the same view with tons of roundabouts so we splurged and threw it in 6th gear and cruised at 140kph with every car imaginable booting past us. At one point we passed a truck carrying about 6 sports cars, then another and another. We lost count at 8 of them. Lamborghinis, McLarens, Maseratis, Porsche Carrera GTs, Ferraris, Jaguars, Bentleys, Gull Wing Mercedes. We saw about 50 cars. Albert and Mike were drooling, then the convoy turned off and were gone. Gut wrenched. Sad men in the car. We continued. Weird they weren’t in a covered truck or covered at all; millions of dollars of Super Cars off on a traveling tour called Miles of Mystery 2019 edition. Our traveling roadside attraction of the day!

Just before we got to St Jean du Luz, the Pyrenees mountains appeared. Thankfully; because one minute we were ogling cars and the next minute mountains. You have to understand that Albert and I hadn’t seen large rocky outcrop mountains since the end of July when we left Alberta. The Canadian shield has mountains but they are old and rounded. The hills in Brittany and Normandy are lovely but the Pyrenees were MouNtAiNs.

MouNtAiNs

St Jean de Luz, France is very close to the border of Spain. The west side of the Pyrenees is Basque Country and the East is Catalan. They have their own languages and are neither French or Spanish. So the blend of culture with the influx of tourism was welcoming yet always reminded us that civil unrest could be a conversation away. Alberts leg was still tweaking and there was a “p’tit train” tour parked right beside us so we hopped on.

During the tour only the Basque were mentioned. Not France. Not Spain. The most famous building in town was the cathedral where Louis XIV married the Princess Maria Theresa (age 14 and related to him as his second cousin) of Spain. He, of course, went on to become famous as the Sun King (also King Louis the Great) of France and built Versailles. She went on to be famous as the Queen Consort of France, putting up with Louis’s many affairs, enduring the death of  five of six children and dying in Palace Versailles at a young age of 30 due to a festering sore on her arm. Ahhh, the aristocracy and it’s wealthy soap opera-esque chess games! It was a very cute city with a large wall that skirts the shoreline protecting the old city that was built below sea level.

Our hopeful destination was San Sebastian of the northern western Spanish coast. This destination is very popular as the rocky outcrops hang out over two sheltered sandy beaches that flank the old city. There was a film festival in town on our dates so the affordable accommodations were gone and we couldn’t stay in San Seb. We chose an Agriturismo in the hills just outside of town. The room was comfortable and the breakfast had fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh baked bread, cheese, charcuiterie and eggs from their chickens.

We stayed two nights with a full day in San Sebastian touring with Lori and Mike. In San Sebastian we walked the beach, took the funicular up to the top of the mountain overlooking the city and sipped cold beverages and ate Pintxos (Basque for Tapas) at the top. We walked back and met Luba and Bill for an early 6pm Pintxo and wine meal. Europe and particularly Spain doesn’t even think about an evening meal until at least 9 pm. Restaurants generally open at 8. Compare that in Parksville where everyone is reclined either in bed or on the couch by 8!!! After eating we toured a bit of the old town, the church, and headed out. Maybe another time we can return when there isn’t a film festival taking all the affordable accommodations and we will spend some time there!! It is worth another visit for sure.

San Sebastian was a beautiful city that lead us to following the coastline for a few hours. Every corner we turned had another spectacular vista. We were at the top of cliffs, bottom of jungle valleys, and on busy roads with Basque cyclists owning the road. West of San Sebastian is a cape that has a church built out on a big rock. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you will know this place as Dragonstone. Gaztelugatxe was dreamed up by some poor pilgrim that thought “God said put a church on it!” And so it was. This along with many of the otherworldly locations for monasteries and cathedrals was another piece of the pilgrimage puzzle. Albert’s leg wasn’t going to allow him to make the trek to the bottom, or the top on the other side (1000+ pedometer steps), so Lori, Mike and I left him for a couple of hours. We rang the bell at the top of the monastery and headed back.

Once in the car we were headed for our accommodation somewhere just outside of Bilbao. Our GPS couldn’t find it but the Google on Mike’s phone did and we arrived through a very narrow, hedged, laneway to a very modern agriturismo house/pension.

It looked like a bit of a fortress from the outside but inside was trés chic and comfortable

The owner met us and was super charming, a very proud “Basque” who designed his house to last for centuries. The nearby city of Bilbao was once a ship manufacturing centre, iron and steel fabrication was huge for the Basque people. So his house was designed and made with steel, concrete, tile, and featured an outside wall with iron sheeting giving it a rusted patina that was to express the Basque traditions and history. The house was lofty with a suite that he and his family lived in. The two story accommodations that we had, featured locking bedrooms upstairs each with a modern ensuite and a glass wall that opened on to a large balcony. I think there were about 6 bedrooms rented. The main floor featured two floor to cieling glass walls with one being an enormous sliding door opening onto a covered deck. This made the indoor room become an open airy covered outdoor room. The inner room was decorated with comfortable couches and two long dining tables and outside had pallet furniture and big pillows. A modern communal kitchen was ours to use as well.

Our farm hosts grew tomatoes and we had a tour of the facility before we left. They produced 80 tons of hydroponic greenhouse tomatoes each year on about 1/4 acre, and managed to go surfing for two months in the Canary Islands in the dead of winter. The dinner that we cooked that night featured tomatoes that they offered, and when we left they loaded us up with more. Good thing we had a car.

The next morning we picked his brain on how to do the town of Bilbao in about an hour because we were headed for Burgos that evening. He looked dismayed, being a proud Basque, and said we should skip Burgos. We didn’t and we aren’t sad about that but Bilbao blew our minds. He told us that Bilbao is undergoing a renovation. He was so proud that in 15 years the ugly part of the city had become modernized from the ruins and pollution of the factory shipbuilding era to a modern, artsy, educated and pretty city. He was proud that the city was still working with the plan, and that it was not corrupt and it had no debt. This was not the “Spanish way”. All this because a visionary mayor who conspired with the architects and planners that brought Bilbao the abstract Frank Gehry designed, landmark Guggenheim museum. As planned, it brought the tourism, which paid for the new buildings, transit, bridges, roads, green spaces, restaurants, etc etc. He said we must see the Guggenheim, but that is just one part of town. He said the subway was made of glass and very beautiful but we would have to return some time because it is a masterpiece on its own. Plus the old town is very nice with old Basque traditions and buildings. So we went and saw the Guggenheim, and were blown away by the museum, the bridges and the beautiful, well designed public spaces. And we left. We will come back to Bilbao area and spend some time there. We only had a taste, and it was good.

When we arrived in Burgos, we were too early to check into our apartment so we went to the Museum of Human Evolution. This museum is a big square box that is very modern in contrast with so much of the Burgos area that we saw that was ancient. In fact, the area is so ancient that the skull (reconstructed from bone fragments) of the “Gran Dolina” boy dating back 850,000 years, is housed in the museum. The Atapuerca dig, where these remains were found, is near Burgos but we were unable to go there. Too little time. Didn’t matter, the museum was full of great stuff. There was a replica of Darwin’s boat “The Beagle” and some readings from his book “On the Origin of Species”. And with all great museums, there were students in class being toured, schooled, immersed and probably assigned their reactions to all that was before them. We were full, we had seen alot that day with two cities in one day. We were off to find our accommodation.

One of the big reasons people travel to Burgos is because it has a huge cathedral, the Santa Maria, that is another stop along the Camino de Santiago. We saw many hikers, young ones with heavy backpacks, and old hikers who had day packs, so they probably had support along the way. We arrived at our apartment and outside the window was this same gorgeous church. We were in the centre of town, surrounded by restaurants, the cathedral, hikers, partiers, and we were about to make our own pilgrimage into the heart of the Ribera del Duero wine region.

This emerging wine region is to Spain as the Vancouver Island wine region is to BC but with alot more potential. If you google Spanish wine, you will more than likely see a Ribera Del Duero wine as one of the top 5 on the list. Spanish wines were not available or promoted for nearly 40 years when the country was run by dictator General Francisco Franco. Sanctions made it impossible to have these wines on the world stage and the knowledge to keep pace with the rapidly changing technology of wine-making was stifled by the autocratic Franco regime. When it did show up, the mainstream quality was usually over-oxidized Rioja wines most commonly from a popular producer by the name of Margues de Riscal. Their wines (and Spanish wine in general) have since benefited from embracing modern production techniques. The Ribera del Duero is quickly gaining popularity (both domestically and internationally) becoming known for its balance in fruit forwardness and dry, food friendly structure. We spent the night in our apartment, listened to the partying into the wee hours of the morning and set off the next day towards Amera del Duero. This city is in the heart of the Duero riverbank (ribero) region and houses many of the big winery’s that make the big full bodied Temperanillos of the region. We drove through the town and saw a sign for one of the vineyards, Martín Berdugo. Unannounced, we arrived and naively asked if we could taste or tour or both? They were very gracious, evidently drop in tours are not routine, but a very pleasant administrative type, took us on a tour of the facility. Harvest was starting the following week and there was a wine festival in the town on the weekend that they were preparing for, that we would sadly miss, so it was very generous of them to take the time. We took pictures, bought 5 bottles of wine between the 4 of us, and headed off.

Lori and Mike were heading back to Canada in two days so we were ultimately headed for the Mediterranean coast near Barcelona. We had a pretty relaxed two days drive so that we could experience some of central Spain’s high plateau. We booked a night at the Hotel des Vino in a small town called Cariñena about 30 minutes from the larger city of Zaragoza (pronounced Thare-a-go-tha – a real tongue twister for me at the time….) that I have since seen spelled Saragossa (English?). We plotted the route which was quite direct, but with my Micheline mapbook in hand, I saw some “scenic route” detours along the way and we hit the jackpot. Spain has its coastlines with the Pyrenees and the hills behind the Barcelona coast but we weren’t mentally prepared for the vast plateau between the west and east coast.

ruin of a castle on a hill… lots of ruins… everywhere

Having travelled in the US and Canadian deserts in Utah, California, Nevada, Alberta and BC, we felt we were repeating some of our North American travels. The white earth of the Spanish plain makes it just a bit different than North American desert. But the red earth made it like southern California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. There were mesas pushing up and dropping down to winding creeks below. There were carved valleys with hoodoos like in the Badlands of Alberta. There were rolling hills with scrubby sage brush like in Kamloops, BC. and vast prairie like most of North America with corn, sunflowers and harvested white, red and grey dirt fields that grew onions, leeks and grains now shipped or stored elsewhere.

The hills around these flat areas were terraced with fruit orchards, grapes, olives and other vegetable and grain crops. As we got closer to some of the hills, we noticed there were dwellings built into the hillsides as well. Albert had read that with last summers 40+Celsius heat wave, cave owning people in France and Spain were renting their cool caves to families whose children or elderly were comprimised with the heat. Most of these dwellings that we saw looked pretty decrepit, and were possibly just used as storage, or not at all, we didn’t know.

We snaked along the scenic route and found ourselves on a mountain pass that went into the next wine region and our destination. The mountain pass was typically narrow, with tight corners over cliffs, where only one car might pass comfortably and we only met one or two trucks; thankfully. We kept being so incredibly overwhelmed at the vast quilted agriculture. The hills with their terraces were planted in varying ways to capture water, light and the best crops to fill those places. We had to stop. We had to take time to look. We stopped more than once. Then we said, “Enough!! or we will never get there!!”. We proceeded and rounded another bend to find we were on the top of a ridge with the same meticulous agriculture on both valleys below us. We all gasped “WOW, DID YOU SEE THAT?” at the same time. And kept going.

The village of Cariñena was a sleepy little working town that marked itself as the main destination in the Ruta del Vino del Cariñena. Reading about the region, we learned it is another Spanish up and coming region to watch on the world stage. Our hotel was a former wine production house that was more of a warehouse with a hotel now. It was surrounded with vines and harvest equipment. In town, we found a bar that had a restaurant who would feed us a meal, though the bartender looked worried when we asked. It was 8pm, they were open, and “please have a seat” was gestured without any English instruction. Then the chef arrived with a bag of groceries. Ha! The food was like a home cooked meal with local chilled red wine and pretty good. We were the only guests. The “chef”, who was originally from Morocco, came and chatted with us and tried to ply us with firewater. We obliged for one shot. The we got out of there.

We had to drop Lori and Mike at the train station in Zaragoza the next day so they could be near Barcelona in time to get their plane home. I couldn’t sleep so while looking online at accommodations I found some beachfront on the Mediterranean just south of Barcelona. Next day we changed the plan to driving Lori and Mike to Caseldellfels and another day of driving-touring to the coast. Perfect choice!!! With a stop for lunch and a look at the Roman Colosseum ruins in Tarragona, we pressed on to Casteldellfels where they were staying that night.

There was snow on the Calgary forecast for them returning to Canada so we had a lovely hot drive, walk on the sandy Mediterranean beach, beachside mojitos and left them to head to our accommodation.

Lori and Mike came home to this. White sand to white snow. YIKES!! We miss you guys!!

Stay tuned….chilling at the beach…and Barcelona…coming up next post……