Dave wonders if we can relive the Great Alps Adventure of 2000. It has been so many years ago now, and it has become a distant memory. Can we find hotel rooms without making reservations? Can we still pedal up a mountain pass? Can Sharry have a great time with a very limited wardrobe?
Monday, Sept 4. Fly To Amsterdam.
Awake at 3am for the drive to the airport. Thanks Karen! Our bike cases exceeded the weight limits, and we were charged for the bikes and charged for being too heavy. Ouch. Too late to change now. Left at 6am, just like scheduled. Arrived in Toronto about 2pm, after an uneventful flight. Had a long layover so took the train into town and explored for a bit. Toronto has some nice old buildings in the Financial District, but they are surrounded by new glass and steel. There is a beautiful town hall with gargoyles and we came across a fountain that could have been a homage to dogs. Great art on buildings, too!
Found a Thai restaurant for dinner before heading back to the airport. Our 8:40pm flight was delayed until 12:30am because of lightning. Met a woman from Poland that had been visiting her daughter in Canada, and was going to miss her connecting flight. It was painful waiting but eventually boarded the plane. Dave managed to sleep most of the way because the entertainment system didn't work.
Tuesday, Sept. 5. In Amsterdam
Had the first scare when Sharry's bike did not appear, but after another painful wait it came through the door. Other people had put their bikes in plastic bags and it seemed to work. An obviously cheaper alternative, and after a few minutes their bikes were ready to ride. Cardboard boxes were in use, too. We may try that, as the cost to transport the bikes in their cases was expensive for the outbound leg. We had another long wait for the bus to the hotel. Checked in and immediately began assembling the bikes. Our cases for transporting required significant disassembly of the bikes. Fenders, racks, saddles, handlebars and wheels all had to be removed in order for everything to fit in the case. This didn't seem like such a good idea now, when the cardboard box was a much cheaper alternative and looked to be almost as safe for transport. Roll it in and tape it up. Had dinner in the hotel restaurant, pesto pasta and grilled chicken salad. Surprisingly good.
Wednesday, Sept 6. In Amsterdam
Up at a reasonable hour, perhaps we have beaten jet lag. Finished assembly after breakfast Wednesday and went for a test ride. We discovered that we could not ride bikes away from the hotel. Very interesting. We did a practice tour of the parking lots, twice around, looking for any way out. In Holland of all places we were landlocked.
So, left the bikes at the hotel, took the bus to the airport and trained into Amsterdam. Arranged train tickets to Osnabruck for Thursday. Walked to the pasta place we had gone to last year and had the garlic bread again. Still open and just as good. Another customer told us about a microbrewery next to a windmill, so after dinner we walked towards that area, past the botanical gardens and eventually found the place. Very busy. Had a couple of their beers and tried to seem like locals. Then back to the train station, the airport and the hotel.
Thursday, Sept 7. Train to OsnabrÃ¼ck
Tried to take the bus to the airport Thursday with the assembled bikes, but were delayed by other passengers and missed the first opportunity.
The next time we were ready and stepped in front of everyone. Tourists can be so rude. Very minor damage because of the transport method and, after feeling the stress of possibly missing the train while storing the duffle bag, we made the train with minutes to spare. The duffle held our collapsed bicycle cases, and seemed like a great idea for storage, but another expensive option at 6 euros a day. We had hoped that hotel would have stored it for us, but after we made a scene about being trapped with our bikes, the staff declined to help us. Transferred in Amsterdam for an uneventful ride to Osnabruck. Rode across town and took pictures of some interesting sculptures, and whimsical public art. Found the Romantik hotel, parked the bikes in the underground garage, unpacked, and headed to L'Osteria. But first was a stop at a bike shop near the hotel. Dave forgot one of the straps for his bags, among other things, and was looking for a replacement. The clerk would not sell one that was part of a package, so Dave ordered one to pick up on our return. As we headed to dinner Sharry pointed out that Dave wouldn't need it after the trip, he needed it now. Dinner was not as good as we remembered from our visit last year. The pizza was soggy. Thought about the return trip and that it might be better to do the disassembly at the airport and store the boxes there instead of at the hotel. It would mean less to move, and less luggage on the hotel bus.
Friday, Sept 8. Cycle to Werther. 31 miles
Breakfast at the hotel was typical. Breads, cheeses, fruits, granola, coffee. It looked like rain, but we packed up and started riding. After 100 meters we stopped at the bike shop. Different clerk gladly sold us the strap and a helmet cover. By this time it was raining, so we donned all our rain gear for the rainy ride south. Dave used the phone map to successfully navigate the route, but we eventually stopped at a bike shop just outside Hilter in order to buy a cycling map. The clerk showed us a nice cycling route to Werther and said the map was waterproof but it only lasted for about 10 minutes. All the way, rain. There was rain through Dissen, but there was a festival coming together, possibly a garden fest. It was a lot like walking through the Monrovia street fair as it is being set up, only in the rain. Stopped for dinner in Halle, where Dave ordered the pasta carbonara. Why does he keep ordering that? It is ham in a cream sauce, and he does not like it. The caprese salad was good, and so was the pizza bread. As we left town for Werther, we bought wine. Steep, rainy climb over the hill to Werther, arrived at 7:30. Parked bikes in the hotel conference room, and tried to dry out.
Saturday, Sept 9. Train to Paderborn. Cycled 4 miles
Slept 12 hours, possibly, but just made breakfast. Standard breakfast fare, packed up and we're rolling by 11:30.
Rained most of the way up the hill, then down to Halle. Really steep climb, lowest gear required. Saw an interesting tree fungus. Found the train station, and bought tickets to Paderborn and a gelato. Just didn't feel like riding a long way in the rain. Weather improved as we rode the train. After arrival, rode and walked to the Tourist Information Office, where the clerk found us a "bike friendly" hotel, the Sud Hotel. Stored the bikes outside the bar and unpacked the wet laundry. Walked to the town center, a nice pedestrian area with restaurants, and shopping amid some very historic buildings that survived everything but WW2. Ate at a restaurant that had a Thai dish on the menu. Dave tried to eat the hot pepper. That didn't go well, as he could only eat about half of it. See the photo!
Sunday, Sept. 10. Train to Kassel.
Up at 8:30 and had the hotel breakfast. Good deal, as the total cost for one night was 72€. Rode a few blocks to the train station, bought tickets to Kassel. Great 1hr train ride, scenic, and smooth. When the conductor asked for the bike tickets, we realized that the agent hadn't charged us. He said it was OK for today. Arrived in Kassel about 1pm and rode the few blocks to the H4 hotel. Dave observes that it is much easier to move luggage with a bike than to carry it. The hotel is a big place, ready for conventions, and provides free local public transportation. Trammed to Wilhemshohe to see the Hercules monument. Took pictures. Waited 45 minutes for the fountain that had thousands of people anticipating. It was ok, but didn't seem to be all that. Apparently the attraction is that there are no pumps, just gravity fed and manually operated. Some people will start at the top and follow the water as it cascades down the hill. Trammed back to town to the Centrum pedestrian/shopping area, found a restaurant, KokoTao. Sharry ordered the Arruba dish, while Dave had a penne pasta dish and fries. Good food, good fries. Walked to Friedrichplatz and saw public art made of banned books in the shape of the Parthenon. Previously set up in Buenos aires in 1983, it was initially a protest against the Argentine military dictatorship, which fell at about the same time. Apparently, we were seeing part of Documenta 14, a big art exhibition. A whiff of scandal, too, as the other half of the exhibition was in Athens, and we were told that all of the money for the exhibits had gone there. Back to the hotel for a glass of wine and then another.
Monday, Sept 11. In Kassel.
Woke up to drizzle, stayed in our room till 10:30. WiFi is spotty in the room so we moved down to the hotel lobby before exploring. Rode the tram back to downtown and walked. Checked out the whole Centrum pedestrian/shopping area again, took photos, bought some fruit, and aimed for the river. Discovered the Orangerie Palace that now houses a planetarium and museum, and faces a large parkland. A big, beautiful expanse of trees and water features next to the river. Walked and walked. Stopped for lunch at a pancake house. Fantastic. A 24cm cake with shrimp and a garlic sauce. Added fries to the order. Walked more, eventually made it back to the Centrum/pedestrian area. The Parthenon of books was being dismantled and the books were being given away. Freely distributing previously banned books? Great image. Another installation was a stack of concrete pipes whose interiors had been made into themed caves. There was a bedroom, a kitchen, a library, a bathroom, even a rec-room and perhaps a jail. Dave was really taken with this display. One end of the bathroom pipe was a large number of bars of soap followed by a large number of bristle brushes. Trammed back to the Wilhemshohe park and hiked up to the Lowenburg castle just before sunset. Nice castle ruins from the late 17th century. Practiced with the camera settings for low light. Trammed back to KokoTao and had the Arruba dish again. The owner told us to go to Hann Munden, a very old town of half timbered buildings, that was an easy bike ride away.
Teusday, Sept 12. Train to Hann. Munden.
A cold drizzle made getting up and going a slow process. A bit too wet and cold actually, so we opted for the short ride to the Kassel train station and bought tickets to Munden. A quick 20 minute train ride, arrived at about 11:30. Coasted down to the hotel we had arranged the night before, parked bikes and began the walking tour of town. Of course, the rain stopped. A very quaint, very old town. Seems to be kept alive by weekend tourism. Ate at an Asian restaurant, soup, shrimp rolls and a chicken curry dish with crispy chicken. Sharry didn't like the crispy chicken. Walked more, shopped some, bought wine and back to the hotel by 6:30.
Wednesday, Sept 13. In Hann. Munden
Breakfast in the church across from the hotel. Standard fare, but a great setting. Explored the town a bit more. Some interesting old buildings that need a lot of attention. Two rivers come together here and there were locks to raise boats and barges. There was even passenger boat service. Walked/climbed up to the tower overlooking town for view of the place and pictures. Headed down for an afternoon gelato from a malt shop that had 1950's diner motif with a buck tooth Elvis mural on the wall. Dinner at the Chinese place again, the curry soup was that good. Seems like the town is populated by old people. Dave wondered what was going on in town so long ago that there were so many merchants able to build so many houses. Was trade that lucrative? There must have been a lot of it by the look of things.
Thursday, Sept 14. Train to Fulda
Breakfast in the church. A cold, gray drizzle so we packed and rode to the train station. Arranged train to Fulda. In Fulda, Dave tried the INVITE Hotel, but sold out. Headed to the Tourist Information Office, and they directed us to a hotel by the river. A 700 year old building with a waterwheel, restaurant and brewery, Hotel Wiesenmuhle. Easy to like. Walked to town and saw the old church, at 800 years, and the new church, at 500 years. Very picturesque. The Catholic Church had command of significant resources in this area and it shows. Beer, bread and fries at the hotel brewery for dinner. The beer was a typical German beer, but the waitress said dark beer would be on tap next week.
Friday, Sept 15. Train to Ansbach.
Met an American couple at breakfast. He had been stationed here when he was in the Army and had come back to see an old friend. We left Fulda under overcast skies and trained to Ansbach. Arrived at about 2 pm. Tourist Information Office provided a hotel, Hotel Fantasie, just beyond the park. Stored the bikes, unpacked, and walked through the park towards town to find Stephanie of Kunst und Leder. Managed to find the address and walked into the downstairs lobby where a lady was getting ready to go outside for a cigarette. She looked at us suspiciously, but Dave made sure to aim the Pedersen pin on his hat in her direction. There were a couple of bike related leather things in the display case and one was of a Pedersen. "Are you Stephanie?" It was Stephanie and we talked about her leatherwork and Kalle's health. She was planning on displaying her work at a handmade art show on Saturday and Sunday, and had packed all her product. We thought we could meet her at the show, so said goodbye. Dinner at a Thai place next to the Tourist Information Office. The soup Sharry ordered was great, Dave had a yellow curry with chicken and bamboo. As we left the restaurant we heard organ music coming from the church across the square, so stepped in to listen. The organist was practicing pop songs for a wedding. The sound was fantastic. Leisurely walk through town and the park back to the hotel.
Saturday, Sept 16. In Ansbach. 15 miles
Breakfast at the hotel. Tried to ride to the art fest, and ended up going the wrong direction. But, it was finally a good weather ride, through a forest, around a small lake, and took lots of pictures. Once Dave figured out that we had gone the wrong direction, it was back to town. Went to the handwork store to look at the flyer for the art fest, and someone told us the correct name of the destination. Dave realized his error and planned to try again, but first, more of the Thai soup. Then rode the correct route to the art fest. Easy ride and easy to navigate because there were signs. At the art show, found Stephanie and her husband, Gerhard, another bike lover with too many bikes. Spent all afternoon checking out the artwork and talking to Stephanie and Gerhard. Much later, a faster, gradual downhill ride back to the hotel, and ate at the hotel's Italian restaurant. Bruschetta, spaghetti bolonaise, lasagna, wine, yum.
Sunday, Sept 17. Ride To Wettelsheim. 28 miles
Left Ansbach riding our bicycles south toward the Altmuhl trail. Climbed out of town under cloudy skies, but the sun came out and it began to warm up. Pleasant cycling for many miles. Beautiful country. Made it to the Muhr am See and stopped for French fries.
Monday, Sept 18. To Eichstatt. 28 miles
No sleep. The bells rang every 15 minutes, followed by a cow complaining. Sharry observed that the bells were out of tune. At breakfast, we asked the hostess about the bells, and she said, "What bells?" She had lived here so long the she didn't hear them. The building used to be a barn, but her husband had remodeled it over the last 10 years, or so. We put a pin in the map and rode away. Beautiful country and easy riding. Some dirt and some pavement. Followed the signs to Treuchtlingen. Spent some time trying to find the train station to have a look at the local map. Lesson learned here, mark all the Tourist Information Bureaus on the off-line maps. That would make them easier to find. As usual, the Tourist Information Office had maps and conversation but they are located in a place that requires you go into town, which is usually some distance from the train station. The staff always speaks English. Went around the corner to eat at a small cafe and had a crepe and the meaty soup. Great soup. Talked with an old local about everything. Lots of crochet art as we left town. Rode further and took more pictures. The route follows the river Altmuhl, so doesn't go anywhere near straight. In Papenheim, made a wrong turn looking for the castle ruins on the hill, and learned that in German, links means left. Found the road to the castle but the castle was closed. Took pictures anyway. Made it to Solnhofen and didnt stop at the dinosaur museum. Since it seemed we were running out of time we decided to ride the train to Eichstatt. Spent a few minutes riding back and forth over the bridge so we could say we saw the town while we waited for the train. A 20 minute train ride saved us at least an hour of riding. The Eichstatt train station is outside of town, so we still had to ride 5km, first down a very steep hill, then around a big bend in the river. Even using the train to make up some time, we still arrived too late for the Tourist Information Office, so wandered around town until we spotted a hotel. Kept riding for a few more minutes, but didn't find anything else so went back only to see a tour bus unloading in front. Eventually made it to the head of the reception line only to find no vacancy. The receptionist was gracious enough to send us around the corner and up the street to Gasthaus Sonne. They had a room available for only one night. We parked the bikes in the garage, then walked around a bit, and ended up back at the first hotel to ask if they had a room for Tuesday night. Yes, if you want it, so we reserved just in case we wanted to stay 2 days in town. Couldn't find a restaurant we could agree on so went back to the Gasthaus Sonne's restaurant. Sharry had the rump steak with a curry butter spread that was fantastic. Dave had a generic steak.
Teusday, Sept. 19. Ride to Neuburg. 19 miles
Decided not to stay longer, so as we left town we cancelled the reservation. Next time we should visit the castle. Rode around the bend in the river, then massively uphill toward the train station and on towards Neuberg. Beautiful country. Started raining a bit in Nassenfels, so stopped at a shelter to put on the rain gear. Dave had a fit because he didn't want to wear his rain gear and it stopped raining so, after making friends with the local cat and taking pictures of some kind of water flower in the river, we pressed on. Got a bit lost as we got close to the Danube but found some interesting flowers. Eventually got going in the direction of Neuberg and found the river. Found the Virgin Mary and the Baby Jesus behind bars. Tried to take pictures of the castle in Neuberg but Sharry's phone had a software problem. Rode into Neuberg and found the Tourist Information Office. Arranged a room at the Gasthaus Bergbauer. Apparently, Octoberfest makes all hotel rooms within 100km of Munich more expensive and unavailable. This would explain why there were people at the train station wearing their lederhosen. Dinner at a cafe, spaghetti and some kind for peppercini bread thing. Walked around town, checked the riverfront, took some pictures. Started to rain, so headed back towards the hotel. Bought wine, then gelato. At the hotel, Dave flooded the bathroom while showering. Water flowed out of the shower, into the room and out the door. Sharry went for more towels. Later Sharry couldn't figure out why her back side hurt, but she discovered that she was sitting on her rash cream.
Wednesday, Sept 20. Train Back towards Oldenburg
The usual breakfast, except Sharry was able to order eggs sunny side up. E-mail from Vera said Kalle was not doing well and that I should call Gaby. This would be a challenge, but the hotel desk was able to send her a text message and she called back. Kalle was not doing well and if we could come that would be great. Headed to the train station and bought tickets to Wurzburg. 3hrs on the train. Wurzburg train station is under construction so bikes have to go down and then up the stairs to change platforms. This leg was 33 euros, but Dave thought we could get to Fulda, so he bought another ticket, 55 euros, maybe more. Anyway, arrived in Fulda and headed down to the river to see if there were rooms at the mill. Yes, a new, more expensive room was available. Rump steak, fries, dark beer this time, more fries and then more beer. Dave had a really bad dream about crackheads destroying rental housing and didn't sleep very well.
Thursday, Sept 21. Train to Oldenburg
Breakfast and a quick ride to the Fulda train station. It seemed easy to get lost in this town. 60 euros from Fulda to Oldenburg, but it was all day and 3 changes. In Oldenburg at 5:30, but Gaby was not home. Went to The Spoke bike shop and found out that Kalle had died the afternoon before. Hung around Kalle and Gaby's house for a bit before giving up and looking for a hotel. Headed towards the hotel Dave remembered from 20 years ago, but saw one as soon as we turned the corner. Hotel Sprenz. A bit expensive but fine for our situation. Went to dinner in the old part of Oldenburg, a hamburger and fries plus a bottle of wine. Our waitress was a marine biologist between grants. Apparently not much demand for marine biology.
Friday, Sept 22. In Oldenburg
Breakfast at the hotel then walked over to the Pedersen office to find Vera. All so sad, realizing that it was exactly 20 years ago that Dave had come to Oldenburg to meet Kalle, Gaby and Vera, and to drool over the bikes. Gaby was home, and we met Kalle's sister and his college roommate and wife. There were a lot of details for Gaby and family to take care of, so we planned to meet for dinner at a restaurant in town. We walked around for several hours, and had some street food. A mushroom vendor had several whole fungi displayed and it was very interesting. Sharry had some sauted mushrooms while Dave had pasta with a basil gorgonzola cream sauce. Back to the hotel for a break before dinner. The Kinde Burg restaurant was a little place on a side street, offering art food. We both had the chicken pasta. Dave thought it was good, but Sharry didn't like it. Goat cheese and ham with a chicken pasta topped with passion fruit. Multiple bottles of wine, so life was good.
Saturday, Sept 23. Oldenburg
Up early to breakfast and to arrange a third night at the hotel. All good. Met Gaby outside her house and waited for the rest of the gang to show. Changed plans, and decided not to go visit Kalle's father in Cloppenburg, but instead to spend part of the day with Gaby walking around her lake. Made a trip to the marketplace and bought food for dinner. Drove to the lake, walked and talked. Christina appeared with her dog and her Pedersen, and Dave was sternly reminded to avoid talking her picture without permission. But she recognized us from the 2016 Pedersen weekend, and then had to hear the news about Kalle. She had been living in Otto and Traute's guest house for several years but was forced to move when their daughter needed a place to stay. Christina's cat is 23 and has moved with her 6 times and had so far survived this move so things are looking good. Drove back to town and made plans for Sunday dinner. Walked to town, looked for the Frizz place again. Came across a Thai place and decided to eat there. Spicy noodles and basil chilli chicken. Strolled the park a took pictures until 6pm, then back to the hotel.
Sunday, Sept 24. Oldenburg. 12 miles
Rode out of town to a huge flea market the hotel receptionist told us about. It was at the same mall that Kalle's tenant, the cook, had worked. Tried to ride further towards the fair we had heard about from the fungus vendor but didn't think we could make it and get back in time, so hurried back to town. Had a gelato in Oldenburg. Make sure to order the lighter green pistachio. Met Gaby and spent the afternoon with her, trying to be less stressful than her family. Sharry cooked the chicken and basil thing. Drank too much before heading back to the hotel. Decided that Barcelona sounded much better than Germany. Arranged flights.
Monday, Sept 25.
Stopped by the Pedersen office to order Ron's frame and say goodbye to Vera. Then to the train station and bought tickets to Osnabruck. Rode a different route toward the Romantik hotel, because there appeared to be a Thai restaurant near the train station. Couldn't find the restaurant, so headed to the hotel. There was a vacancy, but it was a large single bed instead of a double. It was their last room and was committed as Sharry was checking the size of the bed. Used the Tourist office next door to arrange a hotel across town, Hotel Westermann. A bit noisy. Walked back into town, and explored different areas than the last time we were here. There appeared to be some sort of university ritual that involved groups of students drinking beer at each monument and we watched them walk past the cafe where we at dinner. Each group had a couple of dedicated beer carriers. What did we have? Pizza.
Tuesday, Sept 26. To Barcelona
Trained from Osnabruck to Amsterdam, then the airport. At the airport, Dave went to the basement luggage storage area for cardboard bike boxes. Packed bikes in boxes for the flight to Barcelona. The boxes were really nice. They could be the perfect bike box. No tape was required, but we used tape anyway. Had an extra hour left over. Had a snack of fries and some sort of croquet, another deep fried meat in gravy thing. Uneventful flight to Barcelona, nice sunset on the right side of the plane. Screaming kids in the next row. Bikes arrived safely, but it was 9pm and, with no brain left, arranged to store the boxed bikes so that we could worry about them Wednesday. Walked to the hotel bus area, but we're told all hotels were full. Walked to another bus stop and latched onto a couple that were waiting for their hotel bus. The bus arrived and we rode to the hotel. No vacancy, but the receptionist made some calls. Found out the the Rolling Stones were performing in Barcelona and there really were no hotel rooms. Used the hotel wifi to search and ended up in a hostel, Casa Gracia, near the Hotel Praktik. Had to walk to a subway stop, but Dave had trouble navigating and an old local man walked us to the station. Arrived very late, and had to wait for a bad breakup room situation to get resolved before we could check in. 6 beds in our room, 4 occupied. Beautiful old bank building. Sharry wouldn't let herself snore. Not much rest.
Wednesday, Sept 27. To Canet del Mar. 27 miles
Up and away from the hostel to the Praktik bakery for a croissant and coffee. Same staff from last year. Subway back to the airport to get the bikes. Entertained an older couple by assembling the bikes, then trained to somewhere near the Arch de Triumph. Rode the bikes toward the beach. Saw an interesting flea market kind of thing, where the ceiling was reflective. At the beach we stopped for calamari and croquettes, which was that meat and gravy deep fried thing again. Lots of sun. Rode along the beach for many miles until the path disappeared. Tough time pushing bikes in deep sand. Managed to get on the highway, but stressful riding on the highway with no shoulder. Still no hotel rooms. Stopped in Mataro, and looked around for a hotel. A local old lady directed us to the New Hotel Colon. No rooms but Sharry managed to have the receptionist call around and there was a room 16km further down the road. Dave pretended he was leading the Tour de France peloton. Found the hotel, and quickly went next door the get something to eat before everything closed. It could have been a deep fried hot dog, but we will never know.
Thursday, Sept 28. To Blanes. 15 miles
Started riding by 10:30. Stayed on the beach for a mile or so until no choice but back on the highway. Stopped at a market for laundry detergent and an apple. Not so bad riding as last night as there was a bit of a shoulder most of the way. Stopped at every photo op. The Mediterranean coast is really beautiful. See the pictures. Lots of road cyclists. Apparently there is an Ironman competition this weekend. 3000 competitors! Took a couple of pictures for 2 of the entrants. Coasted down to the town of Calella, where the race begins. Sharry checked out the expo and bought a tank top. Kept riding along the coast. Eventually stopped at a random hotel to ask about availability. Sold out, but not because of the triathlon. The race started too early, and the hotel was too far away. No vacancy because it was a popular beach town. Doubled back for a massive gelato in Pineda de Mar. Walked a bit further and then cycled the road to Blanes past old and tired looking areas. So much beach here but a lot of it seems abandoned. Found the Hotel Costa Brava in Blanes and they had a room and a secure parking lot. Cleaned up and walked up to the botanical gardens. A beautiful setting overlooking the Mediterranean. Strolled the gardens until hunger became the overriding concern, so back down to town and found a bar that served food. Tagliatelle with mushrooms and spaghetti bolognaise, both from a can, it seemed. But a whole bottle of wine was only 7.20 euros, so how could we say no.
Friday, Sept 29. To Tossa
Decided to take the boat to Tossa, left at 12:30. Stunning coastal scenery, occasional ruins, nice rock work, secluded beaches. This a great way to bike. In Tossa, the boat pulls up to the beach and we had to push the bikes up the beach in sand. Found the hotel right away, and put the bikes on our balcony. Walked several doors down the street to a restaurant and had fries, a caprese salad, and a seafood paella. The fries were good, the salad was good, but the paella was nothing special. Dave left his hat, but when we went back, no hat. Walked to the ruins and spent hours checking out the old part of town. Very old.
Just outside the wall is a street of restaurants, and we were approached by a barker to enjoy the best food in Tossa. Dave can't resist conversing about anything and everything, so eventually the discussion turned to the desire for an independent Catalonia. The barker thought everything should be democratic and independent, his street, his house, and even he should be democratic and independent. Dave though he was being sarcastic, as he may have been the restaurant owner, and somewhat conservative, but he seemed to have a handle on the issues. It was when he proposed that smokers should be allowed to retire early because they have a reduced life expectancy that he seemed to veer towards unhinged. There was a home for sale in the old part, 750,000euros. Perhaps we could arrange a partnership. Back to the market for wine and water, then to the hotel.
Saturday, Sept 30. In Tossa. 7 miles
Huge breakfast buffet for 6euros. Took some time to saddle up and ride leisurely a portion of the route to Girona. After 3.5 miles uphill we turned back, so our 1hr ride was perhaps 7 miles. Dave thinks the route seems easy, Sharry thinks not. Laid around the hotel until 3pm, then set out for lunch and to find Kim's bar. Lunch at the Italian place, bruschetta, calamari, and a pesto spaghetti. All of the menus here are in 6 languages. Found the bar but it didn't open until 7pm. Walked to the other end of the beachfront. Discovered a hotel that had been the home of Mr and Mrs Sans. Designed by a Gaudi contemporary, it is a beautiful building. The stained glass, the fireplace, the gargoyles, the tile work, the staircase, all very nice. Back to the hotel to change into warmer clothes, then back towards the bar. As we were leaving the hotel we talked to an old Irishman who had observed that Britain was not like the rest of Europe. Different by 20 or 25 miles. He was happy to exit the EU. But he didn't think the Catalonia referendum was the way to go about it. Started to rain, so bought wine, water, and malted milk balls. We were still too early for the bar and it was raining a little hard, so we gave up on the special picture and retired to the hotel.
Sunday, Oct 1. To Girona. Cycled 27 miles
Up and breakfast at 8. Ready to roll by 10, but had to tell our story to some of the hotel guests. Everyone wants to know where we've been and where we're going. Finally started out of town under cloudy skies and some drops. After several hundred meters we stopped to adjust Dave's brakes. Tried to follow the route we discovered yesterday that avoided the first scary bridge, but missed a turn and had to push the bikes up a very steep hill. Nothing looked familiar so backtracked until the abandoned swim club and rode across the scary bridge. Spent the next hour or so climbing the hill. Dave loved it, Sharry not so much. Relatively easy climbing under cloudy skies, but why does it seem like we are carrying too much stuff? Roadies flew past us. Took several breaks for pictures and snacks. Found the top eventually and had a leisurely ride down. The road into Llagostera was a few rolling hills and we stopped just at the edge of town when we saw some bikes parked at a restaurant. Ordered the grilled asparagus and farm chicken. Best meal ever. A couple of riders asked us where we were headed, what about that SON hub, and our California bikes. Apparently, they had Googled the bikes. One rider had a folding USB solar charger, but apparently wasn't any better than Dave's setup. Wished good travels and we left to look at the town. Very old church and wall, but otherwise a sleepy little place. It was Sunday, so maybe not so sleepy most of the time. Took the less traveled road toward Girona. Some housing developments with bus stops on the main road, and the occasional home in disrepair for sale. Big estate farmlands, and some beautiful homes. Passed a hamlet, Sant Andreu, with a large group of people socializing next to a very old church. Dave thought they were hiding the fact that they were voting by having a party. Easy riding on a narrow road that looks like it will be widened and realigned, eventually. Hopefully, not too soon. Beautiful church in Fornells, then to the outskirts of Girona. Some big houses, much like California. Stopped for a picture at the city limits sign, then into town and directly to the hotel. Dave is really good with the map most of the time. Walked a bit trying to find the town's restaurant center and chose to have a hamburger and potato chips in the plaza. Bought wine for later. The places we thought would be good didn't open until 8, and we were tired after riding our first climb. Independence rally in the square across from the hotel kept up the noise until midnight.
Monday, Oct. 2. In Girona
Elected to avoid the hotel breakfast, so walked around looking for a cafe. Found a bakery and had coffee and a pastry. The croissant was ok, but Sharry's pine nut thing was great. Then off to look for another cafe. The old section of Girona is narrow and winding with lots of steps. Stumbled upon the La Fabrica, the famous coffee shop for cyclists. Had breakfast again, Sharry had a bagel with egg, bacon, and cheese with a little bit of BBQ sauce. Dave chose to treat himself to the "treat yourself" croissant French toast with chocolate chips. Too much chocolate for Dave, but he managed to finish it. Walked the old town more and found that there are lots of cyclists and shops that cater to cycle touring. Show up here, rent a bike, ride fast. Repeat. Be sure to bring your outfit. Walked to the train station to check the options and bought a map. Walked the streets towards the plaza and passed by a TV crew filming a morning show, obviously about the vote for independence. As we walked by someone yelled "viva catalonia". Walked up to the cathedral, and around the wall. The wall is really old. Then down to the Italian place with the red pizza oven. Had a bruschetta and the garlic tomato pizza. Walked back to the hotel with a bottle of wine and called it a day. Later, Dave was channel surfing and saw the interview on the screen that we had seen taking place that morning. He heard the yell and immediately woke Sharry to see our back sides walking down the street in the background. We were on Spanish television.
Tuesday, Oct 3. To Madremanya. 13 miles
The state of Catalonia is on strike to protest the police violence that took place Sunday, but we decided to try La Fabrica. It usually didn't open till 9am, but was going to be closed today. A photo shoot would be taking place, instead. Walked back towards the hotel and found an open cafe. Ham and cheese on a croissant and coffee. As we were leaving the staff was trying to close. At the hotel, we packet up and started riding. After a stop at an automated teller, we rode out of town. The road started climbing. Sharry said it was grueling. We stopped, rested, started, stopped, rested, started again. The total distance we were to ride was only 16km, but it turned out that 13 of them were up hill. Eventually made it to the top and stopped at Els Angels, possibly a hilltop hotel and restaurant that was closed for the season. It must be a very popular spot, because there were many cyclists enjoying the patio and the views. Down to Madremanya took only a few minutes and arrived at La Placa a bit early. The owner was gracious enough to show us 2 rooms, and around the grounds and invited us to dinner at 8. Unloaded, showered and walked around the village. Very old, 12th century. The church was newer, 1700's. Some beautiful houses had been made from several of the structures and there were a couple of new houses, but still a very small village. Back to the hotel and asked the receptionist questions about the place. High School was in Girona, and her uncle, the hotel owner, had rented an apartment there for all the cousins to live Monday through Friday while they were in school. There was bus service, too. But what about the church bells? She said all night, and if you want to switch rooms it would be ok. Yes, we wanted to switch so we ended up in the more expensive room with a balcony. Perfect for drying laundry. Walked a few doors down to have dinner and had the 5 course extravaganza. The owner had been a cook for 27 years, had an extensive garden and vineyards. What a meal. Anchovies on bread, quiche with leeks, a fish dish, a meat dish, desert. Plus a selection of wines. Guests at the next table were from Edinburgh, and we ate, talked and laughed for what seemed like hours. We planned the tour de defibrillator and wondered when it would be built into the phone. The dessert muscatel was delicious. The owner only made 70 bottles a year for himself, and used his favorite 100 year old barrel.
Wednesday, 4 Oct. To Montgo. 20 miles
Breakfast was served to us on the patio and was excellent. Fresh fruit, cheeses, breads. The first cup of coffee was really good but something was off with the second. Bought 2 bottles of red wine to go. The bill will probably be $300. Rode away wondering how much money and effort had been spent to rehabilitate an 11th century building into such a beautiful place. Obvious the owner had his life invested, and his father's and grandfather's. Easy riding to the next town, Corca, where we were overtaken by a group of hotel cyclists on e-bikes. This area is popular for e-cycling. We showed them a route that bypassed the highway, and then watched as they sped away. We pedaled the same route, but were so much slower. Through small villages with churches, and many photo stops. The well traveled highway had a shoulder, so was somewhat less stressful, but when the shoulder disappeared, it was less fun. Dave navigated past a large pot farm and of course we stopped to take a photo or two. The highway was uncomfortable riding, so we stopped at an intersection in Bellcaire. A large group of cycle tourists on e-bikes appeared and crossed the highway. They had been riding on the old rail right-of-way. It seemed like they had the right idea so Dave navigated the dirt roads all the way to L'Escala. Great riding, but a bit rough because of the rocks. Saw a large herd of sheep being moved from one field to another by way of working dogs. Rode through a pine forest and skirted the edge of L'Escala, looking at the houses that were for sale. A very nice area next to a nature preserve. Up and around and down to the beach in Montgo, where we found the hotel we had reserved earlier. A rather quiet town, not many tourists as the season was ending. Great hotel, though. Parked the bikes and had a late lunch at one of the restaurants on the beach, a half chicken and fries. Back to the hotel for a siesta. As we were leaving the hotel for dinner, Dave had to ask the receptionist about the independence vote, which started a long conversation. Finally pulled ourselves away. Dinner at another restaurant, and had the Ramen noodles. Surprisingly good. One of our waiters was from Gambia, and had been here 15 years, but he couldn't tell us what the second floor door on the old farm building was used for. Back to the hotel were Dave wonders why hotel TV remotes don't have the sleep feature.
Thursday, Oct 5, To Figueres. 23 miles
Had a uneventful breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Struggled with the coffee machine, cafe solo or cafe americano? Since the hotel receptionist last night hadn't been to the ruins since he was 10 years old and had been painfully bored, Dave asked the day receptionist if we should stop there. She had studied archeology, so thought it was worth seeing. Sharry's bike needed a rack bolt because of all the vibration on the dirt roads, so we had a repair before setting out. Stopped to buy water and pistachios at a store on the way out of town. Dave mistakenly bought sweetened water with gas. Climbed past a huge campground that is probably sold out in summer. Coasted into L'Escala, a much older beach town. Lots of pictures, and another Costa Brava town. Rode the coastal bike bath until the path ended, and we were on the old, narrow streets. Stopped at the street market in the plaza and bought figs and a nectarine. The beach path appeared again, so rode towards the ruins. Visible through the fence, the ruins were compelling, so we doubled back and eventually found the entrance. Spent some time there, examining the Greek ruins. A viable city 2300 years ago. Some of the floor tile still exists. One inscription said, "How sweet it is to recline". Extremely interesting. They liked to drink wine with friends. Large cisterns for holding captured rainwater. They made pottery, had a metal shop, and a food salting operation. Looked at some of the Roman ruins and their floor tiling. It was even better. Saved some of the ruins for the next visit. Apparently, only 25% has been uncovered. Finally started towards Figueres through flat farmland, with lots of apple orchards. Some narrow roads, but people were courteous. Saw a number of cyclists headed the other direction, and a number of e-bikes. Saw a couple of self-supporting bike tourists and got a big wave. Rode a portion of the way on dirt roads again, paralleling the freeway. Came across a bike store among other stores in a remodeled warehouse. Bought a protein bar and some lubrication for the squeaky chains. Finally, some quiet. Saw a rock climbing course constructed in an arched road bridge. More dirt roads to the edge of Figueres. The outskirts looked pretty run down, but we aimed for the hotel. The Aparthotel is like the Ibis we stayed at last year in Osnabruck, in that it is a totally automated hotel. No staff, everything by keypad. We had failed to provide passport numbers, so didn't have codes nor the instructions to get in. And not having an Internet connection meant that we had no way to get in touch with anyone, or anything, to fix our problem. Lesson learned here, next time we will do the SIMM card thing. Eventually begged the phone store across the street for a minute of wifi, got the e-mail, and got to the room. Had a siesta till 8pm, then went out to a Chinese restaurant. A bit expensive, but the calories were wonderful. Then to a cervesaria for a couple of large beers. The beer here is timid, no real flavor, and provided no buzz. That is probably why you can drink it at breakfast.
Friday, Oct 6. In Figueres.
Slept in. The window shades work great, and they're electric. But the toilet didn't work, the tank wouldn't refill, so Dave tried to figure out how to get the lid off. Eventually it popped of, and perhaps no damage was done. Figured out how to put it back together with all the pieces, and now Dave is a Spanish plumber. Walked around the outside of the Dali museum and around the area to a small cafe for croissants, grilled cheese with ham, and coffee. Strolled the Rambla and surrounding area. Sharry sampled perfumes. Took a break at the hotel until lunch and went back to the cervesaria for a burger and salmon. The burger was almost raw, but the salmon was good. More siesta time until 3 or so, then we walked up to the historic fort above town. Huge structure, figures prominently in some of Spanish history. Could house 6000 troops and 450 horses, but was partially destroyed by the Spanish themselves during their Civil War. Back down to the hotel, then to the local Italian restaurant. A pesto pasta and big salad with anchovies, bread, wine.
Saturday, Oct 7. To Darnius. 17 miles
Left the hotel about 10am. An interesting, but very impersonal place. We would consider staying there again, though. Large room, big enough for the bikes, but the lift is very small. The price seems right. Walked the bikes to a bakery/cafe for baked treats and coffee. Nice place. Order baked goods downstairs, head upstairs to order coffee and find a seat and everything is delivered. Stopped by a bank machine, then headed out of town. Things appeared more run down on the outskirts. Long gradual climb until Llers. Great scenery, especially back towards the Mediterranean. Rolled into Terrades and took another rest stop. Lunch sounded pretty good, so backtracked into town and found La Fornal hotel and restaurant. Dave wanted to know about staying there because he has a new appreciation for the small Spanish village. When we asked about lunch, it wasn't on until 1pm. We spent half an hour walking what seemed like the only street in town, taking pictures. The smell of a wood burning stove was in the air. There were cars lined up at a storefront and it turned out it was the local bakery serving the surrounding community. It was a one-lane road and people would pull up to buy their bread, perhaps for the week. Pedestrians, too, with their bread bags. We stepped in to buy water and an apple, at a bakery, of all things. The chef from La Fornal was buying bread. The old, built-in oven was still there but not used anymore. At 1pm we went to the restaurant and tried to order food. It was a fixed price meal, with a number of selections. The chef tried to show us the menu translation and we ordered, but the food we were served was a surprise. Breaded, fried squash? Pumpkin cream soup with lobster, served cold with shrimp instead? Then Sharry was served the stuffed calamari. Why does she keep ordering that? At the cervesaria the night before, the calamari was the heads, and now it was stuffed with a duck sausage, or maybe it was something else, we don't know. In order not to seem rude, Sharry did finish it. Dave had the lamb chops, but they were just ribs with almost no meat. Tiramisu for Sharry, while Dave had the green apple sorbet. Espresso, and thank you's, and we were riding again. We took the remaining wine to go. Next stop, Boadella d'Emporda. Another one road town, but found the popular French restaurant next to the river around one corner. A great setting, old grape press out front along with the grain mill, next to the river with a flock of geese. Sharry bought a beautiful piece of jewelry from a lady displaying goods in front of the entrance. Dave checked the local map and decided to detour downriver to see the historic mill, but the trail quickly became impassable for bikes. There was an interesting arched thing across the path and we took a number of pictures. Back towards the town and headed towards Darnius. More beautiful scenery. Ruins on top of hills, some climbing but it seemed easier after having food and coffee. Found the hotel, Can Massot, and were shown around. Walked the town, but not much to see. Found a small market open and bought wine and water. Back to the hotel.
Sunday, Oct 8. In Darnius. Cycled 20 miles
Fantastic breakfast spread, so ate our fill. Took our time getting ready, as our plan was to ride up the hill to France. As we were riding, the guardrails were popping because of the sun shining on them. A very interesting sound. The bikes were much lighter without our luggage, but the road Dave had picked was steeper than anything we've ridden this trip. So steep we had to walk some sections. Really steep. But we quickly gained altitude and after many rest stops made it to La Vajol. Had lunch at the first restaurant we saw. The owners were outside just begging for customers and wondering to each other if we would be the ones. Chicken and fries. Chicken with mushrooms and prunes and fries. Actually good. Packed the leftover wine and ordered another bottle of wine to go and set off for France. Easy climbing, but there was nothing at the summit to mark the border. What a disappointment. Took some pictures, and headed down, following a different route. Coasted most of the way, which was great because we were worn out. A little climbing and we were back at the hotel. Dinner at Can Mora, a restaurant just out of town. Onion soup and a spicy shrimp scampi thing.
Monday, Oct 9. To Figueres, then Girona. 16 miles
Had the place all to ourselves for breakfast. Crepes, fruit, jelly, coffee, almost like home. Finally arranged for 2 nights in Girona, packed up and left Darnius. Nice hotel, the owner reminded Dave of his dad. Family home for 5 generations. Chose a different road than the one we arrived on, and coasted for miles. Stopped for pictures whenever something looked interesting. Dave navigated all the way to the Figueres train station, where tickets to Girona were 4 euros each. When the train arrived, there was no car with a bike-specific area, so we had to lift the bikes up a couple of steps into the car and settle for hanging on. Quick trip to Girona, but getting off the train proved to be even more of a challenge. The platform was so low and we struggled to get the bikes off the train while a large crowd of people waited to board. Rode towards the hotel, which was a bit out of town. Took a wrong turn, but eventually found the way. Very secure bike parking, but Tuesday night would be more expensive. Is that ok? Walked the mile or so to town and had a vegetable pizza and gelato in the plaza. Discovered an interesting restaurant, El Blanc, that was offering locally produced fare, so made plans to eat there Tuesday. Walked back to the hotel, but struggled to sleep with the air conditioner blowing.
Tuesday, Oct 10. In Girona.
Rode bikes to La Fabrica for coffee, and asked about the photo shoot. Were shown some Polaroids of a couple sitting on the steps, kissing. Nice looking couple, but was it going to be advertising? Dave didn't think the pictures were that great. 2 cups of coffee and started back to the hotel, but stopped at the little market for water, then the big market next door for wine, 2.65 euros. Left these at the hotel for later, and eventually walked back towards town. Detoured through the street market in the park for some fruit and nuts. Then a stop at a Sushi restaurant. Dave had the Ramen noodles again and Sharry had a dragon roll that wasn't as good as her favorite at Ichima. Looked for a bike shop, but was closed until 3pm. Went to check the train schedules and trains. Discovered that some trains don't have any bicycle accommodations. But also discovered that some trains are labeled wheelchair access, which means there is space for bikes and, in theory, no steps. Planned to take the 11:30 train with wheelchair access to Portbou. Back to the bike shop, that was now open, to buy pedals. The owner didn't speak english, but it was fun to talk about the political situation, and our trip. Back to the hotel for a siesta, since the restaurant didn't open until 8pm. Rode bikes back to El Blanc for dinner. Had the chicken in herbs, and vegetables and wine. Reasonably good, but should have ordered 2 different dishes. Their Creme Brulee was runny, and the cheesecake had no flavor. Fun ride back to the hotel. No one in Spain cares about bike lights.
Wednesday, Oct 11. Train To Portbou. Cycled 4 miles
Rode like locals to the Girona train station by actually following the bike lane. Bought water on the way to replace the sweetened fizzy water Dave accidentally bought the day before. Why does he keep doing that? Had coffee outside the station, bought tickets to Portbou, and talked to a couple that were doing a cycle holiday in Girona. Self-directed, rental bikes, just show up and ride. We sounded impressive when we said we've been on the road for 6 weeks. They were going to the next stop, Flassa, to do a loop. They told us about the rail-to-trail path that runs from Olot to Girona, and on to the beach. We rode on part of this, but next time we may do the whole route. The train arrived and the wheelchair access is still 3 tall steps up into the car. Fortunately, all the remaining station platforms were at the right level until the last one and it was another big step down. Something to be aware of. Portbou train station looks very tired, and the town is very quiet. Must be the off-season. Found the hotel, but it was only 1pm, so went for lunch at a beach cafe. Ordered fries and lamb chops with a salad. Received fries, clams, lamb chops and fries. Checked in to the hotel, unpacked, and then rode up the hill to see France. Easy climb, spectacular views. Out the hiking trail to the end of the peninsula taking lots of pictures. Apparently, there were a lot of exiles that made their way through here during the Spanish Civil War. Denied entry into France, thousands of people packed the road awaiting asylum, fearing the coming of Franco's troops. Back to the hotel for a siesta, then out at 7:30 for food. A burger, fries and shrimp at a small place on a side street. Felt like we might have eaten with locals.
Thursday, Oct 12. Train to Barcelona.
Hotel breakfast. It was a national holiday and we heard an orchestra and choir but after packing up and heading for the train station we discovered it was only someone's stereo. A steep push up to the station. Since it was a holiday, the train schedules were different than we were expecting. The ticket machine didn't like Dave's card, but the ticket office opened and Dave bought tickets to Barcelona. With plenty of time to get the bikes on the train, we actually were able to hang the bikes in the proper places. Long ride but lots to see. And there was a conductor aboard, the first we had seen in Spain. It turns out that we could have bought tickets on the train. Arrived in Barcelona, and planned to continue the train ride to the rail stop near the hotel. Unfortunately, Dave left the secure station area and had to buy a 4 euro ticket to go further, bought 2 tickets but only needed one. Found the hotel, checked in, and went down the street to a bakery for a sandwich. Then took the hotel shuttle bus to the airport to find bike boxes. Found that the luggage consignment group in Terminal 1 sells boxes, bubble wrap, and tape. But we will be leaving from Terminal 2 and the luggage consignment office there doesn't have boxes. Arranged for the boxes to be transferred to Terminal 2 to pick up Friday. Took the train into town, walked La Rambla, and found the Beerlinale place again. Had a pint of red, Sir Francis Drake, with a mushroom croquet. Why do we keep ordering these croquettes? They aren't very good. Made our way towards the Thai restaurant but it didn't open until 8;30. Waited around a bit and eventually the door opened. Spring rolls, green curry, noodles. Really good. Then to the hotel after a confusing subway ride.
Friday, Oct 13. In Barcelona.
Back to the bakery for a croissant, coffee, and a chorizo cheese thing. Repeat. Then the hotel bus to the airport to tell the luggage consignment people that we were mistaken about our flight plans and would be back for the boxes on Saturday. They said, "What boxes?". Arranged for boxes to be transferred, but made plans to arrive at the airport early to take care of the box thing, if needed. Forgot the subway pass, so spent 8 euros; on train fare to go one stop to the hotel to get the pass. Subwayed to the Mexican restaurant at the arena/mall and had the chipotle chicken thing again. Told the owner we had been here two times last year and had to come back. He seemed appreciative. Took the subway to La Rambla and walked, shopped, and had a gelato. Bought some wine for later.
Saturday, Oct 15. Fly to Amsterdam.
Back to the bakery down the street for coffee and a croissant. Repeat. Sharry continued to train the clerk to make a cappuccino. Rode away from the hotel about 10am, and took the subway to the airport. It turns out that it is an easy and free bike ride to the airport, but we will have to remember that for next time. Bike boxes were available, so established ourselves near the Transavia ticket counter and prepared to pack. But first, Dave wanted to get plastic bubble wrap, so he took the bus with the international go around in a circle sign to the other terminal where the boxes were originally. They sold the wrap by the meter, so Dave bought 9 meters for 27 euros, and took the go around in a circle bus back to terminal 2. Did a fantastic packing job, finishing about 12pm, just as the ticket counter opened for our flight. The manager said our boxes were too big. How is that? One of the agents showed us that the box was too tall to fit through the x-ray machine, so Dave demonstrated his cardboard expertise by reducing the height of the box. Another roll of tape and, a little more than an hour later, we fit through the x-ray machine. We wondered why do they sell a bike box that is too big? A burger and fries and headed to the gate. Lost our laundry detergent to the screeners. Flight over the Pyrenees provided a glimpse of future possibilities. Bikes arrived in Amsterdam, but one of the boxes arrived with a collapsed edge, so it wouldn't stay on the luggage trolley very well. Headed downstairs to the luggage storage area, arranged to leave the bikes for 2 days, then made for the hotel bus. Waited and waited. Finally the bus came and it was a full load. Checked in with the same receptionist that we had talked to about biking in the parking lot and she remembered us, hopefully because we were so nice and kind and not because we were complaining. Dinner at the hotel restaurant, the pesto pasta and ravioli. Not quite as good as the first time, perhaps the because of the size of the crowd. The patrons next to us were there before us, but didn't get served the whole time we were there.
Sunday, Oct 15. In Amsterdam.
Breakfast in the hotel, another big spread, then took the bus to the airport. Posed for pictures in the cockpit display.
Decided to re-box the bike that arrived with the wrinkled box, but they were sold out of their really nice boxes. Bought the available box and re-packaged Dave's bike, arranged to store it, and trained into Amsterdam. Walked towards a big carnival and spent lots of time taking pictures of the rides. Walked and shopped our way towards the pasta place. Stumbled across a juggling store, but it was closed. Found a beer bar selling Lagunitas IPA on tap, and lots of others. Shared some music tips with the bartender. Tired of walking, we took the train and bus back to the hotel.
Monday, Oct 16, To home.
Up early to pack and caught the 8am bus to the airport. Retrieved our 2 bikes in boxes and the large duffel bag from luggage storage. 265 euros to store the duffel for 6 weeks and bikes for 2 days. Decided not to repack Sharry's bike. Hauled everything upstairs to the departure level. The flight info display said Air Canada was at aisle 29, so we waited in line. Sharry finally made it the the ticket counter where the agent said we should be at aisle 22. Hauled everything across the concourse and waited in line, again. Bike boxes were only charged 80 euros, while the duffle went for free. We told the agent that the bikes weighed 25kgs, and the the tires were flat. Dropped the big stuff at the oversized baggage counter, but had to carry everything through the door, into the back, to the x-ray machine. A couple of packed bikes were right behind us, and their packaging was brilliant. A smaller cardboard box the size of the frame and fork, but wide enough to include both wheels. Seemed easy to handle and much stronger. Another burger and fries before the delayed flight. Fortunately, this meant that we would have a shorter layover in Toronto, for another burger, fries and a local beer. Bike boxes arrived at LAX, the newer box with Dave's bike intact, but the other one with Sharry's bike was falling apart, with the inspection tape holding it together. Why inspect the contents if it has been x-rayed? Home by 11pm, really beat after a long day.
326 miles of riding. Mechanics were almost flawless. No flats. A single brake adjustment on Dave's bike was required as we were leaving Tossa. And one of Sharry's rack bolts came undone while riding the dirt roads to Montgo, but Dave had spares. The special spacer was not to be found, and a collection of washers was used to fill up the void.
But what did we learn? No reason to arrive with significant cash. Converting money before the trip turned out to be more expensive than withdrawals at ATMs in Europe. Not much need for paper maps. Dave carried 1.5kgs of maps that were interesting but the phone map was more than adequate. Get a European SIMM card. There is no reason to deny yourself the ability to communicate when away from a wifi source. And no need to obsess about the safety of the bike in transit. A cardboard box works, subject to availability.
last updated 15 Nov, 2017