Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Road Trip!

After our amazing visit with Ron and Darrell (blog on the visit coming as soon as Becca finishes her other job uploading pictures), the three of us headed to Bordeaux, picked up our rental car (complete with space age starter system) and headed off towards our eventual destination of Barcelona. In the five days that followed we visited caves with prehistoric paintings and amazing geologic formations, a perfectly preserved 13th century walled fortress city, the former home of Salvador Dali, and all the gourmet truck stops in between.

Here's a (somewhat) brief rundown of our car based findings.

Day 1: Drove from Bordeaux to Montpezat de Quezay, France (try finding that one on your maps) where we stayed at a wonderful pension hosted by an artist couple and their three dogs. During the day we took a pit stop to visit the Pech Merle caves where our tour guide took us underground to visit prehistoric drawings and admire the impressive geological structures that abounded. Here's a english version of the tour we took. The hall of discs were our favorite though as far as I'm concerned, they still don't beat Marvel Cave...

Day 2: Drove from Montpezat de Quezay to Gincla, France. Our midday stop was to the aforementioned fortress city of Carcassonne. A beautiful piece of history but it reminded me a bit too much like Disneyland as the entire thing was tourists. Having been to other medieval towns that still functioned as actual towns, to see nothing but hotels and chotchzkies was a bit much for me. The highlight of the day though came from our pension where we ended up having a four course gourmet meal (check out the pics under the Gincla tag) that included a cheese course that had something like 12 different cheeses. Needless to say our waitress wanted us to learn plenty about cheese and our gastronomical systems were out of whack for at least a few days (That that could have been due to these).

Day 3: Drove from Gincla, France to Cadaques, Spain. We took a few hours out of the day to explore the Haute Corbieres region and the Gorges de Galamus. We stopped at one point to hike up some seriously steep hills (and be impressed at how strong Mom´s leg has become) to visit the ruins of Peyrepertuse, one of the chateaux of the Haute Corbieres (a series of mountain-capping castle ruins at the foothills of the Pyrenees built by the Cathars). The drive from Gincla down to Spain was a perfect example of what can happen when one goes too fast on small roads and miss the town signs one is looking for. Some adventurous driving was also had getting our way through the Pyrenees and into Cadaques itself. That's all the info I can give. If you want more, you'll have to buy the book :-)

Cadaques itself is a beautiful town right along the Spanish coast and for me reminded me a lot of what the Italian coastline would look like with tiny towns and lots of beautiful mother nature in between. Our hotel was right on the water with a lovely terrace, though on the day we arrived it was thunderstorming so instead we walked around the bay into town through the rivers of water on the streets and got wet.

Day 4: No Driving! We spent the day exploring Cadaques and relaxing. Took a walk over to the next cover to gaze at Dali's house (it was closed) and toured a fascinating local museum exhibit that was profiling pictures done of Dali by a lifelong friend. (Basic take-away? The man was WEIRD.) The rest of the day was spent hanging out on our hotel porch reading and just generally recharging our batteries.

Becca and I also watched the thrilling conclusion of the 38th annual cricket match between one of the local hotels and "The Rest of the World". The match was held in the center of town on the local boule courts with fielders standing in the streets, in front of local cafes, etc. Despite the fact that half of the guys playing wouldn't know a cricket bat or ball (due to the city surroundings they used a tennis ball) from a hole in the ground everyone was dressed in their whites and with the assistance of an Aussie tourist they pulled in as a referee, it almost felt like the real thing. The game featured at least five languages (and even more countries represented), players spanning 5 decades, and an exciting conclusion with the local hotel winning 37-35. A really cool local tradition that you could only stumble up upon on a trip like this...

Day 5: Cadaques to Barcelona. Pit stop in Girona to visit the Call, the city's Jewish quarter and wander the medieval streets. Interesting to look into a section of town that we've now seen in a number of countries and to contemplate all the things the Jews and Moors and others (like the Cathars) brought to Spanish (and Western European) culture before they were expelled and/or persecuted. Other than that, pretty smooth sailing into Barcelona!

It was nice to get out and explore some areas via car that we wouldn't have seen with the train, bus and foot strategy we've employed so far. It was interesting to see the terrain change over time from the fertile vineyards of France through the Pyrenees to the waterfront of Spain and into the big city of Barcelona. Thanks again to Mom Bloomfield for helping make this part of the trip happen...


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