"It's all enormous. It's all incredible. In the end we managed to win finals. We won this one after suffering a lot and now it's time to celebrate."

--Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso.
This fits. The only thing that I'd add is that suffering on a bike is cause for celebration.

The Plan

Hola mes amis. That's right, Spanish and French in the same sentence.

Once again this summer Selena and I are off on another adventure. This time we've got three weeks in France and Spain planned. Should be great!

The plan goes like this:
>fly into Barcelona on Saturday, July 18
>rent a car and travel to the Hautes-Pyrénées in France on July 19 where we will be camping by the roadside for 3 nights
>catch Stage 16 (July 20) of the Tour de France on the famous Col d'Aubisque
>enjoy the Tour's Rest day by cycling my guts out around the Haute-Pyrenees (July 21) and challenging some of the most famous cols (climbs) of the Tour de France
>catch Stage 17 (July 22) of the Tour on the famous Col du Tourmalet, which will be the stage finish
>Enjoy July 23 somewhere in France hopefully cycling around copious grapes and doing significant sampling ;)
>Spend a week (July 24-31) living in an apartment in Girona, Spain (Cataluña Province), the European home-base of a majority of the North American contingent of the pro peloton (that's pro bike riders for you non-roadies :)
>PS Our great friends Rod and Deanna Rawding will be joining us for the week in Girona. So what will the week look like, you ask? Let's just say that Rod and I will spend as much time riding the training routes of the pros as we can get away with; Selena and Deanna will run often and enjoy the beaches of the Costa Brava; and altogether we will enjoy the cafes and tapas bars daily
>On July 31 we will say adios to our pals and to Girona and once again rent a car and spend our last five days touring the Costa Brava
>fly home Thursday, August 5

As per usual, I'd like to share as much of the experience with all of you as possible via this little blog, so as with the past two summers, please check in on us as much as possible and do drop us a comment to let us know that you were by.

You never know what once-in-a-lifetime experiences the road may provide as I found out last year. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 2, 2010


We're well into the third and final phase of our summer adventure. Having been to France and the Tour and ridden/beached in Girona, we've landed once again well on our feet in a place called Villafranca del Penedes...the French village. But I'm a little bit ahead of myself. On Saturday, we got a second car (PS to get this car, I got up, power walked to the bus station, caught the 9:30 bus to Costa Brava Airport, got in the short line-up at the Hertz desk, realized that I had left my driver's licence and passport back at the apartment...caught a cab back to Girona at 30 Euros, super-power walked back to the bus station, caught the 11:00 bus to airport, got in the L-O-N-G line-up at the Hertz desk, and rented a car :(

Ok where was I? Right, we rented the car and drove first north out of Girona to Figueres home to the Dali Theatre Museum. This is a museum that Salvador Dali (the surrealist) designed and created himself in his home town to specifically showcase his work. Having been (twice) to the world's second largest collection of his work in St. Pete's, Florida, this was on our list (or maybe my list). Incredible, mind-blowing, insert your own superlative here! I guess to keep it short, here's the bullet list of what most amazed me:
  • Dali was a multi-media artist--not just a painter, he did sculpture, jewelry, holograms, stereoscopes, movies, writing...it goes on.
  • The volume of work. This guy must have been at it ALL the time to have produced so vast a collection...what was his day like? Did he ever sleep? or not produce art?...like ever!? Think about sourcing the material...did he have a staff to handle these types of issues or was it all on his own? His mind must have been able to be creating in the moment and dreaming up the next 4 pieces to come as he was creating.
  • For something specific: ok, he did these paintings on a normal, flat, two-dimensional canvas. He would lay these paintings flat and put a wine bottle that's painted with a mirror-like reflective treatment in front of the painting...the idea is to look at the image of the image of the painting that's reflected in the bottle...IMAGINE PAINTING ON FLAT CANVAS AND PUTTING IT DOWN SO THAT IT WOULD BE PROPERLY REFLECTED IN A ROUND BOTTLE...how do you even come up with the idea?
  • I said I would keep this short, right? Lastly, we got to see Dali's most famous painting, The Persistence of Memory...click here to see it.

The couch (part of a larger, multi-piece sculpture)

A sculpture descending from the ceiling - the long tail is made of spoons (where would he have gotten all the spoons?)

The persistence of memory

Crazy stuff!

Dream come true...or too much wine?

Put lightly, the rest of the day finished the way it started out. After the museum, we drove south to Villafranca and were sort of painted into the corner of staying at a "Hotel Basic" in an industrial park on the fringe of town. PS for dinner...MacDonald's...this is not exactly the dream evening in Spain, but it was a necessary means to a perfect end. I should say though that we had the incredible blind luck (some call it mojo) to show up in Villafranca during a Castell competition. Castells are human towers or pyramids. I caught one on video, but it's been a pain to get uploaded - sorry. Fromone of the castells, two of the three kids that went to the top fell (like a ton of bricks) from the top to the heads/shoulders of the base group...you want to have seen my reaction...visceral. Oh man, I couldn't believe what I had just saw.

That 'end' (as in the means to an) was the County of Alt Penedes itself (Villafranca being the major town). There is only one way to sum up this area of Spain...'wine country' for on the outskirts of Villafranca lie the vineyards of the famous Torres Family Winery among others. Again, I'm ahead of myself.

We strolled into a small (really small) town called Pacs del Penedes on Sunday morning looking for a place to call home base for a few days. We didn't find it, at least we didn't find it there. What we did find was a lady named Maria who made several calls around town on her mobile (cell phone) in hopes of finding us a place to stay. She also informed us that (mojoistically) we happened into this down on the first day of "Festa Major" and that in 'una houra' the square would be filled with costumed revelers, and the drac (a dragon sculpture from which they set off the loudest fireworks in the world). It was hard to believe that this all was going to happen in the very sleepy very quiet little square, but really, everyone was at Sunday masse, and sure enough, they poured out of the church and the fun, dance, music, and fireworks started as scheduled. Within 10 minutes of meeting Maria and her husband, we were on our second glass of Champagne.

Our friends in the square in Pacs del Penedes

Kids dancing with cool costumes and even cooler masks

I beat one of the up and took the mask :)

After enjoying the early afternoon in Pacs, we eventually scored BIG TIME with our B&B accommodation within walking distance to the Torres winery. It's called Cal Santi, and I can't even begin to tell you how perfect it is. Once settled, I built the bikes back up and we went on a short spin about the vineyards. The day was capped with a bottle of wine on the terrace.

A ride around the vineyards

Great end to a great day

This morning it was up, breakfast of coffee, croissants, cheese, ham, and the cool Spanish tradition of rubbing a small tomato on a piece of toast and drizzling a little olive oil on top...killer! Once fueled up, we set off for a tour of the Torres winery. We first became interested in the Torres family when we attended a tasting seminar put on by a representative of the Torres family at the wine festival in Moncton. The seminar was inspiring, and well, here we are. We were toured through the entire process: first a video of the family history, then a tunnel where they attempt to give you a sense of the aromas (sense of the scents?) throughout the four seasons of wine making. Next we boarded a train and were paraded through the winery and estate were we came face to face with each set in the process, from harvest, to fermentation, oak aging in the cellars, bottling and corking. It finished with an eight-wine tasting which included Mas La Plana. We actually have been saving a bottle of Mas La Plana at home that we got at the seminar in Moncton. It was great to sneak a taste without having to cork our bottle and also to walk the vineyard that produced the grapes for that bottle of wine.

What can I say, I just follow the signs around here :)

Mas La Plana

Wine lovers Disney

The Torres family home among the vineyard

The Cabernet Sauvignon of Mas La Plana

Oak aging in the cellar

Five eighths of our tasting!

After the tour, we were off to the beaches of Villanova...nice sand, warm water, and the ultimate beach treat, French fries and beer.

A happy girl at the beach

Seleno at the beach

Post-beach recovery nutrition

Sunset on the terrace (at Cal Santi B&B)

Seleno on the terrace

That brings me to right now...about to put my only collared shirt on and head down stairs to the family meal here at the B & B...three courses and wine included for 20 Euros per person. Can't wait. Thanks for reading, sorry I can't seem to keep it short - so much to share.

PS Hopefully tomorrow will be a big day on the bikes, then it's off to the beach on Wednesday and home on Thursday...it'll be good to get home for a rest!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you are closing out your trip with some fantastic activities and memories. Enjoy your final hours. Safe trip back home to good ol' Nova Scotia!