¡Iberian Espectacular! – Days 1 and 2

In Travel by Abhi1 Comment

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Another trip, another ride report! As you may remember, Vy and I recently spent a couple of weeks exploring the Iberian Peninsula on a BMW R1200RS. Most fun international motorcycle trips have to start with a boring flight, so let’s get that out of the way…


If you want more details on how we picked our destination and our choice of vehicle, check out the “Out of Office” post I shared before we left. Otherwise, let’s begin:

June 2nd, 2018 – Los Angeles, California to Charlotte, North Carolina: ~2,400 miles
Over the years, I’ve used generic luggage to transport my gear. It’s been adequate, but after attending several launches in the last few months I’ve seen the benefits of motorcycle-specific luggage. I decided to splurge on the bag that almost every motorcycle journalist seems to take on planes with them, a Ogio Rig 9800. It’s quite pricey at $279, though I was able to find mine on closeout at 2Wheel for $179.

The bag is designed to take gear for one person instead of two, but I was hoping I could cram in helmets, jackets, pants, gloves, and boots for both Vy and I. First, I had to verify just how much cargo capacity this giant bag had:

It was a very tight fit, but I was able to get all of our gear inside the Rig. The key was to hide certain pieces of gear in others – Vy’s jacket fit inside of mine, gloves were put inside of helmets, socks were put inside of boots, etc. I have a terrible habit of waiting until the last possible minute to start packing, and that will probably continue until the day that it bites me in the ass. This wasn’t that day, so I’m still a procrastinator!

With everything squared away, it was just a matter of waiting for the flight to take off. Our final destination was Barcelona, but we had a short layover in Charlotte, North Carolina. The only thing I remember about the airport was an opportunity for me to try a new beer. My assumption was that the beers in Spain would be below-average, so i figured I’d get my last fix here and then enjoy wines once I was across the ocean.

Welcome to Carolina Beer Company. They apparently have a former ambulance that’s been converted into a mobile bar to dispense at parties and events. It’s called the “Ambrewlance”.

It may have been authentic, but it wasn’t inspiring.

It may not have been inspiring, but it was better than no beer. So I enjoyed a couple of options, tried and failed to catch up on some Bike-urious posts (I still owe you some bike and gear reviews, and it wasn’t until just this week that I was able to get you my recap of this year’s Quail), and then got ready to sleep on the flight to Barcelona.


June 3rd, 2018 – Charlotte, North Carolina to Barcelona, Spain: ~4,400 miles
Due to some issues with how American Airlines and British Airlines communicate with each other, Vy and I were given seats that weren’t next each to other. We were able to work it out as part of the seat dance that always seems to happen on international flights – we ended up meeting a welder from North Carolina who was being flown to Barcelona to work on a ship. He was booked on the flight with less than 24 hours notice! I thought this was fascinating, but for him it was old news and he just wanted to get to his destination. After having 4 different people consecutively ask him if he could move so that certain people could sit together, I can’t blame him.

A couple of movies and several hours later, and we landed in Barcelona in the early afternoon. Vy and I landed on a Sunday but our motorcycle would not be available for pickup until Monday morning, so we had half a day to get to our hotel and explore the city on foot.

As you may remember from the first post of this series, one of the options I considered using for this trip was the Yamaha Niken. That wasn’t feasible for a few reasons, but it still hurt when our taxi drove us right by this building within a few minutes of leaving the airport. Turns out it’s the headquarters of Yamaha Spain.

The Niken is a LMW (leaning multi-wheeler, and it is crazy.

Approximately 30 minutes later, we arrived at our hotel.

This was the only place we booked before arriving in Spain. When we’re on the road, we only plan hotels one night in advance.

We freshened up, hit the city, and were rudely welcomed by constant drizzle. The sheer amount of motorcycles and scooters around made up for it. Within 15 minutes I encountered a Suzuki DR BIG, and I immediately knew that this was going to be a good trip.

These are nearly impossible to find in the US – in the last three years I’ve only found one for sale.

The DR BIG (also known as the Desert Express) was a production version of the DR-Z (a Paris-Dakar racer piloted by Gaston Rahier). Initially released as the DR 750 in 1988, it featured the world’s largest single cylinder engine in a production bike – only to get topped by the DR800 in 1990. Earlier bikes had a larger fuel tank to go with the 727cc, 52 horsepower thumper. For more information, check out this summary from Suzuki Cycles.

I couldn’t wait to see what other rare-to-me bikes I’d find on this trip.

While I build a gallery of my favorite 2-wheelers from Spain, you can enjoy a few from previous trips:
Cuba
Brazil
Costa Rica
Paris

Ignoring bikes, there was still plenty for Vy and I to enjoy in our neighborhood of Barcelona…including a semi-familiar sight:

Dunkin’ Donuts operates in 36 countries, but they’re not able to use their original name in 1 of them – Spain. A large Spanish company had already trademarked the term “Donuts”, so Dunkin’ currently goes by “Dunkin’ Coffee” here.

“Thot” has a very unflattering meaning in English, so I assumed it meant something different in Spanish. Apparently not.

Vy spotted this gigantic cat statue and had to get a photo with it.

It’s the creation of a Colombian sculptor named Fernando Botero, and it’s had a few homes in Barcelona since 1987.

We got a late lunch at a local cafe, and I asked our waiter for a beer recommendation. He suggested something from Australia.

The menu said nothing about this ale being “sparkling.” As GOB would say on Arrested Development, I’ve made a huge mistake.

Then it was time to walk off those sparkling calories. This is when Vy is at her happiest on her trips – walking away from me!

Her walk took us alongside a protest, and the yellow ribbon in the background tells the story. In October of last year, Catalonia attempted to declare independence from Spain. It was a messy affair that hasn’t resulted in any official changes as the Spanish government quickly took steps to shut down separatists. The Spanish Prime Minister dissolved the entire Catalonian Parliament and dismissed the Executive Council of Catalonia, and the Spanish government charged several Catalan cabinet ministers with charges including rebellion, sedition, and embezzlement. Some fleed and some were jailed – the yellow ribbon is a symbol of support for political prisoners.

You’ll see yellow ribbons and the phrase “Llibertat presos politicos” (“free political prisoners”) all over the place in Catalonia.

You’ll also see classic architecture. This is the entrance to Museu Frederic Marès, a collection of thousands of personal items from the sculptor.

There are little details everywhere in this city, and it’s impossible to notice them all. The fake columns of this doorway are topped with intricate carving, and it feels like it’s taken for granted.

This is more of a well-organized monument to hoarding than a museum, but it’s still a delight. The museum specifically calls the second and third floors the “Collector’s Cabinet” because there’s really no better word to describe Marès than to call him a collector. There’s an entire floor dedicated to sculptures, but I was most intrigued by the “Cabinet” full of guns, stamps, pocket watches, canes, pipes, and other goodies.





This lion’s head was my favorite of the pipes.

There’s even some vintage bicycles.

It’s not as extreme as a penny-farthing, but it still does not inspire confidence.

Interesting pedals.

Note the rear brake. It’s string-operated and works by applying friction to the “tread” of the wheel.

But by far the most interesting thing was in the courtyard. Meet the “Dancing Egg”:

It’s a tradition that goes back to 1637, marking the Catholic tradition of Corpus Christi in Catalonia.

Per a flyer next to the fountain, the dancing egg “symbolises the Eucharist, the white egg, like the Host, rising over the flowers of the fountain as it hovers over the chalice adorned with red cherries like rubies.” The egg is emptied, sealed with wax, and then used to entertain locals and tourists alike. This was one of 4 or 6 different fountains that perform the tradition in Barcelona. Look at that egg go!

If you don’t plan on heading to Barcelona any time soon, you can check out a virtual tour of the museum here. Unfortunately, it doesn’t show any egg action.

Vy’s been to Barcelona before, and she mentioned that the nearby Barcelona City History Museum was worth a visit because they have a well-executed exhibit that features some of the ancient Roman structures that form a foundation of current-day Barcelona.

Barcino was the name bestowed upon this town at the time of Roman reign, specifically around 14 AD as Caesar Augustus’ rule was coming to an end.

The museum has several sites across the city but the headquarters opened in 1943 in the Gothic Quarter. It’s built on top of over 43,000 square feet of the ancient Roman city, and you can explore the area on a suspended walkway that shows old houses, factories, shops, and streets.

This was the interior of one of 78 towers of the Roman wall surrounding the city. Walls often used recycled stones from other features, which is why the middle stone has an inscription on it.

This was a great way to let people get up close to the construction of yore.

This was a salted fish factory – the large vessels were used to store garum, a fermented fish sauce used as a condiment.

When I asked you for suggestions on what to see during this trip, one recommendation for Barcelona was to visit Museu Moto Barcelona. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see.

This is my sad face. Turns out the museum closed in October 2017 and there’s no plans for it to return at the moment.

Knowing that we’d want to pick up the bike and get on the road as early as possible the next day, Vy and I set out to find a place to eat dinner before retiring for the night.

We decided this probably wasn’t the best option, though I later found out it was highly reviewed. Still, that’s a weird thing to name a dining establishment.

We consulted Vy’s Lonely Planet book and decided to eat at La Vinateria del Call, which claims to be the oldest wine bar in Barcelona. It was an excellent meal that started a tradition of trying to order patatas bravas whenever possible.

Cover anything in good sauce and I’m set.

Vy and I retreated to our room to estimate our schedule and plan how far we wanted to go on our first day. The initial plan is to cut west into Borja, and then head back out to the coast to do a lap of the peninsula.

This funky lady greeted us back at the hotel.

Tomorrow morning, we hit the road!


Day 3 – June 4th, 2018 – Barcelona, Spain to Valencia, Spain: ~475 miles

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