Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Spain's Oldest City - Cádiz, Spain

Coming from Rota, I had mapped out my route and with prior research, thought to myself that the trek to Cádiz would be quick and easy!  Well, naturally, the world does not operate on making the first day of my bike tour go as planned.  I read numerous forums and research about using roads in Spain for bicycles.  As long as it is not an Autopista or a high interchange area of an autovista, bicycles are allowed to go along their merry way.  Not in all cases.  N-443 proved that point quite quickly as bicycles are not allowed due to the bridge which then made what was going to be a 'less than four hours' ride into an eight hour spin.  Although, aside from the tribulations of getting to the ancient city of Cádiz, the struggle made the enjoyment of the area all the more valuable!  Once I passed through the city gates, I eagerly followed la Avenida del Puerto to my host's apartment for it was all downhill!  My host for the night, Vittorio, was truly incredible!  Once I arrived and enjoyed a small siesta as per the Spanish culture, took me out on his moto for a quick glance at the city and then we enjoyed the last few hours of beach time before heading to Casa Manteca.  The Spanish version of a 'hole-in-the-wall', this place was a corner bar themed with the history of bullfighting and had a great stock of local Sherry!  The next morning, I began my wanderings about the city with no set agenda for the day.  Riding about aimlessly, I discovered the unexpected!  The botanical gardens took me by the greatest surprise with the boundless beauty of this public park!  Pictured below in the enter is the southern end of the park that runs along the sea wall of the northwestern corner of the peninsula.  After knocking around the cobblestones on my bicycle, the time of day came for lunch and no better place to do that is on some random street in the heart of the city by which ever one smells the most appealing!  While sitting there enjoying my Iberian pork and house beer, I let the hubbub of activity surround me on all sides.  I caught the first image of the post from my table as the crowds were dispersing to head home for the soon-to-be siesta time.  But, before I headed back to relax myself, I found the public market and scouted out the various vendors for the fruit that look the most savory and the best deal for the day.  This was the day that I felt I absorbed the Spanish life to the fullest as I made my entire purchase of apples, bananas, oranges, and a cluster of grapes all in the native tongue!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Iglesia Mayor Prioral - El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain

As I nervously began my trek from Rota to Cadiz, in a land I have never been before and learning to wean myself off of technology and more importantly - GPS, I found my to the city center where I also discover 'la Iglesia Mayor Prioral' or Priory Church in the heart of El Puerto de Santa Maria.  After numerous traffic circles with limited signage and getting slightly lost in the single direction streets that were only wide enough for the standard European compact car and a pedestrian, which I was much wider than the average individual walking with my bike trailer in tow!  Needless to say, there were a few close calls on my way down to Plaza de España.  Once I say the opening of the plaza, I caught glimpse of a large tour group and a fair number of them had their cameras pointed up into the air and that had me wondering what they were so entranced by and then out of the simple stucco houses came a massive sandstone facade to my left.  Then I knew what had their attention for it had mine as well!  What I was looking at was what would be considered the main entrance known as the 'Door of Forgiveness', dating back to the original building of the current structure in 1486 - before Columbus set sail to "find India".  The doors were undergoing restoration but from what I could see, they were truly a piece of art!  As I continued on, I wanted to explore the interior of the church in the worst way but my stomach was telling me something was much more important and that was food.  I chose the cafe nearest the open door to the church for it was the closest and the aroma coming from the little cafe was quite appealing.  While I sat and enjoyed a cup of coffee and my meal, I scanned the entire face of the church looking at me in amazement of all the detail surrounding the door yet the barren walls of the outermost exterior but the more elaborate inner.  Reason being... various styles of architecture over numerous centuries.  This church is a museum of architectural styles from 1486 to the late 1600's which spanned the great eras of Gothic, Baroque and the height of the Spanish Plateresque styles.  Once I finished up my recovery meal, I was ready to see what await inside!  Stepping over the large threshold of the centuries old door, I was in awe of what I had just ventured into on the beginning of my World Tour.  Knowing that people had been bending knee to worship in this church as long as the Discovery of the Americas was amazing enough, but the beauty of the nave was beyond powerful!  As I was new to exploring Spain, I was taken by surprise by the organ and how variant it was from what I am accustomed to seeing and playing!  I was aware of how the Spanish love their trumpets, but the ornate decorations and amount of painting was a whole new concept to me!  All in all, this was most definitely a pleasant surprise for me to stumble upon on my first break along my bicycle tour of Europe!

Gone to the Beach - Rota, Spain

Arriving to Europe ahead of schedule, I had some time to kill!  What a better way to let time pass other than spending it on the beach trying to acquire any bit of skin tone possible!?  Well lathered in SPF30, I took on the beaches throughout the day, but nothing compared to how the typical Spaniard does the beach!  Around 2 o'clock, the hillside town of Rota nearly closes down entirely and everyone grabs their towel and beach chair in their arms then makes their way down to the sand for the next five or six hours.  I learned then that they while return to work for a small evening shift, close up shop again, and then return to the beach if they choose and watch the sunset while the children play some more!  Or, they go out on the town until near-sunrise the next day!  As my internal clock was trying to figure itself out, I was amazed by the fact at 10 in the morning, I nearly had a private beach with perfect weather!  The advantage over them sleeping in late from the night's activities that I feel some enjoy too much...  Of the two that I was fortunate enough to enjoy were El Rompidillo, pictured above, which I thought was the most scenic of the beaches with the old town surrounding the outer reaches of the sandy playground.  La Costilla is where you went if you wanted fun in the sun - or in the Atlantic!  My last night in Rota, I was blessed with the chance to watch the sun set over the Atlantic (quite the change for I am used to seeing sunrises over said ocean) on a rooftop where I had the most remarkable barbeque and great company to share the great sunset!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Finding Our Lady of the O - Rota, Spain

Once I had my bicycle back together, I began exploring immediately!  I found my way to the old town and meandered up a nearby hill to scout out what I could see within the skyline.  A bell tower adorned with a cross caught my eye and I then headed down hill to check it out!  Easier said than done.  Once I rode down along the shoreline drive, the maze of old streets began.  Finding my once easily spotted features became impossible in the narrow streets with buildings three stories high.  Not only that, a majority of the streets are one direction and I found myself much further from where I needed to be quite quickly!  After going in a few odd shaped circles, I decided to go the a way that I had not tried yet - the wrong way down a one way "path".  There was no way that cars could possibly use this street as narrow as it was but to my surprise about half way down comes a compact car.  I lucked out and came onto a large doorway and ducked in to let them pass by without an issue!  Then, after that, I continued down to come upon a plaza that I had not encountered yet and made my way down a few bending streets.  Behold!  What I had been searching for had finally been found after what seemed to be hours!  

But, naturally with my luck, I made this discovery during the siesta time and would have to come back in a few hours to see what await on the inside!  In the meantime, I found other ways that were more legal for my return route and decided to acquire some Spanish sun on the beach with a friend.  After our time on the beach, we headed back to her top floor apartment to relax when the sound of horse hooves filled the air.  I got excited as a kid on Christmas morning after we realized it was a wedding carriage!  Scrambling to get to my camera on the polished marble floor, I was skating in a fury to and fro!  In the end, I missed my opportunity to see the carriage in action but later found it at the church!  Sure enough, the couple that were ridding down the cobblestone streets earlier were committing their vows to each other when I passed through the old wooden doors of the Church of Our Lady of the O.  As I entered the church, the mix of architectural styles surprised me of what seemed to be a simple Hispanola Gothic style exterior.  The interior held styles from Gothic to Renaissance to Baroque all meshing together in their own way throughout the nave and side chapels.  Notably, the chapel pictured above is the one that truly captivated my attention as I was lost in the elaborate tile work and finite detail of all this incredible place held within it's small space.  Stepping out into the grand interior of the nave but remaining undetected from the ongoing wedding ceremony, the altar was what caught my eye from the opposite end of the sanctuary!  Tremendous craftsmanship went into the detailed paneling that fills the sanctuary with a warm feeling of the rich tones of the wood contrasting to the stone vaults hanging high above the witnesses to the marriage to two young Spaniards on their happiest day.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fiesta de la Utra - Rota, Spain

Upon my arrival in Rota, I was expecting a small and quiet little coastal town with sleepy streets.  Little did I know, the night I arrived the entire city was preparing for their annual festival celebrating 'urta a la roteña' which is a very popular fish dish for the city.  Needless to say, the city was filled with everything but tranquility!  The old quarter of the town was decorated with lights, paper lanterns and sequin fish hanging all throughout the streets.  Being the fiesta was about the 'urta', what a better way to celebrate it than have a food tasting competition between all the various restaurants of Rota!  Using the fish in traditional ways to modern and even cross-cultural, the aroma of fish, spices, and more filled the salty air and of course, I tried more than I probably should have!  Aside from the food, there was a small carnival for all the children to partake on rides and bungee jump on a trampoline, which I will admit I wanted to do in the worst way!  All in all, I found a pleasant surprise in what I thought was going to be a quiet, little sea town of Rota.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

First day on Spanish Streets - Rota, Spain

Stepping out onto the streets of coastal Spain and seeking new sites to discover, mostly everything was new to me.  I say that because a few friends that have been stationed at the Naval Base in Rota told me about "the hands in the middle of a circle - you can't miss them" as a landmark to find places that they recommended and sure enough, the hands are an easy find and impossible to miss!  Aside from that abstract art, I found the streets themselves very beautiful yet strange.  Having spent most of my time here in Europe in the German-speaking world with precise engineering and efficiency in their cities, the streets were a new twist for me to wander about!  For the first night after landing, I stayed at a hostel that was "beach front".  I thought it was just a way to attract people because the price I paid for a night's stay could not be beach front.  I stand corrected.  The picture centered below is the street that the hostel is on and ends at the beach!  While winding around the corners of the maze that is Rota, I came across some creative graffiti which I can appreciate for the artistic value that it holds far more so than the American attempts of (illegal) street art.  On a final note, the picture below and to the left was taken on the street leading out to the Puerto de Rota and the lighthouse.  Two of my friends got me a birthday card that fits me perfectly and they told me I HAD to take it with me and take pictures of the card in strange and unique places and that was the first of any snapshots of the card to come for World Tour 2015!

Beginning of my WorldTour2015 - Rota, Spain

As the time has come for the end of my active service in the United States Navy, I have begun what numerous people have stated as a "trip of a lifetime".  Driving away from Augusta, Georgia, early in the morning with my new Specialized AWOL and all the belongings that I will have with me one this trek in the back of my car and my roommate of the past three years and best friend throughout my entire Naval career, we set out for Fayetteville, North Carolina.  Upon arrival to Pope Air Force Base which was going to be the first leg of my journey to Europe, I learned the real regulations for flying with a bicycle and had to get a quick breakdown of my brand new bicycle.  Not being all to comfortable doing the disassemble myself, we headed to the city proper to get someone that knew what they were doing have at my AWOL.  After making a few phone calls, Hawley's Bicycle World said they could help me out and Jen is the one that came to my rescue!  She worked her magic and got my ride in parts and wrapped up for the journey ahead!  After that, I was on my way to Dover, Delaware, to cross the pond to the Iberian peninsula.  Once on the ground on a late afternoon in Rota, Spain, I was ready to get ready for the WORLD TOUR!  But, that would have to wait being the bicycle shop in Rota had closed for the day.  The next morning, I lugged the long and awkward box bearing my beloved bicycle up the winding and hilly streets to Antonio's Bicycle's, I was one the last step to having my bike set to begin WT2015!  In closing of this post, I am excited to tell the upcoming tales of my travels for I created this blog when I joined the Navy to share my stories throughout my six years and now comes the biggest adventure of my life!