Vers Pont du Gard, Sitges, Valencia, Toledo
World Trip Two
Monday, June 22 2009: La Massana - Vers Pont du Gard, France
The Pyrenees in France.
We had an expectation that it would be a three hour drive from Andorra to
Julia's Dad's home in the south of France. It
turned out to be a six hour drive. The first part was lovely and
gave us more splendid views of the mountains as we dropped down to sea level
from 3,000 meters (9,000 feet).
John, me, and Jean standing on a calcified leak from the aqueduct.
We felt the local drivers were a bit impatient and discourteous as we drove down the
steep windy roads, but put this down to our driving very conservatively. But
once we entered the highways I realized that Spanish, and particularly French,
drivers are simply mad. They passed us at high speeds within inches, and they
constantly changed lanes with little or no warning. This
part of the drive kept us on our guard and made us both extra tired.
The Pont du Gard.
Ever since we picked up the rental car in Barcelona we have been under the
guidance of a GPS, which we christened the NAV Chica because her synthetic
voice offers instructions in English, but always adds a Spanish or French
suffix. The GPS worked quite well until it came to finding Julia's Dad's
home in the little village of Vers Pont du Gard in France. Chica could guide us
to the village but not to their street. So when we finally arrived in the
village Julia had to summon all of her high school French skills to ask several
locals where the avenue Santa Vittoria d"Alba was. No one knew where the street
was and in the end we were directed to a shop where it was suggested they might
know the location of the wayward avenue. Fortuitously,
as we drove through the tangle of tiny streets, we drove right past the
unheard of avenue. Voila! We were there.
After many greetings, and many cups of tea, we took advantage of the extended
daylight and went for a hike with John and Jean, our gracious hosts. They took us
on a walk that went to the 2,000 plus year old Roman built aqueduct, which the
region is famous for: the Pont du Gard. The aqueduct transported water to
various Roman cities and many parts of this ancient infrastructure are still
standing. The Romans used a mixture of concrete (still unknown to this day) and stone arches
to achieve this amazing structure. The evening ended with a wonderful dinner,
wines, and aperitif. Oh la la!
Tuesday, June 23 2009: Vers Pont du Gard, France
The castle of D"Allegre.
We took a hike through the lovely southern French woods this morning. We
went, via an initial short climb up a hill, to the remains of the Chateau
D"Allegre; which is a ruined castle.
The leaning tower of Uzes.
From here we had spectacular views of the countryside. This was a mix of
vineyards, forests, a river, and a several escarpments. The escarpments pushed
up ancient sedimentary layers of sand stone which jutted browns, grays, and
yellows into the otherwise dark greens of the surrounds. We continued our walk
to the Chapel St. Saturnin which rests on the summit of the hill. Despite its
remote location it is still in use today. Monsieur
Saturnin was canonized for resisting some other group who believed their god
delusion to be superior to his.
After our hike John and Jean drove us to the quaint little town of Uzes. We
visited the chateau of the Duc D"Uzes (whose family has owned the place for 1000
years), and we walked around the cathedral of Uzes. We looked out over a view of
the green and fertile countryside around the town, which was filled with lush
vineyards and apricot trees bursting with yellow fruit. The town of Uzes is not
unlike so many of the medieval Spanish towns we have seen so far, containing a small maze
like center filled with old stone buildings, cobbled streets, and crumbling walls. Later in the
evening we ate a yummy French dinner and drank yummy French wines at a restaurant in a village down the road.
Vive La France!
Wednesday, June 24 2009: Vers Pont du Gard, France
John lugging a wine box while I supervise.
It gets very hot in the south of France. I really discovered this on our walk
today. The hike was rather exposed with little tree cover so we caught the full
force of the sun the whole time. This
made it tough going for me. The walk took us to a beautiful gorge where we saw
several raptors circling for thermals.
After the walk we went wine tasting. The wine in the south of France is not too
shabby. One forgets, with the onset of US, Australian, and New Zealand wines,
that the French have been doing this for a while and can make a good drop too.
John and Jean made dinner for us at their home and we drank many of the wines
from the area that night. In fact, I had way too much and had a bad night's sleep
to prove it.
Thanks John and Jean for your hospitality.
Thursday, June 25 2009: Vers Pont du Gard - Sitges, Spain
The promenade at Sitges.
It was a rough night for me last night. I
got very little sleep and let's say things were flowing in the morning. But we
dragged ourselves out of bed forced down a breakfast and packed up our kit.
After saying goodbye to John and Jean we drove for four hours to Sitges back in
Sitges is just south of Barcelona and is a lovely little seaside town.
Apparently it started as an artist's colony and it has a reputation for anything
goes to this day. We used Sitges to overnight as we make our way south through
Spain. It was hot when we arrived but a thunderstorm moved in and changed the
ambiance to one of anticipation of rain, and rain it did.
Friday, June 26 2009: Sitges - Valencia, Spain
The hand that threw the holy hand grenade, or what happens when you take your
god delusion too far.
The drive from Sitges to Valencia took us three hours and had us driving through
arid but not infertile regions. Field
upon field of orange trees covers most of the dark brown dusty earth that
separates the two cities. As we passed through the Therian Peninsular we came
upon a range of mountains.
The holy grail. Well, one of them anyway.
These mountains were merely worn down ancient stubs not unlike many of the
mountains in Australia. They certainly did not reach up to the heights of their
sisters the Pyrenees. When
driving in Spain the autopistas are long and pass through empty countryside
very much like country highways in the US or Australia. Also, like the US or
Australia, they have roadside gas stations and restaurants. But unlike the US and
Australia the food in the Spanish roadside restaurants is far superior. It
includes great olives, cheeses, breads, and wines! So you can imagine that our
lunch stop today was a very pleasant experience.
We finally arrived in Valencia which is the home of the annual throwing tomatoes
competition, home of paella, and the home of the Holy Grail (and the holy hand
grenade of Antioch). Julia was amazing driving us to our hotel in the heart of the city.
She dodged cars, bikes, and pedestrians. She traversed busy streets to make
turns. And finally she bashed the car up on to a curb so we could find the
address of our hotel. As it turned out the curb Julia had parked us on was right
in front of our hotel. Muy Bien!
Saturday, June 27 2009: Valencia, Spain
Everyone was happy to share a photo with us.
We enjoyed the Museum De Belles Arts De Valencia this afternoon. Our visit
served two purposes. The
first was to spend hours viewing Spanish art from the 15th to the 18th centuries
and the second was to stay out of the midday heat. The collection was relatively
small so we were able to see most of it in our one visit. We returned to the
hotel after lunch for a siesta; as one does in Valencia. At six we were out
eating tapas and drinking sangrias with the locals.
Valencia does have tourists but it is mainly populated by locals which gives it
a more residential feel. As we walked back toward the hotel we came across a gay
pride week celebration. The streets were packed with people and several floats.
The floats were overflowing with scantily clad men and dotted with scantily clad
women. All this to the pulsing sounds of dance music and we had quite a scene
going on. The parade was reminiscent of many I have seen in San Francisco and
added to the familiarity that Valencia has for us.
Sunday, June 28 2009: Valencia - Toledo, Spain
A typical Toledo door.
Shrubs growing out of orange and yellow earth filled the landscape that
accompanied us on our four hour drive from Valencia to Toledo. At
first we were surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, but as we climbed out of
the Province of Valencia and up into the higher ground of Castilla-La Mancha the
scene became stark; in every direction we saw the brown and beige of a dry grass
The long straight and empty roads, unchanging in the baking heat of the Spanish
summer, drew us on to our destination of Toledo.
My experience of Toledo was quite sharp.
Once there we walked the dusty, crumbling, ancient labyrinth of Toledo streets.
The crooked lanes are dotted with lanterns and bars, where tourists smoke
cigarettes and drink wine as they rest from walking the hilly streets. The
medieval houses are decorated with large wooden doorways bristling with
city seems to have become more of a museum than a living city like Valencia, as
its people have moved away to sprawling suburbs.
It feels sad that a city which
almost became the capitol of Spain is now relegated to a more Disney-like
Very happy drinking my PX.
We wanted to see the art of El Greco at the Casa y Museo de El Greco but were
disappointed to find it closed due to reconstruction work. But we enjoyed our
time in the city of swords and marzipan, albeit very short.
Since landing in Spain two weeks ago there are two things we expected to find;
Pedro Ximenez sherry and Manchego cheese. But until tonight they were nowhere to
be found. While dinning at Adolfo's restaurant this evening, not only did we
partake of our two favorite Spanish foods, but we were pleasantly surprised to
be treated to the best food we have eaten in Spain thus far. If you are ever in
Toledo you must eat at Adolfo's restaurant it is comparable in culinary delight
to the best San Francisco restaurants; plus the PX and Manchego were to die for.
Miles Flown: 22,236
Miles Hiked: 258
Miles Skied: 2
Miles Driven: 5,368
Miles Sailed: 110