Thursday, February 19, 2009

A day for lists

Today was our biggest day of driving from Salamanca, Spain to Bordeaux, France - an 8.5 hour marathon af team-tag driving. We left Salamanca in the beautiful sunshine with the promise of another lovely day at around 15°C. It was not long though that we climbed higher onto the plains and were engulfed in fog that we drove through for about 80 kms.

What stuck out today - toll booths - the Spanish and French love them! At least the costs were reasonable today with the most expensive being €3.80. The amount of traffic had increased incredibly and I am sure that all the freight in this part of the world is moved on trucks. We counted more than 100 car carriers - with about 70% of them carrying Renaults out of Spain!

The change in scenery is amazing - across the top of Spain there is still the wide open plains with the mountain ranges in the background. Then, once we crossed the border into France, like when we crossed from Portugal, the scenery changed almost at the border again. Slowly we lost the large mountain ranges but the land became more hilly and rolling with lots of fodder crops growing beautiful and green. We do pass through a stunning gorge near Burgos.

Bell towers abound in this part of the world with most the towers extending well above the height of the main body of the church as a narrow but wide ornate structure and not a 'tower' as such. In silhouette they are just striking - but can't be photographed with the sun streaming through with the camera (oh, how we are missing the Nikon!).

Just before the border we see (all too late to realise what it means) a whole lot of trucks at a service station. You guessed it - fuel is cheaper in Spain than in France. €0.88 compared to €1.24!

Then as we crossed into France, we began to see a lot of Renault 4 cars - all laden with the makings of a holiday. There must be a convention or rally or something - we give up counting after 400 of them - no joking! And finally - a shot of me ready with directions, pen, toll money and sustenance all laid out on the opened glove box as we travel!

We put the rest of the time in the car to use by compiling the first of a list of 'bests' etc. So here goes -

Best breakfast
* Hotel l'Amphitheatre, Arles
Best entree
* Soup de legumes aux panais et grains de sesame - Chez Ariane Restaurant, Arles
Best main
* Saute Mista de Marisco Português estilo em um tabuleiro de cobre at Cervejaria Concha D'Ouro, Lisbon, Portugal
Best dessert
* La mousse lavande crème au miel - Restaurant La Grille, Avingnon
Best view
* Fundão and Covilhã with the Serra de Estrella Mountain in the background, Spain
Best city view at night
* Carcassonne, France
Best skyline
* Lyon from Basilique Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière, France
Best cathedral
* Basillica de Notre Dame, Strasbourg, France
Best castle
* Carcassonne, France
Best coastal scene
* Cadiz, Spain

WOW moments
* Fantastic weather
* Christmas Eve in Schorndorf with Steph and the whole Mucz family
* Have NYE in New York with Michael
* Washington DC
* Size of the bed at the Parador in Cardona, Spain
* Coming around the corner and seeing the Arles Amphitheatre fill the space at the end of a little street, France
* The Millau Viaduct (bridge) in southern France and the scenery around it
* The Roman Amphitheatre in Lyon, France
* Gaudi's architecture, Barcelona, Spain
* The incredible range of history everywhere
* La Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Best hotel
* Parador Hotel Duques de Cardona, Spain
Best waiter
* Elduardo at the Cervejaria Concha D'Ouro, Lisbon, Portugal
Best wine
* Regional white at the Sedna in Barcelona, Spain
Delightful surprises
* Good roads in Spain
* Freshly squeezed orange juice in Seville
* Portuguese Egg Custard tarts
* Celebration menu at the Cardona Parador
* Connecting with Amanda and Bella on Skype
* San Idelfonso Church in Toledo
* Multilingual Portuguese
Places worthy of a return visit
* Way too many to name!
Places we could live (:D)
* Barcelona, Spain
* Salamanca, Spain

Interesting moments
* Being prevented from taking night photos by the Police in Toledo
* Parking in many places - thankfully my 'parking fairy' is still with us!
* European combined washing machines / dryers
Craziest traffic
* Brugges, Belgium

* Lack of opportunities to pull over and take those wonderful vista photos
* Lack of vegetables with meals
* Not being able to get fresh sardines (out of season) in Lisbon

So, there you have it - we will add to the list from time to time!

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