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Archive for the ‘Travel blog’ Category

The morning of day six we did a loop from the hotel to the center of Archidona and back, about 30 km, the last 300 meters or so down a steep slope, in morning traffic, on cobblestones. Not my favorite. The ride back, on different roads, seemed to be uphill the whole way. After the ride was finished, we had time for a shower and to pack for the bus ride to Granada. Had a big delayed breakfast (brunch) then everyone gathered to say goodbye to our leaders and climb into the bus that dropped us off in the center of town.

The photo is of our 3 team leaders giving us their interpretation of a bull fight before the last ride. This was a fun group. 

I caught a cab to the hotel I had reserved for 2 nights in Granada. They were full and had no record of my reservation. I pulled out my computer and showed the desk clerk (owner it turned out) my confirmation. He was very apologetic and got on the phone with Expedia (apparently they handle reservations for Hotels.com) to find me another room at the same price. I decided to leave my luggage with the guy and go to the train station to sort out train travel logistics.

Lots of drama about train reservations. It turns out that a first class Eurail pass does NOT get you a seat on a train. You must make a reservation for your seat and they charge extra for each train and reservation. That ignorance on my part led to the overnight tourist class ride from hell on the night train from Lisbon to Madrid. I made the reservation for the Madrid to Seville train, another 29 euros, but was unable to secure a reservation for the Granada to Barcelona leg. Backrounds.com says they are happy to assist with travel arrangements, so I asked our logistics guy, Gonzalo, to help me getting reservations for the Granada to Barcelona, Barcelona to Cordoba legs of the journey. Turns out nothing is simple. I sat next to him 2 days later while he was on the phone for a long time with Eurail trying to set everything up. The normal Granada to Barcelona route was not available, it was never clear why. He finally got me reservations, but I had to go to Madrid then transfer to Barcelona. They were supposed to e-mail me electronic tickets for these two trips and took my credit card info, but no e-tickets ever arrived. So off to the train station to get the tickets. I did have location numbers for the Granada-Madrid and Madrid-Barcelona trips (Good for Gonzalo). The first person I talked to at the Granada train station couldn’t find any record of my reservations. She finally told me to take a number and stand in a long line for her colleague to help me. Finally got to him and he was able to use the locator numbers Gonzalo got for me and print out separate tickets for Grenada-Madrid, Madrid-Barcelona and Barcelona-Cordoba. Each ticket was a separate transaction with the credit card and the long line behind me was getting very anxious. After the Barcelona-Cordoba transaction was finally completed I took pity on the line and decided to wait until I got to Barcelona to take care of my remaining travels. 

I returned to my hotel, where the owner was guarding my bag, to find he hadn’t found anything, mostly because he was trying to find a hotel that would only charge what I had reserved from Hotels.com. Plus, the town was full of tourists and most of the hotels were booked.  By this time, I was exhausted, not the least from my bike ride that morning. I went into my computer and found a place, the 4-star Hotel Washington Irving, across the street from the Alhambra, at twice the cost of the dump I was supposed to stay in, supposedly a 3-star. The owner insisted on calling the Washington Irving and did manage to get me a discount. He also paid the cab driver to bring me there. The Washington Irving is legitimate 4-star hotel. 

The next day I showed up at the time for my self-guided tour of the Alhambra, unable to accomplish on my previous visit to Granada. I spent the following 1 1/2 hours trying to dodge the masses of tour groups blocking the way. I managed to see all I wanted to see, but it required a lot of flagstone stairway climbing, up and down. After I was done with the Alhambra, I took a taxi to El Centro and walked around another 1 1/2 hours before sitting down at a sidewalk cafe to order a beer and some duck pate’. The waiter brought the beer along with a slice of bread with a tomato slice covered with a thin slice of duck breast fried but cold. “Well”, I thought, “This is a different duck pate.” The dish was listed on their menus for 8 1/2 euros. Disgusted, I was about to signal for the bill when he showed up again this time with my order, a basket of toasted bread, 2 thick slices of very tasty pate’, some fruit and nuts. The first offering was just a free appetizer to go with my beer. I had to order another beer to finish the pate, but I powered through.

There is more to the train saga. I decided I would not do another 11+ hour trip from Madrid to Lisbon, and certainly no more night trains. Not for this old man. I studied the maps and saw the distance from Huelva to Lisbon significantly shorter than going through Madrid again. But there is no train service. There was no train service to anyplace in Portugal from Huelva. However, I could get a bus from Huelva for an hour’s ride to Faro, a town in southern Portugal that has rail service to Lisbon. OK, that’s a deal. Not so fast, I couldn’t find a bus to get me to that train. So, I looked up buses from Huelva to Lisbon, a six-hour ride, with first class seats available. Reserved them for less than 20 euros, cheaper than getting another train reservation. 

I will write a long post about the many other disadvantages of a Eurail pass to travel in Spain and Portugal.

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These are some cork oaks that have had the bark harvested. They remove all the bark from a little above the ground up about 5 feet. They are able to re-harvest about every 9 years, according to our leader Alejo. We rode through this forest.
This is our leader David with some bike safety tips before we set out in the am. The objects on the ground show the various elevations to be encountered that day. They do NOT represent how steep, long, or difficult the climbs are. That was probably best.
Kate did not have an electric assist on her bike but her husband had a hand on her back pushing her up all the most difficult hills. Leader David is capturing the image.

I have to say that watching this husband and wife team interact with each other and with the other people in the group, especially me, made my eyes flow with tears thinking about Rosalie, my wife of almost 53 years. I don’t think she would have done the biking but she would have loved the people. This adventure, and it was that, ranks among the best so far.

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Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan covers an area of a little over twenty-two square miles. It was built, continuously added to, and occupied from about 100 BC to 550 AD. Somewhere about 550 AD, based on still disputed, sketchy archeological findings, the place was sacked, burnt and mostly abandoned. There is evidence that a period of famine could have resulted in a revolution. This would also account for the evidence of destruction by fire. However, some people continued to live at the site, and others may have come there to worship, until about 750 AD. It was the largest and most populated city/sate in the pre-Columbian Americas, with approximately 125,000 residents at its zenith. Influences from this civilization can be found in almost all cultures of Meso-America.

The enormous architectural complex was built to conduct both administrative and religious activities. It initially dominated the region because the inhabitants controlled the obsidian mines, but the administrative and business (trading) skills of the rulers soon made the culture preeminent.  They, no doubt, had a military, but were not, it seems, a dominant military power as were the Aztecs who came along much later, and usurped the culture and prestige of the Teotihuacanos, by claiming ancestry.

The city attained a sophisticated level of urbanization, with streets and blocks dominated by two large, perpendicular roads. The north/south Avenue of the Dead is transected by the East/West Avenue. There was an extensive drainage system, and the apartment buildings had sewage systems.

Here’s a photo of Plaza A of the Avenue of the Dead Complex at the south end of that complex. The total length of the Avenue of the Dead is almost three kilometers.

 

 

This plaza is huge, covering almost seven-thousand square meters, and is believed to have been a gathering place for religious ceremonies associated with the Templo de Quetzalcoatl (Pyramid of the Plumed Serpent). Quetzalcoatl was the originator of human activities who created the earth and the four seasons. Here is a photo of several depictions of Quetzalcoatl projecting from the pyramid.

The structure on the right shows some remnants of a top coat of red pigmented plaster. Many of the pyramidal structures and apartment buildings of the complex were decorated with murals. Here is a painted mural of a puma.

The two largest and most impressive pyramids on the site, no doubt built to impress, are the pyramids of the sun and moon.

Those are people on top who have climbed the pyramid of the sun. I did 50 years ago, not this time. The pyramid of the moon is significantly smaller, but still impressive. The pyramid of the moon is at the far north end of the Avenue of the Dead, the sun pyramid is about half way between the north and south ends.

 

These structures were built up with dirt and adobe, then covered with rocks, cemented into place. The rocks were sheathed with a thick coat of gravel, lime and sand (concrete), and then covered with a thinner, finish coat of lime, sand and red pigment.

 

 

 

 

This photo shows vestiges of the concrete covering on the back side of the pyramid of the sun. Both of these pyramids, and all the platforms seen in these photos, are thought to have been crowned with temples where religious ceremonies were conducted, including, it is believed, human sacrifice.

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