Daily Archives: May 4, 2016

Cycling Spain – Cross Training in Granada

We took the 8:00 am Sunday morning train to ancient Moorish- influenced Granada to experience the UNESCO World Heritage Site of The Alhambra. The train and bus were relaxing and the peaceful Sunday morning walk from the bus station to the hotel gave us the time to explore without having to dodge selfie-sticks.

Park near the Alhambra
Park near the Alhambra

Our hotel  Navras was located in the heart of the city with lots of lovely restaurants, bars and cafes just below our hotel window. (Spain is a late-night country but we’re pretty good at sleeping through anything)

Moorish architecture and design
Moorish architecture and design

We spent most of the day walking to all the important sites including the outside of the Alhambra. We learned that it’s almost impossible to get tickets to see the inside unless you plan months in advance or want to stand in line at 7:30 am for a handful of tickets.

I think the missing heads made for interesting captions.
I think the missing heads made for interesting captions.

We choose to take the advice of our favorite rural farm hotel owner at Las Piletas near Ronda and sleep in. She said, “Don’t worry. The inside is over-rated. And, the internet has made getting tickets very difficult. The Alhambra is beautiful from many different places and alleys in the city.”

Beautiful mountains near Granada. They even have skiing!
Beautiful mountains near Granada. They even have skiing!

We took her at her word and photographed the Alhambra from the perspectives of 11 miles of walking up and down hills, through alleyways, and from balconies.

An aqueduct near the Alhambra.
An aqueduct near the Alhambra.

We even spent 9 Euros each for a sangria at a bar with a view high on the hill above the Alhambra. I figure that’s 2 Euros for the sangria and 7 Euros for the view which is probably still cheaper than tickets to see the inside. PLUS we got to sleep in the next morning.

View of the Alhambra while sipping a 9 Euro sangria.
View of the Alhambra while sipping a 9 Euro sangria.

Even though several tour blogs said it was not important to spend more than one day in Granada, we actually loved being in a bigger city with tree-lines streets, good food available even during siesta time, and a really fun market that reminded us of the eclectic bazaars in Turkey, the start of our crazy overseas adventures. www. pjinturkey.blogspot.com

Walking along the wall outside the Alhambra
Walking along the wall outside the Alhambra

I couldn’t help but think of the similarities between the conquests of Constantinople and Granada. The Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople in 1453 and renamed it Istanbul thus ending the Roman Empire and dealing a serious blow to Christianity and strengthening the Ottoman Empire.

After one of our morning jogs in Granada. The first day of jogging was hard after all the cycling. The second day felt great!
After one of our morning jogs in Granada. The first day of jogging was hard after all the cycling. The second day felt great!

Mohammed XII handed over the keys to the Alhambra Granada in 1492. Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon took their job seriously of uniting what would become modern day Spain and strengthening the Catholic Church.

I probably learned about these two conquests in high school history class, but drawing time lines, coloring maps, and memorizing dates didn’t t do justice to the significance of the people, land, power, and money actually involved in these battles/conquests.

This traditional dish in with couscous had a distinctly Moroccan flavor. Delicious!
This traditional dish in with couscous had a distinctly Moroccan flavor. Delicious!

I couldn’t help but think about how both Constantinople (Istanbul) and Granada were flourishing, sophisticated civilizations with palaces, castles, forts, weapons, armies, art, music in 1492 when Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand gave Christopher Columbus permission (the money) to sail and accidentally discover America.

I wonder if I could make history come alive for students?…..hum…..

Excellent flamingo show!
Excellent flamingo show!

One last note on Granada….we went to a flamenco music/dance show which I loved. The dancers and the guitar player were so skilled that I my cheeks hurts from the huge grin I had on my face the entire show. Wow…just wow!

Flying Home with the Ogre

No…I’m NOT talking about Eric. I’m talking about his bicycle, the Surly Ogre. (Read – How Surly Save Our Cycle Tour)

Last August, when we finished our first official cycle tour, Eric headed back to work after his short retirement and I headed home to the States. I could only fly with one bicycle so we left Eric’s in Frankfurt at a place called My Storage.

I got a kick out of the English name for the German storage facility.
I got a kick out of the English name for the German storage facility.

Hindsight is always 20-20 and it probably would have been less expensive to sell the bike, or since we were rushed, just give it away to a worthy recipient. But, for sentimental reasons, we paid the storage fees and an additional flight leg from Madrid to Frankfurt to “keep  Ogre in the family.”

Here’s a recap of how I reunited with Ogre. This  recap could be useful for anyone  if they have to fly with a bicycle from Frankfurt International Airport.
First, I chose to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn at the Frankfurt International Airport for several reasons:
1) Eric is racking up a boatload of Hilton Reward points at his “Hilton Home” in Alexandria, Egypt and someone needs to use them.
2) I can walk less than 100 meters to the Lufthansa check-in to drop off my bags which are very heavy and bulky.
3) I can catch a train into the Frankfurt city center by taking the escalator downstairs.

To pick up the Ogre,  I bought a one-way ticket at the automatic ticket machine near the hotel entrance. Then, I took the S9 train to the Frankfurt Main Train station. Once at the main train station, I was going to take another suburban train towards My Storage.

However, a 39 minute wait for a train versus a 44 minute, 3.8 kilometer walk seemed like a no brainer. I chose to walk.

I walked the same path I’d cycled last fall. Thoughts raced through my head:
1) I did not walk to pack up the bike. I wanted to keep cycling.
2) I remembered all the fun we’d had last year and missed Eric.
3) I was happy that I remembered my way around Frankfurt without GPS.
4) I was worried that I had the correct key for the lock on the door and wondered if the owners had a bolt cutter in case I’d brought the wrong key.
5) I was concerned that the rain would increase and I would get cold.

6) Would the tires be flat and, if so, did I leave a pump with the bike?

All my worries were unfounded. The bike was just where I left it.
All my worries were unfounded. The bike was just where I left it.

All my worries were unfounded. The lock did work. The tires had enough pressure to ride on them. Even better, Eric’s panniers were so full that I could cycle tour for months. They even held a pair of rain pants which I promptly put on.

Have a bike shop loosen your pedals before you try to pack the bike.
Have a bike shop loosen your pedals before you try to pack the bike.

I cycled back to the city center with my first stop being a bicycle shop. This step is really important. I recommend every cyclist do this before trying to pack a bike.

HAVE A MECHANIC LOOSEN THE PEDALS!

This simple step will save tons of aggravation later.

Sure enough, the pedals were locked on tight. The mechanic used every ounce of muscle and torque to loosen them including scraping his knuckles until they bled. But, this mechanic was also SO kind. He them added some lubricant to make them easier to remove after I cycled the remaining 14 kilometers back to the hotel.

Orgre liked the screen greenery.
Orgre liked the screen greenery.

I took my time cycling to the airport hotel. The rain was gentle, the spring greens were bright, the dandelions were in bloom. The German houses dotting the riverbank made me thankful to be part of this one-day fairy tale.

Ogre loves the river and the German houses.
Ogre loves the river and the German houses.

Speaking of fairy tales, I did get lost in the airport forest….AGAIN…. (see post: Jet Lag Recovery )I’ve finally figured out the GPS near the airport is not “exactly on the spot.” Here’s my advice for cycling near the airport…

FOLLOW THE PATH MOST TRAVELED THROUGH THE WOODS AND LISTEN FOR THE AIRPLANES.

Ogre was hoping not to encounter wild boars.
Ogre was hoping not to encounter wild boars in the woods.
Orge is trying to figure out how to cross 6 lanes of traffic and entire the whale-looking building.
Ogre was trying to figure out how to cross 6 lanes of traffic and entire the whale-looking building.

Once back to the hotel, I took my time removing all the racks, cleaning the fenders and packing the derailleur, chain wheel, handlebar, brakes, etc. with old cycling shorts, shoes, zip ties, packing tape and sponges….(Why Eric was carrying a brand new pack of sponges I’ll never know*)

Cycling shoes taped to the chain wheel is just one of the many ingenious ways I came up with to protect the bike.
Cycling shoes taped to the chain wheel is just one of the many ingenious ways I came up with to protect Ogre.

Then I walked to the Lufthansa Check-in near our hotel (this is a really cool service because it’s much closer than the actual airport check-in) and rented a luggage cart for 1 Euro.

Here's the airport baggage cart in the hotel hallway loaded and ready to wheel to the check-in counter.
Here’s the airport baggage cart in the hotel hallway loaded and ready to wheel to the check-in counter.

I wheeled the cart back to the hotel and up the elevator to my room. I loaded the cart, reversed my steps and returned to the check-in counter. I held my breath when the bags were weighed but I didn’t stress knowing that I was checking in a full 20 hours before my flight departed which gave me plenty of time to juggle weight if need be. (This super early check-in service is AMAZING!)

Before I patted my back or congratulate myself too much, it is important to note that I packed the bike in a bag rather than a box. The bag is awkward and I’m thinking a baggage handler is going to agree. At least with a box there are two good places to grip it and the box slides on the floor. The bag does not stand up, slide, lift or carry easily.

Only after unpacking and assembly at home will I know if Ogre’s trip was a success!

 

*I talked to Eric about the sponges in his panniers. I’d thrown them away when we packed up in August. He’d pulled them out of the trash knowing they would come in handy some day. Well…that day was today. “Haha! So there!” he exclaimed.