On the journey to Madrid

Tuesday, September 1

Rained most of last evening and during the night. It was still raining when we awoke. The clouds were low and dark, but it stopped about 8:30 and only misted off and on the rest of the day. Bought train tickets for ourselves and the bikes to Aguilar de Campoo then walked around the areas that we had not yet explored in Torrelavega. It is mostly a working city without much tourism.

There are 2 big churches, the one we visited when we first got to town and a very modern one that we saw today. There are many balconied buildings which are pretty typical of Spanish architecture, but few that were really stunning. The ones we liked most were supported by exposed wood beams and usually sagged somewhere along the window or balcony lines.

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We also did the many utilitarian walking streets and plazas that are around every corner.It is difficult to comprehend how a small city can support the type and extent of commercial businesses that are in Torrelavega.

We went back to the hotel and ate our cheese and red pepper sandwiches and worked on the blog until it was time to ride to the train station for the 4:30 train up over, and through the mountains to Aguilar de Campoo. (That’s not a typo.) The train was quiet, smooth and took us through some incredible scenery. We took the train to avoid riding up some very long and steep mountain roads which have many tunnels. It probably saved us 4 days of struggle. There were two very notable things about this 1 hour 20 minute ride. First, the train went through 27 tunnels (that’s right folks) while covering only about 50 miles. Second, there were many huge, elevated sections of roadway that bridged valleys along the route of one of Spain’s major through ways.

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Also, the scenery was very pretty and went from lush forests to big rolling farm land to desert like soil with foliage similar to the desert around Grand Junction. Although we did not hit any rain on the journey, the clouds were low over the mountains until we got off the train at Aguilar de Campoo, where there were blue skies.

The wind kicked up as the weather cleared and the temperature dropped when we got off the train and rode the 3 miles to our hotel. We noted that the air smelled sweet. Aguilar de C is a small town, which, according to Trip Adviser, has 5 tourist sites, all church related, and one old castle that sits high on a hill overlooking the town. It is in ruins as are almost all of the many castles in Spain which at one time belonged to people of noble birth and were being rewarded for some good (read battle won) deed that they had done to please the king.

057-IMG_4578 050-IMG_4571 039-IMG_4560 049-IMG_4570 049-IMG_4570 041-IMG_4562Before searching for dinner, we walked around this quite nice town with its fairly large plazas, older buildings and a river running through it. Speaking of dinner, it is difficult to find restaurants that serve dinner before 9 o’clock at night in Spain. This novelty has thrown us off schedule a bit since we are usually up early, active all day and starving by 7pm. What time is bed when you’re one of the “Greys”?????

Wednesday, September 2 Aguilar de Campoo

Staying in a very nice Spanish motif hotel in this small, out of the way town. The sweet smell in town is from the 4 biscuit making factories.

In the morning, we rode to an old monastery on the edge of town which is now a school in one section and a museum in the other. As with almost all other buildings we have visited on this trip, the buildings were very old, in this case dating from the 1200’s. Not much we  glean from the placards in Spanish on the walls, but always interesting.

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Monastery Museum Old, dead people
Monastery Museum
Old, dead people

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Original part of the monastery
Original part of the monastery

From the monastery we headed out of town and on our way around the reservoir formed by a dam.

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As it turned out, the lake was only visible for a very short time on our ride of more than 18 miles, but we did pass by and explore 6 tiny villages, each with its own church. This area is famous in Spain for its Romanesque village churches. We were not disappointed.

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It is important to understand that “tiny” means “tiny.” One church we were lucky enough to actually get inside is in a village with 15 residents. After we had walked around the outside and we about to get back on our bikes, a 30ish woman walked up to us in the street and asked if we’d like to see inside. She disappeared for a couple of minutes and came back with an 8 inch long church key. Each of these churches has its own treasures. Most need some maintenance, but only one was in ruins and did not hold services. The itinerant parish priest has about 20 tiny villages to oversee and conducts Saturday or Sunday mass in almost all of them every week.  Most were built in the 1300’s in the Romanesque style. Only one was Gothic.

This area is on the stork fly route which is evident from all the nests that sit on top of public buildings, churches, poles and other high up places. Storks are thought to bring good luck so all of the places on their flyway court them by putting platforms up for the storks to build their nests. We had seen this before in Denmark, Germany, and Hungary. Unfortunately, this is past their flying season in this area so we saw only empty nests.

On our way back to town, we met Ruth and Dave from England. They were also riding around the lake. They were staying in the campground and had their bikes and motor scooters. We had coffee and spent about an hour and a half exchanging stories with them.

Dinner at the same Felafel place we ate at last night. Just as good as we remembered, and open from about noon on, unlike the other places in town that do not open until 9 p.m. for dinner.
Although it was sunny all day, it remained cool, mostly due to the wind and elevation.

Since we were in early we Skyped with Kate before hitting the pillow.

Thursday, September 3 Aguiler de Campoo to Osorno

Just a few miles south of Aguilar de Campos on our route was the village of Olleros which as with the villages that we visited yesterday is tiny and has its own church. However, this Romanesque church is different from all the rest. The interior was carved out of the rock beginning in the 9th century. It is still in use today and is open to the public for a small fee. We had to find the man with the large church key to walk with us up the hill and let us in. 129-IMG_4653                                     130-IMG_4654

He spoke no English, but still gave us much information via charades. The original church, pictured on the left122-IMG_4646

has been enlarged and is also hewn out of the rock that forms the floor, ceiling and walls. It is small, as one expects in this area, and unique.

Original Column-8th Century
   Original Column-8th Century

123-IMG_4647 Original column on the right. 2 new columns, circa 12th century, on

the left.

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The priests vestments are kept in a huge wooden cabinet that is worn with age. This village and its church are on no one’s radar but should be.

The area between Aguilar and Osorno is mostly flat, although even on the flat days we have been ascending more than 1000 feet.

The road has 2 lanes plus a wide shoulder and has been newly paved. Only 6 cars, 1 truck and 2 farm tractors passed us all morning. There is a new major 4 lane road that parallels it and bleads the trucks and cars away. The few drivers that passed us were courteous and gave us a wide berth.

It remained sunny and windy all day but did not turn warm until afternoon. The tail wind was welcome and helped us make great time. On our way we stopped in the small city of Alar del Rey which is the beginning of the Castilla Canal. After coffee in Alar, we rode south on our route to Herrera de Pisuerga and got directions to the canal interpretive center from a progression of 3 people acting in concert. The first was a woman who understood where we wanted to go, but could not speak any English so she asked a girl of about 10 who was walking her dog to translate. The girl spoke a few words of English but couldn’t quite explain the route to us. Her dog was very friendly so we lingered to get our dog fix for the day. The older woman and the girl then stopped a young, teen age boy who proudly said he spoke some English, but the pressure was too much for him. We ended up relying on the woman’s pointing gesturing and a few words that we caught that are common  to Spanish and English and made it to the canal interpretive center where the ground’s keeper saw us and opened up the center, gave us a map that showed the route of the canal and the towns it goes through.

Canal de Castilla
Canal de Castilla

The wind continued as we went away from the mountains and into the plains. We pulled into Osorno at about 2 p.m. It was easy to find our lodging as it is the only one still open in this town that has suffered because the big road has passed it by. We settled in and spoke with the owner and her staff (1 person) for a while, but since we speak almost no Spanish and they spoke no English, it was hard going. The owner was from Equedor and really wanted to visit with us.

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Memorial to those who died fighting on behalf of Francisco Franco during the Spanish civil was 1935-38
Memorial to those from Osorno region who died fighting on behalf of Francisco Franco during the Spanish                 Civil War 1936-1939

We walked around Osorno for about a half hour. Very few of the buildings are occupied. There is almost no commerce although there are a couple of small factories making construction materials. We were the only ones at the dining room for dinner. On our walk we did not see another restaurant. Wifi was good in public areas of our hotel. In it’s day this must have been a very nice hotel/ restaurant. Now however, it’s part of an almost ghost town.

Friday September 4 Osorno-Palencia

Another warm day with the wind to our backs. The terrain had more undulations today. At times we were reminded of the land around GJ including irrigation canals and farm machines. The farms have gotten larger and the valleys more green (or in some cases flaxen where the crops have been harvested.) There is more farm activity and farm equipment also.e

On our way we stopped at the moderately sized town, (perhaps 10,000 residents) of Fromista which has 3 quite large churches. We asked our waitress at the very nice and old hotel where we had our morning coffee, whether the church we had just visited was the bishop’s cathedral.She informed us that the church we had visited was of no importance. The pictures tell a different story as least as far the the size and number of its treasures are concerned. Judge for yourselves:

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This church has a separate treasury where its ancient paintings and gold and silver are kept.

We were given a warm welcome when we arrived on the outskirts of Palencia similar to the one as one enters Helena.

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We arrived in Palencia in mid-afternoon. Like all of the towns and cities that we have visited in Spain, the residents and shop owners take much of the afternoon off and congregate at small cafes or sidewalk stands to drink beer or wine and eat tapas. This seems to tide them over to 9 p.m. or later when they resume drinking and have their dinner meal.

We found our hotel in Palencia without any difficulty. From there we went to the train station. After some confusion by the train information and ticket agents about which trains could take bikes without a reservation, we bought tickets for tomorrow from Vallalodid a city about a 45 K ride from here to Salamanca. We are taking the train in order to save a day and add to the time we can spend in both Salamanca and Madrid.

Palencia is a fairly large city with a university and a very architecturally interesting downtown area. We got hold of a walking tour map (the Visitor Center was closed in the afternoon for siesta) and succeeded in finding all of the places it highlighted. We saw many buildings with really great facades.

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We took advantage of the super market that was right near the hotel and had a picnic dinner in our room.

Saturday, September 5 Palencia-Valladolid-Salamanca

As with the previous few days that we have been riding in a southerly direction, we had a good wind assist on our ride from Palencia to Vallidolid. However…… unknown to us, the route we had chosen, included a stretch of about 3k where the only road connecting to our route was a major 4 lane highway on which bikes are not permitted. We tried 3 or 4 ways to overcome this, including trying to go cross country, but after finding no other way, we got on the big road for the 2 k that it took to get back on the bike friendly road. Fortunately there was a good shoulder and drivers seemed to understand. On one of the route finding excursions we came upon a chocolate factory and had a sample of their goods to keep our spirits up.

Despite wasting an hour or so we arrived in Valladolid at about 2 p.m. and had time, after finding the train station, to wander aimlessly around the city on our bikes seeing and photographing the very interesting architecture.

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As usual, we got back to the train station about 45 minutes or so before our scheduled departure. Ed went to the information window to find out whether the bike car would be the first car on the train or the last, since one never knows. The information person informed him that bikes were not allowed on this train and furthermore, there were no trains between Vallalodid and Salamanca that permitted assembled bikes since there was no place on these trains big enough to hold them. The agent tried his best to accommodate us by asking his boss and others to see if they would make an exception. Everyone was very nice and understanding but they could not get approval until one of them got the train conductor  involved. He asked if we could take the wheels off and when we told him we could he motioned and helped us into the elevator to get to our train track and then helped us load the bikes. Ed took the wheels off both bikes. We stood the bikes on end on the back rack and lashed them to one of the fold down seats. Ed’s hands were covered in dirt and bike grease, but we and the conductor were both smiling. The conductor had us put the wheels back on the stop before Salamanca and we got off quickly and without problem.

An easy ride to our hotel on one of the main walking streets in Salamanca, dinner and walking around until about 11p.m. taking pictures of the lighted facades of the buildings and then shower and bed about 1 a.m.

Salamanca is a beautiful, old, walled city that is mostly very small walking streets. We arrived at about 7 p.m. After dinner just outside our hotel, we walked to the huge cathedral. Many of the churches and some of the older buildings are lit after dark. The evening was warm so we strolled around taking in the sights and taking pictures.

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We went to bed after 1 a.m.

Sunday, September 6 Salamanca

On our way to visit the Cathedral, we met a woman biking from Sevilla to Santiago.  We took the self-guided tour of the cathedral together. She had to leave so we exchanged information and agreed to meet up again in Barcelona for a drink in Nov. She’s from Portlier, France, but living and working in Barcelona now.

The cathedral is actually 2 cathedrals that share a wall, the old cathedral and the new cathedral. The old cathedral was begun in the 11th century and is full of beautiful and awesome treasures that are common in the larger Catholic churches of Spain. The size and number of these as well as the stone carvings, ceilings, stained glass, wood carvings, gold and silver alter pieces and chapel furnishings are everywhere in these magnificent churches that were built and have survived for 6-9 centuries. Their beauty and intricacy speaks for itself.

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After visiting the cathedral we went to the classic car museum where we were able to take pictures,

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followed by the Art Nouveau Museum, where we were not,

Outside of the Art Nouveau  Museum
Outside of the Art Nouveau Museum

both of which are noteworthy and will be closed tomorrow. Both had explanations in Spanish with the Art museum having a small pamphlet in English. We understood enough of the explanations to really enjoy it. From there we went to the train station and bought tickets for ourselves and our bikes for the trip to Madrid tomorrow. This train takes assembled bikes. We had veggie paella for dinner and walked around taking pictures afterward.

Monday After packing up we went back to the cathedral and visited the museum of the tower and the tower itself. Rather than it just being a hike up, a look around and picture taking of the countryside for high above, this was a real museum with exhibits that were interesting and explained in pages in English. It was a beautiful day and we took many pictures.

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26-IMG_4859 28-IMG_4861 It was a beautiful day and we took many pictures.

After the tower we walked across the river on a walking only bridge, portions of which were built by the Romans.

Bridge erected by Romans Cathedral in the background

We had coffee by the river, chatted with some people at the next tables and then returned to our hotel to work on the blog and load up. Our train ride to Madrid was lovely and we had a gorgeous sunset. We arrived after dark so the 9 km ride from the station and finding our apartment in the middle of the old city was exciting to say the least. No major problems though and by 1:30 a.m., we had eaten dinner at an Indian place and were in bed. Very busy and full day.

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