Tuesday, October 20 Alagon – Zaragoza
Another cool and very windy day except this time the wind was at our backs. With the help of our innkeeper, we found a series of back roads which were mostly paved to get us from Alagon to Zaragoza. We arrived in Zaragoza about 1 p.m. after about 40 k.
Found our hotel with no difficulty and congratulated ourselves on the wonderful choice and location of our lodging. We were about 1 block from the river, walking street, main square and both the basilica and the cathedral. After settling in we toured the basilica. It is a really beautiful building inside and out. The zig-zag patterns on the many roofs and pinnacles are striking. It is built along the river with bridges which provided many opportunities to view and photograph it.
The inside is in the baroque style. Pictures were not allowed so we have no idea how the following ones got onto our camera, but far be it from us to waste the opportunity to share the beauty.
After the cathedral we stopped briefly at the indoor food market which operates every day except Sunday. It covers about one half of a city block. The majority of the shops are meat, fish, fruit and vegetables which are, unfortunately, accompanied by their respective smells. There are a couple of nut/dried fruit stands but no artisan works. We bought some dried fruit and some bread from the only bread shop.
We had dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant and, for a change, did not have pizza. Zaragoza has a number of very pretty and interesting buildings. Like all of the cities and many of the towns and villages in Spain, Zaragoza lights these wonderful buildings at night. We walked around and photographed a few.
It was a slow trip back to the hotel.
Wednesday, October 21 Zaragoza – Bujaraloz
Breakfast in our room. Yesterday, we had asked the desk person if he would line up a taxi for us to take to us to the village of Bujaraloz today as there are no places to stay between Zaragoza and there and the distance of 80 k is too much for us to tackle with a full load. As it turned out, most of the distance was a waste land similar to the desert near Whitewater. Not a pretty riding place.
When we were on our way out of the hotel this morning, the desk person told us that she had called the 2 cab companies in town and that neither had vans or any other vehicle that would be large enough to take us and our bikes to Bujaraloz. We got directions from her and went to one of the cab stands and found a vehicle that was the same size as the one we had rented in southern Spain which we had used to transport us and the bikes to Portugal and around southern Spain.
The driver agreed to meet us at the hotel at 4:30 and take us to Bujaraloz. .
We toured the cathedral which is a stone’s throw from the basilica.
It too is big and beautiful and as with the basilica, we were not permitted to take pictures. As happened yesterday, a smaller miracle (better security, fewer pictures) found their way onto our camera which we are sharing with you.
This church has been largely restored and contains many, many masterpieces, although no works by Goya. The audio guide had brief and excellent descriptions of each of the chapels and the main features of the cathedral.
As we were finishing up our tour of the cathedral, we met a man from Belgium who was also biking around Spain and spent a while comparing notes and stories. He was very glad to chat and said we were the first people who he’d been able to talk with in his 3 weeks of riding. He asked a passerby in the cathedral to take our picture which he promised to email to us when he returns to Belgium in a few days.
We finished up our visit to the cathedral and briefly visited an exhibit that was nearby of vestments made for and worn by the higher clergy. The capes that were on display were beautiful and intricate. Each was designed for one prelate. Some had precious and semi-precious stones sewn in. All had gold and silver thread. All were vastly different. Some were more than 100 years old. They were an art form..
We cut our visit short to go to the market that we had visited yesterday to get the full flavor (pun intended) of it as only about a quarter of the stalls were open yesterday. We left and ate our lunch outside while sitting on the steps in one of the public areas. While we were munching away we were passed by 2 taxis that were bigger then the vehicle that we had planned to take, but both were too far away for us to contact the drivers.
We waited on a busy street corner for 25 minutes and looked for similar cabs. Finally we stopped one and with the help of a kind passerby who spoke both English and Spanish, were able to hire him to take us to Bujaraloz. We loaded the bikes and then went to the hotel and loaded the rest of our gear, asked the desk person to call and cancel the other cab and off we went.
The terrain between Zaragoza and Bujaraloz is mostly flat and similar to the desert between Grand Junction and Delta with even less to look at and nothing growing. We passed 2 or 3 tiny villages along the way and understood why we could not find places to stay in them.
We arrived in Bujaraloz about 3:30, thanked our driver and settled in to coffee and a brief walk around town. That is all it took.
Dinner at our hotel. One of the other guests spoke English and interpreted to the owner/waitress that we did not eat meat and that we wanted an omelet with potatoes and cheese. It has been quite difficult to go to non-Italian restaurants and get the point across to the wait staff that we do not eat meat of any kind. For some reason they do not equate beef or chicken with “meat.” In some cases they don’t equate pork or bacon with meat. We have always gotten the point across, but it often takes a lot of effort/charades and guess work.
A beautiful day with a 20 km head or cross wind all day. The ride out of Bujaraloz was up hill all morning through landscape that was less attractive than the “stinking desert” between GJ and Delta. We went through a few very small villages with almost no services including places to buy food or drink.
We did however find a treasure trove of pig farms in this barren landscape. It is amazing that all of the Europe eats huge amounts of pork, but you never see pigs, except in pieces hanging in the meat stores and bars. Today we discovered the secret. The operations we came across were isolated in areas on land that is parched and barren and not usable for anything else, and where the smell and the noise will not reach civilization. That’s what we rode through this morning.
We had our usual coffee about noon at a little village that was the exception and had a bar. We stopped for lunch around 2 but could not find any place to get coffee or a soda so we ate in the sunshine by the side of the road in a once enclosed bus stop.
Much of rural Spain is economically depressed. Stores are boarded up, windows are covered, and dust and refuse are collecting everywhere. The town we are staying in has a covered “mall” with only 15 to 20% of the store occupied. It almost looks like the town itself is abandoned.
There are very few stand alone dwellings and most of the dwellings are pock marked with paint or plaster pealing off. The locals we have encountered are usually very reserved, more so in the rural areas where people never initiate contact, often ignore our greeting or look down or away. Some, of course, are less inhibited, but they are not the majority.
The scenery improved the last 15 Kms of our ride to Sarinena as we got closer to the Pyrenees. We are still not close, but can see the mountains in the distance and recognize that they are big.
We only took one picture today as there was next to nothing that was photogenic. When we got to our hotel, the proprietor was out front to greet us. She spoke French so Ed was able to make our needs known. We wandered about town then had dinner at the hotel’s café which opened er at 8:30.
Friday Oct. 23
We’re spending 2 nights here in Sarinena so headed out this morning without our panniers for a ride on the very small roads to the north. We rode to the small village of Granen for lunch on the park bench and peeked in the church which was built in the 1890’s and already needs a lot of maintenance.
All of the villages we rode through today had 1 or 2 bars and that was about all. The countryside however was really beautiful with all the land in cultivation and loads of huge pig barns.
The distant scene to the north was the Pyrenees mountains and the close view to the south and east was red rock monuments very much like Utah. .
We had a very pleasant 62 Kms ride