A 25-day adventure by Lys
  • Day25

    Costa Brava Cycling - Day 4

    October 16, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Our hotel, Molí del Mig was lovely and we were a little sad to be moving on. But our bikes were calling, mine more so than Nicole's and so we said farewell to Torroella de Montgrí.

    Our route started with what I described to Nicole as a slight detour to a coastal lookout. I did not mention the lookout would be on top of a hill and the hill looked steep. The hill was very steep and we zigzagged our way slowly to the top. Nicole was in struggle town which I later discovered was mostly due to the fact that she was using the big cog. Anyway, we made it up the hill to Torre de Montgó. A tower built in 1598 to protect the town below, L'Escala from piracy. The tower was locked but the vantage point provided views of L’Escala, Sant Martí d’Empúries and the Bay of Roses. After seeing the views Nicole forgave me for making her climb a really big hill.

    We then rode along the water front promenade of L'Escala. We loved this section of the ride because we got some beautiful views and a dedicated bike lane which meant no pedestrian dodging. We stopped to take a photo after failing at the selfie game we asked a nearby pedestrian. She spoke no English and I don't think she has ever used a smart phone. She tried to use the camera lens as a view finder and took a lot of confused selfies. She got there in the end and took a surprisingly good photo. Or alternatively Nic and I are just very photogenic.

    To finish today's ride it was mostly highway riding but we were lucky. The highways had wide shoulders and we were able to ride two abreast. We visited a few more little quaint Spanish country towns. Some no more than four or five houses and a church. The towns we rode through were Viladamat, L'Arbre Sec, Torroella de Fluvià, Riumors, and Fortià.

    After riding a tidy 50km we reached our hotel, Hotel de la Moneda in Castelló d'Empúries. This family run hotel was lovely and their service exceptional. They didn't speak English (a running theme in rural Catalonia) but made us feel more welcome than anywhere else we have visited.

    The town, Castelló d'Empúries was once the capital of the Empúries region (local name for Costa Brava region) as the previous capital, Sant Martí d'Empúries, was too easily sacked by pirates. I also saw a sign that sign that said in the early 1800s Napoleon's Army fought here, but I have never been one for military history. My favourite things about this town were the maze like streets and the beautiful church, Santa Maria de Castelló.
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    Joan Barnsley

    You have to be amazed at the skill of the craftspeople of the past

  • Day24

    Costa Brava Cycling - Day 3

    October 15, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    Our day started with some sunrise yoga (sunrise is just before 8am here) and then a breakfast overlooking the start line of an open water swim race in the bay below. It looked to have at least 100 competitors.

    Our exploration of Costa Brava and Catalonia region continue. Today we continued our bike journey north to Torroella de Montgrí. Given that we are both suffering with colds we were glad for a nice gentle 26km ride through small country towns and off the busy highways. We were finally able to ride two abreast.

    We rode through lovely luscious green country side and through Torrent, Palau-Sator, the outskirts of Fontanilles and Gualta. We stopped on the road just outside of Gualta to take photos of the castle on the mountain behind Torroella de Montgrí and then had a fun conversation with a local farmer. He spoke no English and us, no Spanish so it was not so straight forward. He wanted to show us his very large zucchini, and to be fair it was a rather large vegetable. He was nice and it was a lovely friendly gesture.

    The views and quite country highways made this ride the best so far. Now time for a massage at our fancy country club style hotel.
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  • Day23

    Costa Brava Cycling - Day 2

    October 14, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Today's ride was beautiful. We followed the coastline north to Calella. Even better our ride was all on roads and or paved paths. It was flat, the weather warm but not hot and a gentle 25.5km.

    We were treated to some gorgeous views as we rode along the boardwalks of Platja d'Aro and Sant Antoni de Calogne.

    The gps tried to send us along dirt tracks twice but being more learned we decided to ride along the highway. Slightly longer but certainly more enjoyable.

    We finished the afternoon with a late lunch (thankfully the Spanish serve lunch until 4) overlooking the harbour and a bit of sun bathing on the beach.
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  • Day22

    Dinner for Queens

    October 13, 2017 in Spain ⋅ 🌙 20 °C

    For dinner and celebrating Nicole's awesomeness on a bike we found Sa Marinada overlooking the port we had some beautiful local vino blanco. Finally the restaurant was open. Generally restaurants don't open for dinner until 8pm. We had a beautiful dinner, highlights include lobster soup, carpaccio eel with avocado, and amazingly tender duck. They matched wines for us and it was just perfect. A beautiful way to spend an evening but by 10pm we were well and truly ready for bed so caught a taxi back to the hotel.Read more

  • Day22

    Costa Brava Cycling - Day 1

    October 13, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Today we started our cycle tour of the Costa Brava. We discovered that our tour was designed for hybrid bikes. The roadie in me couldn't handle it and we were able to upgrade for free, thanks Cicloturisme. Fitted out with some snazzy red bikes it was time for our introduction session where they explained the maps and how to get help if needed. This was a little difficult, as there was clearly a language barrier and our entire route today was on gravel so needed to be changed. It was suggested that we type a number of towns into our gps to avoid the major highways. So we plugged it in and had the man check it was the right route. 'Si, si,' he said. Route plugged in, road bikes fitted, cleats on and it was go time.

    First indication we got that this wasn't the right route was when it pushed us onto the old railway tracks which have been converted into a gravel cycle and walkway. After 2km it was back to road, our seats and hands were very thankful after the constant jar of the gravel.

    We were making good time and enjoying the ride despite the manure stench from the nearby farms when the gps tried to send us up a road that didn't exist. We eventually found a dirt track that linked up with the road and set off.

    This 'road' when we found it was a dirt track complete with lots of rocks, sharp bends, gravel and soft sand. Our bikes were not suited to suited to this at all and it was slow going with a number of spills and a lot of walking.

    Finally after what seemed like hours we found road again only to discover a really steep inclined for the next few kilometres. We finally reached the summit and decided to reroute our gps to ensure there was no more dirt tracks as we couldn't handle any more mountain biking. The gps sent us 90% of the way back down what we had just climbed (and I think at this point Nicole wanted to kill me). Thankfully we came across a town and found some food to refuel.

    The final 15km into Sant Feliu de Guixols was mostly gentle , flat and all on tar. Thankfully it was a relatively easy finish because Nicole was sick of the saddle. After a few wrong turns looking for our hotel we finally arrived. Some showers left us feeling refreshed and we went and checked out the beautiful beach nearby.
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  • Day13

    The main event, The Accropolis

    October 4, 2017 in Greece ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    The Acropolis and the Parthenon. Wow. Amazing. Breathtaking.

    The Parthenon is considered by many, particularly the Greeks to be the symbol of ancient Greece and the birthplace of democracy. I can now see why. This monumental structure was built in 9 years from 447BC - 438BC although decoration continued through to 432BC. It was designed as a temple for the goddess Athena, the patron of Athens.

    It is believed the Parthenon replaced an older temple of Athena that was destroyed in the Persian Invasion. As was Athenian custom the temple also doubled as the city treasury. Sometime in the 6th Century AD the temple was converted into Christian church. In the 1460s after the Ottoman conquest it was converted to a mosque. In 1687 the building was severely damaged as a of result of fighting between the Ottomans and the Venetians. In the early 1800s a significant amount of the sculptures were removed from the temple and sold into private collections. The Greek government has actively been trying to repatriate this artwork. Given that some of these pieces have been in the British Museum since 1816 I think they have no chance. But I hope I am wrong.

    The Parthenon is currently partially covered by scaffolding, initially I was disappointed to have an obstructed view. However, I overheard a guide talking about the painstaking restoration operation and how without it this monument would completely collapse. In a nutshell, they locate a marble stone slab that is structurally unsound, measure it's dimensions and create a concrete replica. The replica replaces the marble and then they find local marble of the same colour to replace the broken slab. The marble is prepared using a mixture of traditional and modern techniques to ensure that in time new and old marble will blend and she together. The new marble replaces the concrete slab once it is prepared.

    But the Acropolis is home to more than just the Parthenon. It has beautiful 360° degree views of the city. I also liked the temple dedicated to Nike and there was plenty more on the slopes of the Acropolis. The highlights for me were the Theatre of Dionysus, Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the cave on the south-eastern slope.

    After being in Greece for a number of days we were yet to try souvlaki, we had been recommended to try Thanasis Souvlaki in Monasteraki. To be frank this was the most disappointing meal of the trip to date. It was tough, unflavoured, chewy meat and there was minimal sauce leaving us with a very boring and tasteless souvlaki.

    We finished the night A for Athens, a roof top bar in Monasteraki. It has amazing views of the Acropolis and lovely (but pricey) cocktails. A perfect to finish a big day. Despite the price this place is worth a visit.
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  • Day13

    Ruins of Ancient Greece

    October 4, 2017 in Greece ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    We continued our mega tourist day with a walk though the Ancient Agora. The word agora means public space and this space is huge; we could of easily spent an entire day in this space. The space was originally a residential and burial area but by the early 6th Century BC it was redesigned into a public space. This space has been continually excavated by archaeologists since 1931. However it had been previously excavated over the years dating back to 1859. So as you can imagine there is a lot to be seen.

    The Stoa of Attalos, a trade centre and commercial hub built in approximately 150BC has been restored and now houses an museum focusing on Athenian Democracy. We skipped this however given the lack of signage in the grounds if I was to visit again I might start here to get a better understanding of the area.

    The highlight for me was Temple of Hephaestus which was constructed between 449 - 415BC and is the best preserved building from this time period. While not as grand as the Parthenon, it's completeness gives you an idea of the grandness of ancient Athenian architecture. The building is so well maintained due to it being in use until 1934. It served as a Greek Orthodox church until 1834 until King Otto (the first King of Greece) decreed the building should be used as a museum. In 1934 the use of the building as a museum discontinued and archaeological research on the site began. If you are wondering Hephaestus is the patron god of metal work, craftsmanship and fire.

    The other ruins are interesting too, there are a number of houses that are remarkably well preserved. But I really like the idea that I have now walked the same streets as Socrates did thousands of years ago.

    Nearby is Hadrian's Library, the highlight for me in this area was the statue of Nike (goddess if victory) despite losing her wings, arms and head she was beautiful. Also I love that the religious figurehead for winning, victories and competitiveness was female. Girl Power!

    The Roman Agora was again more ruins, I probably found this area the least interesting out if the three. Mostly like being a combination of it felt like it was more of the same and it wasn't particularly well sign posted so I wasn't sure what I was looking at.

    If I was to do this again I'd look at downloading some sort of audio tour to my phone before visiting any of these sites just so I could have some better context at what I was looking at.
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    Joan Barnsley

    Photos are marvellous LysaKate and appreciated your commentaries - this is the closest I've been to Acropolis etc. XxGma

  • Day13

    Big Pillars

    October 4, 2017 in Greece ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Next up we visited the Temple of the Olympian Zeus. Constructed between 470-457BC, which makes it really old. These columns were huge, 17m in fact. It is amazing to think that once upon time there would of been 104 pillars. Even these remains give you idea of how grand this temple would of been. With its roof, this temple would of been of 20m tall, 20m wide and 70m long. Massive.

    Interestingly the main structure of the building was actually made from local limestone and painted with stucco to give it a marble like appearance. The roof of this building would of been something to behold, made from marble tiles so thin they were was translucent. Can you imagine that room when the sun hits the marble?

    Next it was off to Hadrian's Gate. In ancient times this arch spanned the road from centre of Athens to structures including the Temple of the Olympian Zeus. It was built as a devision It was built about 131/132AD in the time of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Through the arch of the fate you can see the Acropolis. On this side of the gate there is an inscription which reads ΑΙΔ' ΕΙΣΙΝ ΑΘΗΝΑΙ ΘΗΣΕΩΣ Η ΠΡΙΝ ΠΟΛΙΣ (this is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus). On the other side of the arch there is also an inscription which reads ΑΙΔ' ΕΙΣ' ΑΔΡΙΑΝΟΥ ΚΟΥΧΙ ΘΗΣΕΩΣ ΠΟΛΙΣ (this is the city of Hadrian, and not of Theseus).

    Even though this arch was more Roman than ancient Greek I still loved it and the thoughtfulness of where it was placed and the way it framed it's surrounds.
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  • Day13

    Plaka and Accropolis Muesem

    October 4, 2017 in Greece ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Plaka is one of the oldest suburbs in Athens. It is located on the north east slopes of the Acropolis. It is characterised by its narrow cobblestone streets and beautiful old buildings filled with shops and restaurants. You will find some amazing ruins including the Ancient Agora and a number of museums. I loved the buildings, such foreign architecture when compared to Australia, so with the assistance of Dr Google I can now tell you they are in a Neoclassical style (which I gather is a fancy way 18th century elegance). A lot of the shops and restaurants are touristy but you get this small village feeling when you visit these streets.

    We stopped at Lulu's bakery and deli for breakfast. We had some delicious pastries, but I don't remember what they were called.

    Next it was the Acropolis Museum. This stop was something I was excited about and it didn't disappoint. Firstly it's design is amazing. It is supported by pillars built over ruins that were discovered during pre-construction. It's modern building and not overly lavish but has glass windows on all sides allowing for tonnes of natural light. The glass floors not only allow you to see the ruins below but also increase the natural light. The top floor is my favourite. Here you can see a subtle homage to the Parthenon with the concrete pillars mimicking that of the Parthenon with artwork laid in between the pillars. It attempts to show the viewer what the Parthenon would of been. Fabulous.

    The museum is well laid out, with sections for different parts of the Acropolis. It is a mixture of treasures from the Acropolis and reproductions again designed to give the viewer an overall idea of what the Acropolis would of looked like 2500 years ago. We started on the top floor, where there is a great introduction video to the Parthenon and the Acropolis. We viewed the sculptures and artwork and I was continually gobsmacked at the craftsmanship and just how old items were.

    Oh it also had this super cute lego Acropolis... If only it came in a set.
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