Madrid to Barcelona…..driving a rented Renault in Spain by myself in 2001

Madrid to Barcelona

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The little Renault and me are having a great time weaving in and out
of lanes, driving over some magnificent terrain. Spain is beautiful. 

From Madrid to Goyagoza are castles, medieval towns from days gone by, and amazing ruins of every description.

alhambra-palace

The freeway powers forth to the coast, and every few kilometers  is a turn off
 to a  different town.  It took me a while to realize, that it is possible to veer off the main highway, visit whatever town is lurking in the eaves of the freeway and then back, without even leaving the car or missing a beat, coming straight back on to the highway and continuing on. I went off on every single detour once I realised I could do this and the ruins and the small communities are simple wonderful with breathtaking views, as they are mostly on top of mountains.

red-castle-granada_30481

I missed some marvelous places just out of Madrid, and am hoping to see them on my way back. Places with names such as Guadalajarra, Torija, Medinaceli, Ariza, Alhama de Aragon, Catalayud, and San Mateo de Gallego, where I am now  writing this from.

mutioSpain

All are exciting places with ruins, and Olive groves, and almond trees in
blossom. I stopped to photograph an olive grove, and discovered I was leaning against an almond tree with ripened nuts, which I collected, and ate while I drove along. They were sweet and juicy and I wished I had collected more, instead of just a small handful.

Many monasteries are there, promising mystery and religious awe, amidst some of the most majestic and most dramatic scenery I have ever seen. 

monastery

At various places perched on the highest vintage points for a very long distant visibility, the huge black silhouettes of bulls loomed over the immense mountains, and the desolation makes me wonder how the ancient Spaniards did manage to survive. The highest peak of every settlement has a castle, strong and arrogant, suggesting sentries with sharp eyes watching for visitors and strays from other regions. Local rock and stone are used for every building adding to its charm. It was truly spectacular and vividly dramatic and beautiful.

Poblet_Monastery

Every little patch of land had a little dwelling, and the vines were still sticks, as this is winter in Spain. I can imagine the hive of industry when the grapes were ready and the olives were being picked, and people were working. I was driving through the Vineyards and the wine making country, and the electricity wind vanes turned looking like giant fans cooling the already cold area. It was winter in Spain, and very cold.

mapa_zaragoza

I stayed the next night at Zaragoza, and found it misty and foggy.  The following day, because of  poor visibility,  I just carefully followed the road,  and missed most of what was beyond. It was like driving through a misty wonderland where one never knew just what lay on either side or even ahead.
dp_zaragoza_dg_im_05.jpg_369272544
At  Fraga, I joined a freeway, that cost me 21500 pesetas, which I just managed, as I had not made  allowances for cash for freeway tolls. The freeway was magnificent ,and fabulous for driving. The separate lanes for traffic, meant night driving was a dream, without bright lights, but you miss the magnificent scenery, which is why I stopped here for the night.

Fraga

After Lleida there are towns again, and some fabulous monasteries and
ruins, and they are totally different to the settlements on the Madrid side.

Lleida

Once again there were dramatic mountains and some breathtaking scenery. There were lots of Almonds and olives, amidst neatly sown patches of land,  that were all ready for planting. Lots and lots of wineries and again the names were familiar from wines rather than locations. I loved it all and
was sad the dull weather made it difficult to take many photographs.

Names such as Tarrega, Calef, Rocafort, Sta Colonna, St Jeromi, and Santa Maria, and lots of others not on the map, delighted the eye and the heart, and the names alone make Spain so romantic and so exciting.

map_of_barcelona

Barcelona was a total contrast to Madrid. Some very modern Spanish castles and renovated buildings with lots of high rise in the process of being built. There appeared a more Mediterranean influence with arches and gardens and green as against Madrid’s more archaic formal structures. 

Barcelona-Spain-630x372

The freeways are everywhere, and the traffic so fast, that a new traveler who
cannot understand Spanish, and has no map, cannot possibly cope. True to form I got lost again and asked for help from a BP Garage. His help was fine, but the lanes of the freeways merge, and mingle, so though you start in one lane the final route is in anothe,r and with fast traffic and no prior warning, and beeping irate
drivers, it is hard to lane change easily.

So, I end up off the A2 highway and on the road to Girona, which is nearly France. 

girona-spain

There was no way to turn off, and at the end I finally came off, and whilst weaving the evening traffic found a police car with a friendly pair of police, who again not only put me onto the right highway out of Barcelona, but took me to a bank for money, and when that was closed, actually escorted me to the Airport, came with me to change my notes, and then guided me back. 

I would never have managed without their help. Believe me, it was a complete Hodge Podge of tiny one-way streets, with more motorists than I have ever seen
before, all  behind me,  all blowing their horns, and me not having a clue where I was or where I was heading.

What I did, was finally just stop the car right where I was in the middle of this one way street, and patiently wait, with every car in Barcelona behind me all blowing their horns,  until someone did something. Finally a Police car arrived, duly called no doubt by some exasperated motorist,  and showed me how to get out of this mess I was now in, by following them. I was now driving on bumpy cobbled stones, and the buildings around made it look like I was driving around a collection of cathedrals, which I possibly was. It was an awesome experience, and one I will never forget.

I did go through the three tunnels, and through another freeway, where I had to fiddle my loose change for the amount. I started to get worried and thought.. What for. This is my adventure, and I will enjoy it, and I did.

The scenery coming back, was even better than going there, as now I was traveling downhill, and seeing the whole expanse ahead. The colors of the vineyards and the buildings are wonderful, and the soil is as red in places, as the
Australian desert. 

I have never seen such beautiful mountains, and so many beautiful buildings as I did these four days in Spain.  I was just completely entranced and fascinated with everything I saw and experienced, and would consider this to be one of the most awesome experiences I would ever have.

girona cathedral

When the sun set behind the clouds, some of the monasteries were floodlit, which was a marvelous sight. There was still enough light to see the surrounds, which were  magnificent. and equally dramatic.  This is such a rich and varied country, of vines and neat patches of something plowed, with stone and mountains, and long, long views. 

Because it is winter, there is not much growing, but the ground is ready for cropping, and everything was so ordered, and detailed and so perfect. Once when I stopped to take a photograph, there was a smiling farm couple with goats, and while they were trying to talk to me, the goats were climbing up the Olive trees trying to eat the leaves. It was so picturesque. I see the toothless smile of the old lady ,wrapped in many layers of clothing, and the man in rough boots with thonging to his knees. It was just awesome.

The drive was magnificent, and I am hoping tomorrow will be clear and sunny for my roll of film.

Beautiful, Beautiful, Spain.!!!

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