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Christina
01-29-2007, 02:18 PM
Published January 28, 2007

ZOOM
MIKE ESPINOSA/SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER
Mike and Karen Espinosa of Urbandale enjoyed the cuisine and wines of Andalusia in southern Spain, a land of flamenco, romance and sizzling climate.

Details

WHO: Mike and Karen Espinosa

HOMETOWN: Urbandale

DESTINATION: Motorcycling through Andalusia

TRIP DATES: June 19-25, 2006.

WHO SHOULD GO: This type of trip is best for either a couple or a single person.

GOT THE TOUR THROUGH: We found a company on the Internet, Eaglerider Motorcycle Rentals (www.eaglerider.com/self_guided/malaga.html), that specialized in setting up what they call "self-guided" tours. They made all of the reservations at the various hotels where we stayed. The hotels were three- and four-star hotels and the reservations included breakfast buffets.

COST: $2,199 for two people and one motorcycle, excluding airfare. Airfare was approximately $1,400 per person round trip. Our expenses while in Spain were actually quite reasonable. Food and drinks ran us about 25 euros a day, give or take 5 euros per day. Our gas costs were about 12 euros per tank fill, and we filled up about five times.




See Spain by motorcycle

The fiery southern region of Andalusia pulsates from the Mediterranean to Seville.

By MIKE ESPINOSA
SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

We arrived in Malaga, Spain, after a long flight from Minneapolis via London.

As my wife, Karen, and I stepped off the plane in Malaga, we felt weary from the long flight and the noticeable time difference. Yet as we walked through the airport to collect our baggage, I couldn't help feeling invigorated thinking about our motorcycle trip before us.

We spent our first night at the Melia Marbella Dinamar in Marbella, a popular tourist destination.

Our hotel catered to tourists, with a large courtyard that contained two swimming pools, a set of tennis courts and a separate lounge area that served drinks.

Scattered throughout the courtyard were lounge chairs that quests could use to lie in the sun between dips in the pools.

The hotel was also a short walking distance from the Mediterranean Sea. Many hotel guests chose to spend their days on the sandy beaches, soaking up the sun and enjoying the cool breezes coming off the Mediterranean.

That evening, we ventured from the hotel to sample the local cuisine, the famous tapas of Spain.

Our walk led us to a small restaurant located about a mile from the hotel. After we seated ourselves, the waiter came to take our order. One item on the menu caught our attention immediately: Sangria! We ordered a pitcher along with several tapas, including shrimp and garlic sautéed in olive oil, several slices of jamon, and chorizo.

It was a wonderful introduction to the subtle flavors of the foods that we would eat over the next week during our travels in Andalusia (the southernmost and warmest region of Spain, controlled by the Moors for hundreds of years until 1492).

The next day I contacted the agency from which we rented our motorcycle.

Once I completed the necessary paperwork and received directions back to the hotel, I was off to the hotel.

We checked out of the hotel, loaded our gear onto the motorcycle, and embarked upon our journey.

Our first stop was in Granada, about 90 miles northeast from Marbella. Road signs used to mark the routes are different from what I was used to here in the States, so I missed the coastal road and ended up on the toll road to Granada.

After an hour or so, we tried to figure out our location from the map. I exited the toll road and pulled into a turnout about a half-mile down the road.

As I removed my helmet and looked around me, I saw whitewashed buildings in the distance, surrounded by rows and rows of olive trees that stretched to the horizon.

The dark green of the olive trees contrasted against the browns of the roadside brush and reddish-clay soil in which the trees grew.

We decided where we were on the map, and decided to stop in a small town down the road for lunch and something to quench our thirst.

We stopped at a little bar/cafe on the main street and sat under the canopy outside of the bar.

The waiter appeared with a small plate of olives for us to snack on before we ordered. This was common wherever we stopped for food or drinks and is a tradition throughout Spain.

In all of the places where we stopped to eat or have a drink, the waiters or bar owners would bring us a small plate of food, such as olives, a small slice of a potato and egg mixture known as a tortilla, or small slices of Serrano ham.

We came to appreciate these small plates of appetizers wherever we stopped.

We arrived in Granada later in the afternoon. As in all of the cities in which we stayed, our hotel was in the old part of the city. Many streets were narrow and paved with cobblestones. Navigating through the city was an experience, since many streets were open to one-way traffic only.

We had to backtrack through a series of one-way streets on more than one occasion to get back to our hotel when we inadvertently rode by it.

After checking into our hotel, we went on a walkabout through Granada.

We were amazed and awed by the architecture of the city. We could readily see the Moorish influence in many of the buildings located in the old parts of the cities in southern Spain, along with the other architectural styles that came along after the Roman Catholic Church conquered Andalusia in the late 15th century.

We spent the next morning touring the Alhambra, a magnificent complex of palaces, fortresses and royal quarters overlooking Granada.

The tickets we purchased to tour the royal palace allowed us to enter during a specific 30-minute time slot, but we were able to take our time touring the palace.

While we did tour the main parts of the palace and saw some of the most intricate artwork and architecture of the mystic Alhambra, we feel it would have taken more than one day to truly appreciate the intricacy and beauty of the Alhambra.

We finally left Granada for Cordoba, the next stop on our trip.

We motored through the countryside on the smaller highways, taking in the sights and smells along the way. We spotted a castle perched on a hilltop overlooking the town of Alcala la Real.

We were coming down a gentle slope in the road and came around a corner where we ran into a wonderful wall of cured olive aroma that came from the local olive farm on the road.

The aroma stayed with us for about three minutes and made us hungry for olives. We motored through the town of Baena, considered to produce the best olive oil in the world.

In Cordoba, where we stayed the night, we visited the Mosque Cathedral. Nearly 1,000 columns are in this mosque, making it one of the most unusual mosques in the world. After the Christian conquest of Cordoba, a Gothic cathedral was built within the mosque and was adorned with Catholic and baroque ornamentation.

The next day we traveled along the Guadalquivir River to Seville for a visit to the most populated city in Andalusia. We arrived mid-afternoon, when it seemed that everybody in the city was out on a drive.

We decided to leave the city after noticing that the temperature had risen to well over 100 degrees. We needed the wind to not only cool us off, but to also cool off the motorcycle.

The rest of our trip was just as magical and enlightening as the first part of our trip.

We dined on the wonderfully flavored Spanish dish of paella in Ronda, tasted sherry from the finest sherry bodegas in Jerez de la Frontera, wandered the battlements of Cadiz (the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Western world), viewed Africa from Gibraltar, and watched ships sail in and out of the port at Algeciras.

We had a truly wonderful time, and we plan to return soon to further explore southern Spain and Andalusia.


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