The fifth long trip,to Madrid
We had made plans to
get married during our stay in Spain, and this led us to Madrid for this
nine days trip. This time we traveled with expandable saddle bags and
Bagsters tank bag in addition to the topbox. It was the end of minimum
travel. We brought with us extra jeans, light shoes, books, wedding dress
for Bente and more. The bike was heavier as a result but it felt better,
a lot better. On earlier trips we used the topbox only, and it was normally
filled to the limit, hence the centre of gravity was way to high and too
far back. With the saddle bags we got the weight down and out, giving
me a lot more control in city trafic. In addition, the tank bag helped
getting more weight on the front wheel, giving better stability on the
highway. The trip would offer us lots and lots of rain and fantasic cities
like Toledo and Madrid.
Further into the Andalucian hills, and some heavy rain
Friday the 22 of May we set off, driving up from Velez Malaga
to Periana, onwards to Zafarraya, Loja and criss crossing our way to Priego.
The roads were in terrible conditions after heavy rain, causing mud to
overflow and create slippery and difficult conditions. We saw olive trees
everywhere as we got closer to the Jaen region, the worlds biggest region
for olive oil production. We drove relaxed and slowly to enjoy a nice
day in a warm landscape. On the other side of the highway we encountered
the lakes of Iznajar and crossed the bridge that divide the lake and into
the town with the same name. This is another Andalucian town situated
on a hilltop. At the watertower, the highest point in the town, the views
Priego was a short stop, and we walked the city before calling
it a night. The skies the next day looked unpromising, and the forecasts
predicted 'occasional heavy showers and thunderstorms'. But we set of
in a good mood, driving east from Priego and trying for some backroads
again. We were a little reluctant this time, with yesterdays mudflows
in mind, but I persuaded Bente into it by saying 'It's not as bad as it
looks'. First we tried a dirttrack that should connect a small village
with the main road to Granada. After 20km we realised that this road wasn't
leading anywhere, a feeling that had crept in slowly as the road got narrower
and dirtier and wasn't much more than a goat's trail when we turned around.
We ended up in the same village, drove down to the main road connecting
Priego with Jaen, and set off for another backroad that turn south from
the A316, goes through Los Villares and then slowly turns east and north
again towards Jaen.
We passed a funeral, a few houses and then the road
was pure dirt again. Yesterdays rain was still very visible and soon Bente
had to dismount so I could have a try at a 200m long mudhole. I dived
into it, convinced that I wouldn't manage to keep the bike up straight
across the pit. A minute later I came up on the other side with mud up
to my knees and the poor Tiger all covered in the same brown stuff. But
I came through on top of the bike. I grinned from ear to ear to Bente,
asked her to mount again, told her that our problems were over and we
were about to meet paved roads again any minute now, then the heavy rain
set in. Somebody just pulled the plug in the skies, the road that a few
seconds earlier looked like solid gravel, appeared now to be more like
boiling soup. We set off as fast as we dared to get off this dirt road
before it became impossible to steer the bike. Ten minutes later we found
the paved road and a house were we got a half shelter for us and the bike.
We were soaked but couldn't help laugh at each other, sitting on each
our plastic chair that conveniently stood outside the house, and trying
to push ourselfes as close as possible to the wall not to get wetter.
Bente has allways claimed that driving a motorbike when
it's raining is one of the least interresting things for a human to do.
I have allways replied that as long as the clothing is good, it can be
quite enjoyable with the fresh smell, the sounds and everything. She never
understood my point of view. Therefore it was one of my great pleasures
to hear her singing on the bike once while the rain was pooring down.
I immediately stopped the bike, got off and confronted Bente with this,
not conseiling my grin. She looked bewildered, drew her breath and said;
'I wasn't singing, I was swearing….. eh.. with a singing voice!'. Later
I heard it a second time and I'm now convinced she has a slightly different
view, it'll just take some time to admit it…. (No - hands off - I'll keep
on writing, B.)
Jaen, one night at the Parador, and onwards north
Well, the rain ended at last and we came into Jaen. On
the road in, we got the crazy idea that we couldn't be six months in Spain
without trying one of the Paradores. The Parador is the government run
hotel chain that has specialized in converting old castles into luxury
hotels. In Jaen it is located on a hilltop just outside town with never
ending views, so we said 'fu.. it, lets do it'. The price was as expected,
around 16000pts a night, but the room was enormous and the bed was long
enough even for me, which was my first encounter in Spain. The views from
our veranda were grand, but for some odd reason the veranda had no chairs.
The bike had to be parked outside. I took my chances. Considering the
location i t was unlikely that anyone would steal it. So we spent the
night, ate at the hotel restaurant and these are my impressions;
When you travel for a long time in a foreign place you
are often in social need, seeking contact with other travellers or the
locals or the staff at the hotel you're living in. If you are, don't live
in the Parador or their alikes, even if you can afford it. The rooms are
excellent, the baths are superb, the service is very professional, the
restaurant is very efficient. But there is no life. Everyone from the
staff talks very profesional to you, but will not communicate on a slightly
deeper level. The food in the restaurant is good, but the cold service
combined with the outrageous prices turns the value way down. Give me
a waiter full of mistakes but with good food and easy going style, and
I'll tip him a lot more.
Most of the guests in these hotels communicate within their
group, but not with a couple of travellers with worn clothes who spends
part of the afternoon on the veranda, washing and polishing mud covered
boots and trousers. It seems like many guests want to feel on a higher
level than you, and therefore ignores you to prevent any communication
that could reveal that they got the hotel through a last minute offer
at minimum prices.
Don't get me all wrong, the Paradores are nice hotels in
a different style than most hotels in the world, and the experience is
worth it if you know what you're going for. We enjoyed it for the one
night, in the way that we spent the night indoors in the hotel, relaxing
from our normal rhythm of seeking the soul of each new city we met. It's
definitely enough with one night though, now we were longing to get into
a shabby place with people again.
Toledo, the old capital of Castilla
The next day we headed north-west with different opinions
on which route to take. Bente wanted to go straight north to Toledo to
avoid getting stucked in a nowhere place whith the rain pooring down again.
The forecasts said the showers would continue for another few days, but
I still wanted to take our changes and go for Guadelupe and the surrounding
sierras. We met halfway and agreed to head slightly north-west, then decide
later in the day depending on the weather. We crossed over the Sierra
de Cardena y Montoro and when we came to Almodovar the heavy clouds formed
in my direction, while lighter clouds floated innocently in Bente's direction.
So, in order not to hear any 'What did I say', I agreed on driving straight
to Toledo, stay a few days and go on daytrips.
We arrived in Toledo at nine o'clock in the evening, tired
and wet after 360km driving in fairly cold weather. Still we were able
to enjoy the fabulous location of this town, lying on a small hill with
the river semi-circling the old city. It must have been a great fortress
in the middle ages. We headed straight up into the old town, entering
it through a gate in the ancient city wall, drove up to the highest point
and entered a local bar with our guidebook in hand, to find the closest
and best hotel. First it was my turn to walk the streets to check out
the neighbourhood. When I returned I had several offers, but either to
expensive or to shabby. Then Bente went for the other part of town, got
luckier, and we ended up in a hostal close to the main plaza. They even
had a parking space indoors for Rocinante. That is, the space was in the
hallway and we had to lift and shuffle a little to fit it in there. Not
bad, considering it was included in the room. I have to comment here that
most expensive hotels send you to the next block for a parking house which
cost an additional 1000-1500pts a night, while if you meet the right pension,
they'll take the bike into their living room, for free!
Well, the room had the softest madrass we had ever tried,
but was at the same time very thick, sort of like sleeping in a waterbed,
both ends up in the middle of the bed. Anyway, we went on a short bar
round in the night, not expecting much, being Sunday in a town not famous
for it's nightlife. After a couple of visits we ended up in Bar Amsterdam,
in one of the alleys close to the Plaza. We were immediately engaged in
a discussion with the barman, a discussion about football, holidays, Spain,
bullfighting and some more issues that I have forgotten. The bar is run
by two brothers and their father, a popular stop by both locals and turists.
It became our final stop for the night each of the three days we stayed
Getting lost in Toledo
Well, I'm supposed to be the navigator in our little family,
so whenever Bente suggest a route that I slightly disagree on, we end
up going my way. This might be of a general benefit to us, Bente have
allways admitted that the difference between right and left is a matter
of mood, but it also gives her a lot of ammunition when things go wrong.
Since I'm a little stubborn in these matters, I tend to spend a lot of
time figuring out where to go when I'm stuck.
Toledo is a very confusing town. The old centre seems small
on the map, but it's so full of backstreets and small plazas that anyone
could get lost. Or so I like to think!! We had a day in town and we did
nothing but stroll around, visiting museums, cathedrals, El Greco's house
and so on. It's worth doing this in Toledo, the ancient Cathedral is astonishing
in detailed work and dimensions. We hadn't been in a church for as long
we could remember, but impressed we was. Well, we found our way to some
of the main attractions, but then we got lost. Even though we saw the
Cathedral, and saw road signs we went wrong, time and again. It ended
when we stood next to the turist office, which we had been looking for
and I refused to believe we were there. End of story, throw the map away,
have a beer.
Later in the evening we continued our confused search in
town, when we set out to find a restaurant called Hierrabueno, which means
'good spice', recommended in Lonely Planet. The problem was there was
two restaurants in town with the same name. We walked, we asked for directions,
we walked again, asked again and walked the same way back. My stumach
was emtier than Sahara, but finally we found it. It was situated down
an alley, fifty odd meters from our hotel! It wasn't open yet and we had
to wait 45 minutes. I frowned and commanded Bente to follow me to the
nearest food source in our way. She looked at me with eyes that I recognized
very well; "I really, really want to eat here, Dag". "Come on, I'm about
to collapse from hunger". "Pleeeeaaase". I resigned, found us a tapas
bar and ordered double drinks just to get the free tapa twice. It helped
me through the next hour until we finally got the plates served at Hierrabueno.
The food was a disappointment and not worth the extra money. After the
meal we found our way back to Bar Amsterdam, where the older brother was
on shift and for the next couple of hours we got engaged in discussions
again, this time with guy that probably had some award in high speed talking.
I felt physically tired from concentrating hard on the language for so
long. We said goodnight and went to sleep.
Aranjuez, the birthplace of a masterpiece
Back when me and Bente first got together, we bought
the Concierto de Aranjuez by Rodrigo, with Pepe Romero on guitar. This
have been one of our all time favourites and we agreed that when travelling
in Spain, one of the main attractions was to visit the park in Aranjuez
where the concert was written. A wedding journey needs a little romance,
and this was it. Well, not quite, we had more coming up in Madrid.
The bike was retrieved from it's sanctuary in the hostal
hallway and we took the road going towards Aranjuez on the north side
of river Tajo. The drive was fairly uninterresting, the area is flat and
we could feel the presence of a very big city, Madrid, in the powerlines
and industrial parks along the way. We entered Aranjuez after 40 minutes
driving and felt that the town was everything Toledo wasn't. There was
wide avenues with a fairly modern architecture, all in all boring to us.
The park was situated along the river and we parked the bike close to
the entrance and entered, wearing all the gear. It was hot, so hot I started
sweating in my black costume after two minutes walk. Anyway, the park
was nice, but nothing in particular. We walked the lenght of it, looked
at each other and agreed that, ok, we had seen it, let's get out of here.
So much for romance, you might say, but we held hands for a while, honest.
The trip back was done on the south side of the river doing
130-140km/h on the highway, and we were back in Toledo in no time at all.
Getting into Madrid
We left Toledo early in the morning, and with no more
than 60km to Madrid I insisted on driving north-west, passing Madrid on
the west side, and if the weather allowed us, head for Sierra de Guadarrama.
It would be a nice 200km or so drive for the day and get us into Madrid
in the early afternoon. But the weather was just as unpredictable as it
had been the whole trip and Bente was against it. I can't blame her and
I know I was getting ancious to do as much driving as possible before
parking the bike for the summer. We took the N403 towards St Martin de
Valdeglesias and made a short stop in Maqueda, best known for it's castle.
Weather turned worse as usual, and close to St Martin we had a rather
heated dispute before I resigned once more and we headed straight for
We entered the city on E90, which led us directly to the
town centre. The hotel was booked a week in advance, which was very unusual
for us but sensible since we had a wedding coming up. Imagine getting
stuck with no hotel room in Madrid on your wedding day. We found hotel
Trafalgar and were soon up in the room with the bike parked in a parking
house next door. It was early afternoon wednesday and we had one and a
half day to find clothes for me.
So we headed for the shopping centre and started hunting.
All I needed was shoes, trousers, shirt, jacket and tie. Not too much,
just everything you need. We wandered the streets around Puerto del Sol
for hours and ended up with nothing the first day. "Too boring", "Too
fashionable", "Too grey", "Too black", and on and on. I'm not usually
this difficult but it frustrates me when I have to get it done in a hurry.
Bente was getting a little inpatient with me and so was I. We finally
gave it up for the day and headed for Prado instead. The opening hours
were different than what we expected, ofcourse, so we got 30 minutes before
being thrown out. We ran from room to room, seeing paintings of El Greco,
Velasquez, Rubens and Goya. The Coloss of Goya was our favourite together
with some of his 'black' paintings. The museum is a must and we were a
little upset with ourselves for missing the opportunity to explore it
We then tried to find a museum where they showed a black
and white photography exhibition. Driving the bike through the maze of
one way streets, I got lost again. We circled the place a couple of times
before ending up close to Puerta del Sol. Three policemen came by and
I asked them for directions. They told us a big demonstration against
the Mail company was coming our way and we better park the bike in a parking
house and walk the rest of the way. Bente gave me a 'what did I say look'.
You see, I had again insisted on taking the bike instead of the very efficient
metro. Well, that's me again, and that
wasn't enough, the museum closed five minutes before we came. The look
in Bente's eyes were the same, but this time it was clear to even the
blind. "I like driving the bike, you know, the journey ends when you reach
your harbour, and it's the journey I live for", poethic but not very convincing.
The next day we started hunting for clothes again. This
time I got luckier, or maybe I just panicked. Either way I ended up with
a full costume. By the time I was finished I was exhausted, frustrated
and thirsty. We sat for a while on one of the many street cafes and had
a beer before returning to the hotel.
Now came a moment we had been waiting for for months. We
sat down in the hotel room and called our parents to tell them they could
raise a glass for us at one o'clock the next day. The reactions were delightful,
surprised, happy, and a littlebit of "But what about the party?!?".
That night we went to a italian restaurant around the corner
from our hotel, had a nice dinner and shared a bottle of wine, our last
night as sinners.
Getting married in Madrid
The wedding day started with a huge breakfast. Bente went
for the hairdresser, who ended up putting 27 hairpins and a few bottles
of spray onto her head. I went out and bought flowers, and had also arranged
for floweres and a bottle of champagne to wait for us in our room when
we returned from the seremony. This was supposed to be a surprise, but
Bente understood the champagne when she asked me if I would consider buying
a bottle. She looks straight through me, and when I said "well, that isn't
too important now, is it", I gave myself away. The rose secret was given
away by the hotel staff, whom I had instructed not to say a word. We came
back from the hairdresser, the receptionist smiled and said "The flowers
are arranged and you don't have to worry, sir". Well, nothing to do about
it, Bente was happy anyway.
We met at the Norwegian embassy at twelve fiftyfive, nervous
and anxious to get it done. Fifteen minutes later we were back in the
street, just married and trying to stop a taxi. The driver took us back
to the hotel, wished us a happy marriage and then we were back in the
room. The champagne came after a few minutes, and some telephone calls
later we had emptied it, and were both happy and under the influence.
Next stop was the restaurant El Botin, according to Guiness book of Records
the worlds oldest and Ernest Hemningways favourite while in Madrid. The
food was excellent, the service was excellent and we shared another bottle
of wine. After almost two hours we left for the World Press 97 photo exhibition
which was on tour in Madrid. In the evening we saw Carmen the opera. It
lasted almost four hours and was our first opera ever. Both found it interresting
and brilliant at times, but four hours is a long time and after a death
scene that I was afraid never would end, we left for a night cup and headed
for the hotel. One important day in our life had ended, and turned out
just the way we wanted and planned it. Something of a rarity to us.
Saturday came and we had to get back to Nerja. The sad
thing was that I had to leave for work in a few days time and we could
not enjoy a longer honeymoon. But we agreed that we had had three months
of honeymoon in advance and were lucky to get the wedding arranged in
the first place. Some embassies have more than two years of waiting lists
and we got it arranged in six weeks. We had decided to get married five
months earlier, but as I might have mentioned once or twice, we tend to
arrange things in the last minute.
There is not much to say about the trip back home. It was
530km of driving and we did it in six hours with four stops. The only
problem encoutered was that my ears hurt from the noise in the highway
speed and soon I filled them up with toilet paper. We came back to Nerja
at eight o'clock in the afternoon and realised that we could easily have
gone another 2-300km in one day.
This was the end of three months of motorcycle travel, the
end of a period with no worries what so ever, a period with time off,
a bike and the two of us alone in a fantastic country. I was kind of sad
in the evening, knowing I was about to park the bike with my dealer, not
to see it again for maybe six, seven months. Life is brutal, and when
you enjoy one period of complete happiness, it has to be followed by a
letdown. Bente was to stay in Spain for another month, while I had to
go to a vessel west of Shetland to earn my living.
Time passes with a speed relative to the experience of everyday.
Bare with me. When you enjoy something time passes quicker, right. So
the three months I had off really didn't feel like more than a couple
of weeks in work, if you get my point. But that's life, now I'm back at
work and Andalucia is slowly getting more distant. In one way it's actually
a good thing that we parked the bike down there. Then we have to go back.
We will return, absolutely, possitively, damned right we