Northern Spain and Grazalema

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

¡Que Suerte Tenemos!

How lucky we are! We have officially decided the Spain has to be on the list of the top 10 best countries in the world! We continue to be amazed at all this beautiful country has to offer. It is diverse in both its landscape as well as its people. It seems to offer a little bit of everything for everyone.
Jeanna and I decided that we needed to take advantage of one of our last weekends here in Espana. As you all can imagine by now, the bicycle played a role in our plans. The second Copa de Espana took place in Oviedo, Spain. Oviedo is a medium sized city that sits in the province of Asturias in the northern part of Espain. Jeanna and I planned our trip around this area to incorporate the bike race into our tourism. We took advantage of our four day work week and headed north immediately after school on Thursday. This was the part of the trip that Mr. Romer was dreading the most! Eight hours in el coche is not so bueno for the gentle giant. We decided to get the majority of the driving out in one day so that the remainder of the trip could be filled with more than the giant’s whining and complaining! Our first of many adventures was making a stop in Aranda del Duero (un pueblo a little over half way between Jaen and Santander). This beautiful little pueblo came highly recommended by some friends as a great place to stop and eat. They did not lead us astray although they did not warn the driver that the co-pilot would be offered an entire botella de vino tinto! The bottle made for a happy, then very soon sleepy, essentially worthless co-pilot but the dinner was enjoyed thoroughly by both sides. The rest of trip was made in the dark. We arrived in Santander some time between midnight and two. The early morning hours made for easy navigation within the city.
A good nights sleep in a cheap hotel by the port, which seemed to be directly from a seventies porno (did not look like that online) had us ready to hit the ground running. We decided to spend an hour or two walking around Santander. This turned out to be time well spent. Santander was absolutely beautiful and left us with the desire to return one day. It was nice to see different styles of architecture, and of course, being a gorgeous city on the beach didn’t hurt us either. Unfortunately, we had to move on as we had lots to do with poco tiempo! This would be a good time to say that this entire trip was done “Eli Style”. “Eli Style” is a glorified way of saying absolutely no planning whatsoever… Well, that is not entirely true, he knew that he was going to race his bike in Oviedo on Sunday. The rest was improvisation. Jeanna (doing her best to not be an organized little Debbie) did an amazing job of going with the unorganized flow!
As it turns out, luck was on Eli’s side. As he drove aimlessly towards the area where he thought that he had heard that maybe there was something cool or something like that (insert Eli Style) a GIANT road sign said this way you unorganized slacker! Whew, saved by the GIANT sign once again! The next several hours involved following the unorganized idiot signs which come and go at will! The luck continued as a stop for un café con leche and a short conversation with the bar tender led us to an incredible little town in the Picos de Europa called Potes. It also turned out that the entire drive had us crawling through some of the most beautiful scenery the two of us had ever seen. The Picos de Europa should be on everyone’s “bucket list”! We are both putting it on ours and we have already been there (yes, it is that amazing)!
Luck continued to be on our side. We headed from the Picos (and in case you want to do some research, some cool towns we saw were: Cangas de Onis, Covadonga, Potes, Santillana del Mar, and Ribadesella) to the Playa hoping to find a place to stay for the night as captain procrastination (Mr. Spontaneous for those who see the glass half full) had not thought that far ahead! It just so happens that Co-Captain On Top of Everything had a book of all the youth hostels in her handy dandy purse of organization. This magic book lead us to a beach front hostel that was almost free! Yes, we stayed on the beach…and I mean ON THE BEACH…back door to the boardwalk… for less than 30 bucks! Go Miss Jeanna, Go! Ohh yeah, and we had an incredible evening learning about the Sidrerias de Asturias and sampling some of the local cuisine (completely different from the food in Andalucia…let’s just say they like their vaca, along with all the other animals that might possibly contribute to the making of a yummy cheese!)! We had a great evening and a great nights sleep with the sound of the oceans waves bidding us good night!
The mission the next morning was to make it to Oviedo and start thinking about the bike race! This was a mission that was easily accomplished even without planning! Captain Organization put a creative spin on the lack of planning and sent us to another city on the beach for breakfast (she is on top of things)! Gijon, was a beautiful stop and was less than 30 miles from our final destination. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast on the ocean front followed by a little walk around the town.
We made it to Oviedo just in time for an amazing lunch! We stuffed ourselves with great Asturian food! We then went for a little walk around the old city center. It was absolutely beautiful and great to walk around as it was limited to foot traffic only! The city was spotless and the architecture was great! Pictures cannot really do it justice…this is one of those places that one should just visit. Some of our friends came up on Saturday afternoon and a small group of us headed out to pre-ride part of the course. Miss Jeanna came along and went for a run while the boys took off on the bici’s…
Race day did not go quite as planned but we all had a great time. Mario (Eli’s Spanish Coach and good friend) won in his category and took the leader’s jersey. Eli was a little too fat to make it over the decisive climb (maybe a little less “sampling” new food next time?) and found himself in a small chase group behind the leaders, finishing fourth in his category. He ended the race saying something along the lines of, “man I should not have eaten all of that food… but man was it good”!
We had an incredible weekend. We had the opportunity to see more of this beautiful country we have both grown to love. We had the opportunity to see some new towns, try some new food (although some of us could have done without hahahahaha), and meet some great people. Maybe one day Eli will learn how to eat less and ride more but until then, we will continue enjoying and making the most of every moment we have left here in Espain! Thank you again to all of those that have supported us in this adventure. We look forward to seeing all of you again!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

¡Andale, Andale!

The virgen! It is amazing how quickly time seems to fly by when you are having a good time! It has been awhile and a lot has happened since the last time we posted! We are extremely sorry for having the time of our lives over here and not taking the time to write a word or two on the RomerTravels blog… On second thought, not too sorry as we have both decided that the more fun we have here now the better our stories will be upon our return state side. I am sure that none of our family can wait to hear us talk about how little we worked, how much great food we ate, how many breathtaking places we saw… Then again, they might just revert to be monkeys and start throwing… well you know… the brown stuff at us!
Our lack of postings began with the remodeling of “our internet café”. It was during this same period of time that Kristy Elaine Moore and her OHH SO PATIENT HUSBAND ROB-O FLEW ACROSS THE ATLANTIC OCEAN TO VISIT! Yes, you are reading correctly; Kristy “You are going to fall and break you neck”, Kristy “that won’t get within 100 miles of water without a life jacket”, etc. Yes, that same Kristy made it across the Atlantic Ocean. I hope that you all purchased stock in Captain Morgans Rum before her departure! Rob was more than happy to “take care of ol nervous nelly” as he heard that Spain was the capital of decent beer that comes with free appetizers (aka. Tapas). With her last living will in the hands of older brother Jeremy, Mom and Rob took off for the adventure of their lives! They said that they wanted to hit the ground running and that they did. Jeanna and I visited more places with the two of them in one week than the two of us had seen in the sixth months prior. Eli’s school also spoiled them with an incredible lunch in the CASTLE! Yes, they ate in a castle in Espain. Mom didn’t even make a comment about the possibility of it collapsing while we ate! We also managed to get the two of them out for a drink or two! Cheap drinks and free food made it difficult to get the two of them to come back home to our apartment, but we somehow managed! We sent them off to Madrid in a train and the two of us headed for the beach with some friends (I know terrible hosts). We hope that the two of them had a great time and now have a better understanding of why we have grown to love this place.
Jeanna and I took one big deep breath before our other loving parents took their big leap over the pond. The leap from T-Lake to Espain was a long one but this was a trip that Mom had been waiting her whole life for. She to was ready to hit the ground running upon exiting the aeropuerto en Barcelona! With camera in hand and elk pepperoni never too far away, Mom and Dad set out to see their first of many magnificent cities. 1000 (yes that is three zeros) pictures later Mom and Dad headed south to Denia. They had scored a beautiful little place on the coast for the week and invited Miss Jeanna and myself up for a visit during yet another Spanish holiday! With bikes in tow, we headed up the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. The weather was not as cooperative as it could have been but was perfect in the eyes of two recently retired teachers who spent the last 30 plus years of their life in a place that would give the Amazon Rain Forest a run for its money! We saw some incredibly beautiful places with Mom and Dad. One week later found us back in Jaen. Mom and Dad did an incredible job of exploring the city we have come to call home, while Jeanna and I went “back to the grind” (all twelve excruciating hours of it). We even hit Granada and the Alhambra for a day (maybe you’ve heard of it?) They said that the tapas were nice but were most thankful for the opportunity to have met an incredible Spanish family. A teacher and good friend from Jeanna’s school invited all of us over for dinner…twice! The food was to die for and the company even better. The Spanish/French cuisine left the two of them longing for more of Europe. They left us two weeks into their trip and headed northeast for France and later Italy! I am sure that they will have some great stories and a “couple of photos” upon their return!
Beyond catching up with family and working like dogs (albeit dogs with no legs and pampering owners) Jeanna and I have been enjoying every moment we have here. We spend the majority of our time here on a bike or walking around…ohh yeah and working! Race season is finally in full swing. Eli will be spending the majority of his time traveling around with all of his team mates disputing every race within 1000 miles of our apartment! As much as Miss Jeanna loves playing the role of the bike fairy she will be opting out from time to time in search of the next, “most beautiful place she has seen in her entire life”, or, “the most amazing food she has ever tasted”! Instead of having a baby, Jeanna and I have decided to “pollinate” our two objectives and make a little “Touristy Bike Trip” up north this weekend. Eli likes to think of it as disputing La Copa de Espana with blood, sweat and tears, while Jeanna likes to think of it as great photo taking opportunities, memories, new food to try, and time with her husband in his little “happy place”. The most important thing is that we are truly BOTH loving every minute of it and are incredibly happy to have one another along for the ride. We both realize how incredibly fortunate we are to have one another and to have had this wonderful opportunity! Thanks again to all of those who have helped us make this dream become a reality! We hope that you enjoy the photos and forgive us for not writing with more frequency!
PS: Kristy flew back over the ocean and she is still alive! Reports say that she was seen walking out of PDX with a flotation device around her neck singing “Praise the Lord and Praise Captain Morgan”!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Chiclana de La Fontera (Cadíz)

Last weekend was filled with great friends, awesome food, incredible weather, visiting new places throughout Andalucia, y la primera carrera del año para Tito Elias (and the first race of the year for Uncle Eli)! Yes, it is true that Uncle Eli has officially finished his first race in Europe!
First things first... None of the aforementioned greatness would have ever been possible without the kindness of two AMAZING FRIENDS De España! A BIG THANK YOU TO PILAR AND LUIS! These two people gave up their entire free weekend to drive all the way to the western coast of Andalucia with a crazy cyclist and his guapetona mujer (aka aunt Jeanna)! Not only did they offer to drive us four hours to the race but they made the hotel arrangements and showed us an amazing time in neighboring Cadíz the Saturday before the race! Their company honestly made the trip for both of us. They are incredible hosts and great friends. We look forward to having them visit Oregon where we will spoil them rotten trying to repay them for all of their undeserved kindness here in Espain!
Racing in Europe? It was FANTASTIC! There were over 100 participants lined up for the 100 k (leg breaker) course. This was the first race in the series for the Copa de Andalucia. There were many eight man teams, all of which were fully equipped with team cars and race radios! The teams were all willing to work for one or two riders and that kept the pace very high. We were given the entire road with a "rolling enclosure". This made moving up much easier. There was a fierce head wind for the first 50 kilometers and a few 2 and 3k climbs that started thinning out the field. Unfortunatly, there was a crash about 40k into the race. The crash probably cut out one fourth of the peloton. The crash was followed by a 3k climb into a head wind! This climb shattered the remainder of the field. The last 40k of the race was fast and furious. Somewhere during that time a small group of six or seven escaped. I did not see that move go and made the decision to set in with what was left of the field. I took second in the final sprint! I was super excited to have finished. I never would have expected such a good result but was ecstatic to have it. We were in a bit of hurry so we were unable to stick around for the celebration. We showered, ate some lunch, and hit the road. (offical results are still not up).
The trip did not end with an uninterrupeted four hour drive. It easily could have but Luis and Pilar decided to spoil us once again and treat us to un Café in a Castle from the 8th century! Yes, they stopped in Carmona, a beautiful little pueblo of Andalucía! The entire walk through the pueblo was beautiful. The views of the valley were breathtaking and the company was great! We are truly lucky people to be here and to have found such amazing friends along the way! Pictures are to come. Love and miss you all,
Elias y la Guapetona!

PS. Please forgive the lack of posts. "Our internet Cafe" has been shut down for repairs making it a little more difficult for us to use the internet. We are trying!