It’s been an interesting week. If I had to sum it up in one word it would be CORONAVIRUS! It has hit Europe especially hard including France, and Spain – the two countries we’ve been traveling through this past week.
Although Chantil and I have discussed the virus daily, it really didn’t effect us until two days ago. We first noticed it when we arrived at a gas station and the attendants were not letting customers into the main store area. All transactions had to be from the security window with items being passed between a large metal drawer. The attendants all had gloves on for their safety. Today, this was the norm for every gas station we visited.
We’ve also been reading a lot of news and it seems Spain is starting a lock-down of the country starting tomorrow (Monday, 16 March). No travel except for work, groceries, hospital, or emergencies. So we will have to do our best and just do as the locals are doing – stay in their homes and avoid all contact with people outside their immediate families.
We were able to find a quite AirBnB in a rural farming community with a wonderful host named María. She has a wonderfully good heart because she is taking a risk letting strangers come live next door to her and her family. I think we will get to know them much better over the next month…
Enough of the negatives, let’s focus on what we enjoyed this week in France and Spain:
- We spend a whole day in Mallau, France and enjoyed taking pictures of paragliders and dirt-bikers.
- Rode over southern France’s Millau Viaduct – the tallest bridge in the world.
- Enjoyed an incredible rainbow over the French town of Lodève.
- Spent a wonderful night in Port Lligat, Spain. This really is a beautiful part of the Spanish coastline.
- Got to learn more about the life and artwork of Salvador Dalí by visiting his home in Port Lligat and the museum in Figueres, Spain.
- Were amazed at the tiny sculptures of the The Museo de la Miniatura in the small country of Andorra.
- Made our way to Borja, Spain to see the legendary “monkey-Jesus” that was made famous by a severely botched restoration in 2012.
- Walked the narrow streets of what I feel is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain – Albarracín.
- Enjoyed taking pictures of the airplane graveyard at the Teruel Airport.
- Revisited El Cañón – a small but beautiful canyon where we camped for a day and two nights.
- Found refuge from the Spanish travel lock-down near Cartagena in a quite, but beautiful, farming community.
As you can see, we’ve had a great week!
The French City of Millau
Paragliders jump from the cliffs and float into the sunny blue skies.
During an afternoon hike, to see the support beams of the Millau Viaduct, we came across these dirt bike riders. I was able to snap some action photos of them jumping the dirt hills. Looks like fun!
The Millau Viaduct is the tallest bridge in the world. At its highest point, the bridge soars 343 meters (1,125 ft) above ground – 19 meters (62 ft) taller than the Eiffer Tower.
As we left Millau via the Millau Viaduct it started raining. I don’t enjoy riding in the rain and it quickly sours my mode. The rain was moderate and it only lasted for an hour or so. Fortunately, after rain are often rainbows and my mood was quickly picked up again.
Bienvenida a España
No this is not the Spanish flag. Most Spaniards would be bothered that our first sight into their country is the Estelada flag flown by supporters of an independent Catalan. The reality is that a large percentage of Catalans, living in this region, support their independence from Spain. It’s not a view that is shared by the rest of Spain however.
Sunrise over beautiful Port Lligat. This picture came after a really rough previous day and evening. When we arrived along the coast the winds were really blowing hard. He found a nice dirt road that provided a wonderful view of the Mediterranean Sea below. We wanted to capture the moment on our camera of us overlooking the sea while sitting on our motorcycles. I set up the tripod and camera and I remember thinking “There is a lot of wind, I hope my tripod doesn’t blow over.”
I aligned the shot, set the timer on the camera, and hurried over to my motorcycle to capture the magical moment of our arrival to the Mediterranean Sea. As I turned around to pose for the camera, I looked down in horror!
The tripod was on the ground and my fragile camera looked like it was damaged. I hurried over to see that my suspicions were indeed correct! The camera’s retractable lens was damaged and would not retract. The touch screen showed an error message relating to the broken lens mechanism.
My spirits were crushed just like my camera lens. I remember sitting down in the grass and wondering how I was to get a replacement for a very specified and unique camera. It’s not many camera shops that carry a Canon G7X MkII.
Additionally we struggled to find a place to camp on the small peninsula. The campsites were still closed for the season and the hotels in the area were really expensive. We decided to find a remote dirt road, set up camp late in the evening. Unfortunately, we didn’t find a “remote” Dort road until well after dark. As we were setting up our tent we were “greeted” by a man and his dog and they were not happy that we decided to set up our tent in his neighborhood. Although he didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak much Spanish, his body language spoke volumes. He would be calling the authorities if we didn’t pack up and move along.
After packing up our tent and loading everything back on the motorcycles, we returned to the only place we could find to sleep – a vacant parking lot for van campers. We parked the bikes in the lot and slept under an awning of the outdoor seating area of an out of season restaurant. This is about as close to being homeless as I’ve ever felt.
Salvador Dalí’s Home, Port Lligat, Spain
The highlight of our day was visiting the elaborate, eccentric, and relaxing home of artist Salvador Dalí. A guide walked us through each room and explained some of the important events and keepsakes that the artist owned. Towards the end of the tour they let us walk among the gardens and lounge areas of the property at our leisure.
A large polar bear greets guests as they arrive via the front entrance.
Lovely views of the Mediterranean Sea and surrounding region.
Dalí had a large collection of gifts and memories from all over the world.
The enclosed patio stays cool due to the trees and shadows of the large thick walls.
Dalí Theatre and Museum, Figueres, Spain
About 30 minutes away from Dalí’s home in Port Lligat is his museum in Figueres.
The roof parapet is lined with giant egg sculptures.
The brightly colored external walls are decorated with representations of bread rolls,
I want my museum to be a single block, a labyrinth, a great surrealist object. It will be a totally theatrical museum. The people who come to see it will leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream.Salvador Dalí
Although the museum has a wide variety of Dalí’s art, I preferred the relaxing vibe of his home on the coast. Both are definitely worth visiting if you have even a remote interest in the artwork and life of this Spanish surrealist artist.
Before leaving the city we walked around the block and captured some of the sights of this beautiful Spanish city and some of the architecture.
The Museo de la Miniatura, Ordino, Andorra
Over the next day we rode into the Pyrenees mountains and into the tiny country of Andorra. We didn’t spend too much time in this region because we had to return to Barcelona to pick up a new Canon camera that I had ordered through Amazon.
The Miniature Museum’s display of extraordinary microscopic artwork was fascinating. These are all hand crafted by Ukrainian artist Nikolai Syadristy where he expertly crafts the tiniest of scenes inside the eye of a needle! Amazing.
The museum also features a large collection of Russian Matryoshka dolls. The craftsmanship and detail of each of them is also quite amazing.
While in Vic we walked around the large cathedral and enjoyed the children playing games in the large courtyard. It was a nice break from riding motorcycles for a short while.
Independence related graffiti is defacing much of the region of Catalonia and Vic was no exception.
The colorful streets and building of Vic, Spain
Our reason for going to the remote town of Borja Spain was to witness what many call the worst art restoration in history. In 2012, a well-meaning parishioner attempted to restore a fresco of Jesus Christ. The spectacularly bad restoration resulted in what looked to be a monkey wearing a tunic.
This botched painting is now known by many as Ecce Mono (Behold the Monkey)
A painting of Cecilia Giménez – the woman who performed this terrible restoration.
On our way towards Albarracín we stopped to admire the ruins of Castillo de Santa Croche
For some reason that is difficult to explain, Albarracín is one of the most beautiful towns we experienced in Spain. We loved walking through the empty streets during Spanish siesta.
It took us a long time to walk among the streets because every corner was a new picture to capture.
We enjoyed walking among the natural gardens and observing the colored of fresh spring flowers.
Teruel Airport, Spain
As we were riding south, we noticed a large airfield littered with planes and their various colored tail designs.
It turned out to be the airplane boneyard where aircraft are scrapped or kept in storage.
El Cañón de Talayuelas, Spain
This canyon has a special meaning for us since we visited it last year during a business trip where Chantil was able to fly down and enjoy a weekend with me. She had a rental car and we drove out here to observe this remote area that hardly gets many visitors. We promised to return on day with the motorcycles so it was nice to have kept that promise a year later.
We camped here along a dead end section of road for two days. We would have stayed longer but we heard news that Spain was instituting a country wide quarantine and no travel would be allowed between regions. We decided to continue south towards the Murcia region where we had plans to see the city of Cartagena.
We ended up riding all day to reach an Airbnb in the countryside with a wonderful hostess named Maria and her three sons. We were very blessed to have a place in the country with fresh oranges and lemons and a courtyard that we could walk in and enjoy the southern Spanish sunshine.
So what do we do over the lockdown period? I will be busy downloading and organizing the last two weeks of video footage so that I can start putting together some episodes for our YouTube channel. We both will focus on our health a bit more by doing exercises and yoga more regularly. In addition, we’ll spend some time looking at other places we want to explore in Spain and Portugal once the lockdown is no longer in effect. Oh, and Nintendo will release a new Animal Crossing game on Friday (20 Mar) for the Switch! Plenty to do.
Thank you for following along,
Travis and Chantil Gill
🗓: 15 Mar 2020 | ✏️: Travis Gill