Trans Euro Trail – Netherlands

The Trans Euro Trail (TET) is a volunteer community that originated to promote the use of legal off-road riding throughout Europe. It had been some time since we rode our motorcycles on dirt roads so we were very excited to begin a trip through Netherlands 🇳🇱 and Belgium 🇧🇪!

We downloaded the routes from http://www.transeurotrail.org, packed our mules, and were on our way!

Getting to the Start of the NL TET
🗓: 30 Mar | 🌍: Geilenkirchen to Sögel, Germany

Map of Day 1: Windmills, Roman Temples, and Tanks?! We covered about 300 km of riding today as we made our way north to the beginning of the Netherland Trans Euro Trail (TET).

Along the way we saw this WWII memorial which seemed to translate “To the memory of the legacy”.

A unique sign of a potato of a fork that is about 10 feet tall! Although this is one big tater, Chantil, an Idahoan native, said it doesn’t compare to Idaho taters!!

Xanten, Germany

The town of Xanten (which sounds like a name for a planet in some other solar system) has an interesting history due to it’s closeness to the Rhine River and Roman trade routes.

I love the textures of patterned doors and bricks.

The Klevar Gates, built in 1393, are all that remains of the medieval city.

Uniquely painted window shutters.

Near the Klevar Gates was this unique dragon decorated with brightly colored tiles.

APX Archaeological Park

Just down the road is the APX Archaeological Park. Although I knew that Roman influence covered most of Europe, I had no idea that such a large park and museum existed in Germany.

Who needs to go to Rome to see ancient Roman Temples?

This is the Harbor Temple and was recreated to show just a portion of the grandness of the original one that stood here during the Roman era.

Many Roman artifacts contained within the museum were found among these rocks.

Although it was still early spring and many of the trees were not sprouting, it was still a beautiful day.

A map showing the extended influence and power of the Roman Empire which extended we’ll north into Great Britain.

The museum covers much of the Roman bathhouse areas and is very large with exhibits on multiple floors.

The exhibits are very interactive and meant to be enjoyed by everyone – especially the children.

Brightly colored Roman shields can be used by kids to get an idea of what it was like to be a Roman soldier.

A Roman sculpture from nearly 2000 years ago!

Roman coins! I find the history of money to be quite interesting and enjoy visiting different countries and exploring the coins and bills.

The Capital Temple would have been the central building of the city.

There was also a nice display that showed the boat and barge building process used by the Romans.

There is a game room where people can learn about the board games Romans played.

The statue of the Emperor of Rome greets visitors to the Gladiator Coliseum.

A small museum, inside the Coliseum, describes the battles that took place here for entertainment. Often animals were used like bears.

Overall, it was an interesting experience and a great way to spend a couple hours.

Sögel Tank Cemetery

We heard about this place from the website Atlas Obscura. The site mentioned that it’s a military operating area and access was limited…

“Stop! Firing range. Danger of death.” What could go wrong?!?

We saw a truck and some teenagers in the ‘cemetery’ so we decided that if the military really wanted us out they would not leave to gate open – right?

Lucky us! We got to explore the 24 tanks just sitting in an open field.

Apparently this is still a military operation area used by helicopter pilots.

The website says these are Leopard I and M47 Patton tanks.

It would be interesting to know more about the history of these tanks but not much is published.

One of my favorites places and memories for sure!

Check out DAY 2 as we officially start the NL TET!

Discovering “Trash Animals” in Europe

🗓: 21 Jul 2020 | 🌍: Lisbon, Portugal

If you’ve been following our travels throughout Europe, you’ll soon discover that we are fans of street art and murals. Whenever we visit a large city we will typically reserve one day to walk around and discover the unique artist.

One particular artist that has stood out to us is environmental artist Artur Bordalo, who goes by Bordalo II (pronounced Bordalo Segundo).

Bordalo II was born in 1987 in Lisbon, Portugal and is known for creating impressive animal sculptures and murals from street garbage.

Photo by Martha Cooper from www.bordaloii.com

His most famous pieces are what he calls Big Trash Animals where he uses the trash and plastics that so often destroy the fragile habitats of the very animals he creates.

Bordalo II creates various styles of Big Trash Animals to include: Neutral (painted natural colors), Half-Half (half painted and half plastic), and Plastics (all plastic). These are just a few of the ones we’ve come across while riding our motorcycles around Europe.

Half Fox (2017) Lisbon, Portugal

Half Chimp (2017) Lisbon, Portugal

Pelicans (2020) Lisbon, Portugal

Big Raccoon (2015) Belem, Portugal

Plastic Iberian Lynx (2019) Lisbon, Portugal

Plastic Frog (2017) Lisbon, Portugal

Half Rabbit (2017) Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

Bear (2016) Torino, Italy

These are just a small sampling of the ones we have come across in our travels. Check out his website to search for some his artwork in your local area. He has produced artwork in Europe, North America, South America, Polynesia, and Asia.

Next Blog Post

While we were visiting the westernmost point of continental Europe, it got me thinking about other extreme points of the earth that we hope to visit someday. North Cape, Cape L’Agulhas, Prudhoe Bay, and Ushuaia are just a few of them.

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Spiritually Fed in Lisbon, Portugal

🗓: 19 Jul 2020 | 🌍: Lisbon, Portugal

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

When Chantil and I discussed full-time travel, one of the most important things to us was ensuring we continued to honor the “sabbath” by attending church services and spending the day focused on relaxing and more spiritual thoughts. As Christians, our sabbath is typically on Sunday in the western world.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic it has been very difficult to attend church services. Our church was one of the first to implement policies the prevented regular gatherings until measures were in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

As we travel we use the meetinghouse locator of our church website to find local churches to attend. While in Lisbon, we found services that started at 10AM and were only a 35-minute walk from our Airbnb. With not much more than faith, we put on our “Sunday best” and walked to what we hoped would not be another closed building.

As we rounded the corner to the address, we saw a gentleman in a suit and mask standing by an open door. Our hearts skipped a beat with excitement as we were finally going to be attending church for the first time since March.

The Portuguese church building is humble with artwork found in most of our religious buildings. What makes this building unique was the wonderful painted azulejo tiles on the walls and bathrooms.

“Use of a Mask is Required” – Everyone must wear a mask, sit 1.5 meters away from each other, and there was no singing of hymns. The sacrament was passed but the bread was spaced apart so that it wouldn’t be touched by others, and the sacrament water cups had a separate tray for disposal. After the meeting, we were asked to go outside so that we didn’t congregate indoors.

Even though things were very different than before COVID-19 it was still a joy to be able to partake of the sacrament, hear a spiritual message, and witness the spirit of Christ in the lives of the people of Lisbon.

Lisbon Portugal Temple

Another one of our goals, during our full-time travels, was to visit and participate in religious ordinances in the various church temples through-out the world. Before the pandemic, there were 14 operational church temples in Europe. However, in March all of them were closed to prevent the spread of the corona-virus.

Image from churchofjesuschristtemples.org

The European temples are located in Portugal, Spain, France, Netherlands, England (2), Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Germany(2), Italy, and Ukraine.

Although the Lisbon Temple was closed we still enjoyed walking around the well-kept grounds and seeing the design of this beautiful building dedicated to serving the people of Lisbon and the surrounding regions.

The Lisbon Temple is 23,730 square feet and is made from Portuguese Moleanos Limestone.

The temple grounds consist of 4.6 acres and are professionally maintained with beautiful landscaping and gardens.

The temple groundbreaking ceremony was on December 5th, 2015. It was completed for the public open house in August 2019. On September 15th, 2019 is was dedicated as the 166th temple of our church.

Some of detailed craftsmanship that is cut into the Portuguese Moleanos Limestone.

Although we couldn’t go inside the temple, we returned home to see some of the pictures of the interior from https://churchofjesuschristtemples.org/lisbon-portugal-temple/photographs/

Photograph from churchofjesuschrist.org

In the sealing room a bride and groom will kneel together at an altar to be sealed for this life and for eternity. This ordinance is also sometimes referred to as “temple marriage” or “eternal marriage.”

Photograph from churchofjesuschrist.org

In the baptism font, baptisms are performed by the living on behalf of those who have died without the opportunity. Such ordinances extend the saving grace of Jesus Christ to all people.

The baptismal font is supported by twelve oxen that symbolize the tribes of Israel and the strength upon which God’s work rests. The molds for these Lisbon oxen were taken from the Idaho Falls Temple in Idaho, United States.

Photograph from churchofjesuschrist.org

The Celestial room is a place of quiet peace, prayer, and reflection meant to symbolize heaven, where we may live forever with our family in the presence of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

If you would like to learn more about the temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints click this link: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/temples

Next Blog Post

Join us as we search Lisbon for “Trash Animals” from one of our favorite environmental artists – Bordalo II.

Help Contribute to viajarMOTO.com

Thanks for reading our travel blog. If you would like to help support future travel writing and videos please consider joining us at: https://www.patreon.com/viajarmoto

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Summary of 2020

What a YEAR! Never in our wildest imaginations did we expect a year like 2020! It definitely had its ups and downs…

This is a short summary of our year of full-time motorcycle traveling starting in Idaho, United States and ending in Budva, Montenegro.

The Flower Tree, Lyon, France


It was a wonderful blessing to take the time to visit with most of our family in Idaho. We ended up spending about a week with nearly all of Chantil’s brothers and sisters and had some wonderful memories. I was pretty busy getting things set up on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and our website for sharing our motorcycle travels via viajarMOTO.

Albarracín, Spain


Final preparations for our departure! It was a busy time as we made sure our storage shed was all packed and everything we needed to go with us on the motorcycles was ready for our flight to Germany at the end of the month. It was sad leaving Aaron and Chantil’s family in Idaho, however, we were excited to be starting our dream of full-time motorcycle travel!

Hiking the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Spain


What an insane month! We arrived in North Rhine-Westpalia, which was the epicenter of the Coronavirus cases in Germany. Thanks to our wonderful friends, the Munns, who picked us up from the airport, and the Palmers, who stored our motorcycles over the winter and let us stay at their home until we were ready to travel.

On the 2nd of March we started the adventure we dreamed of over the last five years! Little did we know it would come to a screeching halt in just a few weeks. We rode through Germany, France, and into eastern Spain. Our original plan was to catch a ferry from southern France to Morocco, but the Morocco borders were closed before we got there. We decided to continue traveling through Spain. We made it to the Murcia region before Spain issued a complete lockdown and travel ban for the entire country.

Benagil Caves, Portugal


We where fortunate to have found an Airbnb and a courageous hostess, Maria, that allowed us to stay in her guesthouse in the countryside. Although we weren’t allowed to leave except for shopping, we used the time to make YouTube travel videos, hang out with Maria and her three sons, work-out, and play A LOT of Animal Crossing on the Nintendo Switch.

National Palace of Pena, Sintra, Portugal


More YouTube videos, chilling with Maria, working-out, and playing video games. By the end of the month, Spain was allowing local travel within regions so we would explore Murcia. We even rode a portion of the Trans Euro Trail (TET) and documented it so we could write our first article for UPSHIFT Online. Check out the article here: https://www.upshiftonline.com/magazine-issue/november-2020

Porto, Portugal


After 92 days of travel restrictions, we were FINALLY allowed to leave Murcia region. We continued south and then east along the coast of Spain. We enjoyed the whitewashed buildings of Spanish towns, the majestic Alhambra, hiking the Sierra Nevadas with Angela, and historic cities like Granada, Córdoba, and Málaga.

Hiking the Camino de Santiago, Spain


We continued along the coast of southern Spain and then into Portugal. Spain highlights included: Júzcar, Ronda, Seville, and the Wharf of the Caravels. In Portugal, we stuck to the coast to avoid the hotter temperatures and enjoyed: Faro, Benagil Cliffs, Sagres Fortress, Lisbon, Sintra, Porto and many other wonderful spots along the way.

Riding the Trans Euro Trail, Croatia


This month started by parking our mules and going for a week-long hike along the Camino de Santiago. We started at the Spanish/Portugal border in Tui and hiked the 117 km (73 miles) to the city of Santiago. A much shorter bus ride returned us to our motorcycles and more adventure up the western coast and into northern Spain.

At this point we had to figure out our plans for the next leg in the adventure. Our travel visa was set to expire for most of Europe and our only options that would allow for future travel were Morocco, UK, or the Balkan countries. Morocco would have been great but they were pretty strict with previous lockdowns. The UK is expensive and not an ideal climate in winter. The Balkans had multiple countries open to US passport holders, costs are generally less expensive, and the coast of the Adriatic Sea has weather much like the central California coast. Easy decision – off to the Balkans!

We left Spain and rode quickly across France and northern Italy. We stopped to enjoy the Alp mountain regions and to spent a day in Venice.

Street Artists in Venice, Italy


With 90-days to enjoy Croatia we took all of it! Although Croatia is not that large, it is diverse. The coastal regions are vastly different from the northeast. We enjoyed taking our time and exploring the culture and beauty of this wonderful country. Since UPSHIFT Online published our article on riding some off-road in Spain, we decided to ride the TET in Croatia as well. We even followed up by visiting with the linesman, “Dooby” Primorac, who was responsible for establishing the trail. Check out the article here: https://www.upshiftonline.com/magazine-issue/december-2020

Spomen-Park Brezovica, Croatia


We never expected the weather to continue this late in the year. It has been our dream to charter a sailboat in the Mediterranean someday and the opportunity presented itself in Zadar, Croatia. The combination of a great week of weather and inexpensive charter costs was too much to pass up. We chartered a Beneteau 36-foot sailboat and enjoyed a week of island hopping along the beautiful Adriatic Coast.

Sailing a Chartered Beneteau Sailboat, Croatia


We slowly made our way down along the southern coast of Croatia enjoying the islands and slower pace of the late season. The weather was pretty favorable the entire time. We stayed in the touristic coastal town of Dubrovnik for a few weeks where we enjoyed walking among the old town streets and beauty of the Adriatic Sea. We also got some dental work done which was much less expensive than Western Europe or the United States.

Flying High at Bol, Croatia


A new country – Montenegro. Although much smaller than Croatia, there is still a lot of diversity here. We’ve been impressed with the coastal towns and the mountains of this Balkan country. We even ventured into the eastern portion of the country where we enjoyed a week of hiking and riding in the snow. We are currently enjoying a relaxing Christmas and New Years in the coastal town of Budva.

Durmitor National Park, Montenegro

A Busy Year!

In addition to writing for UPSHIFT, we also produced 34 YouTube videos showcasing the first section of our motorcycle trip from Germany, through France, and along the eastern and southern coasts of Spain. Binge watch all the episodes here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL51FYkArD2Bvo8KzJaTdfyqZu0tIWyDr2

Looking Forward to 2021

We’re excited to see what 2021 brings us. Of course there is a lot of uncertainties but there is also a lot of wonderful places we still have not discovered for ourselves. More adventure to come…

Help Contribute to viajarMOTO

Thanks for reading our travel blog. If you would like to help support weekly travel writing and videos please consider joining us at: https://www.patreon.com/viajarmoto

Benefits include (depending on membership level):
• Instant access to all previous posts (currently over 100)
• Early access to future YouTube videos
• Weekly updates of our most recent GPS track data
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2021 Calendar Review

For this blog post we thought it would be interesting to talk about each of the photographs that were used for the 2021 viajarMOTO calendar. All of these were taken during our motorcycle travels in 2020.

Each of these photographs immediately puts us back into the moment. The memories, feelings, and senses are flooded as we are transported back in time!

January: Trans Euro Trails (TET), Croatia

We never intended to ride the TET throughout Europe. Honestly, our bikes are a bit too heavy for this kind of riding especially once loaded with all of our possessions strapped to the sides and tail of our trusty mules. So why did we ride the TET? We like the challenge and the isolation that these trails provide. Being able to ride through a countries natural regions and camping each night was one of the highlights of our time in Croatia. Was it easy? No. We dropped our mules a bit, but we lifted them up, dusted them off, and continued onward – better for the experience.

February: El Torcal de Antequera, Spain

This was taken on July 4th – a special day to me for two reasons. First, as a citizen of the United States, we celebrate this day to mark the start of our country as an independent nation. Second, it’s my birthday! Spending the 4th of July in a country that doesn’t take the day off to enjoy parades, summer food, and fireworks can be a bit of a bummer. However, spending the day riding our motorcycles from Córdoba to Málaga and then hiking through this beautiful park made this a special day – even without the fireworks.

March: Port Lligat, Spain

This picture looks so serene and peaceful doesn’t it? It was. However, it came the next morning after a challenging day and evening…

We had just arrived into Spain and the winds were blowing pretty heavily. We found a wonderful dirt road that climbed a hill and provided incredible views of the Mediterranean Sea. I wanted to capture the moment of us and our mules overlooking the view so I set up my camera on the tripod, set the shutter timer, and ran back to capture the moment. Within seconds, the winds blew over the tripod and camera, smashing the delicate retractable lens onto a rock. While I was in the process of determining how bad the damage was to my camera, the winds blew over my mule! We decided to get off the exposed cliff and find shelter before the winds caused even more damage.

It was getting late and we still had not found a campsite since all of them were closed for the season. Once it got dark, we got desperate. We rode to the end of a dirt road and found what we though was an isolated area. While setting up our tent we were approached by a man and his dog. He was not happy with us and I could tell by his composure that he would be calling the police if we didn’t pack up and move along. We ended up returning to town, parking our motorcycles in a parking lot for travel vans, and sleeping on the outside deck of a restaurant that was closed for the season. This was about as close as I felt to being homeless the entire trip so far.

The next morning, we woke before sunrise, stored our sleeping bags, and enjoyed a peaceful morning along the beach. This picture, of Chantil sitting under a tree, enjoying the sunrise, was taken with an iPhone 6 since my Canon camera was broken.

April: Strada delle 52 Gallerie, Italy

This elaborate hiking and mule trail, consisting of 52 tunnels, was built in 1917 to provide military access to the summit Mt. Pasubio. This region of northern Italy is an incredibly beautiful area and we were grateful for our good health that allowed us to hike the narrow trails.

May: Villa del Balbianello, Italy

Chantil and I are fans of Star Wars. When we found out that there was am Italian villa overlooking Lake Como where a scene from Episode II Attack of the Clones was filmed we thought “We gotta see that.” We spend a wonderful morning walking among the villa gardens and enjoying all the artifacts of Italian explorer Count Guido Monzino.

June: Galicia Region, Spain

This photograph was completely by surprise. We ended up taking a wrong turn and decided to ride on a dirt road to get back to the main road instead of turning around. The dirt road wound around a corner and this beautiful field of sunflowers was our reward. Sometimes taking a wrong turn can be rewarding!

July: Costa Nova Beach, Portugal

This coastal town of Portugal is world famous for its bright and colorful striped houses. There was enough tourist that day that I would occasionally have to wait until they walked past in order to capture the colorful homes. However, when this little girl rode her bicycle ahead of her parents, I knew I had to capture this adorable moment.

August: Alhambra, Granda, Spain

The Alhambra is one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions. We visited this area in late June when typically tickets would have to be reserved months in advance. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic and Spain not opening to international tourism until July 1st, we were able to book tickets on the same day as our visit. When we showed up for our appointed entry time, there were only 12 other guests instead of the typical hundreds. Walking among the expansive gardens and snapping pictures of the moorish castle without other tourists was a photographers dream come true.

September: Las Médulas, Spain

This spectacular landscape is the result of man destroying nature for resources. The Romans mined this area for gold used a technique known as ruina montium (wrecking of the mountains) which involves undermining the mountain with large quantities of water causing the cliffs to erode.

This region is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site where visitors can take in the incredible views and enjoy some wonderful hiking trails.

October: Fort de Viraysse, France

We heard about this abandoned fort up in the high mountains of Spain near the Italian border and wanted to experience this remote area. We were surprised at how difficult it was to get to. The road to the fort was steep with many sharp switchbacks that were a challenge to navigate for our rather heavy mules. It took us all afternoon to reach the fort but the experience was totally worth it. The Alps are definitely one of our favorite places in Europe.

November: Asturias Region, Spain

The Osborne Bulls of Spain were first built in 1956 as a billboard advertisement for a brandy sold by Osborne Sherry Company in 1956. In 1994 a law prohibited roadside advertisements of alcohol so the bulls had to be removed, however public response resulted in keeping the bulls and removing any reference to the original advertisement.

We noticed quite a few of these Osborne Bulls but could not find any that were accessible because they were on fenced land. On our very last day in Spain, we managed to find one with a dirt road that allowed us to ride our mules right up to this national symbol.

December: Camping Punta Batuda, Spain⁣⁣⁣

Just a short walk from the overcrowded and noisy campsite, is this wonderful spot that offers great views of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding forest. We especially loved the morning fog and bright orange-colored lichen that covered the rocks along the beach. Very beautiful!

Order your viajarMOTO 2021 Calendar

If you would still like a 2021 Calendar you can order them direct from Shutterfly: https://www.shutterfly.com/share-product/?shareid=7f70dd6c-28c2-4f18-b2de-9c42ad0f2d07&cid=SHARPRDWEBMPRLNK

Looking forward to more adventure in 2021…

Help Contribute to viajarMOTO

Thanks for reading our travel blog. If you would like to help support weekly travel writing and videos please consider joining us at: https://www.patreon.com/viajarmoto

Benefits include (depending on membership level):
• Instant access to all previous posts (currently over 100)
• Early access to future YouTube videos
• Weekly updates of our most recent GPS track data
• Weekly access to all of our travel photography (currently over 3,750 photos)
• Monthly expense travel reports
• Quarterly e-postcards personalized for each supporter

A Fairytale Day in Sintra, Portugal

🗓: 20 Jul 2020 | 🌍: Sintra, Portugal

Every fairytale seems to have a medieval castle surrounding by glorious scenery, enchanting foods, and an intuition well. Our fairytale day in Sintra has all this and more!

Our fairytale day begins and ends with a three-wheeled rickshaw. After parking our motorcycles in the parking area we noticed smiling tourist being taxied up the steep roadway to the start of the hiking trail to the Pena Palace.

A Celtic Cross is hidden among the forest as you hike up the hill towards the castle entrance area. This is actually the High Cross that was placed at the peak of Cruz Alta by King Ferdinand II in the 1800s. It was damaged by lighting in 1997 so it was repaired and relocated here. A concrete replica is now at the top of the Cruz Alta.

Palácio da Pena (Pena Palace)

High upon the mountain of Sintra sits the most notable example of Portuguese architecture in the Romantic period. The Pena Palace combines inspirations from Moorish, Gothic, Manueline, and Schindler Castles of Central Europe and looks striking in its bright red and yellow color scheme.

This palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.

This castle was build on the original location of a monetary that was heavily damaged by the earthquake of 1755. The monestary, surrounding land, and nearby Castle of the Moors was acquired by King Ferdinand II in 1838.

The palace was designed by Lieutenant-General Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege. The construction took place between 1842 and 1854.

In 1889 it was purchased by the Portuguese State, and after 1910 it was classified as a national monument. Here we are enjoying it 110 years later.

The level of detail in this Romanticism styled castle is quite amazing. You can tell that expert craftsman labored with love.

Hand painted tiles are interwoven among the concrete carvings of the exterior castle walls.

Every direction has incredible views of Portugal below with views of the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south.

Soaking in all the great views. The Castle of the Moors is just along the next ridge line to the north.

A chapel, within the original monastery, is simply decorated compared to the castle and provides a quiet place to reflect on more spiritual things.

The bright colors of the castle made it difficult to put down the camera. Each bend seemed to provide another photo opportunity.

The castle is also a museum with the interior decorated in the same style as it would have been for the last royal family to live there in the early 1900s.

Some of the intricate details artistically carved into the ceiling and walls of one of the bedrooms.

Richly appointed upholstery and drapery decorate the office areas of the castle.

Just look at the exquisite detail and moorish styling of the wall coverings. The decorative wall was covered in hundreds of these tile sections.

After walking though the lavishly decorated rooms of the castle we made our way to the cafe to enjoy this model of the castle and some delicious food.

The cafe featured a wonderful assortment of delectable desserts to enjoy. This raspberry and white chocolate tart tasted even better than it looked.

Just a short distance from the castle is the royal garden area with relaxing pools, well manicured gardens, and ducks and swans.

Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors)

In complete contrast to the Pena Palace is the Castle of the Moors. There are no brightly colored walls, or decadence – just a castle made from cut and stacked rocks that form a formidable wall and staircases.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built during the 8th and 9th centuries, when most of Portugal and Spain was part of the Muslim Caliphate of Cordoba.

Christian forces took possession of it in 1147 during the conquest of Lisbon.

The castle walls provide stunning views of the municipality of Sintra below…

…and equally beautiful views of the Pena Palace to the south.

In some ways I enjoyed walking along the simple ruins of the Castle of Moors more than the decadence of the Pena Palace. Both are worthy of the entrance fee to visit, however.

After hiking the countless steps of the castle walls, we descended towards the municipality of Sintra.


The town of Sintra is a tourist town full of people, restaurants, and shops selling trinkets and souvenirs. We felt it to be mildly charming but were not comfortable with the amount of noise and people that seemed to congest in the restaurants and streets.

The walkways did capture our attention though. Many are decoratively painted with unique tiled artistry.

Beautiful hand crafted, painted, and glaze ceramic tiles in all of their unique varieties.

Many shops sold tiny tiles with scenes from Sintra and the local area. We purchased a small one that we’ll make into a Christmas tree ornament to remember our time here.

Quinta da Regaleira

Our final destination of the day was to view the Romantic era park of Quinta da Regaleira. This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, that features lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and a vast array of exquisite architectures.

It was enjoyable to explore the many winding trails in search of various landmarks and then study the integrate designs and patterns.

Although the park has its share of wonderful grottoes, fountains, benches, and towers…

…It’s the large initiation well that people come to see and marvel at. The well is basically an elaborate inverted tower that was dug out of the earth and provides underground access to the elaborate tunnels underneath the park.

Looking back up through the 27-metre spiral staircase. It’s an impressive piece of architecture!

The lowers sections of the park provide dark tunnels that wind around a large lake. It was fun to explore where each path would take you.

Every luxurious mansion and elegant garden would not be complete without a large male lion statue, right?

Getting Back to the Parking Area

Remember when we said our fairytale day began and ended with a rickshaw? Our day in Sintra ended with us renting a rickshaw ride from Quinta da Regaleira to the parking area where we left our mules for the day.

Riding around, top down, on three wheels was more fun than we imagined. It was a perfect ending to our fairytale day in the magical region of Sintra.

Next Blog Post

We enjoy the wonderfully colorful streets, history… and sardines(?!) of the capital city of Lisbon, Portugal

Help Contribute to viajarMOTO.com

Thanks for reading our travel blog. If you would like to help support weekly travel writing and videos please consider joining us at: https://www.patreon.com/viajarmoto

Benefits include (depending on membership level):
• Instant access to all previous posts (currently over 80)
• Early access to all of our YouTube videos
• Weekly updates of our most recent GPS track data
• Weekly access to all of our travel photography (currently over 3,200 photos)
• Monthly expense travel reports
• Quarterly e-postcards personalized for each supporter

Street Art of Lisbon, Portugal

🗓: 21 Jul 2020 | 🌍: Lisbon, Portugal

In 2017, I had my first experience with Europen street art and murals while visiting the northern city of Reykjavik, Iceland. I was impressed by the high artistic quality of many muralists that covered entire building walls.

Ever since then, whenever I visit a large city, I try to spend at least a day searching for street art and murals. Some of my favorite street art discoveries have been in Berlin, Paris, Glasgow, Cologne, Antwerp, Heerlen, and in the region of Murcia, Spain.

After spending an afternoon discovering Lisbon’s open-air gallery of tile covered façades and street art from artist like Bordalo II, AKA Corleone, Shepard Fairey, and Utopia, you can add Lisbon to the list of my favorite street art cities.

Here are just some of the street art and colors that caught my cameras eye. Enjoy…

I love the graphic nature of street signs so I felt this bicycle on the side of the building was a unique style.

A underground subway surprised us as we entered and noticed the transformation from concrete to this gallery of street artist.

This tiny trees and windows were on the curb of a street. Most people passed right by them without even noticing.

I know it’s just some torn up posters hanging from a brick wall – but there is something about the image and single toned blue color that I found interesting.

This partially hidden cul-de-sac had street art, recyclable architecture built from cargo containers and busses, and various food trucks.

This could be just another street sign but the cartoon bird figure makes it so much more.

Portugal streets are unique to many other European cities in that colored tiles are often used in public art. I was impressed at the wide variety of color and designs of these terracotta square tiles.

Even the streets are lined with the wonderful colors of glazed tiles!

Something as simple as repeating script in simple black and white looked great on a large wall.

One of my favorite artist is Utopia – Check out his artwork here: https://www.utopia-arts.com/

I feel there is a key difference between street art and graffiti. This trolly is covered in graffiti of poor quality. It would look so much better in a solid two-tone paint job.

In late May, Gorge Floyd was killed by a policeman of the Minneapolis Police Department. This started protests in hundreds of US cities and spread throughout many other parts of the world – Lisbon included.

These photographs just scratch the surface of the large amount of art and murals that are hidden among the streets of the beautiful city of Lisbon. In a future blog post, I’ll focus on my favorite Lisbon artist – Bordalo II.

Next Blog Post

Join us for a day trip to the nearby resort town of Sintra, where we enjoy the mediaeval Castle of the Moors, the romanticist Pena National Palace, and the park of Quinta da Regaleira.

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The Southwestern Coastal Route, Portugal

🗓: 16 Jul 2020 | 🌍: Algarve & Alentejo Regions, Portugal

We never intended to be in Portugal this late in the season. Our original plan, back in February, was to enjoy Portugal in May and ride predominately off-road on the Portugal Adventure Country Track (ACT). The ACT is a series of published off-road trails designed for motorcycles and four-wheel drive vehicles. Portugal was the first one to be published and there are currently three others – Greece, Romania, and Italy.

The COVID pandemic changed a lot of things. In May we were still in lock-down in Cartagena, Spain. We would have to wait until the borders between Portugal and Spain, on July 1st, were opened before exploring Portugal.

So here we are in the heat of summer in southern Portugal. With inland temperatures being well into the 100°F (38°C) range we decided to cancel the ACT portion of our plans and stick to riding pavement along the coast where the ocean breeze kept the temperatures more reasonable.

Our trip around the coast of Portugal continues clockwise from Faro to the capital city of Lisbon. Distance 444 km (276 miles) covered over a two day period.

Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Piedade (Sanctuary the Sovereign Mother)

The humongous dome and modern lines of this church captures your imagination and begs you to take a closer look.

Although the main temple building was closed, we were able to walk around and take some pictures of this beautiful architectural structure.

The Sanctuary the Sovereign Mother hosts two annual celebrations that take place after Easter: The Small Feast on Eater Sunday and the Big Feast on the third Sunday in April. These festivities are a tradition that dates back to the 16th century.

A small chapel was open for visitors to pray, reflects, and to observe. This main altarpiece is removed, decorated with fresh flowers, and paraded around during the Sovereign Mother festivities.

Continuing West Along the N-125

Reminders of the COVID-19 pandemic are noticeable throughout Portugal by the empty parking lots and closed gates of amusement parks. I imagine many of these businesses can not afford to have an entire season closed and may never recover from the economic impacts of the 2020 season.

Algar de Benagil (Benagil Caves)

Image from: https://www.algarvefun.com/benagil/

It isn’t hard to determine why this cave is such a popular tourist destination. Just look at this amazing picture from under the cave entrance of this small beach! Amazing, right?

Reaching the cave can only be accomplished by boat or by swimming the 200 meters to the entrance. Unfortunately for us, there was an offshore storm that was making the landing of boats on the beach extremely dangerous. Unfortunately the landing conditions were not expected to improve for the next 3-4 days.

Although we couldn’t get inside the cave, perhaps we could get above it.

Fortunately, there is some really nice hiking trails around the caves without the crowds – perfect for enjoying the views of the cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean.

The entrance to the cave area and the surf doesn’t look too bad. I think if we had access to some paddle boards, we would have tried paddling out there without a tour boat. Unfortunately the rental companies were not renting them, and our motorcycles don’t have the room to pack our own roll-up paddle boards.

The steep and dangerous cliffs prevent access to the beach areas below.

Riding the N-125 to the Southwestern Coast

A short ride brought us further west along the coast to the southern tip of the Sagres Peninsula.

This area is know for its rocky steep cliffs and incredible views for the Atlantic Ocean breaking against the rocky shores.

Fortaleza de Sagres (Sagres Fort)

On the southern tip of the peninsula sits the walled 15th century bulwark-like fortress.

The fortress was ordered to be built by Infante Henrique (known today as Henry the Navigator). He was one of the key figures in what became known as the Age of Discoveries, and helped fund expeditions to discover the Azores and large parts of the African coastline.

This fort was often the target of raids from the Barbary pirates who sailed from the nearby North African shores.

The prominent location high above the ocean makes a great spot for a lighthouse built in 1894.

The large open area south of the fort has a peculiar looking structure. What is this?

It tuned out to be a concrete maze of sorts but there are no dead ends. The center of the “maze” is painted red and has a bench for sitting and enjoying a snack.

Heading North via the N-120

We continued north until about an hour before sunset. We still had not found a place to sleep for the evening so we searched on my smartphone for a nearby campsite.

There was one about 45 minutes away to the north – great!

We continued along until about 20 minutes later where we found a quite and secluded dirt road that stretched into the forest – perfect!

Wild Camping

Officially, the practice of pitching a tent or sleeping bag on any land not designated for camping or without the permission of the land owner is illegal in Portugal and much of western Europe.

However, we also feel that if we minimize our impact by setting up camp in the evening, leaving early, and packing out all our trash, then who are we harming?

We found a nice secluded spot in the woods surrounding by the cherping sounds of cicadas.

Sometimes the hardest thing to find is a flat spot for our rather large tent.

Unpacking the mules, setting up the tent, inflating the sleeping pads, and climbing into our sleeping bags for a relaxing night of sleep takes about 20-30 minutes. Boa noite (good night).

🗓: 17 Jul 2020 | 🌍: Algarve & Alentejo Regions, Portugal

Sines, Portugal

Just north of where we camped we decided to stop in the coastal city of Sines for some breakfast.

Sines is well known for its large shipping port. The economy of this city relies on energy, oil refining, port activity, fishing, tourism and trade.

The port is a vital link between trade between China. Sines is considered a fundamental port in establishing the Maritime Silk Road.

Fishing is also big here. The marina has a large shipyard to maintain and repair the large fleet of corporate and private fishing boats.

An oil tanker sits offshore awaiting the offload into the two major refineries here: Petrogal Sines and Repsol.

Cork Tree Forests

While traveling along the N-261 we noticed these twisted, gnarly, red barked trees that seemed to have their bark stripped in sections.

After further inspection, we realized that these were cork oak trees. Yeah, cork. Like the cork found in wine stoppers, push-pin boards, flooring, and handles for fishing rods.

It turns out that Portugal produces nearly half of the worlds output of commercial cork and this region of Portugal accounts for 70 percent of the the world trade in cork.

Once trees reach 25 years old they are harvested for the first time. Every 9 years after that they can be harvested again. It takes 38 years before a tree produces high enough quality of cord to be made into wine stoppers. A cork oak will live for about 150-200 years.

Lisbon, Portugal

Just a little further north, we merged onto the A-2 and immediately noticed the increase in traffic that accompanies large cities. Riding on congested freeways always makes us a little more tense especially on motorcycles.

Ponte 25 de Abril (April 25 Bridge)

Crossing into Lisbon via the April 25 Bridge requires a toll of 1.85 euros per motorcycle.

The bridge was built in 1966 and originally named Ponte Salazar (Salazar Bridge). In 1974, it was renamed after the Carnation Revolution which started on April 25, 1974. This revolution led to the fall of the authoritarian dictatorship and the start of a democratic Portugal.

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (image from wikipedia.org)

The red color and twin towers of this suspension bridge are often compared to the San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Although there are some similarities, the April 25 Bridge actually is closer in design to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge which was built by the same company; American Bridge Company.

Next Blog Post

Join us next blog post, as we walk among the colorful streets of Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon and experience the wonderful history, street art, and an amusement park themed sardine shop.

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Portugal’s Southeastern Algarve Region

🗓: 15 Jul 2020 | 🌍: Region of Algarve, Portugal

Over the last three month, the borders between Portugal and Spain had been closed due to COVID-19. As of July 1st, they were reopened to travelers, and we were beyond exited to be finally entering a new country!

Crossing the Puente Internacional del Guadiana into a new country – Portugal!

After crossing the border, we entered the Algarve region. This southernmost region of Portugal is know for its Atlantic beaches, golf resorts, whitewashed fishing villages, and cliffs overlooking sandy coves.

Our first stop was to see a unique monument located on Barril Beach.

A brightly colored “welcome to Barril Beach” sign reminds visitors of the tuna fishing community that once operated from these beaches.

Public service signs reminding people that COVID-19 is definitely a part of our lives for the foreseeable future. Social distancing and masks.

The walk to the beach is along a 1.2 km walkway. For a small fee, you can even ride a train that was previously used by the fishing community to transport goods and fresh fish.

Cemitério das âncoras (Anchor Cemetery)

Between the beach restaurants and the white sands of the beach area are fields of rusty anchors, all placed in the same direction.

No one knows who started placing them but locals have been adding them as a memorial to the men who braved the waters to bring bluefish tuna to the communities of Portugal.

It felt like a very fitting reminder to the history of the fishing community that once lived on these beaches.

Our next stop along the coast was to the city of Faro and a church with one of the creepiest but intriguing chapels in Europe.

Igreja do Carmo

This 18th century church with its twin bell towers is quite beautiful and one of the finest churches in all of Algarve.

The alter piece, crafted by master sculptor Manuel Martins, has some of the finest gilded woodwork of southern Portugal

A statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, with her Immaculate Heart

However, it’s not the altarpiece and statues that bring visitors to the Igreja do Carmo…

…it’s a small chapel located outside towards the rear of the church that attracts the visitors.

Capela dos Ossos (Bone Chapel)

This small chapel is decorated with skull and bone remians of over 1,250 Carmelite monks that served in the Carmo church.

The symmetry of the bones and skulls on the walls and ceiling is oddly satifyzing.

Most of the skulls seemed to have all their upper teeth removed and some have their upper jaws broken.

Even the altar piece is decorated with bones. Tens of thousands of bones expertly cut, placed, and cemented into place.

As I looked up at the skulls of deceased monks staring down at me I wondered… How good is the cement or glue that is holding those skulls up there? (Notice the hole from where a skull used to be in the ceiling?)

An interesting place for sure. After the Bone Chapel we walked among the streets of Faro letting our camera determine what was interesting.

Exploring the Streets of Faro

Faro is the capital of southern Portugal’s Algarve region and has a long history of civilization starting from 4th century BC when much of the western Mediterranean was colonized by the Phoenicians.

There are many colorful homes and shops among the cobblestone sidewalks and streets.

Weathered paint makes me wonder how many colors this building has been in the past.

This two-story corner building is almost entirely covered in terra-cotta tiles!

As we were reaching the city center we noticed a lot of parked motorcycles. What are these skull displays and ads for a tattoo parlor?

Motorcycles, tattoos, and large displays can only mean one thing – A motorcycle event.

Faro International Motorbike Meet

Although COVID-19 had drastically reduced the amount of participation of this annual event, there was a two-story warehouse converted to showcase a collection of hundreds of vintage and custom motorcycles. Of course there was also a makeshift tattoo parlor on the second floor.

1948 Triumph 500

A custom BMW R100 Scrambler

A 1940s era BMW R24. These single-cylinder shaft driven motorcycles had 12 horsepower!

Since we’re in Europe the motorcycles tend to be more European focused (BMW, Triumph, Ducati, Moto Guzzi), however the classic character and look of hardcore motorcyclists looks the same. These guys would fit in perfectly in Sturgis, South Dakota.

In case you’re wondering… No we didn’t get tattoos. We’re definitely not that type of bikers.

Next Blog Post

We continue our trip along the coast of Portugal where we hike above the Benagil Caves, explore Sagres Fortress, and learn where the majority of the world’s cork comes from.

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A Voyage of Discovery in 1492

🗓: 14 Jul 2020 | 🌍: Provinces of Seville and Huelva, Spain

This blog post covers 125 km (78 miles) from Seville to the PS20 Solar Power Plant (A) and then to Muelle de las Carabelas (B).

PS20 Solar Power Plant

Just 40 minutes west of Seville lies the futuristic looking towers of one of the largest solar power facilities in the world – PS20.

PS20 is a solar thermal energy was completed in 2009 and was the largest until the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in California became operational in 2014.

What makes this solar farm so unique is the solar radiation being reflected onto the 165-metre-high (541 ft) towers.

A field 1,255 mirrored heliostats are computer controlled and steered to reflect the solar radiation onto the receiving tower. This radiation is used to produce steam that is then converted into electricity by a turbine generator.

PS20 produces about 48,000 megawatthours (MW·h) per year. That’s enough to power 4,500 Spanish homes for a year.

After an hour and ten minutes of riding to the southwest, we arrived at a destination that we’ve been excited to see for some time.

Muelle de las Carabelas (Wharf of the Caravels)

Although controversial, few people have been more influential to shaping of the history of the world more than Italian navigator, and explore Christopher Columbus. His first exploration, which left the shores of Palos de la Frontera, Spain, would be the catalist for centuries of exploration, and exploitation, of the American continents.

We were both pretty excited to be here. We never imagined, in our lives, that we would someday be standing in the same spot where such an influential voyage started.

On August 3, 1492, Columbus and his crew set sail from this spot on three ships: the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.

The Niña was the nickname of Santa Clara. She was a Caravel styled ship and was the smallest of Columbus’ fleet. Caravels were well known for their sleek, lightweight hull and their remarkable ability to sail into the wind.

Both the three-masted Niña and Pinta used a modified Spanish design called caravela redonda. The forward two masts were rigged with conventional square sails for open-ocean speed, and a aft mast was rigged with a lateen sail for coastal maneuverability.

We were both surprised how small these vessels were. Life aboard them would have been cramped and difficult with a crew of 26 and only 50 feet of deck space on the Niña.

The La Pinta was also a Caravel styled ship but a bit larger (56 feet of deck space) and the fastest of the fleet.

It was aboard the Pinta that the New World was first sighted by Rodrigo de Triana.

La Pinta means “the painted”.

The command ship Santa Gallega, nicknamed Santa Maria, was a carrack styled vessel capable of carrying most of the provisions and crew. She sailed with Columbus, Juan de la Cosa (the master and owner), and a crew of 38 others.

The Santa Maria was the only vessel that carried armament to include four 90 mm bombards and a 50 mm culebrinas.

This ship was designed to ride much deeper in the water than the Pinta and Niña. This may have been one of the causes for it running aground on Christmas Day, 1492.

The ship could not be recovered from the grounding so it was decided that it would be dismantled and used to build the first Spanish settlement – La Navidad, which means “Christmas”.

The three ships of the first voyage – Pinta, Santa Maria, and Niña (left to right).

Besides the full-size replicas of the ships, there are displays that provide a glimpse into what life might have been like for sailers on the 15th century. It was not an easy existence where work was hard, long, and often dangerous.

On October 12, the ships made landfall—not in the East Indies, as Columbus assumed, but on one of the Bahamian islands (modern day San Salvador).

A short walk of two minutes (the actually voyage took 65 days) takes you to the new land with displays showing the animals, dwellings, and the indigenous people who lived there.

A display stand shows how foods, oils, and alcohol was prepared and stored for the journey.

Inside the building, there is a small museum exhibit with models and drawings of each of the ships along with the crew lists.

Upon his return to Spain, Columbus presented the journal to Queen Isabella I. She had it copied, retained the original, and gave a copy to Columbus before his second voyage.

Unfortunately the original log has been lost since 1504. Fortunately, the copy was sufficient to later translate the original Spanish script into English, Italian, French, German, Russian, and other languages.

Also on display is a replica of the Madrid Codex. This is one of three surviving pre-Columbian Maya books that date back to the Mesoamerican era (900–1521 AD). The original is held in the Museo de América in Madrid.

In Conclusion

The voyages of Christopher Columbus are a controversial subject for sure. While we were learning about the life and journeys of Columbus in Spain, there were violent protests, with statues of Columbus being defaced and torn down in the Unites States and the United Kingdom.

Reguardless of your option of Christopher Columbus, there can be little doubt that his journey was one of the most influential events in shaping the history of the world – for better or worse.

Next Blog Post

We’re leaving Spain! We’ve had a great time here but it’s time to experience a new country. We’re riding across the Puente Internacional del Guadiana bridge and into a new country – Portugal!

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Seville – The Pearl of Andalusia

🗓: 11 Jul 2020 | 🌍: Seville, Spain

While in Seville, we stayed at an Airbnb. Our hostess, Maria, owns a large home where she rents a couple private rooms. She also allowed us to park our motorcycling securely inside her gated yard. This adventure was going to be on foot!

This was our 8 km (5 mile) walking route through the various parks, city center, and some attractions of Seville. We started in the late morning and walked until 3 PM before returning to our Airbnb for a siesta. That evening we walked to the Flamenco performance and then enjoyed a evening stroll back through the Parque de María Luisa.

Parque de María Luisa

Although the temperatures were pretty hot – 35°C (95°F), the shade of the many trees made walking in the park pretty comfortable.

Seville has a long history starting with the Roman Empire in the the 2nd century where it was originally named Hispalis. During the Islamic conquests of the early 8th century, the city fell to the Abbādid dynasty where it was renamed Ixvillia.

The Moorish styling and architecture comes from over 500 years of Muslim occupation and prosperity from the 8th to the 13th centuries.

The park is decorated with various statutes and sculptures. Some of reminiscent of Roman and Moorish influences. Some are more modern like this beautifully colored bird bath fountain.

Many couples and families were enjoying these horse drawn carriage rides around the park.

There weren’t many people outside this morning. With the last three months of strict quarantine measures that were in place in Spain, I expected everyone to be outside enjoying the fresh air and gardens.

Getting around Seville is pretty easy with well marked signs in both English and Spanish.

Plaza de España

The highlight of visiting the Parque de María Luisa, was seeing the Plaza de España.

Although this large building, flanked by two towers, looks like it was built hundreds of years ago, it is relatively new. All of this was built in 1928 for the Iberto-American World Fair Exposition.

The designer, Aníbal González, combined a mix of styles to include: Art Deco, Spanish Renaissance, Spanish Baroque, and Neo-Mudéjar styles into the structures.

This is a Saturday morning and there are hardly any people around. A great time to snap some pictures of the beautiful architecture.

The Moorish influences and color of the tile work are some of my favorite parts of the Plaza de España.

Like most big cities, pigeons have made their homes here, coexisting with humans for thousands of years. Some find them annoying but I find their association with cities and humans to be interesting.

There are tiled alcoves built around the plaza, each representing the 50 different provinces of Spain. Guess which one is our favorite?

It’s our favorite because we have some amazing amigos there that we had the pleasure of staying with for 3 months during the COVID-19 quarantine. Friends for life!

Catedral de Sevilla

Our walking tour continued north where we reached the famous Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See). Unfortunately, most of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is closed unless you have pre-purchased tickets.

The Giralda, or bell tower, stands prominently above the city at 105 m (343 ft). The tower was completed in 1198 as part of the mosque that stood on the site under Muslim rule.

The towers was converted into a bell tower for the cathedral after the Reconquista and a statue was installed on top in 1568 to represent the triumph of the Christian faith.

The main chapel and altar were closed to the public without tickets, but we did get to walk inside and see some of the incredible grandness of one of the largest cathedrals in the world – second only to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City!

Hindsight, I wished we had purchased tickets to see this amazing cathedral – I feel it would have been worth the €10 price of admission. Unfortunately the tourist season was back in full swing and tickets were already sold out on the Saturday we were visiting.

The entrance door to the garden with incredibly detailed Arabic calligraphy carved into brass. This was all carved 300 years before Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas!

Picture from madhouseheaven.com

Speaking of Columbus – He is buried inside the cathedral in a ornate tomb with four statues that represent the four kingdoms of Spain during the explorer’s lifetime. This too is only viewable for ticket holders.

Although our time was short walking around the Seville Cathedral it made us want to learn more about this historical and amazing part of Spanish history.

Paseo Del Rio Guadalquivir

Our walking tour continued north along the boardwalk of the Canal de Alfonso XIII where we enjoyed the quieter side of Seville away from the city center.

From the Puente de Triana (Triana Bridge), we enjoyed watching the boats pass underneath us.

A memorial to Spanish musician, Antonio Mairena (1909–1983), who dedicated much of his life to preserving the history of a lost style of Flamenco.

This is the world we live in now – masks and all. Who knew that masks would be the fashion trend of 2020?

Las Setas De Sevilla

I’m a huge fan of modern architecture. If I could re-write my young adulthood, I think I would have studied architecture and then spend my life making the world more beautiful by creating minimalist businesses and homes.

When I first saw pictures of Metropol Parasol I was mesmerized by how light and natural it looked despite being the world’s largest wooden structure.

The structure, designed by German architect Jürgen Mayer, covers an entire block and measures 150 by 70 meters (490 by 230 ft).

For a small fee of €5, you can walk among the rooftop walkways and enjoy the wonderful surrounding views of Seville.

The structure is made from mostly birch wood, imported from Finland, and took builders 6 years to complete.

The sweeping curves and open space is quite beautiful to behold.

The project ended up costing twice and much as estimated and was delayed by four years. The locals now call the structure Las Setas de le Encarnación (Incarnation’s mushrooms).

The Streets of Seville

We continued south along the shopping districts where we enjoyed taking some pictures of some street art. Most of the street are is limited to the paintings on the metal garage doors that cover the entrances to various shops.

I like the primary colors and how spray paint was used to emulate the patterns of painted ceramic tiles.

An smiling triple-scooped ice cream cone riding a bicycle while happily melting in the Spanish sun. What’s not to love about this?

A beautiful mural purposely painted within the elegant stucco archway of a wall.

We had an appointment to view a Night of Flamenco show at 7PM so we made our way past the Giralda of the Seville Cathedral before arriving at our entertainment for the evening.

Tablao Alvarez Quintero

I’ve got to come clean. Before visiting southern Spain I didn’t know much of anything about flamenco. I basically knew it was a kind of dance and I would have miss-spelled it “Flamingo Dancing”. What I came to discover is that flamenco is much more than dancing and it has a long standing tradition that originated in the region of Andalusia.

After arriving at the doorway, we we escorted to a small room and stage where chairs were placed two meters (6 ft) away from each other due to social distancing requirements. We were instructed that we would have to keep our masks on for the entire duration of the show. A small price to pay for enjoying a bit of cultural history of Spain.

Flamenco is made up of four elements, Cante (Voice), Baile (Dance), Toque (Guitar), and the Jaleo, which roughly translates to “hell raising” and involves the handclapping, foot stomping, and shouts of encouragement.

Our guitarist started us with a beautiful opening song that put everyone at ease. This is personally my favorite part of flamenco.

The second number included the singer and the guitarist performing together. They filled the room with energy and did some improvising – much like jazz musicians.

The crowd became hushed as the dancer approached the stage. The song started out slow but within minutes there was the loud clapping and stomping of feet to the rhythmic sounds of flamenco.

It was especially enjoyable watching the connection that each seemed to have for each other as they performed.

If I were to describe flamenco I would use the words spontaneous, emotional, energetic, and traditional. I definitely left that one-hour performance with a better understanding of flamenco.

An Evening Walk at Plaza de España

It was now well past sunset as we walked back to our Airbnb located near the Parque de María Luisa.

As we casually walked past the Plaza de España, we reflected on our time here in Spain. Although the coronavirus had drastically changed our travel plans for 2020, it hasn’t been all that bad. The travel ban forced us to slow down and appreciate the various cultures, history, and landscapes of the diverse country of Spain.

Next Blog Post

The Muelle de las Carabelas is the launch site for what is arguably the most important voyage of discovery for Europe – The first voyage of the Italian explorer and navigator, Christopher Columbus.

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Exploring the Towns of Western Andalusia

🗓: 10 Jul 2020 | 🌍: Region of Andalusia, Spain

With the temperatures in Seville being forecast to be over 40.5°C (105°F), I was starting to wonder why on Earth we were planning a trip there? Wouldn’t it be more comfortable riding along the cooler coast instead of sweating under heavy motorcycle gear inland?

Riding in hot temperatures can be unpleasant, no doubt, but a bit of uncomfortably was not worth missing out on a chance to visit the capital city of southern Spain’s Andalusia region – Seville. I unzipped all the vents on my mesh motorcycle jacket and pants then plotted our route through the towns of Setenil de las Bodegas, Olvera, and then into Seville.

Our journey of 165 km (103 miles) from Ronda to to Seville with stops at Setenil de las Bodegas and Olvera along the way.

Leaving Ronda to the north-east via the typical narrow roads and multilevel apartments so common in Europe cities.

Setenil de las Bodegas, Spain

It wasn’t long after leaving Ronda that we reached the town of Setenil de las Bodegas.

This town is famous for the row of white-washed buildings build under a large rocky overhang. This provides natural shade and protection from the weather for people enjoying the chorizo sausage and cerdo (pork) that this region is famous for.

The outlying farms provide Ronda and local towns with most of their fruit and vegetables.

The way this Suzuki was parked leaning against the stone wall made me chuckle a bit. I love the utilitarian look and rugedness of these smaller displacement workhorses.

We didn’t stay very long here; just enough time to walk a few streets and snap some pictures before getting back on the motorcycles and making our way to the next town of Olvera.

Enjoying the twisty, two-lane country roads of the Province of Cádiz.

Olvera, Spain

We were really impressed with Olvera. We arrived just before siesta so the streets were nearly abandoned.

Terra cotta clay flower pots full of plants and flowers decorate the white-washed walls of the town.

Like many European towns, the church is the central and highest part of Olvera. A short hike up the stairs brought us to the two prominent towers of the Parroquia Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación.

At the top is a nice plaza with sculptures and benches to sit and enjoy the surrounding views from the commanding position on the hill.

Unfortunately the church was closed to visitors but the Castillo de Olvera was open! A colorful entrance opens into the walls of the castle.

Clay roofing tiles are the standard here in southern Spain. They are quite elegant and create a patchwork of oranges, tans, and browns as they age in the weather and sun.

The castle had a few room that were converted to art galleries where artists could showcase their talents. This is a length of linen cloth covered with unique and interesting earth-like textures.

Another artist created these interesting pieces using embossing and folded cloth. I liked the texture and the black-wash technique to highlight the shadows.

From the castle there are great views of the church…

…surrounding homes and businesses…

… and of the multitude of olive groove orchards among the surrounding hills.

From the castle we noticed another hill in the town with a statue of Christ. We decided to make our way down into the streets and find our way to the statue.

I laughed out loud when I saw that this pigeon had found a great place to relax despite all the bird spikes designed for keeping him away.

The Monumento al Sagrado Corazón was surrounded by a wonderful park with flowing water and stairs that were cut from the rocky cliff walls.

Once we reached the Monumento al Sagrado Corazón, we found a shady area to enjoy some lunch.

On our way down the stairs we heard the sounds of singing birds…

It turns out their was a small bird aviary with lovebirds, parakeets, and some small parrots inside. We especially liked this playful Peach-Faced Lovebird with its many bright and beautiful colors.

We really enjoyed our afternoon and laid back feeling of Olvera. If you’re in the area, it is defiantly worth a short visit.

More riding ahead as we continued on our way towards Seville. The afternoon heat ensured we continued moving so we could enjoy the cooling effects of the wind across our sweating skin.

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Join us for next week’s blog post as we discover the wonderful sights, sounds, and food of Seville, Spain.

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Ronda, Spain – A Majestic City on a Cliff

🗓: 9 Jul 2020 | 🌍: Ronda, Spain

Ronda, Spain is a village in the province of Málaga that is best known for its strikingly beautiful Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) that spans the 120-metre-deep (390 ft) chasm created by the Guadalevín River.

The old part of the city is small enough that it is best appreciated by walking. We recommend starting this 3.7 meter route about 1.5 hours before sunset so you can enjoy the views at each of the landmarks before ending the evening by watching the sunset at landmark “J”.

On a wall, near the Puente Nuevo, is a large tile painting of the white-washed homes of Ronda sitting proudly on the high cliffs. On the left you can see the circular bull ring.

Nearly every home or building in this section of the town is white with brown ceramic tiled roofing. I wonder if there is a law against painting your home any other color than white?

The coat of arms of the town – Oronda Fidelis et Fortis (Ronda – Sure and Robust)

Since much of the ancient city is situated on the cliff side, there are wonderful elevated views of the countryside in nearly all directions.

I love the fresh look of white-washed buildings contrasted against the surrounding trees and countryside.

Looking west from the Alameda del tajo. This is a nice park full of trees, statues, and great views of the countryside.

This park also had its fair share of feral cats. This one almost seemed to pose elegantly for my picture.

Looking back at the gazebo at Mirador de Ronda. It was nice and relaxing to see other people relishing in the moment like we were.

Enjoying the layers of colors of this stunning countryside.

The most beautiful pictures of Ronda show the village on top of the massive 120-metre-deep (390 ft) cliffs that were carved by the Guadalevín River.

This is southern Spain, so bullfighting is very much a part of their traditions. To read more about Spanish-style bull fighting, check out our blog titled “Spanish Bull Fighting – History, Tradition, and Controversy”.

Matadors are national heros here in Spain. They are idolized in statues, imagery, and paintings. There is even a “walkway of fame” here in Ronda.

The Bullring of the Royal Cavalry of Ronda was closed due to COVID-19, but we saw flyers being put up to announce the first event scheduled for August 1st.

While in Ronda we enjoyed some of the local food to include the Spanish favorite of tapas.

These appetizers originated in southern Spain and often include some form of meat or seafood, cheese, and bread. We enjoyed chorizo and ham with a selection of local cheeses. These meals tend to be light but are full of flavor.

The sun slowly descending towards the horizon of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.

The hiking trail down to the Mirador Puente Nuevo de Ronda provides some of the best views of the surrounding town.

At the bottom of the steep walkway is the Cañón de El Tajo waterfall.

There is a reason why photographers call the time just before sunset the “magic hour”. The range of colors is pure beauty.

I recently saw a NASA release a time-lapse video of the Sun that I through would be fun to share with Chantil. The Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded 425 million high-resolution images over the last 10 years. The video is quite magical to watch and reminds us of this amazing universe!

Buenas noches Sol. Thanks for another wonderful day of exploring southern Spain. Nos vemos mañana…

Next Blog Post

Join us next week as we continue our tour of southwestern Spain by riding from Ronda to Seville enjoying the towns of Setenil de las Bodegas and Olvera along the way.

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Júzcar – The Smurfiest Village in Europe

🗓: 9 Jul 2020 | 🌍: Júzcar, Spain

I first heard of the village of Júzcar after reading about it on Atlas Obscura. Chantil and I love road-side attractions and an entire village painted Smurf blue definitely counts, in our view, as something to see and expereince.

Just a nice easy day of riding a 51 km (32 miles) loop from Ronda to Júzcar and back.

The day was already shaping up to be awesome. The weather was clear and sunny and the roads were perfects for motorcycle cruising!

Within a short time, we were greeted by this fun and colorful sign welcoming us to “Júzcar – The Blue Village”.

The village is definitely blue! Smurf blue in fact!?

So how did a quaint village in the remote region of Andalusia, Spain come to be painted Smurf blue?

In 2011, Sony Pictures released a GCI animation movie of the cartoon – The Smurfs. The marketing folks at Sony reached out to the village council in Júzcar and stuck a deal to paint the entire town blue. The local citizens weren’t initially convinced that a blue town was something they wanted; after all, the town was already painted a beautiful white.

Sony agreed to repaint the entire town white after the promotion ended so they struck a deal! After 4,200 liters of paint, the village was completely blue with Smurf characters painted on walls and signs.

“Juźcar, the first Smurf town in the world. 16 JUN 2011”

After seeing many gorgeous white-washed villages in Spain, I wasn’t convinced that a blue colored village would be pretty. As you can see, the blue color does have a nice hue that seems to compliment the color of the sky.

The citizens of Juźcar also liked the new look, along with the revenue from tourism they were receiving, so they decided to keep the unique blue color.

Having grown up as a kid who enjoyed watching the Smurfs cartoons on Saturday morning, I had fond memories of the Smurf charaters. To see an actual real-life Smurf village in Spain felt charming.

After 9 years, some of the paint is cracked and fading.

We found Papa Smurf! Also a bit chipped and faded.

It was fun to walk among the streets and look at the wonderful colors and the different ways people decorated their bright and colorful entrances.

“El Quijote Rural Housing” – Book a room here and you can spend a day in an actual real life Smurf village!

Admittedly, the entrances to these homes would be as beautiful in white. Not as unique, but just a beautiful.

Some Smurf themed characters are painted on walls.

The Smurfiest village in the world.

In addition to the town being painted blue, there were some activities; like this climbing wall and a zip line.

Unfortunately none of these activities were operating. It seems there was some dispute in 2017 between the original creator of the Smurfs, Pierre Culliford, and the village of Juźcar. The village was to “cease to make reference to the small blue characters”, however Júzcar was allowed to keep its village’s unique hue.

Smurfette! Isn’t she the Smurfiest?

After browsing the streets, we took a short hike into the nearby mountains to capture this photo of the village contrasted against the green Andalusian forest.

We returned to our mules and then rode them through the village capturing the experience on video for a future travel episode on our YouTube channel.

For the remainder of the afternoon, we enjoyed the twisty two-laned roads of the MA-7301, 7302, 7307, and A-369.

The MA roads were especially enjoyable with hardly any traffic on them. Nothing is much better on a motorcycle than riding on a gorgeous day, on remote roads, with your best friend.

We stopped for a bit to eat a snack, enjoy the beautiful world around us, and marvel at the grace of hawks floating through the air currents of the nearby valley.

Our mules also have a beauty to them – although not as graceful.

A wonderful day of exploring and riding a beautiful section of Spain in the region of Andalusia.

Next Blog Post

Join us next blog post as we walk among a charming town located on the cliff side of the El Tajo Gorge – Ronda, Spain.

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Caminito del Rey – World’s Most Dangerous Walkway?

🗓: 7 Jul 2020 | 🌍: El Caminito del Rey, Spain

I first heard of El Caminito del Rey on a travel website showing insane pictures of precarious rusted walkways that nearly clung to cliff walls with three hundred foot drop-offs. I remember the sense of adrenaline I felt from seeing the pictures and it was something that I wanted to experience first hand.

I added a “want to go” pin to my Google Maps and forgot about it until recently when we were planning our route through southern Spain.

Normally, getting tickets to hike Caminito del Rey can be difficult – especially during the summer months when they sell out weeks in advance. However, 2020 is not a typical year! Tourism in Spain was getting a late start on their summer season due to COVID-19. Lucky for us, we were able to get our tickets the same day. Admission cost was €10 per person.

We got up early and parked our motorcycles in the paid parking area near the north access and hiked the short distance to the main gate.

The hike starts at the north entrance and goes 7.7 km (4.8 miles) towards the south east. A fleet of shuttle busses gets hikers back to their vehicles.

The walkway was originally built from 1901-1905 to provide workers at the hydroelectric plant a means to cross between facilities.

Sporting the official Caminito del Rey issued hard-hat!

In 1921, King Alfonso XIII crosses the walkway during the inauguration of a new dam and the trail has been known as “The King’s Little Path” every since.

There are great views from the narrow walkway that are built 100 metres (330 ft) above the Río Guadalhorce.

A railroad runs along the river. I’m sure the passengers must enjoy seeing the gorgeous canyon and the hikers as they pass by.

This ornate railroad bridge-way connects the railroad tunnels that were cut right through the cliff walls.

The railroad and bridges were built through the canyon from 1860-1865. Quite an impressive engineering feat considering the dangerous heights!

Is the hike dangerous? This walkway was listed as “the world’s most dangerous walkway” following five deaths in 1999 and 2000. The local government then closed both entrances.

Me pointing the old deteriorated walkway. This walkway had large sections of missing concrete and corroded steel beams. No wonder it was deemed the most dangerous walkway.

In 2014 a rehabilitation project was laid by professional alpinists and builders. Since 2015, the new walkways have been open to visitors and are much safer. The walkways are professionally anchored, a meter wide, and well protected. Hikers are even issued a hard-hat in case rocks fall from the cliff side.

In this photo, you can see the new walkways over the top of the original ones.

Also in this photo are Chris and Melissa from New Zealand. Like us, they have been full-time traveling, except they are living large in an RV. We shared stories about the last three months and what COVID-19 quarantine was like. They ended up in Morocco, where it was even more strict than it was in Spain. Despite the problems of traveling in 2020, they were committed to continuing to experience more of Europe and beyond.

Crossing the suspension bridge, For some reason Chantil likes to bounce up and down on these bridges making it more scary for anyone else on the bridge.

Thank to Chris and Melissa for capturing this photo of us.

After we finished the trail, we were talking a bit when we heard the distance sounds of small bells. The bells grew louder and louder and before long our quiet resting place was inundated with the baaing of sheep and goats as hundreds of them walked right past us! It was quite a sight.

Waiting on the bus. Masks are required anytime you are 1 meter (3 feet) from others. The bus ride costed us €3.50 per person.

After returning to the parking lot, we said our goodbyes to our new friends from New Zealand. We really enjoyed talking to Chris and Melissa during the hike and wish them the best as they continue their travels eastward through southern Spain.

The mules were waiting patiently waiting for us, however they would have to wait just a little longer…

…because we decided to relax a bit with a swim in the turquoise-blue water of the Embalse del Conde.

Quite a wonderful morning and afternoon! We were grateful for the opportunity to hike the extremely popular Caminito del Rey without the typical over abundance of tourists during the summer season.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent riding the short 60 km (37 miles) towards Ronda, Spain where we would be spending the next couple days. Stay tuned for more adventure…

Next Blog Post

Discover why the entire village of Júzcar is painted blue – Smurf blue.

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Multicolored Málaga, Spain

🗓: 5 Jul 2020 | 🌍: Málaga, Spain

Our tour of southern Spain continues as we take a day to explore the colorful coastal city of Málaga. Málaga is one of the oldest European cities and was originally founded by the Phoenicians as Malaka over 2,800 years ago.

Our first stop was to learn more about the Spanish artist Pablo Ruiz Picasso. He was born in Málaga and his childhood home is now a museum dedicated to preserving the legacy of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

A wooden stairwell leads to the middle-income home where Picasso learned to paint from his father.

Picador, 1889. Oil on wood.

This oil on wood painting is not featured at the museum, however it is believed to be Picasso’s first work at the age of eight years old. The painting was inspired by his first attendance of a bullfight his father took him to.

Bulls and bullfighting remained one of Picasso’s passions for his entire life.

Just a short walk from Picasso’s house is the Picasso Museum. Unfortunately, there is a strict no photography policy at the museum so all the images of art are from their website: https://www.museopicassomalaga.org

Nicely designed arrows point you in the right direction and remind you to keep at least 2 meters from other guests.

Picasso’s work are displayed in rooms that surround the simple Spanish-styled central courtyard.

Glass of Absinthe, 1914. Bronze in Oil and white metal absinthe spoon.

Picasso and Braque invented Cubism in the years between 1908 and 1914. This style was characterized by the simultaneous representation of a single object from different angles, using geometric shapes and eschewing the traditional Renaissance rules of perspective.

Woman in an Armchair, 1946. Oil on canvas.

During WWII, Picasso remained in occupied Paris and continued working, however his style changed to show the grey veil of despair of that era.

Head of a Woman, 1939. Aquatint, scraper, and dry point.

Dora Maar was the inspiration for many of Picasso’s paintings during the years of 1937-1943. However, Maar never really liked how she was depicted saying that “all the portraits of me are lies. They’re Picassos. Not one is Dora Maar.”

There are two floors of the museum that house collections from most of Picasso’s life.

Woman, 1961. Cut, folded, and painted sheet metal.

Musketeer with Sword, 1972. Oil on canvas.

Insect, 1951. White earthenware storage vessel.

Regardless of how one feels about Picasso, there is no boubt that his influence in the cubist movement changed the way 20th century artists would see the world.

After leaving the museum, we walked among the streets looking for whatever caught the eye of my camera.

Málaga is a city full of color. There were many murals throughout the city streets and many were clearly influenced by Pablo Ruiz Picasso.

I love the idea of being able to fly gracefully through the sky like a humpback whale.

Art was everywhere in Málaga! An old bicycle was painted to create a beautiful table for eating tapas outside in the warm Spanish sun.

One of our favorite things to do in a city is walk among the streets looking for murals painted by accomplished artists.

These are just a few examples of some of our favorites of the day.

Each mural seemed to have its own unique style and wonderful colors.

Even the logo for the Málaga Theater, Music, and Dance School is full of energy and color!

I like how the artist incorporated the flowers-styled brick work (white, red, and green) into this beautiful mural.

This mural featured the many different faces, cultures, and diversities of the region.

We even found WALDO!!

A modern looking bench casts an interesting shadow on the cobblestone walkway.

We enjoyed a relaxed walk among the trees through the narrow Parque de Málaga.

The Alcazaba, a moorish castle, sits proudly on a hill overlooking the port area of the city.

Centre Pompidou Malaga is a art museum that features exhibits of various modern artist.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go inside the museum since we had an appointment to be at the Cathedral.

However the outside is truly a beautiful and colorful example of modern architecture.

Onward to the Málaga Cathedral where we had an appointment at 4PM to go to the roof-top tour.

The cathedral was started in 1528 and “finished” in 1782, however the south tower continues to remain unfinished even today. A plaque at the base of the tower states that funds raised by the parish to finish it were used instead to help those British colonies of North America to gain their independence from Great Britain.

COVID-19 precautions required all to wear masks, maintain social distancing, and to disinfect before entering the building.

The rooftop tour was the highlight of our visit. We were privately escorted up the narrow staircases to terrace views of the stained glass windows from inside the cathedral.

We continued upwards until we reached the roof with close-up views of the northern bell tower (84 meters) and the gigantic bells that ring throughout the city.

The level of craftsmanship of the domed brickwork and rainwater removal system was impressive…

…as were the views of the city below in all directions.

After a day of walking the streets of Málaga, we were ready to return to the Airbnb and pack the motorcycles for the next leg of our travels as we head inland to do some hiking…

Next Blog Post

Join us as we hike the Caminito del Rey and talk to some new friends from New Zealand who had an interesting time during the COVID-19 lockdown.

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Hiking El Torcal de Antequera, Spain

🗓: 4 Jul 2020 | 🌍: Providences of Córdoba and Málaga, Spain

Our route covered 182 km (113 miles) of riding from Córdoba, to El Torcal de Antequera, then to an Airbnb close to Málaga.

Along the way to El Torcal de Antequera, we stopped at a unique road-side attraction near Lucena, Spain.

Fábrica De Sillas Hermanos Huertas S L is a furniture manufacturer, started by two brothers, that specializes in manufacturing chairs.

This chair is the “Worlds Largest” and stands as tall as an eight-story building, (85 feet tall), weighs 120,000 kilograms, and uses 230 cubic meters of timber. That is enough wood to make roughly 9,200 normal sized seats!

The sitting surface of this gigantic chair is actually the roof of an office. A stairway and elevator provide access to the office which is complete with great view of the countryside, a large circular table and, of course, chairs made by the manufacturer.

Unfortunatly, the office and factory were closed so we didn’t get to see much more, but we can now say we have officially seen the world largest chair!

El Torcal de Antequera

This nature reserve, in the Sierra del Torcal mountain range, isn’t too far away from the A45 roadway.

Once you make the final climb up to the visitors center, you are greeted with the unique lanscape of these unique geological formations.

It’s so beautiful here that I fully expected an access gate with a fee. Nope – This entire area is completely free to the public!

Gorgeous views, summer flowers, perfect temperature, and a nice breeze. Life is good!

We parked the mules, and went through the process of removing our motorcycle gear and changing into more comfortable hiking clothes. I say “process” because it is very much a process that takes close to 10 minutes. Perhaps we’ll do a future video of this on our YouTube page.

This is quite a magical area. The unique rock formations are regarded as one of the most impressive karst landscapes in Europe.

We chose to hike the Yellow Route which is a short 3 km loop that takes you through the most beautiful portions of the park…

…with rock formations known as El Dedo, El Camello, La Jarra and La Botella.

Each bend in the trail brought us to new formations and new opportunities to snap pictures.

We only come across a handful of people on the trail, so much of our hike was in quiet contemplation.

Just the sounds of a quiet breeze, birds, and cicadas. Heavenly.

God created some charming country with stunning, breath taking views.

Towards the last part of the trail we heard a couple speaking German so we said “Guten Tag!” as they passed by. Before long we were walking together and sharing stories of travel with Julia and Thomas from Germany.

Julia and Thomas had been to this park before and showed us a great lookout area to enjoy the wonderful views of surrounding fields and the town of Villanueva de la Concepción to the south.

We took some time watch the raptors that were gracefully searching for their next meal in the fields below.

A bright and beautiful butterfly even came swooping in for a picture.

We ended up having a wonderful afternoon enjoying this picturesque park with its unique geological wonders.

Thanks to Thomas, a fellow photographer, for taking this picture of the two of us. Check out Thomas’ Instagram page – he takes some wonderful pictures.

Next Blog Post

Joint us next post as we explore the Spanish city of Málaga!

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Spanish Bull Fighting – History, Tradition, and Controversy

🗓: 4 Aug | 🌍: Southwest Regions, Spain

As an young kid who lived in the United States, I grew up on the staple American meal of hamburgers. I have fond memories of weekly dinners with my father and sister, where we would eat delicious 50 cent hamburgers and drink vanilla shakes. Some years ago by son and I took a father and son road trip across Route 66 where we enjoyed many wonderful tasting hamburgers along this iconic stretch of Americana. To this day, I still enjoy eating hamburgers. What does this have to do about Spanish Bull fighting? First, let me explain what I learned about the history and traditions of this national sport.

Much of what we learned was started by visiting the Museo Taurino (Bullfighting Museum) in Córdoba, Spain. Afterwards, I spent some time reading what I could about Spanish-style bullfighting to learn more.

A Spanish Fighting Bull – The National Animal of Spain

The Spanish Fighting Bull is the National animal of Spain. When you visit Spain, it is obvious that this country loves their bulls. While riding throughout Spain we came across many black silhouetted billboards of the Osborne Bull (Toro de Osborne).

The image of the bull is found on stickers, post cards and other items. It has become a symbol for Spain by sports fans where the bull is embedded in the Flag of Spain in the manner of a coat of arms.

Pablo Picasso, the Spanish artist, painter, sculptor, printmaker, and ceramicist even included bulls in many of his works.

The Bull by Pablo Picasso, 1945

Many bulls come from Andalusia, where meadows of renowned establishments with names like Osborne, Juan Pedro Domecq, Marqués de Albaserrada, and Partido de Resina have operated for centuries. These breeders come from a long and proud history and are people who care for and know their animals.

Symbols and branding from many of the breeders throughout Spain.

To learn more about the breading of Spanish bulls read the article Bullfighting: what I found during a year on breeding estates by Robin Irvine

Spanish-Style Bullfighting

The history of bull fighting goes back to pre-Roman times however the sport of modern Spanish-style bullfighting is credited to Joaquín Rodríguez Costillares.

Rodríguez Costillares was a Spanish bullfighter, in the late 1700s, who established the “cuadrillas tradition” where teams of two or three banderilleros and two picadors taunt the bull. He also organized the tercios de lidia (thirds of fight), invented the Veronica and other basic cape movements as well as the current traje de luces (suit of light)

Matadors are national heros who are idolized in imagery and paintings.

The traje de luces (suit of lights) is the traditional clothing that Spanish bullfighters wear in the bullring.

Fernando Mariín Tortola (1946)

The bust of Manuel Laureano Rodríguez Sánchez (1917 – 1947), a Spanish bullfighter from Córdoba.

Colorful posters illustrate the fashion and tradition of Córdoba bullfighting in the 1950s

Antonio Cañero by Carlos Ruano Llopis (1926-1930 c.)

Antonio Cañero was a famous Rejoneador (bullfighter who fights the bull on horseback).

Rejoneador are typically revered as the best, because the rejoneador learns how to not only fight the bull, but also to direct the bull to protect his horse. This relationship of horse and rider is an ancient Spanish custom, and an important part of the tradition of bullfighting in Spain.

In 2017, Leonardo Hernandez literally went head to head with a bull during a battle in the San Fermin festival in Pamplona.
*Photo from Associated Press.

A Matadors statue in Toros, Spain

A statue of Carro Romero, Seville, Spain

Throughout our travels through southern Spain we noticed numerous bullrings where events would typically occur in the late spring and summer months. Due to COVID-19 there were not any events planned during our time there.

Toros has a event planned for August 1st.

The Death of the Bull

Proponents for bull fights argue that these events are are not meant to be a competition; they are meant to be a show, or play, with the final act being the valiant death of the bull under the courage of a skilled matador.

The kill is done by aiming straight over the bull’s horns and plunging the sword between its withers into the aorta region. This requires discipline, training, and courage; for this reason it is known as the “moment of truth”.

After the bull is killed it is ceremoniously dragged out of the ring and then slaughtered for consumption.
* Image from Stars and Stripes

Ethics of Bull Fighting Compared to Beef Consumption

Let’s consider the life of a Spanish fighting bull compared to the beef industry in the United States: The human Society International estimates that 250,000 bulls are killed each year for bullfighting. It’s estimated that 31 million cattle are slaughters for food consumption in the United States alone. The United States is the third largest producer of beef, behind China and Brazil. The bulls that are killed from bullfighting are just 0.8 percent of those that are killed for food consumption in the United States.

In an article titled The Eating Of The Bulls: From The Spanish Fighting Ring To The Plate, nutritionists Ismael Díaz argues that “Bulls bred for bullfighting are grass-fed, live in spacious fields and are particularly well taken care of, says Díaz. They also live a longer life than animals bred for human consumption — five to six years, as opposed to the average 18 months.” Díaz continues “that eating meat from fighting bulls is ‘more ethical’ than eating meat that comes from slaughterhouses, where animals often grow up in cramped spaces, are injected with hormones and don’t get to see the light of day.

“The fighting bull lives a completely privileged life, until its horrible death,” says Díaz, who recognizes that the animal “suffers stress” when it enters the ring. He says that while the tense fight can affect the taste of the meat, there are treatments cooks can apply to the meat that improve the taste. “So what’s better,” he asks, “a good life with a difficult death, or a limited life with a death that’s a bit less cruel?”


As someone who eats meat regularly, including beef, I feel it would be incredibly hypocritical of me to have an issue with Spanish-style bullfighting especially considering that beef production in my country, the United States, is responsible for the death of substantially more (12,300 times more) cattle than are killed in Spanish bull fighting.

Of course, one could argue, that this is not about the consumption of the bull. It’s about the cruelty and prolonged suffering of these animals for the sake of a spectator event. This is a point, I too, struggle with.

Animal rights activists feel bull fighting is barbaric and should no longer be practiced. This is a view that is becoming more and more popular: In a 2018 nationwide survey, 65 percent of Spaniards had little to no interest in attending a bull fighting event and for those aged 20 to 24 it was 76 percent. The Spanish newspaper El Pais also suggested that only 37% of Spaniards were fans of bull fighting.

The numbers of spectators who attend bull fighting events is on the decline and some regions of Spain has passed laws banning the practice all together.

The future of Spanish-style bull fighting looks grim. Most of the 2020 season has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a growing number of people are becoming outraged over the Spanish government contining to fund bullfighting with public money. Unless the industry can change and adapt, Spanish bull fighting may be something that we only read about in history books, internet articles, or blog posts.

Next Blog Post

Join us next blog post as we head south from Córdoba to enjoy the El Torcal de Antequera.

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Culturally Colorful Córdoba, Spain

🗓: 28 Jul | 🌍: Providences of Granada and Córdoba, Spain

Our motorcycle travels continue west along the southern coast of Spain as we leave the city of Granada and make our way inland to the culturally colorful city of Córdoba.

During this blog post we covered 225 km (140 miles) of pavement from Granada to Córdoba.

The July temperatures were definitely getting hotter as we continued inland. Riding a motorcycle at 80 kph on the curvy roads is one way to beat the heat.

The green hills, orchards, and yellow grasses made for some great scenery.

We passed by the town of Alcalá la Real and the La Mota Fortress.

PRECAUCIÓN – Motorcycle safety billboards are unique to each country and this one has been around Spain for quite a long time.

Montoro, Spain

We stopped for a short visit in Montoro, Spain…

…to walk among its streets…

…and to visit the Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells)

Both the exterior and interior of this home is decorated in millions of shells. It clearly is a labor of love, since each shell had to be carefully placed to create this unique home.

So many shells!

They charge a small fee (1€) for visiting the inside, but there was no one around when we arrived so we didn’t get to see the inside. You can see some photos at: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/casa-de-las-conchas

It is worth walking across the Puente de las Doncellas o de las Donadas to see the modern statues and the view of the town above.

Córdoba, Spain

The next day we enjoyed a walk around Cordoba to take in the sites and tour the amazing Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba.

Our first stop was to see the Plaza de la Corredera, with its…

…15th century construction and colorful orange painted arches…

…unique shops selling woven baskets, decorations, and…

…bull heads! Wouldn’t they look great on the front of our motorcycles?

Piggy banks for all kinds of income levels.

The inside courtyard was unusually free from tourists.

Just down the street is the Templo Romano, with reconstructed pillars. The site of this temple was not discovered until the 1950s when the city was creating an expansion project. The original Roman temple dates back to 41-54 AD.

Near the Torre De Calahorra is a colorful mural that…

…lists the Spanish names of local wildlife in the area.

The influence of the Roman Catholic Church within this region of Spain cannot be understated. Since the 1st century it had existed here and approximate 7/10 Spaniards identifying as Catholic.

The city is quite beautiful with many bright colors, painted tiles, and garden entrances.

Beautiful and bright paint and hand crafted doors.

Palm trees in all their beautiful varieties.

The Albolafia Water Mill was built in 9th century to bring water to Emir Abd al-Rahman II palace.

We came across this unique birch tree with leaves that were dark green on one side and chalky white on the other.

Looking back at the Mosque-Cathedral and Roman Bridge of Córdoba. This bridge dates back to the 1st century BCE.

The Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs was a nice place to get out of the July heat.

The impressive Hall of the Mosaics – a series of Roman mosaics, discovered underneath the Corredera. These must have taken specialized artists thousands of painstaking hours to make.

The gardens were the highlight of the Alcazar with their…

…colorful flowers…

…fountains and reflecting pools…

…statues of Christian monarchy…

…and forged wrought iron details, all made the visit to Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs memorable.

What makes Córdoba so interesting is the history and diversity of the various religious institutions. Take for example…

…the synagogue in the historic edifice of the Jewish Quarter…

…was built in 1315 and was decorated according to the best Mudejar traditions.

After the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, all but this synagogue were destroyed.

It was restored and reopened in 1985 to celebrate the 850th anniversary of Maimonides birth.

We continued to walk among the streets and enjoy the garden views…

…and many courtyards that would surprise us around each corner.

Tendillas Square and the statue of Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba.

Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba

Tickets to the Mosque-Cathedral are for a specific time and we were not allowed to enter earlier despite the noticeable lack of tourism. The cost during our visit was 11€ each.

The gates opened at 4PM and we were allowed inside the courtyard along with about 15 other people.

Bell tower from the Court of Oranges, however we didn’t come to see the courtyard – We came to see the interior of this amazing architectural building and…

…see for ourselves the most accomplished monument of Moorish architecture built by the European Moors. The famous alternating red and white voussoirs were inspired by those in the Dome of the Rock and the Aachen Cathedral, which were built almost at the same time.

The incredible hypostyle hall with its 856 double arch columns that support the high ceiling of this inspiring structure.

The mihrab edifice, with its richly gilded prayer niche. Experts feel this is a masterpiece of architectural art, with geometric and flowing designs of plants throughout the design.

A simple stained glass window…

…casts its ever-changing light on dark tile floor below.

In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III, and the centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral.

Córdoba and the Mosque-Cathedral are definitely worth visiting if your journeys happen to take you through southern Spain.

Join us next blog post as we learn about the tradition and nationalism of Spanish-style bull fighting.

Thanks for reading our travel blog. If you would like to help support future travel writing and videos please consider joining us at: https://www.patreon.com/viajarmoto

Enjoying the Central Southern Coast of Spain

🗓: 21 Jul | 🌍: Providences of Granada and Málaga, Spain

Map of our day’s journey: We went from Granada, to the southern coast, and back again – 229 km (142 miles).

After a one-hour ride to our destination we were greated with…

…this disappointing news – PROHIBIDO! We were really looking forward to hiking the beautiful slot canyons and cool waters of the Rio Chillar. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, this area is now off limits. Darn you COVID!! Huge bummer.

Instead of letting it ruin our day, we decided to do some exploring of the nearby region. We started by walking south through the coastal resort town of Nerja

Nerja, Spain