Friday, May 24, 2013

Some Drives To Remember

Renting a car in a foreign country and driving around that country can be a good thing or a bad thing, or both.  Just ask Roberto, our friend who did all the driving.  We had a love/hate relationship with the car on our trip.  We loved being able to drive around and see the country of Spain.  We could go wherever and whenever we wanted.  We did not love our car when it came to driving around small towns with very narrow, crowded streets that seemed unnavigable.  We also did not love the car when it came to paying the very high tolls, which as it turns out are well worth not having to drive among hundreds of trucks and people who drive like they have no respect for life!

We left Barcelona and headed out to Zaragoza.  I knew nothing about Zaragoza, never even heard of it until we started planning this trip.  Most people asked us "Why Zaragoza?" , except for the one person who said it was her home town and asked if she could stow away in my luggage.  The reason for Zaragoza is that it was the largest town near the Rioja wine region and our friends knew someone who said it was a lovely city.  Why not?  Turns out, it was a lovely stop.  BUT before we made it to Zaragoza we had to eat lunch....somewhere.

A common sight while driving in Spain...
Our adventurous sides lead us to a little walled city named Montblanc.  Had it not been for the restaurant outside the city being closed, we may never have found this hidden treasure.  When you look up charming and ancient in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Montblanc.

Forboding exterior
So inviting inside
Another noteworthy drive took us to a part of The Way of St. James or Camino Santiago.  TJ had researched this path and as we all got to pick a place we wanted to visit every now and then he chose this little town.  So after we tasted wine at Marqueses de Riscal and had lunch in Logrono, both note worthy but I have very little time to note.....we followed our Zara Gosa (our GPS) to this crossroads.

Along the road...
There is always a church to welcome you in every town.

Our driver, Roberto, crossing Ponte de Santiago

One huge reason I will never do the Camino Santiago, this is the communal clothesline  where all the hikers hang their stinky clothes after they wash them...probably while they were wearing them in the shower!  
It was finally time to say goodbye to Zaragoza and head south to Valencia.  We stopped along the way, of course, for some sight seeing, picture taking and just a bit of eating and drinking.  Our lunch stop was in Teruel.  Just one more cute town in Spain! 
 Note the shade seekers and the sun worshiper!
The view from our table!  I could sit and look at this all day!

Even the bottoms of the balconies were decorated with tile mosaics!
My other favorite drive brought us through Tarragona, you know...the place I have decided to  live!  Another TJ pick, which turned out to be an amazing stop!  The tour book said it was a mix of ancient Roman ruins mixed with cafes, friendly people and an active social scene.  Oh, and perennially sunny!  SOLD!   As we dusted the dirt of Valencia off our feet and headed north in the overcast sky it was as if the clouds parted right over Tarragona!  As we got closer and closer, the sun became brighter and brighter and the sky and the water ended up looking like this.....
We're so happy that we can't stop smiling!!!!

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