'98 Trip Around the Mediterranean Sea
Third Leg: Europe part 2

Spain 3
France 2

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Spain 3


Fri/Sat/Sun, June 12/13/14, 98. SPAIN: Torremolinos.


J.: While Greg was recovering from his desert cold, I was enjoying Costa del Sol beach and its guests. I met tourists from Canada, Germany, US, Spain and the Netherlands.

G: Oh, yeah. We met some Canadian girls from Quebec and an American guy who traveled together and a very talkative Italian fellow from Cefalu on Sicily who dearly insisted to visit him. Oh, well, we would see about that.


Mon, June 15, 98. SPAIN:  Torremolinos to near Zaragoza.


J.: The ride was OK. Beautiful views, great free highway. We passed Madrid and headed further north. It was much easier (and cheaper) simply to take any minor road off the highway and find a piece of ground suitable for pitching a tent than to look for a hotel or a campground. That is what we did for the night of Mon/Tue 15/16. We slept in the forest.  




Tue, June 16, 98. SPAIN/ANDORRA/FRANCE.  



J.: We stopped in Zaragoza for couple of hours. Visited a 500m long main square, Plaza de Nuestra Senora del Pilar and Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar (17th century). Francisco Goya, the Spanish writer was sitting proudly on the obelisk. I guess he was from around.  

Plaza de Nuestra Senora del Pilar in Zaragoza, Spain

That’s it. Time to saddle the horses again.

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Andorra: great place for shopping (duty-free zone—both French and Spanish currency is used) and skiing: modern buildings and the mountains; one way streets; strict parking officers. And nothing else! 

Approaching Andorra

Before us there was another mountain range we chose to cross, Pyrenees. We reached Port d’Envalira (2708m), the highest pass in the Pyrenees, in thick fog and almost freezing temperature. Visibility: 10 meters. It was cold and very slippery! It was the last time I was cold until we reached Poland at the beginning of August! Yeah!

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France 2


Late at night, we reached Castelnaudary, France. Ania, my old university friend from Poland, and her Frenchman husband, Philippe, were kind to provide us with accommodation and long night talk (Night Tue/Wed 16/17).  

Ania and Phillippe

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Wed, June 17, 98. FRANCE/ITALY  



J.: We left for Italy on Wednesday morning. That day, we beat our record: 910 km in a single day. It cost each of us US $40 on tolls and US $40 on gas. Picturesque highway: bridges or tunnels for hundreds of km. Constant speed of 130-140 km/h. We got off the highway in Livorno and had a pizza in an authentic Italian pizzeria. Food was expensive in Italy, especially after an unexpected cover charge was added.  As soon as we finished the meal, crowds filled the streets. Crazy car, motorbike and moped drivers were chasing each other around the square to celebrate Italy victory in the World Cup ’98 game. Take it easy, guys—it wasn’t even a semifinal! (Night Wed/Thu 17/18 in Livorno at a campsite.)


Thu, June 18, 98. ITALY: Rome.  



J.: We reached the Eternal City. Pitched a tent at the seashore in Ostia and rode to Rome.

Greg used to live in Rome for half a year so we took his bike. We toured the city at an extreme speed. Driving was crazy, but because of Greg’s past experience, it seemed like he was a native Italian. We visited: 

* St Peter’s Square (Vatican City), [St Peter’s Basilica stands on the site where St Peter was buried. The first church on the site was built in the 4th century. The work on what’s now St Peter’s Basilica took place in 16th century], 

* Colosseum,

Colosseum - construction started in 72 AD. The structure could seat 80,000 people

* Piazza Navona, 

* Fontana dei Fiumi [1732].

We came back to Ostia for the night Thu/Fri 18/19.

G: There are always many people on Rome’s every plaza. It may seem like everybody always moves somewhere but in reality they all take it easy, locals and tourists. I love Rome, it is not the cleanest city in the world but at least it has a heart.   


Fri, June 19, 98. ITALY: Ferry to Sicily.  



J.: The next morning we rode the whole day through Abruzzi and Calabria (more beautiful mountains) and finally took a ferry to Sicily. We spent the night Fri/Sat 19/20 on the camp in Milazzo.


Sat, June 20, 98. ITALY: Sicily.


J.: Spent on driving to Palermo. Half of the road from Milazzo to Trapani was an expressway, half a regular road. The last one was much slower but more fun too.

G: Halfway from Milazzo to Palermo there was the town of Cefalu where our Italian “amico” we met in Spain lived. Jacek pressed on, I guess we wouldn’t be visiting him.

J.: I think that wearing a safety helmet either is not required on Sicily or no one respects the law. We kept our “hats” on. We arrived in Trapani hoping to find a ferry to Tunis that night (according to Lonely Planet there should be one). Unfortunately, we found out from a local homeless man that the next ferry would be going on Monday. I guess he knew it all. After all he lived right on the pier. We went back to Palermo (100 km or so) and spent nights Sat/Sun/Mon 20/21/22 there.


Sun, June 21, 98. ITALY: Palermo.  



J.: Last few days were tiring and busy riding. I decided to be sexy (lazy) and stopped shaving. Few more days and I would become an authentic Viking from Finland.

We spent Sunday relaxing. Went to see Palermo. Overall, quite a big disappointment from a tourist perspective. It’s not a clean city. Lots of cats and dogs. Dirty.

We saw: Cattedrale, Porta Nuova, the Quattro Canti (the intersection of Via Vittoria Emanuele and Via Maqueda, four corners of Palermo), Piazza Pretoria, with a fountain (Fontana Pretoria). It’s also called the Fountain of Shame because of its nude figures. 

Fountain of Shame, Palermo, Sicily

The nightlife was OK. Didn’t see any Mafiosi.

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To continue the story, click Tunisia and Libya or go back to Mediterranean Trip.