topics: rail travel, tourism; jump to dispatch
Rider Notes: October 12–16, 1997
[Webmaster's note: This dispatch covers the travel days from October 12 to October 16. The Food of the Day and almanac data refer to October 16. The riders visited Malaga, Spain, on October 12.]
Breakfast:. We are now in the land of French pastries, so we are taking every opportunity to eat these delectable delights: chaussons au pommes (pastries stuffed with applesauce), tartes au framboise (raspberry tarts), the familiar pains au chocolat (pastry breads with chocolate inside), and croissants. Mmmmm.
Lunch: For more about a sandwich grec (also known as a gyro or souvlaki), see the Food of the Day.
Dinner: For dinner on the 16th, we ate in a tiny (there was only one table in the restaurant — ours!) brand new restaurant (only the second night it was open) called La Maison du Petit Canard (The House of the Little Duck). While we did not see any ducks, they did have a cat named Cesar. The owner is from Egypt, so we had many Middle Eastern type dishes for our first course: humus (a dish made of crushed, cooked chickpeas blended with sesame seed oil and garlic), baba ganouj (made from a purée of eggplant), and tabouleh (a salad made of couscous grains, tomatoes, and cucumbers). For our main course, we had a filet of fish served with sautéed green beans, and steamed cauliflower and carrots. There was also a yummy cream sauce that blended perfectly with the fish and vegetables. For dessert, we enjoyed mint tea (not as sweet as the Moroccan variety) served with dates and fruit.
Food of the Day: Sandwich grec (Greel sandwich)
A sandwich grec (Greek sandwich) is a popular food found in stands on the street throughout the Mediterranean. It was the main fastfood of Europe and the Mediterranean before the introduction of North American foods (hamburgers, fried chicken, and Tex-Mex); it remains very popular. In North America, we know sandwichs grecs as "gyros," based on the original Greek sandwich called souvlaki. A sandwich grec is made from seasoned meat (either lamb or beef) cut from a giant skewer slowly rotated over a fire. The meat is constantly being trimmed from the outside as it browns. This is then wrapped into a piece of pita bread and topped off with salad, hot sauce (if you are brave!), and a yogurt-cucumber-garlic sauce known by many different names, but originally called tzatziki (in Greek, of course!).
Word of the Day: Bonjour
Bonjour literally means "good day" in French. It is used as English speakers would use "hello."
Person of the Day: Eddie Le'Febour
When we stepped off the overnight boat from Melilla, Spain (on the continent of Africa), into Malaga, Spain (on the continent of Europe), we headed straight for the train station, where we would catch a northbound train. A man with a bike also loaded for touring approached us. He thrust his hand forward as an introduction. "Hello!" he said, "Bike freak, from Denmark!" Actually, his name is Eddie Le'Febour, and he's biking for the next two years around Spain and Portugal to research and write a book about how traveling by bike can be fun, easy, and less expensive than most people think. He's also planning to bike around the world in the year 2000 to help celebrate the 100th birthday of the Danish Cycling Federation. Good luck on your trips Eddie!
Featured Site: Malaga, Spain
We were fortunate enough to spend the day in Malaga waiting for the overnight train to Barcelona. This southeastern coast of Spain, along which Malaga is found, is known as the Costa del Sol. We had no trouble understanding why this phrase means "coast of the sun." The heat seemed to have followed us from Morocco. While Ethan and Anthony took a moment to enjoy the town's 17th-century cathedral, Corinne and andrEa again found the local cybercafe. This southern city is famous not only as the birthplace of Picasso, but mostly as a vacation spot for Europeans. Fortunately the tourist season ends in October, so we felt as if we had the whole city comfortably to ourselves.
Group Dispatch, October 12–16
After our tasty pizza dinner in Melilla, we boarded the ferry to begin our long trip to Tunisia. We had originally planned to make an en route visit to Mallorca, but off-season ferry schedules would not permit it. Instead, we learned that we had to travel up to Marseille, from where we would catch another ferry back across the Mediterranean to Africa.
The countries in the Mediterranean (especially those along the northern shores) are crisscrossed with rail lines and the BikeAbout team is traveling on European rail passes (called Eurailpasses) that permit us to take as many trains as we can within any given 24-hour period. These passes have only a limited number of 24-hour-period allowances on them and our budget is tight, so the challenge was to travel the 1200 km (745 mi) from Malaga to Marseille before our 24 hours ran out. After studying four different train schedules, we decided that it could be done if we were quick, careful, and started with an overnight train to Barcelona.
However, since we had to wait for the overnight train, we had the whole day of the 12th in Malaga. Padraic made use of this time by taking an earlier train to Valencia, where he would pick up some packages the group had been expecting. The rest of the team had the day to explore the town, just like regular tourists.
Millions of tourists visit Spain every year, making tourism one of Spain's most important industries. The subtropical Mediterranean climate of southeastern Spain means that this "Costa del Sol" (see the Place of the Day) enjoys warm temperatures and little rain for much of the year. In fact, the friendly climate, along with the many cultural and historical gems the area has to offer, makes southeastern Spain from Barcelona in the north all the way down to Malaga in the south, a particularly popular tourist destination.
The Spanish too are as welcoming as the weather — a festive and lively people, with or without the tourists present. During the short time we spent in Spain — in the cities and on the trains — we caught a glimpse of the lifestyle we will encounter upon our return next June. The obvious North African influences (remember the Moors?), the cosmopolitan European flavor of the big cities, and the uniquely Mediterranean aspects of the hilly coast all await our further exploration.
After a day of sightseeing and Internet surfing, the four remaining BikeAbout team members once again (we hope for the last time; remember the first time?) talked their way into a sleeping compartment on the train to Barcelona. Anthony somehow convinced yet another conductor that it is OK to load five bikes and all of our baggage into a confined space. And this time we had to share the compartment with one very surprised (but fortunately, very nice) Spanish man.
We arrived in Barcelona at 10 a.m. on the 13th and had 45 minutes to make the next train to Cerbère (at the French border). Anthony rushed upstairs to try and send the dispatches, while everyone else (three of us; Padraic was still off on his errand) started to shuffle the gear and bikes to a different train platform. All four of us — Anthony came dashing back from his Internet mission — just barely made it onto the train as the doors were closing.
We soon got into a rhythm that would last the entire day. A three-and-one-half-hour train ride to Cerbère was followed by an hour-long train to Perpignan, which was followed by a two-and-one-half-hour ride to Nîmes. At each stop, we had to scramble to unload and then reload the bags and the bikes.
One final 60-minute ride from Nîmes took us, at long last, to Marseille. We arrived at 9:15 p.m. on the evening of the 13th, more than 25 hours after we left Malaga (don't worry, we took advantage of a technicality to allow us the extra hour of train use). Padraic, who had spent the day trying to catch up with the group, showed up a couple of hours later, bearing packages. After a joyous reunion, we put together a midnight snack and ate it on the floor of our hotel room before collapsing in exhaustion. Needless to say, our beds were much more comfortable than train seats.
Our three remaining days in Marseille were devoted to rest and recuperation, research and writing, and preparation for our onward trip into Tunisia and eventual return to Marseille in early June.
Questions? Ask Anthony !
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