Thursday, 21 October 2010

Valencia, Spain - And the winner is . . .

Shirley, Tigger and I have arrived in Valencia by the power of bus. If all goes to plan, I should leave Valencia on Sunday on a cargo ship bound for South America, arriving in Buenos Aires 16 days later. My cargo ship departure was cancelled, then reinstated with a different ship, then moved forward by two weeks, back by a day, then forward by two days. All of this confusion left me without enough time to cycle from Burgau to Valencia and made me miss meeting my friend Andrew in Seville!

The two weeks at my sister´s house in Burgau seemed to whiz by as I settled into a very enjoyable lifestyle there. Days were filled with walking the dogs along the beautiful cliff-top paths in early morning sunlight and along wild, windswept beaches in the afternoons. We pottered about in the busy little towns and colourful fishing villages that are dotted along the coast of the Algarve and generally relaxed, chilled out and enjoyed being a family together. I found a favourite little spot in Burgau at the Brizze Bar cafe, overlooking the slipway and beach. I loved to sit here with a coffee and gaze out over the ocean or watch the old, weather-beaten menfolk of the village bring in their little fishing boats. The second week of my stay coincided with the British half-term and the little beach at Burgau filled with Brits in bikinis grilling themselves under an October sun that was still fiercely hot.

I´ve managed to put some weight on after arriving in Burgau a little scrawny. This is mostly due to my sister´s fabulous cooking though she was ably assisted by Casa Padaria, the local Italian restaurant. I can barely believe that I cycled thousands of miles to the remote spot that is my sister´s house to discover that the only freshly-baked, gluten-free pizza I have ever had was only five minutes walk away. It´s fate - me and those pizzas were meant to be together!

It was another difficult adjustment leaving Burgau, similar to that required after my friend Graham left at the end of the cycle along the Camino de Santiago. It was so cosy and comfortable being in Burgau, in the bosom of family and with no worries. But again I had to say "goodbyes" as I was whisked away on a bus into the darkness of a Spanish night to be dumped out on my own in Valencia.

However, Valencia is a pleasant, vibrant, modern city. There is old stuff here and there but it´s swamped by contemporary buildings and traffic. My cheap little hotel is ideally placed next to the Turia Gardens. Valencia was orginally bisected by the River Turia but after a catastrophic flood in the 1950s, the river was diverted to the west of the city and the original natural course was filled in. This has created a beautiful, long, sinuous city park with cyclepaths, walks, gardens, fountains, playparks, ponds and skateparks. It´s full of life at all times of day - cyclists, joggers, walkers, roller-bladers, dog-walkers, school-children doing their PE classes and people practising yoga. Just before it meets the sea are the very space-age buildings and cool, blue pools of the Arts and Science Centre. It´s all very nice.

But it´s difficult to enjoy as I´m feeling very nervous at the moment. Not about crossing an ocean or arriving on a new continent - I´m really excited about that. But I´m nervous about making sure I don´t miss the boat! Afterall, we all know how to catch a bus or a train but how do you catch a cargo ship? Do you stand on the beach and stick your hand out - one and a bicycle to Argentina, please!

My nerves aside, what you all really want to know at this moment ... more than who´s been eliminated from the X-Factor ... is ... who has won "the bicycle diaries" competition. Well, I can reveal the winners are Sheila and Dougie McBride from Angus. They guessed that I had eaten 450 rice cakes during my cycle to Burgau, the closest guess to Tigger´s winning figure of 445. Sheila and Dougie have chosen Prize A, to join me for the cycle through South America ... oops, sorry ... I´ve muddled entries ... that should be Prize B, a surprise gift from Portugal. It´s on its way to you now.
I don´t know what the next few weeks will bring but it´s sure to be out of the ordinary so do keep in touch.

All photos from Europe on My Flickr page


  1. Hi Pauline

    Breaking news from across Europe - BIG SHORTAGE OF RICE CAKES?


  2. Bon voyage! I hope you've stocked up on those pizzas (or stolen the recipe) for when you're on board.

    I forgot to email you my guess, but at 700 rice cakes I was slightly out anyway :-)


  3. Everything will be fine and you'll be on board and settled in without a hitch. You're so well organised and I'm sure you'll allow planty of safety time!
    Now I can say in it's truest meaning . . . bon voyage!