Burgos marked the official start of the MCi Tours, "Spanish Heritage Trail" tour. Although we had "picked up" a few of the touring partners along the route through France, it was here that most of the 37 motorcyclists on 26 bikes joined together for the adventure through Spain. And what a great group of people it was: 3 from the USA, (Julie, our friend Lloyd from New Jersey, and me); and 34 from England; a total of 12 women (2 riders) and 25 men. The route is shown on the map and covered about 1,200 miles, if you took only the suggested routes, from north of Madrid to southwest of Madrid and back again. The countryside at this time of year was quite dry, but the weather was great with almost no rain and temperatures mostly 70-80 F. All of the roads outside of the larger towns were fantastic two lanes, new and smooth pavement, no gravel or dirt in any turns, and very few cars.
The one thousand year old, medieval, walled-city of Avila was our first stop after Burgos. The huge wall with its turrets (you can walk along the top of the wall ) was very impressive, and the city inside with its narrow cobblestone streets was fun to explore. The wall itself is made of any kind of stones or rocks that the people could find, including tombstones and cremation urns (hollowed out stones) from Roman times. The gothic Cathedral is on a grand scale with beautiful scenes carved into the interior walls and ceilings. A day-trip took us to Salamanca with beautiful palaces and towers built of reddish golden stone. In 2002 Salamanca has been declared the "European City of Culture" and it is easy to see why when you visit it.
The ride to Guadalupe, between Avila and Merida, was clearly one of the high points of the tour. On that day, we were part of a group of six bikes, lead by the able Tour Director, that consisted of three Honda Blackbirds plus us with our rented BMW R1150RTs and Lloyd's Yamaha Diversion. This road seemed to be particularly built for motorcycles, with beautiful curve after curve after curve, and we had a wonderfully spirited but safe ride chasing one another to the little village of Guadalupe. This little village could not have had a population of much more than 500, but there in the middle of town was another huge Cathedral that was even more beautiful and ornate inside than this view of the outside.
On to Merida, the southern-most city on our tour of Spain. Merida is famous for its Roman amphitheater and forum which are still intact after more than 2000 years. It's pretty amazing to sit in the stands of the amphitheater and think of the "entertainment" they had here so many years ago. The forum is even more impressive and is where they had speeches and plays. There is also a 2000 year old Roman bridge over the Rio Guadiana that is in active use today.
Toledo, just south of Madrid, was our next destination. Along the way was a nice lake that made a good photo stop with some of our new friends from our tour group. Toledo is another historic walled-city with a rich and varied history. Romans, Barbarians, Muslims and others occupied Toledo for extended periods and left their respective impact on the city as it exists today. Inside the wall, the streets are narrow and again cobblestone. The Cathedral is beyond description. There was a little museum tucked away in a side street with several fine El Greco paintings, understandable since Toledo was his home.
The final world heritage city of the tour was Segovia. We had a wonderful view of the whole city from our modern Parador. Although the Cathedral and Alcazar are wonderful, the main unique feature of Segovia is its Roman aqueduct, 166 arches on two levels and still functional after 2000 years.
The Spanish Heritage Trail tour ended in Santo Domingo de la Calzada where we had a farewell dinner with the whole group and then all went our separate ways. Julie and I headed for the Picos de Europa for our post-tour tour.
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