Like Wyoming but Spanish.
I get around but for some reason unknown to science it took me thirty three years to get to Spain. I got to live in Saudi Arabia before I got to visit Spain. Other countries beginning with ‘S’ that I have visited include, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Sri Lanka, all before Spain. I haven’t actively tried to avoid it, a long weekend in Barcelona has always tickled my fancy and the desire to ‘have it’ in the clubs of Ibiza still burns strong. I’ve just always had somewhere else to be. However, the stars aligned and I was able to book myself on a fancy long weekend away driving a Vespa around rural Spain, north of Madrid.
Driving into Tamajon where I would be catching up with the rest of the biker gang my taxi driver pleasantly informed me that he had never been to the village we were arriving at. He was from Madrid, less than a ninety minute drive away. Many people would shiver on hearing this news but as we entered the sleepy, almost derelict Tamajon I felt nothing but excitement. These are the places I love to visit, rural and tourist free which would be the theme of the next four days. Another reason to be excited was that I had to sign an indemnity form which is usually the pretext to doing something fun. With all the paperwork completed (ironically I found out ten days later my travel insurance had expired), and a decent lunch inside me we made our way to the village square where our mighty Vespas awaited us shining bright red and yellow in the late afternoon sun. I think the last time I rode a motorbike of any kind, I fell off it but being the only male passenger on this tour I had no choice but to jump on and drive like I owned it. In my head this is exactly what I did but in reality I feel I may have wobbled a little and reluctantly turned around corners. Either way, one by one we were given a quick introduction and set free to practice our Vespa handling skills around the village much to the amusement of all six locals. I may be repeating myself here but there is only one way to handle such situations and that is with speed, power and confidence. So three ways then. As with skiing, the faster you go on a Vespa the easier she is to handle, she’s lighter and leaning into the corners makes everything so much easier. With that taken care of it was well and truly time for a beer which was promptly followed up by a fantastic home cooked meal with heaps of delicious complementary wine and many actual face to face lols. This theme would be consistent for the tour once our day of biking had come to an end. Strangely the village also came alive at sunset with a local performance being held on a big stage that had been set up in the street which had attracted all the locals and their families. The village must have increased in size by a factor of a googolplex relative to the afternoons population with music and the humming of people filling the night sky.
The following morning I strapped my trusty new side kick who I had acquired the night before to the back of my Vespa and we snaked our way out of Tamjon and headed into the Spanish countryside. The speed was leisurely as we made our way up and down winding roads in the mountains with the odd few cars passing every hour or so. From time to time a cow would appear in the middle of the road for added excitement but other than that and the hum of our Vespas the whole affair was really rather peaceful. We probably averaged 40km/hr at best and at first I predictably wanted to go like a bat out of hell but with that out of the question I soon settled in and began to fall in love with the whole experience. Cruising along empty roads, the warm Spanish air caressing my face, clear blue skies, epic views and all the time in the world to ponder life, there was simply no need to rush. After all, I was on holiday!
Our first major order of business was to stop at another empty village for coffee. This became pretty common. We would rock up in some kind of abandoned looking village that made me think we were in Afghanistan more than Spain and out of the blue there would be a wee cafe with outdoor seating and drinks. Cue the morning coffee. We would then hop on the Vespas and head to a slightly livelier town for a slap up lunch. The only downside was I couldn’t have my traditional holiday lunchtime beer due to the fact we had to get back on the road however, going on the amount of Gin and wine we drank in the evenings this was probably a blessing in disguise. Anyway, after lunch we headed off to our next evening destination, rocking up around 6pm after a lunch time coffee break of course. This was to be our routine for the next three days and it was epic.
Our final two nights were spent in two stunning little towns, Sepulveda and Pedraza. Well according to my photos on my phone at least! Both were perched on hills and both were old and crumbly, full of character and barely any tourists. In fact we were probably the only non Spanish visitors. Sepulveda will be remembered for the brief displeasure I felt for having to shell out seven euros for a gin and tonic only to find out they don’t bother measuring the gin and pretty much fill the glass until they get bored. The Spanish gin they served up was also so delicious that I forgot the name of it but, I highly recommend you go search for it. Pedraza served up a mighty fine Mojito but drinks aside, the town sat up on a high hill over looking the surrounding countryside. There was a castle which dominated the skyline as we approached and the road led us up into the ancient walled town through a Game of Thrones styley gateway and through narrow cobbled streets. It was superb. That evening, after excusing myself from our wine tasting dinner, I took myself back to the main gate and perched myself on a wall looking across the countryside lit up by the clear night sky above me. People say group travel means you get no time to yourself but I can always find a moment of peace should I wish.
This area of Spain took me back to the American prairies where I drove for days on end through grassy plains and fields of wheat, corn and sun flowers for as far as the eye could see. This trip had more of the same, huge open skies and the feeling that I was in the middle of nowhere. As I drove around there was so much I could have written revolving around the current issues of Europe and the United Kingdom but this is not the place for politics. Rural Spain is unique in it’s own special way and this is the reason why I love it so.