Spanish Grand Prix

Although this trip into Spain was dedicated to the Grand Prix of Spain, that didn’t stop us from seeing other sites in the area.  Our first stop was the tiny country of Andorra.  Leaving Florence, I mindlessly drove north towards Bologna instead of hugging the Ligurian coast.  Like Kumar in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, when I realized the error of my ways, I declared “we’ve come too far” and pressed on.  The mistake proved costly and tagged on an hour and a half of driving to an already long first leg.  By the time we pulled into the mountain town, I was destroyed (hence the lack of photos).

Sidebar: Before starting the Olmsted Program there were two places in Europe I considered mythical, the Pyrenees mountains and the Netherlands (no, I cannot explain why).  I was convinced both of them were far off and I would never take a dedicated trip to see them.  Driving to Andorra closed the circle and allowed me to finally cross both of them off the bucket list.

After taking a massive power nap, we sprang into action in the town of S’Agaro.  Located on the Costa Brava, the city sits between two rugged stretches of coastline.  The photo below is from out hotel.

S'Agaro, Spain

S’Agaro and the beautiful Costa Brava

One of the coolest features of the area is a an ancient trail called the Camino de Ronda that connects the area’s towns.  The path stretches back to medieval times when the soldiers used it to travel between the castles.  It has now been turned into a walking/running path that offers amazing views of the rugged Costa Brava.

Camino de Ronda

Camino de Ronda

S'Agaro Spain

All those black dots in the water are sea urchins

Camino de Ronda

Carrie checking out the scenery

Our next stop was Girona.  The city is often described as the “Venice of Spain” because the buildings hang over the river.  After walking along the Arno river in Florence recently, I would say it actually looks more like our city than Venice.

Girona, Spain

The Florence of Spain?

When we arrived, we stumbled into the city’s annual flower festival.  Throughout the courtyards and buildings were dozens of displays, both large and small.

Girona, Spain

Flower bouquets floating on the river

Girona, Spain

Many of the floating bouquets

From the bridge, Girona can be seen through rose-colored (err, green/orange) colored glasses.

Girona

View from the Girona bridge

Instagram has nothin' on Girona

Instagram has nothin’ on Girona

Under-the-weather-Girona

Under-the-weather-Girona

Girona Flower Festival

These were hanging flower baskets filled with local blooms

Girona, Spain

Original street performers. When they weren’t standing each other’s heads, they were doing flips off the walls

The focal point of the flower festival every year is the main cathedral and its steps.  Past designs include a rising sun style burst, geometric blocks and patterns, and a flowing flower river running down the steps.  This year the festival decided to represent the people around the world who have been touched by the Catholic religion.

Girona flower festival

Main cathedral display of the Girona flower festival

Girona flower festival

Closeup of the main piece

The cherry on the Girona cake was the ability to climb on the city’s walls.  Italy has Lucca, Portugal has Obidos and Spain has Girona.  The beauty of the walls here is that that they are useful.  Unlike many other cities where the walls form a circle, these connect the two sides of the town.  Instead of fighting our way back through the crowds of the flower festival, we took the walls all the way back to the car and it was much more comfortable.

Girona city walls

These walls are long. In the background of the picture you can see them turn right and keep going

Girona city walls

The walls go all the way back to the cathedral

Sunday was race day and we headed to the Circuit of Barcelona-Catalunya. Once we arrived, we were happy we got there early.  Even though we had a parking pass, it was a circus.  Every horizontal surface within two miles of the even was covered in vehicles.  We ended up wedging our car diagonally on a curb between two other cars.  Success!

When we got into the event, it was pretty well organized considering the thousands of people milling about.  Our seats for the race were on the main straightaway with a view on the first curve where the majority of the passes took place.

Spanish Grand Prix

The crowds are filling in on the straight-away

Of course, we were rooting for Ferrari.  Last year their driver, Fernando Alonso, won the Spanish Grand Prix in front of the home crowd.  Alonso is from Asturias, Spain and numerous fans were sporting flags and clothes in the region’s mint green colors.  I showed my support with a mix of Ferrari red and Asturias green tied together masterfully with a Seahawks hat.  Note: The Seattle Seahawks won Superbowl XLVIII.

Seahawks pride

Reppin’ the 206

 

Spanish Grand Prix

The Bull, Spain’s national symbol

We had a great time during the race.  Even though Ferrari and Alonso weren’t competitive, there were numerous subplots – Kimi vs. Alonso, Vettel’s massive comeback, Roseberg vs. Hamilton.  We stayed to the very end and then made a dash for the car, just preceding the main wave of traffic.

Curve 1 Spanish Grand Prix

The first curve. Lewis Hamilton is already escaping. He would go on to lap almost every car.

DSC_8675

The redesigned 2014 Ferrari. It is nicknamed “the anteater.” I wonder why?

Ferrari anteater

Another Ferrari angle

Lotus Rogaine

Am I the only one who thinks this car looks like a rolling Rogaine add?

If you are a photography buff, then Formula 1 is the sport for you.  The guy was lugging around this beast and was joined by numerous colleagues equivalently equipped.

Formula 1 photographer

Think you have a fast car? You don’t. What about the a nice camera? Nope.

Our drive back was less eventful.  We cooled our feet in Florence for five days before hitting the road again for a Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina swing (where this blog is currently being written from).

Closing sidebar/rant: Crossing France, we stopped and paid road tolls 12 times. In the summertime, massive lines often form at the toll booths and can add hours to your trip.  Moreover, they don’t accept Visa or MasterCard and many don’t accept paper currency.  You have to wait while an attendant comes to your car and hands you change so you can pay.  The whole system is heinously inefficient and has to be the bane of many French persons’ existence /9as well as that of many tourists).

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  1. […] long to topple our “best walled cities” ranking.  We walked the walls in Obidos and Girona, and Avila’s were pretty impressive too, but Dubrovnik’s take the cake.  You do have […]