Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday, May 29, 2015

Today was another perfect cycling day. The ride was just under 40 miles and the big climb of the day was early in the ride while it was still quite cool (about 60 degrees). It was a steady, but not steep, climb lasting about 6 miles and gaining 1600 feet in elevation. I stopped for a well-earned coffee at the top and then continued across the relatively flat top (there was a dip of about 300 feet which we had to then climb back up) before reaching the lunch stop. From there, it was a downhill piece of cake into the City of Vic where we are staying this evening.

The lunch spot was highly recommended, so I stopped even though I arrived before twelve. I relaxed in the sun for a while, waiting for my fellow cyclists. When I finally asked for a menu, the owner told me that he would have one ready in about 10 minutes. (He spoke only a few words of English, so we were communicating in Spanish.) He came to my table with a hand-written menu. (The "menu" in most Spanish restaurants is a prix fixe, three course menu. This was more than I really wanted, but I decided to go ahead rather than try to order ala carte.) I ended up with (1) a huge mound of potato salad surrounded by samples of many local sausages, (2) fried calimari (too greasy, unfortunately), and (3) a freshly made cheese with honey. All in all, it was a great meal and very reasonably priced.

We are on our own for dinner tonight, and there are several highly recommended restaurants here in Vic, but I will probably settle for some light tapas after the big lunch.

Speaking of food -- last night's dinner, near the hotel, started off with an excellent gazpacho with bowls of garnishes (onions, red peppers, cucumber, and croutons) to be added to taste. What made it memorable was the small ball of ice cream in the center of the gazpacho -- we were told that it was balsamic vinegar ice cream.

The same newspaper in two languages

On a previous visit to Barcelona and again on this trip, I have been fascinated by the fact of two languages -- Catalan and Spanish. Catalan is more prevalent (especially here in Vic) bus Spanish is widely understood. Vic is the center of the Catalan separatist or autonomy movement. As Rick explained to us last night this is a complex issue. The conservatives are closely aligned with the central government in Madrid and oppose any notion of separatism. The moderates push for more autonomy but recognize that independence from Spain is an unrealistic (and probably undesirable) objective. The liberals push for independence but would undoubtedly be happy with less. What they really want,  is more say over what happens to their taxes. Because of the booming economy in Catalunya, second only to Madrid, the Catalans send  far more money per capita to Madrid than the value of what they get back. In other words, they are subsidizing the poorer parts of Spain.

Plaza Mayor in Vic
I enjoyed walking through the City of Vic this afternoon, and will walk more this evening, after our briefing. An interesting feature of the city is its large Plaza Mayor (the central square that is found in every Spanish city and town). It is hard packed dirt and not paved, recalling the traditional plazas of the past. Vic is also famous for its sausage. I stopped to take a picture of the front of one store selling sausage (with lots of them hanging outside) and the proprietor came running out, insisting that I come in to sample his sausage. Of course, he then wanted me to buy one -- but I had no need for a large piece of sausage that I would never get through customs.

Only two days of cycling left.

Close-up of statue outside Episcopal Museum

Sausage shop

Free air for your bicycle

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