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bicycle cruising

Zeebrugge Ride, 10 May 2010

The central town square in Brugge

Change was necessary. The ship announced that all must use a bus to get out of the harbor and that the bus would take us to the town center/train station at Zeebrugge. We followed instructions and exited the bus at a church across from the Zeebrugge train station, about three miles from the pier. The bus attendant advised that we should take the road immediately fronting the church all the way to the town of Brugge, ten miles away, and that we could ride around Brugge or take a canal boat ride thereafter. We found bike trails the whole way. It appears that bikes even take precedence for money in Belgium and that bike paths have precedence over cars on almost all the roads. The network of bike paths was amazing.

We started off from the train station and filled the tires at a gas station about a mile up the road. The Belgian air pumps were unusual and it took me a few minutes to realize that one bar is 17.7 pounds per square inch of air and that 3.5 bars was about 55 psi as I desired. The bike paths are marked in red on both sides of the road and are totally adequate. Bikes had precedence at traffic circles and the drivers were very polite. I loved riding in Belgium. The day was colder than the day before in Le Havre, 50 degrees Fahrenheit. We were dressed as the day before with both in shorts, I in a sweatshirt, and Marilyn in her Alaska parka and gloves. The sky was overcast on our way to Brugge and the wind was slightly behind us. On the way back, the sun came out, but the wind in our face made it feel colder and my hands on the handlebars were uncomfortable. By the time we reached Brugge, I was thoroughly chilled and needed a respite in a restaurant to get comfortable again.

This part of Belgium reminded me of the horse country in Virginia outside of Washington DC.

Beatutful Zeebrugge farms, horse here

The area is clearly very prosperous with clean modern houses, some very large, and gardens aplenty. Marilyn marveled at the tulips. This is a farming area with cows and sheep, goats and horses. The fields were beautiful. Some were already planted and green with growth up to 6-12 inches already. The animals in the field were very well kept and comfortable. Most of the cows were lying in the fields and watched us as we passed. The smell of farms was definite but even struck me as a clean smell here. There appeared groups of houses on the road after every two or three farms along the way. I don’t know whether it is the custom to live around the fields or to live in one of the groups of houses nearby. But some of the houses were also very large, nearly mansions with circular driveways. I believe the cattle, sheep, and goats were used for milk and wool and a few may have been used for meat, but I don’t know how the horses were used. A few canals and small waterways crossed the highway 371 here but no bridges were necessary except for the major highway crossing. Even here, a bike path accompanied the road as it went over the overpass.

This is windmill country. We spotted a dozen windmills in one area near the harbor and passed another dozen along the road about halfway between Zeebrugge and Brugge. These were slow-rotating monsters with three bladed rotors which came no closer to the ground than 30 feet. I could imagine birds ramming into them accidentally, but these windmills would not tear apart a bird like an aircraft propeller. I didn’t hear any noise coming from the rotors either. I sort of liked their overall appearance.

We passed a few small groups of stores along the way and even one large shopping center with a sporting goods store as its anchor. I stopped for a bathroom break and found this to be the largest sporting goods store I had ever been in. It even had a bicycle repair area. The bathrooms were also interesting. There was a single entrance for both men and women into the washroom area. Separate doors inside led to three different unisex bathrooms, one for physically challenged people. A woman walked out of the room I chose to use. I wasn’t uncomfortable with this design.

The road to Brugge was 10 miles long. The urban area around Zeebrugge lasted about a mile and the urban area around Brugge began about three miles out with commercial buildings gradually becoming more prevalent. We entered a new urban area about a half mile from the city center. Here, there was construction ongoing and we followed the road to the right along a canal we needed to cross before a resident stopped us and directed us to a personal/bike bridge.

Bridge over canal in Brugge with bike tracks

This was an interesting affair with thirty steps leading up to the crossover in three stages. Accompanying the steps was a track for the wheels of the bike so that one needn’t carry the bike up but could push it instead. I went up first and instructed Marilyn to wait for me to come back to push her bike up for her. When I got to the top, I turned to find Marilyn walking up herself and a man beside her pushing her bike up for her. At the top, we followed him across the canal as he pushed Marilyn’s bike, then turned down another version of steps and bike tracks. At the bottom, he continued along the walls of a building for 100 feet or so to come back at the extension of the original road we were riding on. He instructed us to go straight ahead to a government building then negotiate our way through a path around it and on another half mile to the market at the center of the town of Brugge. We thanked him and followed his instructions into the old town.

Duck and her ducklings in canal near Brugge

Here, we found an older part of town with narrow, cobbled streets and a mix of stores, ranging from posh high end retail establishments to more quaint, older stores like apothecaries and antique stores. The town was built around several squares; one with a huge church with stands set up for some special celebration in the coming weekend. Horses and carriages waited for tourist passengers. We saw at least a dozen chocolate establishments. A few cars negotiated the narrow one lane streets but bikes were nevertheless well tolerated on the streets busy with people walking.

We parked the bikes at the first square and checked menus at several of the dozen restaurants. We chose Brasserie Raymond for lunch. It was expensive but very satisfying. I was very cold from the ride and took ten minutes to warm up. The wait staff bustled around us with menus, bread baskets, and olive assortments. I chose the local Brugge triple beer while Marilyn had the house Merlot wine. The people around us were well dressed and willing to spend money. On one side, both patrons had whole lobster. On the other side, two women had the house special of soup followed by spareribs. A father and his 14 year old daughter next to them had steaming bowls of soup followed by fish for one and meatloaf for the other. What we thought was wine in a glass for the young girl turned out to be cola. Everyone else had wine from bottles and carafes. The waiters sliced the bread for the tables at a block with the knife affixed like a paper cutter. Special house pate was delivered to accompany the bread along with butter and a very fruity olive oil. We first ordered a Spanish ham and salami plate along with an asparagus plate with shrimp, mussels, and scallops. We turned off the asparagus plate when the ham plate turned out to contain more than we could finish. The food was excellent. We finished with a Dame Blanc dessert with hot chocolate sauce. I licked the spilled chocolate sauce off my forearm while the women at the next table recommended the Chocolate Light shop as the best in the world. I went to the rest room to complete the removal of chocolate from my forearm and met the gentleman from the table on our other side. He checked that I was an American and then told me of his only trip to America in the early 1950s when he took training in mine warfare in the Boston area. We had a pleasant further exchange for about five minutes and left after several handshakes.

Brugge Triple beer with salami and Spanish ham in Brugge

We unlocked the bikes and followed the instructions to the Main Square and then beyond to Chocolate Light. Here, we found a serious chocolatier which sold chunk chocolate from individual countries along with truffles and filled fine chocolates along with chocolate designs in pure chocolate, including ones shaped in letters of the alphabet, special brick sets, etc. We chose several 4 inch letters of the alphabet for our family and a brick set for ourselves. This, too, was not inexpensive. But the chocolate coins we took for tastes were excellent.

We then remounted the bikes and headed back to the Zeebrugge train station to meet the bus. The sun was out, but the cold wind made the trip less comfortable. We stopped at a post office to mail the chocolate to our family. The post office provided a box but would accept only Visa credit cards or Euros, neither of which we had. My attempt to acquire Euros from a nearby teller machine was unsuccessful so we retrieved the chocolate and left unfulfilled. We argued a bit on the way back, each pointing responsibility at the other, but forgot our enmity by the time we met the bus.

At the bus we waited with several other cruise passengers. At least three of them sought information about the bikes and how they could emulate us on their next cruise. Back at the ship, another set of fellow passengers sought the same info. I am convinced that bicyclecruising is a growing concern.


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Zeebrugge Belgium, 10 May 2010

Here are the wikipedia and tourist links:

Zeebrugge is the port for Brussels but I don’t think we can get there. We will ride along the coast to the west and south.

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Le Havre Ride, 9 May 2010

Pate, salad, and French crepes in Le Havre

The temperature forecast read 49 degrees F when we woke up at 8am in Le Havre on Sunday–coldest day of our 44 day cruise so far. We’d have to bundle up. We both wore shorts but Marilyn wore her Alaska parka and I wore a sweat shirt when we started out at 915am. The day was overcast and I wondered if this was partly due to the Iceland volcano which was again spewing ash and closing airports in Northern Spain and Portugal as well as Scotland and Ireland. The day was also hazy, so this added evidence to my hypothesis. We had been in Le Havre during our cruise in Europe in 2007, but had chosen to take the train to Paris then, as did many of our cruise compatriots this day. We almost got lost in the cruise port this time trying to find our way out to the street, but we made it and I tried to memorize the route for the way back. We turned to the right or east and quickly came to a hotel we suspected might also have internet, so we decided to wait a little longer for the sun to warm the day and do our internet business.

The people at the Mercure Hotel were very helpful. Marilyn ordered coffee and hot chocolate while I obtained a map at the front desk. I asked the clerk to show me the way to Normandy and she said it might be a two hour drive. I then said that I was on a bike and wanted to know whether I could bike across the bridge over the Seine and that I might have to stop as close as Deauville if Normandy was really that far away. The clerk got on Google at the desk and printed out the instructions to the Normandy Bridge for me. This turned out to be almost 10 miles away in itself. Deauville was at least twice as far away. I realized I’d better be willing to stop at the bridge. While I was drawing out the route instructions on the map, Marilyn came to the counter to get the password for the internet. She had been interpreting a capital I as a numeral one and got locked out from the site. The clerk fixed this while I completed the map. We spent an hour on the internet. I had been hoping for the kind of hot chocolate displayed in the movie Chokolat—the thick, really dark stuff. I had found some at Naked Chocolate in Philadelphia and hoped to have the real thing in France. This wasn’t the same thing. They gave me a large cup of hot milk and a package of chocolate powder. I asked both the desk clerk and the barista whether they knew of this thick drink. They both claimed familiarity with the movie, but neither of them remembered the drink. Eventually, I exchanged the large cup for a small one and obtained a second package of powder. The resultant hot chocolate was very tasty but not the same as what I wanted. When the purchased internet hour expired, we returned to the bikes and began to negotiate the canals of Le Havre.

The entire port of Le Havre is fascinating. The city itself is also interesting. There has been a lot of city rehabilitation going on recently, and much of the city is now modern and attractive. The port spreads over several miles and has various distinct parts. There is the ferry terminal, the cruise ship terminal, many different commercial areas, and I assume there is a private power and sailboat harbor, although I didn’t see much of one. I did see commercial terminals. There may be a hundred large cranes visible above the horizon and there are trailer boxes stored everywhere. They seem not to be stacked four and five boxes high as I had seen in South America, but the area set aside for trailer storage is enormous. Le Havre is one of the busiest ports in the world and the second busiest in France behind Marseilles. These various commercial areas are connected by canals which themselves are separated by drawbridges. The city development has led to many posh mall and restaurant areas lined up along the canals. Walking and bike paths front nearly all of these. As a result, working one’s way out of the port involves a complicated series of rights and lefts around the canals past some really nice bars, restaurants, and other stores. Le Havre seems to be a very bicycle friendly city. Bike paths can get you almost anywhere and the cars are polite and used to driving on streets with bicyclists. The trip out of the city took a while, but it was comfortable, even pleasant riding.

At almost the last canal, after nearly four miles through the harbor, we were stopped by a crossing bar blinking red. I then noticed a large drawbridge reaching into the sky nearby and a large green ship moving through the canal in front of us. Once the ship passed, we waited for the bridge to reopen. The bridge moved slowly and the moving clouds made it difficult to tell whether it was coming down or not.

Drawbridge up at Le Havre

After a 15 minute wait, the bridge finally started moving and the barrier came up several minutes later. Finally we were off. Shortly, we realized the lonely street we were using was accompanied by a separate bike path. We moved onto the path and found ourselves riding alongside the last waterway, almost a mile long, and bordered by a grassy area hundreds of yards deep. This waterway parallels the Seine River and the grassy area reaches uncluttered more than a mile between the water bodies. The road was almost unused except for occasional bunches of bike riders who also use this path for their weekend rides. It was also very quiet. I saw few birds, but heard the calls of many in the trees and brush. The few birds I did see were ravens, gulls, and cormorants, but I am sure many smaller birds inhabit this area annotated on the map as a maison de l’estuaire. On the opposite side of the waterway were two enormous cargo ships being loaded. The diving cormorants seemed oblivious to their efforts.

We found this bike path between the last canal and the River Seine

I stopped to take a picture of the area and then noticed our destination on the horizon—the Pont (bridge) de Normandie. The haze made a picture at this distance less than ideal. We sped up and began to make time on the nearly straight rode to the bridge.

Pont de Normandie in the distance

Along the way we passed many maritime businesses. The animal and plant inspection section is also housed along this road. There are several construction areas, which leads me to believe that this pristine area may soon be less than pristine. Six miles later we came to the turnoff for the bridge, more like a freeway entrance. Taking this danger as a sign and noting the advanced hour, we decided to call it a day and turn for lunch and the ship.

The trip back went quickly because the 10 knot wind was now following us and pushing. Coming into the canal area again, we found ourselves again stopped by the drawbridge. This time we decided to take the recommended detour, but returned soon to the original route. We picked a restaurant along the canal and sat down to a French meal in France. It turned out we had picked the right restaurant—one specializing in crepes. A series of waitresses eventually found us an English-speaking male waiter and we settled down for some real French food. I decided I wanted a salad like the young girl sitting at the table to my right and asked “Questce q’c’est?” Her mother opposite her guided us to the appropriate part of the menu as everyone in the restaurant turned toward us after hearing our English and poor version of French. I noticed that the table to my right was sharing a dessert crepe with three stacks of whipped cream atop ice cream and chocolate sauce—a French version of one of my favorites, waffles and ice cream. Eventually, we settled for a dish of pate, a Mediterranean salad, and a lox and crème fraiche crepe. Oh, and we got a bottle of Bordeaux—a small one.

All were excellent and the accompanying Baguette bread was perfect. I think we cleaned the plates so well they didn’t have to put them through the dishwasher. Our table neighbors applauded. We topped it off with espresso and apple caramel dessert crepe and dragged our stuffed bodies out of the restaurant to the bikes. On the ride back to the ship, Marilyn remarked that she should have wine more often when she rides because she suffered considerably fewer anxiety attacks. We got near the ship and had to ask some pedestrians if we were on the right path. At the ship we stopped to use the internet for phone calls and found they would only accept Euros of which we had none. A passenger nearby exchanged a five dollar bill for Euros when no commercial vendor in the building would do so. Then we learned that these computers wouldn’t support Skype. We got our Euros back and boarded the ship. Both of us enjoyed the time in Le Havre immensely.

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La Coruna Ride, 7 May 2010

Marilyn begins the ride near the boat harbor adjacent to the boat in La Coruna

The day dawned foggy and rainy in La Coruna but turned glorious before day was done. By the time we exited the gangway at 945am, the sun was peeking through the clouds and the temperature was warming up through 60 degrees. We each wore sweat shirts. The fog still hung over the hills behind the city, but the port was clear in all directions. We rode the 200 yards from the gangway to the customs building and passed through security quickly. A large four story glass front building adjacent to the pier driveway held an exposition center with a mall behind it. A few commercial ships were in the harbor to our left but the harbor to the right held mostly sailboats and yachts. The city facing the port here showed intricate-fronted four and five story buildings interspersed with a few older stone buildings like cathedrals and government buildings. The net effect was one of a clean, very attractive city.

We turned to the right or north upon leaving the port and came upon a small park with statues and fountains through which we rode on wide paths which eventually led to a marked bike path which we didn’t have to leave for the remainder of the day. During 99% of this ride, the bike path was part of a 10-20 yard wide marble walking path along the water. La Coruna here is a peninsula reaching out into the Atlantic Ocean with demonstrable knobs both to the right and to the left. The bike path runs along the entire length. It appears the coast is cleanly delineated into first the commercial harbor on the south side of the peninsula with space for the cruise ships, then marinas for private ships and sailboats, then eventually into the majority of the coast as rocky coastline beneath 100 foot high cliffs and several beaches, one as broad as the entire city on the north side of the peninsula opposite the commercial port. The older part of the city lies on the land connecting the knobs to the rest of the mainland.

La Coruna versionb of Stonehenge

Several lighthouses mark extremes all along this coast. The most prominent of the lighthouses lies on the most prominent hill about 20% into the ride at the 4 mile point.

Torre Hercules and park in La Coruna

This is called Torre Hercules and is surrounded by open grassland stretching 300 yards in all directions from the 100 foot high spiral staired building dating back to the Romans.

Pablo Picasso is a big benefactor to this city and one of the large buildings inland from the bike path on the way to the Hercules Tower is a school of art funded by him. Another architectural highlight along this way is a more than half mile long jetty stretching to the north which passes through and under a thirty story high building appearing like a large football goalpost with the offices at the cross bar. I think this building is some kind of a scientific or technical maritime center.

Picasso light poles in La Coruna, each with a unique inset ceramic

The road rises gently 300 feet above the water over about 2 miles and is accompanied by unique ornately shaped light posts on both sides of the street. Each post contains four unique ceramic pieces, two on each side. There are more than 300 of these orange painted posts along the stretch running up the hill and almost all of the way back down the hill as the coast turns back south along a wide bay.

The back side of the old city lies at the center of the bay coastline and is fronted by the more than half mile long 200 yard deep beach which is being reseeded with clean, light-colored sand from a dredge ship in the center of the bay. The sand is stored in 30 foot high dunes while construction equipment redistributes it along the beach. On our way back in the opposite direction later in the day, we could see sand saturated ocean water streaming from a three foot diameter pipe being fed by the dredge. The buildings fronting the beach are mostly modern shops selling high end goods. The people walking along the wide path on which we rode were well dressed, many with dogs on leashes, and many also accompanied by children. An upscale nursery and grammar school is found along the beach providing a stream of uniformed well-behaved children for activities like studies of the marine environment, running games, and parental education about the birds flying over the water and the fish in the water.

We were accompanied along this path by many people riding bikes, too. La Coruna seems a very bicycle friendly city with racks at several places along the path (including immediately in front of the cruise ship pier) containing bicycles which can be picked up at one location and dropped off at another location for a small fee per day. Each bike contains a latch on the steering post which fits into the rack for securing the bike. None of the cruise passengers could have an excuse here for not seeing the city aboard a bicycle; although one pair of passengers pointed out that they lacked helmets.

We stopped at three or four places along the path up toward the tower to take pictures. One of these picture opportunities was of a fishing boat in the northeastern part of the harbor being both ridden and followed by a huge flock of seabirds.

Fishing boat and friends in La Coruna

I also remembered a picture opportunity Marilyn and I had used in 2007 when we also rode through La Coruna. This was of a large colored (I thought it was maroon red) obelisk. I spotted several towers at various points in the distance and worked to get a picture from off in the distance before we approached it along the path. I therefore stopped several times for photos; along they didn’t match my memory of where the tower lay.

We passed Hercules Tower and vowed to walk up it on our return later in the day. We turned around this point/knob and spied the beautiful beach as we headed down the hill toward the old city. We stopped about half way down and locked the bikes to the stone fence for a bathroom break at a café with internet capability opposite the water. The espresso was served with a cookie and the wifi worked immediately. What else could one ask for? The bathrooms! The bathroom was notable for its décor, both modern and attractive. I made sure Marilyn tried the ladies’ version and she agreed the bathrooms here were special.

Coffee and sites along the bike path. Note the obelisk in the background across the bay.

I asked the waitress for directions to the obelisk I had remembered and she didn’t know of any such landmark. I tried unsuccessfully to describe the color, the shape, and the approximate position relative to Hercules Tower. Eventually, I found a picture on the internet, showed her, and she rushed to the window to point to the huge landmark on the opposite side of the bay. It was much larger than I had remembered and it was more blue green than maroon.

Afterward, we tried to buy aspirin at a Farmacia nearby but decided the pills were much too expensive. Then Marilyn remembered she needed eye drops to relieve the dryness resulting from her laser keratotomy many years ago. We needed the type without the redout capability. You can imagine the show as we tried to explain with our meager Spanish. They showed us four options. When I tried to explain that we needed the stuff for “after laser surgery”, I found out they didn’t get my words for laser or surgery. When I tried to liken a laser to the light from the lamps in the ceiling, we got nowhere. Eventually, I learned they knew laser only when it was pronounced with a short”a” sound and the accent on the second syllable. For about 10 minutes they thought I was asking whether they could do laser surgery from this shop and tried to direct me to an ophthalmological hospital. When I tried to emphasize the “no redout” characteristic, they thought I was looking for colored liquid drops. Eventually, we straighten it all out and went to work on the price. Eventually, we learned that the drops ranged in price from 3 Euros for 15 ml to 20 Euros. We chose the cheap stuff and then went to work on how to pay, since we had not Euros. I thought the said they wouldn’t accept a credit card so I tried dollars. No go! I returned to the credit card and they eventually pulled out a credit card machine. We completed the transaction and went on our way laughing about the event.

We also remembered a restaurant from 2007 where we ate tapas. This was near the obelisk, but I couldn’t spot it from across the bay. Once we rode to the other side of the bay, I spotted the place about 400 yards from the obelisk. We rode to the obelisk for several pictures before returning to the restaurant which was actually called Argo and had some Greek heritage. We took pictures similar to the ones we took 3 years ago.

The obelisk up close. Would you call it maroon or blue?

We ordered Spanish beer and wine and four orders of tapas. The wine order got mixed up about my use of “cupa” for the container. The waiter brought beer in a glass and beer in a bottle. But he happily exchanged the glass of beer for a glass of wine. We had Chorizo, squid, croquettes, and meatballs, all excellent. The place looked just like it did three years ago, but the surroundings were very different, much more built up and much better landscaped. For the previous trip, we had circled the town in the opposite direction and suffered along many hills. From across the bay, we could hardly believe we had actually ridden the almost-mountainous route we could now see.

The ride back was even better than the ride out because the sun came out and the day turned beautiful. The light blue of the sandy bottomed bay was exquisite. The waves crashing on the rocky part of the coast was exciting. And the bike riding was easy. This is a ride not to be missed. I recommend it to everyone. We talked about adding La Coruna to the list of places where we might spend two or three months. La Coruna is a wonderful vacation city. I am sure we could do this ride every day, stopping each time at a different restaurant, spending hours each day watching the ocean and the birds, and spending more time at the sites like the Picasso displays, the monuments, and working on our Spanish.

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La Coruna Plans, 7 May 2010

The wiki and travel links are here:

La Coruna is one of the largest cities in Spain and was the launching point of the ill fated Great Armada in 1588. The seafaring tradition is commemorated in the Hercules monument north of the port. We will ride along the water north of the port past the tower and continue along for up to two hours. We visited La Coruna in 2007 and saw the tower as we rode from a different direction over many hills. We will try to avoid the hills tomorrow.

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Vigo Ride 6 May 2010

Marilyn begins ride in Vigo near mall at pierside

Vigo is a blue collar city. The cruise line didn’t find many things to do in Vigo and sent most people far and wide around Galicia. We found Vigo to be very interesting because we were interested in seeing people and their culture rather than things.

The ship gave us 10 hours in Vigo but we only used seven of them, with at least three spent on the internet and eating. Nevertheless, I think the city provides a lot to see and I’d come back. I think the cruise ships don’t recognize what the city has to offer. We spent an hour riding around the city going out and another hour riding through the city on the way back. If one were willing to focus on the blue collar benefits of the city, it can be very interesting.

We got off the ship around 945am and immediately found wifi to be available in the terminal waiting room. Marilyn and I had a hard time getting used to the 6 hour time difference with the east coast and especially the direction of the change, since we were used to handling a five or six hour difference in the other direction in Hawaii. We spent an hour getting up to date on email and calling those in the states who wouldn’t mind receiving a call at 430am their time (Marilyn’s mother) and leaving a few messages. The internet turned out to be unreliable, so we left to start our ride.

A supervisor of Spanish security gave us directions to our destination of Baiona but warned us that the ride might be fraught with traffic and a few hills. She ran up to us later to suggest we try a visit to Bouzas, a beach area a little bit closer which also had the only bike paths she could remember in the area. We decided to try Bouzas for now and to decide after we had seen it whether to try for Baiona, 15 miles away.

The port area in Virgo is very new and open with a modern three story mall inside the area. It opens onto moderately busy city streets in town center. Our turn to the right took us quickly into the commercial port area. I found this extremely interesting. The first sensations are from the smell of fish as one rides through the fishing port and the packing houses for this, the largest fishing export port in Europe. These lie immediately across from service business offices and restaurant/bars. I believe anchovy fishing and packing are very big businesses here. I would have liked a visit to see the inside of the fish packing facility.

One then passes into the shipbuilding and repair district spread over the next 10-20 blocks. On the right lay fishing boats in port and building after warehouse for ship fitting industries, some small and some large. We passed at least one large container ship under construction and almost a dozen smaller ships, some in dry-dock for refit and others being built new. I’d have liked a tour of a few of these. Across the street lay dozens of shipbuilding support small businesses ranging from welding supplies to metal grinding motors and paint. Many of these were housed in modern glass front buildings. I saw at least one office for salvage businesses. In front of these buildings were parked hundreds of Audis and Citroen sedans along with Volkswagen, Honda, and Toyota subcompacts. Even more in abundance were motor scooters, parked neatly in rows of hundreds or more. The streets themselves were not wide, but the traffic also was manageably light and the drivers gave us plenty of room. We had to negotiate a dozen traffic circles but quickly learned to stay on the outside and to be brave when our time to exit came. Traffic lights at this time of day were set at mostly blinking yellow and we had to stop only two or three times for red lights. Again, traffic lined up calmly around us at the lights and I never felt threatened. I looked back frequently to ensure Marilyn was negotiating the traffic satisfactorily and found her keeping surprisingly close to me. I even speeded up, thinking she was having trouble staying far enough behind me.

We took one wrong turn which took us into the Bouzas port area rather than the beach area. This area, too, was very industrial and very new. The buildings were modern, well spaced from one another, and indicative of an industry which might have a competitive advantage over that of other countries because they could take advantage of modern methods and equipment. We saw many workers along the way too. They seemed generally young and diligent, appearing well dressed and cropped. Correcting our error, we headed up a modest incline on something like a superhighway which turned toward Baiona further up the hill and into a tunnel. This solved our question of whether or not to try to get to Baiona (Not!) and we turned back down the incline to find the beach and bike paths of Bouzas. Immediately after negotiating the traffic circle taking us away from the tunnel, I could see the bike path paralleling us on the other side of a fence. We rode to the bottom of the hill and turned to the right twice to find the bike path entrance. This was found on the right side of a narrow bay ending at the road we were riding on. We entered the bike path and rode for the next 2-3 miles on the path as it skirted the north side of the bay. A walking path lay between the bike path and the water. Children play areas appeared at 3-4 places along the path accompanied by adult exercise areas with some exercise devices. The path moved under the highway we had negotiated earlier and then rose to reveal a vast expanse of parking spaces nearly filled with new automobiles and trucks. This was part of the enormous auto assembly plant which provides many jobs for Vigo. I think there is another assembly plant on the other side of town. I then realized how many auto delivery tractor trailers I had seen on the roads. I think the Vigo assembly plants were busy. The bike path continued completely around the plant and changed into a walking path for the last half mile. Walkers, runners, and occasional bike riders were to be found every 50 yards or so. I stopped at the end of the path for pictures when the path came up to a locked gate in the fence. I was astounded when another biker approached and continued at high speed onto the18 inch wide rocky path next to the fence continuing from the gate. Opposite the fence was a 30 foot high rocky 45 degree slope leading to the bay. He stopped hurriedly twenty yards down the path and managed not to tumble into the water. After stopping for 10-20 seconds to view the lack of a path ahead, he turned around and took off back down the path in the opposite direction.

Vigo seen from the end of the bike path near the auto assembly plant. One bike rider tried to ride along the fencde here.

Two women led a baby in a carriage up to the gate and two older men joined us one after the other. We all contemplated the view of the bay, the ships in the water and the various inhabited areas on the other side of the water. The ocean lay to our right five miles off or so seen on either side of several islands guarding the entrance to the bay.

We also turned around and negotiated our way back to the beginning of the bike path. This time around, I realized that we passed the football field for one of the local professional soccer/football teams. I also realized that the narrow bay area next to us was replete with boat harbors housing 15-30 foot power and sailboats. Fishing and recreational sailing are also major pastimes here. I also spied another path with walkers and bikers on the opposite side of the narrow bay/inlet. We drove around the small beach at the end of the bay/inlet and rode up the path. At one point the path gave way to an area where the beach cut into the land here and the path had significantly fallen away. We had to walk the bikes past this point and continued to walk the bikes for 200 yards past stairs leading up to high-rise buildings atop the hillside. We stopped at a children’s play area and locked the bikes while we sought bathrooms in the commercial areas at the bottom of the high-rises. One of the businesses turned out to be a coffee shop and tapas restaurant.

Tapas and the internet along the bay in Vigo

We used their bathrooms and found out they had wifi. We decided to order espresso and the complementary chocolate croissants and complete our internet business over the next hour and a half. The connection was unusually fast and Marilyn even used it to download the podcasts for her iPod which she hadn’t seen for 5 weeks. We also tried three of their tapas, one of wurst, bread, and cheese, one of ham and cheese croquets served with lettuce salad dressed in balsamic vinegar and one of seafood baguettes with a beautiful and spicy orange tomato dressing.

Upon finishing the tapas and business, we headed back toward the ship back down the path and the beach area at the end near the street. Marilyn was astounded to see one of the four women on the beach walking topless down toward the water.

I opined that this was common in Europe and people here were not embarrassed to be seen half naked and managed to avoid gawking while missing the several people in my way on the path. We turned onto the streets and negotiated our way back to the ship over the next half hour through afternoon traffic. Again, I emphasize that I never felt threatened by the cars and trucks although the roads were busy. The frequently-stopping busses, autos parking, and commercial vehicles double parking left plenty of room for us to get past and then ride for most of a block before the vehicles behind us could get past those same obstacles.

Once at the ship, we decided to seek wifi in the port mall. The three outdoor restaurants turned out negative but the gelato establishment on the third floor was a jackpot. I had gelato, Marilyn had wine, and we set up our internet connection quickly. One odd thing occurred. I unsuccessfully tried first a credit card, then dollars to pay the $6.5 Euro bill. A gentleman behind me offered to pay the bill (He was also a cruise passenger), then first refused but eventually accepted my demand to accept my $10 bill in trade. Aren’t people wonderful?

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Vigo Plans, 6 May 2010

Wiki and travel sites are seen below:

Vigo is a dcity of 250,000 persons (450,00 metropolitan area) in Galicia in Spain. There is a small portion of road along the seafront both east and west from the pier. We will ride first north until the end of this road and look for sites within reach of the bicycles without too much of a climb. Then we will turn south past the port and try the rest of the path.

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