A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Jenniferklm

Return to Lucena

sunny 27 °C
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Leaving the lovely Hotel El Carmen, we biked back from Puenta Genil to Lucena on the amazing via verde route the next day. The same group of workers was on the path and we had another nice little encounter. Hola Canada!!

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Back at the Dona Lola, we got the key to our apartment. It was such a gorgeous space it seemed a shame to only be there for one night. Our receptionist gave us a couple of cold beers and we headed up to the roof terrace. I needed a haircut and had asked her if she could recommend anyone nearby. She could and I was able to go just around the corner to a little salon where I got a very satisfactory cut.

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We walked around Lucena and found a place for lunch near our hotel, on a lovely square in the shadow of an old church. They offered a Menu del Dia that was delicious - 3 courses plus wine and coffee for 12€. I am missing those late leisurely lunches.

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We were entertained at lunch by watching a big cargo van repeatedly try to parallel park in a space obviously too small. Parking is extremely difficult in every place we have been in on this trip and we were very glad not to be dealing with a car.

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We decided to buy an international SIM card for my phone to supplement the e-sim Jim got for his phone before we left. The e-sim only gives you data, not phone or text that we found we were needing for various reasons. So before breakfast we found a phone store on our corner, and for a mere 13€, got 800 minutes of international calling and an enormous amount of data. And the lovely clerk installed it in my phone. So easy. Mission accomplished we headed off for breakfast at a sweet little place we had had our eye on.

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The rules for taking the bikes on buses are that the handlebars must be turned, the pedals removed and they must be bagged. I went to the Mercadona and got a roll of the largest garden refuse bags they had and while we waited for our bus, we used our electrical tape to wrap at least the top half of the bikes, hoping the bus company would not be too particular. It wasn’t pretty but it worked. While we waited for. our bus, we had a coffee in the station cafeteria and bought bocadillos for the bus trip.

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As it was our first time taking a bus in Spain, we were a little nervous about how it would all go. Had we gotten the right tickets, the right time, would the bikes be a problem? I distracted myself taking photos of the murals around the station.

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But just a little late, the bus arrived with the Granada sign in the front window. We put our bikes and panniers in the bottom luggage compartments with no attention whatsoever by the driver and climbed aboard. The modern and very comfortable bus was not at all crowded and it didn’t seem to matter where we sat. On to Granada!

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Posted by Jenniferklm 18:18 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Putzing Along to Puenta Genil

sunny 28 °C
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Yet another lovely sunny day when we headed off from Lucena for our leisurely 23 km cycle jaunt to Puenta Genil and the end of the Via Verde del Aceinte. We would spend the night there, then cycle back to Lucena for another night before catching the bus to Granada. We traversed a pedestrian bridge over the highway just outside Lucena and then we were in the countryside and on the Via Verde for almost the whole way.

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It was a beautiful ride with hardly another person in sight, except for a crew of people working on the path. They looked like volunteers, all of an age, men and women, perhaps from the nearby town we just went through. They were such a cheerful looking group and I stopped to say hello and thanked them for their work. They were interested to hear we were from Canada. “Canada!!!” they exclaimed and gathered around to talk to me. Well, they talked and I smiled and nodded and offered up the odd Spanish phrase I could think of - “ Muy bonito!” In spite of my inability to communicate, it was a heartwarming little encounter and I finally waved goodbye and pedalled madly to catch up with Jim.

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It was an interesting cycle, that took us over a couple of bridges, through a small town, also with a refurbished old train station, and past some ruined houses. The bike path was excellent and seemed quite new.

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The Via Verde ended a short distance before the town of Puenta Genil, near the ruins of another old train station. We rode a short distance on a road into town and found our hotel on the main street.

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Hotel El Carmen was surprisingly grand! It had been a flour factory and was renovated into a lovely hotel in 2007. Our spacious room on the second floor was only 64.40€! I checked the current price and it is still only 88€ so while prices have gone up further into the spring, they are still so reasonable. Our room looked out onto a big swimming pool at the back of the hotel, not in use this early in the season as was the case with all pools we encountered. I loved the public areas of this hotel - elegant furniture, beautiful floors and interesting abstract Spanish-themed art.

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Hotel El Carmen is the perfect place to begin or end your ride on the absolutely stunning Via Verde del Aceite or the Olive Oil Route and to make our stay even more perfect, we saw that their dining room had a Menu del Dia for lunch. So after walking a short distance down the main street to find a bank machine - it was time to replenish our euros that we brought with us that had lasted far longer than we imagined - we decided to have a late leisurely lunch in the sunshine on the terrace of the hotel. It was very quiet - only one other occupied table. I finally had the traditional Andalucian chilled tomato and bread soup, solmorejo - delicious. And we both had a potato egg dish with grilled peppers and flan for dessert. With coffee I think it was 10€, wine and beer extra.

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We enjoyed walking the long main street of this town of 30,000, still an agricultural centre for olive oil and also membrillo, a yummy quince jelly that seems common in Andalucia. The town seemed quite prosperous with nice shops. Only 45 miles from Cordoba, it felt so much further away to us. It is on a high speed train line - the one that would not take our bikes - so likely gets a lot our visitors later in the year. It is near some important nature reserves for hiking and birding. There was an interesting statue of a composer and some other old industrial buildings, some refurbished.

We were however staying in the newer upper town and unfortunately, did not walk as far enough down the main street to reach the older part of town built on the banks of the Genil River, a river we would see elsewhere, and the 16th C bridge for which the town is named. The town was founded for defence reasons because of it location near an important pass running from the countryside to the south into Muslim occupied territory. Frequent river flooding damaged the bridge which was rebuilt in 1874. There is an archeological museum and Roman ruins near the town as well.

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We saw a poster for Dia de La Bici, Day of the Bike in Puenta Genil but would be gone by then. That would have been fun and a fitting end to the touring part of our trip, radidly approaching. I would go back to Puenta Genil and the Hotel El Carmen and cycle the Via Verde del Aceite the opposite way to its other furthest point in Jaen. You can’t find better cycling than that route. But instead we would cycle back to Lucena the next day for a last night before taking the bus to Granada, an exciting prospect too after a month of cycling from place to place. We had booked an apartment there and would stay for a week. Stay tuned - almost there!

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Posted by Jenniferklm 05:10 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Lucena

sunny 27 °C
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As a further postscript to our stay in Cabra, the subject of my last post and the birthplace of Dionesio Alcalá Galiano with its connection with our home island of Galiano, the plate in the photo below is mounted on the wall of the kitchen of our South Galiano Community Hall. It shows the church tower, located on a rise above the the main square of Cabra, which you can also see in the photo I took there.

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In the morning we left Cabra, cycling through the Maria Luisa Park beside our hotel and back up the bike path to resume our trek along the lovely Via Verde del Aceite. It was a gorgeous morning that called for shorts with the forecast temperature at 27C.

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We would only have a 15 Km ride to our next destination, Lucena. There was now lots of new and very informative signage on the path, something that had been missing for most of our route elsewhere in Andalucia. The end of our cycling from town to town was rapidly approaching. We were locating ourselves so that we would be able to take a train or a bus for the last leg to Granada as it appeared there was not a good bike route. The train we thought we could take from another town, Jaén, on the Via Verde, would have required an 8 hour trip with a connection in Madrid. So we planned to cycle to Puenta Genil after Lucena, where it seemed we could get a Renfe semi-fast train to Granada. There seem to be 3 types of trains in Spain, fast, semi-fast and regional but you have to make sure the train will take bikes and you need to reserve for your bikes.

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It was another beautiful ride to Lucena and while we were both feeling happy to be on such a easy, flat, safe bike path after some of the more challenging parts of our route, we were already regretful that this part of our winter cycle in Spain was coming to an end. The unknown aspect of every day on the bike path when you are cycling from one place to another is exciting and quite addictive and we were feeling reluctant to give it up. It really is very much about the journey when you are cycle touring, not the destination.

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As we approached Lucena, we were joined by a few other day cyclists but mostly people out for a Sunday morning walk. We continied to be amazed that this far into our trip, we had not encountered any other cycle tourers, except for one couple back in Malaga. As on other sections of the Via Verde,the old train station has been preserved and repurposed and next to it was a lovely restaurant with a big sunny terrace overlooking the town of Lucena below. We happily parked our bikes and stopped for a nice leisurely Sunday lunch. Though there were empty tables when we arrived, they rapidly filled up with other cyclist, walkers, and families, along with dogs, all enjoying the spring sunshine. We both had the huevos revueltos, scrambled eggs, a very common menu item in Spain that comes with different vegetables or con jamon. Mine was with green beans, Jim’s with asparagus.

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Then we headed down the hill into the small town of Lucena on what appeared to be a brand new bike path past yet another olive oil processing plant and then beside a very large development that a sign said was Parque Europa, still being built out. On investigation, this turned put to be a leisure and sport complex with childcare facilities and gardens, a restaurant and bar, beside new fairgrounds and a bullring, apparently co-financed with 80% of the European Regional Development Fund and a 20% municipal contribution. Impressive for a small town of about 45,500. We very much appreciated the bike path into town. Always feels like a welcoming red carpet to me.

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We found our accommodation, the Dona Lola Boutique Hotel, only a few years old, on a pedestrian-only street. It was one of the nicest hotels we stayed in on our trip. Here is an example of how inexpensive we found Andalucian accommodation off-season - the Dona Lola was 50€! Definitely a low season rate prior to Easter but I just checked this hotel and for the same room it’s now 89€, still extremely reasonable for very nice accommodation.

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Surprisingly, Lucena has an interesting and very sad Jewish history. During the Muslim era, it was the main nucleus of the Jewish population in Al-Andalus (Andalucia). In fact, Lucena was inhabited exclusively by Jews between the ninth and twelfth centuries. From a history site - “Jewish immigrants, expelled from Rome by Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius between 14 AD and 54 AD, and those dispossessed and persecuted following the Jewish – Roman wars of 66 – 135 AD, emigrated to different parts of the Roman Empire. Many came to Spain and by the 10th century, constituted one of the largest and most prosperous communities in the world. Eliossana (now Lucena), was nicknamed the ‘Jew’s City’, because, for the first few hundred years of its existence, it was inhabited entirely by Jews. It was known as the ‘Pearl of Sepharad’.” The economy was based on olive groves, vineyards, agriculture, commerce and crafts.

We did not have the chance to see this but there is a Necrópolis Judía. This was discovered during the construction of a ring road in 2006, and some 346 tombs were found and dated from the early medieval period between the years 1000 and 1050 AD, when this town was at its most vibrant.

Tragically, the fate of the Jewish population in Lucena mirrored what happened elsewhere in Andalucia. In 1146, during the Almohad wars, the Jews were persecuted and many were forced to convert to Islam. Lucena was conquered by Castile in 1240. The fate of its Jewish community during the riots of 1391 resemble that of the other Andalusian communities, total destruction. Many were killed, many were forcibly converted, some escaped.

Regarding the train, further investigation on Jim’s part revealed that the train from the next town after Lucena, Puenta Genil, would not work to get us to Granada either - no bikes - but the bus from Lucena would according to the online schedule. As it was our first experience with Spanish buses, we decided to find the Lucena bus station and make sure it was all as we understood it. A short walk from our hotel, we successfully purchased tickets for us and the bikes. Since we would have an extra day, we decided to bike to Puenta Genil anyway as it was the end of the Via Verde, stay the night and bike back to Lucena for another night at the Dona Lola before getting the bus to Granada. Our lovely hotel receptionist confirmed they had space but it would have to be an apartment. Again the rate was very reasonable and we happily agreed.

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So we booked a hotel in Puenta Genil for our next night, had a preliminary exploration of Lucena and went to bed looking forward to our last ride to a new town, our return to lovely Lucena and our “apartment”, and our bus ride to Granada, where we had an AirBnB booked for a week. Almost there.

Posted by Jenniferklm 00:47 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Coincidentally Cabra

sunny 28 °C
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We spent one night in Cabra, a small agricultural town of about 20,000 en route to Granada by way of the Via Verde del Aceite or Olive Oil Route, the repurposed train track. In preparing to write this next blog post, I googled Cabra to find out a bit more about where we had stayed. On Wikipedia, I was amazed to see these two photos and the caption:

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Almudena Alcalá-Galiano presents flag of Cabra to Galiano Island at AGM of the Museum Society. Cabra was the home of Capt. Dionisio Alcalá-Galiano (1775-1805).

So by the oddest of coincidences, we ended up staying in the town where Dionisio Alcalá Galiano, a Spanish naval officer, cartographer, and explorer after whom the island we live on, was named. Dionesio is the name of the northern-most tip of Galiano, now a gorgeous BC Park. From Wikipedia: “Galiano mapped various coastlines in Europe and the Americas with unprecedented accuracy using new technology such as chronometers. He commanded an expedition that explored and mapped the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia, and made the first European circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. He reached the rank of brigadier and died during the Battle of Trafalgar.” However, long before Galiano arrived on our shores, the various Coast Salish tribes (up to 37) occupied Galiano at certain times of the year and rather than there being just one First Nations’ name for the island, there were many names for the different parts of the island.

Galiano Conservancy Association, “One Island One Earth: An Ecological Footprint and Fingerprint for Galiano”
https://galianoconservancy.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Part-I-One-Island-Introduction.pdf

In 1992, there was some kind of ceremony on Galiano where the flag of Cabra was presented to the Galiano Museum, clearly not by the same explorer as the caption seems to state but perhaps a relative with the same name? I need to find out more.

Cabra appeared to be a very prosperous little town. A bike path had taken us from the Via Verde right into the centre of this town that is located in a valley.

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Cobra’s main economy is based on olives, olive oil and wine as well as being a source of red polished limestone and it is surrounded by agricultural land and rolling hills. We arrived on a a Sunday and the restaurant and bar of our little hotel, the Villa Maria was hopping. Our very nice room overlooked a lovely park which seemed to function as an outdoor dining terrace for the hotel. There was a window from the hotel kitchen where servers would pick up the dishes. In keeping with the agricultural focus of the town, several big tractors with trailers rumbled past our hotel in the late afternoon.

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Again according to Wikipedia, Cabra has been settled since Paleolithic times. The Turdetani, the Andalusian descendants of Tartessos, lived in the area. As part of the Tartessoian kingdom and during Carthaginian and Roman times, Cabra was a market town. Cabra’s earliest name, Aigagros, means "mountain goat", in Greek. The Romans built temples and an 8 km aqueduct here. The church of San Juan Bautista del Cerro is thought to have been constructed on a Roman temple. Many battles were apparently fought here - the Romans, the Christians, the Visigoths, the Moors(when the town become known as Qabra), the Christians again, the Moors again, the Christians again, then fighting among the feudal lords with various imprisonments in the Cabra castle. Then there was the Spanish Civil War when on November 7, 1938, Cabra was bombed by Republican planes, even though Cabra was not a strategic objective or near the front lines. The official figures were 101 dead and over 200 injured in this little town. And on it goes in our world of continuous conflict…Thankfully, Cabra was very peaceful however during our stay - except for all the socializing going on in our hotel bar and restaurant.

We spent the evening exploring the town. It had a long pedestrian shopping street, filled as usual with people walking, shopping in some open stores and hanging out in the bars and restaurants. We walked to the end of town past the bull ring where there was an old church overlooking the town’s beautiful main square with its majestic palm trees.

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We enjoyed walking in Cabra as dusk turned to night. Though we did not go in, we saw the Church of the Asuncion, a Baroque church at the hill top square with a rococo south door and inside 42 marble columns (possibly from an Islamic mosque), the Church of San Juan Bautista, a Visigoth church of 590 A.D. and the elegant city hall, all beautifully lit.

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It appeared that considerable funds had recently been put into restoring the city walls, and the highlight of our walk was along a beautiful promenade with a panoramic view over the countryside.

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The Sunday socializing was as still going on at Villa Maria when we returned from our stroll. It’s tough to keep up with the Spanish! But as we went to bed that night in Cabra, far from home, and though we didn’t know it at the time, there was in fact a surprising connection between this small Spanish town and our small island on the west coast of BC.

Postscript - more info about the Cabra/Galiano Island connection from my neighbour, Allan Forget:

In the early 1990s Andrew Loveridge was one of the Directors of the Galiano Club. He was also President of the Gulf Islands Branch of the BC Historical Society. In 1991 when the island acquired the Mt Galiano lands & responsibility for them was transferred to the Galiano Club, Andrew had the idea to name the hiking trail to be built there after Admiral Galiano. When the trail was completed in Oct. 1993, a ceremony of dedication was held & the Spanish Consul General from Vancouver was invited (this included an event at the Community Hall --- there is a YouTube video (see link below). It was then & there that the discussions began to 'twin' our island with Dionisio Galiano's home town of Cabra. Andrew was eventually sent on a journey to Cabra itself sponsored by the Club & by the Historical Society. There in Cabra he was feted & dined, met the local Historical Society reps & some Galiano family descendents. (The 1st photo you posted is from that trip.) Andrew returned to the island with many souvenirs from that journey, most of which are displayed in his home Museum. A couple ceramic display plates however, produced in Cabra, hang on the kitchen wall in the Community Hall. Some years later (I forget which year though I was in attendance), several Galiano family members came from Cabra to our island & attended a meeting of the Galiano Museum Society. At this mtg they presented Andrew with a flag of the town of Cabra (the 2nd photo you posted). This too I believed is on display in Andrew's home Museum.

Opening of Mt Galiano Trail — 1991
April 2nd, 2021|Categories: Club Parks
In 1991, following an energetic & creative fundraising campaign by the island, the Mt Galiano lands were purchased & title was given to the Galiano Club. The following summer a group of volunteers created the hiking trail — from the Active Pass Dr entrance to the summit — which exists today. Coincidentally, 1992 was the 200th anniversary of the historic meeting of the Spanish Naval Officer, Dionisio Alcala Galiano and the English Naval Capt. George Vancouver (each Captain was charting the western NA coastline for their respective nation) just off the coast of what is now called Galiano Island. It was decided to commemorate this event by naming the hiking trail after Dionisio Galiano, by inviting the Vancouver-based Consul General of Spain, His Excellency Jose Ayala & his wife Ceridad (seen here arriving in Ken Allen’s 1932 Roll Royce), to attend the trail dedication ceremony held on Oct.8th, Dionisio Galiano’s birthdate. Afterwards, a La Zarzuela — a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes — was held at the Community Hall MC’d by Galiano Club Director, Debbie Holmes &, Club Historian, Andrew Loveridge. As part of the ceremony, held during the Club’s annual Blackberry Festival, a portrait of Officer Galiano, completed by Galiano artist, William Beddels, was presented to the Consul as a gift for HM King Juan Carlos of Spain. Later, 232 daffodil bulbs were planted in the Hall grounds (232 being the number of years since Officer Galiano’s birth).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Fh50jYlj58

Posted by Jenniferklm 13:19 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Bliss on the Vía Verde del Aceite

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At breakfast the next morning in the guesthouse of the hilltop village of Baena, we were surprised to see other guests. They were two young women from Lithuania. They spoke excellent English, were colleagues - bank analysts in fact, and we had a nice breakfast together. They were walking part of the Camino, in the opposite direction from us - from Granada to Santa Cruz. One had convinced the other to go and they acknowledged that they had not prepared all that thoroughly for their adventure. But they were young, mid to late 20s and seemed pretty positive about everything. They told us they slept on the pews in a church one night. We took photos before we all went our separate ways that morning and decided to keep in touch via What’s App. They were quite surprised about what we were doing (especially when they learned our ages!) and we were pretty impressed by the distances they were walking each day as they had limited time before heading back to work.

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We managed to load up our bikes outside the door of the guesthouse by using someone else’s stoop on this incredibly steep street. We said at au revoir to our host, Marie Chantel and braked our way all the way down to the bottom of the village.

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It was a bit of a climb up from the lower town onto the greenway. As we left Baena behind, we would see the long winding road and hills we had cycled down the day before.

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However, we knew that our climbing legs were about to get a reprieve as we would finally be on the Vía Verde del Aceite, the repurposed 19th C rail route that delights walkers and cyclists alike, running from Jaén to Puenta-Genil. We were picking it up near Baena and over several days, would cycle it as far as Puenta-Genil, a distance of about 72 km, on our way to Granada without having to be on any busy roads. Here are several links with more info about this amazing route, that would become one of the most beautiful experiences of our entire trip. If you want to be immersed in the stunning Spanish countryside surrounded by olive groves via a stroll or cycle on a lovely flat track, this is it!

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2009/nov/21/walking-spains-olive-oil-route
https://www.andalucia.org/en/routes-via-verde-del-aceite

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It was a gorgeous morning with a faint drift of mist below the peaks of the Sierra Nevadas in the distance. We were soon shedding our extra layers of clothing. Along the route, the almond trees were in full pale pink bloom and we cycled through the most painterly landscape of olive groves with the occasional small white building tucked into the cleft of the hills. As we rode, I thought this is the highest state of bliss I can imagine.

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It was a Saturday and there were mostly local walkers enjoying the perfect spring day. As we carried on, we crossed a bridge over a dry gully and shortly thereafter arrived at the old train station of Luque, now a restaurant and store, right on the Vía Verde. We would see more of these old train stations along the route, with their typical design and old water tanks now converted into public washrooms.

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It was perfect timing for a coffee and a second tostada breakfast at a table right beside a cosily burning wood stove - not really needed on such a warm day but nice all the same. The restaurant also include a store full of local products and we bought several small cans of good olive oil to take home.

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The little town of Luque was actually along the path a little way and high up on the side of a huge uplift of rock. It was a very dramatic sight and it would have been an interesting place to visit.

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But on we went through another little town and then through a tunnel and into an area where the path is cut between steep rocky slopes on either side. There were lots of wildfiowers growing along the path verges and up the sides in the crevices.

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We had cycled a beaucolic 30.5 km that day and were almost reluctant to reach our destination for the night, the town of Cabra. It was just below the path, where we found another old railway station, a watchful horse and a big flock of sheep heading back along the Via Verde, intent on their own destination.

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Exiting off the Via Verde, we immediately found a paved bike path that swooped us down into the town and to our very sweet hotel, the Villa Maria. A cold beer and a glass of wine, followed by a late lunch/ early dinner was in our immediate future. All in all, a perfectly delightful day on the Via Verde del Aciete. It really doesn’t get much better than that!

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Posted by Jenniferklm 04:35 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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