Spain does a few things extremely well. It has designated bike/scooter lanes separate from where vehicles travel and pedestrians walk. It has inviting outdoor eateries down its many narrow alleys. It features amazing architecture. And workers keep it beautifully clean.
How do we know? We embarked on a transatlantic cruise from Tampa, Florida, to Barcelona, Spain, with stops in Bermuda; the Azores; Malaga, Spain; and Valencia, Spain. Here are the highlights.
Although we delight in sea days, we enjoy visiting ports of call too. After three days at sea, we disembarked in Bermuda. Rented bikes gave us wheels to tour the pink beaches, where Portuguese man o’ war in the sand deterred us from entering the water. Realizing we were no match for the narrow, hilly roads we had to share with motor vehicles — even if they were only going 25 mph — we returned the bikes to explore on foot.
Four sea days later, we fell in love with the quiet, laid-back culture of the Azores, where commercialism is kept at bay. Our tour guide, Telmo from T4W, gave us a comprehensive taste of life on Sao Miguel Island, the largest of the nine islands that make up the archipelago that belongs to Portugal.
Telmo entertained us with folklore about how the blue and green lakes came to be and how old women throwing rocks from the top of a cliff into the bay kept would-be invaders from overtaking the island. We sampled Portuguese coffee and farm-to-table delicacies from the livestock and produce on the island, including custard tarts and fresh blackberry cheesecake.
Malaga, Spain, treated us to a familiar sight and taste: Dunkin’ coffee. After caffeinating, we toured the city on rented bicycles, getting past the typical tourist traps to experience a less crowded beach, even dipping into the Mediterranean Sea up to our necks.
Having made fast friends with our assigned dinner companions on the cruise, we joined Frank and Pam to explore the city of Valencia. A bus delivered us to the heart of town, where we had a wonderful time walking the alleys, taking in the city’s beauty, and sampling local meats and cheeses.
The cruise came to an end in Barcelona the morning of Mother’s Day. It happened to be the same day as the Barcelona Marathon, so we sat and watched runners pass us by for about an hour, thrilled at the opportunity to see such an event in person rather than on TV.
Wanting to make the most of our day in the city, we navigated to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, a 14th-century cathedral built over a total of 55 years, with setbacks due to an earthquake and a fire. Today, it’s open to visitors daily.
Arriving just in time for the Sunday mass, we decided to stay. Bob used Google Translate to try to understand the message. The app got some things right, but others it didn’t, such as something about six German sisters with ducks. That gave us a good chuckle.
From there, we wandered the narrow alleys in search of lunch, stopping at a little place where we ordered mussels, a cured meat plate, and a cheese plate. But the best part was the toasted fresh bread smothered with olive oil and tomatoes. I risked a gluten-induced headache to partake. The bread melted in my mouth with explosive flavor. Delicioso! And I’m happy to report no headache ensued.
The Longest Travel Day
We spent the night in Barcelona and headed to the airport early the next morning for our required COVID-19 test before we could fly back to the United States. After getting confirmation that we both passed the test, we headed to an airport lounge for breakfast before boarding a plane to gain back the six hours we had lost traversing the Atlantic Ocean.
Arriving at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York eight hours later, we quickly learned why three hours are needed for international flights. We had to jump through a lot of hoops: customs, a passport check, and navigating to the correct gate.
We connected through Atlanta before landing in Tampa, Florida, where a parking lot attendant whisked us to the lot where we had left Gullliver 15 days earlier. Happy to be reunited with our vehicle, we climbed aboard and drove two hours to reach Tagalong, finally arriving home at 3:30 a.m. after 28 hours of travel. What a day!
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This is the travel blog of Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong. We live on the road full time, enjoying all the adventures that come our way.