State Department Business, The Menu of the Day, and a Test-ride up to the Cemetery
Passport problems? Yeah, tell me about it. Our first morning in Madrid had the added task of expediting a new passport for my son in addition to the 126 km trip to Sigüenza. Lucky for us the time difference and unusually hot weather helped wake us up early. Having flown the red-eye, I’m not counting the previous day at all. I think we ate ribs at my brother-in-law’s house, but I can’t be sure.
Monday morning the two “responsible” adults and child with “no valid travel documents” were out the door by 8am. That’s pretty early by any Spanish standard. Definitely not many tourist types wandering the streets of the Parque de la Avenidas and in short order we were at the Metro station. The 10-ride ticket was the best deal for the 3 of us. At the Embassy gate by 8:30. Wow. Bypassing the “foreigner’s” line, we were quickly into the goldfish bowl-like processing area. I promised massive tapas and drinks if we walked out with a new passport in-hand, but alas, best we could do was 10 days. Actually, it took a bit longer due to the 4th of July holiday. Just as unbelievably, we were back at my mother-in-law’s flat by 10am. Huzzah!
Not bad really. I’ve done all the usual tourist stuff, and after living the North Country life, a ride on a big city subway is like a trip to the moon. We were mostly ready to roll and because I’m “the man”, I was automatically given the keys to the 15 year old Peugeot. It’s not exactly like a trip to Tupper Lake, but there are similarities. The Sigüenza house hadn’t been used yet this season, so things were not fully “open”, i.e. no bread, warm beer, etc.
My brother-in-law showed up with the bikes after having mouth surgery the day before having to pick us up at the airport. Kind of a hassle when your relatives show up with huge boxes loaded with reacreational equipment. Big Round of Applause! Moving the bikes was/is the biggest logistical challenge. In little over 24 hours from touch-down, we were in Sigüenza with our 3 bikes and trail-a-bike. Including the completed passport application. Plus, the birds.
Yeah, the birds. Seems during the sleep-deprived BBQ rib dinner we adopted 2 sparrows. It was not entirely successful. They did survive the journey, even after one escaped in the car during the drive. I was not pleased. Couple days later and they were “muerto”. Quickly replaced by two healthy and thriving pheasant chicks. Plus 8 eggs in an incubator. Silly.
A Food Tip
Just like anywhere in the world, the best places to eat are usually populated by construction workers, cops, or firemen. Also, people who are “frugal”. My cousin-in-law, “the Mansion-guy”, recommended a place near the cathedral, El Mesón. This hostel-restaurant is one of the best deals in town. We were to wound up to make lunch, so the Menu of the Day at $8 Euros was the most logical choice for cheap and easy sustenance.
Don’t worry, when you walk in it looks like a bar – the restaurant is downstairs. Fancy or casual, the Eastern European waitstaff don’t care. The foreign labor is something that only appeared a couple years ago. 2 courses and dessert. The kid’s split a meal – “Macaroni, Pork Chops, and Ice Cream”. I got the Peas with Ham, Garlic Chicken, and Fruit.
My son, who would only eat peas if forced, looked at my large plate with horror. I guess I’m used to having peas as a sidedish rather than a main course. Tasty, but 3/4 of the way through I had to call it quits. Peas are pretty filling and I wanted to leave room for the chicken.
After lunch, I unwrapped my ham and assembled the bikes. Scary to look at, but most excellent for snacking. The ham was mounted with the hamstring up. Not sure exactly the pedigree, it wasn’t in fancy packaging like my last one. This one was in “plain-wrap”, I could not discern any difference in quality – it was yummy.
High on the Hog
I’ve never heard the term Bellota in reference to the ham. This guy is going a little overboard, but you get the idea.
Ibérico Ham: Crazy Good But Worth the Price?
I haven’t had Prosciutto in forever.
Health Benefits of Spanish Ham
The bikes made it with no damage. I packed minimal tools and like last year regretted not having a headset wrench. I managed to pack the 3 bikes and trail-a-bike in 3 standard bike boxes. The trail-a-bike went in with my son’s 24 inch MTB and its wheel with my bike. Since we were charged $50/bike extra, I made the extra effort to consolidate the gear. We had plenty of time to do a spin to test things out.
The Test-ride started in Los Hoteles, the neighborhood where the Sigüenza house is located. Sigüenza is the local Catholic HQ and features a major cathedral…blah, blah. As such, it was/is historically on the route for both religious and leisure travelers. Los Hoteles, located just outside the city walls (through the wall, over the creek-moat), was the traditional area where the guest houses were located. Now it is mostly weekend homes and newly developed condos. We took the “low road” up to the cemetery (family plots). This first grind is short and sweet. Me, with the Single Speed (34×17) and pulling the trail-a-bike, cracked quickand walked the crux of the climb. Wife and son made it with not-minor suffering. This always serves as a good benchmark for our riding fitness.
We continued through El Pinar, the Pines, past the Oasis and up the the Castle. The restored Castle is a landmark at the top of the hill overlooking the entire city/pueblo. We dropped into town and did the Calle Villaviciosa and Cardinal Mendoza climb up to the Plaza Mayor. Those two little stretches, the second of which is on cobbles, always test the reserves. The Mendoza narrows to a single lane and the cars always seem to end up right behind me. I always save a bit so I can hammer this section, sort of the final sprint and it freaks out all the people seeing me dragging my daughter up the hill. Venga! Venga!