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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Catadau, Spain

Once again it’s all about food as I arrived in this village in the hills south of Valencia. We were seated at a table with twenty other folks, mostly senior citizens and we were passing around vials of different substances as we tried to guess what they were. This is pretty standard procedure at a wine tasting session and I did a fairly good job of identifying the spices—cumin, pepper, nutmeg—but I was stumped by the clove and the extract of oak. The wine we tasted was nothing special and all we could think about was how unfavourably it compared with the bottle of Rioja we shared earlier with an appetizer of cured ham and bread.

It was an informative presentation and everyone was having a good time. I even got a few laughs with the Robert Hughes quote about how we drink wine not for the subtle flavors but for the effect. Another presenter began a discussion on how several different types of cheeses are made but then I got lost when he switched from Spanish to Valenciano. It was time to move on and see a little more of the fair.

Catadau was having a festival of “ecologically-conscious” foods but it was mostly just an excuse for producers to hawk wine, sausages, olive oil, dried fruits, olives, breads, and everything else that ends up on a Spanish dinner table. We had bookended going to the festival between the wine and ham snack earlier and a more ambitious dinner we had planned for later that evening so I didn’t go too crazy on eating. I also was travelling light so I had to refrain from buying some of the beautiful sausages on sale.

I am always amazed to find that the folks in these little towns live just about the same way as city dwellers. They live in apartment buildings, which means a fairly high population density, which means you can walk everywhere. Before heading back up the mountain to my friends’ house we stopped in for a drink at a nice little bar in Catadau. It was still an hour before the start but a lot of people in the bar were anticipating the evening’s match between Valencia CF and Barcelona which was being played at Mestalla. As it turns out Valencia wasn’t able to convert several dozen good opportunities into a goal and had to settle for a draw. Any team in Spain would be thrilled to walk away with one point after playing Barça but I felt that Valencia had totally out-played their rivals from Cataluña.

I came by bike this time, at least from the metro stop at Font Almaguer. From there it’s about 13 kilometers to the village and the first leg of the ride is humping over a nice long hill. After that you coast the other half of the way down the other side into the river valley. We have had wonderful weather for cycling this fall and I have been out quite a lot. In fact, earlier in the morning I rode to my new job at Rocafort outside of Valencia, another 45 minute ride. I was running a little late on this morning which means I had to really scream through the little villages along the way

From Rocafort I jumped on the metro with my bike in tow on the #1 line which goes to Castellón. I bought a metro pass for 13.60€ for ten rides within the ABC zones. I have become quite a consumer of the Valencia metro system which means I have a wallet stuffed with passes for the A, AB, ABC, and ABCD zones which each have a different price.

The weather now reminds me of the Midwest but these days of mid October in Valencia feel like the first few days of September back in the US. There is just the slightest hint of cool weather in the morning and at sunset with daytime temperatures still reaching 25 degrees. You can’t ask for better weather for bike riding and my only complaint was that I had to carry a change of clothes for the weekend and a heavy pair of hiking shoes. I don’t really like bike touring as I like to ride fast and light. I have been wanting to do an extended bike tour of Spain but now it looks like it will have to wait until spring as I am too busy now.

I think that I would like to go to Granada by bike. I haven't been there before and it seems like it would be a good trip on a bike. Going north to Barcelona is too flat for me; I really miss riding in the mountains and I have lost a lot of my hill climbing power as the ride to Catadau showed me. If I do it I think I will stick to the absolute minimum as far as gear is concerned. I see people bike touring with ridiculously large loads of gear and I just wonder what they could possibly be carrying that is so important. I'm thinking a change of clothes and a credit card would do it for me. If I need anything I could just buy it and then give it away when I mount up the next day