Tour Report: Cycling Andaluciaby ExperiencePlus! - Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Tour Report: Cycling Andalucia
The Cycling Andalucia tour offers days of riding in wide open spaces, climbs to villages in the hills of the Sierra Mountains, near traffic-free roads through olive groves extending as far as the eye can see, Renaissance villages, and ancient cities with world-renowned monuments that tell the story of the region’s historical upheaval and encounters with different cultures and religions. Andalucia is exciting; it is flamenco, bullfighting, mid-day gatherings over café con leche, the evening paseo (strolling and visiting on plazas), night-owl dinners, and very friendly people.
This large region of southern Spain is varied in its landscape and offered us cycling in arid, desert-like land; the fertile river valley of the Rio Guadalquivir; and the hills and mountains of the Sierras. We joked about another day of seeing nothing but olive groves as we cycled between towns, but the vistas were never monotonous as the precision planting of the groves against a backdrop of mountains won us over. Miles of coastline where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean, across from northern Africa, make up the remaining portion of the geographical layout of the region and helps describe Andalucia’s history.
A short summary of Andalucia’s early history explains the beautiful, sometimes incongruous, but always interesting combination of Christian and Arab architecture of the area. Around 200 BC, the Romans defeated the Carthaginians, ruling the country for approximately 7 centuries while converting the region to Christianity. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the Visigoths from northern Europe ruled Spain until 711 AD when the Moors invaded southern Spain. The Moors held the country for 8 centuries, contributing strongly to Andalucia’s architectural wonders. The reconquest of the country by the Catholic monarchy lasted from the 13th to 15th centuries.
The tour and cycling starts in Seville, the spirited capital of Andalucia, and departs the city via a bike path that leads one past the modern wishbone shaped Alamillo Bridge built for the 1992 World Expo. The hosting of this event was significant in Spain’s emergence from General Franco’s dictatorship and isolation.
Each city and town that we visited has its prominent monuments. Córdoba is known for its tucked away courtyards and flowers;
the Mezquita mosque; and the Sinagoga, one of the few remaining medieval synagogues in Spain. Jaén is known, for its Moorish castle strategically built on Mount Catalina that is now one of the eloquent Parador hotels, our destination for one night. Úbeda, a UNESCO Renaissance village, is home to the famous Tito pottery studio.