Malmö: Cool City by the Sea

Las Chicas return to 🇸🇪 Sweden in hopes of escaping the unrelenting summer heat of Berlin. Our first stop is Malmö, just across the channel (30-minute train ride) from Copenhagen. Record breaking heat in Malmö too? Hotel air-conditioning to the rescue!

Malmö’s city center contains a mix of very old and very new buildings. St. Peter’s Church in the Gothic style, built in 1319:

The church is under renovation, so it holds services in this dome festooned with small rainbow ribbons representing universal inclusiveness.

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Starchitect Santiago Calatrava’s Twisted Torso, which twists a full 90 degrees from bottom to top. With 54 storeys, it’s the tallest building in Scandinavia:

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Above is an new extension designed by Australian Kim Utzon for the World Maritime University (below), a United Nations Institution. The brick university building is the former Malmö Harbor Master’s building.

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During a day of walking around the city, Mary relaxes in a temporary lounge chair, among many couches and chairs built for fans of the upcoming Malmö festival.

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The Clarion Hotel makes its bid for Scandi-cool design:IMG_1138

Green glass curves greet us as we emerge from the train station. It’s called “Glasvasen” and designed by Kanozi Arkitekter.

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Like other Scandinavian cities, Malmö boasts thought-provoking public art too.

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“Non-Violence” by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, 1 of 16 of his knotted guns around the world.

“Way to Go” includes nineteen bronze shoes that represent artists from different eras and professions. The shoes point to a place that was important to each artist.

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“Optimistic Orchestra” by cubist sculptor Yngve Lundell.  He said it was a tribute to “two positively disobedient people,” Lech Walesa and Martin Luther King, Jr.

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“Rubato – Free Flow” by  Eva Hild. She created this aluminum curvy sculpture as an antidote to the city’s boxy buildings.

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“The Spectral Self Container” in colorful fiberglass by Matti Kallioine, with small boat harbor on the left and harbor buildings behind it.

Sculpture and shadow along the canal, but we fail to get name and artist!

From architecture to design, we visit a Swedish design store. Mary spots the neck bike helmet, created in Sweden, on sale; then we see a cyclist wearing one. We spot several cyclists using this self-inflating balloon helmet throughout our travels in Scandinavia.

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More Swedish specialties! Below left: “Upcycle” display from the festival, how to use recycled glass and broken cement. Below right: “Caviar” fish paste that comes in tubes in a variety of flavors from shrimp to garlic. Mary tests this savory spread at the hotel breakfast buffet and dislikes it.

We bike to the Ribersborgs Kallbadhus (cold bath house) on the sea. We walk out the long pier to an old wooden building perched on pilings. The original building was constructed in 1898, but has been renovated several times since then.

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Lisa riding the rental bike with ferry to Finland in the background; locks and tiny lockers at the bath house.

The bath house has single sex bathing areas, plus single sex and co-ed sauna spaces.  Open all year so winter guests alternate icy plunges into the sea and steamy or dry saunas. We pay our fee and enter the women’s side, changing out of our clothes and into nothing! Textile free” like everyone else, we walk outside, past the bath (actually sea water) surrounded by an interior deck and changing rooms.

Ready for this new Swedish experience, we head to the exterior deck and staircase into the open sea. Women and girls of all ages enjoy the water and sunshine.  Lisa immediately heads into the sea and dives right in. The temperature is perfect as we swim and float, get out for some sun, in again for more swimming.  At the bath, we experience lagom (pronounced laaaw-gum), the Swedish word for health and contentment.

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

 

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Baltic Sea Bike Tour: Day by Day

Through the woods and over the hills and onto the ferry

Before we reach the Baltic Sea, our trip begins in Rostock, home to a mish-mash of architecture, sculptures and fountains. Our tour will also take us through what used to be the GDR, German Democratic Republic, aka former East Germany, before the Wall came down in 1989. The city, like others on the Baltic coast, still shows off the monumental Gothic architecture of the Hanseatic era (1400s).

The largest church in Northern Germany, Marienkirche (St. Marien church), towers in Gothic glory next to a small goat fountain from the East German era. The church was built in 1230. The goat is from the 1970s.

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Ratschow-Haus from the 15th cetnury, now Library of the City–important government documents kept here:

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Another GDR fountain celebrates the workers of the world, fishing and farming:

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A hotel spangles with East German festivity:

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Rathaus, or Town Hall, a garish mixture of pink plaster and red brick turrets built in 1270:

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We walk along the waterfront in drizzle. Thankfully, we find a cozy corner table overlooking the water, in an Italian restaurant, and fortify ourselves for our first bike kilometers tomorrow.

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On the way back to our hotel, we see the Steintor, one of the old stone gates of the city:

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After a bit of morning misdirection (Mary blames the bike tour book), we ride on the correct path to the sea. First, we pass through lovely fields, forests, and find the sea on the edge of a campground, just over the dune.

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After riding by the sea, we turn inland to Wustrow, on the bay. We have the best room, with a small balcony overlooking this harbor.

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We see another large Gothic brick church and enjoy another Italian meal. After breakfast among the sea shells, blocks and tackle, net tatters, and photos of sailboats and iceboats, we’re off to our next town.

As you read in the Natural World , this day is Mary’s favorite. It begins with a pause for this horse-drawn wagon filled with children singing camp songs.

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Cool weather, tailwinds, and paved bike paths!

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Not too many other people on the path. Mary secretly hopes for a sailboat cruise in the long light of evening at the next port town.

We arrive in Barth to discover a town as grim as its name. Road construction stymies us on busy roads. The hotel is basic, far from the harbor, but at least there is a cat to entertain Lisa while Mary fumbles with the lock and dank garage that holds our bikes for the evening. We ride our bikes to “Thai Asia Bistro,” but the smell of rancid oil mixed with pork, beef and who knows what else quickly drives us back out the door. So we head to familiar ReWe, a German supermarket chain, shiny, new and air-conditioned with many food options. Relieved, we get our food to go, and return to our room overlooking the parking lot to watch the Tour de France. Critically, we also purchase tortilla chips to be smashed in the pannier for mid-morning snacks on the next day.

Up next, another great day of riding by bays, harbors, marshes, and thatched roof houses. Thatched-roof houses are everywhere throughout our days of touring–old houses, new thatched-roof subdivisions, thatched-roof hotels, and assorted collapsing barns.

We also visit the restroom of a lumberjack festival, happening later this summer. Note  saws as decoration.

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The clouds seem threatening, and the day is a little dark, but we arrive in Stralsund in time for a late lunch at a 1970s-style restaurant. We head to the harbor to figure out the ferry for the next day, but do not figure it out, and spend some time looking at digital (Lisa) and paper (Mary) maps to determine the location of our hotel.

View of St. Jakobi church in Alte Stadt (old town):

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We ride past the Alte Stadt, and another lake, drag our bikes into the hotel cellar, marginally aided by the 8-inch ramp next to the stairs. But what a view from our room! The trees, the lake, the Gothic spires of the Alte Stadt. A perfect backdrop for recovering while watching the Tour de France.

Hotel room view:

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St. Marien Lutheran Church, built before 1300. Between 1549 and 1647, it was the tallest building in the world with a bell tower at 103 meters.  Parts of the church have been rebuilt ove the centuries.

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We walk to dinner by the harbor, admire the fountain in the lake and studiously avoid Asian bistros. Bellini’s welcomes us with delayed but delicious Italian food. It’s a lovely summer evening in a university town.

We are überpünktlich (“over on time” or extremely early) for the ferry ticket office in the morning, then we wait another 45 minutes for the ferry.

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While waiting on the dock, we chat with friendly Berlin cyclists who tell us we will love the Island of Hiddensee, And we do! No cars allowed to drive on the island–only horses, walking, and bikes.

A bit of biking on bricked bike paths, a bit of hiking to the Leuchtturm (light house), and some lounging on the beach.

 

Mary goes for a swim. We wait for a ferrry, early early again!

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Later the same day, we catch another ferry to Breege. This ferry features an accordion player who serenades passengers from bike deck.

We arrive to the cobblestone dock in Breege, and ride on it just like Tour de France riders do that very same day (Stage 9). We have finally arrived on the Island of Rügen, home to semi-famous seaside resorts.

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Our hotel is easy to find, and throbbing with 2 busloads of tourist jubilados (Spanish for retired people) in the buffet line for dinner.  It is not a seaside resort, but a friendly family-owned hotel. The owner/manager welcomes us with “I speak English, I am Dutch” and tells us where to put our bikes, and about the buffet.   Starving we are, we quickly dump our stuff in our room and head to the end of the now short buffet line. Fish and many styles of potatoes, spargel (white asparagus) soup, and ice cream for dessert.

We avoid the German and Dutch bus tour folks by eating outside with a sliver of the bay visible through the buildings across the street. We take another lovely after-dinner amble along the water in the peaceful village of Breege.

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The next day, we follow the short cut recommended in our guidebook, and become lost on a rough cobbled road, followed by a slippery sandy track through fields. We follow various hiking trail signs in an attempt to get to the beech forest and white cliffs which should be the highlight of our trip.

Mary no longer enjoys riding on cobbles on rented tank bike.

Finally, we reach a town and a large parking lot where the National Park shuttle bus stops. Civilization! Salmon sandwiches and coke in the shade of a food truck restore us. We get better directions and ride on a rolling paved road through the forest. Upon recommendation of our Dutch host, we take a dirt road into the forest to Wald (forest) house.

After locking our bikes, we head down the trail and get our first views of the cliffs. Beech trees envelop us with calm, and cleanse us of our morning cranky cobbles.

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Refreshed, we cruise downhill to Sassnitz. Foiled by guidebook misdirection again, we ride on more cobbles to the industrial port area. Mary says “Our hotel is up there,” pointing to the hill above the harbor. Lisa gets out her trusty digital phone to guide us to it. We ride along the waterfront, and up another hill (this time on a smooth-ish sidewalk) and arrive at our hotel that time forgot. It is overdone in a weird way that 1950s GDR architecture referred back to some golden era.

But collectibles! We discover two rooms on the first floor filled with cases of small objects from around the world. There’s also a detailed book explaining the collector and his collections – for whoever might be interested.

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A groovy pedestrian bridge leads down to the harbor in Sassnitz.

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We also learn this used to be a critical port on the Stockholm to Berlin immigration journey, from the 1890s:

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After an Italian dinner by the harbor, we watch a large vessel with two-hulls, like a green and white super-sized steel catamaran, circle the harbor waiting for a place to dock. After another similar red vessel departs, the green one ties up.

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We identify British accents and ask the man with a suitcase about the type of vessel. “It takes us to the wind farm, it’s ok to say that right?” he says looking toward the German. “Ya.” Baltic Sea commuting! Wind farm engineers work for weeks at a time, like oil rig roughnecks except on sustainable energy platforms. German, British, and Swedish firms own and operate the farms.

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On to Binz! The bike route to Binz is first dangerous: we ride on a narrow bridge over a steel grid sidewalk with train tracks below. Then it turns to simply  dreary, a paved path through a tunnel of scrubby pine along a busy road. We skip the bleak community of Prora, which was the Nazi and East German summer playground for the privileged of those eras. Its Bauhaus style buildings are in disrepair or gentrified, depending on which part of the beach you visit. Find out more from this Architecture Magazine story. 

We park our bikes and stroll along the Binz seaside strand. We see 19th and early 20th century “villas,” small resort hotels that now contain vacation apartments.

The Jetsons apparently also spent some time here:

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Everyone must have a beach ticket, and we attempt to pay, but the machine hates us and will not take our Euros.

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Away from the busy central area, we sneak across the sand past these cabanas, to dip our toes in the water. After an ice cream snack, we’re on our way to the smaller resort town of Sellin.

We get to our hotel just before it starts to drizzle. Undaunted, we go to the main street for a delicious Italian lunch, then take a stroll to the famous pier, built in 1906 (rebuilt since then). It’s gray and blustery, so we don’t spend too much time. Later in the evening, we return to the beach where a few people still swim at 9 pm.

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Rain greets us the next morning, so we greet the narrow-gauge train called Rasender Roland that takes us to Putbus, shortening our 62 km bike ride to “only” 50 km.

A bike car holds our bikes along with a few others. The train is quaint, historic, and cozy until the coal smoke blows into our car, Mary moves to the back of the car to avoid it. A couple of stops later, Lisa joins her. Thank goodness the coal-powered stove is not necessary today.

 

We ride along double-track through the damp forest, but the rain has gone! In the fields and forests, we see other bike tourists carrying much heavier loads than us. We’re crossing the interior of Rügen which is hillier than the coast. After a couple of hours into the wind, and across the long bridge to Stralsund, we reach civilization and the  confounding posted bike signs vs. guidebook directions. One final mis-direction from Mary “No, I’m sure it’s this way,” is corrected after about a mile. And we reach our hotel. No, we will not be climbing stairs to the second floor of the “villa” which is certainly a converted barn. The hotel gives us a regular room instead.

The next morning, we bid “auf wiedersehen” to Stralsund  at the Flix Bus stop, in the shadow of St. Marien.

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Map of our total route with Fähre (ferry).

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

Biking in Nature along the Baltic Sea

Beginning on Day 1, the strawberries are our first encounter with nature outside the city. Fields filled with workers and the delightful smell of fresh strawberries fills the air. We too are fresh and excited as we roll along the smooth paths toward the sea.

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Strawberries are everywhere this time of year. And what could be more fitting than the iconic bear we see all around Berlin, in a strawberry design.

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Red is the color of the day, and even though it’s July, red Icelandic poppies decorate the edges of the fields.

We savor the fresh smells and enjoy riding along the fields, but jump at the first opportunity to leave our bikes and climb the small hill for our first view of the Ostsee.

Later in the day, we check into our hotel, and return to another beach for some R & R.

We spend our days weaving back and forth between forests and fields. On our favorite days, we ride alongside the sea most of the day,

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and take advantage of our “self-paced” tour, stopping when the spirit moves us.

The days blend together as we continue along the coast, through forests

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and by fields.

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We tolerate the wind,

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and enjoy the quiet solitude of the water.

but we are not alone.

And yes, we also share the beaches with other visitors, but few will be pictured in the photos. Through experience, we have learned that Germans do not much care for others taking their picture.

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The island of Hiddensee takes us further away from the city and closer to the sea. Mary braves the water, and we enjoy the slow pace of life here for the day.

As we depart on the ferry, hundreds of swans flank the waters. Adults and babies alike swim alongside and in between the parade of boats large and small.

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Island magic awaits on the island of Rügen. It’s the place we feel closest to nature with its massive Beech forests and white cliffs. We ride through the national park on a long false flat, meaning it looks like it is flat, but instead steadily climbs. But the ride is worth it, as we climb down the stairs into the trees.

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The light, shadows and shapes are quieting and we linger for a time before heading to the edge to explore the White Chalk Cliffs. While relaxing in the forest, I am reminded of the Bach Flower Remedies, of which Beech is one of the 8 original formulas. Curious to see what energy is offered from these great beings, I find this description of the Beech remedy from the Bach Center webpage. For an area of Germany long controlled by the GDR, the presence of these wonderful trees seem perfectly placed:

… as the remedy for people who ‘feel the need to see more good and beauty in all that surrounds them’…People in a Beech state are intolerant of difference. They lack compassion and understanding of the circumstances and paths that other people are given, and fail to see that they too are working towards perfection in their own ways…”

Not far beyond the edges of the forest are glimpses of the White Chalk Cliffs, part of the Jasmund National Park. At first glimpse, we see the section of the cliffs that collapsed in 2005. Following a winter thaw, the cliffs lost 50,000 cubic meters of the chalkrock onto the beach below.

Just down the path a bit, we get a clear view of the cliffs in their majesty. Tempting to find our way down to the waters edge, but the next port calls and we are on our way.

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After so many years living in the desert, we are refreshed by the parade of colorful flowers,

and the sight of familiar plants like Rosehips.

Nothing seems to compare to days spent in the air and sun. As we head toward our final destination, these fence-post “greeters” seem to cheer us on.

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Across the way, a lone crane finds lunch in the wheat field stubble.IMG_2883

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

 

Springtime in Berlin

May is here which means bike rides beneath tree blossoms, in forests, and parks. We also celebrate International Workers Day, May 1, at a street party in the Kreuzberg neighborhood of Berlin.

First, bucolic Berlin and Brandenburg:

 

Treptow Park bike path and  Spree Park (abandoned amusement park)

Treptow Park tree blossoms

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We ride through Grunewald Forest by masses of stacked wood on the side of the road, and see a magic hut that appears and reminds us of fairy tales, but instead houses a conservation education project for students.

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Sacrower Heliandskirche (church) from both sides of the Havel River.

Off to Kreuzberg for May 1, an international holiday (so no school for Lisa!)

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Workers of the world unite! And drink beer, and eat bratwurst, or Indian food, or anything else.  We join friends from the neighborhood who tell us that the police actually started the street party. Why? Because a few years ago, the May 1  workers/anarchist march through the neighborhood was too destructive–cars trampled, trash cans  on fire, windows smashed. Now there’s live music, alcohol (nothing unusual in this city), people offering free hugs, and a Love Revolution flag troupe.

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IMG_0168We also see the club made famous by David Bowie and Iggy Pop back in the day:

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After weaving through the masses in dark clothing, we aim for sunshine along the canal. We cross “Hipster Bridge” where millenials lounge; we eschew the 90-minute pizza place (“not worth it,” according to locals), and dive into Isabel Eiscafé for superior ice cream.

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Dogs enjoy the spring weather too, as Mary discovers on her accidental bike ride through the largest off-leash dog park in Berlin. In the same park, there’s Jagdschloss Grunewald  (palace) and Grunewaldsee (lake).

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It’s still chilly in the morning, but Lisa bundles up in brighter colors for her bike commute:

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And more flowers to celebrate spring!

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

Biking Mallorca Hills

Mary loves to bike uphill in Mallorca.

One beautiful sunny day, I head west to explore new territory in the hills above the town of Artá I didn’t expect a false flat, or gradual climb on the way to Artá. I also didn’t expect a guy drafting behind me. But he is a friendly gent who speaks Catalan to the local folks in Artá so we can find the way through the narrow old town streets to our target: the climb to Ermita de Betlem.

We chat in Spanish and ride through some flattish fields and the road turns up again, more steeply. And I drop the friendly gent, “Adeu!” That’s goodbye in Catalan. Up many switchbacks where I call out “Bon Dia” Good Morning to a shepherd tending to his bell-ringing sheep. Views from the way up:

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I also hear American cyclists talking as I pass them. Then a couple of dudes pass me.

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I finally reach the highest point, or “puerto” and another view of the Bay of Alcudia.

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Already a long way from our hotel, I decide not to go down to the Ermita. I chat with the 20 or so Americans who are mostly from Chicago, but one winters in Tucson. Then I head back to Artá and pass the shepherd and his sheep. Tinkling bells of grazing sheep, a few wander in the road.

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The false flat works to my advantage on the way home, and I’m back in time for a delicious lunch in Alcudia.

On another beautiful sunny day, I return to Cap Formentor. It is Good Friday and hundreds of cyclists have the same idea: Italians, Irish, Spanish, Brits, Americans, Germans. There are also more cars than expected, which are often stalled behind cyclists climbing as hard as they can. Amazingly, no horns! No dangerous passes! Beautiful road-sharing by everyone.

There’s an unlit tunnel and I’m happy for car headlights behind me. On the other side of the tunnel, the wind really gusts and adds to the difficulty. With the curving road, which goes up and down all the way to the lighthouse, negotiating the wind and various cyclists of various speeds adds to the challenge.

I’m happy to pause for a moment to commune with the wild Mallorcan goats and take in the cliff-side views:

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At last, I’m at the lighthouse for a beautiful view back along the Cap:

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On the way back, I stop at another overlook and speak to a man from Manchester, England, who says of the wind “It’ll blow the milk right out of your coffee.” We all battled the bluster together!

Another vista:

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On the way back to Alcudia, I pause to enjoy the peaceful beach of Puerto de Pollença:

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Another great day on the bike!

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

Mallorca: Bikes, Sea and Sun

Las Chicas return to Mallorca after a 3-year hiatus. Despite a rainy start, the sun returns on Day 2 and we take to the roads, crowded and busy with cyclists. But who can complain? The sun and the Mediterranean cast a spell, and on two wheels everything in the world is beautiful.

We ride around Bahia de Alcudia to one  of our favorite Mediterranean overlooks in Can Picafort. On the way, new sculptures augment the sea view.

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A04E2A80-BC22-48A4-8E93-010EBBD0FFB7View across the bay back toward the Port of Alcudia:

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On our second day of riding, we follow the coast roads around the Bahia de Pollença, first on hills with wild Majorcan goats. We relax on the pebbled beach, small waves rippling over the stones, making us want to nap. Even people in wetsuits find the water too cold for swimming.

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A quick lunch stop behind the medieval walls of old town Alcudia, then a pleasant coast back down to the Port and our hotel.

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We finish the day dining alfresco with friends from our Barcelona days.

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Las Chicas spend the majority of our day on bikes or walking by the sea.  Cyclists are everywhere. We ride in the bike lane on 2-lane highways, quieter rural roads, and our favorite, Ecovies, small farm roads with very few cars.

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Unexpectedly we meet friends on the road.

We return to the sea every chance we get. But we only view the water from dry land. It is too early to enjoy the warm waters of the Mediterranean.

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© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Agua y Sol / Eau et soleil

Water and sun, Barcelona to Provence.

Fall break: themes and scenes, water and sun, food and fun, art and history and bikes. We blog via paradigm shift, like a post-modern novel that jumps hither and thither, we hope to warm your November wherever you may be.

Up first: Water and sun. Barcelona and Provence make the perfect couple and inspire and replenish us.

Ah, the Mediterranean in Barcelona …

The beach in Barceloneta and Assumpta and Melba at Port Vell.

The fountains of Aix-en-Provence.  My favorite on Cours Mirabeau,

IMG_7099Fontaine D’Eau Chaude. 1754. Nickname “Mossy”

IMG_7103Fontaine Des 9 Canons, 1691

IMG_7104Fontaine De La Rotonde, 1860

IMG_7159Place et Fontaine D’Albertas, 1912

IMG_7153Fontaine des Bagniers, 1687. Bronze of Cezanne.

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Pont aux lions bridge, Arles, France,1868. Bombed in WWII. 

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Pont Saint-Benezet (Pont d’Avignon)

From the Rhone River to Avignon to the sunny Ochre Region, Rousillion:

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Last stop Barcelona:

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A walk with Marta and Elena in Collserola Park.

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Fountain of Demeter, in Plaça de la Virreina, our old Grácia neighborhood

We take back with us: sun on our skin, sand on our toes, sunlight bouncing off the river and into our eyes, the sound of trickling pebbles beneath retreating waves, and happy fountains from centuries past.

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2017