"Avoid the coast!", He warned. "The winds are strong and gusty."
The weather report confirmed his advice, further adding that a coming storm will drench the whole region. If we were to work our way a little further south we will likely run into seasonal high winds near the Mediterranean Sea which the French call "le Mistral". The Mistral winds can average speeds of about 50 kilometers an hour during the day, which is not a lot of fun on a motorcycle.
Taking a look at our options, we decided to head to Spain for a few days.
Zaragoza is within a day's ride and it's an interesting place to hang out for a few days. We will ride over the Pyrenees into Spain until we get to Lerida (Lleida) then north to Zaragoza on the longest, straightest, boringest stretch of road we have been on so far this trip.
It's a plan.
The day is fair and sunny as we leave Toulouse, heading west on the highway through flat corn-field farmland; to our left we can see the silhouettes of the mountains like layered gray torn-paper silhouettes against the sky. Within an hour we are heading south, towards the border between France and Spain and into the mountains.
The pass is not particularly high, but beautiful. The Pyrenees are mostly composed of masses of hard gray granite rock, which is fairly resistant to erosion, wild and sparsely populated. While there is not much in the way of snow cap, we pass by many small streams and mountain torrents and through dramatic narrow rocky gorges.
Once out of Lerida, we hit the highway. The land has almost completely flattened out and is brown and dry and dusty; the road stretches out in front of us, straight as far as the eye can see. Within a few hours we are in Zaragoza.
Zaragoza is not on the international tourist trail, though it has many things worth seeing. The main draw for visitors is probably the beautiful Basilica del Pilar, set on the banks of the river Ebro. There are also many remains from the Romans (who gave the town its name) which one can visit; Forum, baths, ampitheatre, port, city walls. There are also many buildings that show the mark of the Moorish occupation; such as churches with beautiful Islamic style designs on the outside and bell towers that resemble the square minarets of the Moors.
|Moorish decoration on the side of a church|