Cyclists for Cultural Exchange
Is this trip right for you? Read this insider's view
Andalusia, Spain 2019
by Frank Pritchard
Andalusia in southern Spain is the home of bullfighting, flamenco art, Spanish guitar music and jamon serrano. It is a mix of Roman ruins, Arab minarets, and Christian cathedrals. Our adventure and exploration of Spanish culture begins in Sevilla, the capital of Andalusia. Our group comprises over 30 people who come from Australia, California, Canada, China, England, Italy, Japan and Switzerland, and is hosted by our Spanish friends.
Rafa Serrano, the chief organizer of the trip, lets us breathe in the history and culture of southern Spain. His family is from this region of Spain, and goes back over 200 years. Rafa felt that this area with its amazing variety of landscapes, local traditions and architectural styles summarizes a large part of Spanish culture. Those were the reasons he chose Andalusia for a CCE adventure.
A bus takes us from Sevilla through the vast landscape of hills and olive orchards to Sierra Norte de Sevilla Geopark. Our introduction to the area begins with a train tour of the ancient Rio Tento mines and a visit to the famous cave system called Grotto of the Marvels. At the end of the day, we stay at a former mosque, later converted into a monastery, then into a hotel and history museum. The next day, we start pedaling, and from now on, we are observing the horizon from the seats of our bikes, pushing through nature parks, cities, hills and valleys, visiting the most famous tourist attractions, museums, landmarks, and meeting the people of the land. As always, our expectations were to see the country, to meet its people, to reconnect with old friends, meet new ones and have a fun trip. All this comes true, and we learn everything that was so well put in the description of the program, and much more.
Eating traditional food was, of course, one of our favorite experiences. Tapas, paellas, olives, seafood, fish and local delicacies are savored enthusiastically. At one stop, we cooked dinner ourselves, with Massimo serving as chief chef. His carbonara pasta dish was delicious. It was accompanied by a gourmet salad created by Jose, who proved to be as skillful in preparing meals as he was our SAG driver. Everybody else contributed to making it a tasty dinner and a memorable event.
Probably the most memorable and moving event of all was being welcomed in a tiny village to a surprise buffet lunch. The locals had been waiting for us all morning, preparing a magnificent spread of cheeses, bread, sandwiches, fruit and beverages. One of the women had begun to save the eggs from her own chicken a week before our visit, and she proudly presented her basket full of hardboiled eggs on our arrival. All agreed it was a highlight of our trip. Another particularly memorable moment was in Priego de Cordoba, Rafa's ancestral hometown. According to plan, the Mayor was to greet us in the city park. To our surprise, this coincided with a local mobility celebration, where several hundred riders arrived on bicycles, including cycling clubs and a large number of school children. We joined them in a spin about town to demonstrate our joy of non-motorized mobility. That was a very special moment we'll never forget.
In short, the Spanish CCE program exceeded all expectations. Rafa had a wonderful team of friends to accompany us and support this adventure. They took time from their busy lives and came all the way from Galicia to participate in our expedition. Jose served as our faithful SAG driver, Pablo and Almadena kept us on track, Juan rode with us for several days, where he knew the route and guided us competently. They all ensured we were well fed, not lost, and had a great time. It was such a pleasure to have them on the team and include them in our ever-growing international family of friends.