Andalucia, Spain 2003

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Andalucia is ideal cycling country. The countryside is beautiful, the roads are good, and there are lots of cyclists on the roads. Lodging and food are easy to come by and there are some sights that you just don't want to miss.

The crown jewels of Andalucia are the ancient cities of Granada, Cordoba, and Sevilla. The architecture is beautiful, history is palpable, and there is a lot to learn about the roots of the western world. We recommend reading "The Ornament of the World" by Maria Rosa Menocal for an interesting and moving introduction to the history of the area. Another enjoyable book, and a bit lighter, is Washington Irving's "Alhambra Tales." Don't miss the Alhambra in Granada, the Mezquita in Cordoba, or the Cathedral in Sevilla.

Outside the cities, the countryside is largely agricultural and divided among a small number of very large farms. This area of the world never experienced land reform. We spent entire days cycling through nothing but olive groves. We found superb accomodations in rural lodgings, usually Haciendas, and in one case a Franciscan monastary, converted into small hotels.

Andalucia is a gastronomic paradise. Like rural France or Italy, excellent food is part of an ancient lifestyle here and you will find great fare in odd places. In fact it is rare to find mediocre food. We had a formal 3 course lunch in a truck stop along with a group of Spanish truckers, all wearing ties - not something that you see in the USA. Try all the soups and don't miss the wild asparagus in spring.

The roads are generally excellent, but there can be too many trucks. The trucks tend to avoid the main highways because of tolls, leading to the rather ridiculous sight of a busy small country road next to an empty splendid new toll road. The hills, mountains rather, can be a challenge, so be prepared for some steep climbs.

We visited in late December/early January. The temperatures, though pleasant, were a little on the cool side. Early spring might be a better time to visit, for the added warmth, longer days, and more greenery.