After a long sabbatical, I’m back with another blog post.
So, living with Jordi for 2 weeks in Balaguer, Spain was a great experience. He is such an interesting person, filled with a lot of wisdom and knowledge to share with those who are open and willing to listen. He is a quiet man who lives alone but his mind and ideas are really worth a closer look. First of all, he is an inspiration to everyone who comes in contact with him. Jordi is the epitome of living ecologically friendly. His huge farm and orchard are 100% organic and he is extremely energy conscious, I have never met anyone who conserves and reuses the way he does. He also grows an array of plants in his apartment that can be used for medicinal purposes, and would include them in every meal we ate! The meals he prepared are worthy of an entire blog post, as well. Three full meals were included every single day of the week, even on weekends when we weren’t working his land. HUGE, gut busting, delicious meals, that were 100% vegetarian or vegan made almost entirely from veggies, fruits and legumes from his land. Casey and I pretty much drained his whole honey supply from his bee hives within the 2 weeks we stayed, by the way. Don’t judge us but we are, in fact, honey addicts. The meals were well earned, though. We worked hard while we were there. What I liked most about the work was that Jordi made sure we learned and did as much as possible. We harvested many fruits and veggies, some of which I had never heard of before like a chayote and a quince. We also pruned olive trees, shucked corn, helped make olive pate (YUMMYYYY), worked with spices and learned learned learned. We learned so much about organic farming techniques and we also learned a lot about Catalan culture. As I said, Jordi always had something to teach us. He’s hosted over 1000 people from all over the world and really involves himself in the community by volunteering at the hospital in Lleida and working with the organization Slow Food.
Another great thing about staying with Jordi was the heavy dose of culture we got there. During our stay there were three more HelpX helpers that arrived to help Jordi. First to arrive was Aaron who is originally from Cambridge, England but had been living in Portugal for the past two years working on farms and living off the land, he walked (yes… WALKED) to Jordi’s from Barcelona. Aaron was a riot and a whole lot of fun to hang out with a work with. We were able to relate with him a lot, Casey with their similarities in humor and me with our love for Tom Robbins. The next two people that arrived were two girls from the Czech Republic names Veronica and Barbara + their little doggy names YoshiTamagoochie… or whatever his name was haha. They were also a joy to have and we learned so much about their country and culture. However, the greatest cultural experience we had while staying in Balaguer was definitely having the opportunity to speak with 6 different English classes at the local school. What a fun and rewarding experience it was. It was also rather enlightening to see what some of the younger Catalan youth thought of America, Hamburgers and Barak Obama were always brought up and I thought we were very well received from each class we spoke with. I will never forget that experience and will value everything that Jordi made available to us while we stayed with him.
After we left Jordi’s we took a train ride to Barcelona and stayed the weekend in a great hostel situated right in the center of the city. Hostel Layetana was situated next to a famous cathedral designed by Gaudi, the architect that has designed many of the most eccentric and world famous buildings in Barcelona. What we loved about Barcelona was the entertainment around every corner and the fact that it is the Mecca of culture in Catalonia. We were extremely lucky to be in Barcelona during The International Day of Climate Action or Day 350. The number 350 is a call to the world to cap the carbon dioxide emissions at 350 parts per million. Casey and I went to a demonstration outside of the Centre D’Art Santa Monica. There were at least 15 different Drum and Bass groups from all over Spain rallying people with their music. In between each group, art students gave speeches in Spanish, Catalan and English; representing the fact that it is an international environmental issue. The city was electric, beautiful and brilliant. The 85 degree weather was splendid and the constant threat of theft from the gypsies kept us on our toes.
We left Barcelona on Sunday, the 25th of October and headed east along Costa Brava, one of the most beautiful cost lines in Spain. About 11 kilometers of this road is also coined as the most dangerous stretches of roads to travel on. Clearly, we made it out scathe free, but it was definitely hectic for that brief 11 km. We made it about 70 km that day and decided to find a place to camp and a restaurant to get some food. We scoped some sites and headed to the nearest bar. While we were eating we met a guy by the name of Nissan from Morocco and after having some disturbing conversations with him about Morroccan and Spanish sentiment towards the American public, he invited us to spend the night at his friend, Ali’s house. We were a little apprehensive at first because of the context of the conversation but I think the apprehension was accredited to the fact that there is a language barrier and that, as we later realized, he tended to over exaggerate a bit. It was an enlightening conversation, non the less, and we were so grateful for his and Ali’s generosity. Ali was a great host and it was definitely cool meeting someone from Senegal, too.
We left the Costa Brava region the next morning, after Nissan and Ali took us out for breakfast and continued to trek north east. We biked about 45 kilometers and found ourselves in a town called Girona. We were immediately struck by its unique beauty. It is unlike any other town in Spain that we had been; the architecture is very medieval and resonates a strong Roman influence. Girona is also a college town, and we were very excited to see so many people our age. We were on our way to Figures that day, but we decided that Girona was way too cool to pass up. So cool, in fact, that we decided to spend 3 nights and almost 4 days there. If I could choose any city in Spain to live, Girona would hands down, be the place. Never mind the fact that the expense of living in that town is the highest in Spain. We were also lucky to arrive during their weeklong festival of the city’s patron saint. We met so many wonderful people during our stay. Shout outs go to: O’Shane from Ireland who gave us some tips on some places we needed to visit before we biked into France, another to Robert from Poland who could charm your socks off with his didgeridoo playing, stories of hitchhiking all over the world and his obsession with any and all kinds of piercings. Our fondest shout out goes to John from Canada, however. John was an amazingly hospitable and genuinely open hearted. He used to live in Florida but moved to Spain with his boyfriend so that they could get married and live a more relaxed life. John worked at a bar in the city center and we met while we drank a few beers and surfed the internet at the bar. He is a wonderful conversationalist; we all really hit it off and decided to go to the festival together where there were carnival rides and a huge stage with live music. He even let us lock up our bikes while we all went out and he also let us take showers in his beautiful apartment. I loved just being in his company and consider him a good friend.
Basically, I would recommend that anyone going to Spain make sure they seek out a couple nights stay in Girona. If at all possible, I would also recommend camping in the John Lennon Gardens, where Casey and I spent 3 nights. It was absolutely gorgeous and you couldn’t ask for a safer or more beautiful spot to camp, despite the fact that it is totally and 100% illegal. Some other highlights from Girona include, the 100 person bike-bar-crawl, the live music we heard every single night we stayed there, meeting other touring cyclists and of course, experiencing all of this with the best companion I could ask for on this journey; Casey Slaughter Stanton.
Although there is still more to report, since I am writing this from the beautiful south of France, I’ll let Casey fill you all in on the rest. Until next time, I am sending a lot of love to those I miss and to those who will hopefully be inspired to embark on their own special life changing journey.
P.S. Will be posting more pictures this week 🙂
Map of the bicycle journey — Keep in mind we trained from Balaguer to Barcelona (and bussed, and then trained.)
Have a Larger Map for Supper