Spain beckons as Easter break nears, but budgets are tight and memories of the persistent truck drivers from our last trip make hitchhiking less than appealing. The lightbulb goes on when Judy from Newark spots an ad for a 10-year-old Lambretta motor scooter on the AGE bulletin board. Neither of us has ever driven one, but we try it out in a large parking lot and I only tip over once. Its owner extolls the pleasures of scooter travel and Judy, the more experienced driver by far , convinces me I’ll get the hang of it. The price is right. We pool our funds and take the plunge. Wheels! We name it George.
Two weeks. We want to squeeze in Barcelona and Madrid, but it will be tight. On the map it looks daunting – over 300 miles to Barcelona and about the same from Barcelona to Madrid. We set off, sans helmets, side compartments stuffed with essentials, Judy driving. The weather is good as we head south, exhilarated by the freedom of our new wheels. We spend the night on the French coast, and shortly after noon the next day cross into Spain!
As we leave one of these villages our back tire goes flat. We push the Lambretta back to a cafe and are directed to a mechanic not too far away. By the time the tire is fixed it’s too late to go further, so we find a cheap room. The owner of the cafe is friendly and we eat well – bread smeared with olive oil. garlic and tomato sauce, and local sausages. The wine is good too.
We make it to Barcelona the next day with no further mishaps. It’s a lovely city of broad boulevards, but by far the most amazing sites are the buildings by Antoni Gaudi. We’ve never seen anything like them and are stunned at our first sight of the unfinished church of the Sagrada Familia. Begun in 1883, it’s the most ambitious and famous of Gaudi’s works. (Funded privately, estimates are that it will be completed in 2027.) We wonder at the mind that envisaged the free form shapes and spires that take your breath away.
Dr. Seuss characters would feel right at home.
Reluctantly we leave Barcelona and head for Madrid, taking the busy main highway to save time. We’re very lucky the traffic is light, because our rear tire blows. The only injury is my dislocated thumb, swelling fast and pretty painful. We find a garage that can fix the tire and a doctor who assures me there are no bones broken. He gives my thumb a jerk to put it back in place and adds a splint and bandage. It’s obvious I won’t be driving the scooter. So much for Madrid, but we’re not that disappointed – just as glad not to put another 600 miles on George.
Instead we cross our fingers that the tires will hold, and head North following the winding interior mountain road that will take us over the Pyrenees. More stunning scenery. At the mountain hotel where we spend the night, the owners cook us dinner and then serenade us with Catalan music.
Though all the people we meet are friendly and always willing to help, they shake their heads when they learn we’ve come from Grenoble, and make it clear, despite the language barrier, that they think the two Americanas on the motor scooter are crazy. They could be right.