Following our good-byes to Martin and Joy, our hosts for the motorcycle tour of the Canary Islands, Howard and I boarded the plane for Malaga, Spain early Saturday morning, 28 February 2015. We had a very tight connection at the Madrid airport for our connecting flight to Malaga. The plane from Gran Canaria was late in departing. Fortunately for us, the Gran Canaria basketball team was on our flight and was also flying to Malaga for a game with the 1st ranked Malaga basketball team. Air Europa, our airline carrier, is a sponsor for the Gran Canaria basketball team. They held the plane for us, and the basketball team, in Madrid.
Martin (another Martin) and Ruben, our tour guide and van driver respectively, for our next motorcycle tour of southern Spain and Portugal were waiting for us at baggage claim with big smiles and strong muscles to load all of our gear in the van. This tour is being run by IMT Bike Tours. As of this writing, Martin and Ruben have proven themselves to be the best crew I have ever had on one of my many motorcycle tours: Eager, professional, knowledgeable and willing to do anything for their riders. I would venture a guess that they would take a bullet for rider if need be. At dinner that night we met the other tour members: A gentleman from San Palo, Brazil, a gentleman from New York, US and a couple from Victoria, BC. Everyone has melded well and all have roughly the same riding abilities, which is really important when touring in a small group.
Sunday morning, we were introduced to our motorcycles (all BMWs – my motorcycles of choice). I was placed with a R1200GS (also my motorcycle of choice). My motorcycle in the Canary Islands, a Honda sport touring bike, whilst probably best suited for the Canarian roads, was small and very uncomfortable. The GS is pure perfection. It is also the next generation from the model I currently own. I want a new one. I really want one. I love every minute on the bike.
We rode from Malaga to Granada along the Costa del Sol, stopping at a beachfront restaurant for a lunch of seafood paella, and then into the mountains and the town of Granada. We were on our own for dinner that night so Howard and I chose a restaurant situated on a plaza a couple of blocks from our hotel. Feral children were playing a game of fútbol in the plaza using the outside dining area as the goal. Take a bite of food, defend the goal from an incoming ball. When not targeting the dining public, the players took aim at strollers and baby carriages, occupied or not. Denizens of locals, sat at the edges of the plaza, drinking coffee, smoking and laughing at the head trauma being inflicted on the toddlers of Granada. The owners of the strollers and their contents were not nearly as amused.
Monday was a free day in Granada. Howard and I took the opportunity to tour the Alhambra Palace, the jewel of Granada. It was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-11th century by the Moorish emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. The palace decorations typify the Moorish domination within Spain and ushered in the last great period of Andalusian art in Granada. The isolation from the rest of Islam plus the commercial and political relationship with the Christian kingdoms also influenced building styles.
Following the palace tour, I joined the other riders for a trek to the highest vehicular point of the nearby mountain, Sierra Nevada. Its peak is the highest point of continental Spain, at 3,478 metres (11,410 feet ¾ inches – approximately) above sea level. A popular tourist destination, it is Europe’s most southerly ski resort in an area along the Mediterranean Sea predominantly known for its warm temperatures and abundant sunshine. We took advantage of the abundant sunshine and had an al fresco lunch at the ski resort, replete with hundreds of skiers, snowboarders and snowball throwers.