From no-nonsense simplicity to gastronomical science, Madrid takes its food reputation, and by food I mean meat, very seriously. Whether it be a slice of jamon between two bits of bread or tender slivers of beef blowtorched to the minute level of char, you can be sure this is a city where meat in all its forms, cuts and history, is glorified to an almost revered state.
As we rode into Madrid one of the first things we saw was a gigantic banner hanging from City Hall simply stating “Refugees Welcome”. It was a heartwarming yet sober reminder of the Syrian crisis on the forefront of the international arena, that is currently dividing countries, politics and people.
Ever since France we had been cycling just ahead of the leaves changing colour. The last few Spanish towns had only one or two trees changing, glimpses of yellow and red, but this was the first real sighting of the full Autumn spectacle.
Bárdenas Reales is a semi-desert landscape covering over 42,000 hectares in southeast Navarre. Made up of clay, chalk and sandstone, years of erosion has sculpted almost lunar effects, full of gullies, plateaux and cliffs. The first thing we came across were abandoned cave houses cut into the cliffs, now housing swallows in the hundreds.
We left the Spanish coastline, making our way inland towards Pamplona. The map showed nothing but mountains all around us so we were expecting hellish inclines. Instead the inclines never appeared as the road simply followed the river, weaving between the hills, leaving perfectly flat riding for us to enjoy.
“This Spanish city holds the second highest Michelin stars per capita in the world with fifteen stars awarded across eight restaurants for their exceptional and outstanding cuisine,” Cleave paraphrased as we researched which direction we should next cycle to. My ears immediately pricked up. Say what now? How soon can we get there?