Sunday, 20 February 2011

Spring is in the air

At the moment, my professional life is a whirl. Hardly did I return from my skiing holiday that I was snowed under with work, which seems to be par for the course for me. And today, although I had a substantial workload to deal with, I decided to take the old girl out for a spin and actually have a normal Sunday: i.e. not working.

I chose my destination very much at the last moment, and decided to go down to the "Mas del Plata" residential estate, which is some 40 kilometres or so inland from Tarragona. My aim wasn't to go house hunting, but instead to visit a landmark that has made this estate famous the world over for Anime fans: a 15 metre high resin and fibreglass statue of Mazinger Z (for those of you who are unfamiliar with Japanese anime series of the Seventies, read this and all will be explained: - ed.). When I set out from home, the weather didn't look very promising, but by the time I peeled off the motorway at El Vendrell, there was hardly a grey cloud in the sky, and there was a promise of a fine day.

As I took to the back roads towards my destination, I remembered that I would be passing not far away from another curious landmark: the Sanctuary of Montferri, a small chapel built just before the Spanish Civil War and aimed to celebrate two of Catalonia's great treasures: the mountain of Montserrat and the architect Antoni Gaudí. So I took to an even smaller back road and finally arrived in the car park, to find myself surrounded by coach loads of OAPs.

I had to scare the blue-rinse brigade away for this one!
Photograph: © The Thruxtonian/Marc Michon, Feb. 2011

I was going to take  a photo of the inside of the chapel, but it was heaving with blue-rinses and anyway I was expected to part with one Euro to go in so I thought "well sod that!", went back to my bike and rode off towards my goal. But I was soon side-tracked again: my route passed next to the Santes Creus Monastery, a jewel of the Spanish branch of the Cistercian order. So I stopped again and whipped out the camera. In the back of my mind, I was beginning to understand how a Japanese tourist thinks...

Pilgrim's Progress: Santes Creus Monastery
Photograph: © The Thruxtonian/Marc Michon, Feb. 2011

After having taken two or three photographs from a safe distance - I didn't want to be assailed by hordes of oldies - I resumed my ride. By now, as I rode past groves of almond trees that were already in full blossom, I began to feel somewhat warm under my Belstaff jacket and thick sweater - Spring was definitely in the air here in north-eastern Spain.

Nature coming to life again...
Photograph: © The Thruxtonian/Marc Michon, Feb. 2011

At last, I arrived at my destination: Mas del Plata. It's been so long since I last visited the place that I had forgotten how awful the streets were: if i had fillings, they would all have fallen out because of the potholes - I swear that some could swallow a small car whole! I arrived in the clearing over which the Mazinger Z statue presides and let out a whoop of joy: I was the only person there - usually on a Sunday the place is heaving with geeks and bikers. Unfortunately, my sense of victory was short-lived: I had barely wheeled the bike into position in front of the statue when I heard engine noises, and a whole gaggle of sightseers appeared as if by enchantment! I had to draw on unknown reserves of patience to be able to take a few decent photographs.

Metal Mickey's big brother
Photograph: © The Thruxtonian/Marc Michon, Feb. 2011

Don't ask me how this residential estate came to have a statue commemorating the mechanical hero of a Seventies Japanese animation series, but at least it's put it on the map, potholed streets and all!

I want to break free!
Photograph: © The Thruxtonian/Marc Michon, Feb. 2011

Black Bess is hailed triumphantly by Mazinger Z
Photograph: © The Thruxtonian/Marc Michon, Feb. 2011

Now that I had reached my goal, I could now concentrate on riding my bike through some lovely twisty back roads to get back home.

You can look at the route by clicking here.

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