Barcelona

I never thought I would have to mark myself safe on Facebook but now I have. It was hard to understand what was happening in my city and when a friend texted me to ask if I was ok, telling me a van had driven on to La Rambla and into people, I didn’t think much of it at first. We even continued chatting for a bit, until the next friend contacted me, and I realised that I should get in touch with my parents and read the news – in that order.

There wasn’t much information to begin with but during the afternoon I was following the live updates and got more and more information. At first it was believed that the attack could be related to the anti-tourist movement here in Barcelona – they have carried out aggressive attacks before – so it seemed to fit the bill. La Rambla is the most touristic place in Barcelona, after all. Little by little, the picture got clearer and it was clarified a terror attack by ISIS and nothing to do at all with the anti-tourist movement, you know the rest I suppose – it has been all over the news. It is also known that what happened at La Rambla, and later on the promenade in Cambrils, were just shadows of what was planned by the terror cell in Ripoll, if something had not gone wrong when they attempted to build bombs.

Enjoying a coffee in Ripoll on our way towards Figueres
Enjoying a coffee in Ripoll on our way towards Figueres
Up, up to the mountain ahead
Up, up to the mountain ahead

We had passed Ripoll on our camping holiday a week prior to the terror attack – it is a beautiful little town by the foot of the mountains. We were coming down from the Pyrenees, where we had met horrible rainstorms unexpectedly and had to splash out on a hotel. We were riding the lovely road N-260 towards Figueres and stopped in Ripoll for a stroll and a coffee. By then, the weather had changed and was now fantastic, blue sky and sunshine, and after the weather the previous day we truly enjoyed feeling the warmth from the sun. Life was beautiful and we were looking forward to some more sunshine and, in addition, culture – Figueres is Salvador Dalí’s home town and, while I’m not an art connoisseur by any means, he is my favourite artist. After enjoying the surroundings of Figueres, seeing Dalí’s house in Portlligat, and enjoying the night tour with complementary cava at the Dalí Theatre-Museum. Apart from the fact that I had smashed an egg in my top case, I’m inclined to say that it was a brilliant substitute plan and saved us freezing our bums off. After this detour, we returned to the mountains and what we had set out to do, namely check out the little Spanish enclave Livia and the tax haven Andorra. While I’ve passed the Pyrenees many times on my way to WIMA rallies further north, I have never really had time to criss-cross and take the small roads and go exploring. Now was the time for that and we fully enjoyed it.

Empuriabrava. Like a little Venice built for rich boat people on holiday.
Empuriabrava. Like a little Venice built for rich boat people on holiday. Interesting place for an afternoon stroll, would I go back – no, would not think so.
Gala and myself, happy reunion. In Madrid we lived a couple of years by Plaza de Dali and then I could see this sculpture in a larger scale from our window.
Gala and myself, happy reunion. In Madrid we lived a couple of years by Plaza de Dali and then I could see this sculpture in a larger scale from our window.
Welcome to Livia, the Spanish enclave in France - where supermarkets are open on Sundays. We explored this little plot of land for a whole afternoon and found lots of interesting facts, however we're still wondering how the telephone and internet lines works.
Welcome to Livia, the Spanish enclave in France – where supermarkets are open on Sundays. We explored this little plot of land for a whole afternoon and found lots of interesting facts, however we’re still wondering how the telephone and internet lines works.
Out exploring in Livia, you can see the major town in the valley below.
Out exploring in Livia, you can see the major town in the valley below.

Although Andorra is full of motorcycle gear shops, we resisted temptation and made a mental note to return next year when our helmets will need replacing – I  had saved 200 euros buying my current helmet there a few years back. I did buy Christopher a packet of Haribo, though, which he was very excited about.

I love Andorra! The photo doesn't reveal how cold it was this day, I kept my helmet on due to the wind and I'm wearing two helmet bags under my jackets because I'd forgotten my wind cheater.
I love Andorra! The photo doesn’t reveal how cold it was this day, I kept my helmet on due to the wind and I’m wearing two helmet bags under my jackets because I’d forgotten my wind cheater.
The pyrenes at its best, twisty roads, no traffic and silence - apart from the bells the horses are wearing.
The pyrenes at its best, twisty roads, no traffic and silence – apart from the bells the horses are wearing.

Our original plan was to stay up in the Pyrenees for a couple of weeks but, after finding out about the local annual festivity in our neighbourhood Gracía, we decided to cut our travels short and take advantage of this festival on our doorstep. We also had a long to-do-list since our illegal let has come to an end and we have, for some dubious reasons, been asked to move out at the end of this month. This put us in a bit of a tight spot but we thought we could find a solution for this as well as dealing with some more paperwork and getting the bike serviced all during the week of the festival. This is the background to why we happened to be in the city the afternoon of the terror attack – because of the Festa de Gracía and the boring to-do-list. The festival was amazing, we arrived back on the opening day and I struggled quite a lot to manoeuvre the bike towards our street – the streets were packed with people and dodging pedestrians in party mood, with the bike fully loaded and with Christopher on the pillion seat, was quite a challenge. But as soon as we had parked and unloaded the bike we were in party mood too – we had passed the Ghostbusters installment, complete with Mr Stay Puffed, the ghost busters, Zuul and her monsters so we knew we were up for something good. Never in my wildest imagination could I have imagined something grand like this, 22 streets were fully decorated according to themes like King Kong, the jungle, Alpine village, hell, the metamorphis of the butterfly, candy shop, etc. There were stages with live bands on a number of streets and squares and, in addition, outdoor clubs and bars in every corner. All the entertainment was free, everyone was happy. We got ourselves a couple of reusable festival cups and joined the party.

Zuul, my favourite display. This photo was taken towards the end of the week and therefore the fence was filled with memorial messages for the victims of the terror attack.
Zuul, my favourite display. This photo was taken towards the end of the week and therefore the fence was filled with memorial messages for the victims of the terror attack.

However, on Thursday afternoon the whole city went quiet, all we could hear was the police helicopter, that and the beeping of messages coming in asking if we were ok. Our flatmates, who had been studying in the living room, were also inundated with messages. They switched the TV on to discover what was happening. The festival noise that we had heard through our open window was gone, the streets were empty, the lights off, the bars closed. It felt surreal and the only way we could deal with that was to leave the house and go out. The purpose of terror is to make people afraid and to make them change their lives because of their fear. Therefore, we decided that we would do what we had planned, i.e. go out for drinks. A few other people had the same plan as us and there were a few bars open who catered for us – but the city was quiet and Barcelona is never ever quiet, not at any time day or night is it quiet. The following day we joined the masses for a minute of silence at Placa Catalunya, paying our respect to the dead and injured. Now the reality felt a bit more real, there were no speeches, no words were uttered, the only thing that finally broke the silence was the spontaneous clapping of the people and the chanting of “No tinc por” – which is Catalan for “I’m not afraid”. This is important I believe, to never give power to evil forces, regardless of what form they take, never let them make you afraid. So, we decided to not head back up into the mountains but rather take advantage of what we have in this beautiful city during our last week here. Although most of the things on my to-to-list are still undone due to the general state of things here, it seems like we have landed ourselves a winter contract for a flat in a seaside village. We’re finally getting out of the rut of illegal flatshares and have something for ourselves. I look forward to that. If that wasn’t good enough, for the first time ever my bike will have a garage.

One of many memorials along La Rambla. It is still so hard to believe that this could happen in my city.
One of many memorials along La Rambla. It is still so hard to believe that this could happen in my city.

WIMA Rally Estonia

The activities were endless and the week passed very quickly: Live band and dancing every night, yummy food and tasty drinks, treasure hunt and visits to manor houses, bog walk and swamp water tastings, parade with 200 motorbikes, castle visit and medieval culture, fundraising in aid of women less fortunate, camping and crispy cold nights… and most important of all, meeting old friends and making new ones. This is what I love the most about WIMA rallies.

This year, for the first time, I had to fly in to a European rally. Sadly, my bike had to be stored away in Barcelona and I got on a flight and flew the 3300 kilometres to Tallinn. This might not be common knowledge, but the vacation periods differ vastly in Europe and in Spain the holiday period is August, so when I return home my official holiday begins and I’ll be heading up into the Pyrenees for riding and camping, taking advantage of the lovely mountains we have so close to home. But I’m getting ahead of myself. At the moment, I’m still in Sweden visiting my parents, my sister and her baby, relaxing with friends and savouring the good memories from the WIMA rally. Since I was working until the Saturday before the rally, I had the pleasure of getting home from work every evening checking Facebook, following others’ journeys and reading about good fortunes and motorbike breakdowns. I could see how friends from all over the world slowly made their way towards Estonia. I could see what weather they had and where they were staying for the night. Likewise, now after the rally, I can follow my friends, en route back home, with pleasant detours to make the most of the journey and finding enjoyable roads to ride and places to see while I spend time with my parents, who I haven’t seen in a year.

Everyone makes their own memories, here are some of mine:

The venue had a large field for camping and I was happy to use it, there was a hotel for those who sleep better in a bed. The night were insanely could though - coming from a temperature above 30 it was quite a shock for me. Luckily, I was saved by friends who lent me a blanket and thermals. I always sleep best when my nose is cold, but I want to keep my body warm.
The venue had a large field for camping and I was happy to use it, there was a hotel for those who sleep better in a bed. The nights were insanely could though – coming from a temperature above 30 it was quite a shock for me. Luckily, I was saved by friends who lent me a blanket and thermals. I always sleep best when my nose is cold, but I want to keep my body warm.
Svata Vatra - one of the amazing live bands we danced to. I even got their CD. i love bands who use lots of strange instrument, if they can do it in a rock style even better.
Svata Vatra – one of the amazing live bands we danced to. I even got their CD. I love bands who use lots of strange instruments – if they can do it in a rock style, even better.
Liv and Val - my team for the treasure hunt. We had an excellent day trying to be clever and resisting the temptation of googleling the questions. The countryside in the north west of Estonia is beautiful, and as you can see - the weather was windy :)
Liv and Val – my team for the treasure hunt. We had an excellent day trying to be clever and resisting the temptation of googling the questions. The countryside in the north west of Estonia is beautiful, and as you can see – the weather was windy 🙂
A beautiful place to stop for a coffe. Some come and some leave, there was constant movement along the treasure hunt route. Here is Syl on her way just as we arrive.
A beautiful place to stop for a coffee. Some come and some leave, there was constant movement along the treasure hunt route. Here is Syl on her way just as we arrive.
How many suitcases are there? I counted them 4 times and got a different number each time. The suitcases symbolises the amount of luggage the emmigraters had with them.
How many suitcases are there? I counted them 4 times and got a different number each time. The suitcases symbolise the amount of luggage the emigrants had with them.
Estonia is famous for its manor houses, we saw a few of them and I must admit that they are impressive and the gardens are fantastic. Worth mentioning is that you can stay in this manor house, there are ensuites as well as dorm beds and the price is not bad for what you get. In comparison, it is about the same as a hostel in central london but I belive the ambiance is a lot grander.
Estonia is famous for its manor houses, we saw a few of them and I must admit that they are impressive and the gardens are fantastic. I enjoyed walking around the grounds trying to find the facts required for the treasure hunt. Worth mentioning is that you can stay in this manor house – there are ensuites as well as dorm beds and the price is not bad for what you get. In comparison, it is about the same as a hostel in central London but I believe the ambience is a lot grander.
Again, impressive grounds and here we were invited to view the rooms as well. I enjoyed walking around the grounds trying to find the facts required for the treasure hunt.
Again, impressive grounds and here we were invited to view the rooms as well. I enjoyed walking around the grounds trying to find the facts required for the treasure hunt.
A seminar on traffic culture in different countries was offered and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Here is Keiko, national president of WIMA Japan, talking about Japanese trafic culture, prejudice against motorcyclists and potential road sign confusion.
A seminar on traffic culture in different countries was offered and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Here is Keiko, national president of WIMA Japan, talking about Japanese trafic culture, prejudice against motorcyclists and potential road sign confusion.
Bog walk - here you needed to be light on your foot and only step where the guide allowed us to, or we could disapear into the bog. An amazing nature experience. The water was clean and purifying, we could swim if we wanted, too cold for me although some were brave enough to dip in. I settled for a drink from the water and a splash on my face.
Bog walk – here you needed to be light on your foot and only step where the guide allowed us to, or we could disapear into the bog. An amazing nature experience. The water was clean and purifying, we could swim if we wanted, too cold for me although some were brave enough to dip in. I settled for a drink from the water and a splash on my face.
The parade is my favourite activity during a WIMA rally. Here is Margaret from Australia flying her ossie flag.
The parade is my favourite activity during a WIMA rally. Here is Margaret from Australia flying her Aussie flag.
The Swedes are dressed uniformly with pink WIMA Sweden vests for this occation.
The Swedes are dressed uniformly with pink WIMA Sweden vests for this occasion.
Chris from WIMA Austria volunteered to fly the banner during the parade, here with Maura, national president of WIMA Poland and my good friend Fokje from the Netherlands. We all come together under the WIMA banner :)
Chris from WIMA Austria volunteered to fly the banner during the parade, here with Maura, national president of WIMA Poland and my good friend Fokje from the Netherlands. We all come together under the WIMA banner 🙂
The week passed so quickly and too soon it was all over. Then we missed each other so much so we got to gether for an after party :) Thank you Kaialiisa for inviting me!
The week passed so quickly and too soon it was all over. Then we missed each other so much so we got together for an after party 🙂 Thank you Kaialiisa for inviting me!

This was the Estonian WIMA rally represented in pictures, I wish I had more photos to share with you, as always, the photos don’t do the event justice.

Below, I’ll share some links where WIMA and WIMA members been interviewed by the media:

From the pre-rally which I sadly missed. Pat and Sheonagh from WIMA GB were interviewd by the local newspaper in Pärnu. 
From the pre-rally which I sadly missed. Pat and Sheonagh from WIMA GB were interviewed by the local newspaper in Pärnu.

On the local TV channel TV3: WIMA Rally parade and visit to the Rakvere castle. Contains interviews with Keiko, the national president of WIMA Japan, Elsbeth member of WIMA Switzerland, Liv, member of WIMA Australia and Anneli, national president of WIMA Estonia. It starts with an advert, then scroll forward to minutes 21.20 – 24.54 for the relevant section of the programme.

Photos from the parade in the local online newspaper Virumaa Terataja.

Interview with Sheonagh from WIMA GB in Virumaa Terataja.

Before the parade, a little jig. Kindly posted on YouTube by Veronica Vefur.

Coverage of the parade with some great footage in the local car magazine Accelerista. (Thanks to Gerli, WIMA Estonia, for sending me this link and the following!)

YouTube video by Hannes Arus, showing the entire group when arriving in Rakvere finishing the parade.

And the media attention doesn’t end here, members of WIMA Curacao were interviewed at the Jögevatreff, Estonia’s largest bikemeet which took place the weekend after our WIMA rally.

Lastly, I am proud to announce that I have been elected international president of WIMA. I look forward to working further with female riders worldwide and strengthening our sisterhood. Perhaps less time for the blog, but more time connecting with women motorcyclists.

Thank you Carola, president of WIMA Sweden for this photo!
Thank you Carola, president of WIMA Sweden for this photo!

Next year, our international rally will be held in Finland and I look forward to travelling there and meeting my friends again. But WIMA is more than a one week rally once a year – it is an endless possibility of networking, building international friendship and connecting with female riders all over the world.

Updated with new links to different media coverage, you’re welcome to contact me if you know of anything else I could add and share with our WIMA community.

L’Amistat – not really

I felt a great sense of achievement being able to screw my Spanish registration back on to my bike, something that not only means that I can ride legally here, since I pay road tax and insurance in Spain, but also makes my bike blend better with local bikes and therefore is less of a target for thieves. (I had three break-ins in my top case within two weeks when I first came in January – then I started bringing it in with me.)

Now I’m pondering another conundrum, that of racism and the fact that we live in a region of Spain with very strong nationalism. We also happen to live in Gracia, a part of Barcelona which used to be its own town, before Barcelona grew and swallowed it up. It’s now a district within the city. The locals here don’t like foreigners, they think we destroy their Gracia and the signs of this are evident on banners, stickers, signs and loud protests. When we first came to Gracia we knew nothing about this, we simply fell in love with the quirky streets, cosy bars and lovely squares. Then it started to dawn on us, along with the multitude of local festivities celebrated within districts we also noticed the signs saying that foreigners we’re not welcome, and the stickers stating “Tourists go home”.

Tourists go home, you're destroying our neigbourhood.
Tourists go home, you’re destroying our neigbourhood.

 

Because summer is so hot and I want my bike to be parked in the shade as much as possible, I’ve parked it outside the building where we live. It is a narrow street and there the bike only gets a couple of hours scorching sun per day. This is how locals park as well, in Barcelona there are plenty of designated motorbike parking but still there are more bikes than parking spaces so people park their scooters and motorbikes on the side of the streets as well and it’s legal to do so. Next to where my bike is parked is a bar, it is called L’Amistat – which means friendship in Catalan – I find this ironic considering how I was met when approaching them.

It was San Juan, one of many celebrations that involve firecrackers and rowdy partying on the streets. The owners of L’Amistat were preparing a communal dinner, setting up a table on the street outside the bar, and I kindly approached them intending to ask if my bike was in their way and if so I would move it for them. Before even opening my mouth, I was told that the bar was closed, this was followed by the clear message that they didn’t want me or my bike in their neighbourhood and in fact if I left it where it was parked it would be burnt by their fire crackers and they wouldn’t care.

My bike - I hope the spanish registration plate protects it from racism
My bike parked to the left – I hope its spanish registration plate protects it from racism

This was shocking, I’ve never personally been exposed to racism and their hostility made me rather upset. This is the street where I live, I pay tax and I contribute to the society just as much as everyone else. I moved my bike for safety – we’ve seen a car burn during another festivity so wasn’t willing to risk it and judging from the loud bangs during the night and the debris on the street the following morning it was fortunate that I had.

You can see these stickers everywhere in the neighbourhood
You can see these stickers everywhere in the neighbourhood
Both in English and Catalan
Both in English and Catalan
And with tourists the locals mean everyone who isn't originally form here and it is a common belief that we foreginers corupt the market because we can pay higher rent.
And with tourists the locals mean everyone who isn’t originally from the area and it is a common belief that foreginers corupt the market because we can pay higher rent.

Please note that I’m not writing this for people to take pity on me, this is merely a reflection on everyday racism and people who think they have a greater right than others to be somewhere. This was one racist incident and I can only imagine what it does do to people who gets exposed to it every day.