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  • Writer's pictureJim Clarahan

IBERIA part 1; Madrid finale, part 2

Week 1 of the Ride 4 Dray Europe 2023 is in the "can", and wow, what a week it has been! This the 2nd official blog of my journey, sharing my gratitude for the warm reception I have experienced everywhere I've been thus far: Madrid > Lisbon > Gibraltar and the few stops in between, most notably - Huelva, Spain. A brief video update recorded at 6am Gib time on coronation day, followed by a series of pics and vids from the week 1.

Picking up where I left off from my final days in Madrid, I am compelled to repeat a big thank you to RSM Spain. Specifically, Irene Blasco, Isabel Marin, Nuria Losa Melendez and Rocio Lorenzo. Isabel is arranging a teleconference with a lady involved with children's cancer in Madrid, with the goal to have the call when I am at either RSM Spain's Barcelona or Valencia offices.

L to R above: Isabel, me, Nuria, Irene and Rocio.

I will come back to my final experiences in Madrid, but first I must fast forward to the Rock, as in Gibraltar (Gib)!

I could not have dreamed of a better finish to week 1, than the day RSM Gibraltar had in store for me. Moe Cohen, CEO, and his crackerjack team including Noemi Jiminez (my main liaison), along with Valerie (office manager), Karishma (head of compliance), Jessica (fiduciary manager) and Liz (receptionist) made me feel right at home with a jam-packed itinerary, including an interview with TV Gib.

Friday started at the Bistro Point Restaurant, on the southern tip of Gib with the panoramic views of the Strait of Gibraltar. Coffee & tea with Margaret Sacarello and her friend Mary. As it turns out, Margaret and I have a parallel story, albeit hers started over thirty years ago when her then, 9-year-old son, Philip, died from Neuroblastoma. Margaret and her husband Anthony started the RICC (Research Into Childhood Cancer) of Gibraltar, to turn their tragic loss into something positive to honor Philip's legacy and to help other children and their families afflicted with cancer. What RICC has accomplished over the past 30-plus years is nothing short of impressive. Thank you, Margaret and Mary for making me feel so welcome in Gib!

Surprise after surprise, RSM Gibraltar, held an internal fundraiser, a coronation tea party from what I understand, and in honor of the Ride 4 Dray, I was privileged to hand to Margaret a check in the amount of 500 pounds made out to the RICC. A grateful and humbling feeling indeed! Team RSM Gibraltar - you guys' ROCK!

Not done yet. After a tour of the office facilities, meeting the entire team, and fish 'n chips with Moe, were the lead up to the biggest surprise of the day - the Harley-Davidson Club of Gibraltar. The guys led me on a "ride the rock" cancer ride, a very cool photo op at the iconic lighthouse on the southern tip of Gib, and then onto their club for sharing stories from the road and passing on tips for my journey ahead. Forever grateful: Derek, John, Adrian, Morgan, Fernando, Guillermo, Douglas, Ian and T.G.

L to R: Morgan, Adrian (ride capt'n), Moe, Fernando, John, me, Guillermo, Derek (club Prez), Johnny (club VP), Douglas and Ian. Not pictured - T.G. back at the club preparing for our arrival.

Back to my final day in MAD. Starting with a self-guided tour at the bullfighting ring, tapas at Manero and finishing the day joining a Scottish stag party. Somehow one of the guy's swapped shirts with me and is now the only Scotsman with a Ride 4 Dray t-shirt.

Goodbyes to my friends at Hotel Palacio del Retiro, Madrid (Jose and David, not pictured Juan Carlos - off work on departure day). Onward to El Escorial y Puerto de la Cruze Verde for views as delicious as my hot ham & cheese with coke lunch. Then westward to Lisbon, turning into the longest ride of the trip thus far - 460 miles taking 9+ total hours.

Destination Lisbon, arriving early and leaving early by 2 days, getting a jump start on ride. Unexpected smart decision. And who do I bump into in Lisbon of all places, the "Grinch" from Aberdeen, aka, Andrew Forsyth, aliases - Drew, Andy and "hey you". His beautiful wife Linda, daughter Amy and future son-in-law Jaime (pronounced like "Lime" with the "J" sounding like an "H" - crazy). Ironically Andy and Linda were visiting Amy and Jaime to help with wedding plans, etc., and whether it is fate or blind luck, the timing for their visit coincided with Ride 4 Dray.

Making the best use of limited time, I captured the essence of Lisbon, its beautiful beach and cliff scenes, architecture, exquisite cuisine, narrow twisting streets easy to lose your way. A future visit is a must.

HUELVA. Unplanned, unexpected, marvelous step back in time - 530 years to 1492. Little did I know, I was rumbling into where the "age of discovery" began. Christopher Columbus embarked from the port of Huelva searching for a shorter trade route to India, only to discover the Americas. While the locals here acknowledge others had previously traveled across the Atlantic, no one had yet recorded and established commercial trade routes that lead to Europe's colonization of the Americas. After 3 additional transatlantic crossings, the rest as they say is history. La Rabida Franciscan monastery hilltop overlooking the port. Its monks provided Columbus with support and a place to rest. Inspired by his vision, the monks interceded for him in Queen Isabella's court. The historic streets, friendly people and the rich history make Huelva a must visit.

The final entry to week 1 summary, the ride through Andalusia region of Spain, from Huelva to Gibraltar via Cadiz y Tarifa. Cadiz on of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe, originally settled by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC. La Playa de Victoria was backdrop for lunch at Chirinquito El Potito. Then onto Tarifa, the southernmost tip of Spain and continental Europe. The entry point of the Strait of Gibraltar, the natural wind tunnel attracts windsurfers and kite surfers from around the world. And what else can be said about the beautiful beach and the coast of Morocco Africa to complete the picture.

Iberia part 2 next. Granada > Valencia > Barcelona and whatever else in between is next... Stay tuned.

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