Friday, 22 September 2017

Photographic Barcelona

I tried last night to purchase tickets online to visit the Sagrada Fam铆lia today, unsuccessfully! 

So figuring that it was eighteen years since I was last here and have no idea when (or if) I'll be back, I paid a visit to the site today nonetheless. Sure enough, no tickets were being sold, so I'll have to put it down to "next time" and satisfy myself with the photos I could take from the outside. I mean, it doesn't look like they've done that much work since I was last here. 馃槉 馃槉

From there I then headed toward La Pedrera, being a private residence designed by Gaudi.

At the time it was built, 1906-1910 it was somewhat controversial because of its undulating stone facade and twisting wrought iron balconies, hence the name La Pedrera which translates to "Open Quarry" in Catalan.

It boasted several structural innovations, for it's time including a self-supporting stone front, columns and floors free of load-bearing walls, an underground garage and sculptural elements on the roof.

There is a fully furnished apartment from the period of time in which La Pedrera was built which was also very interesting.

Following that, I then took a wander down to the Barcelona Cathedral which is a bit more conventional in comparison with the Sagrada Fam铆lia as far as religious institutions are concerned. 

As I was leaving the Cathedral, I heard classical music coming from a square nearby and found that a large crowd and had developed to dance & listen to an orchestra play. It was a great way to wind up the day, so I found a little cafe, grabbed a Caf茅 con leche and just sat and took in the atmosphere....

Barcelona - Now What?!

Having ridden through a large swag of Spain, including a few of the places that are / were on my potential relocation list and having now got to Barcelona, I'm now a little unsure as to where or what I want to do next. I mean I know that my revised (original) plan was to ride on to Milan before then scooting around Europe in a hire car or on the railway network to catch up with friends but my needs & priorities have changed....

I am now beginning to view this trip as having been an opportunity to 

  • See whether I enjoyed or was capable of undertaking a lengthy self-supported tour in a foreign country alone, to which I have to say - Yep that definitely worked! I mean, sure I would do things very differently next time and there will most certainly be a next time, possibly as early as April / May next year.
  • Investigate the idea of living / moving to Europe, to which I have to say - I'm not so sure that's such a good proposal. I mean, have I been romanticizing about what a life here in Europe may actually entail, as a result of having watched a few too many episodes of television programs such as House Hunters International and A Place in the Sun I mean in all seriousness, what do I know about living / moving to Europe.

I mean whilst sure it enables me to "press the Ctrl Alt Delete button", it also has ramifications beyond just the practical issues of having to sort out the financial, legal & social hurdles of making such a move. I'd also need to establish a whole new social life, and it's became somewhat apparent over the last month or so, that that may be harder than I had envisaged, particularly if I am running off, every six months or so, to do some cycling around Europe or what have you.

Having also spoken to a couple of Poms who have made the move, and who now live in Spain permanently and to others who do it on a semi-regularly basis, whilst buying here is reasonably easy, selling and getting out again can be a bit more of an issue, particularly in terms of the price one may have to accept. 

As a consequence, I don't know where this leaves me heading in the long term.

In the short term, I am currently contemplating the idea of "cheating" and getting myself to Perpignan, France and then once there, hiring a car, (one in which I can pop the Troll) so that I can catch up with friends who are scattered all around Europe. 

Trying to get around Europe on my bike would take too long and trying to negotiate which of the various railway networks will enable me to catch a train with a bike is a nightmare, given the variety of rules & regulations.

I am sort of figuring that, next time and there will be a next time I do a lengthy self-supported ride through Europe, I start in May / June and I start in somewhere such as Berlin or Warsaw and then head South, towards Barcelona or what have you...

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Photographic Barcelona

I decided today to visit to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya and I am so glad I did. It was very interesting / worthwhile. A very diverse collection of artwork, starting with some of the Romanesque art taken for preservation purposes from some of the churches in the region and then reinstalled in the museum as they were in the churches, through to several Picasso era works and beyond.  

Following that I decided to take a wander up the hill before jumping (exceptionally nervously) on to a cable car to get to Montjuic Castle where one could quickly see why it makes a great location for castle having fabulous views of Barcelona's port on the one side and on the town of Barcelona itself on the other.

Montjuic Castle seemed a pretty apt place to visit at the moment, given its history and what is currently occurring in town right now in terms of the Catalan region breaking away from the rest of Spain given that it has notorious reputation in Barcelona as being a symbol of submission when the Catalans were defeated by the Spanish in 1714. 

Since then the castle's canons have bombarded the city and its citizens on various occasions and Montju茂c has been used as a prison and torture centre repeatedly for three centuries. It is apparently infamous within Catalan history books as a result of its role in the civil war from 1936 to 1939 when both sides of the conflict imprisoned, tortured and shot political prisoners.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017


Well today I spent much of the day snoozing, before catching the Tourist Jump-On Jump-Off Bus, given that I needed to work out which of the city's sights I might wish to visit over the course of the next couple of days...... 

I then took a bit of a wander through town, to find an Orange Store (telephone company), so as to put some more credit on my phone.... I really can't fault the service available / offered on my pre-paid SIM because without some of the data roaming I've enjoyed, I'd probably still be lost on a country back road in the middle of Spain.

Well OK that might be a slight exaggeration but you get the picture.

My Garmin bike computer (and it may be as a result of operator incompetence or could be a technological issue given that I haven't added / purchased the European mapping facility) has not been particularly helpful from the perspective of getting me from A to B. 

My phone however and the fact I can access my proposed routes on the Strava App on it, has been invaluable.It has however come at the cost of data roaming usage, as well as meaning I need to stop frequently to confirm directions / instructions. But I can't complain. It has after all got me all the way to Barcelona.

On my way home to my hotel I witnessed a rally by the people of Barcelona calling for a referendum to enable the Catalan region to potentially break away from Spain, in order to create a new country.... I'm not too sure of the pros & cons, nor even why it's become an issue, but there does seem to be a fair degree of public demand behind the move.    

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Coma-Ruga to Barcelona

Once again today was another good day on the bike and the idea of riding into Barcelona did appeal...... I mean OK so there were five kilometres or so, where I was cycling alongside the Mediterranean but doing so on a narrow and undulating road with a lot of big, heavy trucks passing narrowly near by. That said, no horns were honked nor was there any signs of impatience by anyone! Just me sweating bullets as I tried to climb faster or squeeze even closer to the concrete bollards so that they could get past.... 

Knowing that it was only around a 70 KM ride today and that I'd done the majority of the climbing for the day, I decided to stop for a relaxing lunch in an Argentinian cafe, where of course I had to have a couple of empanadas, in a little town known as Les Botigues. 

Noticing that the owner had proudly mounted a PUMAS (Argentina Rugby Union Team) poster on the wall, being an Aussie, I did have to imitate a kangaroo and suggest that he was supporting the wrong team and that the Wallabies were a better team... I got a laugh and made an impact despite the language barrier and that counts for a lot in my books...

Lunch consumed, water bottles refilled, I continued on towards Barcelona, wondering how heavy the traffic was likely to become and how much difficulty I was going to have locating a hotel for the next few nights.... 

I needn't have worried, Barcelona is a cycling mecca in terms of the number of people who are getting about on two wheels, and the first hotel I stopped at, indicated that they had a room for me and somewhere safe to store the Troll. 

Now all I need to do is work out what of the city's tourist sites I want to see, and where / what I want to do next as far as my European adventure is concerned.

Today's Route

Monday, 18 September 2017

L'Ampolla to Coma-Ruga

With another 100KM through the pedals today I've got to say I think I'm getting into the swing of things now. I mean there was a modest amount of climbing, with most of it being early in the day and before I would have liked but hey, beggars can't be choosers.... 

The route took me out into the countryside somewhat, then in time, had me running directly alongside the beach where one has to swap negotiating one's way through fast moving traffic to slow moving pedestrians and hawkers selling all manner of rubbish.

On that note, I've gotta say that the hawkers, presumably African refugees doing it tough aren't as prevalent as they are / were in Italian tourist towns or sites, but they still sell the same stuff to the tourist hordes. It would also seem that the locals are tolerant or at least ambivalent to these touts, I just wish they wouldn't necessarily block the bike paths with their blankets of "stuff", it makes my life complicated and slows me down. 馃槉 馃槉 

What is interesting and it's only in hindsight, that I now wish I had stopped in the town of Tarragona because it would seem that it has a Roman Amphitheatre and a very photoghenic Roman aqueduct known as the Puente del Diablo (Devil's Bridge).

Once again, just more evidence that one should do a bit of research into one's proposed route, making the important things to take into consideration being: 

  • Distance between Point A and Point B;
  • The amount of climbing which will be involved;
  • The likelihood of finding an "Open" campsite or hotel;
  • Whether there is any "Must See" places, sites or scenery along the route 

Ah well, missing these two Roman sites is something else that I'll just have to put in the Lesson Learnt List.

Today's Route

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Alcossebre to L'Ampolla

Well I gotta say the route planning facility within my cycling program - Strava - certainly creates some very interesting routes and has had me riding some very unique back roads but I think the first 10 - 15 kilometers of today's ride, however takes the cake.

A gravel goat track that ran from Alcossebre to Pe帽铆scola along the seaside and through a national park.

I mean it was bloody terrifying at times. Sure it would have been fine on a light mountain bike, but not so much fun on a loaded touring bike! It was absolutely stunning but was only something that I could cope with (without too much swearing and cursing) because I summoned up some of the knowledge & wisdom, that I'd picked up from my good friend and Bailey's drinking buddy - Jules - during the course of our South American adventure. 

Seriously, the opportunity to ride alongside the Mediterranean and within a couple of metres of the beach without seeing virtually anyone bar the occasional cyclist or bush walker, was awesome. Of course a little forewarning along with an idea how long it would last before one returned to tarmac would have been nice, but....

It also made me wonder as to whether Strava uses the data collected by all the're various users, from all bike rides logged, for route planning purposes, which is fine when the ride requirements coincide, but can cause problems when they clash. IE: I suspect this part of my ride was "suggested" because it is used with some degree of frequency by mountain bike riders, but wasn't particularly appropriate for my requirements and certainly would not have been suitable / possible on a road bike....

Fortunately, the road eventually turned to tarmac which subsequently meant the opportunity in time to stop to replenish my water supplies and to enjoy a nice ice cream once I got to Vinaros, it having originally been where I had planned on staying last night. Snacks consumed and energy supplies restored I rode on, knowing that I was going to have to spend a bit of time in the saddle today in order to get to my hotel in Cap Roig.

What I didn't know until I turned up there, as it was getting to dusk, is that the hotel was actually closed and seemingly under renovations. How or why it was listed on a hotel booking site, I'll be buggered if I know. All I do know is that I was just a little tired & cranky, having ridden 85 plus kilometres to find that my potential bed for the night was non-existent. 

Whilst I thought I'd have to furtively unfurl my tent somewhere, I recalled seeing what I believed to be a hotel's neon sign as I had ridden through L'Ampolla so headed back that way after a moment or two of indecision and ultimately find the place and that even better yet that they had a room available. Phew.... Now hopefully I can find a bite to eat. I'm hungry!

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Castell贸n de la Plana to Alcossebre

Whilst my original plan was to cycle from Castell贸n de la Plana to Vinaros, things got a little messy when it came to finding a campsite or hotel in Vinaros. Unfortunately, I inadvertently and it's partially because the TripAdvisor Website was fairly broad with its search parameters and partially because I wasn't paying sufficient attention as to notice when I made my booking, that I ended up with a shorter ride today than was originally planned and I now find myself in a hostal in Alcossebre.... Ah well!

Sure I'd like to have continued cycling on today, after all the weather was good and my muscle fatigue had dissipated after the first few kilometres of riding. But that's life I guess, and I sort of figure that things unfold as they do for a reason. Just not sure what it is as yet.

OK so tomorrow might be a bit of a long one and one which involves a bit of climbing but so what...  I look what I've achieved to date, and figure it's just a question of perseverance and saddle time.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Castell贸n de la Plana

Whilst my preference would have been to ride today, given the grey clouds and forecasts of thundery showers throughout the day, I decided not to risk it.

I mean getting dry myself at the end of the day is one thing, but how long it will take for wet panniers to dry is another thing all together. Then of course there is also the fact that whilst apparently waterproof, I haven't actually put my panniers to the test so far. As a result, I'm just that little apprehensive about potentially having my computer & more importantly my camera gear getting wet. I just wish I'd bought a couple more dry bags with me now.... 馃槉 馃槉

Ah well, I'll just have to jot that one down on my "things to remember for next time" list, which I have to tell you is getting fairly extensive now.... That said, I don't know that I could have done this any other way than as to throw myself in at the deep end. Much the same as when I tripped around parts of Argentina & Chile a few years ago....

If I'd tried to do a more comprehensive test run in Melbourne, than a simple one day's ride around a familiar route and in decent weather conditions I'd also have found any & all reasons to bail, whereas here I can't, I've just got to get on with it.

Maybe at the conclusion of my little excursion, I'll provide a bit of a "hints" list, who knows... As for how I spent the day, well let's just put it this way, I backed up my photos, reviewed the itinerary ahead of me, drank more coffee than I should and then began to wonder if the chap who's in charge of the Spanish weather bureau uses the same techniques as that of his Australian mate - take a guess and then come up with all manner of excuses as to why you got it right / wrong..... 

I suspect I may have made it to my next destination without getting wet. Ah well, such is life!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Valencia to Castell贸n de la Plana

Well that was a very enjoyable day in the saddle. Great weather, nice scenery, bugger all climbing and I reach my end destination, being the port town of Castell贸n de la Plana with sufficient daylight & time to take a bit of a wander through town.

Now if the town's name sounds vaguely familiar, you are either Spanish or were paying a fair bit of attention during the recent Vuelta de Espana, cause it was the starting point for Stage 17 of the race. Funnily enough and only by sheer coincidence, did I discover that I had checked into the same hotel as used by Team Sky when they were in town.

The view from my window, something I may get to enjoy for 24-48 hours given the weather forecast.

What I didn't expect was to find was some of their goodies.... Oh, that's right they're mine!