A Travellerspoint blog

Montblanc

semi-overcast

distance: 125.6km
Total ascent: 1330m
Time in the saddle: 5hrs 42min
Terrain: undulating up

In the end the ferry wasn't so bad, I managed to sleep a little in the cafe (classy eh) and actually we got in a little early too. Biggest plus point of this was that I would not have to find my accomo in the dark. It was weird enough wandering about with my bike while everyone else was dressed up to the nines for their Saturday night out, let alone doing that while being lost and juggling with a map. Anyway so it all worked out well, and accomo..student halls..we actually quite nice. Little quirky as mine had a kitchen and instead of having a room for breakie they just left the food in a basket in your fridge. It ended up being a good thing as I wanted to leave early as I knew getting out of Barcelona would take a while and would be best without traffic (it still took an hour to get out of the city).

I had various route options for today but in the end I put myself on the hands of the gods and went with whatever Mr Garmin satnav told me. There were obviously some criteria..the end point of course and also that I wanted to go via the coast near Sitges. Some moments I was sure he was just making things up and had to check with google maps, but actually the route worked out really well. You could split the route into four sections..
-Barcelona
-The coast to Sitges
-Foix National Park
-And the valleys.

Barcelona..well its city riding, and not so much fun but I did get to see some more random parts and without the stress of millions of cars and people.

The coast..between Castelldefels and Sitges the road clings to the edge of the sea, undulating around and over the coast. It was tough but beautiful riding. It also seemed a favourite with the local cyclists who were out in force. It was a stark contrast of the terrain between Barcelona and Castelldefels which is a timetrialists dream..flat long straight roads. Give me the hills any day!

After Sitges I was sent inland through the Foix national park. It was quite surreal after the built up towns that all that just suddenly disappeared and it was back into rolling hills covered with blankets of trees with very little of anything else. The road followed a river which steamed from the embalse de Foix. The lake was overlooked by a castle ..all very picturesque.

Further inland then but into the valleys which had an air of Italy about them..rows on rows of vines, olive trees and almond trees with a few large villas scattered about, mountains in the background

All in all a good day. Probably the first day in this part of the tour that it has felt 'normal'. Just cycling and watching the world go by with no other thoughts than that. The cooler weather (a balmy 25 for most of the day, though up to 30 at the end) obviously helps but I think also I had no expectation of the area which is always a good thing (Girona has a reputation of being awesome cycling..so it had a lot to love up to). The only moment of worry was when I was caught out by a new road. Its surprising that this hasn't happened before as they seemed to be building new roads at a manic rate here. I had come across these new roads but this was the first time that it was out of bounds for cyclists. The road was not on the map nor on Garmin, and to make matters worse it took the name of the road I actually wanted. After a bit of a flaffing detour it turns out the old road was still there hidden the other side of the new one and renamed C51z rather than C51. Handy.
Sad thing about the new road was that it was direct..few if any places to come on and off it. So as I travelled the old road the towns that had been services by travellers were now struggling as the new road completely bypassed them. So many closed business it was sad. Irony being that they want more people to stay/move back to the countryside but then they do things like this that kills off livelihoods of those that had stayed.

Anyway...home for tonight is Montblanc..not a place I knew anything about before but wow what a place!! Turns out it is the capital of the area and a mediaeval town complete with complete castle walls and turrets. Some of the turrets had been bought privately and converted into houses..how cool would that be.. I want to live in a turret! Wandering about the old town it was deserted save a few hardy tourists like me. It dawned on me it was lunch time so that would be why. Days have no real meaning anymore and I lose track very easily though Sundays are ones to remember as nothing is open in the afternoon. I remembered too late. Ah well.

Tonight I think I am going to get a Chinese, maybe even a takeaway (!!) and watch a movie :)

Posted by louisebenn 10:07 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

23rd August Mallorca

sunny

distance: 63km
Total ascent: 268m
Time in the saddle: 2hrs 34min
Terrain: rolling

Its been a while since I posted for a mixture of reasons...the heat, tiredness and actually getting to have a bit of a holiday. After my last post I stayed in Girona for a couple of days taking in the city and also heading out on the bike to the Rocacorba ..the best known climb in the area. A lot of time was also spent trying to cool down and stop melting. It was not something I achieved, a puddle is the best way to describe me on those days..with temperatures over 35 and 100% humidity nothing could stop the melting. It did not make for a happy me. Its def a place that is down on my 'go back to when its cooler' list.

After Girona I headed back into the hills/volcanoes almost back towards Olot before turning south. Oh the relief of having clouds when I climbed the days col. I almost thought it was going to rain but the weather held. I spent the night in a small town called Santa Maria or L'Esquirol (not sure way it has two names) where of course it was having its fiesta. Then it was on over the hills to Montserrat..'the serated mountain'. And boy does it live up to its name. After cycling through very tree covered seemingly rolling hills, suddenly in the distance you see this rock monolith surrounded in big dark clouds. Yup that's where I'm headed. The roads to get there were pretty busy and not much fun but once I turned into the village of Montserrat itself it quietened down. From the bottom you can see a monestry like building perched high above the village..and I thought to myself 'oh that's not so bad!!'. Of course it turned out that was another monestry and the main one was further up the mountain. It was hot but it was a great climb and I got a few cheers going up. The main monestry is hugely developed. You reach the carparks probably nearly a km before the actual site. But it is the second most important pilgrimage site in Spain after the Santiago. And you can see why. I may not be religious myself but just the location and views of this place is enough to change your perspective on the world. I was lucky enough to be able to get to stay in the hotel next to the monestry so I dumped my stuff and set off for a walk around the site and out on the paths to various small churches dotted around it. My favourite spot was the cross of Sant Miguel which has a jaw dropping view (and drop) over the surrounding hills and valleys and back to the monestry itself. On a good day you can apparently see all the way back to the Pyrenees and to the sea. I could have quiet happily sat and watched that view for hours.

The weather forecast the next morning was not great at Montserrat. The hurricane that has just battered the south of England had now made its way over. Being at the top of a mountain is not the best place to be in a storm so I was a little concerned. However luck was with me and it passed by. A little too quickly actually as rather than a cool day as predicted, it was over 30and climbing by the time I got back to the bottom of the valley. I had chosen to got the scenic route for getting to Barcelona.. Its not a huge distance so a meandering route off the main road seemed ideal. And the stat was..if you are ever in that area you need to find the Montserrat valley..the BV1212 and BV120 that weave through the small villages and undulating countryside. It's a beautiful route. Then it was navigating through the continuous built up areas of Terrassa, Rubi and Sant Cugat and_up the mountain that stands between that and Barcelona..Collserola and Tibidabo. The climb was well worth it even in the heat as at the top you have a fantastic new down over the whole of Barcelona and out to the sea. Tibidabo itself is is a funny old place..the first thing you see is the temple del sagrat cor.. Which is a beautiful structure with a big Jesus on top. Then you realise that surrounding this lovely piece of architecture is a theme park. It's all very bizarre. Same too for the name itself..according to the lonely planet...
'It gets its name from the devil, who, trying to tempt Christ, took him to a high place and said, in the Latin version: ‘ Haec omnia tibi dabo si cadens adoraberis me’ (‘ All this I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me’).'
So there you go.
Heading down to Barcelona was an eye opener..after all the quiet roads I had been on..this was the complete antithesis. In the end up I gave up trying to cycle and walked my way across the city to my hostal. I do have to say the hostal was fab..hostal ciudadela. Not the most luxurious rooms or anything it large ones for the price and lovely people working there who were so helpful to awkward me with my bike.
That afternoon was spent walking Barcelona..starting off along the beaches of Barcelonete, to the port and then to La Rambla and the city itself. Boy its busy! It made me really appreciate the area where my hostal was..La Ribera..which was chic and beautiful with nice restaurant but was much much quieter than the main city.
The following day was a kind of waiting day..my ferry to Mallorca was not until 11.00 that night so it was a bit of a strange day. But actually it worked out well..for the first time I actually did some clothes shopping..much needed as my original tops were well past their wearable date. Then into Port Vall and along towards Montjuis for another view down across the city. It was a really good day. Topped off by crepe dinner and several beers in order to make the overnight very bearable. It worked I ended up 'sleeping ' pretty much the whole way to Palma.

I was surprised by Palma..it was actually very beautiful and not the tourist trap that I thought it might be.,granted this was seeing it through bleary eyes at about 6am but still..however I didn't have long to appreciate it as I needed to get a shifty on up to the mountainous north and Soller where I was going to be based that night. It was weird cycling there as I have been here before a year or so again for a cycling training camp..the roads then a little familiar but the beauty of the area was a surprise. I guess I was too busy concentrating on the persons in front back wheel to notice before! Soller was lovely..a complete maze but very character full and charming place. My hostal too was great..hostal nadal. Seeing as I got their early I dropped my bags and headed off to the infamous climbs of the area..the puig mayor and sa colabra. It was brilliant riding and the other few cyclists on the road very friendly. Not even the torrential rain that started when I started heading back could dent the fun of the ride. Though it did get a bit precarious on the last descent. Those climbs were interesting in another way too..when I rode them the last time it was the first time I had done any mountain climbs and_so coming back know made me realise how much I have changed as a cyclist..I could remember what I had found hard and where but it felt hugely different this time. (Though I think not racing people up the hills obviously helps limit any pain!).

The next days forecast was more of the same and I tried to find an alternative way to get down to the southern parts of the island but no avail. The bad weather meant that other people had the same idea so all the busses and taxis were full. Realising there was nothing else for it but to cycle I changed and set off. 5 mins in the heavens opened completely. O don't mind riding in the rain..I do mind riding in heavy rain on mountain descent. And like all things like that it was a kinda self fulfilling prophecy..and I came off on one of the corners on the coll de soller. It was a very slow mo crash but I fell a bit funny and later it seemed that I had whiplashed my neck and weirdly my hip too. Q not happy bunny me. After crawling down the rest of the mountain it was pretty rolling from then on after so I just ducked my head to the rain and plodded on. A few hours later I reached the villa where I would be meeting my family for a weeks holiday..and I thanked the stars. Of course by the time they arrived the sun was back out and it was hot hot again..typical.
So then followed a week of actual actual holiday..my first on this trip. I won't bore you with all the details but there was a villa, a beach and a pool. Spanish ibroprufen saved the day with my whiplash. It turns it I am no good at relaxing anymore but I think that's to do with knowing I would be soon back on the road again. Went out on the bike a couple of times..once to the monestry of our lady and then to San Salvador (my family came too after I had raved about the fantastic view from the toilet). Funny quote from the week was from my wee nephew who had been loudly taking about boys being better than girls and he rounded off his rousing speach by adding 'boys, get the firearms!' !! Oh and don't trust things in tourist shops..playing with what I though was a laser toy pistol ended up with me swearing loudly and throwing it across the shop as it ended up being one of those electric shock toys/jokes.

And that brings us up to today. Stupidly early start.. To see of one lot of my family, then I set off myself to cycle back to Palma and get the ferry back to Barcelona. For the first time in ages i distracted myself on the ride by racing my virtual training partner. Turns out day ferries are harder than night ones and there are loooots of hours to go yet. Plus point is that have finally managed to find a place where I can try and sleep..so that is my plan now this writing is done and my eyes are slowly closing shut....

Posted by louisebenn 07:41 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Girona

sunny 35 °C

distance:111.2km
Total ascent: 1200m
Time in the saddle: 5hrs 10min
Terrain: a day of all types
Weather: oh. ...my.....god....I am melting!!!

It's generally a sign of things to come in the day when even though you wake early you are sweating after just getting dressed. Taking the hint, I had breakfast and was on the road by half 7. Weirdly though once I got moving it was fine heat wise..ok 20 degrees at that time of morning is daft but apparently that's the lowest it goes in the summer even at night. No it was a weird mist that came down and soaked me through. It wasn't one of the cold heavy droplet mists I have come across before..more a very fine mist that soaked you without you even realising it. It stayed with me all down the C31, until I got bored of the main road and decided on my first detour of the day through the countryside. The second I left the C31, even on the slip road the mist vanished. It was a sign!! I did flybys of several interesting looking towns..Torroella de Montgri had a fantastic castle on top of its closest hill, it was a little bit misty again when I went past but its silluete stood out on the horizon; Pals -a medievil town and first town I saw with circular towers/turrets; Begur again dominated by a castle which was central to the town.

Up until Pals it had been pretty flat ride, nto fast though as it was into a pretty strong headwind, and then it all changed. Ouch. I had forgotten that coves..while making the best beaches..also mean sharp hills. Going to Begur was to some extent a warm up for what was to come when I got to the coast. While not the hardest climb it was steep enough and sheltered from the all important cooling wind. Leaving Begur however was a nasty 15%er. Oof. And that was just the first of them..interspersed with lovely descents down to gorgeous bays. The only redeeming factor of these ups was that you knew at the top the view would make it all worthwhile. The worse one I have to say was coming out of Aigua Blava..ouch. It seemed the other side was just as bad as I past two guys coming up that way on mtbs..front guy all smiling and keen..second guy..had the look of wondering what he had done to deserve this..I could relate. Deciding I needed a refuel and desperate rehydration at this stage I stopped at Tamarui for a break.

Instead of subjecting myself to more pain than necessary I headed to Palafrugell and inland. After which I kinda forgot about that and detoured off the main road again..the curiosity to explore greater than any common sense that I may (or may not) possess. Through the lovely countryside and up the mini mountain that stood between me and Girona. In my defence..I had read it was a 'recovery day ride'. What hadn't clicked though was that I was coming at it from the otherside in what was now 35degree heat. The rolling up before the climb to 'Els Angels' was amazing..very beautiful and you could see clearly that this is definitely more of a money area than anywhere else I have travelled to. The climb proper..well am sure it wasn't too horrendous in itself, but the heat was. Oof. So glad there was a cafe in the sanctuary at the top..I downed two cans of fizz to try and recoop. Then 'down' to Girona...only I seemed to be going more up than down. The recovery ride side becoming clearer by the second.

Then Girona...following my usual cunning plan of just to head to the centre of town..I found a flaw in my usually foolproof technique. The signposts made no sense. They seemed to keep taking me round in circles or at least not in the direction I thought we should be going. But eventually I hit the main tourist road to the cathedral and a yogurt shop and quite conveniently my place was just behind this. Dropping the bike I had a wee wander about town but it was about 2pm and so ridiculously hot so I gave up and crashed out. I only ventured out at about 5 but even then it was still in the 30's. I have never sweated so much in my life! But I like Girona. It does have a whiff of money and manicuring about it which differentiates it from the other cities I have been to. Especially in terms of the restaurants and the prices! But ignoring that it seems an interesting place..I've not explored it fully yet but there is a cathedral, and several other just as interesting churches. The river runs through the town crossed by numerous pedestrian bridges including one designed by the Eiffel Tower architect. Old city walls. Maze of shopping streets that never seems to end. It is a big city but it actually has a small city feel. It feels like my home town in a way, though that IS actually a small city and it has a lot less money than here! In my scummy clothes I actually feel a little out of place...I may have to go shopping!

Posted by louisebenn 12:07 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

a spin down to the Med...

sunny

distance:85km
Total ascent: 999m
Time in the saddle: 3hrs 37
Terrain: undulating
Weather: hot (I think that this might be a running theme from here on in)

So apparently me plus two very small local ciders = a hangover in the morning. I am going to blame dehydration and the weather..its so muggy you can't so anything without sweating a bucket load. Even taking a shower and you are just sweating again straight afteer Ah well it was good to try anyway. But the headache and the storms on my phones home screen were perhaps not the best thing to wake up to in the morning.

Having learnt from experience I ignored the storm warning, which would only be due in the afternoon anyway (and never came) and headed out first thing towards the coast. When looking towards the see from the castle yesterday the land was as flat as a pancake. So obviously not the direction I would be taking. Oh no..I would be heading up the N260 over the hills towards France and my old haunts of Portbou and the poorly named Colera. I didn't actually go that far, though it was tempting turning instead at Llanca and following the road south from there over some 'undulations' by the water. It was a fantastic coastal road with beautiful views and picturesque harbour towns, then inland up a long drag and down to Cadaques for a much needed drink and yogurt ice cream (with blueberries and raspberries!).

Though I had set of before 8am the temperature quickly rose and by half 9 of was over 30. It was a proper trial by fire for cycling in the heat. However it wasn't too bad..the coastal breeze was cooling and of course I was going sooooooo fast that I created my own.

From Cadaques it was over another hill to Roses, which I passed by in the end instead of going to take a look. It was half 10 ish and the tourists seemed to have woken up and were headed to the coast, signalling my time to head back inland.

Back in Figueres it was resting and pottering and ironing out the route for tomorrow - I have come up with so many possible routes in the last few day but now I know what to expect its easier to choose the better option.

Posted by louisebenn 10:10 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Figueres

sunny

distance: 70km
Total ascent: 575m
Time in the saddle: 2hrs 40
Terrain: undulating
Weather: hot hot hot!! Yay :)

I was in a funny old mood yesterday which why the post was to a minimal (a happy coincidence it was exactly 4 months in). I woke early to my phone showing storms and rain..and when I looked at eltiempo.com it showed the same. Its tricky when it is not a day you HAVE to cycle to get the motivation to go out when the forecast is so bad. So decision made to scrap that plan and actually take a day off...for all my planning I had overlooked the fact that I would have no day off for two weeks doh! So as I was awake and up early and the weather seemed ok for the moment I headed out for a walk to a volcanic crater which was inside Olot. Very quiet walk as it was early..but there were quite a few older folk who seemed to have this walk as a morning ritual. It was quite a strange experience. There were great views across the valley and to the other volcanoes..there are 24 volcanoes in the nearby area, and there was a beautiful church up there too, and some small 'turrets' which you could climb to get a higher view from the rim. The crater itself was slightly overgrown tho they had mown the centre. But it was strange..there were two paths down to it from different directions and though not at the direct interception of the lines both paths wiggly headed and merged at a set point ..not the obvious centre nor obvious convergence point but the earth was bear there from it being where people went regardless of the straight route. It became absolutely silent once you got there..all a bit spooky. My phone also lost all its settings and changed to Spanish randomly while there..could be ghosts, earth magnets or more likely due to me continually dropping it that morning. Annoyingly the storms never manifested themselves though from the mugginess in the air it needed to and I really wished it would. The rest of the day was pottering and relaxing. And of course watching the end of Fargo..

So on to today...today back on the bike to Figueres. Not a long ride or anything but it was a good ride. The first time since resuming that its felt like it should. Probably due to having somewhere to go and explore at the end of it rather than just a stopping point so taking the emphasis and pressure off needing it to be a good ride...If that makes sense. It turned out the road itself was quite fun anyway, there were very few cars about for the most part and there were trees lots and lots of trees... It something that continually surprises me about Spain how much of it is under a carpet of trees. I had a little detour around a lake near Banyoles..'estany de Banyoles' ..which was beautiful and still. There were mini houses on the edge of the water which I figure were like the beach huts that we have at home but fancier. Then another detour to a town called Besalu, a small fortified village with a couple of impressive bridges, which I had read about and thought was worth a flyby. Then the main road to Figures. It was busier on this part of the N260 quite so but the hard shoulder was big enough that you could ignore the cars. The only slight downside to the ride was that though my knee was better now I had moved the saddle, my left shoulder was painful, not sure why but hopefully it will go.

Into Figueres then..first port of call..yogurt ice cream in the town centre then to my hostal. Shower and clothes washing done it was back into town where I found myself in the queue for the Dali museum. The whole town is about Dali but the man himself got the town to take over the whole theatre and to convert it into a museum of his works. Its quite impressive as it seems to spill out from inside the building to the building itself, with eggs and statues, to the square where there are more statues. It was a good old wait but it was quite the exhibit. That is one strange man. On the one hand some of his works are amazing, some I have no idea what they were, and others just plain perverted. All in all it left me with mixed feelings and a need to get away from the hoads of tourists.

So the other main site of interest here is the castle..the largest 18th century castle in Europe apparently. It was also a strange one..in comparison to the grand ones I have seen so far..for a start it was only on a wee blip of a hill, and then the castle itself barely raised itself from that. But it did afford a good view of the valley down to the sea.

THE highlight of today though was perhaps quite sadly during my trip to the supermarket where for the first time on the trip I found different food! Hummus!! Chocolate soya milk!! Quiche!! And I cannot explain how so so happy this made me. I know it is strange but when you live on cheese and tuna and bread and in the French hotels a never ending supply of whole fish..anything that you can have that is different is sublime. And then..to top it off when I was wondering the long way home I came across an Indian restaurant!! My first curry house in 4 months!! Whether I go there or not is another question but it is just nice enough to have the choice. A curry is top of my bucket list for when I am home.

Tonights plan a wonder about town and a trip to a sidre and tapas house :) :)

Posted by louisebenn 10:07 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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