Tag Archives: Eurovelo 8

Cycling Day 4: Dos Hermanas To Sevilla

Click here to see the detailed statistics of today’s cycle

I had to wait until nearly halfway through the Eurovelo 8 trip along the Mediterranean to intersect with my previous continental crossing – my take on the Eurovelo 5 – in Piacenza, Italy. I even posted a video reflecting upon what had happened and what was still to come. No video today but the first of two intersections has just taken place here in Seville on the end of the Avenida de la Constitución. Back in 2013 I was almost at the end of the journey; I was tired, it was in the blistering heat of August (although my day in Seville itself was a cloudy one – read about it here) and I was eager to finish. It’s very different today as I’ve barely scratched the surface of cycling from Tarifa to Nordkapp, I’m feeling refreshed and eager for the upcoming challenge! It’s also a nice sunny day. The intersection with my 2010 cycle to southern Italy incidentally should take place near Maubeuge (remember that? The Moulin Rouge themed hotel room?) near the Franco-Belgian border. 

Cycling day 4 has clearly been a short one; just 15 km from the campsite in Dos Hermanos. There is logic in my seeming madness of upping sticks and moving only slightly up the road. I need to plan the Ruta de la Plata section of the cycle that starts in Seville. I’m hoping to find some documentation here in the city that complements the website which is quite impracticable to keep looking back upon, especially mid-cycle. But back to today’s cycling. After my chat will Paul (see previous post), I bumped into another Dutch cyclist, John, at the gates of the campsite. He and his friend were also about to embark upon the Ruta de la Plata cycle route and there’s a good chance I may see him again. They seem better prepared than me (no surprise there!) so perhaps I would have been better just spending the day with him firing questions in his direction. 

The cycle to Seville was not only short but straightforward. About two-thirds of it was along high quality segregated cycling paths. The wide avenidas do make building such infrastructure easier but it’s certainly something for the rest of the world to aim at. There were quite a good number of cyclists out and about on their mountain bikes and bright Lycra. Is this connected with the day of the bike (see previous post)? Or is it normally like this? I suspect the latter. The avenida I was following had clearly been a focus of the Expo here back in the 1990s as many of the buildings represented different, Latin American, countries. 

So, it’s now 11.30am. First thing is to sort some accommodation – cheap hotel (there are many cheaper than the local youth hostel!) – then I’ll crack on with the Ruta de la Plata research. Sunglasses still need purchasing and there was something else that I’ve completely forgotten. A bit of idle rummaging around as a tourist is obviously also on the cards. Perhaps I should sign up for a guided tour of the city by bike, or is that too much of a busman’s holiday?

  

 

Cycling Day 2: Conil (Fuente Del Gallo) To Jerez De La Frontera

Click here to see the detailed statistics of today’s cycle.

Well I did have a brilliant idea (see the last paragraph of ‘cycling day 1’), although it wasn’t that brilliant. I looked again at the online maps and there was clearly lots of back roads that would take me as far Chiclana de la Frontera at the very least. And what a nice ride it was… The Costa de la Luz – the coast of light – which is Andalucia’s Atlantic side is a real delight. I passed through several towns that were quiet and well-maintained yet still clearly there to attract the tourists. Interspersed between the towns are large stretches of wild coastline and natural parks and I was simply left scratching my head as to why anyone would choose the Costa del Sol over its more westerly neighbour. There’s no major road piercing a noisy and ugly needle through the area, there is a distinct lack of gaudy development and there was only one modest 9 hole golf course along the stretch that I cycled this morning. The housing – both for the locals and the tourists – fits into its environment perfectly. Migrating birds fly over your head, you’ve got the spectacular sunsets that only a west facing coasting can give you and every evening Julio Iglesias and the Madrid Philharmonic Orchestra come round to your house to serenade you. Well, OK, that last bit isn’t quite true but you get my drift. It’s just Julio by himself of course.

Moving on from the post sponsored by the Costa de la Luz tourist board… I was forced onto busier ‘autovia’ roads after a coffee in Chiclana. Despite my previous erring I did decide to head back into Cádiz. How could I not? Not only would it be be nice to cycle around a city in which I lived for the whole of March (see many previous posts) but there was a certain amount of unfinished business. When I cycled along (admittedly my very liberal interpretation of) the Eurovelo 8 back in 2013 (what do you mean you haven’t read the book?!) I should have cycled through Cádiz. In fact it’s the official start / end point of the route. Prior to that trip someone told me it was almost impossible to get there on a bike. This intrigued me at the time – why would one of the Eurovelo routes have as one of its endpoints a city that was inaccessible by bicycle? – and after having spent some time in the place I simply didn’t believe such an assertion. And indeed I was right not to do so. Yes, it does require you to cycle along the ‘autovia’ roads that probably in a sane world would ban bicycles, but they don’t. I passed several cyclists heading in the opposite direction and even a couple of police cars overtook me, clearly unphased by my presence. The junctions are tricky. Imagine cycling along a two-lane British motorway and you’ll get an idea – but with a bit of careful and assertive cycling, they are manageable.
So, upon arrival from the south I cycled around the perimeter of Cádiz before having my lunch (bread and fruit bought at a Lidl of all places back in Chiclana: Morrisons in Gibraltar, now Lidl – what’s happening to me?) in my old favourite square just in front of the language school where I studied. I even bumped into one of my fellow students.

Alas I couldn’t hang around as I had already bought a ticket for the 2.15pm ferry to El Puerto de Santa Maria on the other side of the bay of Cádiz (another alternative route for cyclists). Having lost my sunglasses on cycling day 1, I detoured to the Decathlon store upon arrival in El Puerto but they seem to have recruited the person who made buying sandwiches so complicated in Subway (that’s a reference to book 1 – you haven’t read that either?!) to design their new line of sunglasses. Different colours, sizes, designs, strengths, ‘pack’ (or not) – whatever that refers to – photochromatic… I just want a pair of sunglasses like my old ones!! I walked out without purchasing any, bedazzled by the range available.
At least there were lots of blue, segregated cycle lanes in and around El Puerto de Santa Maria but… Just as the person who designs the range of sunglasses at Decathlon probably never goes on holiday to sunny places, many of the cycles lanes I was trying to follow had clearly never been cycled along by the civil engineer responsible for them. They all looked fantastic but try trundling a heavy touring bike up and down them and everything, including the rider, is in for a vibrating experience as the bike passes over the thousands of concrete ridges that make up their surface. This isn’t a Spanish problem; its a European one. Sort it, please!

It was back to big standard roads for the remainder of the ride to Jerez de la Frontera and what a joy it was. Single carriageway, no concrete cycle paths. The scenery wasn’t quite as it had been in the morning and early afternoon but at least Jerez makes up for that. What a delightful place to spend a warm Friday evening in April. Much of the town centre is pedestrianised and as you can imagine there’s Tio Pepe signs almost everywhere you look but it has lots of distinctive little squares with bars and restaurants. After I have searched for sunglasses around the shopping streets I will try and grab some food in one of them. Just a couple of iPhone pictures below as although I brought my camera into the centre from the youth hostel, the SD card was missing. I must have left it in the lead that allows me to transfer the pictures to the iPad. The hostel, incidentally, is a huge place just to the south of town run by the local council. I’ve got a twin room to myself with ensuite bathroom for €30. Just like last night’s campsite, I appear to be one of the very few customers – perhaps the only one – and I wonder if this is the reason behind the receptionist’s comically non-plused attitude. He clearly never read the customer service manual and gave the distinct impression that I was inconveniencing his otherwise packed schedule at the youth hostel. After a shower I returned to the reception and he was on the phone. He glared at me without interrupting his conversation gesturing for me to hand back the key and then abruptly clicking his fingers to indicate which door I should take to escape the place… Perhaps he’s having a bad day. Or perhaps he had just been to Decathlon in search of some sunglasses.

Tomorrow it’s Seville. Or somewhere near… Mañana!

Cycling Day 1: Tarifa To Conil (Fuente Del Gallo)

Click here to see the detailed statistics of today’s cycle.

Finally, it’s started! I’m sure you are as relieved as me… It was a soggy morning back in Tarifa (see previous post) but after that very virtuous breakfast it was off to knock on the door of the Guardia Civil at the Isla de las Palomas. Initially I just stood at the gates looking a bit gormless. Nothing happened. There was no button to push let along a guard on duty. I noticed a security camera high on the wall above me so I waved my authorisation in its direction in the hope that someone was watching. I don’t think they were. I was saved by a group of men in a black 4×4 who weren’t the Guardia Civil but who were clearly quite important. I later noticed them speaking to the people in a helicopter which first took off and then landed as I was leaving the island. Whoever they were, they were sufficiently pleasant to tell me where to go so I pushed Reggie through the gates and towards one of the many crumbling buildings spread across the site. The Guardia Civil guard came out – he was a nice guy in his twenties, not the fearsome ex-Franco officer I had been fearing – who was somewhat amused by the idea of me cycling from one end of the continent to the other. He didn’t accompany me, he just pointed me in the direction of the lighthouse at the end of the island and I set off. Before I arrived I was stopped by some different Guardia Civil personnel who drove after me but once I showed them the authorisation they were happy to allow me to continue. See the previous post for some pictures of what I found at the starting point of my ride.

The weather wasn’t great for the first couple of hours but the wind was in my direction and it wasn’t raining so I shouldn’t really complain. The road was relatively quiet compared to the ones I had been using for the two ‘prologues’ earlier in the week. After about half the distance as the crow flies to Conil I was able to turn off the main road back in the direction of the coast. Until this point – the intersection of the N340 and the A2227 – my efforts to reach the sea would have been thwarted by dead end roads. That said, by choosing the A2227 I was volunteering to cycle an extra 8km into a side wind. The even quieter roads and the green rolling hills, spring flowers, grazing bulls and majestic fields of wind turbines were my reward. Before I came to this corner of Spain at the beginning of March I had imagined it to be a sun-bleached scrubland devoid of much colour. I have been told that in places it is like that in the searing heat of summer but at the start of spring, not at all. The green is that of England after a downpour. Nearer the coast the route was flat for much of the time allowing me to speed along at 25, even 30km/hr although a steady climb after Barbate took the smug smile off my face. The natural park – the Parque Natural Brena y Marisma – was more what you expect from a southern European landscape. To me they were upturned sticks of broccoli the size of trees and all crammed together in fields on either side of the road. To someone who knows what they are actually talking about they were probably some kind of pine tree.

I was beginning to recognise more and more of the route as the cycle moved into its final third. This is because for much of the day I had been retracing the route I was driven along by one of my fellow students at the language school back in March. If you remember, four of us hired a car and drove first down through places like Vejer de la Frontera to Tarifa and then back along the coast via Barbate and my eventual destination today, Conil. Perhaps it’s for this reason that I didn’t hang around for too long when I stopped for a pause at Barbate and then at the Cabo de Trafalgar on the northern edge of the natural park. Well, that and in the case of Trafalgar, a giant sand dune that had blown across the path leading to the lighthouse. It would have taken Hercules to push a bike through that so I turned around and rejoined the road to Conil. When i arrived i paused once again but this time just to check the map so as to find the campsite – Camping Fuente del Gallo – which has very few customers tonight to prevent me from monopolising almost all the spare sockets in the restaurant. I was given the pick of pitches and chose number 66 because I love ants. No, of course I don’t but they seem to have moved in before me. I should check what the little hard mounds are in the soil before I make my decision in future. On the positive side, the tent, sodden when I wrapped it up this morning in Tarifa is now bone dry after only a few minutes of being pitched in the sunlight. As I look through the window I see nothing but blue sky and checking the weather forecast we should have a dry night. When I refer to ‘we’ it is, of course me and the ants rather than me and the other customers. On the downside I have misplaced my sunglasses which is a pain. They weren’t cheap and they are definitely no longer part of my equipment. However…

Tomorrow. It will be a shorter ride to Jerez de la Frontera so I can afford to detour slightly to the Decathlon store that I visited a couple of weeks ago when I was in Cadiz which is to be found just outside El Puerto de Santa Maria. i’ll hopefully pick up some replacement glasses there. I haven’t totally discounted cycling through Cadiz itself and then taking the ferry across the Bay of Cadiz to El Puerto and then onwards to Jerez. There are some fearsome looking red and orange roads on my map which equate to dual carriageways (that I am allowed to cycle along) and motorways (that I am clearly not). I’m scratching my head as I look at the route. Goodness knows where the Eurovelo 8 – the route that I ‘followed’ back in 2013 along the Mediterranean coast – goes in order to finish in Cadiz. If you remember, I never had to work out this conundrum as I cut across the country from Valencia to Seville in order to save time. If anyone one out there has cycled from the coast south of Cadiz to Jerez in the recent past, do let me know which route you took, preferably before 9am tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow evening I’m booked into a youth hostel (they really need to find a different adjective to describe themselves, no? When I go to such places, most people are older than me!) in Jerez. The road distance as given by Google is 55 km. The route that they suggest along the main roads is probably the one I will have to take unless I have any brilliant ideas between now and tomorrow morning. However, for the moment I’m going to ignore that and think about where I will be cycling to on Saturday. Somewhere between Jerez and Seville? Seville itself would be a ride of over 100 km. Have I got the energy to do such a long ride at such an early stage? And then where shall I stay? I’m trying to stay two days in advance with the accommodation. Seville is going to be a tricky one…

Ditching The Rough Guides In Favour Of… 

I would happily class myself as an enthusiastic early adopter of technology, especially when it comes to cycling. Back in 2009 when I cycled along the Pennine Cycleway as a shakedown of my skills as a first time touring cyclist I blogged as I travelled having moved on from writing copious notes in a Moleskine book. I’m still doing it nearly six years later hopefully without too much repetition, hesitation or deviation. Perhaps. When I cycled to southern Italy along the Eurovelo 5 in 2010 I had upgraded to a smartphone – an iPhone – but was also using a small satellite tracker to trace my route. In 2013 when I cycled along the Mediterranean coastline, the iPhone itself had been upgraded and with a much greater amount of data available to me as a European ‘roamer’ as well as almost continuous 3G coverage along my route, I dabbled to a much greater extent with online resources; Google Maps, Booking.com and tracking my route live (for those with too much time on their hands) via the excellent Cyclemeter app.

There has, however, been one aspect of the digital eta that I have not been keen to adopt early: the world of the travel guide eBook. This, I suppose, is rather ironic in that much of my own success has been built upon my ability to sell my own books via the various eBook platforms out there. But the thought of rocking up at a café or a campsite, opening up the guidebook and leafing through the pages is, in the widest sense, quite a romantic one. It’s the Michael Portillo thing of having something tactile through which to flick from one page to another, perhaps at random, to discover facts, figures, stories and history about the place in which you happen to be. Michael Portillo doesn’t have much choice; the Bradshaw’s Guides that he makes use of probably don’t exist in eBook format. But the Rough Guides do…

In 2010 I cobbled together my own ‘Rough Guide to the Eurovelo 5‘ by removing the relevant sections from the Rough Guides to France, Switzerland and Italy, drilling some holes along the spine and tieing them all together with a shoelace. I was quite impressed with my efforts! In fact so successful was I in my publishing hatchet job that I did the same thing in 2013 to create a two-volume ‘Rough Guide to the Eurovelo 8‘. I sent part 2 to my contact in Venice and once again I was kept fully informed as I cycled.

But was I being a bit too Michael Portillo for my own good? The clear advantage of having an eBook while you are travelling is the weight thing. I carried both of my two volumes of Rough Guides across northern Italy in 2013 because volume 1 didn’t finish until I reached the French border! But it’s not just the ‘weight thing’… When creating my Heath-Robinson Rough Guides I only included the regional sections. Much of the other parts of the books – the contexts sections, country histories and the like – were not included. But they are very useful things to have available to consult, especially if you are in the business of writing travelogues.

So, when starting to plan the upcoming 2015 trip along the Eurovelos 1 and 3 I decided to dabble with the digital guidebook for the first time and downloaded the Rough Guide to Norway (I planned in reverse so as not to neglect the latter countries, a trap I had fallen into back in 2013). I was soon an enthusiastic convert to the format, especially the search functionality of the books. Gone was the endlessly consulting the index (annoyingly written in tiny print at the back of the physical books) and in came an ability to read a section of the book, put it down and then pick it up again three hours later and it still be on the same page. I was also able to read every single paragraph mentioning ‘cycling‘ (for example), there were weblinks embedded into the text and maps that I could expand as I saw fit. It quickly became apparent that for me and my cycling trips, the eBook was most definitely the way forward and this morning I downloaded the final book in the eBook journey across the continent: the Rough Guide to Spain.

The eagle-eyed will have noted that the Rough Guide to Denmark isn’t actually the Rough Guide to Denmark. The eBook version doesn’t exist so I downloaded the Lonely Planet guide instead; I’m sure it will be a fine substitute. Their ‘Secret Europe‘ guide was a freebie on Apple iBooks so that’s coming along for the ride as well.

There are a couple of downsides to the eBooks. To use them to the best of their ability I’ll be taking a mini iPad wth me as I cycle which itself has a weight (along with its charger and case) but I was planning on taking it anyway. The iPad (or iPhone) do need to be kept charged which, in the more remote corners of Norway might become an issue. That said, these minor inconveniences will, I believe, be outweighed significantly by the advantages of having ditched the Rough Guides in favour of… the Rough Guides (and one Lonely Planet guide).

So, my reputation as an adopter of technology (although in this case not an early one) remains in tact. There is just one aspect of ‘old technology’ cycling long distances to which I remain wedded: the paper map. But who knows what will happen in the future?

 

 

 

Preconceptions Of Cádiz, Andalucia, Spain

A few weeks ago I moved away from Reading in Berkshire having lived there for just over fifteen years. I can clearly remember my first visit to the town in Spring 1999 when I was summoned to the university for an interview. It was a horribly wet and windy day and one of the first streets that I came across – what I now know to be Friar Street – was in the process of being dug up for some reason. The shops on Friar Street were (and alas still are) fairly second-rate and it was all compounded by a bus ride to the university during which the driver had a full-blown argument with one of his customers. I did begin to wonder what I was letting myself in for. Prior to applying for a place on a teacher training course in the town I had of course heard of Reading; it was famous for hosting an annual snooker competition in The Hexagon theatre and it was, and still is, renowned for the music festival. Apart from that? Well, I’m not sure. If someone mentioned Reading to me in say 1995, what would I have thought about apart from Steve Davis and a muddy festival goers? It has been a question that I have occasionally pondered upon.

On Wednesday I fly to Malaga and after one night in Andalusia’s second city and then two nights staying with an uncle who lives near Marbella, I’m off to Cadiz. I pray that my first impressions of Cadiz are more positive than those that were so clearly burnt into my memory of Reading. But what about my preconceptions? Without having ever stepped foot in the city, how do I imagine it to be? What do I know of it? What is there to do and see? I’ll be living there for the whole of the month of March studying Spanish at a school called K2 Internacional (read more about my ‘Spanish Plan’ here) so I should have plenty of time to discover the real Cadiz but a bit of research prior to visiting anywhere doesn’t go amiss.

I first read about Cadiz when I was planning the cycle along the Eurovelo 8 in 2013. The Eurovelo 8 starts in Athens and finishes in Cadiz. In the end I extended my own cycle to be a corner to corner crossing of the continent from Cape Sounio in the south-east of Greece to Cape St. Vincent in the south-west of Portugal. If all had gone to plan I would have cycled through Cadiz but I didn’t. I was running out of time as I made my way through Spain and decided to cut across country from Valencia to Seville instead of following the coast. I never made it to Cadiz. That said, someone did warn me that it was ‘impossible to get to the centre on a bike because of all the motorways surrounding the city‘. I never had a chance to find out. More recently I have been told that it is the oldest city in Europe. I can see the logic of it being so; it’s very close to Africa and must have been one of the first strongholds of the Moors when they first passed that way not to mention all those who had risked their lives crossing the Straights of Gibraltar prior to them (although I’m sure they didn’t call them that at the time).

When you look at a map of the city, it’s perhaps not where you expect it to be. It’s actually a peninsula, delicately attached to the mainland by a thin strip of suspiciously straight land. Is that man-made? Was Cadiz originally an island I wonder?Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 14.28.22

It’s a well-connected place, however thin its umbilical cords might be. Focussing in on the old part of the city – the northern part – you can see there’s a train station and a substantial port:Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 14.32.15

The K2 school is in the very heart of the old city (it’s one of the main reasons why I chose to study there) and this, courtesy of Google Street View, is what I will see every evening as I step out of the school after a strenuous day at the chalk face:Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 15.22.36

Not bad, no? It’s called Plaza Mentidero. (Incidentally, I have mixed feelings about Street View; does it enhance the travelling experience or does it take away the ‘wow’ factor? Discuss.) The square is located just to the left of the ‘M‘ in ‘Museo de Cadiz‘ in the second map above. I have yet to find out where I will be living (I’ve decided to share a flat with other students rather than live with a family for four weeks, just as much for their sake as mine) but it will hopefully be near the square and the school. So that’s the geography lesson over.

What will I be able to see and do while I’m there? I actually have two uncles who have houses near Marbella. One who lives there permanently (he’s the one I’m staying with later this week) and another who has a property there and who visits several times a year. I had dinner at the weekend with the latter uncle and he enthused about a few things: the camera obscura the the top of the Torre Tavira, the modernist Parador de Cadiz where he stayed and a very old tree… Both my uncle and his wife were very impressed by Cadiz and having travelled widely in his long and illustrious career in the oil business, he knows his stuff. Alas I fear that should I fall out with the people I am sharing the flat with and move into the Parador, my budget would be dented to the tune of €150 per night. That would inevitably mean a few more nights of wild camping when I set off cycling. I’d better just try and get on with my flat mates.

Time to turn to the Rough Guide to Spain. I’m informed that Cadiz is indeed ‘one of the oldest settlements in Spain‘ although what there is to see today mainly dates from the 18th Century. It is ‘slightly seedy, definitely in decline, but still full of mystique‘. Aren’t we all? It is known for its ‘tradition of liberalism and tolerance‘ although whether that spreads to me not doing my Spanish homework in the evening remains to be seen. The guide goes on to list the following things that must be worthy of a visit

  • Museo de Cadiz: I’ll attempt to pay a visit sooner rather than later. I still remember how useful it was when visiting Luxembourg back in 2010 to spend a good couple of hours rummaging around the local museum. I was then able to put much of what I saw later in the day into context.
  • Catedral Nueva: recently renovated and with commanding views from the Torre de Poniente.
  • Santa Cruz: the original cathedral of Cadiz ‘severely knocked about by the Earl of Essex during the English assault on Cadiz in 1596’. How did I guess that the British would have come along at some stage and caused some form of destruction?
  • Torre Tavira: as mentioned above.
  • Hospital de la Mujeres: ‘one of the most impressive Baroque buildings in the city’.
  • Santa Cueva (another church but one with ‘fine Goya frescoes’) and
  • The beaches. I’m not sure that it will be sunbathing weather in March (although I am prepared to be corrected on that). The one thing I do know about the beach in Cadiz (and this isn’t mentioned by the Rough Guide) is that it is where Halle Berry appears from the sea in the James Bond film ‘Die Another Day‘. I think it was supposed to be Havana…

So there you have it; Cadiz in a nutshell. When, in the future, I look back and ask myself the question ‘what did I know about Cadiz before I went there?‘, I’ll now be able to remember the answer.

Cycling In Spain

So finally, after Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and France… I arrive at the beginning (if that makes sense), in Spain. If you remember, my posts about cycling through each of the countries of the Eurovelo 1/3 route that I will be following later in the year were purposefully done in reverse so as to not neglect thinking about the latter parts of the cycle (as I arguably did when preparing to cycle along the Mediterranean coast back in 2013). Many thanks to everyone who has so far commented and offered advice; your thoughts are very much appreciated. You can do so by commenting at the bottom of this post or, if you’d prefer to email, you can do so by contacting me at andrew@cycleingEurope.org.

So, on with the show, or rather, on with cycling in Spain. Here’s a map of the route:Spain

If you look carefully you will see that my cycle from the most southerly point of the European mainland at Tarifa (incidentally, if you believe it isn’t, at this stage I’d rather not know) actually takes in not just two of the Eurovelo routes, but three! Yes, I actually start off by following my old friend the Eurovelo 8 before hooking up with the Eurovelo 1 in Huelva and then joint Eurovelo 1/3 route just north of Palencia. There is an irony here of course. Back in 2013 when I was cycling along a route that was inspired by the Eurovelo 8, I abandoned it in Valencia in order to cut the corner off Spain and be in with a chance of arriving at my destination – Cape St. Vincent in Portugal – before the end of August. But here I will be in the first few days of April coupling up once again with route 8 in order to tick the box of crossing the entire continent south to north.

The Rough Guide (I’ve gone for the physical book version for Spain rather than the eBook as I will be spending the best part of two months in the country – see below) sings the praises of the first section of the route between Tarifa and Cadiz where the villages are home to “some of the best beaches in Spain“. I’m not quite sure whether April is a good month for swimming in the Atlantic Ocean so I’ll keep my options open on that. It should be interesting returning to Cadiz as I will have already spent the month of March in the city learning some Spanish (if this is news to you, you might find it useful to read this).

A little further north at Huelva (not the nicest of towns but at least I know a decent campsite by the beach where I stayed in August 2013) I continue along the route of the Eurovelo 1. Many people have cycled this route as it hugs the coastline of western Europe – see a few links here – but in Spain it does no such thing staying well away from anything damp (apart from the April sky perhaps). According to the European Cyclists’ Federation’s Spain page for the Eurovelo 1, I will be following ‘two ancient routes‘, in the north this is of course the Camino de Santiago but between Seville and Benevente it will be the Ruta Via de la Plata, There’s also a useful link to this official Ruta website which in turn links to this page of cycling itineraries. The first thing that draws my attention is the column of distances. Without doing any calculations, I would have thought that the average of the routes between Seville and Benevente is around 75km, the average distance that I need to be hitting if I am to arrive in northern Norway before the sun starts to disappear and 24 hours of sunlight starts to ebb away. But back to Spain! I’ve just worked it out and the average is a very useful 70.6km. Almost perfect! And the website is practically Swiss in its detail with each stage providing a route profile, a map, GPS tracks should I want them (probably not but it’s good to know they exist) and general overview info about that section of the route. Here is the information it gives, for example, for the first section from Seville to Monesterio:Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 17.01.16Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 17.00.18Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 17.00.41

This is absolutely wonderful news! There’s more information on the Ruta Via de la Plata website that will need to be read when I’m not learning Spanish in Cadiz…

Then it’s a hop over to the Camino de Santiago. I’ve already written about cycling the camino in this post entitled, err… Cycling the Camino de Santiago in the ‘Wrong Direction’. This is some of what I wrote at the time:

“Is the route cyclable? My initial assumptions were that it wasn’t but when I looked at the Eurovelo map of Europe and compared it to the route of the Camino, I was pleased to see that the suggested paths for walkers and cyclists were more or less identical through Leon, Burgos and Pamplona. It was a promising start. Perhaps my main concern should not be with route-finding but with trying to avoid knocking over all the pilgrims travelling on foot and heading in the opposite direction. A quick Internet search comes up with a useful site listing ’50 quirky bike rides’ of which ‘Cycling the Camino de Santiago’ is just one. Written by a chap called Rob Ainsley, it looks as though it is the online support for a book of the same name. There is even a podcast and an accompanying article in the CTC’s Cycle magazine. Give me a few minutes whilst I listen and read… Interesting stuff. I particularly liked the podcast – very professional and engaging, despite the bagpipes (but he does warn you about that a very start…). Some points to ponder; he explains that he completed the route on a mountain bike and looking at some of the pictures accompanying the article, you can see why as the tracks do look a little rough to say the least. That said, in the CTC magazine, he does point out that if he were to do the trip again, he would ‘take a tourer‘ explaining that the route for walkers does follow the road for much of its length and for any parts which are too much of a challenge, the tarmac road option is never far away. A mixture of the two is suggested. As for accommodation, it sounds as though cycling in April is about the perfect time to do so as the crowds in the summer pack out the hostels. Ainsley does mention that some ‘hard line refuges are said to turn away cyclists…’ and I do wonder if they take even greater exception to cyclists who are completing the journey from west to east. Then again, how would they know? The stamps in the map book? Perhaps I shall just not ask for them.”

John Rawlins commented on the original post and there was a follow up discussion on the Cycling Europe on a Bike Called Reggie Facebook page, all relevant and useful.

So there we have it, I have completed my pre-trip planning / thinking (perhaps ‘planning’ is too strong a word) for what lies ahead of me across the European continent. All I need to do now is cycle the route…

I’ve Been Thinking… Time For A Small Change

I spend more time doing that than doing, if that makes sense. The focus of my recent thoughts has been the Spanish portion of my 2015 ride along the Eurovelo 3 from Santiago de Compostela to Trondheim (and then North Cape via the Eurovelo 1). A Twitter twit posed the following question a few weeks ago: “who is interested in a cycling journey from Santiago de Compostela?“. I didn’t like his tone and ignored the tweet but I clearly haven’t forgotten it. He suggested in a follow up missive that if I really was intent upon writing another book about such a trip (I don’t think he was a fan of the first two), I would be better off starting at the point where I stopped my 2013 journey at the Cape St. Vincent in southern Portugal. He did of course make his point in 140 (or fewer) characters…

I could kind of see his point but it would have been better made if I were planing to follow a route in 2015 along the Atlantic Coast. I wasn’t (and I’m not – I haven’t had a change of mind in that respect). I’ll leave it to others to tick off having cycled the entire coastline of Europe. I think I gave up on that ambition when I didn’t turn left in Venice and lost any credible claim to such an achievement when I turned right in Valencia and cycled off through the Spanish interior in order to be in with a fighting chance of arriving in Portugal by the end of August. Then I noticed the film trailer that I mentioned in the previous post. That team of adventurers cycled, rowed, walked and climbed in a straight line from Lands End to John O’Groats. It’s a simple but great idea and it immediately caught my attention. I like the point to point thing; that’s why I extended my version of the Eurovelo 8 in 2013 to set off from the south eastern corner of Europe at Cape Sounio (not Athens) with my destination being the Cape St. Vincent (not Cadiz). One corner of the continent to another; a real crossing of Europe.

screen-shot-2014-07-31-at-12-58-59It all begs the question as to why I am not planning to do something similar next year. I don’t have an answer to that question other than to note that it is indeed a good question. An iconic point to an iconic point. At the end of my journey will be the North Cape in Norway, the most northerly point of mainland Europe (well it isn’t but let’s not let such trivialities ruin a good story – there’s a bit of land to the west that is every so slightly further north but there isn’t a road…) so surely my starting point should be the southern tip of Europe. That can be found just a few kilometres west of Gibraltar near the town of Tarifa. The change in distance compared to that from Santiago de Compostela is only a matter of a few days worth of cycling so the timetable isn’t thrown completely out of the window but my decision is made.

My 2015 cycle will be another complete crossing of the continent from Tarifa in Spain to North Cape in Norway. (Until, that is, someone sends me a tweet to suggest otherwise…)