Dave and Pauline’s hospitality didn’t stop in the evening; it continued in the morning where I was presented with a very nice full English breakfast. The Cockers don’t even eat breakfast while in Spain – they prefer to eat later and have a large lunch – so it was a nice touch that they had gone to this effort just for me. I would need the calories as I was in for a long day in the saddle…
With the assistance of Dave’s Spanish neighbour, Angelo, we discussed and decided upon the best route for me to take to Barcelona. It would involve five distinct sections; inland along the river bank to Torroella, across the countryside to Palamos on the coast, a flattish section along the coast to Sant Feliu, a very hilly up and down ride through Tossa de Mar and Lloret de Mar and then finally a second long flat coastal ride to Barcelona itself. It seemed so simple in the planning stage but in the execution was more of a struggle.
To Sant Feliu everything went to plan. Dave joined me for the first section along the riverbank to Torroella where we shared a final coffee before saying our goodbyes. I wanted at least to try following a few of the Eurovelo 8 signs I had seen on the previous day and it wasn’t far from the café that I found a sign so I started following the route. Why are such things never so simple? I found it very stressful looking out for the signs at every twist and turn of the route and inevitably I missed some of them. I assumed that they weren’t there but they probably were. When I started cursing out loud I knew that it might be a time to go back to my own route planning which is what I did, finding the road to Palamos and following it. I can see the attraction in cycle routes going through every nice little village – and the portion of the Eurovelo 8 that I did follow did do just that – but it was at the expense of getting anywhere quickly. I know that is probably an increasingly relevant problem with this trip as the time is ticking away but come on cycle route planners of Europe! Do we really need to be kept so far away from ordinary traffic and larger towns and as a result make following the route a simple pain in the butt?
No surprise I got thrown off the main road to Palamos and once again had to fathom my way to the coast but when I did things became a little easier. I just needed to make us that the sea was on my left and for pretty much the rest of the day that’s exactly what I did. The cycle through Tossa and Lloret was hard work and very reminiscent of cycling along the Croatian coast (although it didn’t go on for a week). The views along the coastline were the reward and I was afforded some spectacular vantage points where I could pause and simple stare into the distance. At one of these panoramic viewing points I consulted Google just out of interest to see how many kilometres it would be to Barcelona. I guessed perhaps 30 or 40. The Internet ticked away for a few moments as the route was being calculated… 95km. It was already past 2pm and I had already committed myself to being in the Catalan capital by booking a (non-refundable) hotel room as well as arranging to meet fellow cyclist Lewis at 8:30pm.
It was a relief to escape Lloret and finally get onto the long flat road to Barcelona and I was delighted to find that I could easily clock up speeds of 30km/hr. This might mean that I could reach the city before 6:30pm. On and on I cycled and the kilometres were gradually chipped away. After Mataró traffic lights started to hold me up slightly but they were only once every kilometre or so. Then I arrived in Badalona, the town just to the north of Barcelona and a place that appears to have been built simply to prevent any cyclist from having an easy time reaching the centre of Barcelona itself. The one-way system was hell, throwing me off course and not giving me any alternative other than to join the motorway which for me clearly wasn’t an option in the first place. I resorted to pavement cycling and eventually made it to the river that separates ‘Bada’ from ‘Barce’. Then the traffic lights started. Can there be a city in the world where there are so many sets of traffic lights? New York perhaps? My money would still be on Barcelona. And every set of lights seemed to be at red for me and Reggie. I know we are in Spain and the ‘mañana’ attitudes prevails but come on! Change! How long does it take someone to cross the road? I didn’t count but I guess I must have stopped and started twenty or thirty times before reaching what I finally assumed was somewhere near the centre of Barcelona (it was actually near the Arc de Triomf) and my self-imposed deadline of 6:30pm for arriving in the city was missed by nearly one hour, despite having arrived in Badalona at well before 6pm. Deep breaths…
I arrived at what I thought was my hotel only to be told that it wasn’t my hotel by the snooty woman on reception (I don’t think she was very impressed with a bicycle being parked inside her foyer) and that I needed to continue for a few ore blocks. Second time lucky, I checked in, showered quickly and then headed over the the Sagrada Familia to meet fellow cyclist Lewis in the Michael Collins bar. If the previous night had been a night out in the English suburbs, the evening in the Michael Collins pub was a night out in Ireland. It was good to swap experiences with Lewis. He has much more to come than me as he is aiming to arrive in Athens by the end of September before he returns to University in October. After a few pints – it was actually his 21st birthday! – we exchanged best wishes and I headed off back to the hotel via a supermarket to buy an evening meal. Much to my shame it consisted of three bars of chocolate. After an at times stressful day in the saddle it was, combined with the beer, the ultimate in comfort food. I needed it.