To say I didn’t set off until around midday today, the distance I managed to cycle – some 93km – wasn’t too bad at all. But whereas quantity wasn’t lacking, quality was. It was not an enjoyable ride apart from one short portion in the ten or so kilometres immediately before cycling through drab Sitges where the road snaked around the headland in smooth, lace-like twists and turns. But apart from that the ride was at times boring, at times ugly, at times uncomfortable and never particularly inspiring.
When I spoke to Lewis last night in the Irish pub he had explained how he had been advised to take the train through the southern suburbs of the Catalan capital. After my own experiences of cycling through the northern suburbs I could see why he had been told just that. Lewis had taken the advice but I was determined to find a way through the urban jungle that surrounds Barcelona. The river appeared to be the biggest hurdle but using Google Maps I located one crossing that I should be allowed to use (the others were motorways or dual carriageways) and headed for that. It involved some long distance cycling to make sure that I was on the correct arteries out of the city but my plan did work and after about an hour I was indeed heading south on the C245 towards Castelldefels. I can’t really think of anything to say about the route as it was entirely unmemorable. There are no pretty pictures to show you as there were no pretty things to take pictures of. When the 10km stretch prior Sitges did start to wind its way along the coast, stopping to take in the improved scenery was quite difficult due to the small size of the road itself and the concrete barrier that was no doubt very effective at stopping cars driving off the edge and into the sea but equally effective at creating a visual barrier to the majestic (probably) cliffs below.
The worst was still to come however. The road south of Sitges was a road which really had ambitions of being a motorway. As the kilometres dragged on, the tell-tale signs started to appear; first one lane, then two, then a wider hard shoulder (where I increasingly spent most of my time), a central reservation, lorries (non existent after Sitges but ever other vehicle nearer to Tarragona). At the very point when I gratefully exited the road to find the campsite, the authorities came clean and admitted that it was indeed a road from which mopeds, horses and bicycles were now banned. I had survived the experience. My fear is, however that between now and Valencia the conditions will not improve. I will however double my efforts to find quieter, more appropriate roads nearer to the coast. The problem is that very often I think that they simply do not exist.
So, to the campsite. Enough of living it up in boutique hotels! The one in Barcelona – the Granvia – was very nice. You get a glimpse of the sheer size of the room in the video that I recorded earlier today (see below). The rest of the hotel was similarly grand with an abundance of ornate plaster painted white. No such luxuries here on the campsite just outside Tarragona. It was recommended by my cousin Richard who I spoke to on the phone earlier to coordinate our plans for next week (if you remember he is flying back to the Iberian peninsula via Barcelona to pick up his car and then drive back to Coimbra in Portugal where he works). He said Camping Trillas had been reviewed by The Guardian a couple of weeks’ ago and they had said very favourable things about the place. Wouldn’t it be fun to find a Guardian readers campsite on a Spanish costa. There would be more beards than your average addition of University Challenge (topical reference there; I do keep up with the tittle tattle of what’s going on back in the UK…). Alas I got the wrong Camping Trillas. My mistake was explained by a Geordie guy working on the reception desk. He did tell me that the other place would have cost me twice as much and that this site was just as good but then again he would say that wouldn’t he. Whatever, it’s nice to be back under canvas on my own on a campsite that I’ve chosen, irrespective as to whether it is a favourite of The Guardian or not. That reminds me, I need to shave in the morning…