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!