Barçelona 2 Britain (not quite) October 2015

12th October Mallorca – Barçelona

Let adventures begin. Nice easy day, coffee with WW guys outside ProCycle before thier morning ride. “Re-cycled” cardboard box

 Packed panniers in a way that I hope will work over next couple of weeks. “El Cockerel” and I bumbled down the bay road

 to Port D’Alcúdia. The old fortified town looks as inviting as ever in the sunshine.
 Arrived at port with two hours to spare. Coffee n chill in port side bar.
 Personalised directions in harbour !

 The 14:00 ferry arrived at 12:55 unloaded, loaded and we departed at 13:45. No chance for any late arrivers.

 The boat was quiet, weather was good when we left

 The pools looked quite inviting but…I decided chill out and up date notes and plan for tomorrow.

 The bright lights of Barcelona didn’t didguise the mist on the hills behind the town.

Google maps guided me through the backstreets to my cheap n cheerful hotel. I’m sure it will be better in the morning when the drunks have left the steps of the minimart opposite!

13th October Barçelona to Cardona – 66.46 miles 4644′ up 6hr 10m cycling

The overnight rain had washed the drunks away. It had stopped by the time I eventually got my things together at 9:15 regretting the printed route through Spain still sitting on my desk at home!!  The red bus guide to Barcelona & iPhone I knew would get me through. 

Umbrellas up & rain coat on within 5 mins. Off again 20mins later as I followed the Road north heading always for the mast of Torre de Collserola on Tibidabo hill.  

 I plotted a straight line from the harbour up to the radio tower. This cuts through several pedestrian areas but as its all uphill didn’t cause any problems. Where they have them, Barcelona cycle lanes work well using the central reservation on the big wide roads.  

 Bit of an issue where they change to just one side- not always the side you expect !!

The view over Barcelona on the way up is good even in rubbish weather  

 Down from the mast a sweeping pleasant road leads to the upmarket town of Sant Cugat del Vallès. A coffee break here showed my slow progress. 1hr 45 since set off 1hr 24 actual riding 14.5 mls covered. Welcome back to touring pace Patrick.  

Rubí was place i had expected to see om the signs. . it turned out to be an extesion of Sant Cugat

The town of Teressa was unispiring. A cycle route all through the half deserted town centre did nothing to endear me to the place. 

Leaving the town to the north I eventually arrived in open country.  

 The switch back road through  the Parc Natural de St Llorenç del Munt to Relinars gave spectacular views across the surrounding sandstone cliffs. Several lone cyclists out  pushing themselves here. 

The multiple river, road & railway crossing points at  Castellbell i el Vilar looked spectacular- 

 Until 10 mins later when I was pushing hard up 20% to get to the top level! 

After my disappointment at the historic centre of Terrassa I decided to give Manressa a miss! I followed the by-pass with the lorries round five sides of a hexagon. Eventually on the north side I checked the map oh! Sh**! Tired & getting cold I went back towards town. At the 1st junction was big Mc.     
Now I haven’t visited one of these places since the 1980’s. I was very pleasantly surprised and after a good Caesar salad drinks ice cream coffee all for €7 plus charged up phone had free WiFi warmed through and had smiley staff showing me how to press buttons to order in English. I’m an overnight convert.

I set sail with renewed hope in modern ways only to question the latest ViaMichelin app. It gave me a warning about the cycle routing being beta and not fully tested. Down a rough farm track I gave up on it and cut down to the main C55. Back with the big trucks again I vetoed Súria with its potash factory and destroyed landscape  

  Continuing to Cardona which Via Michelin said there was a Parador plus others. The Parador in the castle on top of the hill is spectacular  

 
But at €125 + as a codger discount rate was not for me. Stayed at v olde worlde 3* Bremon hotel. B&B& pizza + wine ev meal €90. 👍😎

14th October Cardona-Solsona-Port del Comte– 38.24 miles 4607′ up 4hr 06m cycling

After a good breakfast at the Bremon I explored the tired old town.  

  

 Unfortunately the crumbling hill top town hasn’t been able to replicate it’s prosperous salt mining past. So it is a sad place. It’s position is fantastic. But the busy road bypasses it. 

  

Lonely salt baron from 986 was celebrated in 1986

A quick call into local tourist office for  map of Catalonia confirmed everything said above 😔

I continued north up the busy main road. After an hour of uphill I came to the hotel I had provisionally planned for night before. Good decision.👍  Now on a higher plain I dropped into Solsona. Crossing over the river a large sandstone facade with an arch got my attention.  

 Through the arch was a mini Carcassonne 

  Steep narrow lanes of an ancient walled city which once was of great importance  

  

  

After a good explore of  Nucli Antic

 Tapas & coffee I headed off to the hills to stay at a ski resort  which ViaMichelin assured me was 15 miles away!  

The road took me to the impressive dams below      

  

 Unfortunately for me I had to go though several tunnels.  

 Li’l cyclist with li’l lights going slowly and you can hear the trucks coming. Heart monitors wouldn’t register what goes on ! 

Eventually after great scenery made it to Sant Llorenç de Morunys where the Cathars fled to in the 13th C check out : http://www.camidelsbonshomes.com. For background on Cathar routes

The sign to Port del Comte said another 15km past a Coll and up into the rapidly dropping cloud base    

I called the hotel, yes,she said just keep going UP and you will find us!   I found Hotel Avet at 5,480′ above the clouds in Catalunia. Tired n happy but much later than expected. Great host family with whom I spent the night eating, cracking almonds & chatting until after midnight! Hotel Avet is a good place to be. I’m sure any night of the year.  www.hotelavet.com 

15th October Hotel Avet, Port del Comte – La Seu d’Urgell- Andorra la Vella – 48.71miles 3598’up (5840′ down) 4hr 09m cycling

For an out of season, out of reach place, Hotel Avet surprised. The restaurant was busy all evening, after the chef rocked up at 8:45. In the morning breakfast was still going on as I left at 9:30 as more hunters turned up with thier dogs n guns. The white dots below show the ski settlement of Port del Comte as I saw from halfway up the next valley.  

  Marta had said it would be dry bright n cold on the up & down route through the remote Tuixen. She was right and it was spectacular.  

   

Eventually over one more Coll  

 I could see la Seu d’Urgell down in the valley 10 miles away – all downhill on shadowy rubbish roads!  

 

The border  town of  la Seu d’Urgell is a boring grid of characterless blocks of apartments that could be anywhere in Spain. A burger & coffee served with disdain matched the place & I cycled on without a photo – says it all I suppose. The folks back  at Hotel Avet assured me it was flattish from there into Andorra. Much to my surprise it was!

I was joined for a short while by a local club rider who was happy to pace me up into town, until a couple of young legs zipped past past and he took thier back wheel ! 

I had been recommended the exe princes 4* hotel by a guest at the Avet and at €47.50 b&b set in the centre of Andorra la Vella was a good choice  

 Parked bike in luggage room and explored a very busy city. It’s amazing just how many people are here stuck in the middle of nowhere. New build all around and lots of expensive shops. Ok it’s a tax haven. But it’s not easy to get to without a helicopter


16th October Andorra la Vella – Port d’Envalira (8,000′ ) – Tarascon sur Ariege 57.74miles 4533’up (6462′ down) 4hr 51m cycling

  
Just follow the signs up the hill for 25km !   

I found a back street bike builder Two great guys from Optioncyvles who pumped up tyres oiled chain and weighed everything at 32.7 kg !! 

  
Looking back at busy busy Andorra la Vella. I had lots of time to look back !  

It was very cold:  but the melt water tasted good.   

  
  

Made it! slowly slowly. Next a long cold run down into França  

  
Eventually made to Ax les Themes

 Cold French cafe welcome as it was 2:35. Still dishing up food but no more for the likes of me! So I stopped at a friendly road side caf in a supermarket car park! Hot sweet coffees cheese n ham sarnie choccy bun & she filled up water bottle with a smile. so I carried on down river to Tarascon sur Ariege.   Much nicer place and a warm welcome at the good hotel de la Poste €50 for a room overlooking river. 

 
  

17th October  Tarascon sur Ariege – Foix – Toulouse 66.39miles 283’up (1426’down :-))  4hr 21m cycling

  

Sunny start from happy hotel to follow Ariege as the sun slowly rose to clear early morning frosts 

 The road alongside Ariege has a cycle path most of the way and worth noting fit the future.  

 Soon arrived at fantastic town of Foix. I’ve been here several times in past. Should be in everyone’s visit list in France. Today carried on to Vallee Lèze.  

 
The D919 follows river all way to Toulouse. Except in true French style it changes its number when it crosses the boundary to next commune! D4 now ! 

 

What d’ya mean you never saw these before !!

  Mostly boring farm communities along the way but as its autumn this place stuck out. 

   Lézat looked the sort of place for lunch but Barrie’s bistro was closed and the rest of the place was waiting for Godod !

  The next village was even more run down but a bistrot in the unloved town square was full of locals. Burgered, coked and chipped was I but I felt no better for the experience! 

The Lèze became the Ariege on the outskirts of Toulouse, the local cops were busy chatting as a Peugeot squeezed me off a roundabout towards them !!

Eventually made it into a the very laid back town. Music appears to come from everywhere. Jazz, dance n trance all on a Saturday afternoon in October.  

 
The cycle lanes are more sheffield painted lip service than productive. The one way streets with just room for one car have 🚴 on them in opp direction.  

 Bit of a poo with panniers! 

  
Toulouse is the confluence of a couple of big rivers as well as at least three big canal systems.  

    Eat your heart out Sheffield tram system! The central reservation has all been grassed over and the trams appear to float from there to here. Cool 👍😎   
The ibis hotel is at Pont Jumeau where the three canals merge. Left bike in conference mode and had an expensive nights stay  

 
18th October Toulouse – canal Garonne- Miossac 43.94 wet miles 79′ up  (190’down :-)) 3hr 1m cycling. 

The walk to explore the night before I failed to identify the actual way to join the tow path I could see !

  
Off roading with panniers next to deep cold water is one way to wake you up at the start of the day! The tow path full of local joggers on a 10K charity bumble with headphones on also helps the early morning concentration. They turned back over a bridge and left me to quiet , wet- did I mention it he was raining?  

 

The route along side canal Garonne is part of 700km cycle route http://www.canaldes2mersavelo.com from the Mediterranean to the Altantic.

The aqueducts still have tricky cobbled sections are to keep your concentration up  

 
There are several small town and mooring points with cafes along the way but I wanted to push on in the wet. 

 
The aqueduct pont canal du Cacor looks impressive from the air  

 
But to suddenly come upon it cobbles n all with 100′ down to left and canal to right !  

 
Panniers + cobblestones +rain = 🙀 

 
Oh yes real rutted ‘orrid ones not nice pavé.  That’s what was in the run down town of Moissac leading up to L’Abbaye St Pierre de Moissac  

 
As you can see it’s Sunday en France and it’s shut!  Only punters outside highly recommended restaurant looked like they had bee there a while!  

 
The view over the grand Garonne was clearing  

 
And so I made my way to the very welcoming http://www.le-pont-napoleon.com hotel. 

  
Bike in garage, good shower n chill all of the afternoon. 

19th October Moissac – Belvès 64.57 miles 3022′ up (2812’down) 5hr 12m cycling. 

Cold grey misty autumn mornin, I turned over for another hours sleep!  At breakfast chatted with Eric a cyclist from Denmark. At 74 his partner had banned him from riding in the rain yesterday. I wish someone had tried to coax me in a nice warm car! They’re following route St James. We’ll catch up in November to see where we ended up. 

  
The morning ride above Moissac was misty and so the views were non existent. The quiet lanes passed through several pretty villages, each shrouded in mist. Coming down into Monsempron Libos the Sun broke through. Lunch in the square consisted of coffees, from bar full of locals gambling on trotting races, and pre pack salad from minimart across road!
 

Following the twisty route up beyond the drab ancient abbaye I followed a beautiful ridge road with great views all the way to Salles. Passing big bird traps along the way.  

 The dots on the map next to Gavaudun didn’t prepare me for the fantastic structure perched on the rocks: 
 Along the valley the modern village is just as photogenic.  
 And the tall poplars along the way make sure you remember this is France  
 The village of Lacapelle appeared to be like a film set with the old cars on the Main Street  

 Over the border into the Dordogne region the 1st place is Château Biron  

 A magnificent place that also is an Auberge. Too early for me to stop on this trip but one for the future  

 A short ride beyond I came to the quaint town of Monpazier. 

 
  The lanes full of twee shops and the superb sunny square   

  Showed why it was busy even on this late Monday afternoon in October. 

10 miles beyond over woodlands of oak and chestnut in full Autumn colours 

autumn en dordogne
 I came to the hilltop town of Belvès.  
 A choice of pretty hotels and on advice from the quaint tourist office I picked the Belvedere a bright 2•• 
 

20th October “the end” Belvès to St Cypien. 10 cold miles across La Dordogne 

 One more expensive coffee served with disdain.  

 Don’t feel great, time to call it a day. Heading for Bordeaux on the train.  

 Maybe attempt the reverse journey in June when days longer & warmer. 

Hasta mañana 


2 thoughts on “Barçelona 2 Britain (not quite) October 2015

  1. Hello Patrick, that was great reading. Good to ride with you in mallorca – we’re now back – all good fortune for the ride North. May the winds come from the South. p

    Like

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