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Barcelona, at last

Day 17: Lloret de Mar to Barcelona, 75 km

We've been back from our trip for about a week now, and I never did get around to posting about its very lovely final days. So now that I'm procrastinating writing my thesis, I thought I would rectify the situation!

I have very fond memories of our ride into Barcelona from Lloret de Mar. Because we had covered so much ground riding into Lloret, we had only 75km to ride into Barcelona, giving us ample time to relax and enjoy the marvelous Mediterranean vistas.

The best part of this day was brought about by a somewhat frustrating incident. As we were cycling along a busy stretch of road, we overtook a quite elderly male cyclist. He wasn't going fast as we passed by him, but I don't think he liked the idea that two young women were outdoing him, since he immediately sped up and passed us right back. However, as soon as he did so, he slowed down again, so we passed him. This back-and-forth passing continued for a while, and was really starting to get on our nerves. This guy basically refused to let us be in front of him, even though he couldn't hold our pace. And he'd occasionally try to talk to us, even after it became apparent to him that we didn't speak any Spanish or Catalan. We became frustrated and decided to stop so that he could ride on ahead.

And this turned out to be the day's best decision: we happened to stop on a beautiful beach, where we hung out for the next couple hours swimming, drinking beers at the little seaside bar, and napping. This brought us tremendous joy: it felt like real--and well-deserved!--vacation.

The rest of the ride into Barcelona was easy-going. We entered the city on a bike path, which we followed right up to the place we were staying on the Av. Diagonal, a main road that, as the name suggests, cuts diagonally through the city. The setup of this road was great for cyclists and pedestrians: the two directions of traffic were divided by a wide pedestrian walkway and bike path lined with trees on each side. This street was packed with people; it was refreshing to arrive in such a lively city.

We stayed in Barcelona with Kieran, an old friend of Nicole's from New Zealand. We spent our time wandering the streets with Kieran and our native guío turistico Xavi, a friend of mine from school. Our stay in Barcelona was just what we wanted. We felt like we experienced what the city was all about without doing much of the touristy stuff which just tires us out. People sometimes wonder how a bike trip can qualify as vacation when it's so tiring. Right back at you, people: being a standard tourist is way more draining than cycling all day, trust me!

Some highlights from our stay included: eating at a restaurant where diners select their meals from a fresh seafood counter; having really yummy tapas and the best strawberry mojitos ever; and shopping! I'm usually not that into shopping, but everyone in Barcelona is so well-dressed that we felt a bit out of place. And the clothes there are so beautiful!

On our last night in Barcelona, Xavi took us out for a traditional Catalan meal followed by some bar-hopping that took us from the absinthe bar, to the dark forest bar, to the doorbell-only access bar, and finally a dance club with bad 80s music.

All in all, Barcelona treated us well and was the perfect ending to a super fun trip!

I've now uploaded photos from my SLR to my computer. I will post a link to them here shortly!

Thanks again to all of our hosts for making our trip so wonderful!

A long and lovely second-last day

Day 16: Corneilla-la-Rivière to Lloret de Mar, 175 km (!)

We left Rainer's home this morning in a particularly good mood, having just had a tasty breakfast of fresh pain du chocolat, croissants and baguette. I had just downloaded our new favorite song (I'm a bit embarrassed by how girly it is!) and we sung along with it playing through my phone as we left Corneilla. The wind was at our backs; it was shaping up to be a good day.

The first 40-or-so kilometers through the Pyrenees were fast and beautiful. We crossed the border into Spain without a problem just before noon. And that's when things started going downhill--unfortunately, only in the metaphorical sense. It turned out that our route was on a terrible highway (on which bikes were permitted) that was extremely desolate and not very pretty. Only about 90 km into our day were we able to find somewhere to grab something to eat and escape the heat for a while. The place had wifi, and when I checked my email, it turned out that our host for the night in Parafrugell, only about 30 km away, had cancelled. We frantically searched Warm Showers, contacting any host between where we were and Barcelona. Luckily, Javier and his wife Toni agreed to host us for the night in Lloret de Mar. However, by the time we got everything sorted it was almost 4pm and we still had about 80km to go!

We weren't too excited about the rest of our ride when we set off in the heat. But things quickly took a turn for the best: the first part of our route turned out to be a beautiful road through the mountains and forest with a long, winding climb, which had to have been at least 7km long. It was no wonder that we saw so many cyclists in this route: the view was amazing (pictures don't do it justice) the road smooth, and only maybe five cars passed by the whole time we were up there. We had an equally windy, dizzying descent into a small town and then rode the last 30-40 km into Lloret de Mar. Part of this was the most amazing highway ever--huge, with a wide shoulder, no traffic, and mostly downhill. We had one more steep ascent before finally reaching Lloret.

All in all, this had to be one of my favorite cycling days of our trip. There's nothing quite like seeing amazing views when the sun is low and you're up high on your bike, going fast. In the end, we were very happy that our original Warm Showers host cancelled!

In Lloret de Mar, another touristy seaside town, our host Toni recommended a restaurant where we had a bottle if wine, bread, olives, sausage, mussels, veal and crème brûle, all for only 15€ each! A well deserved treat :)

Headwinds and gravel roads into Catalonia

Day 15: Valras-Plage to Corneilla-la-Rivière, 108 km

This was probably our worst day of cycling yet. The first twenty or so kilometers were ok, along a nice bike path and through beach towns very similar to Valras-Plage. Afterwards, though, we were on bad roads for about 10 km, and then a gravel road for about 15. That gravel road was the worst. Even though it was very beautiful, with bodies on water on both sides, we were unable to enjoy the view, since the whole time we were focused on finding the least bumpy part of the path. The vibrations hurt our hands and it was generally unpleasant. We were glad when it finally ended, and had lunch in Port-la-Nouvelle.

We were happy to be free from the gravel road after lunch, but we were met instead with a strong headwind and a busy road with a not-so-nice view. Heading into Corneilla-la-Rivière the wind was especially strong--fortunately we only had to deal with it for the last 10 minutes or so of our ride.

Corneilla-la-Rivière is a small Catalan town of just over 1000. Our host Rainer took us to his garden a few minutes' drive away from his house, where we had so many tasty things: muscat from the region, barbecued beef and sausages, ratatouille, salad, and of course fresh baguette and cheese. We have been eating well here!

Today we cycle into Spain! Hopefully crossing the Pyrenees will be ok!