Cycling Bonn – Barcelona
Leg 11, 12 & 13: Where I lay my helmet is my home
after we left quiet unwillingly from Dole and the best accomodation ever (cheers to Francois and La Batellerie! Who ever plans to travel near Dole – THIS is the place to stay! We went to meet the river Saone and to Olli`s utmost horror the direction of the bike road turned north-west – pretty much 90 degrees from where we actually wanted to go. But when we decided to leave the bike road behind and looked for our own path through hamlets and villages things turned out all right again – thanks to leaving the gravel bike road for the small and calm “normal road”. We found a pretty terrace restaurant where we shared our lunch with fellow cyclists (from France) which interviewed us – in German 🙂 on the quality of the bike road. We felt very important…! It was a lovely day indeed – rolling hills which led us up and down continuously but without being too hard to cycle. A truly delightful bike ride. When we reached our accomodation for the night we found it to be a hunting lodge from the 17th century which in many ways was in pretty original condition. We were more than happy to accept the offer from the hosts to cook dinner for us – and what a good decision that was! Most of the food was regional – if it did not come straight from their own garden. It was delicious. Four courses later an English couple arrived (they got lost and were late as well for the dinner) and we did spend more time than we expected with them talking, laughing and emptying the wine…
Surprisingly enough we were the first ones to get up the next morning and started our route to Cluny (or as Olli pronounces it in perfect Finnish-French: Clooney…). It is one of those places I wanted to see all my life. Cluny… where all of those important decisions in mediaval church history have been prepared and thought up – and which have studied with my friend Janni back in Constance. A dream coming true! Not much is left though of the buildings, church and abbey have been thoroughly ransacked in the 17th century – but the town is pretty (built largely with the stones taken from the mentioned abbey). For me it was really special to be able to walk around Cluny…!
Leaving Cluny we found steep passages over and over again – partially as much as 10-15% elevation. Too much for me – I had to push the bike twice and my legs started complaining (bodylanguage… unmistakable!). Remarkable was the longest bicycle tunnel in Europe – it is 1.6 kilometers long. It expected us after another steep elevation – so we went up exasperated (speed around 5km/h…) , had an impressive decline and in we went into this former train tunnel. Interesting experience!
Shortly after that we did reach the 1000 Kilometer mark – hard to believe, really!! We have been cycling already 1000 kilometers…
Finish line of the stage was Macon – which we have not seen much of to be honest. Our last minute accomodation was in a commercial centre and we did not enter into the town (rule number 1: most importantly you need a place to sleep!).
Leg 12 was surprisingly un-delightful… Even though the bike roads became increasingly bad over the past days, this one was really bad. The unpaved paths were covered in gravel – but this time the stones were as big as fists and loose. For about 6 kilometers that was the track before we abandoned it to cycle on a road which had rather heavy traffic. All in all a bit stressful those 70km – so the rest day on Sunday s most welcomed!
Lyon as the target of our stage and rest-day has surprised us immediately. What we have seen so far is pretty well – we are in the gourmet capital – what more is there to ask? We stumbled across a comical ballett on a square – boys and girls equally dressed in tutu`s – which was a laugh. The architecture is impressive and has a lot of art deco elements. We will further roam around…
So it is bye bye from us for now – bye bye!
Claudia & Olli
Barcelona Impressions – 3
last week was truly packed with tours and further long and extensive walks – I hardly know where to start…
Sunday we rented a car and drove to Montserrat and Sitges. The rock formations of Montserrat are really impressive from near and far. For some 10 kilometers you need to drive up hair pin turns in order to reach the Montserrat abbey parking area. From there the famous abbey can be visited and it is the ideal starting point for hikes and climbing tours. Unfortunately we were by far not the only ones who thought about going to Montserrat on a Sunday at all… the amount of company we had was sufficient to make us queue for about 90 minutes far before we reached the parking… at least almost. We turned around before. Nevertheless, it was worth it as we had beautiful vistas.
In the beautiful coastal town of Sitges we spent the afternoon. We roamed through the streets, walked alongside the beach and promenades and had an excellent lunch – and we returned back to Barcelona all relaxed.
In Barcelona the so called Modernisme (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernisme) – Art Nouveau present all over the place. The best known representative is probably Antoni Gaudi, but there are more – such as Lluis Domenech i Montaner who have left their marks. And the marks of both we have followed this week.
We visited Sagrada Familia – including 2 of its towers (by A. Gaudi) and the Palau de la Musica Catalana by Lluis Domenech i Montaner.
Sagrada Familia, which is supposed to be completed by 2030 is very interesting to see from time to time. The changes and the increasing impression it makes are exciting to witness. So we ordered the tickets online (which was pretty effortless) and just bypassed the queues, showed the Smartphone/tablet and in we were at the scheduled time. Very handy.
But when it comes to the towers it has to be mentioned that the stairs are seriously not for people suffering from vertigo. The famous photographs where the stairs look like snails are very real and I admit we all were breathing heavily when we eventually reached the bottom…
The Palau de la Musica Catalana is another building listed by the UNESCO World Heritage.
Building the music palace has been a historic enterprise. It was financed privately in order to give the choires of Barcelona an opportunity to practise and present themselves – which was not possible before. The Palau gave a joint home both to bourgeoise and classical music.
And as we were in the middle of a rush of culture we enjoyed La Traviata in the Liceu – in an opulent and gorgeous building. What an environment for a wonderful opera! I can’t remember when I last had a week so filled with culture and “landscape” at a time….
The next post will most likely come from The Hague (The Netherlands) where I will be for the coming 14 months. And I am sure that there will be a lot of stories to be told.
Barcelona Impressions – 2
by now we got used to city life again and enjoy it to spend as much time as possible outdoors. We walk the streets, parks and the beach for hours each and every day and I start wondering how it will feel being back in an office again…
One of our walks led us to to the Carreter de les Aiguës
– a stretch of 9 kilometers which follows the mountain Tibidabo in a relatively flat way. Throughout the walk there are wonderful views onto Barcelona and the sea – it is really worth a visit. Only the entrances into the Carreterra de les Aiguës are rather under-developed – hardly recognisable. That is especially surprising as the trail is heavily used by joggers, cyclists and hikers. But probably it’s only that us people from Northern Europe are being complicated in this case…
We meet our friends here very often over lunch. They keep their agendas at work free for a while and we can catch up for a few hours. Even though that might not seem much – it is a very intense time we spend together. And this time we can even see some of them more than once – what a privilege! But I admit that when we bumped into 2 ex-colleagues from Deutsche Bank (which I left 11 years ago! ) in a small bar/restaurant in Gracia called “Gata Mala” it was a moment when many of us were quite speechless…!
The weekend we went to Montserrat and Sitges with a rented car. Our initial idea to drive along part of Costa Brava in order to repeat some of the nicest streches of the bicycle tour by car turned out too ambitious – it would have been all in all too much driving. It has to be another time 🙂
So it is good bye from us for now, “Good Bye”
Claudia & Olli
P.S: Special thanks to Toni for giving me his FC Barcelona “Carnets” which allowed me to watch a match from a superb location in Camp Nou! I enjoyed it very much!
Barcelona Impressions -1
after we arrived 10 days ago in Barcelona we noticed how incredibly lucky we have been in with respect to the weather on our bike tour. While we reached Barcelona on Saturday enjoying the lovely weather the entire region suffered from heavy rain and flooding. It would have been a real challenge if we would still have been cycling under those conditions.
But instead we were able to focus on relaxing our tired muscles and take a rest.
It is an interesting experience that after cycling 4 weeks we almost felt bored when in Barcelona. During the bike trip we were busy with planning the stages, looking for accommodation, packing and un-packing the panniers. Then followed hours and hours on the bikes and the daily washing of sweaty cycling clothes – our days were filled and followed a certain rhythm. All of that disappeared reaching the finish line. The learning for future bike trips is that we will not plan to stay at the final destination for that long again
On the other hand we have by now reached a more “normal holiday rhythm” and roam around the city by foot. This weekend we went to visit the “Cavatast” in Sant Sadurni (Penedés) which takes place every year on the first weekend of October (and is very easily to be reached from Barcelona using the R4 train from Plaza Catalonia). Some 50 Cava producers present their cavas (which is a bubbly wine produced like a champagne) and you find all kind of local delicacies typical for the region.
In general we have the feeling that there are far more tourists in Barcelona than a couple of years ago. Park Guell was so overrun by visitors and streetsellers that we fled from it as soon we found the next exit. That’s been an entirely new experience… New as well was that both Park Guell and Hospital Sant Pau are asking entrance fees now.
One of the things that can be seen all over Barcelona and Catalonia these days are posters and flags which demand the independence vote on November 9th. It keeps surprising me how different press announcements and reports on the topic are by Catalan or Spanish press. The polemic and almost disgust in the news from Madrid are impressive and from my perspective not helping to find a solution or bridge the gaps. For me being allowed to give an opinion is a basic right in a democratic state – and that is what is behind the vote that people ask. It is getting people’s opinion on the topic of a Catalan independence from Spain – which as well those Catalans want who are against indepedence. What will happen as a result out of the vote is still completely unclear. Yet the vote as such has been forbidden by the central government, the language used is rather provoking. It will be a tense time coming up and I hope that there will not be further escalation…
Barcelona Erfahrungen (1)
nachdem wir vor 10 Tagen in Barcelona angekommen sind haben wir gemerkt, wieviel Gluuck wir wirklich mit dem Wetter hatten auf unserer Radtour. Während wir am Samstag bei bestem Wetter unseren letzten Reisetag hatten stöhnte die ganze Region am Sonntag unter starken Regenfällen und Überschwemmungen. Wären wir da noch unterwegs gewesen hätten wir ein echtes Problem gehabt.
So konnten wir uns darauf konzentrieren unsere müden Muskeln zu pflegen und uns auszuruhen.
Es ist eine interessante Erfahrung, dass wir nach den fast 4 Wochen auf den Rädern in Barcelona sich plötzlich ein Gefühl von Leere breit machte. Während der Fahrradtour waren wir mit Streckenplanung, Suche nach Übernachtungsmöglichkeiten, Gepäcktaschen aus- und wieder einpacken beschäftigt, dann Stunden auf den Rädern, das tägliche Waschen der verschwitzten Fahrradkleidung – die Tage w
aren gefüllt und folgten einem Rhythmus – und der war nach dem Erreichen des Ziels nicht mehr relevant. Eine Lehre aus dieser Situation für zukünftige Fahrradreisen wird sein, dass wir am Zielort nicht zuviel Zeit einplanen.
Inzwischen sind wir besser in einem “normalen Urlaubsrhythmus” angekommen und streifen zu Fuss durch die Stadt und die Umgebung. Am Wochenende fand der “Cavatast” in Sant Sarduni (Penedés) statt. Das heisst das rund 50 Cavahersteller dort ihre Cavas (Sekt mit Flaschengärung) präsentieren und dazu gibt es Leckereien zum Essen aus der Region. Das Cavafest findet jedes Jahr am ersten Oktoberwochenende statt und ist von Barcelona aus prima mit der Bahn zu erreichen (Linie R4 ab Plaza Catalunya).
Grundsätzlich scheint es uns als wären mehr Touristen in Barcelona als vor 2 Jahren. Der Park Guell war dermassen von Besuchern und Verkäufern überlaufen, dass wir so schnell es ging geflüchtet sind. Das hatten wir noch nie… Und auch der Eintritt zu grossen Teilen des Parks und beim Hospital Sant Pau ist neu.
Was man überall in Katalunien und in Barcelona sieht sind die Forderungen nach der Abstimmung zur Unabhängigkeit am 9. November. Es ist immer wieder erstaunlich wie weit die Darstellungen des Themas in der katalanischen und der zentral-Spanischen Presse aus einander gehen. Und mit welcher Polemik und beinahe Abscheu die Berichterstattung aus Madrid vor sich geht. Ich habe grosse Schwierigkeiten das Vorgehen von Madrid zu verstehen – für mich ist es ein Grundrecht seine Meinung äussern zu können und nur das steht hinter dem 9. November. Die Katalanen wollen eine Meinungsumfrage ob die Bevölkerung für oder gegen die Unabhängigkeit ist. Was man mit dem Ergebnis macht, welche Optionen es gibt (oder nicht gibt) ist offen. Aber schon die Meinungsumfrage wurde verboten, begleitet von Drohungen und Beschimpfungen. Es wird spannend sein zu sehen, was passiert und es bleibt zu hoffen, dass der Konflikt nicht eskaliert.
Leg 25: Barcelona!
starting today`s last stage from Blanes to Barcelona we were as exited as we have been when we started the Tour back in Bonn… It is something really special to come close to a goal which you have approached for almost four weeks.
The leg did use the N-II from beginning to end following the sea. As we shared the road with cars we were a little nervous if it would be a nice final stage or not. But we actually found out that there were more cyclists on the road than cars. Many of them greeted and cheered when seeing us – Olli and I just could not stop smiling! One of the cyclist on a racing bike joined us for some 10 kilometers and chatted with us. It was an honour for him, he said, to have shared a few kilometers of route with people who had done this kind of journey. One day he would love to do the same.
I remember that we have once said the same when our friend Lars told us about his Bonn-Barcelona bicycletour… (thank you so much Lars! We will both never forget that!) It is simply wonderful to be able to make a dream come true!
Adeu from Barcelona my dear friends and thanks for all your support
Claudia & Olli
Leg 22, 23 & 24: Mountains!
leg 21 finished in Argeles sur Mer with a lovely dinner and in the morning we had a great breakfast and like pseudo-athletes we ate as many scrambled eggs as we posssibly could to prepare ourselves for the mountains.
The first steep uphills were not far away and up we went and after that down until we reached the sea again in the gorgeous Collioure. After a short break dedicated to photos (Claudia) and navigation checks (Olli) we continued in the best of moods. The stretch we had just completed would have been one which I would not have been able to do only four weeks ago without pushing the bike. Now we both happily roamed across the hills.
And so it went on all day: Up and down in an impressively steep manner. The landscape was spectacular and I really did not expect to hear myself saying that: It was an unbelievably beautiful bicycle day! On one of the highest points of our journey we entered Spain. After some 1700 kilometers cycling from Bonn.To reach Llança, our destination for the day there were another 20 kilometers of hills to do, but we were over the moon what a wonderful day we were experiencing! If anyone ever visits Llança please do not forget to go to the restaurant Fornall Mari. It is an excellent little place with caring and knowledgeable service and brilliant food – a real highlight.
From Llança we started stage 23 to Palamos – overrall a rather flat stage compared to the day before. Well… it started actually with a last steep climb of which ended the Pyrenees for us. Then there was flatness…! In Castello Empuria we had a brief stop to admire the mediaval village centre and the church before we continued our journey. Our route joined the Pirinexus ever so often which runs through the Pyrenees away from cars and other traffic. Whenever we met it though the route was in really bad condition and it became our hobby to actually try to avoid this bikeroute which has been awarded the bicycle route of the year 2014!
With Palamos we eventually reached that part of Costa Brava where mass-tourism feels at home. Looking from the positive side on it mass-tourism means that you easily find a place to stay in off-season and restaurants are prepared to feed you at times no local would ever think about eating (in Spain: between 5 and 7 pm … at that time we are just freshly showered and a bit rested and REALLY hungry…). Therefore… no complaints – it all has its own advantages!
Palamos was the starting point for our leg 24 and there we went further south and approached the second hill-stage. While Olli seemed to hardly sweat I had a hard time on this leg. We had to do more breaks to get over the Costa Brava hills – and yes… there is a very good reason to call it Costa Brava. It is a very wild coast! We met a Swiss lady on her bike tour as well – Maja. She has just become a pensionist and decided to take on her bike and cycle to Malaga from Zürich. Impressive. Despite of tired legs it was a great day again – over and over we were rewarded with excellent vistas after a climb. The stretch between Sant Feliu de Grixols and Tossa de Mar is known as well as the “Road of the Year”: 365 curves each presenting impressive vistas! Today`s destination is Blanes and tomorrow it will be Barcelona!
So it is Good Bye from us – Bye Bye (and Adeu!)
Claudia & Olli
Leg 20 & 21: Indulgence-Rides through Rouissillion
our last 2 stages have presented the South of France in all its beauty. We have enormously enjoyed the cycling which might mean as well that we eventually got used to the sometimes slightly imperfect road surfaces (if there is a surface to speak of) and that we have to stop rather a lot now to double check the route. In addition to the map we keep looking into an offline-App for French cycling routes and Google-Maps to keep us on track. Leg 20 went from Sete to Gruissan. A lovely, peaceful stage which allowed us to get over the pain of leaving Chez Francois….
Gruissan is a pretty and charming little town. I fell hopelessly in love with its surrrounding landscape (direction Port la Nouvelle) which we crossed on the morning of stage 21. On the horizon the Pyrenees, the marshes and brilliant cycling roads – what an indulgance! I did not want to leave.
Behind Port la Nouvelle we found ourselves in a road closure: they were filming for a movie. The friendly security guard asked us to be fast to do the closed strech. “Well” he said when looking at the bikes and the full panniers “as fast as you can…” And so it came that we had the street we thought might be the busiest of our leg all to ourselves.
All day the Pyrenees came closer bit by bit and and reminded us that tomorrow we will have the first of our two mountain stages. We will try to cross them with as little inclination as possible following the coast – we will see how that will feel in real live. But as our legs have improved a lot by now the feeling of panic when thinking about the Pyrenees has vanished. What we feel now is respect – which seems adequate, somehow. It will work out somehow!
So tomorrow we will be in Catalunya and this is the last blog from France from this journey. So it is Au revoir from us from here and it will chant Benvinguts fromCatalunya tomorrow!
Claudia & Olli