I decided to take a longer break in Barcelona to give me a chance to explore the city properly, have a chill/rest day, and to plan the next stage of the trip in more detail. The rough idea was one day for each, but realistically they all got mixed up a bit…
Big thanks to my WarmShowers host Ferran and his housemates for letting me stay for four nights!
I did most of my exploring of Barcelona on Saturday 08/02/2020. I like exploring cities on foot as it gives me a chance to absorb the feeling of a place. So I set off from Ferran’s place and started walking roughly towards the first attraction. On the way I found a bakery and grabbed some goodies for breakfast.
I then reached Cathedral Santa Familia which has been in the process of being built for around 150 years and it’s still ongoing! The building is amazing and dominates the area. The cathedral has an amazing mix of traditional Gothic architecture and modern architecture. I really enjoyed walking around it to see the outside, but there were massive queues so I didn’t go in. From what I read it is considered quite a controversial building as people think the modern work has strayed from the original architect’s intent. Was certainly one of the most unique religious buildings I have seen.
From here I started heading towards old Barcelona and Las Rambla as Bertrand had suggested it as a sight to see. It was cool to walk down but it felt quite commercial. As did a lot of old Barcelona, but the little streets and old buildings were amazing to see. There was a free exhibition of monsters that are used as part of some festival. Eventually I reached the end of Las Rambla with the marina and Christopher Columbus column. This is apparently were the King and Queen of Spain met Columbus on his return from America!
I then headed off to find lunch… I attempted to visit a tapas bar suggested to me by Cherie, but as she had said it was really popular and way too busy so I went another one close by. I had an amazing bowl of mussels in Sicilian sauce, some wine and tea. Really yummy and nice to sit down to rest the feet.
I then headed for more exploring of the town making it down to the beach. From there I started to wander back into the old town to visit two more recommended places — one of the markets, and the Church of Maria der Mer. I got quite turned around walking through town though and ended up going the wrong way and not finding the places I wanted. I did instead stumble on some interesting things including parts of the old Roman town, a street show of one of the Saint’s lives and lots of loud drummers. I decided to call it quits at that point and head back to the flat with slightly sore feet and happy exploration of town complete.
The next day as mostly focused on route planning (more on that later). I did go out to wander around some more and visit the Bunker which was recommend by Ferran and his friends for its views of Barcelona. They weren’t wrong! I could see the whole city from the top and the bunker itself was really cool as well. It was used during the Spanish Civil war, and then became a shanty town. The day was a little hazy but still well worth the climb. Also you can really see how much Santa Familia is going to dominate the skyline when it is done.
My trip out to explore on the last day was much later in the day. I mainly went to wander and absorb, with a side thought of seeing the places I had missed before. It was really nice to walk around when everyone was coming back from work and feel the life in the city. Eventually I walked all the way back to old Barcelona and visited Santa Maria der Mer. An awesome church which really felt special. I also liked all the different Saint statues around the inside.
And that brings to close my exploring of Barcelona but not the end of what I got up to…
So although I knew I was going to mix Eurovelo routes together to make my way to Istanbul, I had not look in detail at the route and what it involved. Ferran was kind enough to lend me his computer (a Mac which I have no idea how to use plus it was in Spanish, though thankfully Chrome was familiar) which made it much easier than on phone or tablet.
For the long distance routing I use a website called BRouter. It also has an app which works with Osmand, the main navigation tool I use on my phone when cycling (it also works with some others). The reason I like BRouter is it has adaptable profiles and can plan really long distances even on the phone. It is not the simplest to set up on the phone but worth it… when looking at distances of 100’s of kilometres the other apps I have tried just crash. (I am sure there are some that can do long distance on the phone, but they probably need paying for. )
To work out the route to Istanbul I start with the two points I am most interest in, ie the start and finish, and see if it will route. In this case no, so I add in some intermediate points (sometimes points of interest to me, or logical points it would route through anyway, to to steer the route the way I want it to go) and see what route it comes up with, and more importantly the altitude profile I get!!
With the first pass at a route I will then look to smooth out any major peaks if I can. In this case I pulled the routing closer to the coast to avoid going through the Alps between Italy and France and similarly around Trieste. I also experiment with what slightly different routing points do to the over all distance and climbs.
Next it to look at points of interest or cycle routes I would like it to take, instead of what it might have chosen. In this case it was dragging it to Eurovelo 6 and 13 a bit more, even if it added about 100km over all as it is likely to be easier riding.
The final stage of planning, once I have a route I like the look of, is to review it for rest points. For this next stage I am loosely planning to ride 70km a day for 6 days out of the week and have one rest day. This means approximately every 420km I would like to be somewhere ‘interesting’ for a break or at least with a hostel or chance of warmshowers hosts. There are also a few places I kinda want to see that don’t fall quite right so will need to balance them into the plan. The points considered for stopping are:
- Figueres (1/2 day to see the Dali musuem), 140 km
- 1st stop (420km) – Montpellier, 420 km
- Nice, 770km
- 2nd stop (840km) – Imperia, 820 km
- 3rd stop (1260km) – Verona, 1280km
- Venice, 1440km
- 4th stop (1680km) – Trieste, 1600 km – Ljubljana, 1705 km
- 5th stop (2100km) – Donji Miholjac
- Novi Sad, 2317km
- 6th stop (2520km) – Belgrade, 2400km – Bela, 2510km
- Dronbeta-Turin-Deverin (to see the Iron Gate), 2680km
- 7th stop (2940km) – Turnu Magurele, 2925km
- 8th stop (3360km) – Luleburgaz, 3375km
- Finish (3557km) – ISTANBUL!!
Some of the distances above are rough and life on the road is very much subject to change, but it gives me a point to start from. Anyone got any feedback on the places above, or better suggestions for places to stop along the route? Also suggestions of things to do in these places are welcome as well 😀
Maintenance and Repair
So I am not sure if I have really said anywhere but to get to Barcelona I have covered over 1200km! So the other thing I wanted to take some time to do during my slightly extended stay is review the bike and equipment I have to see how it is doing. As a preventative maintenance approach I am also changing my chain approximately every 1000km to try and reduce the wear on the group set and get it to last longer.
I washed all the clothes I could, except for what I was wearing. Once it was done I took the chance to inspect it all for repair. More darning was undertaken. Nothing too big this time and most of it I think might be catching up with wear in the clothes from before I started this. I also stopped some stitching from coming undone on a linen top and pair of thermals. As they say a stitch in time saves nine. (Or more painfully Ruth having to go shopping for a very specific touring clothes needs).
The chain swap was slightly more complicated. First I did not have a tool for releasing the quick links in the chain so needed to track one down. I had got myself a small pair of pliers for the job, but turns the points are too big… damn! :(. So using the grey matter (and a bit of youtube) I came up with this approach…
I wrapped string around the quick link twice, tied it my spanner and chain brush and pulled… HARD! Eventually I won and the quick link came undone. Bad news… I ended up throwing half of it off the balcony I was working on. I also think I pulled out part of the link bearings that are supposed to be there, but will have a closer look another time.
Next was to cut my new chain down to size, which was simple as I actually had exactly the right tool for this :D. The chain was threaded back on and reconnected with its quick link. Quick spin of the wheel and it all seems OK. I suspected some rubbing on the front derailleur, so tweaked its position as well. Proof will be in the ride tomorrow.
I am glad to have changed the chain but mental note – next time don’t do it on a balcony!! I will also be keeping an eye out for the right tool for the job… In addition I went over the bolts on the bike and ensured they were tight, and tweaked the grips again to try and reduce the pain in my palms. Ready for more many more kilometres and the charge to Istanbul!
(Sneaky update… as this is being written up after the next day’s riding, I can report that the chain has not fallen off or apart YAY! But it is much noisier then I would expect, which I think is the rear derailleur alignment, and when rolling the bike backwards the chain drops gears, which it didn’t do before… need to investigate but not on a day when I am doing 100km!!)
So here ends my report for my visit to Barcelona, it is a beautiful city and I loved my time there. Ferran, Eric and Marc were so welcoming and generous in feeding me and sharing their lives with me – I am so grateful, thank you guys! Now onward to Istanbul… another 3500km! :O
One final thing, for everyone that has read this far… I think I need to get some tunes for riding, especially when the road gets tough! I have never really been a collector of music so would love some suggestions of songs people like, think would be inspiring/motivating for the hike-a-bike or hill climbs, and add a change of pace. Drop me a comment with suggestions and I can start working out the best way to get them… (I have already got Queen’s Bicycle song at the top of the list 😛 )