Gandia to Venta Valero – 14th to 22nd Feb

Sunday 14 February –  Gandia to La Nucia

Distance 83.04 km

Max speed 55.4 kmph

Average speed 16.6 kmph

Total 2218.75 km


Last night we went into Gandia and discovered there was a street fayre with all sorts of stalls, dancing with castanets, and streets thronged with people.  

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It was completely unexpected and all the more entertaining because of that.  We stopped to have a mojito at a stall Daz was convinced was just a guy and the remains of his drinks cabinet from home, then we headed to the square to watch the people traffic.

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 We finally return to our hotel to enjoy my Valentine’s present.  Yummy!  

This morning having had breakfast and stolen enough for snacks and lunch from the buffet we head off.  

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We find the Via verte and it’s good riding with a strong wind that’s just on the back of our right shoulder.  Good speed and excellent progress.  We see a huge fruit and vegetable market in the industrial estate outside Le Verger but we push on because we want to visit Calp.  En route we’re passed by 3 road bikers and we decide to give chase.  I only wanted to draught them but when we catch them up they’re going so slowly we have to overtake.  

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A massive boost to my ego passing unladen road cyclists but are soon left eating their dust when there’s a climb that goes up and up for almost 6km.  After a really fast, winding descent into Calp we head to a camping ground because we met a couple, Peter and Heather Dedman when we were in Castelnau in France in December and they said if we made it to southern Spain to pop in.  

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When we find the correct site we’re disappointed to find they’re out.  But instead we start chatting to a couple of English people and then they stroll in.  We have a lovely cup of tea with them and chat about their caravaning experience.  They’ve been on the site in Calp since before Christmas and there’s a big community spirit there.  

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Peter is a big football fan so he and Daz spend most of the visit glued to Leicester V Arsenal.

After the visit we cycle to the beach and have our lunch.  

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We’re just starting the climb out of Calp when there’s a sudden, heavy rainstorm but we quickly find shelter and manage to stay dry.  

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We’re soon back on the road heading up out of Calp to Antea and finally on to our warmshower hosts in La Nucia.  Alberto and Ana are our hosts.  It’s great chatting to them because they spent a year cycling the length of south America; so we get some great information from them.  But even better they’ve just bought themselves a traditional tandem and spent 3 weeks cycling in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.  Its fascinating listening to how and why they’ve transitioned.  We share stories over a lovely dinner and Alberto gives us some route suggestions.

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Monday 15 February –  La Nucia to Santa Pola

Distance 76.45 km

Max speed 58.4 kmph

Average speed 16.2 kmph

Total 2295.2 km

An entertaining night, we woke at about 4am to discover that the poorly inflated mattress ( Daz thinks they function better if not too well inflated) had lost more air and we were mostly lying in a central trough, in contact with the floor.  Various parts of my body had gone completely numb.  We then set about trying to reinflate it without the pump making so much noise it woke everyone else. Daz tried smothering it with his body and blankets.  I don’t think he was successful but it was funny to watch.  After breakfast, having bid a fond farewell to Ana and Alberto, we set off.

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 First we head into Benidorm and cycle along the esplanade: it was beautiful, sea and a beautiful expanse of sand and then hills in the background.  What a fabulous way to start a……… Monday morning – yup identifying the day of the week is really tough these days, we lose track so quickly.

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 Then after Benidorm we head to Villajoyosa. The area is famous for its chocolate industry so as recommended by Alberto we stop for hot chocolate.  


Unfortunately we don’t think we stopped at the right place but we had hot chocolate.  It was delicious but had the consistency of hot custard.  From here we headed inland but unfortunately were plagued with pannier problems; one of the catches keeps coming undone and then the pannier hangs off the rack held by only one clip.  We stopped half a dozen times trying to sort it!!! Finally we found a solution and reasonable forward progress was resumed and we soon headed back to the coast, and stopped at El Campello for a picnic lunch on the sea front.

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 Then Alicante where we admired the castle of Santa Bárbara on the hill overlooking the Marina

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The Santa Bárbara castle is situated on Mount Benacantil, overlooking the city. The tower (La Torreta) at the top, is the oldest part of the castle, while part of the lowest zone and the walls were constructed later in the 18th century.  Then we cycled along the promenade for miles.  The promenade Explanada de España, lined by palm trees, is paved with 6.5 million marble floor tiles creating a wavy form and is one of the most lovely promenades in Spain. The Promenade extends from the Port of Alicante to the Gran Vía and ends at the famous statue of Mark Hersch. For the people of Alicante, the promenade is the meeting place for the traditional Spanish paseo, or stroll along the waterfront in the evenings, and a venue for outdoor musical concerts. At the end of the promenade is a monument by the artist Bañuls of the 19th century.

Just a few kilometers from Alicante on the Mediterranean Sea lies Tabarca island. What was once a haven for Barbary pirates is now a beautiful tourist attraction.  We can see it as we cycle around the peninsula to Santa Pola.  

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Santa Pola has an important salt evaporation pond known as the salines which remains in business, additionally, most of it is recognized as the Natural Park of Salines de Santa Pola, an important RAMSAR site. The town was settled over the ruins of a Roman village called Portus Ilicitanus (literally, Harbour of Elche); after being abandoned for decades, then a castle was constructed in the 16th century which marked the repopulation of Santa Pola.


Tuesday 16 February –  Santa Pola to Cuevas de marin

Distance 72.3 km

Max speed 47.8 kmph

Average speed 15.5 kmph

Total 2367.52 km


Yesterday was a tough day.  Some days we cycle really well together and other days are verging on disastrous.  Yesterday was the latter so today we need to be in a better place.  So after a good night’s sleep we have a leisurely breakfast then head out of Santa Pola.  

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We cycle along the esplanade and then cross a narrow dyke with the road on it running between the Salines; shallow salt lakes on either side. We see mountains of salt.

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About half way across we notice an old stone tower and then what I had been waiting for… pink flamingoes!!! We pull over in a layby and abandon the bike, crawl under a fence and get as close as we can.  

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They are beautiful, and when they take off from the water so graceful and pink!!! But soon the bike calls us back, it’s siren call… oops no, wrong book, that’s the one about mermaids!!

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We cycle on and before we really know it we are in Torrevieja.  We’d discussed lunch options, and MaccyD’s was on the agenda, there’s only so much tapas one can eat!!   However, as we are cycling along the front we pass one of the numerous cafe bars and see two people just about to tuck into a full English breakfast!!!!  Brake brake brake!!  Our minds changed for us by the sight of the wholesome meal to be had we were soon ensconced and tucking in, small one for me and a large for Daz.   They soon disappeared and I am sure I could have eaten another!!  But after a little while more soaking up the sun we are off again.  We are following one of the main roads, but keeping to a very nice and wide cycle path beside it.  Unfortunately as nice as it is, when it comes to junctions and roundabouts it’s sometimes too finicky and tedious with kerbs and tight turns on the tandem, so we often find ourselves back on the main road.

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 On roundabouts we always stick in the outside lane, and as we go around anticlockwise (mainland Europe now don’t you know!) I indicate left if we are passing an exit.  Today a couple of old biddies obviously cannot work out what is happening as we are halfway past an exit when they cut in front of us to try and take thus said exit!!!  Loud swear words prevail, and we can see they are all a fluster with the swerving that carries on having exited…  really, old people need to give their licences up!!  Talking of which, no sooner has this happened than we are cycling along a road adjacent to the main one and find our way blocked by a car that has just scraped up the side of a van and is now sat blocking the carriageway.  

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 Another oldie emerges from the driving seat of the offending vehicle… must be about 80, wearing only his boxer shorts, no shoes or anything else.  He is either pissed or suffering from dementia, the van driver is going mental and the old man just seems to be nonplussed!!  Daz thinks he is English,  but I am not sure.   The vandriver wants us as witnesses and to call the police but we feint a lack of language and understanding and push past on the bike… I am sure the road will be blocked for some time to come!!  

After more time in the hot weather and getting tired we finally arrive at John’s house, an old friend of mine from the army.  He’s out playing golf, but has left us keys with the neighbours.   We let ourselves into his compound and say hi to his two dogs Jack and Roxy, who, after having barked at us for a while, go off to hide – we can’t understand why they’re so unfriendly but we think it’s the bike!!  

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Daz does some maintenance on the bike as I get freshened up, and when I come back out I notice the neighbour’s chicken wandering in the garden.  As I walk over to it it runs off, but then this sets off the dogs who eagerly give chase and then I am horror struck as the jack russell catches it and starts running around.  Memories of the incident with Mike and Sandy runs through my mind, but fortunately as I run up Jack releases the chicken unharmed!!

John arrives back from golf a little later and we discover the chicken is one of his which he keeps in the orchard next door.  He says he has lost 2 to the dogs before !!  I met John on my first posting to Cyprus (1992 to ‘95) and haven’t seen him since apart from crossing paths with him in Shaiba palace Iraq in 2003.  It’s amazing the Army network, everyone eager to help others out.  It’s wonderful to contact someone from my distant past and for him to open his door to us.  We have a bit of a catch-up and then he takes us into the village for dinner and a few drinks.

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 I enjoy reminiscing about old colleagues and old times. His son, Dan, has just joined as a specop (my first trade before I rebadged to AGC) and is currently in trade training.   I still have nightmares about my trade training, trying to learn morse but apparently they don’t learn morse anymore.  John has a beautiful home out here in Spain but sadly the tug of family and a new baby granddaughter has drawn Maria back to the UK.  As usual Daz and I play the ‘fancy a house here’ game.  It’s beautiful and the area is surrounded by all sorts of salad and vegetable crops.  John can just walk around and pick his own for his dinner.  Unfortunately he’s not a fan of artichokes, all mouth and no trousers, and there’s acres of those here.  


Wednesday 17 February –  Cuevas de marin to Cartagena

Distance 37. 44 km

Max speed 42.2 kmph

Average speed 15.8 kmph

Total 2404.96 km


We get up in time to see the sun just above the horizon whilst sipping a lovely cup of tea from John’s terrace.  The skies are clear and blue and it’s looking to be a good day.  We take the dogs for a walk around the fields that are full of artichoke or citrus trees which surround his house. Then after some breakfast we say farewell to John.  Thanks so much once again for putting us up.  

The route today to Cartagena is less than 40km so we take it steady and marvel at all the crops growing in the fields and see the shepherds out with their sheep.

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We see workers hand picking celery and artichoke then stop to watch a machine manned by 4 people as it moves along a row of baby spinach.  Cutting blades at the front ‘mowing’ the spinach up onto a belt that then drops it into boxes.   They even offer us some to take with us!!

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We reach Torre Pacheco which is about half way and stop beside an old flour mill to have coffee and tapas. There are 14 of these old windmills in the area, with 4 having been restored.  The one we can see looks beautiful.

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As we cycle on towards Cartagena the wind picks up and the road gets busier, making it a more difficult ride than anticipated.  But soon we are within the city limits and racing down towards the harbour area, at one point I thought we were getting our second wind as we seemed to hurtle down the road, Daz blasé about the traffic to the left and right of us!

Cartagena is steeped in history. It has been inhabited for over two millennia, being founded around 227 BC by the Carthaginian Hasdrubal the Fair as Qart Hadasht, the same name as the original city of Carthage. The city had its heyday during the Roman Empire, when it was known as Carthago Nova (the New Carthage) and Carthago Spartaria, capital of the province of Carthaginensis. It was one of the important cities during the Umayyad invasion of Hispania, under its Arabic name of Qartayannat al-Halfa. There are still many Roman archaeological examples in the city including an amphitheatre. 

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Much of the historical weight of Cartagena in the past goes to its coveted defensive port, one of the most important in the western Mediterranean. Cartagena has been the capital of the Spanish Navy’s Maritime Department of the Mediterranean since the arrival of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th century. As far back as the 16th century it was one of the most important naval ports in Spain, together with Ferrol in the North. It is still an important naval seaport, the main military haven of Spain, and is home to a large naval shipyard.


Thursday 18 February –  Cartagena rest day

We do some geocaching but it’s not a huge success.  We spend an hour looking for one cache and even a policeman stops to find out what we’re up to.  We still didn’t find the cache!

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But we do manage to finish Game of Thrones – but John Snow is dead – Gutted.  Carl Broadhurst informed us that this was common knowledge and only 2 people opting out of the ratrace would miss this news.  Great series though!

Friday 19 February – Cartagena to Palomares Bajo

Distance 110.42.  km

Max speed 71.8 kmph

Average speed 17.1 kmph

Total 2515.38 km


Wow… our longest days ride so far and also our fastest maximum speed.  And considering it was hilly a good average too.  It’s been a cloudy day and we did think we’d hit rain showers but fortunately there was no rain.  

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Our first hour was spent climbing until we hit the highest pass in the Parque Regionale Sierra de la Muela.  Then a long and fast (fastest to date remember!) descent into Isla Plana.  From there we cycled to the outskirts of Marrazon and stopped to buy lunch provisions.  Then we decided to leave the main road in favour of a more direct route to Aguilas.  The unfortunate point about this route choice was it was uphill.  Fortunately we’d had lunch (sat on the side of the road in a drainage ditch!) so we were refreshed but it was still a long climb.  

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Finally we reached the top and had over 2kms of descent but the bends were so tight that we didn’t dare go too fast.  We stopped in Aguilas for a break with nearly 80km under our belt.  Having had a rest day in Cartagena yesterday our accommodation/workaway plan was to get to Almeria in 2 days… the only problem is that it’s definitely over 200 km, which means we need to push on today beyond our normal 70 or 80 km.   So we carry on… we have a few campsites bookmarked on the map but not knowing if they are open could be a problem.  However the first one we try at 110km is open… it’s also partially nudist!! Decisions, decisions!!    Finally we opt for the clothed side of the campsite and get our tent set up.  It’s a fair decision, as the sun hasn’t been out all day and going nudist would be a tad chilly!!  I think Daz would like to be just on the edge of the nudist area but unfortunately for him we need shelter from the wind and the shelter is all on the other side of the campsite – poor Daz, think he fancied a bit of voyeurism.  

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If you read last weeks blog you will know we got rid of lots of kit to reduce weight… maybe we were too drastic in cutting down to one towel, as it’s now always a fight to see who can get to the showers first to use the dry towel… he who is tardy, must moist towel use!! Today Daz is Mr Moist Towel!!


Saturday 20 February –  Palomares Bajo to Almeria

Distance 102.53 km

Max speed 60.8 kmph

Average speed 17.9 kmph

Total 2617.91 km


It rained in the night, thankfully not a lot, but it woke me and then I didn’t sleep well for a while.  I was worrying about the bike seats getting wet and then in the morning Daz told me he’d already brought them in.  In the morning the clouds were dark, and an old man told Daz to expect rain.  Daz told him winter is coming!!  We packed the tent and got on the bike, all of 100 meters to our breakfast stop!  Then it was on towards Almeria, another 100 km day if we were to get there on schedule.  In front of us the mountains were covered in black clouds and we could see rain, but as we cycled towards them we could see them being pushed inland and the weather following it seemed clearer.  With the tail wind we were making good progress with only a little discomfort from yesterday’s tired legs.
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We turned off the main road at Garrucha to stay on the coast.  And as we dropped down beside the sea we could see the waves rolling deep and dark against the shore, the wind whipping up white horses all along the coast.  

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As we neared Mocajar we knew we had some climbs, and as we turned from the coast up into the hills it didn’t seem too bad, just put it in low gear and grind up, with some assistance from the wind at our backs.  However, after about an hour of climbing we reached the summit, and suddenly the wind was really howling.  So much so that we had to take the flag down.

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 I hated the way the wind was buffeting us across the road when it came from the side, and I was already dreading the descent (we struggled to hold the bike still just taking the flag off) and the road, instead of doing switchbacks down the side of the hill actually looped around a single hill so the wind came from all directions.  I had asked Daz to take it as slow as possible, but he was complaining that at too slow a speed the wind affected us more, so we needed to keep some speed to punch through.  As we neared the bottom, I’d thought the worst was over, but then we crossed an exposed bridge and we were really hit by side winds.  I’d had enough and started bawling like a baby (the only tactic I could think of to make Daz stop – of course he was enjoying it – pitting himself against the weather Gods!!).  We stopped for a while and once I’d recovered my nerve we pushed on.  Fortunately we then turned along the coast again and the wind was at our backs for a while.

We stopped in Carboneras for a coffee and respite from the wind, but knew we had to push on. At this stage I was feeling really tired and sick and would gladly have given up cycling forever!!! But we’d actually only been riding for 2 and a half hours and done 34 of a 100km day.  So off we went.  Another climb and descent into Agua Amarga and we were both feeling pooped.  But still another climb up onto a vast plateau and the wind still pushing us all over the road unless the road kept it directly on our backs.  We cycled into Los Cortijillos hoping to find a lunch stop but we blinked and the village was gone.  The next village, Fernán Pérez, looked even less significant on the map but also appeared to be the last village for miles.   It didn’t look promising but then we cycled the narrow streets and turned into a courtyard and found the only taverna in the village. But what a find, it was full of people eating Saturday lunch, and we must have looked a mess as we parked the bike and walked in.  A Spanish lady came and took our order, there was no menu, but we ordered a primero of paella.

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 Immediately two steaming plates of mixta paella arrived with a salad and bowl of bread, amazing!  We were famished and tucked in with relish.  The lady came back and asked us if we wanted ‘secundo’? But we were full from the first course so went straight to ‘postre’ or dessert.  Not understanding what we were being offered I selected the one that had the word chocolate in it, and Daz pointed at someone else’s dessert and said he would have that!!  Mine turned out to be a small tub of chocolate moose, whereas Daz’s was a huge plate of creme caramel, little squares of vienetta and loads of whipped cream. Yummy.  At this stage we were questioning whether we’d make Almeria and whilst Daz thought there was a campsite in the vicinity (he’d seen signs), I firmly stated our cutoff was 6pm.  At this point it was 3. 45pm and we’d been told Almeria was still 50km away.  Seriously demoralising because we thought we were already over half way.  So off we went feeling totally dispirited.

We cycled out of that little village at least replenished in energy, what a fantastic little find- fabulous lunch.  Having looked at the map we knew we had at least another 50km to do.  Thankfully as we left the village and crested a small hill before us we could see vast open countryside, flat as far as the eye could see!!

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Soon we were coasting along a quiet road looking down on huge plastic covered greenhouses,  each as big as a football pitch and covering whole square kilometres of the terrain.  As we turned left in one village the wind again was directly behind us and we really picked up speed on the flat smooth road and barely needed to pedal for one km after another.  It looked like we would reach Almeria after all.  But the day was to have one more sting in its tail.  We decided earlier to cycle towards an autovia, that would lead us to the N344 into Almeria, but as we cycled towards the entry ramp we saw a sign saying no cycles… damn!  I wanted to go for it, it was only 3.3 km to our junction and I didn’t want to have to cycle back to the original road we had planned to use against the wind.  But Daz reckoned we could take a service road that ran beside it, so off we went, but after about a km it stopped being tarmac and turned into a rocky, dusty track.  But there was no going back against the wind, and angrily I pushed the bike along the unrideable terrain, thinking at least it was only 2km.  

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At times the track ran down into dry river beds and we had to struggle to push the bike up the other side.  I was tired and irritated and it was showing, so when we got within sight of the autovia junction and saw a massive big hill to push up I was totally crushed.  We were about 100 meters away but it was too steep and loose surfaced to be able to push the ‘pig’ up it and actually this ‘service road’ didn’t actually join the autovia slip road.   We had no choice we needed to get onto the autovia.  We took the bags off the bike and lobbed them over the wire fence seperating us from the autovia.  I then climbed it and Daz picked up the bike and passed it over, a right pain in the arse, literally, as I tore a hole in my shorts and got chain oil all over me.  Then we climbed a bank and moved everything over the barrier onto the hard shoulder of the autovia.  As trucks whizzed by we raced to get the bags on the bike and get to the safety of the exit lane we wanted 100 meters away!! Scary! Later we checked vehicle restrictions on autovias because we have used them before.  Helpfully on some bicycles are permitted and on others they’re not.  

Fortunately we were OK, and didn’t get arrested and soon we were moving again down a very quiet road towards Almeria.   The map said we only had 15 km to do and the sun was shining.  After a long hard day I was thankful for the quiet.

We navigated into the centre and found a bar, a well earned cerveza, and some WiFi to find accommodation!   As luck would have it, we found a budget hotel only 100 meters from the bar, fab!!

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After a rest and clean up we popped into Almeria in the dark and wandered its quiet streets.  We popped into the Cathedral where a service was going on and walked beneath the walls of the ancient Arabian fortress Alcazabra.  Finally we wandered back to the hotel, but popped into a very small tapas bar over the road.  Wow, what a find, the place was only about 15 feet by 15 feet but it was packed full of people enjoying a drink and tapas.  We elbowed in and joined the fun, communicating by many various methods our drink order and tapas order.  All of which were wonderful and delicious – Daz wrote this and fibbed.  His last tapas order was achieved by pointing at the seafood counter.  Along came squid and cuttlefish.  The squid had been griddled and was good but the cuttlefish – Daz only managed one ( oh yeah he thinks they were baby cuttlefish), his hands and tongue were black with the ink and he hated the taste and prying out the budgie bone.  I thought they were OK.  But the vibrancy of the bar was incredible and Almeria is famous for its tapas.  A fab end to a very, very rough day.


Sunday 21 February –  Almeria to Granada

Today we’re going to take the train to Granada so after a leisurely breakfast we finally cycle around town and then head to the beach.  It’s really busy but the sand is a dirty brown and we’ve definitely seen better.  The wind has dropped since yesterday but there’s a fog coming from the hills.

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After enjoying the town we stop so Daz can have churros and hot chocolate.  

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Eventually we head off to the train station, buy our tickets and start to wonder how we’ll manage with the bike.  Fortunately our train is already in the station and we soon load the bike and gear.  


But there’s a problem and we need to move everything to the other side of the carriage – we hadn’t noticed because there’s a set of stairs but this is where all the bike racks are situated.  Everything is nicely stowed, the train conductor is happy with us and we’re off.  2 and half hours to Granada with just one stop at Guadix. We watch the scenery which passes by. At first we are climbing through scrub and arroyo, rocky outcrops and ravines with dry riverbeds.   

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But then we reach a plateau and for mile after mile it is a flat, dry scrub with hardly any vegetation .  What we can see are cultivated plantations, but even these are scrabbly little trees that have no foliage.  We pass a wind farm, its huge, row upon row of slowly turning turbine blades, each row stretching off into the distance.  We were expecting to see huge solar farms, but we only see one little one by a village. We occasionally see a small village snuggled up to a hillside, the houses all painted white to keep the fierce summer sun at bay.  Finally we pull into Granada and debus.  Reload the bike and wander into town.  

Granada is a city and the capital of the province of Granada, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain. Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of four rivers, the Beiro, the Darro, the Genil and the Monachil. It sits at an average elevation of 738 metres above sea level, yet is only one hour by car from the Mediterranean coast, the Costa Tropical. Nearby is the Sierra Nevada Ski Station, where the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships 1996 were held.

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The Alhambra, a Moorish citadel and palace, sits on a hill overlooking Granada. It is the most renowned building of the Andalusian Islamic historical legacy with its many cultural attractions that make Granada a popular destination among the touristic cities of Spain. The Almohad influence on architecture is also preserved in the Granada neighborhood called the Albaicín with its fine examples of Moorish and Morisco construction. Granada is also well-known within Spain for the University of Granada which has about 80,000 students spread over five different campuses in the city. The pomegranate (in Spanish, granada) is the heraldic device of Granada.  There is also a humongous cathedral.

In the evening we walk along the beautifully lit Gran Vía and around the Cathedral area.  It’s full of bars, cafes and tourist related shops, little alleyways filled with souvenir shops flow away from us left and right.  We try getting in the Cathedral for a looksee but it’s just shutting, so we go to a tapas bar instead!

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We think the plan tomorrow is some sightseeing then cycling on to our workaway job up in the hills!


Monday 22 February –  Granada to Venta Valero

Distance 66.57 km

Max speed 55.6 kmph

Average speed 13.4 kmph

Total 2684.48 km


The Alhambra is the main tourist attraction here but we need several hours to do it justice and since I don’t manage to drag my sorry arse out of bed until after 10am, we’re not going to have time.  Instead we head back to the Cathedral but Daz refuses to pay the entrance fee.  Then we cycle to the Monastery and I refuse to pay the entrance fee.  Funny if it was a glass of red wine we’d both pay instantly.  Then we head to the bullring.  

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San Jeronimo Monastery is the first monastery to be built after the conquest of the city by the Christians. Here was buried the Great Captain. The construction of the monastery of San Jeronimo began in 1496, at a place called the Almoravid, now occupied by the hospital of San Juan de Dios. All the stones used for its construction were taken by the Kings from the Arab gate of Elvira. 

The first courtyard of the Monastery of San Jeronimo has thirty-six semicircular arches with shields with the initials of kings, the first Archbishop of Granada and the monk Jeronimo Hernando de Talavera. The second has short arches in the Gothic style.

The main attraction of the Monastery of San Jeronimo is the sacristy, one of the best examples of Spanish Baroque. The viewer is dazzled by the sight of the effect the light has on the ornamentation created by Luis Cabello, who produced more than a thousand carvings.   The Monastery of San Jeronimo also has one of the best works of Gil de Siloe, his beautiful altar.


The impressive bullring, Plaza de Toros de Granada, an international center for bullfighting is one of the most notable landmarks of Granada.  With its characteristic arches and Arabic style, this iconic, Neo-Moorish structure fits perfectly in one of the most charming areas of the city. The bullring has been declared a Monument of Cultural Interest in Spain and is a significant part of Granada’s architectural heart.

After sightseeing we headed off to our workaway host.  The cycle ride out of Granada was nothing special, it seemed to be an industrial area with a foggy haze hanging over it. Out of Granada, after 10km of easy riding we hit the hills. One in particular was over 6km but there was no rewarding downhill only a short reprieve before the next climb.  After 30km we stopped for lunch in Puerta Lope and then left the main road for what we were hoping would be a lovely ride along a country lane.  

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Well it was indeed very scenic but the hills continued and now we had a head wind. We soon shifted into granny ring but we were still struggling.  We cycled into Montefrio and saw a village with a striking setting, with one of its churches perched on top of a bare, rocky pinnacle, overlooking the town and its surrounding hillsides clothed in olive groves and fields of cereal crops.

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It nestles between two memorable hilltop churches; you can’t miss either of them since they dominate the skyline.  All we could do was think ‘OMG hope I don’t have to go up there!!!’ – and we didn’t, we skirted round the bottom of its hilly perch and pushed on. Only 12 km we said to ourselves, how hard can it be – well fxxking hard is the answer.  It was hill after hill after hill.  The gradients were too severe for us and then the road surface changed to glue.

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Actually it wasn’t glue it was just rough tarmac but we lose all momentum on this and the final 1500m wasn’t even rutted tarmac, it was gravel.  We’d pushed the ‘pig’, uphill for several kilometres and we were shattered.  And it was only 67km of cycling – we’d only been recently congratulating ourselves on our speed and distances but not today – gutted.

At the house Des greeted us warmly and showed us to our very cozy ensuite bedroom. His wife, Chris, is currently in the UK but we met their 2 dogs Vinny and Freddy and their 2 cats.  They have an old farmhouse with a lovely plot of land with olive and almond trees.  From the top of his property there are incredible views of the surrounding countryside.  We ate dinner with him and chatted about a diverse range of topics including chi walking / running, buying and living in Spain, workaway and housesitting sites and Spanish lessons.  


Sitges to Gandia inc Valencia – 5th to 13th Feb

Friday 05 February –  Sitges to Tarragona

Distance 62.95 km

Max speed 38.2 kmph

Average speed 14.6 kmph

Total 1739.85 km


We went out last night to see Sitges and didn’t get home until midnight and then thought it would be clever to watch Game of Thrones but of course we couldn’t stay awake.  So we don’t wake until 9am and we want to publish the blog with our Barcelona trip so that takes a couple of hours and Daz mends the puncture from 25th January.  

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We cycle into town for breakfast and finally get on the road at 1220pm.  A very late start indeed.  As much as possible we spend the day hugging the coastline.  I love watching the sea whilst poor Daz has to worry about watching the road.  It’s our second day of a fairly strong headwind which makes our fairly flat route unpleasantly tough.  We stop to admire an incredible copper statue of a bull in Vilanova, it’s called Pasifae.

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The statue by renowned sculptor Òscar Estruga was created from three tons of copper and is a visual representation of the intriguing story of Pasiphaë. In Greek mythology she was the daughter of Helios and the wife of King Minos of Crete. Poseidon sent Minos a bull as a gift to be sacrificed but he refused, and Poseidon cursed his wife, forcing her to fall in love with the bull. The story gets quite graphic as she had a wooden cow built which she could hide inside and mate with the bull! The resulting offspring was the Minotaur.
Apart from the headwind it’s a pleasant day’s cycling along the Mediterranean and we don’t get to Tarragona until 6ish.

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 We stop in town to email our warmshower hosts and then we meet them at the house.   It’s reminiscent of Biarritz.  Antoni and Simona describe it as an abandoned, country house.  There’s an outside shower, and inside a lounge area, bedroom and toilet.  They drop us off but they’re taking us out tonight so time to get cleaned up.  

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Antoni and Simona come back at about 7.30pm and drive us into town.  We didn’t realise there’s a beautiful fort, cathedral and extensive Roman ruins including parts of an amphitheatre in Tarragona.  

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Part of the bases of large Cyclopean walls near the Cuartel de Pilatos are thought to pre-date the Romans. The building just mentioned, a prison in the 19th century, is said to have been the palace of Augustus. The 2nd century amphitheatre, near the sea-shore, was extensively used as a quarry after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and but few vestiges of it now remain. A circus, c. 450 m long, was built over in the area now called Plaça de la Font, though portions of it are still to be traced. Throughout the town Latin, and even apparently Phoenician, inscriptions on the stones of the houses mark the material used for buildings in the town. The Roman ruins have been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

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Two ancient monuments, at some little distance from the town, have, however, fared rather better. The first of these is the Aqüeducte de les Ferreres, which spans a valley about 4 kilometres (2 miles) north of the city. It is 217 m (712 ft) in length, and the loftiest arches, of which there are two tiers, are 26 m (85 ft) high. There is a monument about 6 km (4 mi) along the coast road east of the city, commonly called the “Tower of the Scipios”; but there is no authority for assuming that they were buried here.

This area is renowned for castells and our hosts show us into the rehearsal area where a large group of people are practising different formations.  

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A castell is a human tower built traditionally in festivals at many locations within Catalonia. At these festivals, several colles castelleres (group of people who do these towers) often succeed in building and dismantling a tower’s structure. On November 16, 2010, castells were declared by UNESCO to be amongst the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.


Tarragona is home to a large port and the Universitat Rovira i Virgili. Much of its economic activity comes from a large number of chemical industries located south of the city.



After showing us around the various sites Antoni and Simona take us to a bar to meet the Tarragona English Club and they are all fascinated by our stories.  Simona is from Slovenia and we pick her brains regarding cycling through her home country.  Tarragona is a very lovely place and I don’t think we give it justice in our whistle stop tour.

Cycling update:  the new phasing seems to work well although there are still gear disputes especially when we’re tired.  Over half our luggage remains untouched:  one large pannier with bed mats, sleeping bags and towels and one coat; one front pannier with cooking equipment, travel mugs, teabags and snacks; the tent roll that sits behind my seat;  2 Helinox chairs.  In addition in our other front pannier apart from wash kit and electronics bag there is a poncho to cover bike, spare tyre, bike bags, spokes.  In conclusion when we stop for the day we take one large pannier containing our clothes and one small pannier for wash kit and electronics.  The rest remains on the bike.  I am responsible for photographs on the move and I also do most of the navigating using Maps.Me on Daz’s Sony Z5 mobile phone.   We pinpoint our destination, be it hotel or a warm showers host and mark key points en route. It works really well.  I don’t have Daz’s map reading skills but I have time and free hands to check the route as we go.  I’m also becoming better acquainted with how roads are displayed on and typical pitfalls of Spanish roads; so many just stop for no apparent reason!


Saturday 06 February –  Tarragona to L’ampolla

Distance 74.56 km

Max speed 52.5 kmph

Average speed 15.8 kmph

Total 1814.41 km


After another late night we don’t wake up until 9am and it’s raining.  It’s just a drizzle so we decide to cycle back into Tarragona and find some breakfast.  We find a pleasant square with a market and do some people watching. We realise most people are in fancy dress.

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 We decide to head off and walk into a parade. We discover later it’s the Carnival Tarragona-Carnestoltes.  One of the biggest, best and most attended carnivals in all of Catalonia, this is best known for the spectacular parades of every kind of float you can imagine and the dancing that takes places right across the city.  We just saw a variety of floats and one Spanish guy thought we were a float.  

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Finally we head off and stop in Salou for coffee, admiring all the fabulous boats in the Marina and then on to L’Ametlla de Mar also called la Cala (“the bay” or “the beach”).  Fishing continues to be one of the principal activities of the town. The port area of Ametlla has a large fleet of fishing boats which fish using various methods, such as trawling, and also has the principal fleet of tuna fishing boats in Catalonia so we think it only proper that we stop for a late lunch of marinara paella.  My first Spanish paella – delicious!

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It’s nearly 5 when we’ve finished eating and there’s only 15km to go.  Easy Eh?  Well we get one of those twists of fate or a kick in the teeth, if you prefer.  Cycling so far, 60km, had been ‘simples’. No head wind, the sun was shining after the rain clouds had cleared, barely any traffic, good roads and flatish terrain.  But after lunch we pick a route that weaves either side of train track.  At some points its gravel (we were expecting these bits)

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but in others it’s a narrow, pockmarked, rutted bit of tarmac and Daz has to try and weave around the potholes.  

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   Then there are steep decents to tunnels under the train tracks and shockingly steep ascents that we barely manage pushing the bike.  Another day of surprises, but hey, variety is the spice of life, so they say!!!

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After a tough last 15km we arrive in L’Ampolla to another Carnival.  There’s a procession and everyone’s in fancy dress.  What fun!  We are happy to find a very comfortable and reasonably priced hotel.  

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L’Ampolla.   The origin of the name L’Ampolla (‘bottle’ in Catalan) comes from the former shape of the mouth of the River Ebro. In fact, all the features of the Delta have played a role in creating the character of this town: the sea, the bay, the water, the land, the dunes, etc. It is a mixture of Mediterranean essences, alternating between flat alluvial land and craggy coast; between mud and rocks; olive trees and rice fields; between marl rocky banks and lagoons.


Sunday 07 February –  L’ampolla to Peniscola

Distance 5.24 km


Total 1819.65


Today we plan to cycle across the delta, which apparently is a wonder of nature but the wind is 20-30mph gusting to 40mph.  We set off at 0940am but within an hour we’ve returned to our hotel and asked for another night’s accommodation ; just as well since Daz had stolen the key.

So an enforced rest day; it was positively scary being pushed across the road and how Daz coped steering, I have no idea.  Back in our room we go through all our kit and create a pile to send home; one for the bin and the remainder for repacking!! A move that’s probably well overdue!

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Monday 08 February –  L’ampolla to Peniscola

Distance 74.56 km

Max speed 39.6 kmph

Average speed 17.6 kmph

Total 1890.22 km + 9.08km sightseeing.


After breakfast we head straight to the post office to post our package home.   It takes an hour to decide how it should be packaged and finally our 6kg parcel is off to the UK for 53€.  


We set off again across the Ebro delta and thankfully the wind has dropped significantly since yesterday.  The delta is a huge expanse of fertile farming land.  

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We see a lot of bird life; this is a twitchers paradise.  Once across the delta it’s back to following the coast to Peniscola.  We make really good progress.  Daz thinks in total we’ve reduced our baggage by 8kg and it certainly feels lighter when pushing it and on the hills our speed doesn’t bleed away as suddenly as it used to.  A huge improvement.  

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Finally we cycle into Peniscola; to be fair we cycle along a built up sea front for about 4km before we arrive at Peniscola and eveything is shut. We cycle past some Brits and ask them if they know the area.  They point us to a camping site and that’s where we book in.    (This was a pretty town before Peniscola).

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 And then we cycle to the old town centre.  Up on a rocky peninsula there’s a castle, armoury, lighthouse and various city gates.  

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Peniscola, often called the “Gibraltar of Valencia,” and locally as “The City in the Sea”, is a fortified seaport, with a lighthouse, built on a rocky headland about 220 feet (67 m) high, and joined to the mainland by only a narrow strip of land (Peníscola is a local evolution of Latin peninsula). The history of the place goes back to the Iberians. Later the town became Phoenician, named Tyreche, then Greek, under the name Chersonesos (meaning “peninsula”). It was next captured by the Carthaginians under Hamilcar Barca; legend has it that this is the place where he made his son Hannibal swear an oath that he would never be a friend of Rome.

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We were told that this is a Spanish seaside resort so won’t open until 1st March; and it’s true, almost every restaurant is shut.  Finally we find something to eat before heading home to our campsite.

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Tuesday 09 February –  Peniscola to Castellon de la Plana

Distance 87.25 km

Max speed 52.1 kmph

Average speed 17.5 kmph

Total 1986.55 km

We’re awake and up at 0820hrs and by 9am everything is packed and we’re ready to hit the road.  

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That’s impressive, almost everything was unpacked and used.  We stop for brekkie in town and then hit the road.  We cycle along the coast, turning left and right, but always heading south into the sun.

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 At one point before a significant headland we spot a ‘via verte’,  a greenway, which looks like it crosses the headland saving us time.   To get to it I direct Daz the wrong way down a one-way street.  We’ve been doing this a lot because all Spanish towns are a grid of one way streets.  It’s a short cut and there isn’t much traffic.right down the wrong way of a one way street.  As we turn down the street a police car comes rolling towards us.  The window slides down and a lazy arm waves us down. We know we are in the wrong and fess up, but after telling them where we are going they give us an escorted ride through town to the head of the trail… shame they didn’t use the bluelights… way cooler!!

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We hit the trail and it’s fab, but as it carves through the rocky headland the wind builds in our faces and really whistles through the tunnels!

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The last 20km down the coast is hard, the headwind has really picked up.  Finally we arrive at Sergio’s, our host, for the night. He greets us, and then we wheel the bike into the garage car lift, yes lift! We zoom up to the garage level, drop the bike then take the normal lift to his apartment… fab!


Today as we cycled we noticed lots of trees in blossom, these we learn are Almonds in early blossom nearly 6 weeks early; fields of artichokes, orange trees and all manner of other crops we don’t recognise.  All the crops are flourishing in the fair weather and everyone says that if there is a bad frost it will ruin many crops.

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We walk around town in evening, it’s very pleasant. Castellon is only about 750 years old but there are some lovely Art Nouveau buildings around the centre and a very nice market and street cafe, restaurant area.

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Oh one more thing… as we have been cycling through the countryside we have noticed several women, dolled up in tight clothes and high heels sitting by the roadside on chairs.  Daz tells me they are prostitutes plying their trade, and in the summer you normally see them in bikini tops and shorts… not sure where he gets the information from, but it looks like he is right!!!

Wednesday 10 February –  Castellon de la Plana to Valencia

Distance 80.46 km

Max speed 37. kmph

Average speed 14.6 kmph

Total 2067.01 km

Up early because Sergio needs to go to work.  We cycle to the market and after a wander round we sit and drink coffee (in Daz’s case an alcoholic one) and watch the world go by.

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We spend much of the day cycling along the coast through seaside towns and villages which strangely seem completely deserted.  It’s obviously too early in the season for anything to be open but all the houses seem empty too.  We’re plagued by a strong head wind today so it’s a tough day of cycling. We stop for lunch in a deserted town, save for one small shop and bar it is closed. We buy some bread cheese and salami (our ‘go to’ lunch menu!) and wander down to the sea front.  The wind is blowing the waves up onto the shore and causing quite a spray, but we hunker down on some steps out of the wind and eat.

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 Out of the wind the sun is quite warm,  but soon we are finished and it’s back into the wind.  By the time we are within 20 km of Valencia the wind is now gusting so much that we take the flags off to lessen the effect, but still we are blown left, and then we veer right as it slackens off.  

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By far this is the toughest day for me,  more mentally really, as I have to rely on Daz to keep us upright and moving forward.  But even with my squealing in fear as we get pushed around Daz gets us through it and finally into Valencia.  The area around Valencia is all farming land.

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After a really tough day I’m not ready to cope with the Valencian traffic and I find it tougher than cycling through Barcelona.  We arrive at our hosts Sol and Candido.  She’s a sports teacher and he’s a graphic artist.  Some of paintings are on display; he’s very good.  There house was completely renovated last year and is lovely.


Thursday 11th February


Today we’re sightseeing in València.  Daz has been several times before but it’s my first time.  We visit:


BULL RING – Plaza de Toros de Valencia is a bullring in València, Spain.   The stadium holds 10,500 people since 2010. It was built in 1841. The Valencian bullring, situated next to the North Station, was built between 1850 and 1860 and the architect was Sebastian Monleon.

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Valencia train station nord.  Valencia station is  one of the best buildings in the civil architecture of Valencia and is a monumental and representative reference point for the city. Its style is attached to the modernist movement, within the so called “Vienna Secession” school, but it is the peculiar way in which Ribes interprets the style that gives it such outstanding singularity. The exuberant decoration of its concourse, with a very detailed design of the ticket offices and wooden chair rails, with mosaic inlaid work and ceramic decoration and abundance of the trencadis technique, broken up tiles to cover walls and ceilings and forming a unit of great beauty.
The guidelines governing its functioning today tend to maintain a well conceived balance between functionality and maintenance of the building’s intrinsic values, still operating today and offering great quality and efficiency for more than 40,000 users a day. It was the first to receive the classification of historic-artistic monument in 1983.

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The City Hall is made up of two connected blocks: the Casa de la Enseñanza (the old Mayoral School) and the section that was added by the architects Francisco de Mora y Berenguer and Carlos Carbonell Pañella at the beginning of this century. The first block is characterised by its academic design, including baroque features on the front doors, while the newer part combines more traditional and mannerist styles. The City Council has been based there since 1934, and the building also houses the municipal archives, a museum, and various offices of the administration. The construction is modern, with lavish decoration and there is a clock tower in the centre of the building. Inside, the reception area, assembly halls and the formidable marble stairway are worth mentioning, while outside the elliptical domes decorated with glazed tiles and the great balcony covering the main part of the first floor are the most outstanding features.

We go up to the first floor balcony and wave at our subjects.  

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Central Market – This masterpiece of modernist architecture in Valencia was designed in 1914 by Francisco Guardia and Alejandro Soler and was inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII in 1928. With a surface area of over 8000 square meters, inside you can find almost whatever in the more than 1000 selling posts: fresh fish, vegetables, meat, fruit… You must go inside to feel the atmosphere of the market, and being surrounded by the smells and colours of this place. Try to visit it in the morning, because it’s when it’s open!!!!!

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In the City of Contrasts, Plaza de la Virgin dominates one end of the spectrum as the counterweight to the City of Arts and Sciences. It is seen by many as the ultimate impression of the traditional Valencia of the past centuries.

No wonder – Plaza de la Virgin used to be the main square of Valencia, right from the Roman origins to the day when Plaza de Ayuntamento came into full swing at the turn of the XX century. It is still a very active place, with most of the city traditional events passing through here. The irresistible charm of the Plaza is figured on many postcards and all the tourists agree that it is simply the best view for having a coffee on one of the summer terraces.  The Plaza breathes with history, hosting three buildings of huge importance to Valencians.  Basilica de Virgen de Los Desamparados is the second most important religious structure after the Cathedral, one of the first Baroque buildings in Spain and constructed in a traditional Spanish stye with a blue tiled dome. It is host to the hugely revered statue of Virgen of the Forsaken – the patron saint of Valencia. There are various supernatural myths about this statue. The interior is also very worth seeing.  Palau de Generalitat is the seat of the Valencian Autonomous Region government, an imposing castle-like structure blending the late Gothic and Renaissance architecture with Moorish themes.   The rear of the Cathedral also forms part of the square. The rear turret, the Gothic portal of the Apostles (where the Water Court meets every Thursday) and the curious colliseum-style colonnade harmonically blend with the Basilica and leave the tourists entranced.

History: this place has been here always, since the Roman times. The current look began forming in 13th century with the construction of the Cathedral, the portal of the Apostles finished in the first third of 14th century. In the 15th century the Palau de Generalitat was built (then a tax office for the Crown) and, finally, in 17th century – the Basilica. In the beginning of the 20th century the old City Hall in front of the Palau was taken down and a garden built in its place.

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Home to many tourist attractions, Plaza de la Reina is one of the oldest and busiest plazas in Valencia and the city’s beating heart. It is situated in the beautiful Old Town.  Whether you chose to visit the famous Valencia Cathedral, take a tour of the city, wander the lovely streets of Ciutat Vella or take the bus to any other place in town, Plaza de la Reina is where you must go. It is bounded by the Cathedral and its bell tower – The Miquelet in the north, and Plaza Santa Catalina with its charming Iglesia in the south west. The center of the plaza plays host to a small patch filled with flowers and benches where visitors can take a break and watch the world go by.  The square is lined with an excellent selection of cafes, terraces and restaurants, including one of the oldest (200 years old) and most renowned cafeterias in Valencia (Horchateria de Santa Catalina).

The Antiguo Cauce del Rio Turia is a unique park area created by the local authorities after the river Turia around fifty years ago after another damaging flood was redirected to run north of the city and the old riverbed through town had been dried out. The river banks and the old bridges still stand and a handful of new and very modern shaped architectural wonders have been built in some of the now open areas of the riverbed, e.g. a museum, a planetarium and a concert hall, some of them surrounded by blue and shallow water, all of them really spectacular. Fortunately, however, most of the conquered land has been left open with footpaths and trees and is now a great recreational area for both citizens and visitors – good for walking, jogging and bicycling and also with lots of space for other sports.

Not surprisingly, some people seriously suggested turning the old riverbed into a multilane motorway after the river had been diverted. Good for Valencia that this did not happen. The area is now a huge park – a several hundred meters wide and many kilometers long curving string of green open space all the way through the city of Valencia. A truly unique place – and definitely well worth a visit.

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In the evening we share supper with Sol and Candido,  we chat about our travels, and they tell us about bull fighting and show us some of Candidos art work, every week they have a nude study which he and his art group spend time painting.  His artwork is very good!!

Friday 12th February


Today we cycle on our tandem to Sol’s school.  She has asked us to talk to her students about our travels.  We spent time yesterday downloading pictures from our cloud.  We’re hoping pictures will be better than too much speaking.   We take our bike into the classroom and although there are a number of computer problems we are finally set and as Daz talks about our travels I cycle through pictures of the places we have visited as Daz mentions them.  We have to give the talk twice, and we are impressed that most the people are able to follow our English.   They seem interested in what we’ve been doing, so we’re glad that we made the effort.  Sol seems pleased too.  

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After we cycle back into the city, we catch a bite to eat before doing some geocaching along the old river and down towards the aquarium and science centres.  These buildings near the sea are very artistic and it’s very relaxing cycling around them. Which is good, as yet again we’re both tired from the sightseeing!!

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Saturday 13 February –  Valencia to Gandia

Distance 68.71 km

Max speed 41.4 kmph

Average speed 19.5 kmph

Total 2135.72 km


We get up and have breakfast with Sol.  Candido bids us farewell as he is off out, then a little later it is our turn to say goodbye to Sol and Valencia.  Thanks for having us!!!  

We are soon pedalling south again.  We know that the winds are going to be high again today so we want to try and cycle hard as the winds tend to get even stronger as the day progresses.  So we push hard, with only short breaks.  

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 P1060975 Except for a couple of very quick stops during the ride for provisions we make good time. Only one stretch of road gives us trouble because we have a head wind but then we cycle into Favara and turn the corner again, and nowthe wind is behind us and before I can say, ‘Daz, I’m tired!’ we are motoring along at high speed into the last stretch before Gandia!   We’re booked into a hotel tonight, and unlike the ones before this one is very busy. We soon have the bike stored away in a back room and by 2pm we are showered and relaxing!! A very fast and good ride today!!  Then there’s a knock on the door, very bizarre, a delivery! Oh how sweet, Daz ordered chocolates and wine for Valentine’s.  What a sweetheart he is!!!


Barcelona – 1st to 4th February

Monday 1st February

We were planning a late start but we just can’t help ourselves.  So by 0930hrs we’re out of the flat.  Ana won’t be back until 9pm, she’s a private English tutor, so we have a long day in front of us.  We catch the train into Barcelona and first stop after breakfast


is a visit to one of Antoni Gaudi’s creations.  His unique approach to the Art Nouveau movement generated some of the most creative buildings you will see in this Spanish region known as Cataluña.

Casa Batlló is a renowned building located in the center of Barcelona and is one of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces. A remodel of a previously built house, it was redesigned in 1904 by Gaudí and has been refurbished several times after that. Gaudí’s assistants Domènec Sugrañes i Gras, Josep Canaleta and Joan Rubió also contributed to the renovation project. The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), as it has a visceral, skeletal organic quality.  

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Like everything Gaudí designed, it is only identifiable as Modernisme or Art Nouveau in the broadest sense. The ground floor, in particular, has unusual tracery, irregular oval windows and flowing sculpted stone work. There are few straight lines, and much of the façade is decorated with a colorful mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles (trencadís). The roof is arched and was likened to the back of a dragon or dinosaur. A common theory about the building is that the rounded feature to the left of centre, terminating at the top in a turret and cross, represents the lance of Saint George (patron saint of Catalonia, Gaudí’s home), which has been plunged into the back of the dragon.


The tour around this building was absolutely fantastic and there are many other Gaudí buildings in Barcelona.  

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After wandering around the area looking at some of his other creations and a spot of geocaching we went to the Palau Robert Gardens to relax in the sunshine for a while.
Palau Robert Gardens are calm and sombre, very elegant and full of lush vegetation. Entering them allows us to travel to a time when Barcelona was in expansion during the late nineteenth century, it is one of many gardens of the Barcelona bourgeoisie mansions built in the most exclusive areas of the new emerging urban fabric.
The number and size of plants that fill to overflowing the huge garden beds hosting a great variety of plant species is astonishing.  Everything is compressed into such a small area but this feeling is offset by the surprising harmony of all these plants in a proportionally small space. Decidedly, the color that surrounds us is green. An intense, vivid green, which changes into a thousand shades and through which sunlight is screened.  Everything is silent and a lovely place to relax although the smell of weed was quite over powering.


We then wandered down a nearby street to a Catalunya Tapas restaurant for lunch. We sit out on the street and spend a relaxing lunchtime, trying out the tapas, red wine and doing a spot of people watching


To walk off lunch we stroll down to the Plaça de Catalunya (meaning in English “Catalonia Square”; sometimes referred to as Plaza de Cataluña, its Spanish name).  It’s a large square in central Barcelona that is generally considered to be both its city centre and the place where the old city and the 19th century-built Eixample meet.  Some of the city’s most important streets and avenues meet at Plaça Catalunya: Passeig de Gràcia, Rambla de Catalunya, La Rambla or Portal de l’Àngel, in addition to Ronda de Sant Pere, Carrer de Vergara or Carrer de Pelai. The plaza occupies an area of about 50,000 square metres. It is especially known for its fountains and statues, its proximity to some of Barcelona’s most popular attractions, and for the flocks of pigeons that gather in the centre.

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Then it’s on to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia (Catalan: Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia, Spanish: Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia!!), also known as Barcelona Cathedral, which is a Gothic cathedral and seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona, Spain. The cathedral was constructed from the 13th to 15th centuries, with the principal work done in the 14th century. The cloister, which encloses the Well of the Geese (Font de les Oques) was completed in 1448 and as we enter we can still see several white Geese strolling about by the fountain in the middle of the church!! In the late 19th century, the neo-Gothic façade was constructed over the nondescript exterior that was common to Catalan churches.  The roof is notable for its gargoyles, featuring a wide range of animals, both domestic and mythical. Thankfully there is a lift, so we don’t have to climb up to the roof, but once up there it gives us a fantastic view over Barcelona, we use our map and try picking out buildings and landmarks that we still have to see.

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Back down at street level we traipse on, (getting tired now) to Santa Maria del Mar which is another imposing church in the Ribera district of Barcelona, Spain, built between 1329 and 1383 at the height of Catalonia’s maritime and mercantile preeminence. It is an outstanding example of Catalan Gothic, with a purity and unity of style that is very unusual in large medieval buildings.


Finally, with the sun having set and the streets now full of light from the many shops and bars we walk back through the city.  We walk through Passeig de Gràcia, which from the beginning was designed to be Barcelona’s Grand Avenue. It is Barcelona’s most elegant avenue and one of the best architectural walks in the city with lots of Modernist buildings.  The quality and quantity of modernist buildings is unrivalled. It’s also the shopping mile, filled with international brands and chains from around the world.  Its origins can be traced back to Roman times when it was a path that linked to the Via Augusta. In medieval times the city’s door to this road was the Portal dels Orbs (blind people’s gate), today the Portal del Angel pedestrian shopping area.


Then through the El Born neighborhood,  a great place to relax and unwind after a days sightseeing, with many cozy bars and cafes where you can enjoy a cocktail or small beer (known locally as ‘cana’)

Finally we’re back at the Gaudí building which is lit up at night and looks very impressive with its colourful façade.  It’s been a tough day.  We’re both so pooped; our legs are  tired, bodies tired and 7 day’s of cycling seems to be taking its toll, even walking is a challenge.  We catch the train out to La Llagosta and our hosts.  It’s not long before we have to apologise and retreat to bed… another full day of sightseeing set for tomorrow!!!

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Tuesday 2nd February

Somemore sightseeing in Barcelona… the highlights:


The Ramblas

A favourite street for tourists and locals alike, it has a vibrant feel to it as you walk down one of the city’s iconic landmarks, and at the end, you can have a meal or drink in the Boqueria.

The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, often simply referred to as La Boqueria is a large public market in the Ciutat Vella district of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain and one of the city’s foremost tourist landmarks.  The market has a very diverse selection of goods.

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The first mention of the Boqueria market in Barcelona dates from 1217, when tables were installed near the old city gate to sell meat. From December 1470 onwards, a pig market was held at this site; at this time it was known as Mercat Bornet. Later, until 1794, it was known simply as Mercat de la Palla, or straw market. In the beginning, the market was not enclosed and had no official status, being regarded simply as an extension of the Plaça Nova market, which extended to the Plaça del Pi.

We love our markets and this is no exception.  We have a good look round before settling on a tapas bar and have a few nibbles and some liquid refreshments.  We also get chatting to a young Australian couple on a European tour.

Park Güell by Antoni Gaudí

Park Güell was commissioned by Eusebi Güell who wanted to create a stylish park for Barcelona aristocracy.

Antonio Gaudí parc Güell – large organic looking columns made from stone.  The park contains amazing stone structures, stunning tiling and fascinating buildings.  There is a Gaudí dragon fountain that is at the entrance to Güell park. This dragon is adorned in beautiful coloured tiling and there is something rather hypnotic and magical about it.  Here you can see a walkway supported by twisting rock pillars that seem to be growing out of the ground like tree trunks. Although these are rather irregular in shape they do feel strangely natural too.  Gaudí was strongly influenced by natural shapes and used them in his work.  At the top of Güell park is a terraced area where you get a wonderful view of the park and of Barcelona City. Here you will find multi-coloured tiled mosaic seats as shown in this picture. The vibrant colours of the tiles are truly breathtaking.  Park Güell also has a small house in the park which Gaudí lived in at one stage. The house has now been converted into a museum and contains interesting furniture also designed by Gaudí. Lovely visit but tough walk getting there.  

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Sagrada Família


The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (English: Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family) is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a minor basilica, as distinct from a cathedral, which must be the seat of a bishop.
P1060434 P1060433 P1060432 P1060437 P1060436 P1060435 P1060440 P1060439 P1060438 P1060443 P1060442 P1060441 P1060446 P1060445 P1060444  Construction of Sagrada Família had commenced in 1882 and Gaudí became involved in 1883, taking over the project and transforming it with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted his last years to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete.


By the time we got here it was nearly closing time, so we satisfied ourselves with checking out the outer edifice and marvelling at Gaudí’s architecture.


Arc de Triomf
In 1888 Barcelona hosted the Universal Exhibition. The Arc de Triomf was built as the gateway to the fair which was held in the Parc de la Ciutadella. The monument is classical in shape and proportions and features ground-breaking sculptural and decorative finishes replete with symbolism. It has become one of the city’s iconic landmarks.

The Arc de Triomf rises up majestically at the top of the Passeig Lluís Companys. The gateway to the 1888 Universal Exhibition, the arch stood at the end of the Saló de Sant Joan, the boulevard that led to the exhibition grounds in the Parc de la Ciutadella. The architect Josep Vilaseca designed a monument of classical style and proportions as an allegory of Barcelona’s respect for the nations and provinces taking part in the exhibition. As a counterpoint, Vilaseca chose to build the arch from brick and decorate it with sculptural motifs evocative of the neo-Mudejar style that was very much in vogue in Spain at the time. The combination of red brick with the series of friezes around the arch, make it a singularly beautiful landmark.
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If you take a close look at the arch you’ll soon realise that the Arc de Triomf was the gateway to the modern Barcelona of the late 19th century. The frieze overlooking the Passeig de Sant Joan depicts Barcelona welcoming the nations and the frieze facing the park shows the city presenting medals to the exhibition participants. There are reliefs on one side symbolising agriculture and industry, and commerce and art on the other. At the top of the arch the shields of the 49 Spanish provinces are presided over by the coat of arms of the city of Barcelona.


We spent a nice time at the Arc, it’s dark but the area is now well lit by streetlamps and we sat and watched rollerbladers doing tricks, hiphop dancers practicing their moves to Michael Jackson and couples strolling by.


Parc de la Ciutadella

The Parc de la Ciutadella (Citadel Park) is a park on the northeastern edge of Ciutat Vella, Barcelona, Catalonia. For decades following its creation in the mid-19th century, this park was the city’s only green space. The 70 acres (280,000 m2) grounds include the city zoo (once home to the albino gorilla Snowflake, who died in 2004), the Parliament of Catalonia, a small lake, museums, and a large fountain designed by Josep Fontserè (with possible contributions by the young Antoni Gaudí).

The main attraction was, from its establishment, the zoo. This was due to the 7,000 animals present. Near the zoo’s entrance, a climbable gigantic stone mammoth is to be seen, as is a metallic cat in another area of the park.

One half of the park’s paths are sinuous and rather natural seeming trails, and the other half ordered and parallel. Along both, huge a variety of vegetation is displayed.   The zoo was shut at this time of night, so we walked along to see the cascading fountain, but it’s only a pond during the week!!

We return to our couchsurfing hosts and buy a couple of bottles of red wine to share with them.  We’ve barely seen them seen them.  We chat about Emilio’s Euro coin collection, various movies and TV series, and Ana’s teaching job.  We also talk about geocaching and Ana seems very excited by it all.


Wednesday 03 February

Last day of our 3 day sightseeing stopover.  But this morning we take time out from Barcelona and take our couchsurfing host Ana for her first geocaching experience!  There are a number of geocaches locally, so off we go.  The first one is at an old house in the centre of her town, but as luck would have it we can’t find it, a great introduction!!  Onto the next under a rail bridge and we soon find it, and Ana seems to be enjoying herself.  Now we walk a while to a river, well, a dried up river bed, and a series of caches along its length.  These all have quite a few favourite points, so we are hoping for some good caches.  And we aren’t disappointed.  They are fab, really well disguised and well  camouflaged. Soon we are rushing to see who can find the next ingenious cache and Ana even finds a few before us, so she is well pleased!  

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Unfortunately by the time we have finished the series it entails a 4km walk back to her apartment, so we are again well and truly knackered, so much for the rest stop.  Ana is great and cooks us a lovely pasta dish for lunch before we are off out again, back into Barcelona to see a couple more bits.  We have also booked a tour and light show for the evening in La Pedrera,  another of Gaudí’s buildings.


But first we are off to see the castle that overlooks Barcelona and its port.  We catch the train, then the metro then wait 30 minutes for a replacement bus (the funicular that would normally service the Castle is shut for 5 months annual maintenance!!)  and then a second bus to the very top of the Montjuic hill and it’s Castle.


Montjuïc Castle is an old military fortress, with roots dating back from 1640, currently serving as a Barcelona municipal facility, built on top of Montjuïc hill in Barcelona.  The foundation stone for the basic fortification was laid out in 1640. A year later, in January 1641, the fort saw its first battle, during the Catalan Revolt when the Principality of Catalonia challenged Spain’s authority. On orders from the King of Spain, Pedro Fajardo, heading an army of 26,000 men, proceeded to crush the revolt. The Spanish recaptured several cities, but they were defeated at the Battle of Montjuïc by the Catalan rebels, led by Francesc de Tamarit.

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Fifty years later, in 1694, new bastions and battlements were erected and the fortress became a castle.

The old fort was however demolished in 1751 by the Spanish engineer and architect Juan Martin Cermeño, creating the current structure, still standing. The final shape of the castle took form during 1779 and 1799, when major construction works took place in order to improve the castle and accommodate the needs. It was also during this time that the castle was equipped with 120 cannons.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the French Army entered Barcelona, and, on orders from Napoleon, they also captured the castle without firing a shot as the troops guarding the castle were ordered not to fight the French.

In the last 350 years Montjuïc Castle has played a decisive role in the history of Barcelona becoming a symbol of submission after the Catalan defeat to Spain in 1714. Since then the Montjuïc canons have bombarded the city and its citizens on various occasions and Montjuïc has been used as a prison and torture centre repeatedly for three centuries.


The castle is massive and we enjoy looking around it and the views down into the sprawling city and also its harbour and dockyards.


We then head back down the hill, through the old Olympic park from the 1992 Olympics and back into the city.  We have a couple of hours before our show, so we relax in a bar and put our feet up for a while.


On to La Pedrera and the show. It’s actually in the building Casa Milà, but it is popularly known as ‘La Pedrera’ (the stone quarry), an ironic allusion to the resemblance of its façade to an open quarry.  It was constructed between 1906 and 1912 by Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926). For its uniqueness, artistic and heritage value it has received major recognition and in 1984 was inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List, for its exceptional universal value.
Nowadays it is the headquarters of Catalunya-La Pedrera Foundation and houses a cultural centre that is a reference point in Barcelona for the range of activities it organises and the different spaces for exhibitions and other public uses it contains.


Once we arrive we are shown around this building and get to see the great features that Gaudí installed in it.  It was originally built as apartments, one huge one for the owner which took up one entire floor and 16 further apartments divided amongst 4 more floors. Then it’s off up to the attic area with its high sculpted ceiling to see a display of Gaudí’s inspirations and models of the building before finishing off on the roof. Here we look down upon the brightly lit streets and then watch as an artistic light show is projected onto the great chimneys and stairwell caps around the roof.  It shows the creation of life and the universe, and is supposed to depict the inspirations that Gaudí took from this… nice pretty colourful show, but we didn’t see the relevance!!

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It’s late now but we pop into a busy but cozy tapas bar and enjoy a couple of small plates and some wine before heading home… note to self, I don’t like fried little octopussies and not that keen on deep fried artichokes!

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We head home, and before hitting the sack we present Ana with a nice box of handmade chocolates to say thanks for having us.  It’s been a fab few days in Barcelona but we don’t think we rested at all… at least we were using different muscles, so maybe the cycling tomorrow will be a nice change!!  Hope so because I am sooooooo tired; everything aches and poor Daz feels just as bad.  


Thursday 04 February – La Llagosta to Sitges

Distance 70. 87km

Max speed 43.4kmph

Average speed 14.9kmph

Total 1676.9km


So the plan is to cycle through Barcelona today, back onto the coast and down to Sitges.  According to Google this should be a nice relaxing 60km, but this doesn’t factor in the heavy traffic, stopping and starting at traffic lights, pollution and all the other craziness that is cycling through big cities.  But first we need to get on the road, this entails carrying the tandem back out of the apartment,  into the tiny lift

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(It’s still in two pieces but we didn’t bother unhooking all the cables so the pieces are attached to each other just to make it more cumbersome and fun!!) down to the ground floor and put it back together.  Then back in the lift to the 7th floor and collect all the baggage.   Just as we enter the apartment the lights go off and Ana tells us there’s a powercut. We will have to walk down all the stairs with the baggage! Daz and I look at each other and are just thankful that we weren’t in the lift at the time with the bike, it was claustrophobic enough as it was, without getting stuck in there for hours!!

In the end we have everything downstairs, put together and packed back onto the bike and we thank Ana again and wave goodbye.  What a fab host she and Emilio have been, thanks guys!!


We cycle around the corner; the traffic is busy with school drop offs and we are nearly run over by a guy who pulls up and immediately starts reversing towards a parking space.  He hasn’t seen us right behind him, and if I hadn’t reacted quickly and jumped off and thumped the back of his car he would have reversed into us!!  We end up pushing the bike for a while before managing to get out onto the main road and setting off again.  But no sooner are we off than we decide to pull over for a breakfast of coffee and tortilla bocodilla in a busy little roadside bar/cafe.  


 This also lets the morning traffic die down a bit and gives us time to check the route we are going to take through Barcelona.   

We set off again and for the next couple of hours we cycle into and through Barcelona.  Unexpectedly this part was OK, a bit tough with so many red lights; stop, starts are hard work especially in large quantities.  

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Our troubles began as we tried circumnavigating the airport to the south.  So many motorways and heavy dual carriageways but not much in the way of cycle friendly routes.  At times we found ourselves climbing up and over footbridges (fortunately they had ramps for bikes but it was tight cornering with the tandem) and cycling down the wrong way of carriageways so we could duck around some of the motorways onto a normal road!!  This part was far more stressful than Barcelona City centre but finally we managed to move away from all the hectic traffic and I found us a road down to the seafront… it meant crossing another footbridge but we were already veteran’s at it so we survived!!


We stopped for lunch about 2pm and having done 46km we thought we had broken the back of the day.  But the day had just one more sting in the tail and after cycling along the quiet coast for a while we were forced back onto a busy road that climbed up and up to get over a set of hills between Garraf and our stop for the day, Sitges.  But we survived and we booked into a really nice hotel down on the seafront that was on offer on the Web for only 37euro (80%off), and it’s lovely. Time to relax.

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Sitges (Catalan pronunciation: [ˈsidʒəs]) is a town about 35 kilometres southwest of Barcelona, renowned worldwide for its Film Festival and Carnival. Located between the Garraf Massif and the sea, it is known for its beaches, nightspots, and historical sites.

While the roots of Sitges’ artsy reputation date back to the late 19th century, when Catalan painter Santiago Rusiñol took up residence there during the summer, the town became a centre for the 1960s counterculture in mainland Spain, then still under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, and became known as “Ibiza in miniature”.

Nowadays it is a popular destination for gay and lesbian travellers, as it has become one of the most gay-friendly places in the world. Sitges has been referred to as the Saint-Tropez of Spain,[4] with property prices approaching those of the most expensive European cities, the main reason for this being the setting by the sea and the surrounding Parc Natural del Garraf. Proximity to Barcelona-El Prat Airport is also a major advantage.


After a couple of hours downtime we walk into town.  There’s a festival and celebrations and people everywhere.  We discover that this is festival week;  enjoy all your sins and hard living now, before 40 days of abstinence during Lent, before Easter.


On our way to sunny Spain, eviva Espania!! – 25 to 31st January

Monday 25th January – Goodbye to Rivel (Martin & Maggie), Hello St Paul de Fenouillet.

Distance 56.21 km

Max speed 51.3 kmph

Average speed 15.5 kmph

Total 1242.68 km


Today we’re back on the bike.  Martin treats us to a cooked breakfast and then we’re off.  We need to head to Puivert and between Rivel and Puivert is a huge hill so we’ve decided to cheat.

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 Martin has a trailer so we put our bike into the trailer and the bags in the boot and 5 mins later we’re at the top of the hill (this probably would’ve taken us at least 30 mins to cycle).  We unload the kit and prepare the bike and off we go with Martin and Maggie photographing the epic moment.  

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Thanks so much Maggie and Martin for sharing your house, food and for all the skiing trips and for dressing me in Kimono.  Good luck with the remainder of the renovations and repositioning of the pool and train set!!!

Down in Puivert we make a quick stop to visit Owen and Sharon. Owen’s already given us Michel Thomas language courses for French and Spanish but we also want Italian.  They’ve been renting in Puivert for a couple of months but they’ve already found 2 houses that they have short-listed to the buying list – it’ll be interesting to watch their progress.

We make good progress to Quillon and stop for coffee.  There’s only 30km to go to our destination so it should be fairly easy.  But it’s tough as hell.  Daz thinks maybe there’s something jamming the wheels but we check and they’re fine.  Then I realise I can feel all the ruts in the road – yep we’ve got a puncture.  Sod’s law that all punctures occur in the back wheel because it’s a pig to get off.  We pull off the road and start the repair process and a lady comes out of her house to see what we’re up to.  She even lets Daz into her house so he can wash his hands.  Puncture fixed and we’re on our way.

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We’ve been riding down the road heading south from Quillan to Axat (the D117) which passes through the deep Gorges de Pierre-Lys, with cliffs either side of the road stretching to 700 metres in height, very impressive as we swoop under short rock outcrops and tunnels.  

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Then there is a long climb which reminds us of Northern Spain, thankfully followed by a leg relaxing plateau. Finally we arrive at St Paul de Fenouillet and here we’re booked into a Chambre d’hote. It’s really comfortable, which is good because we’re kind of pooped!


After showering we venture out for food at the supermarket and troff it back in the room.  Then it’s an hour of Spanish lesson – so Michel Thomas thinks 10 to 12 hours and we’ll be managing in Spanish.  So this is our new challenge because in Spanish Daz and I are at the same level – clueless!!


Tuesday 26th January – St Paul de Fenouillet to Perpignan

Distance 57.58 km

Max speed 54.1 kmph

Average speed 15.9 kmph

Total 1300.26 km


Today it’s a pretty uneventful cycle ride into Perpignan; we pass kilometre after kilometre of vineyards with the owners checking their fields.  

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Then it’s Perpignan airport

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and then we’re in the centre of Perpignan.  We have lunch and spend a couple of hours geocaching.

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 Then it’s time to head to the university and find Mouna, our couch surfing host. We realise she’s in Halls of Residence, it’s just a question of gaining access.

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Finally we’re in and we manage to find her apartment; alot more difficult than it should have been but we can’t phone her because we don’t have any signal!  Mouna cooks dinner for us and a couple of her neighbours;  apparently they have an agreement, she does the cooking and he does the cleaning.  We all eat dinner together and it’s strange for us spending time with these youngsters who have so much of their life in front of them.  But they’re all fascinated by our army careers and our travelling adventures.


Wednesday 27th January – Perpignan to Colera


Distance 69.23 km

Max speed 57.9 kmph

Average speed 13.8 kmph

Total 1369.49 km


A nice steady start to the day which got progressively tougher.  

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Heading out of Perpignan the going was fairly steady but once we hit the coast we also hit the hills.  We also saw beautiful towns and had fantastic views over the Mediterranean.  We stopped at Collioure, Port Vendres and Banyuls sur Mer.  

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Collioure is easily the most picturesque coastal resort in South France. With the Pyrenees mountains tumbling into the sea, the impressive harbour, the castle, wonderful old church, beach-side restaurants, narrow old streets, bijou boutiques, art trails and three beaches; what more could you ask for in one town?

Collioure history
Collioure was first settled by the Phoenicians and Greeks as a trading port on the North western edge of the Mediterranean. Since that time it has been occupied by Romans, Barbarians, Arabs, Spaniards (at least 4 times) and finally after the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, the French. The Knights Templars, built Collioure’s impressive castle (Chateau-royal) in the 12th Century and this was later used as a residence for the Kings of Mallorca. Today the castle dominates one half of the harbour. At the other end, the church of Notre-dame-des-anges, was constructed in the 17th century and features the sistinctive round bell-tower that so often features in pictures and paintings of Collioure. At the turn of the 20th Century, Collioure underwent another invasion. But this time it was artists – the so-called Fauvist artist group – that featured, Matisse, Derrain, Rennie-mcIntosh and Dufy. The final invasion came at the end of the 1930s when Catalan rebels fled Franco’s troops at the end of Spain’s bitter Civil War. Here in the cemetry is buried Antonio Machado, Catalan’s celebrated poet who died in a refugee camp in nearby Argeles-sur-mer (Picasso’s poster “Homage to Antonio Machado” is displayed in Collioure’s Musee d’Art Moderne).

Only natural port along the rocky coast (called ‘Côte Vermeille’, because of the bright red colors of the rocks), Port-Vendres is both a deep-water commercial port and fishing and yachting harbor working all year round.
Port Vendres
With its pebbled and sandy beaches and creeks, it offers every seaside leisure facilities.
Set on the magnificent rocky slopes overlooking Port-Vendres are the prestigious vineyards of Banyuls, which also produce the Collioure appellation.

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The last town on the French side is Cerbere, and having free wheeled into the centre of town we start to climb out.  After about 10 mins we see a sign, the Spanish border is 4km. We also see a woman who looks sympathetically at us whilst making a steep incline sign with her hand.  And she’s right.  We climb, climb, climb.  

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I’ve never known 4km to last so long.  It’s so tough and we can look down on Cerbere town and train station from our bird’s eye view. Finally we make it and first we go through no man’s land with abandoned, vandalised border customs post

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And then we’re into Spain and we think the pain is over ( the hill is called Chapeau – hat in French.  I was certainly calling it something but it wasn’t hat or cap!!!)

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but after another steep decent Montbou it’s another horrendous climb.  Probably the toughest yet because we know we’ve only got 5km to our destination, Colera.  Finally we descend I to Colera and we know we might be in trouble.  Everything looks shut.  We have a hostel and campsite in mind but as we cycle into town we see another hostel and the owner is there. He has rooms but they’re quite expensive but fortunately we say yes because nothing else in town is open.  And the room/shower/ are fabulous.  We go off to explore before it gets dark; there’s a street art trail.  We thought it was Banksy type Street art; it’s not, but it’s still good especially the iron bridge built by Gustav Eiffel.  The same guy who built the Eiffel Tower.

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Thursday 28th January – Colera to Figueres

Distance 28.28 km

Max speed 58.9 kmph

Average speed 15.0 kmph

Total 1397.77 km


Just a short ride today.  We were going to go via Roses but decided to have an easy day.  As it was a relaxed day we also decided to experiment with our phasing, well finish the experiment we started on the way to Rivel.  So we put ourselves 90 degrees out of phase ( the 4 banger position) and it feels much quicker but I think it makes the bike rock sideways whilst Daz feels a thrusting motion on every quarter turn.  I certainly think it’s worth further tests; it’ll take a while until we’re used to the new feel and we’ll see if our average changes.

In Figueres we book into our Hostel and then we’re off to explore.  We visit the Dali museum, the reason we came to Figueres.

This museum evokes the life and work of Salvador Dalí, a genius of Surrealism.  The Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, described as “the world’s largest Surrealist object”, showcases all the various aspects of Dalí’s art. It includes some of the painter’s greatest masterpieces as well as pieces which range from his first artistic creations through to his last works. A visit to the museum is a real experience, a journey into the unique, captivating world of Salvador Dalí.

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Friday 29th January – Figueres to Mont-ras

Distance 63.46 km

Max speed 39.3 kmph

Average speed 16.5 kmph

Total 1461.43 km

Dull day today.  We detoured to L’Escala but actually we might as well not have bothered.  

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We stopped in  Torroella de Montgri for lunch and then Palafrugell for a late afternoon break because our warmshower hosts are nearby but won’t be home until later.  

Phasing Update:  the 4 banger seems to be giving an extra burst of speed but the downside is that Daz’s favourite time to change gear or freewheel is just at the end of his stroke; unfortunately this is just as i’m into a power stroke so the sudden stop or loss of resistance is a shocker for my knees.  We’re hoping time will refine our technique.

Anyway back to our warmshower hosts; what a delightful evening. Martin and Alfonso were there to greet us – a lovely cup of Yorkshire tea, somewhere to store the bike and somewhere to relax.  Kathy showed us to our private room, gave us bedding and towels and after a lovely hot shower, it was time to cook.  Kathy had bought the ingredients so we could cook dinner for them.  She absolutely refused to let us pay or even contribute.  Daz and I prepared dinner and enjoyed a lovely evening with Kathy, Alfonso and their friend, Olga, who had kindly provided the pudding.  What a delightful evening; Alfonso is an absolute charmer full of stories of his youth, meeting Kathy, cinematography, free diving, and his childhood near the Ebro delta.  Not to be outdone, there was Kathy and her story of leaving the UK and a university place and Olga having to travel to Birmingham as interpreter with her father to view plastic bottle molding factories.  It was an absolute delight and given that Olga and Alfonso were speaking in English for us, it just made us appreciate their kindness and thoughtfulness even more.  Finally we had to call it a night; this cycling malarkey is so tiring.


Saturday 30th January – Mont-ras to Blanes

Distance 66.04 km

Max speed 50.1 kmph

Average speed 13.1 kmph

Total 1522.70 km


What a killer day!! Started out with a lovely breakfast and said farewell to Kathy.  Unfortunately our need to get cracking meant we missed Alfonso and Martin.  Kathy had suggested the bike track to Palamós but when we found it the track was shut.  

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We headed off on a lovely quiet country lane, enjoying the countryside and soon joined the cycle path.  In Palamós we cycled along the seafront and stopped for coffee.

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 Continuing along the seafront to S’Agaró; with a beautiful beach and then into Sant Feliu de Guíxols.  We stop for lunch provisions and a look around the lovely markets.

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We want to head into the nature reserve, so a quick coffee and we’re off.  Our first abortive attempt is up a steep side street which ends in steps.  Doh!! A Spanish couple take pity on us and point us in the correct direction, back down the steep hill and up another!  

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And it’s up and up into the Massis de les Cadiretes, a nature reserve which is the main mountain range in the Costa Brava region of Catalonia.  It is indeed the highest part of the Catalan coastal range.  Bugger – tough biking but very beautiful.  It’s also a motorcyclists ‘wet dream’, lovely swooping bends.

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 Fxxk, wish I was on a motorbike, it’s like the Isle of Man TT races here!! Finally we get to Tossa de Mar, our planned lunchtime stop and we’re absolutely knackered!  A well earned break is required and we sit on the sea wall admiring the castle.

The “Vila Vella enceinte” is the only example of a fortified medieval town still standing on the Catalan coast. Its present appearance dates back to the end of the 14th century. It still has the entire original perimeter with battlemented stone walls, four turrets and three cylindrical towers with parapets. At the highest point, where the lighthouse stands today, was, until the beginning of the 19th century, the castle of the Abbot of the Monastery Santa Maria de Ripoll, the territorial Lord of the town. The site has been declared a national historic monument in 1931.  The interior of the Old Town is a charming place with narrow, cobblestoned streets, the Governor’s House (now the Municipal museum), the House of Holy Cloth (“Sant Drap”), a medieval hospital, and remnants of a Romanesque church and a Gothic church.

Then it’s time for our final push to Blanes.  

Blanes has something few coastal towns in Catalonia — indeed in all of Spain — can offer: old world charm alongside modern tourist conveniences.  Unlike Lloret de Mar, Blanes has managed to hold on to much of its old, Catalan identity.  Blanes has been influenced by tourism, but much of its old center still has the look and ‘feel’ of an ancient Catalan seaside village. Here, young and old locals mingle with tourists and day-trippers — buying fresh fruit and vegetables at the daily farmer’s market, enjoying tapas and beer at ‘been-here-forever’ Café Terrassans, and strolling along the sea-side boulevard on their way to a late-night meal.  Blanes still has an active fishing fleet, along with the region’s only fish auction. This thriving industry employs many of the locals who live in the old town center.

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In Blanes we find a hostel and eventually summon the energy to walk to the sea front.  Daz has found a tapas restaurant he wants to try but when we get there it’s like a brightly lit canteen with only 1 table occupied.  It doesn’t look very atmospheric or inviting so we head back along the sea front.  We find a place that looks like a working man’s club and have some tapas.  Fantastic!!


Sunday 31st January – Blanes to Barcelona

Distance 78.77 km

Max speed 47.1 kmph

Average speed 15.8 kmph

Total 1606.3 km


Today we are cycling all the way to Barcelona… well actually we will nearly get to Barca, but then kick inland to get to our couchsurfing hosts, Ana and Emilio, who are going to put us up for the next 4 nights whilst we rest and see the amazing sights around Barcelona.  The day starts out cool, and unlike yesterday we know it’s going to be quite a flat route, just slightly longer.  We cycle out of Blanes and as we travel south we have the beach on our left then a train track then us on the road followed by long lines of tourist cafes and shops on our right, the majority of these are closed, either as it’s Sunday or because it’s too early in the season.  We know our hosts aren’t expecting us until late this evening as they are supposed to be out until 7ish enjoying their Sunday off, so we stop at one of the open cafes, appropriately named Tandem, for a late breakfast and coffee.

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After an hour of time wasting we are on the road again and it’s starting to warm up, the road is also a little busier now, but especially with groups of road cyclists. These guys, and quite a few girls, whizz past us in their lycra and shaved legs. It’s a good job, as we are beginning to smell after 7 days of constant cycling with hardly a change of clothes… wiffy!!  Sometimes we can feel ourselves speeding up, normally when a slowish group has gone past us and we push that little harder to keep in touch with them. But apart from one group, they pass us with a wave and a cheer and disappear into the distance.  

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Later in the day we are getting tired and stop for food in a deserted Macdonalds between 2 towns.  Yes, sometimes we have to resort to MaccyD’s, there’s only so much tapas one can eat!!

We’re getting fed up of going along this busy road, with the beach on our left but still the train tracks in the way.  We realise that we should have crossed over at one of the numerous crossings earlier in the day, but now there are none to be seen so in the end we abandon the bike, descend some steps and walk under the road and trainline to the beach… the sun is shining, the sea is calmly lapping against the shore and Daz kicks off his shoes and socks and goes for a paddle as I sit and relax.

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Finally we drag ourselves back to ‘the pig’ (new nickname for the heavily laden bike… I am sure there will be more in the future!!) and continue on.  It’s getting later and we now need to navigate the sprawling urbanisation that surrounds Barcelona.  We are tired and our legs are suffering after the last 7 days but finally we roll into La Llagosta, and after cruising the streets for a bit, arguing about where to go we descend on a neighbourhood bar near to our hosts address to await their return.  A beer to quench our thirst soon has us rosy cheeked, but the barman has seen our bike and keeps bringing us complimentary tapas, so we are soon watered and fed!!

Around 9pm our hosts are back.  They take us to their apartment block.  Fuck….. they are on the 7th floor.  The stairwell is narrow with tight turns and the lift is tiny.  I’d leave the bike in the groundfloor foyer;  we’ve been abandoning the bike often fully loaded for weeks in the vain hope someone steals it.  But our hosts are insistent, so we undo the holding bracket and some of the gear cabling and manage to cram the bike and Daz into the lift.  We then park in our room with us.  That’s another first!

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Another celebrity death; we found out today that Terry Wogan has just died.  Loved Terry.  What a shame!!!