On our way to sunny Spain, eviva Espania!! – 25 to 31st January 2016

On our way to sunny Spain, eviva Espania!! – 25 to 31st January 2016


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!!!

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