Friday, October 5, 2012

Cycle Touring Day 188

Today we reached Perpignan where I had initially thought I would leave my travelling companion of the past few days and get back on the bike to begin my circumnavigation of Spain and Portugal before winter kicks in. We arrived mid-morning and headed for a supermarket for provisions and to locate the road maps I would need for Spain. That done, we strolled the city for a while but were not overly impressed with what we saw. I was looking for a bicycle shop as I needed to purchase some additional bar tape to make the handlebars more comfortable but there was none to be found in the city. However, a quick web search, via SFR public wifi, located a large shop just out of town called Veloland. We grabbed some lunch and then made our way over there arriving just before it opened again at 2pm.

Inside I was in Specialized heaven and had a jolly enjoyable time browsing all the latest models but had to resist the temptation to buy a new bike as cycle touring on two bikes is surely difficult. It took about an hour to eventually find the front door and leave the shop ;) but finally we were back in the car and heading for the coast for a bit of a cycle. After just 30 minutes or so though, we were quite bored. The coastline where we were was thoroughly uninspiring so we packed up again and headed further south along the coast in the hope of finding somewhere nicer to cycle.

As we drove along the undulating coast road, the views became more and more beautiful. The coastline as one approaches the Spanish border really is nice and we soon found ourselves at the border crossing at Cerbère. It was eerie to see the once busy border crossing quiet and without signs of life any longer. Peering through one particular window I saw a radio along with some papers scattered around a desk as if someone was in the middle of their working day. It appeared as if at the end of the last shift they just went home like they had done every other shift before.

Just around the corner from the crossing, at the summit of the hill, there is a memorial to all those who had tried to escape the Spanish Civil War by crossing into France via the Col-des-Balistras/Belitres Pass. There is also a monolith on the opposite side of the pass road.

After the obligatory photo stop at the border crossing and memorials, my travelling companion asked if I wanted to press on to Barcelona that evening. As I mentioned earlier, I had initially assumed we would go our separate ways at Perpignan and I would head into Spain alone, but although I am now travelling by car rather than by bike, it has been jolly nice have someone with me for the last couple of days, so it didn't take me long to decide on my answer and give a resounding "yes". It was 17:30 and we arrived in Barcelona just before 20:00.

As this decision was so last minute we had not previously discussed where we would stay. Over the past few days we had been sleeping in the mountains in the back of the car, this however, did not seem the most sensible choice in the centre of such a big city. My friend mentioned something called a Hostal (not a hostel), which is popular in Spain, so as soon as we arrived we began driving around in search of one. Almost three hours later and we had still not found one despite stopping in various places and asking the locals, needless to say it wasn't me doing the asking as my Spanish is worse than my French! Finally we gave up and headed for the coast after deciding to find a beachfront car park and sleep at the beach - why didn't we just decide to do that earlier?!? En route to the coast, what did we see? Yes, a hostal! We hastily parked up (probably illegally) and headed inside only to find that everything is automated and you pay via a credit card - but only if you already had made a reservation - we hadn't, we pressed on to the beach!

Finally, well past midnight, we found a beachside car park and took up residence at the far end away from all the other cars and hopefully offering us a little peace and quiet during the night ahead. Little did we know though that Barcelona is clearly a 24 hour city and the main road in and out of the city seemingly runs along the side of our beachside car park! Eventually, around 3 or 4am, the noise finally died down and we managed to get some uninterrupted sleep. At 7am the council turned up and promptly began strimming all of the weeds in and around the car park and in the process flinging stones and gravel onto the cars that were parked there, including ours of course. Sleep, we finally decided, was futile! Still, we were in the amazing city of Barcelona on a Saturday so surely today would be a fantastic day!




The view down to Porbou.



Spanish Civil War memorial on the Belitres Pass.

Spanish Civil War memorial on the Belitres Pass.


The Francoist monolith of Belitres Pass


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