The cycling infrastructure in Barcelona is wonderful. The main streets are wide and there is plenty of space for everyone. The cycle lanes run along the centre of the roads and there is a traffic light system for both cyclists and traffic. It all runs very smoothly and as you would expect, lots of people choose to cycle here - that makes me smile :)
We headed for Antoni Gaudí's Basílica y Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia, which we could see from a long way off and thought that would be a good place to begin exploring. Once there though we encountered thousands of tourists and the queue's to get inside for a butchers were circling the cathedral itself, so we gave that a miss. Being unfamiliar with the city and finding it a bit overpowering being surrounded by so many people, we got back on the bikes and rode the city streets for an hour or so and did our sightseeing that way rather than on foot - a much more pleasant affair it was too.
I had noticed on the official city map I'd bought for €1, that Barcelona has it's very own Arc de Triomf, so we headed there and after a few laps of the place and a few trouristy photos of the bike, we rested in the park for a while before heading into the city's lively backstreets to find a little bar. When we were en route to Barcelona last night, I had wondered to myself when they would next be playing Real Madrid and had since discovered that "El Clásico" was this weekend! Tomorrow in fact. Although I figured getting tickets for such a match might be problematic, I thought I'd ask anyway, just on the off-chance that you could wander up to the gate and buy a ticket on matchday. The barman told us that it would cost at least €2,000 for a ticket from a tout! Sod that! I'd watch it in a bar instead.
Later in the day we took a lazy cycle back along the seafront and encountered many street performers and musicians so we stopped several times to watch them. The atmosphere all around was great and I was pleased to see so many cyclists, along with joggers, around too. This, I later discovered, was because of the Garmin Barcelona Triathlon taking place right at the seafront tomorrow.
Once back at the car we located the local supermarkets, on the GPS, in order to get some groceries for next few days, I could also buy the remainder of the maps I wanted for my journey around Spain. As it turned out, the Diagonal Mar Comercial Centre was less than 1km away from the seafront car park where we were staying and as we didn't want to lose our parking space in the already full car park, we decided to cycle to make it easier to carry the stuff back in my panniers. I don't generally like leaving my bike outside of large commercial centres and in France had only been shopping in out of town supermarkets or village shops, but with little other choice here I locked the bikes at the well lit and well populated cycle rack right outside the entrance to the centre in my usual overcautious manner, even going back to them once we had started to walk away just to make sure that I had locked them both to each other as well as to the rack itself. You can just tell I am building up towards something now, can't you?!?
After we'd got some 'offer' food we had to walk around the shop twice before we realised that the decent food and beer, that everyone else had managed to find, was on a lower floor and the escalator down to it was well hidden. We spent about an hour inside in total and came out of a different entrance to the one we had entered through and we were thrown for a second but then realised our entrance was only around the next corner. As soon as I got around the corner I could see the bike rack but could only see my friend's saddle among the rack still full of saddles. I realised immediately that my bike had been stolen!
Anyone who has had a bike stolen knows this feeling...at that moment my heart sank. As I approached the cycle rack I could see my cable had been cut right through and was still wrapped around my friends bike and the rack itself. Their bike was now unlocked and had been like that since the moment the cable had been cut. The thief was clearly not interested in that bike and had just made a beeline for mine. I suppose I should be honoured...but I was still jolly pissed off! I quickly hoped onto my friends bike and cycled around the centre and the local tower blocks to see if I could see my bike. As I did so I realised that I was not in the most salubrious of areas and was already saying to myself, "well, that's the last I will see of that then", along with other words too offensive to my mother to re-write here! She particularly hates the "C" word of course, as so many do, and needless to say, that was in there a few times!
My first thought was to get in the car and leave Barcelona immediately. I no longer wanted to spend anymore of my time or my money there and just wanted to go somewhere else and sulk in my peeved English manner, as is custom to do so in my country. I was angry with myself too and cursing myself for leaving it there in the first place, for not walking to the shops instead and for not cycling the other way around Spain and Portugal as I had initially planned to do! I was right browned off so I was!
Back at the car I was no longer hungry and couldn't be bothered to drink any of the beer we had taken so long to locate. My head as full of anger and nastiness about what I would have done to the thief had I seen them and what I would still do if I saw them on it anytime soon. I left my friend making a few phone calls to spanish speaking friends and I borrowed the bike again for a few more circuits of the area. I knew it would be in vein though as even a sub-human scumbag who steals bikes is surely not mentally deranged enough to cycle it outside the place they nick it from. Oh, how I would have loved to have caught them, although I would now be on the run, I am sure, with a GBH and 7 hour inhumane torture case hounding me for the rest of my life - so, probably for the best (for me) that I didn't see them.
I didn't sleep much that night. All kinds of rage and solutions and ideas and thoughts filled my head. I cycled around a few more times, more for something to do with myself than in any real hope of finding it. I went back and forth to the commercial centre most of the night to use the free wifi by standing outside the entrance as the signal reached the doorway I discovered. Ironically I was standing right at the place where I had left my bike just a few hours earlier, so I did what they do in movies and tv shows - I looked longingly at the empty spot for minutes on end.
Well past midnight and into the following day, until the batteries on my iPhone and iPad were almost dead, I tweeted and emailed everyone I could think of who might be able to offer me some assistance and help me get the message out. Although they had never tweeted me in the past, I sent messages to every famous cyclist I could think of and even to people only distantly linked to cycling like Alan Sugar who just owns a bike! I also tweeted the entire Barcelona team! Eventually though I got tired and trudged back to the boot of the Renault 21 estate for a bit of shut-eye...if I could.
Here are some photos from earlier in the day...
|Although sleeping in the back of a Renault 21 estate is not the most comfortable experience, waking up to this literally outside the boot, soon makes one forget the cramped nighttime sleeping arrangements.|
|The local brew. Oh golly, that man over there has no head! How unfortunate.|
|Monument of Antoni Rovira i Trias at Plaça de Rovira i Trias, in Gràcia, Barcelona.|
|And here's his city plan.|