Trip to Barcelona:
Other cycling trips (in Dutch only):
Description of our cycling trip
from the Netherlands to Spain - Part 4
In april/may of 2003, Eric and I cycled from Eindhoven (our
home city in the Netherlands) to Barcelona, Spain. You'll find
our "live" travelogue, written at internet cafes along the
way, on these pages.
You can find a map of our route on this
page. We followed the route described by Paul Benjaminse.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me
through the email address on my
Nederlands (Dutch version of these
Day 25 - Thursday 22 may 2003
Destination: Tuchan (France)
Distance: 84 km
Total dist: 1760 km
Ave speed: 16.4 km/hr
Max speed: 45.5 km/hr
This was another beautiful, sunny day! It was a lot warmer too, and
we could even have lunch without our coats on, along the way. And
the cycling was great!
We followed the Canal du Midi further west, and when our odometers
hit 1680 km, we first sighted one of the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees!
We turned toward the south, and suddenly it looked as if we were already
in Spain. There were Catalan signs alongside the roads, and dry red soil,
everything seemed to look a little different. We were still cycling
along endless vineyards, however.
In the late morning, we met another Dutch couple that is also cycling
the same route, but northward, and they warned us that our intended
campground for this evening, in Durban, no longer exists - apparently,
it was washed away in a flood.
We had a few tough climbs to taunt us today, and the incredible wind of
the last couple of days (which is called Tramontane, by the way), was
sometimes a head wind, but also pushed us from behind from time to time.
All in all, the going was good.
We passed the Col d'Extreme (which sounds a lot more threatening than it
really is) in late afternoon, and arrived in Tuchan. We spent the night
at the campground, with Hans and Alexandre. Hans is a Dutchman, from
Groningen, who is cycling the same route we are, but who is going to spend
a few more weeks cycling in Spain when he gets there. Alexandre, another
Dutchman, from Schiedam, is on his way to visit his girlfriend in
Barcelona on a cool, self-made bike full of flames and flags.
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Day 26 - Friday 23 may 2003
Destination: Maureilles-las-Illas (France)
Distance: 67 km
Total dist: 1827 km
Ave speed: 14.8 km/hr
Max speed: 46.5 km/hr
Eric wasn't feeling very well when we got up this morning. We packed
up and cycled all day, nonetheless, but Eric felt bad, and threw up once,
along the side of the road.
Apart from that, it was an excellent day of cycling. Great weather and
fantastic views! We moved into the Pyrenees today, and had quite a bit
of climbing to do. This, of course, was rewarded with great views. We
could see the large highway snaking into the Pyrenees, and the sight of
Perpignan, off in the distance, on the Mediterranean, was worth any
As Eric was feeling sick, we wanted to stop at a hotel in Maureilles,
but there was none, so we ended up at the campground. Oh dear, and we
really weren't lucky, because our second tent pole broke as we were
putting up the tent! With only one repair piece, we were at a loss of
what to do for a moment, but other campers saved the day. Hans, whom we
had met last night, was also on this campground, and he had another repair
piece that we could use; a few friendly Germans had tools, so we could
remove the burr at the break, and fit the repair piece. The German lady
felt sorry for Eric, and took care of him by fixing him a few cups of
fennel tea, to soothe his stomach. I felt good about all of this
very friendly assistance. It just goes to show, most people are really
very friendly and helpful in general, and toward trekking cyclists
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Day 27 - Saturday 24 may 2003
Destination: Figueres (Spain)
Distance: 58 km
Total dist: 1885 km
Ave speed: 14.1 km/hr
Max speed: 47.5 km/hr
Today was the day of the great pass across the Pyrenees! Eric was
feeling somewhat better, and we made an early start. It wasn't easy,
France was putting us to a last test: right after breakfast we started
climbing, going up a hill at 6 km/hr. We were following a small,
winding, and pleasantly quiet road up to Las Illas. We ascended
about 600 m over a distance of 15 km. Some parts were not too steep,
but there were also sections with a slope of 13%, and on those parts
we felt every gram of baggage pulling on our bikes, backward, downward!
The last few kilometers of the road to the border were not sealed,
but the gravel was good enough to cycle on. That, of course, explains
the lack of traffic on this road. Panting, and sweating heavily, we
arrived at the top, and reached the Spanish border, after 1840 km!
The only sign that you've reached the border (apart from it being the
top of the pass) is that the road suddenly changes from gravel into
beautiful new asphalt - there's no country sign. And after this long
climb came a wonderful, whooping descent into Spain!
We did not cycle much further today, but only descended to Figueres.
A larger city, at last, but before long the crowds made Judith long
for the quiet country villages... Figueres does have a campground,
but we took a hotel. We don't have a lot of faith that our tent isn't
going to collapse on us.
We had dinner in Figueres, with Hans (the Dutch guy from Groningen),
and celebrated our arrival in Spain! We also gave Hans the repair pieces
for the tent poles. We've only got a few days to go, and will stick to
hotels, whereas he's also got a broken tent pole that will have to
last until july 12th!
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Day 28 - Sunday 25 may 2003
Destination: Figueres (Spain)
Distance: - km (day off)
Total dist: 1885 km
We took a day off in Figueres! We visited the Dali museum, which
is definitely worth it. We also booked our retour flight, through
the internet - we're flying back to Amsterdam from Barcelona, on
friday. The flight costs 89 euro per person, and the bicycles
kost an additional 25 euro apiece. [postscript: we never payed
those 25 euro for the bikes; either we misunderstood, or someone
made a mistake.] It's great that you can book a flight at
such short notice, and at such a cheap price. Actually, the
cheapest flight is only 19 euro each (!!), but it's at 6:45 in
the morning, and we can't get to the airport by train that early.
It was a good thing that we took a hotel room in Figueres, as
Eric was sick again last night, throwing up and with diarrhoea.
We hope he'll get better soon, as we do want to continue on
tomorrow! In addition, it poured with rain all of last night, and
we think it would have been very far from a relaxed night in a
tent with two (out of two) broken tent poles, just about to
collapse on us!
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Day 29 - Monday 26 may 2003
Destination: San Feliu (Spain)
Distance: 96 km
Total dist: 1982 km
Ave speed: 15.5 km/hr
Max speed: 61 km/hr
We both reached the maximum speed, close to the end of this trip!
We loaded our bikes in the rain this morning, and as we got on
in our cycling shorts, we saw the Spaniards in the hotel looking
at us with pity! Crazy Dutch people, is what they were probably
thinking. It rained a couple of times today, but luckily not
We started off cycling through hills, little ascents and descents.
This did not appear to be a spectacularly beautiful area to us: just
a collection of messy-looking villages, pig farms, and no landscapes
worth noting. After a few hours, however, we had another 300 m climb,
through a forest, and we were treated to more beautiful views, and
a wonderful descent. The last "real" descent of this trip!
The route description of this trip ends right after this descent,
with a final suggestion that there's a cycling path leading to the
coast. It took us a while to find this bicycle path, but we did
succeed, and we followed it for about 20 km to San Feliu, on the
Mediterranean coast. The path is not sealed, and gave some tough
cycling in some areas due to the rain that has fallen here in the
past few days (puddles!). But we're very happy to have found it,
it's sure to beat cycling along the highways!
We took a hotel room in San Feliu. Eric is feeling quite a bit
better, but to be safe he's only eating rice and dry bread today.
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Day 30 - Tuesday 27 may 2003
Destination: Mataro (Spain)
Distance: 75 km
Total dist: 2056 km
Ave speed: 14.9 km/hr
Max speed: 44 km/hr
We started off the day with an unexpectedly nice bit of cycling,
southward along the coast. It's a very steep, high, cliff, so
that the views across the sea, and toward villages along the cliff,
are very nice. The sun did help out here!
After alternately ascending and descending (short but steep climbs)
high above the Mediterranean for a few hours, we reached sea level
in Lloret de Mar. It took us about 15 minutes to get through this
town, and that was enough to make it clear to us that we have no
desire whatsoever to go on vacation there! Phew, this was quite
a contrast to cycling through quiet, pastoral regions.
Unfortunately, the pleasant cycling was over with after Lloret.
We spent the rest of the day (about 40 km) cycling along a major
highway, the N-II, with heavy traffic. We had to be cautious, but
thought it was probably safe enough. Often, there was no hard
shoulder for us to cycle on, or only a very narrow one (10 cm wide
or so). Also, branches of cactus sometimes dangled across the
shoulder, precisely at naked shin-height. The constant roaring of
trucks in our left ears sort of put us in a daze, and the exhaust
fumes were a great pleasure. This wasn't exactly nice. Oh, well,
we knew the last bit was going to be like this from the start.
Benjaminse (the author of our route description) suggests that
everyone should take the train to Barcelona from Figueras or so,
and we have to agree that the last 70 km to Barcelona are no fun.
They can be done by bike, however. To be honest, the only reason
you'll want to cycle the last bit from Lloret is for the achievement,
to know that you cycled all the way to Barcelona, and that's
the reason we did so. So we took the consequences!
We stopped in Mataro, about 30 km north of Barcelona, and found
a hotel. Eric ate normally, by the way.
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Day 31 - Wednesday 28 may 2003
Destination: Barcelona! (Spain)
Distance: 46 km
Total dist: 2102 km
Ave speed: 16.0 km/hr
Max speed: 38.5 km/hr
Phew, it was another 30 km along the busy N-II, and then on through
the outskirts of... Barcelona! Yes, we made it! And we cycled
all of it, we did not take any trains!
We cycled into Barcelona around noon, and followed the beach
to the centre. We found the Tourist Informatin on Pl. de
Catalunya, at the western end of Ramblas, and managed to arrange
a hotel room for two nights, within an hour. It was very hard to
find a room, as Barcelona is apparently pretty much booked out,
and the extra request of having a storage space for our bikes
complicated matters. We found one though, a room in a brand new
hotel, very modern, about 10 km out of the centre, but very close
to a metro stop. It's not exactly cheap... We should have known
better: if you're going to take a trip such as this one, just go
ahead and book a hotel way ahead of time, for the entire week in
which you think you may arrive. You see, you can always cancel your
reservation, at no cost, 24 hours before arrival...
We found our hotel, and returned to the centre in the late
afternoon. Time for tapas, at last!! Lucky for Eric that he can
eat normally again! Over the past weeks, whenever we were groaning
and grunting over a tough climb, we kept each other going by
taking turns naming our favorite tapas, and now, finally, we
could eat them all! I must say, we enjoyed them
See Judith's page on Barcelona (from a trip to this same city in
2002), for more information on this beautiful place!
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Day 32 - Thursday 29 may 2003
Destination: Barcelona (Spain)
Distance: approx. 15 km
Total dist: approx. 2117 km
We spent all day in Barcelona. We slept in, but it also took us
several hours to take care of preparations for tomorrow, to get our
bikes flown back to the Netherlands. A bicycle mechanic loosened
the pedals, so that we can remove them ourselves, tomorrow. We
also bought two large rolls of plastic with bubbly blisters (sorry,
I really have no idea what that's called), to wrap around our bikes
so they won't be damaged in transport.
We treated ourselves to a super lunch, with cava (local wine), and
stuffed ourselves with tapas, once again, for dinner. We're really
raking in the calories here!
All of the cultural stuff in the city sort of slipped by us, this
time, but we saw quite a lot of it last year. For more information
on Barcelona itself, on what to see and do, take a look at Judith's
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Day 33 - Friday 30 may 2003
Destination: Eindhoven (the Netherlands)
Distance: approx. 10 km
Total dist: approx. 2132 km
We were up at a quarter to six, and cycled along Barcelona's beach to
the Sants train station. From there, we took a train to the airport
(apparently, the only other way to get to the airport is by motorway,
and we figure it's better not to cycle there...). Unfortunately, we
just missed a train, and they only go every half hour, so we didn't
get to the airport overly early for our flight.
Somewhere behind the check-in line, with sweat on our foreheads, we
dismantled our bikes a little: we removed the pedals, let the air out
of the tyres, lowered the saddles, rotated the steering wheel 90 degrees,
etc. We then wrapped them in the plastic, and twisted tape all around
them. That was not easy, by the way, cycling to the station with those
huge rolls of plastic, and we got quite a few surprised looks!
We were finished wrapping our bikes about 2 minutes before the check-in
was closed, at which time the lady behind the counter had to start
printing labels for our 10 pieces of luggage! She did not appear to
be very happy about this, but everything worked out. We didn't have
to pay extra for the large number of bags, nor did we pay extra for
transportation of the bikes, so it was only the 85 each, plus some
kind of airport tax. That's all.
We arrived at Schiphol airport, Amsterdam, at 11:30 am, and found
Judith's parents already waiting for us! We're very thankful that
they came over to pick us up! And that's how this adventure came
to an end...
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