Today was a roaming day in Barcelona, although we didn’t do a whole lot of it, because we spent half the day doing our organising and bits and pieces ready for the next leg of our trip. I was up at 5:30, incapable of a sleep-in, even when I had a proper bed that would have definitely been worthy of a sleep-in! Oh well, the body alarm will do what it does. Steve arose much later, since he has the capacity to sleep-in that I wish I had, so while he was getting ready, I strolled down to a nearby health food store for a look around and grab a new supply of peanut butter. When I returned, we spent some time discussing what to do next and how we should travel and did some consulting of maps. Our research revealed that the bike ride north of Barcelona and into France would involve at least one mega super dooper hill, which was really just the hors d’oeuvre to the Pyrenees mountain range. Yes, we’ve climbed some mighty hills, but even we draw the line at an actual mountain range. So, we decided to make Barcelona our final Spanish stop and catch a quick train up to the French border, leap-frogging the mountains and recommence pedalling from there. So that was the decision.
The first thing we needed to do was return the car to the airport, so off we set again to navigate the narrow streets of Barcelona. It doesn’t help when the streets on the map are marked with arrows, to show if they are one-way or not, but they are actually wrong. So the map says to turn left on a street that will only let you turn right. We had a couple of those. So we had a few long detours to recalculate and re-navigate and Steve had to manoeuvre the big car through some very tight streets, made more challenging by Spanish drivers who like to park anywhere they choose, such as right on the corner of narrow streets or right in the middle of streets, leaving barely enough room to scrape a scooter through, let alone a big people-mover van. We eventually got through the city though, without a scratch on the paint work and made our way to the airport. This meant getting back on the motorway, which meant it was Steve’s last chance to benefit from the joys of my navigational terminology! “We’re approaching a major pretzel, you’ll need Exit 192,” I’d say. He knows what my pretzels are now! It’s what I call the big overpasses with the multiple looping exits and on-off ramps, which to me, on a map, look just like big pretzels. So alas, Steve had his last taste of the joys of my creative navigational directions! We made it to the car rental place though. The car passed inspection and we headed to the airport train station to catch a train back to the city. As we walked into the airport terminal on our way to the train, we saw whole teams of film crews. The big story over here is obviously the crash of the Airbus, because the flight left from Barcelona, so it’s been dominating the news. Apparently the Spanish Prime Minister had been out to the crash site and all the news crews were at the airport waiting for his return.
We decided to catch the train into another main station, so we could find out if we were allowed to take bikes on the train to France, because if not, we’d be pedalling up those mountains whether we liked it or not. We had planned to go to a station near the Born District in the city that we wanted to explore, but ended up overshooting our mark because the line we were on didn’t go the station we needed. Realising this, we hopped off, hopped on a different train and headed back the way we came. We decided to just go to the main station in the city, where we figured there would be good information about the rail services and what the situation was with bikes. It was getting on for 1:00 by now and we were both a bit peckish, so our plans for a picnic lunch in a park in Born went down the gurgler because we still needed to get our plans sorted with the bikes and the trains. So, continuing our theme of scenic and comfortable lunch stops, that we started with our varied dining experiences in motorway truck stops, we ended up in the five star dining location of the train station cafeteria. Oh well. The good news though, was the man at the help desk was very helpful and continued to say, “No problem, is no problem” when it came to taking bikes on the train. In fact he was so dismissive about it, like it was nothing to worry about at all, that I’m now a bit worried that when we show up, with not exactly your average bike, but two very wide-load bikes with fat panniers, we will be turned away at the door. We also have to go on regional trains, that are different to the one we took from Seville. The previous one had a designated bike section and we pre-booked the bikes and the train had a designated entrance for the bikes with a low floor off the platform. The regional train we have to take from here is just a regular train, with the step up from the platform and no specific area for the bikes to hang or be stored. There may be a space for them to stand or there may not, we won’t know until we’re on the train. I’m just worried about having to lift that load up off the platform and get it into the train, before the whole thing shoots off. I have visions of a bike half on the train, me inside trying to pull it on, while Steve pushes and then the train taking off, leaving me on it and Steve behind holding a bike! We must devise a contingency plan for such a mishap.
The travel plans were now more or less sorted, so we took the train to our original destination in the Born District. On this train, we came across yet another example of Spain’s creative buskers. We had seen the juggling duo at the pedestrian crossing in Almeria, well now we had a full-on rapper, complete with amp and microphone, rapping and hip-hopping up a storm in the train carriage. I have no idea what he was “singing” because of course it was all in Spanish, but whatever it was he was doing it with great conviction, eyes closed, arms and hands flicking this way and that and baseball cap and baggy trousers doing their fashionable best to give him that serious Eminen look. Then he went down the carriage to collect his coins from the audience. I don’t think he left a rich fella. When you think about it though, that’s a pretty good busking gig. Warm train carriage, out of the weather, a captive audience that can’t go anywhere. Not bad. The other buskers we saw that I thought were a bit different from the norm, were a couple of Flamenco dancers we saw when we got to the Born District. They had their music playing and were stepping and strutting and spinning, before wandering around the onlookers hoping for a financial contribution to their performance.
The Born District was a little disappointing, although it did still have some nice buildings and those familiar narrow lane ways .
We roamed the streets and then I suggested a visit to a gelateria I’d read about, that had vegan gelati. It took us ages to find. I kept saying to Steve, “Don’t worry about it, it’s not important,” but we ended up on a mission to find it and when we did, it was soooooo worth it! We had a chocolate gelato made with rice milk and completely vegan and it was sen-say-shun-al!! I mean, this was THE BEST darn ice cream ever! My memory of ice-cream is a distant one, in fact I really couldn’t say when I last had it because I obviously don’t eat that sort of thing, but this was amazing! Steve had the vegan rice milk variety too, because interestingly (but not surprising to me) he’s discovered how much better he feels since he stopped eating dairy. He can’t really carry milk or yoghurt around with him when we’re riding, so he’s been using my rice milk and has felt so much better, with his stomach issues now a thing of the past. He actually had a milky drink a couple of weeks ago and the old problems cropped up, so he’s discovered that things are a whole lot better since ditching the dairy. Anyway…we could now both have this delicious, creamy, decadent gelato treat and I just didn’t want it to end! Treats like that are just that, very much rare treats, so I savour them wholeheartedly. Did I mention is was SENSATIONAL!?
Our final stop for the day was La Sagrada Familia, a huge, ornate Basilica, that is another of Antony Goudi’s architectural creations. It had lots of scaffolding up, with work being done on it, but we could still see some of the amazing architectural elements. Goudi really did like his fancy bits. I think he must have been the Liberace of 19th century architecture because he sure added some flamboyance to his designs.
We finally wandered back to our apartment, where we’ve been doing our final sorting out of things before we head off tomorrow, such as making sure we have somewhere to stay. We’ve discovered, after looking for campsites in France, that they all seem to be closed until at least the end of April, sometimes June. Steve said he’d read where a lot of them close over winter and only reopen in the summer months. That could cause some difficulties, accommodation wise, as we go on.
So we have essentially seen the last of Spain, had our fill of Barcelona and are preparing to enter another country and tackle yet another language. I just really hope we manage to get on the train…together…at the same time…with bikes! It’s going to be a three hour journey, so maybe I should whip up a train carriage busking act and try and earn some coppers to add to the travelling pocket money. I could play the spoons…or do my Peter Garrett hand dance…or sing my Trangia song…hmmm, at least anything I chose to do, since I am 100% lacking in any sort of talent, would mean I’d clear the carriage and we’d have lots of space and privacy for the trip! Now, what are those Midnight Oil lyrics again…??