Sunday, May 31, 2020

Happy Gawai Festival 2020

Wishing all my friends and readers who celebrate Gawai
"Happy Gawai Festival
May you have long life, good health and prosperity.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Cycling Europe 2019 Day 20: Brompton Barcelona!

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Europe / Cycling Portugal-Cycling Spain Cycling Europe 2019 / Day 20     |     Go To D1-2/D3/D4/D5/D6/D7/D8/D9/D10-11/D12/D13/D14/D15/D16/D17/D18-19/D21/D22-25/D26
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Cycling Europe 2019 Day 20: Brompton Barcelona!
Portugal, Spain & France: Day 20 Friday, 15th November - Barcelona
This is part of a cycling tour of the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal & Spain), covering Barcelona:
Cycling Distance: 23.19 km     Level: Medium
Cycling Time : 10:00 am to 7:00 pm
Time Taken : 9 hrs. (including stops at various POIs, visiting Brompton shops, Valeria's, rest & regroup, lunch, and lots of photo opps.)

This is page 17 of a 20-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions & Cycling Lanes!
     On the Continental Europe, vehicles are left-hand drive, so cycle on the right. And do remember the traffic directions at road crossing. Also note that often cycling lanes run next to pedestrian lanes at town and city areas, at crossings there are separate lanes for pedestrians and bicycles, so stick to the correct lane.
     There are beautiful cycling lanes in the Barcelona, but do note that sometimes during peak hours taxis and delivery vans also use these lanes, especially at the city centre.

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    This was an interesting day when a couple of friends from Brompton Barcelona took us on a cycling tour of their city. Starting from our Primavera Hostel to view a couple of Gaudí's buildings and then upwards to the hilly municipal precinct of Montjuïc (without having to climb hard as there were escalators), followed by zooming down to the Port of Barcelona and lunch at El_Born, before continuing onto green areas of Parc de la Ciutadella (Citadel Park) and back to the L' Eixample locality.
3. Weather
    Morning temperature iBarcelona morning averaged 11°C. Afternoon & evening temperatures averaged 15°C & 12°respectively.
    It is always prudent to check the weather for the next day so as to know what to expect and be prepared for it. Useful weather forecast sites are BBC WeatherAccuWeather; and for more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

4. Travelling by Trains, Buses & Trams
    For regular travel on the Barcelona Metro and buses (and even some funicular trains) one can opt for the Hola Barcelona 3-day Travel Card at €23.70 per pax which allows for unlimited trips during 3-day period from first activation. This card can be bought online with a 10% discount.
    OR opt for the T-Casual ticket at €11.35 per card. This is also know as the T-10 card and it allows for 10 trips per card, the best thing is that it can be shared by several users. Friends can share a card but bear in mind it's a total of 10 trips per card (meaning if 10 friends share, they can travel for only one journey. Limitations of this card is that it does not include for travel to the airports, and there is a limitation of each travel journey being limited to 75 minutes. The single trip fare to or from the airport to the city is €4.40.
    For tourists who often travel in a group, the T-10 card is recommended as it can be shared; buying two T-10 card to share among six is much cheaper than six 3-day Travel Card.
    Full-sized and folding bikes are allowed onto the Metro trains; folding bikes need not be folded in the trains.
    E-hailing Uber is available in Portugal but not in Spain, where taxis are aplenty.

5. Places of Interest
    At Barcelona were several places of interests, some of which we visited and others we did not for lack of time:
  1. Concepio Market (Mercat de Concepció(GPS: 41.39618, 2.16818).
  2. Casa de les Punxes (GPS: 41.39800, 2.16399).
  3. La Pedrera-Casa Milà (La Pedrera-Casa Milà(GPS:41.39538, 2.16196) by Gaudí.
  4. Casa Batlló (Casa Batlló(GPS: 41.39170, 2.16491) by Gaudí.
  5. Casa Amatller (Casa Museu Amatller(GPS: 41.39148, 2.16498). 
  6. Brompton Junction Barcelona (now known as Folding Bike House(GPS: 41.38431, 2.15935).
  7. Plaza of Spain (Plaça d'Espanya) (GPS: 41.37500, 2.14915).
  8. Venetian Towers (Torres Venecianes) (GPS: 41.37396, 2.14980).
  9. Plaça de Josep Puig I Cadafalch (The Four Columns(GPS: 41.37059, 2.15216).
  10. Plaça de les Cascades (GPS: 41.36982, 2.15265).
  11. View Point Near Skylift (GPS: 41.37127, 2.17208).
  12. Port of Barcelona (GPS: 41.37479, 2.17892).
  13. Columbus Monument (Mirador de Colom) (GPS: 41.37580, 2.17776).
  14. El Born Centre de Culturas I Memoria (GPS: 41.38585, 2.18382) in the El_Born neighborhood.
  15. Citadel Park (Parc de la Ciutadella) (GPS: 41.38812, 2.18601).
  16. Zoo de Barcelona (GPS: 41.38633, 2.18985).
  17. Catalonia Palace of Justice (Palau de Justícia(GPS: 41.39078, 2.18260).
  18. Arc de Triomf de Barcelona (GPS: 41.39105, 2.18064).
  19. Valeria's Bike Accessories (GPS: 41.39419, 2.18852).
  20. Cap Problema - Brompton Premier Store Barcelona (GPS: 41.39915, 2.16886).
  21. Las Arenas de Barcelona (GPS: 41.3763, 2.14931).

6. Meals
a. BreakfastBar Manuel at Concepio Market (Mercat de Concepció(GPS: 41.39618, 2.16818) -
    1. Fried sardines, 2. Grilled squid, 3. Stir fried mushrooms, 4. Potato onion omelet, & 5. Coffee
b. Lunch: La Paradeta (GPS: 41.38628, 2.18395in El Born Centre -
    1. Salad, 2. Fried squid tentacles, 3. Fried squid body, 4. Grilled octopus, 5. Deep fried sardines, 6. Bamboo (razor) clams, 7. Mussels in tomato sauce, 8. Lemon Beer.
c. Late Tea: Pistachio & Bacio Di Torino ice cream at Gelateria Dino Italia at Las Arenas de Barcelona (GPS: 41.3763, 2.14931).
d. DinnerPura Brasa Arenas (GPS: 41.37628, 2.15012) -
    1. Spanish olives appetizer, 2. Melt-in-mouth Duroc pork belly with teriyaki sauce (very good), 3. Grilled Basque Chistorra Sausage on toast, 4. Tagliatelle all'aglio, 5. Red & white vermouth.

7. Accommodations
    Four nights aPrimavera Hostel (GPS: 37.17224, -3.59256) located in the L' Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona which we had pre-booked through; different types of rooms: two-bedder & three bedder room (at about €25 per pax per night); beds in 4-bedder & 8-bedder dorms (at about €14 per pax per night). Do pre-book earlier as this hostel is a favorite.
    Address: Carrer de Mallorca, 330, 08037 Barcelona, Spain.
    Phone: +34-931752151
8. Communicating with Each Other
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost.
    We bought pre-paid SIM cards from UK mobile provider Three on-line through Lazada. As some of us stayed for a shorter period, we got two plans with cost ranging from RM30 to RM70 for a 20 days 4G and a 30 days 10G plans respectively. These plans include their "Feel At Home" package which allow the phone's data, call and messaging allowance to be used in sixty countries (mostly European and also Singapore) without any extra charges!

9. Communicating with Locals
    In Spain, except in rural areas, many young locals can speak some basic English and communicating with them shouldn't be a problem. This is especially the case in hotels & restaurants. In Barcelona, it would be good to pick up some Catalan as it will warm one up to the locals as most of them speak this instead of Spanish.
     When communicating with locals is a problem, this could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour, do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak very good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedule.

10. Navigation
     Unless he or she is very familiar with the locals routes, the tour leader should carry a GPS units. It will also be good if another member of the team carry another GPS unit should the leader's one go faulty.
    Kevin was using a Beeline navigation unit that synchronized with pre-planned routes on his phone app. Sin & me were using the Garmin GPS units and had pre-plotted our daily routes into respective GPX maps usable in these units. We had pre-loaded the PortugalSpain & France Maps together with GPS coordinates of our destinations. Do ZOOM out to look for turning points further ahead; and ZOOM in at complicated junctions, otherwise one may make a wrong turn (it did happen to us sometimes).
    Alternatively, download the MAPS.ME app together with the relevant country maps. This app can be used offline.
    At the towns and cities, we used Google Maps to navigate to various places of interests that were not shown on our GPS units. In Spain, Google Maps does work in Cycling Mode.

11. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.


The previous two days we had flown in from Granada to Barcelona did some exploring of the city ourselves followed by the next day's free walking tour of the city. We had tried their marvelous pinchos and visited several interesting places including the Barcelona Cathedral and la Sagrada Família.
Today, we will get acquainted with the city some more; BUT no more walking! After three non-cycling days we will be riding around the city together with a couple of friends from Brompton Barcelona group.
¡Olé ... Olé!


Cycling Route: Primavera Hostel>Casa Batlló>Brompton Junction>Plaça d'Espanya>Montjuïc>Olympic_Stadium>Barcelona_Port>El_Born>Citadel_Park>Arc_de_Triomf_de_Barcelona>Valeria's Bike Accessories>Primavera Hostel>by Metro>Magic Fountain of Montjuïc>Las Arenas de Barcelona>by Metro>Primavera Hostel.
Cycling Distance: 23.5 km (based on Map My Ride tracking)     Level: Medium.
A route starting from the L' Eixample locality to view a couple of Gaudí's buildings and then upwards to the hilly municipal precinct of Montjuïc (without having to climb hard as there were escalators), followed by zooming down to the Port of Barcelona and lunch at El_Born before continuing onto green areas of Parc de la Ciutadella (Citadel Park) and back to the L' Eixample locality.

Today is going to be a
A couple of new friends from Brompton Barcelona are going to take us cycling around the city. One can always read up on the net about far away places and cycling there, but nothing beats having locals take us around, they know their city inside out and of many off-the-beaten-track places.
But first let's fuel up our tummies as it's going to be a full day of cycling, just round the corner a short walk from our home-stay is the Concepio Market (Mercat de Concepció). Yes, it's a market where locals go get fresh food and that often frequented by tourists. We were very impressed by the cleanliness of the place and the variety of things sold at the different stalls - ranging from super fresh veggies, to seafood and to tempting cuts of meat (meaning Jamón ibérico 😋).

Right at the entrance were several eateries, we opted for Bar Manuel. The operator Manuel, with his thick up-turned moustache, looked like Mario having just stepped out the video game Super Mario Brothers. But unlike Mario, he did not fool around with us but instead help us pick out good recommendations from his servery. We had:
1. Fried sardines, 2. Grilled squid, 3. Stir fried mushrooms, 4. Potato onion omelet, & 5. Coffee.
The deep fried sardines were superb, just simply deep fried but crunchily tasty!

And this is the Grilled squid/cuttlefish, just perfectly done with olive oil - tender yet with slightly burnt parts to bring out the aroma.

10:00am - Jorge and Valeria from Brompton Barcelona met us at the front of our home-stay, Primavera Hostel. It's a working Friday, and we were most appreciative that they have taken time off to show us around.

Within minutes after kicking off, we passed by the Casa de les Punxes. I had passed by this building several times and had peeked at it from far away while on the Metro. With the slower pace of cycling we could now admire it's unique and nice architecture, with tall turrets topped by sharp steeple roofs. It's medieval feel bringing back fairy-tale moments.

Cycling in Barcelona is pleasant. Along most of the main thoroughfares were wide cycling lanes. But do note that during rush hours taxis and delivery vans do also use these lanes. The locals take this in stride, perhaps it's a sharing concept.

What is seeing Barcelona without stopping to admire the architecture by one of it's famous sons, Antoni Gaudí. The first one we stopped at was the La Pedrera-Casa Milà, located at Passeig de Gràcia.
Commissioned in 1906, the building was controversial because of its undulating stone facade, and twisting wrought iron balconies. Its self-supporting stone facade meant column-free floors, and right a the top was a spectacular terrace on the roof. In 1984, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
While admiring the building from the five-foot-way, look down to admire the beautiful tiling used to pave it. These tiles were supposed to pave one of the floors of the building, but the owners rejected them. In a fit, Gaudí used them to line the pavement for the benefit of the "public's appreciation".

Further along Passeig de Gràcia but on the opposite side, was the Casa Batlló also by Gaudí.

This on had balconies that looked like Masquerade masks. In between them, the external walls were trencadís, a Gaudí art technique using colorful porcelain shards.

At the roof top is seen the scaly curls of a dragon from St. George and the DragonSt. George was the patron saint of Aragon and there's a Legend of St. George in Barcelona.
In addition to Casa Batlló and around the same time, other prominent architects were also reforming other houses. They were competing/contending for the urban awards convened by the Barcelona City Council. Therefore, this specific period was known as The Bone of Contention. These houses were also in the Modernist style and, along with Casa Batlló, they are currently part of a unique group formed by: Casa Amatller (by the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch); Casa Lleó Morera (by Lluís Domènech i Montaner); Casa Mulleras (by Enric Sagnier); and Casa Josefina Bonet (by Marcel-li Coquillat).

A ride around the corner and we are back on familiar territory - a bicycle shop, but it's not just any bicycle shop but the Brompton Junction Barcelona. Presently it's no more a Brompton Junction and is operating as the Folding Bike House.

Irrespective, the place was an epitome for bicycle shops; at the front was the showroom displaying Brompton bicycles for sale and other accessories.....
While at the rear was a wonderful clubhouse with a lounge and sitting area for the local Brompton owners to mingle and socialize. This was very appropriate as Barcelona seems to have the most number of Brompton commuters after London.

More photos at the Junction. Valeria has a corner displaying her bags!

Saying our goodbyes, we continued on to the streets where construction were ongoing. But no worries, they are mindful of cyclists here, and huge concrete Jersey barriers were put up to ensure our safety!

Ahead we rode pass the striking red, Colosseum-like Las Arenas de Barcelona and made a left passing Plaça d'Espanya, to head towards Montjuïc.

At Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina, a quick stop at the Venetian Towers (Torres Venecianes) for a cool photo - with us at the center of the main road, it looked like this was our Grandfather's road. But no, actually we were on the cycling lanes which run along the center of the thoroughfare and traffic was light.
I think they are called the Venetian Towers because they in a way resemble St. Mark's Tower in Venice.

Ahead was the grand looking National Art Museum of Catalonia sitting on the slopes of the Montjuïc. Will we be cycling up, looks a bit high up and daunting!

Cycling up, although tough, shouldn't be a problem; but Jorge had ensured that we enjoyed the ride to the max, and we used the many escalators to go up the several terraces of the place.

The first terrace was the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc (Font Màgica de Montjuïc) with the Four Columns just behind it. Beyond the columns were the Plaça de les Cascades with cascading waterfalls flowing down, which we will "conquer" with more escalators😂.
The Four Columns were our Ionic columns originally created by Josep Puig i Cadafalch and erected in 1919, where the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc now stands. They symbolized the four stripes of the Catalan senyera, and they were intended to become one of the main icons of Catalanism. Because of this, they were demolished in 1928 during Primo de Rivera's dictatorship, when all public Catalanist symbols were systematically removed in order to avoid their being noticed during the 1929 Universal Exposition, which was to take place on Montjuïc.
After eight years of campaigning, a replica of the columns were erected in 2010 very close to the original site and following Puig i Cadafalch's original plans.

As one go up the Montjuïc, the view below gets better. This is the view while we were on the escalators going up the Plaça de les Cascades, from here the Four Columns can be seen standing proudly tall. Further away, in a contrasting red to the columns' white are the Venetian Towers.

A much grander view from the highest platform where the National Art Museum is; on the left Las Arenas de Barcelona is now clearly visible. To another side can be seen the Sagrada Família, it's too far away to appreciate its Gaudí's distinctive design.

We spent some time taking beautiful photos of the panorama below while nearby a busker was strumming away a romantic Spanish tune.

Up here the roads a relatively flat with only gentle climbs and several shady parks. We happily rode through one of them the Jardines de Joan Maragall (Joan Maragall Garden)
Up here too is the Montjuïc Communications Tower (Torre de Comunicacions de Montjuïc), a 136-metre tower located in the Olympic Park and its modern stylized design represents an athlete holding the Olympic FlameThe base is covered with trencadís, Gaudí's mosaic technique created from broken tile shards. The photo I took of it was from a difficult angle and does not do justice to its beautiful curvy design, click here for better images.

Another quick stop at the Barcelona Olympic Stadium. The top photo is an external view and bottom on is that of Lynne wistfully imagining herself riding loops around the athletic track below to the thundering roar of a cheering stadium 😎😎😎.

And here's my favorite photo of the day, on of Lynne and me sitting romantically with a scenic vista of Barcelona Port below, the earlier romantic strumming of the Spanish guitarist must have got us into the mood 😍🤩😍.

Leaving the viewpoint, on gentle slopes we went into a tunnel. Surprisingly traffic was super light with hardly any other vehicles around.... "Oh, I forget, THIS is my Grandfather's road!"

Beyond the tunnel the road suddenly sloped steeply, and off we went whooshing down this steep road, our adrenaline pumping as we took on the sharp bends .....
¡Ole! ¡Ole!

The roads flattened off at the port area and it's time for another stop to view the the ships in the harbor. But what caught our eye more was the Columbus Monument (Mirador de Colom); it's a 60 meters tall monument to Christopher Columbus located at the lower end of La Rambla. It was constructed in 1888, in honor of Columbus' first voyage to the Americas, and depicts Columbus pointing to the sea towards the direction of the New World. Our hero does point out to the sea, the Mediterranean Sea, but he is not pointing to the west but rather to the south-east. For him to be pointing to the New World, would mean pointing awkwardly inland into the city - so let's just let the poor man be, pointing in a honorable albeit erroneous direction.

We leave history behind us and cycled down the lively esplanade of Port Vellwhich was built as part of an urban renewal program just prior to the 1992 Barcelona OlympicsThis locality was formerly a run-down area of empty warehouses, railroad yards, and factories; but is now a focal point of the city and a major tourist attraction.

In town, the Catalan senyera flag could be seen at some residential buildings (bottom photo, above) and also at the El Born Centre (top photo) where we would be stopping for lunch.

What's Anne doing, shushing in front of those wall cabinets? Well actually our bikes were put into these large trolleys (two per trolley) and rolled into the huge lowest cabinet lockers. Usage is free, just deposit a coin for locking, and this would be refunded upon unlocking.
SHHHH.... there's nothing valuable inside.

3:15pm Our La Comida (Spanish-timed lunch) was at La Paradeta - located at one of the adjacent shops surrounding the El Born Centre. Here one selects the seafood to be cooked to a style of one's liking. There was a wide range to choices from huge rock crabs to lobsters, oysters and even octopus!
We left the ordering to our local friends, they would be more familiar on what's good and how it should be cooked.

Jorge & Valencia had selected very well, starting with a fresh salad followed by fried squid tentacles, fried squid body, Grilled octopusDeep fried sardines, and my favorites are shown above: Bamboo (razor) clams, and Mussels in tomato sauce. All these were liberally washed down with the house favorite, a thirst quenching local favorite - Lemon Beer!

 The good lunch had warped our sense of time and by the time were left and cycled past the gates into the Citadel Park (Parc de la Ciutadella) (top photo) it was 5:00pm.
For decades following its creation in the mid-19th century, this park was the city's only green space. The 70-acre grounds include the Barcelona Zoo, the Parliament of Catalonia (Palau del Parlament de Catalunya, bottom photo), a small lake, museums, and a large fountain.

At the entrance to the zoo, a little girl lounged casually in the curled trunk of your friendly neighbourhood Mastadon.

Still within the park, a cool-looking Magnificent Seven pose at the Cascada Monumental (Cascada del Parc de la Ciutadella).

Like the cowboy gunslingers, we rode into the sunset along the tree-lined promenade of the Passeig de Lluís Companys and exited triumphantly through the Arc de Triomf de Barcelona. Oddly, this arch does not celebrate the country's military victories, but rather was built as the gateway to the 1888 World Fair and was thus intended to welcome people.

Ahead was another interesting stretch - riding along cycling lanes running along the middle of a main thorough-way, the Carrer de la Marina, that led to lanes that loop inside a round-a-bout.

Our next stop was one that tugged at the cyclists within us - it's Valeria's studio. She makes bags and accessories for the Brompton. The material she uses are just so attractive.

One of the bags caught Lynne's eyes, she hovered around it and finally took the plunge ..... but she did not buy it!
I happily bought it for her as a gift for completing our Portugal-Spain Tour. I can see why she likes it, it's very colorfully eye-catching and the fabric print was that of Hibiscus flowers, the Bunga Raya which is the National Flower of Malaysia.
Read more about this bag.
See more of Valeria's wonderful bags & other interesting accessories at:
 Valeria's Bike Accessories Facebook Page.
OR order on line via her home-page, and the order will be shipped to you:

We continued on riding pass by several other attractions such as the Monumental Arena, and then made one last stop before returning to our hostel. This was Cap Problema, a Brompton premier store that sells the bike, accessories and clothing.
It's good that Jorge showed us these bicycle shops, the next time we cycle in Barcelona we will know where to go to should we have any need for help with our bikes OR just need any cycling tips.
That was the end of our ride but not the end of the our day

After a quick bath and a short rest, we were off again. This time taking the Metro over to Montjuïc. At night the atmosphere was different, lively crowded with brightly lit fountains lined both sides of the road, leading us to .....

A colourful, musical performance of the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc (Font Màgica de Montjuïc).

All the lively music and colourful lights did work up our appetite, and we dropped by the nearby Pura Brasa Arenas located at the ground floor of the Las Arenas de Barcelona.
It was a wonderful meal starting with Spanish olives appetizer, and mains of grilled Basque Chistorra Sausage on toast, Tagliatelle all'aglio, AND this melt-in-mouth Duroc pork belly in teriyaki sauce.

Gràcies, Jorge i Valeria. Barcelona es Teva!
(That's Catalan for "Thank you, Jorge and Valeria. Barcelona is Yours!")

(For more photos of the Day 20, Click Here)

This is page 17 of a 20-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D18-19 Barcelona 1     |     Go To Other Days     |    Go to D21 Barcelona 3 >

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