Thursday, October 29, 2020

Cycling Europe 2019 Day 26: Of Barcelona Markets & Theatres

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Cycling Europe 2019 Day 26: Of Barcelona Markets & Theatres
Portugal, Spain & France: Day 26 Thursday, 21st November - Barcelona
This is part of a cycling tour of Iberian Peninsula (Portugal & Spain) & part of France, covering Barcelona:
Cycling Distance: 10 km.     Level: Easy
Cycling Time : 10:15 am to 2:40 pm
Cycling Time Taken : 4 hours 25 minutes (including stops for lunch and visits to cathedral, market, theater and other places of interest).

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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 center.
2. Bringing Bikes Onto Planes
    We flew from Barcelona to Kuala Lumpur via Emirates which allowed 25 kg. of luggage inclusive of our bicycles without additional charges.
    We had packed our bikes into Dimpa bags and brought along a spare Dimpa too (this spare Dimpa came in handy to pack our shopping and clothing on the return flight). At the Barcelona El Prat Airport, on checking in, it was not necessary to take our bagged bikes to the over-sized baggage section.
    A tip, simple but important. Ensure that you DO NOT carry your tool kits or any long/sharp metal objects in your hand luggage. Put your tool kit into your checked-in bike bags. I often seen friends forgetting about this, only to have their tools confiscated at the security checkpoints.

3. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    The route is a short ride around Barcelona to visit several places of interest including a market and a theater. It is fairly flat and goes along cycling paths at main roads and through quieter and interesting side lanes and back alleys too.
     E-hailing Uber is not in Spain, as in main towns local taxis are easily available. I used the local Barcelona Taxi to get to the airport at a fare of €32.

4. Weather
Day temperatures in Barcelona averaged 11°C. Morning. Afternoon temperatures averaged 16°C with a peaking to 17°C . Evening temperatures averaged 11°C.
    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.

5. Places of Interest
    Enroute were several places of interests, some of which we visited and others we did not for lack of time (Note: click on GPS coordinates for directional map to respective places):
  1.  Flirting Giraffe Statue (Girafa Coqueta(GPS: 41.39568, 2.15713).
  2.  Thinking Cow Statue (Brau Pensador) (GPS: 41.38861, 2.16682).
  3.  Barcelona Cathedral (Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia, Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia(GPS: 41.38396, 2.17619).
  4. BARCINO sign, Old name of Barcelona (refers more to Barcelona Old Quarters / Gothic Quarter) (GPS: 41.38241, 2.17611).
  5. Temple D'August, old Roman Temple ruins (GPS: 41.38339, 2.17731).
  6.  Palau de la Música Catalina (Palace of Catalan Music) (GPS: 41.38757, 2.17531) (theater designed by Gaudí's contemporary, Lluís Domènech i Montaner).

6. Meals
a. Breakfast: Fried eggs & coffee at hostel.
b. Lunch: At La Torna (GPS: 41.38627, 2.17913) in the 
Mercat de Santa Caterina - Meatballs with mushrooms, meat ball with cuttlefish, sirloin steak, grilled green Padrón pepper and beer.
d. Light Dinner: Croissants with coffee at Los 4 vientos (GPS: 41.39819, 2.16873).
e. Other meals were on board the 
Emirates flight.

7. 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!

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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 past few days, I had crossed over to France to stay a few days with my sister Kheng and her husband Phil. Later, we made day trips by car to Lourdes & Bordeaux, and visited some sites there including the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Now I am back in Barcelona, with the rest of the gang for a short half-day ride around Barcelona before taking a late evening Emirates flight back to Malaysia.

Cycling Distance: 10 km.     Level: Easy
The route is a short ride around Barcelona to visit several places of interest including a market and a theater. It is fairly flat and goes along cycling paths at main roads and through quieter and interesting side lanes and back alleys too.

After a simple in-hostel breakfast, the four of us (Fenn, Jo, Sin & me) rode out for a short half-day adventure around Barcelona. A few days earlier I had rode around together with new friends from the Brompton Barcelona group. Today I am just glad to cycle with my friends and just follow them wherever they go.
We rode out from our hostel and were soon riding on the main through-way, Avingunda Diagonalis the name of one of Barcelona's broadest and most important avenues. It cuts the city in two, diagonally with respect to the grid pattern of the surrounding streets, hence the name. There are nice, shady cycling lanes in the here, but do note that these are sort of shared lanes and sometimes during peak hours taxis & delivery vans also use these lanes.

Soon we were away from the broad main roads and onto narrower, quieter side lanes and back alleys. Often these were devoid of motorized traffic and were a pleasure to cycle along. Although quiet, the front of these houses were often shops facing the main roads while most residents who stay on the upper floors will have their entrance from the back lanes that's why one will notice that these back alleys are very cleaned and relatively bright at night.

Barcelona is a city full of artwork, and here's some of what we saw:
Cycling around Barcelona, one should never miss visiting some of the unique buildings designed by Gaudí; we stopped by at the La Pedrera-Casa Milà, which is the last private residence designed by architect Antoni Gaudí and was built between 1906 and 1912. At the time, it was controversial because of its undulating stone facade, twisting wrought iron balconies and designed by Josep Maria Jujol.

Gaudí influence were not on buildings only, it extended even to the lamp-posts, street furniture AND tiles on the pavements.

Around the city, were also artwork by many other artists, some contemporary and others modern such as a statue of a Flamenco dancer, and a giant sculpture of a book in front of the Guild of Booksellers of Catalonia (Gremi de Llibreters de Catalunya).

And some funky colorful street art; the one painted onto the roller shutter of a shop lot reminded me of those street art we saw at the Taipei Cinema Park (臺北市電影主題公園) during a 2017 cycling tour of Taiwan.

At Rambla de Catalunya, the Thinking Cow Statue (Brau Pensador) statue had us in a thoughtful mood. At the other end of the Rambla is the Flirting Giraffe Statue (Girafa Coqueta). These quirky statues were created by Josep Granayer I Giralt and inspired by The Thinker by Rodin; and Venus Victrix by Antonio Canova.

At the compound of the Villa del Arte gallery, were more modern artwork - mirror shiny, stainless steel sculptures by Liechennay. Despite his European sounding name, Liechennay originated from Indonesia.

One shop that should not be missed is 2Bis Artesania, its an artistic gift shop which sells beautiful souvenir items. It's located at Carrer del Bisbe (Bishop Street).

And our Brompton bicycles joined in the art scene with some creative parking near the Temple D'August, and at the BARCINO sign, (the old name of Barcelona - refers more to Barcelona Old Quarters / Gothic Quarter) .

Aside from the art, we also admired the many beautiful, unique and stately buildings scattered around the city, please note that the buildings shown below are not in sequential order of our ride.
Casa de les Punxes is one of the most easily recognisable buildings because of it's fairy-tale castle look. One of the most famous works by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, its official name is Casa Terradas as it was commissioned in 1905 by Bartomeu Terradas i Brutau for his three siters: Àngela, Josefa and Rosa. Its most representative elements are its six pointed towers, topped by conical-shaped needles, which give the house its nickname (Casa de les Punxes means House of Needles in Catalan).s

Goofy, my bike, sharing the limelight with the Barcelona CathedralThis Gothic cathedral was constructed from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, with the principal work done in the fourteenth century. The cathedral is officially known as the Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia, (Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia) as it is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, co-patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city. One story says that she was exposed naked in the public square and a miraculous snowfall in mid-spring covered her nudity. The enraged Romans put her into a barrel with knives stuck into it and rolled it down a street (according to tradition, the one now called Baixada de Santa Eulàlia). The body of Saint Eulalia is entombed in the cathedral's crypt.

And also stately buildings with prominent corner edifices .....

..... to stately buildings with grand frontage.

And Goofy is caught in the act again, admiring a solid doorway framed within an even more solid looking arch.

Even the markets are beautifully designed with colourful jigsaw-patterned roofs with ceramic tiles, and elegantly wavy-curved eaves.
This is the Mercat de Santa Caterina; to check out their shops & services, click here.

This is where we will have our lunch, but let's check out some of the food stall first: no prizes for guessing what this stall sell. The woolly sheep statue caught my eye, but on closer look it's eyes seem to have a dazed, shocked look; probably it knows what fate lies ahead.

This shop sells breakfast spread and pickled fruits including: Crama Queso (Cream Cheese), Anchoa (Anchovies), Sardinas (Sardines), Melocontos (Peaches)
It also sells Avruga Caviar, (caviar substitute. made from herring and other products. Unlike actual caviar, it does not contain fish roe).

Ignoramus me from the tropics thought that this greenish thing was a flower; actually its Romanesco Broccoli. Uniquely beautiful, it is a smart vegetable with it's sharp buds making up a logarithmic spiral, giving a form approximating a natural fractal; each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another logarithmic spiral. Nutritionally, Romanesco is rich in vitamin Cvitamin Kdietary fiber, and carotenoids.

At the cheese shop, we noticed that the cheese here were very cheap ..... especially their Gorgonzola and Barbaria Blue Cheese.
But do not make the same mistake as us, we had thought these were for spread. But apparently they should be used for cooking. Back home I used the Blue Cheese as a spread and ended up with a tummy ache

And one must not miss buying the renown Jamón ibérico - there were several grades, the normal and the premium. My advise is - get more of the premium as they are very good and "cheaper" here.

Lunch was at La Torna where we had these meatballs mushrooms, and a beautifully done sirloin steak ..... followed by .....

grilled green Padrón pepper and of course Barcelona's thirst quenching favorite - Lemon Beer!

 Time to head back, but before that on last place to visit - the Palau de la Música Catalina (Palace of Catalan Music). But we are not here to attend a musical recital or a concert, although it would be nice to as we are short on time. 

Instead we are here to admire the building design especially their colorful embellishment on the walls, arches and columns.
"Designed in the Catalan modernista style by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, it was built between 1905 and 1908 for the Orfeó Català, a choral society founded in 1891 that was a leading force in the Catalan cultural movement that came to be known as the Renaixença (Catalan Rebirth). It was inaugurated February 9, 1908".

Many parts of the building were lined with colorful designs made up with mosaic tile inlays; even this ticketing booth was nicely done up.

One last photo at the ornate lift of the Primavera Hostel (it's a small lift so one of us rode with our bikes while the rest took the stairs up).

After a short rest, it was up to the Barcelona El Prat Airport by a Barcelona Taxi. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not necessary to lug my packed bikes over to the over-sized luggage section. There goes my bike packed in a Dimpa bag, with another Ikea Dimpa bag holding my helmets, Lourdes holy water and shopping items.

10:00 pm - As the plane took off, with a sad heart I had a last look of the night lights of Barcelona - we had had a great cycling trip.
Goodbye Barcelona, goodbye Spain, goodbye Portugal, goodbye France, and goodbye to all our new friends we made along the way.

Au revoir!

(That's Goodbye in PortugueseSpanishCatalan & French respectively)

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