Day 11: L'Hospitalet de l'Infant to Barcelona, Spain

Vineyards near Sant Pau, about 30 miles east of Barcelona

I'm in Barcelona after a frustrating and dangerous ride into town in a hot room at an expensive (90 E) hotel whose air conditioning does not work. They didn't mention that till after I tried to turn it on in my room. I'm not a happy camper.

N-340 with traffic

These two shots were taken about 100 feet apart in L'Hospitalet de l'Infant

Yesterday started very well with a great breakfast and, after an OK ride of about fourty five miles in mostly heavy traffic , an excellent lunch at Hotel Don Pelayo in L'Arbo. That lunch could almost have been in France! I must admit, the half bottle of wine I had with lunch was a bit much, and my head didn't fully clear up until I climbed the pass before Barcelona. Also riding through and around Tarragona was challenging, with little or no shoulder in some places, but the rest of the ride before Barcelona was good. Tarragona has huge chemical plants and lots of other industry, so it wasn't a great place to visit, but N-340 runs right along the Mediterranean just north of it.

A beach just north of Tarragona

A mountain town 20 miles east of Barcelona

That was a climb to 487 meters - about 1600 feet - before a great descent into the valley where Barcelona is located. Then things deteriorated badly with a ride on a autovia towards Barcelona that ran into road construction hell. Traffic is a really bad here - I guess in Spanish cities in general - and when several autovias - think autoroute or interstate - merge into two lanes lanes with construction work blocking access to the shoulder, it is not good to be on a loaded, or unloaded, bicycle.

A quiet moment on the Autovia going into Barcelona before it merged into construction hell

Much of the, very heavy, traffic was big trucks which were too wide to fit in the lane with me, and, fortunately, none of it was moving very fast, but still faster than I could ride. I was riding squeezed between a concrete barrier and two lanes full of vehicles for several miles. It was not fun, or safe.

At the first opportunity - a break in the construction where I could get to the guard rail, and where there was a dirt road nearby - I stopped, unloaded my bike, put it and the bags on the other side of the guard rail, reloaded my bike and pushed/rode the bike back to an overpass to get away from the highway.

When I got to paved roads, I stopped to ask where I was - Sant Joan - and how to get to Barcelona. It turned out that, after a bit of climbing in another bad construction zone, I could get onto A2 - an Autopista, bikes not allowed - and, riding through yet more construction , get off at the next exit and make my way to Diagonal Avenue, the big mutilane main drag of Barcelona. Things were better then, although riding was still 'interesting' in a mix of cars, buses, taxis and scooters.

On the edge of Diagonal Avenue, a few miles into town

I stopped for an expresso and to find out where I was - bus stops are great since they have maps with 'you are here' marked on them - and to figure out how to get to the old section of town. It wasn't that far, but, given the heavy traffic and one way streets, it was a challenging ride. When I got there things were much better, since there are many pedestrian/bicycle only streets. It was also festive and fun, croowded with with mostly young people.

I just rode/walked around, getting my bearings and enjoying the atmosphere, for a while, then I started looking for a place to stay. I couldn't find the palces in my guide book, so I decided on a three star hotel - going for comfort here! - on La Rambla. They were full, but sent me to their, more expensive, sister hotel about five blocks away. They didn't mention that its air conditioning was broken. So it goes.

On one of the pedestrian streets in teh old part of town

My problem now is getting out of Barcleona. I know I should stay for a few days, but I really don't want to. I want to ride over the Pyrenees and get to southern France ASAP, so I'm going to look into taking a train to Ripoll, which is two hours north of here. Those trains take bicycles, unlike most trains in Spain, so I may be able to avoid the traffic problems and save some time.
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