If you enjoy resort cities with plenty of beach front property, then this is the place for you!
Once you get out of Valencia going north on the coastal roads it’s really not bad for cycling. The highway out of the city for about a short day ride has a cycle path that runs along side going in both directions. If that feels a little to worrisome for you there is always smaller alternative roads through the costal villages. Most of the time on these streets there is only local traffic and not much at that!
Our heading pointing North on the first day out of Valencia we had our first real stretch of unpaved trail. It was around 10 km of road through the Sierra De Irta National Forest, which hugs the coast. You can either go through it, or around it on the National Highway. The trail it’s self was kind of a strange. Most of it was wide enough to drive your car through and you could tell from the tracks in the dirt that people would but it was primarily used by the local mountain bikers. We would try to follow their lines when the wider car tracks failed us, and they often did! So it was a slow going ride dodging jagged rocks and climbing short but steep hills, nice for us the really scary assents and descents were paved but no less hard or frightening. (Probably a little more white knuckled on a fully loaded touring bike then on a mountain bike) These little moments were only at the very beginning and closer to the end of the trail. The middle part (most) of the ride was the best part, it wound up the hill and down to the shore for some views of the sea that not many get to experience. A much better alternative the National Park than
the National Highway.
Outside of the National Park and just North of Valencia there isn’t much for the beach/tourist industry, here you can really see the remnants of Spain’s economic collapse . Empty buildings left in the middle of construction and big wide boulevards that lead to nowhere. This is where investing in the local tourist industry seemed like a sure thing before Spain had its housing debacle. We see things like this all over the areas we cycle through. It’s not all that different from the suburbs at home (Minneapolis, MN) where they build big before there is a need and now homes sit empty. These areas are great for us to ride through. Well developed roads, by the beach, with no real population, but at times it can be a bit eerie. This sort of cycling didn’t last long, as you inched further and further north to Barcelona things changed. Traffic picked up, roads became clogged, and people exploded into the streets. Eventually the alternative paths into the city, the ones we thought to be more out of the way and less traveled were filled in by cars, the shoulder disappeared, and then safety was our main concern. It quickly became apparent that we wouldn’t be able to ride safely into Barcelona. So obviously so that we ended up backtracking to the suburb of Stiges about 30 km away and took the metro train into Barcelona. It was one of the smarter decisions we have made on this trip thus far. It saved us hours of aggravation and possibly some near death (if not death) experiences.
From the moment we entered Barcelona our days and nights were already filled. Busy is the big city. The night we arrived there were already dinner plans with Couchsurfers some of who were locals but almost all where people who like us had just arrived that day or the day before. More then 40 of them came out for dinner and then after that to another bar reported to be the oldest in Barcelona, Bar Marsella. I was told the party continued on to several other bars and discos after that. Cycle tourist make the worst partiers, we left at 1 am.
I do realize that we make the horrible sightseers too, being on a bicycle taking the path less traveled makes you kind of terrified of crowds of people. We avoid most big cities in favor of smaller towns. The down side to that is we sometimes miss famous attractions that are really worth seeing. But here in Barcelona we did it up properly, but by on foot and on the subway so it was slow and tiring. In the morning we went to See the Gothic Quarter, Plaza Del Pi (sad history and a great puppeteer), Temple of Augustus, La Rambla (not recommended if people aren’t your thing) and The Barcelona History Museum with our Barcelona/El Masnou CS host. In the afternoon we walked up the hill to the Parc Güell (a failed housing development designed by Antoni Gaudi, now a giant tourist attraction) and then after strolling around the park for a few hours we walked to Sagrada Familia (also a Gaudi) That is perhaps the most famous building/church in all of Spain. I’m not sure why exactly it’s not finished as of yet, it has been under construction for 131 years! Truthfully it reminds me of a Casino. We only did the photo op outside because something about paying to get into a church doesn’t make much sense to either of us.
And still after all that sightseeing we still managed to ride 20 km from our hotel in Barcelona to our host’s home in El Masnou for an actual rest day! A day off the bikes for recovery.