Discovering a new place on a bike makes that place feel more alive. There’s something about pedaling along the streets, in the heart of traffic, on the too-narrow-for-cars Medieval streets, across a park filled with playing school children – that makes you feel more a part of things. You’re not seeing the world from the top of a tourist bus, listening to someone else tell you what to look at. Neither are you trudging along the sidewalk, limited by the very nature of your biology to a slower pace, without the wind in you hair (no helmets here in Barcelona). There’s a kid-like thrill that comes from simply mounting a bike, pushing off, and taking flight, along the boulevards, aside the beach, around the Cathedral, past the market, all alongside the locals running their errands or hurrying to a meeting on an impossibly sunny day in an impossibly lovely city by the sea.
So, yeah, we took a bike tour yesterday.
Barcelona Bike Tours, to be exact. Our small group of 10 (as compared to the Fat Tire group of 20+) was led by Marc, a Barcelona Native and a warm, charming, passionate about his city, lovely guy.
We started in La Raval district. A labyrinth of winding, narrow streets that open, suddenly, onto little, lovely squares, with room for only one café, or maybe two, before the tentacles of tiny streets take over again.
From there, we biked along the Ramblas (one visit is enough. Other than the Boqueria,and the Placa Royal, ick.) to the Port of Barcelona, (That’s the W hotel in the distance, and Frank Gehry’s fish) and along the water to Barcelonetta – the beach neighborhood, where there is an artificial beach, built for the 1992 Olympics, by the very real sea.
The bike lanes in Barcelona are impressive. Nearly every main street has one, and they are cleverly separated from the car traffic by a narrow row of Motorcycle parking, or are carved out of the medians, with two way bike traffic moving along the two way car traffic, or simply a designated part of the wide sidewalk, clearly marked with lane lines and their own traffic lights.
From the beach, we went back into the interior of the city, circling the Sagrada Familia, then South to the Arc de Triomph – though, as Marc pointed out – “This is Catalonia, we have to triumphs to celebrate.” so it commemorated, in fact, nothing more triumphant than the Expo of 1897. Designed by Gustav Eiffel, it might have been less traditional had the government not decided that a hulking metal tower wasn’t what they had in mind. A year later, construction was begun on the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Then along the promenade and past the government buildings to Citadel Park, where a gilded fountain is, Marc told us, the last time the Spanish government felt flush – they used real gold in the restoration.
Finally, back to the bike shop, which is just around the corner from Cal Pep. The deservedly legendary Tapas restaurant – a no frills landmark – was the perfect place to re-fuel.
Thus refueled, we walked back to Plaza Catalunya to get on a bus headed for Park Guel, where Gaudi’s imagination ran wild, and where – if you’re game to climb to the top – a 360 degree view of the city awaits.
A lovely way to end a lovely day.
- Barcelona: Day One (fromhiptohousewife.com)