Sunday, April 21, 2013

Nigra sum...

Last Sunday I had no time for a long ride so made up for the lack of distance with elevation gains. Took a spin to Montserrat, the holy mountain; a nine km climb with quite a constant grade and an elevation gain  a tad over 600 meters. It makes for an average 6.7%, not bad...

After a 50 km approach route (including getting hopelessly lost in Terrassa) and some 600 more meters gained I arrived into Monistrol de Montserrat, a small town whose main merit is holding the junction that leads up to the holy mountain. The ascent was basically uneventful but for some intimidating buses charging up the road with their full load of tourists.

Some two km to the finish passed St. Benet Abbey, actually a nunnery that is getting some unexpected renown mainly due to one of its residents: sister Teresa Forcades, a physician specialized in inner medicine and epidemiology and, of course, a theologian.

Shortly after that (and getting over a couple of merciless ramps) one stumbles onto a deceiving road sign welcoming you to Montserrat.
Ignore it: there is still one more agonizing km to climb through the car park till one finally reaches the abbey .

After dodging hordes of tourist (Russians and Yanks mainly) I parked the bike by the small  convenience store just opposite the main entrance and failed in my attempt to get a sizeable bottle of cola (the ones they were selling were just to big and I was not thirsty enough. Filling the bike's bottles with "carbonic waste overs" is not a good option...)

So I frugally sticked to plain water and walked the bike to the main square leading to the Basilica of Santa Maria de Montserrat.

Before returning home took a pic of the road.
Quite a nice climb, isn't it?

By the way, got lost in Terrassa again.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Fòrum Area

Today I took a spin into the furthermost area to the north of the city. It's known as the "Fòrum area" mainly composed of new land gained to the sea where  " The Forum of the Cultures" was held in 2004.

The access from home is mainly through the "Parc del Besós" a long dedicated bikepath following the river.
It starts at the bridge of Montcada (which takes you north into the road to "La Roca del Vallès", a popular route for roaddies). Turning towards the sea you take a pedestrian lane for a couple of km (the pic is taken there) that  leads you to the bike path. Turning opposite you can easily reach a dirt trail pointing inland.

This bike path is to be avoided on weekends least you want to improve your dodging abilities (newborn cyclist, bike path warriors, skaters, children, hikers, whole families five-a-breast, or any combination you like...) 
Today "traffic was thin" and was able to ride uneventfully to the sea.

First thing one encounters is a well maintained park and a beach ( "platja del fòrum") today obviously deserted.

Following to the south one rides  into a marina ("Port del Fòrum") displaying some interesting ships.  Cars must pay an entrance fee (a parking fee I suppose) but bikes simply skirt the barrier .

Let me show you two of my favourites (refurbished fishing ships with lots of charm. The black one proudly displaying the Maltese cross of St John; the red hulk is from Gibraltar ).

At the end of the marina you can choose between hoping the bike up an endless tram of stairs or show your cornering skills while pedalling through a twisting ramp into the main explanade of the "Fòrum". On one end someone put up a gigantic solar cell panel (not the only one in this area) that provided a fine temporary shelter from the persistent drizzle that was slowly
soaking me up.

As soon as the skies cleared a bit, me and my unfendered fixie rode past the amphitheatre ..... 

... and crossed over the marina through the bridge that leads straight into the aforementioned "Parc del Besos" (enjoyed a privilege bird's eye view on the decks below)

 On my ride back I noticed -to my  dismay- that it had rained quite heavily on the bike path... I was unfendered.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easter Rides

Showing some pics from my Easter Rides.

         Santes Creus abbey at last! (after fighting strong head and side winds that sent me wobbling side to side).
A nice ride though. Lonely roads and the sky holding. The wind, on the other hand, had dried up the tarmac from last days rains (which is a plus among "cautious" descenders like... me)

This time I was riding my "summer bike": a heavily modified mid-70's Olmo.
No fenders as you can appreciate (I'd have "appreciated" them quite a lot in last season's rainy 300 brevet)

Quiet and isolated hamlets scattered among endless vineyards and olive tree fields.
I noticed that the bell towers display an  identical design in this part of the country.

Montserrat Chapel: an architectonic marvel worth a visit in the midst of... nowhere. (well, in fact its located in the outskirts of Montferri)

Calafell Castle. A partially preserved fortress never taken by assault.
It's build on a rock (difficult to mine) and the way to the main and only entrance is quite steep.
A medieval fair is held there in September.

Make no mistake; I didn't ride that far...
It's just  a XIXth century slightly scaled-down copy of Seville's famous Giralda.
The place: l'Arbós

Another interesting church in the small hamlet of Clariana. It was build in the mid 70's in some sort of "Russian orthodox" style.
Quite a remarkable building. (In fact, is the only remarkable feature in that place)
I attended Easter Sunday's Mass there (donning a more "appropriate" garment, of course).

More on castles. This is Castellet (in catalan: little castle).
A charmingly preserved medieval town by Foix damp.