Barcelona – Fat Tire Bike Tour

Last night when I signed off, I was fully expecting that the airport component of the trip would go to plan and we wouldn’t have any issues with our flight. Unfortunately, for the first time, I was wrong.

From a really unhelpful guy at the boarding pass check line to an extremely rude lady at the security check I wasn’t really impressed with Naples International Airport. Once we were though, we sat and had an overpriced, but incredibly tasty hot chocolate in one of the airport lounges where we killed some time until we knew which gate our flight would be leaving from.

As it turned out, our Vueling flight was delayed by 30 minutes as there was a fog that prevented some planes from landing on time.  No big deal, we would wait it out. Vueling boards their flights by ‘groups’ as stipulated on the boarding pass and we were group 2. Our group was actually called up first but by the time we got on the plane there was no space in the overhead lockers for our luggage.  We fit them under the seats in front of us but it was a little squishy unfortunately.

Once everyone was seated we were waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the plane to take-off before we noticed there was a bit of commotion at the front of the plane.  As we all watched, we gathered that some people were being thrown off the plane.

I could see a couple, a woman and a man being escorted off the plane by police.  The man had a red mark on his head.  It turned out that this couple must have been spatting and it turned physical and the woman fetched the bloke a whack in the head. People were practically chanting for these guys to be booted off the plane.  They delayed us for another 45 minutes.

FINALLY we were on our way, having been delayed overall for more than an hour. The rest of the flight was uneventful but by the time we arrived in Barcelona, the bus we had planned to take wasn’t running as regularly and had converted to a “stop all stations” night bus.  It took quite a bit longer than we had hoped to get to our hotel, BCN Home, and all things considered, we didn’t arrive there until 2:30am.

BCN Home is actually set up very well.  They had a night/late check in process which worked flawlessly for us (involved punching in a code at the building entrance and then punching in another code so we could get our room key-card) so we were in and navigated to our room, lucky number 13, in no time.

The room itself is small but comfortable with a sink in the room.  There is a very clean shared bathroom facility which Nick and I both gratefully used before falling into bed at 3am.

It seemed like I had only just closed my eyes before waking up at 10am.  Since we were booked in for a bike tour at 11am I was incredibly grouchy and was seconds away from telling Nick that we should bail but we both dragged ourselves up and got dressed and ready.

We stopped for a quick breakfast at Artisa Barcelona which had a very hipster vibe and wouldn’t have felt out of place in Melbourne. We each had a cappuccino and shared a croissant (perfect and buttery) and a bowl of fresh made churros.

We then hot-footed it to Placa De Sant Jaune where we were to meet our bike tour guide.  Fat Tire Bike Tour runs out of a shop just off the square and our guide, Bianca, was ready to meet us.  There were a few other people already at the square and we were waiting for a few more so Nick took the opportunity to take a few pictures.

Soon enough the group had gathered and it was a pleasingly small group.  Bianca introduced herself and then took us to the Fat Tire storefront so we could each pick out a bike. Nick was singled out (“hey, guy in the checkered shirt!”) to get one of the two larger frame mountain bikes while the rest of us got step through frames.  When they gave me a bike, they sized me up and then dropped the seat as far down as it could go.  I said “YES!” while the girl was adjusting it and she laughed.

Each bike had a pop-culture nickname on a label so you could find your bike again easily when we stopped.  Nick’s was Thundarr the Barbarian and mine was Flintstone Funnies.

Bianca took us back to Plaça De Sant Jaume and had us all introduce ourselves to the group and then laid out a few ground rules and told us how the bikes worked.  Then she launched into the history of the buildings around Plaça De Sant Jaume.

I really liked Bianca’s delivery of the historical background.  She was passionate, but still made it funny and engaging.  We walked our bikes to the next stop Plaça del Rei which translates as the King’s Square.  Bianca again informed us of some of the brutal history of the square and told us how when the royalty wanted to control the peasant uprising they would pour boiling oil down through the mouth of the gargoyles on the roof of the castle.  She also mentioned several other stories and let us know that there were some very carefully excavated ruins below street level in this area that we could check out at another time if we chose to.

Our next stop was the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia also known as the Barcelona Cathedral. The cathedral 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 and was subjected to 13 tortures (one for each year of her age). The body of Saint Eulalia is entombed in the cathedral’s crypt.  Bianca advised that there are 28 patron saints of Barcelona, which means 28 public holidays!

From this stop, we actually started riding on our bikes proper as the streetscapes widened enough to allow it. Amazingly, there wasn’t a single accident on the bikes and no one collided with anything or anyone.  The bike paths were well marked and easy to navigate and the path was mostly flat.

Palau de la Mùsica Catalana was the next stop and again, Bianca had a dark historical tale to impart to us involving the dictator General Franco who had had audience members who attended a concert at the Palau de la Mùsica Catalana arrested – some of whom were never seen or heard from again.

We then cycled on to the Arc de Triomphe in Barcelona which is one of several in the world (the most famous being the one in France of course).  Barcelona’s has the distinction of being the most ‘red’ ha ha ha.

Parc de la Ciutadella was the next area we stopped to explore. The grounds include the city zoo, the Palau del Parlament de Catalunya, a small lake, museums, and a large fountain designed by Josep Fontserè (with possible contributions by the young Antoni Gaudí though Bianca said that at the time he was really what we would consider an intern today so very minimal contributions if any).  The fountain was quite lovely and there were all kinds of street performers.

We then moved on to possibly the most famous landmark in Barcelona – La Sagrada Familia which was designed by Gaudi.  Bianca gave us the low-down on the architect’s sad life and death while we checked out the impressive building he designed.  As Nick said though, it wasn’t a pretty building, but the sheer scope of it was to be admired. Bianca said that the building was planned to be completed by 2026 but Nick lays odds that this won’t be the case.  I guess we will have to come back in 2026 and see!

After this, we cycled on to the beach area where Bianca explained that all the beaches in Barcelona are in fact man-made.  I think she said they were created specifically for the Olympics but I might have misheard that. We then stopped for lunch at a Beach Restaurant as the rain started coming down.  Unfortunately, the restaurant was located mostly outdoors and while it had rain covers, the water was coming through them to drip on the tables. It was turning into a very damp day!

We ordered a Cesar salad and a delicious hake dish (to share of course).  While it was very plain food, it was tasty and I think if the weather had been more sunny and warm I would have enjoyed it much more.

When it was time to go, it was starting to come down heavily but we had one more stop and the group had decided to push on to see the last place.  This turned out to be a bad choice™ as it started POURING down shortly after we set off.

We got saturated and I was having trouble keeping the water out of my eyes!  But it was short lived and we made it to our last stop, the Fossar de les Moreres (literally “Grave of the Mulberries”) which is a memorial square adjacent to the basilica of Santa Maria del Mar. The plaza was built over a cemetery where defenders of the city were buried following the Siege of Barcelona at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714. It features a memorial to the fallen Catalans of the war, with a torch of eternal flame.

After this, very damp, we headed back to the Fat Tire Storefront to hand our bikes back and bid our goodbyes to the group. Nick and I high tailled it back to BCN Home where we both had hot showers and changed into blessedly dry clothes.  We hung up our clothes in the hopes that they’d be dry by tomorrow (probably wishful thinking).

After this, tired, I had a nap while Nick went out to check out the local market – Mercado de la Boqueria.  He came back with a selection of hams and cheeses which we snacked on and then we both lazed around until it was time to find some dinner.

We stopped at a tapas place close to BCN Home called Bar Mendizábal.  We ordered a couple of plates of tapas, some fried squid and patatas bravas (the latter of which was spicy heaven), and some nice cold cerveza for Nick.  We then ordered another couple of small dishes, rabbit shortribs and roasted peppers with anchovies and olives.

This was a delicious meal and I finally felt like we had had something very ‘Spanish’ to eat. We headed back to the hotel, fully exhausted and collapsed into bed.

Tomorrow we would be heading on to Granada after another morning spent exploring Barcelona.

Km’s walked: 7.0 (but more on the bike!)

Flights complete: 6/10

Tomorrow: Barcelona and Granada

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