In the summer of 2017 our bicycle trip will lead us to Zurich, Switzerland from where we will start our riding along lakes and the Rhine river on our way to Austria. After a few days over rolling terrain we’ll end up in the Bavarian part of Germany where we will visit the famous Neuschwanstein castle. At the end of the trip we’ll get back to Zurich, where we will spend an extra day of sightseeing
Our last day in Spain left us to spend the day in Barcelona. We took a bus from our hotel to center city, Some decided to get on the Hop On Hop Off bus in hopes of seeing a lot of the city sights in the short period of time we had. Top on most of our list was to see La Sagrada Familia, the Sacred Family, church designed and built by Antonio Gaudi. Started over 100 years ago, it is still not completed. Gaudi’s architecture style was unique and perhaps too modern for his time. But now, people from all over the world come to see his works of art. Other examples of his architectural designs can be seen throughout the city. Some also were able to see the Barcelona Quatar Soccer stadium, the Olympic Village from the 1992 Olympics, the seaport,and beach area. Shopping was on the mind of some and Las Ramblas and other well know streets with many stores fulfilled their needs. Many of us met for our last Spanish dinner of Seafood and Chicken Paella. Celebrating our successful journey, Sangria was served and a variety of tapas. All in all, a great day!
It is our last day of riding as we head back to Barcelona. Leaving Sant Llorenc we cycled past some beautiful lakes with the bluest water some of us had ever seen. Spectacular! Mountain tunnels were a part of most days and sometimes they were one lane and non lighted. So the van tried to get through before another car started from the other side. It was another hot day,so as we entered the city of Barcelona, we did the truly American thing, and stopped for smoothies at McDonalds.
This was the longest day of our journey. We traveled 100 miles and climbed 10,000 feet. We thought we could adopt the theme song “Ain’t no mountain High Enough”! It was hot and the climbs were long. Our water supply was exhausted, but just in time we found a spring of refreshing mountain water. There was a CELEBRATION at the top of Col de Jou, after climbing 6 mountains that day. The town of Sant Llorenc and the El Monegal were welcome sights. The hotel was a farm converted into a lodging and although English was not spoken by the owners they understood that we were tired, thirsty, and hungry and they supplied our needs. Great day, but everyone was happy that the BIG climbs were over.
After another hearty breakfast of meats,cheeses,tortilla espanola, fruit, and a variety of breads we got on route N260 and we were on the same road all day. This road took us through some beautiful gorges and overlooks. We stopped at a little picnic area for lunch and tried to find as much shade as we could, because road temperatures have reached as high as 106 degrees some days! We took a quick break to capture some pictures of a flock of vultures. Huge birds who some thought were following us to see if one of the cyclists fell off so they could pick them up as prey! Maite, a bubbly,sweet senora greeted us at Hotel Cotori in Pont de Suert. After a little shopping and some relaxing in the courtyard, we had a wonderful dinner and again found our beds to be a welcome sight.
Today we head back to Spain by first climbing the beautiful Col de Peyresourde with it lush growth of green as we start the climb and the sparkling snow capped peaks as we reach the top. It was mini quiche for lunch today followed by delicious pastries for afternoon snack. Every stop for a break in the climbing was well appreciated today as we topped the Col d’ Azet andCol de Bielsa. At the top of the Col de Bielsa there was a two mile long tunnel that we needed to go through. BUT, when we arrived,we were greeted with signs stating that no bicycles or pedestrians were allowed to go through.Border crossings are very limited and we would have to make a 100 mile detour,so we tried to go through the tunnel despite the warning. That didn’t work! Sirens and alarms went off loudly and we resorted to making three trips with the van to get us through. The Pena Montanesa hotel was a welcome sight and the cooling pool and the buffet dinner made us all happy cyclists.
Luchon, France is a fun,busy,touristy town, which some of us visited two years ago on our trip to The Pyrenees. One of the Tour de France stages finished here and the towns’ support is still evident. Well known for its’ Spa,it is the only natural thermal cave is Europe and some of us were able to enjoy the 105 degree, 100 percent humidity.
After a nice breakfast, we left for the day at 9:00 a.m. The forecast was for 60% chance of rain, but the forecast was wrong, and we completed the 70 miles by mid afternoon. We started off with smooth, flat roads through several small villages and then came the CLIMB! The Port de la Bonaigua presented a new challenge. As we went higher, it became colder and colder. Jackets and leg warmers were pulled out of the van. Then came the clouds. When we reached the top, if the car wouldn’t have had the lights on, it would have been difficult to see it. Ham and cheese sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly, along with a can of coke were on the lunch menu today, as it has been every day. We had to be very careful on the descent, but were excited that we had reached the highest elevation of our trip to date, 6500 feet. Then on to, up and over, the Col de Portillon which brought us into Luchon, France. The heavily armed French Military Police were at the top of the climb checking on visitors going from Spain to France .
Today was a “rest Day” for most, but Thorr, Helmut, and Scott decided that a day without cycling would not do. They had mountains in every direction we looked to ride up. The other riders spent the day roaming the city which is a Shopping Mecca for many French and Spanish people, since this Principality has no taxes. The diesel fuel for the car was 15 euro cents per liter than in Spain, so it was fill up time! We had a DELICIOUS dinner at Don Denis with champagne on the house!