MTB With Christian – Montserrat

Day two. Even hotter, greater altitude gain, but a shorter distance overall. We cycled up and around Catalunya’s most distinctive landmark, Montserrat. It really is quite amazing, but I’ll let the photos show you that…

A great ride, tarnished only by an impassibly overgrown section of technical single track which we had to walk back up again once we could get no further.

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MTB with Christian – Parc Colserol

It was a pleasure to have Christian come to visit. We’d been planning it for a while, and although the initial April trip was cancelled, Christian made it over with his bike ready for a few days riding in Catalunya.

Having been out on the bike very little, I was worried about my level of fitness (last time I rode with Christian we crossed the Alps… I was the fittest I think I’ve ever been, and he still left me standing). I was relieved to here that with him studying for his finals he’d done very little exercise too.

Over a Beer and the laptop, we managed to dig out three trails from GPSies that we planned to ride the next three days. Day one’s ride was actually a combination of a trail on GPSies and bits I made up myself from local knowledge.

Day 1 was supposed to be the easy warm up. Highest point being a mere 400 something metres up. As it turned out, my getting carried away with plotting a route on google maps lead to a pretty long ride!

Christian in front of La Mola

Me, in front of some green stuff

A long climb was rewarded by great views over Barcelona

Cube, Clearly the best bike manufacturer ever!

View of Barcelona from Tibidabo

View from Tibidabo

Nice snake bite puncture for Christian after a rather ambitious jump over a stream.

Looking back to Tibidabo and the TV tower towards the end of the day. It was a long ride.

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La Rioja

I’m currently building a website for a chap called Tom. He’s slightly more well off than most, so when he invited me to go to Logroño in La Rioja region to sample some wine, I didn’t have to think twice, especially given that Tom was going to be flying us there…

Arriving at the deserted Logroño airport there was only one ‘taxi’ waiting in the pickup zone. It was white, rather long and had a fridge full of Cava.

We went on two bodega tours which I have to say were facsinating. I learnt a lot about the wine making process but the highlight had to be when one of our group fell off his chair in the wine tasting session.

I was most impressed by the number and size of caves and tunnels that the wine was stored in to age. 100s of barrels stretching for over 100 metres. Perfect temperature and humidity apparently.

Of course both tours were completed by wine tasting sessions, which were great for the obvious reasons, but also very informative for someone as lacking in wine knowledge as myself. The oldest wine we tried was from 1969!

If you get a chance to go on a wine tasting trip, do so. Especially if you are lucky enough to be flown their in a light aircraft and chauffeured around in a Limo!

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Bubble Brunch

No year would be complete without some kind of party involving Philippe and large quantities of Cava. Once again we found ourselves on our annual trip to Brussels, this time for Philippes 40th, celebrated with the now traditional Bubble Brunch.

This year we had the pleasure of meeting Arno for the first time, and seeing Philippe and Astrid’s stunning new home in completed form.

We spent the whole weekend there, and to be honest, I enjoy helping Philippe prepare as much as the party itself. Especially well attended this year as he invited all of his new neighbours along as well.

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Another excuse to explore

Much like when I was living in Madrid, it was when people came to visit that I actually got out and saw things. With my parents visiting for several days, I had the perfect excuse to explore some of the national parks that I’ve mentioned in previous posts.

Montserrat

Our first trip was to Montserrat. A very distinctive land mark that I first spotted back in 2004 when Mats, Niki and I came up to Catalunya to watch the World Rally Championship. It truly is a unique looking lump of rock. And what does my family do with big lumps of rock? Climb up them of course. There is a monestery on the mountain, but that was of little iterest for us, so we walked to the highest point (some 1236 Meters up). Ok, we cheated by taking the rack railway up he first 700 meters or so, but it was still a big effort. Well worth it though, for the views alone.

Barcelona

The following day we went for a wander around Barcelona. Standard tourist stuff, but nice all the same. Plaza España, Monjuic, cable car over the port, followed by a great seafood platter down by Barceloneta beach.

La Mola

La Mola is a 1,104 metre summit, located in the easy to remember Parque Natural de Sant Llorenç del Munt i l'Obac, that I’ve been wanting to walk up since I moved here. Given I get my interest in trekking from my parents, it made sense to take them with me, so on the Sunday we did just that. Not as good a day for photos due to the haze, but a great walk all the same.

Three days and lots of walking. Seriously impressed with my parents fitness levels. If I’m as fit as my dad at his age… well, that’s something to aspire to.

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Jenny

Espe and I had the pleasure of having Jenny come to visit for a long weekend giving us a good excuse to explore a little. Never a dull conversational moment with Jen around, it was really good for all of us, giving a much needed escape from the pressures of work and study. It is also great for me to see how well Espe and Jenny get on. A real shame we live so far away at the moment.

Modernismo trail around Barcelona

San Lorenz National Park

The Village of Mura

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Formula 1 Testing

It appears that these days most of the pre season F1 testing takes place in Spain. Probably something to do with the weather and for that you won’t hear any complaints from me. The first testing was in Valencia, then Jerez, and finally Barcelona. Given that the Circuit de Catalunya is less than 20km from my flat, it would have been wrong to miss out. Besides, the testing is one of the few affordable ways to see F1 cars at full tilt.

Good to see the the 2011 cars, although it would be a lot to ask for a more exciting season (despite the final outcome) than we had in 2010.

Oh, and can anyone tell me what that ridiculously large black fin above the airbox on the Ferraris is for?

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Mountain Biking in Montsant

I wasn’t able to fit my bike into the car when we moved back to Spain, so I had to bring it on the plane on my way back after Christmas. One of the rules for packaging up the bike is removing the air from the tyres. Once unpacked, I discovered that my bike pump was broken. Visiting my local bike shop to get a new one I took the opportunity to find out about good routes in the area. Not only did they point me to the excellent www.wikiloc.com, but let me know about the monthly excursions they put on.

February’s excursion was to Montsant in Tarragona for which I joined 10 others. The start of the ride was a killer, with a long steep climb (guess who was last to the top). Well worth it though, once we reached the 1148 meter peak.

As you can tell, we were blessed with great weather weather and stunning views of the national park with its caves, rock formations, overhangs and reservoir.

The route was a mix or open rocky ridges and technical step downhill sections finished by a steady climb on a gravel road. Great fun minus the final climb.

There were a lot of sections that weren’t ridable, so we had to carry the bikes quite a lot. Not helped by the fact my bike was the heaviest of the lot…

On the final climb really I really suffered. Although we covered less than 40km, we were out for the whole day and climbed a cumulative 1200m, not to mention the walking and lifting of the bikes. Once again I was at the back. Quite clearly, I need to get fit.

Thanks to all at Bici Escapa for an excellent day out.

I’ll post the route here once I get copy of the GPS track from the guys at the shop.
Meanwhile, check out the Bici Escapa Photo Gallery

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