Not exactly lost, just not on route
Barcelona – Montserrat – Berga – Puigcedera – As Les Thermes
I spent quite while planning my first day of riding this summer. ViaMichelin is a superb app for the iPad that selects a variety of routes depending on the parameters you give it. As on the paper maps produced by the same company, there are green lines along roads of special beautify. They are always worth riding, and linking a number together over the course of a day can make for a spectacular outing. Without a data connection however it is not possible to navigate with the ViaMichelin app whilst on the road. Currently, there is no obvious way to transfer the suggested routes from the app to something that works offline, like a gps. It should be possible to look at the route on ViaMichelin and then programme in the same route with my TomTom gps. When I try this though, the maps bear scant resemblance to each other.
Setting off on my carefully planned route I caught sight of a spectacular ridge of rocky mountains in the distance and headed for those instead. They were the cliffs of Montserrat, home to an ancient religious monument or two, not so far from Barcelona and consequently infested with tourists of every shape and size, but mainly fat. Being on a bilke means you can park in small places near attractions and don’t have to walk from a car park miles away. It was so busy though that a policeman directed me to park on the pavement near his station, much to the annoyance of his colleague who told me off for parking there a few minutes later. I didn’t stay long, but grabbed a photo of the view, decided not to visit the monastery or sanctuary and instead escape back to twisty road around the mountain.
Belching occasionally from the enormous steak I had for lunch, I found my way from Montserrat to Ax Les Thermes on a mixture of sinuous backroads and delightful motorways. It had been on the waiter’s recommendation that I declined the salad. No need, he suggested with a grin and body language, neither my Spanish or his English being up to a complete explanation. Served on a hot slate, the steak was huge, rare and delicious. Far too much meat for one man though.
Climbing to the pass at Porté Puymorens I was passed by a large group of motorcyclists who were obviously far more comfortable than I am at taking hairpin bends at speed. On one 180° bend I lost the guy following me. He was so close that I was reluctant to break for the corner, so I swung really wide. He passed me on the inside. There minutes later I passed them all myself – they had stoppe for some reason at a place without view or attraction. A puncture maybe? To talk about the slow Spaniard who swings wide on bends? There are advantages to having Spanish plates on the bike.
Ax Les Thermes, unsurprisingly, has a large number of hot springs and has been a place where the sick have been able to ‘take the waters’ since at least the 13th century when a hospital was established in the village. Today, there is still an open pool in the centre where the public can soak their feet, and a number of springs where your could do your washing in the piping hot, slightly sulphurous waters. In winter, Ax Les Thermes is a ski resort. It must be nice to come off the slopes and thaw our your feed in the hot waters.
I’m staying at Hôtel la Grande Cordée, which is OK but definately neither big nor posh, but it is cheap.