I love a good walking city. Give me NY, Paris, London, Rome. LA, with it’s drive to your car to drive to somewhere else so you can drive back – not so much. But sometimes, two wheels are better than two feet. That’s why I like bike tours. Discovering a new place on a bike gives you a whole new perspective. And that’s just what I did in Barcelona earlier this summer.
There’s something about pedaling along the streets, in the heart of traffic, on the too-narrow-for-cars Medieval streets, across a park filled with playing school children – that makes you feel more a part of things. You’re not seeing the world from the top of a tourist bus, listening to someone else tell you what to look at. Neither are you trudging along the sidewalk, limited by the very nature of your biology to a slower pace. There’s a kid-like thrill that comes from simply mounting a bike, pushing off, and taking flight, along the boulevards, aside the beach, around the Cathedral, past the market, all alongside the locals running their errands or hurrying to a meeting on an impossibly sunny day in an impossibly lovely city by the sea.
Our travel agent set it up, and chose Barcelona Bike Tours, an excellent choice, as it turned out. Our small group of 10 came from everywhere: Holland, Germany, Tanzania…and Connecticut! We were led by Marc, a Barcelona Native with a terrific amount of knowledge about the city. We started in La Raval district. A labyrinth of winding, narrow streets that open, suddenly, onto little, lovely squares, with room for only one café, or maybe two, before the tentacles of tiny streets take over again.
From there, we biked along the Ramblas (one visit is enough. Other than the Boqueria,and the Placa Royal, ick.) to the Port of Barcelona, (That’s Frank Gehry’s fish, beside the beach) and along the water to Barcelonetta – the beach neighborhood, where there is an artificial beach, built for the 1992 Olympics, by the very real sea.
The bike lanes in Barcelona are impressive. Nearly every main street has one, and they are cleverly separated from the car traffic by a narrow row of Motorcycle parking, or are carved out of the medians, with two way bike traffic moving along the two way car traffic, or simply a designated part of the wide sidewalk, clearly marked with lane lines and their own traffic lights.
From the beach, we went back into the interior of the city, circling the Sagrada Familia, then South to the Arc de Triomph – who knew Barcelona had it’s own?
Then along the promenade and past the government buildings to Citadel Park, where I got wistful for my own kids, as I watched local children play.
Finally, back to the bike shop, tired but happy.
Luckily, the shop is is just around the corner from Cal Pep, the deservedly legendary Tapas restaurant, and after all that biking, I could eat Tapas without guilt! Another benefit of biking on vacation!