16 Aug Tarragona to Barcelona

95km today
4955km… So far.

As some of you may know, I lived in Barcelona for a year and a half. And Paola lives in Sant Andreu de la Barca, so in many ways we were going home.
So I should have been excited but I felt very strangely demotivated. It didn’t look very far on the map, and I had visited the places along the coast, (Gava, Castelldefels and Sitges) before. We were staying in Sant Andreu so I opted to just stick to the N340 and see the places inland. It seemed quicker, without much chance of being blocked by a motorway.
After a decent breakfast, I left around 12. It wasn’t far so I thought I only needed a few hours. But I really should have left earlier. Oh well…
We had stayed in a little place near the train station, and right next to the N340. I went straight up a hill and past the roman amphitheatre. I could see the beach to my right too. I headed through the suburbs of Tarragona, and over all the road humps.
And then it turned quite industrial. I passed factories producing “white minerals”…I suppose chalk and lime….
It wasn’t as flat as I had expected and just before Calafell, the road started to turn inland and more directly north. After 40km, I was feeling like stopping. Maybe it was like trying to serve the winning point in a tennis match. You start thinking too much.
I tried drinking 2 big cokes and sitting in the shade for a while. I talked to my friend Ryan on the phone. I was still finding it hard to motivate myself to get going. And I had also hoped to meet up with a guy called Andrew Sykes who was cycling Europe. He was coming in the opposite direction from barcelona but he was sticking to the coastal roads. I wished I had done that too and started regretting my decision to follow the N340. I was thinking of diverting course but I also knew I had Paola and food waiting for me. I tweeted Andrew to say we would miss each other. I put my headphones in, and used the music to motivate me and I carried on. There was a time when water ran out but I managed to find a fountain and refill.
The GPS constantly suggested I turn off the N340 and take a longer route. I constantly ignored it, but at Ordal I found out why. A huge Coll (hill) was waiting for me and it slowed me down.
So far that day, the most satisfying thing had been looking at the cars in queues of traffic as I whizzed past at 30kph. But climbing the hill was oddly therapeutic for me, as I had some sort of challenge.
I stopped to get some fruit and a French couple on a motorbike who had also stopped for fruit started a conversation with me. I used a few French words and lots of hand signals and we managed to get by. They had been married just 10 days before, but had been together for many years. So no huge wedding and they were just travelling a bit rather than having a lavish honeymoon. They also invited me to stay if I passed through Grenoble. Well you never know…
I got over the hill and freewheeled down until the road met a motorway again. I found the road I needed and headed towards Palleja and then to Sant Andreu de la Barca. I arrived at around 7pm and we had dinner with Paola’s stepfather, Enrique. It was great to have a conversation in Spanish and to talk about the trip.
I had booked a room at local hotel, where the non-smoking room stank of smoke. The nice receptionist panicked a while because they were full but gave us the room of a couple who hadn’t arrived (it was 12.30) so I don’t think they were ever going to arrive. The room was fine, and I fell asleep immediately. I am writing this blog in bed at 11.30am so I suppose I needed my sleep!
And I am back in Barcelona! It’s Fiesta season and the most famous, the fiesta de gracia is happening tonight. I am staying in Barcelona until the end of August, when I will start to cycle to Vienna. So blogging will start again in 2 weeks from now.

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