Peter Pan once said “Second star to the left and straight on till morning.” Its the second part of that sentence that means so much to me, “straight on till morning”. Throughout my life I have found myself on many an adventure. Some good, some less good. All of them have been learning experiences of great value in my life story. One of my most important lessons ever I learned whilst cycling in Barcelona, Spain. This is where dear old Peter Pan comes in, in Dutch we say “Als maar recht door” which loosely translates to just keep going forward, or “straight on till morning” . This simple lesson applies to every thing in our lives. Just keep moving forward, als maar recht door, and eventually, you will get to your destination. Life is, afterall, about the journey and not the destination. So keep moving forward, als maar recht door, and enjoy the view along the way.
What, you ask, does any of this have to do with bicycling in Barcelona? Well you may recall that in my un-knowing I can do anything, right? Well, I wanted to go to an event in Barcelona but I did not want to stay in the city. The solution, stay 30km outside of the city and bike to the event! No problem! Beaches? Mountains? Roads? No Spanish language skills? No problem, I have GPS, a map and a pair of legs that will get me anywhere I want to go.
So I found a great, afordable little Spanish hotel in a town 23km from the heart of Barcelona, the Hotel Ciudad de Castelldefels in the place called, you guessed it, Castelldefels.
I do not have any pictures of the hotel to share, to be honest, the pool was lovely and the hotel itself was simple and located in a quiet residencial neighboorhood one block away from the beach. I didn’t spend mucuh time in the hotel as you can imagine.
Just a few blocks away was a place where I could rent a bicycle from two fun old Spanish guys in a small shop I can not seem to find any information on now tho it was located on the Carrer de l’Equador in Castelldefels. The bikes were cheap and simple and would get me from point A to point B and that was all that mattered to me.
I fell in love with the town, the scenery, the scent of sea and jasmine and the heat. I was only there one evening before I finally got to take my adventure, the first 23km bike ride to Palau Saint Jordi in the heart of Barcelona. I was excited!
That morning, we woke up had breakfast and headed out to our bikes. I speak now in the plural form because I was not alone on this trip or this ride. I had checked the maps, and double checked them. My GPS on my phone wasnt working very well, but it looked easy enough, basically a straight line with the sea on the right untill a bridge, cross the bridge and we would find our way.
And off we went. On a 46km ride that would take us ALL DAY! The first part was easy, a straight line, sea on the right, through neighboorhood streets and sometimes on the boardwalk. After half hour on the way, we found a pretty little cafe and stopped for our morning coffee under the Spanish sun. Now it was time to go on, and so we got on our bikes and just kept on cycling. Sea on the right, through neighboorhood streets, and soon the boardwalk ran out, and the neighboorhoods became sparser and the enviornment begon to become more wild. We were still on track. No problem. Enjoying our ride in the sea breeze. The route was no longer a straight line, it was curving, and roundings and bends and before we knew it, we were out of road, out of boardwalk and blocked by a fence to a protected nature preserve.
Still full of adventure and drive, we decided to attempt to cycle on the sand, which we quickly learned neither our bicycles or ourselves we able to achieve such a feet. So we walked, pushing our bicycles along the coast untill the next piece of road was available. We just kept moving, als maar recht door, straight on till morning. Soon there was road, and we were cycling again, getting closer and closer to the airport, which we needed to pass to get to our destination. As we reached the airport, it appeared we could no longer cycle forward, we had to go right, back towards the sea where soon the roads ran out again. So we moved forward with our bikes to the sea and decided to rest and have a snack and enjoy the Spanish heat.
Once we were on our way again, we noticed that we were the only 2 people as far as the eye could see. Beautiful blue skies, bright yellow sun, sea salt in the air and noone and nothing, for miles. It was beautiful and we were content. As we wandered the beach pushing our bike for what seemed like 100km, though it was probably no more than 500 meters we noticed a loan man walking the beach, brown leathery sun baked Spanish skin naked in the sun. I could not help but giggle, because I am still a little American girl inside this grown up expat body and the idea that walking nude along the beach is a normal thing still makes me blush. The more we walked the more nude men we came across, had we maybe stumbled across a nude beach, or something a bit more “adult” rated? We did not take the time to find out and just kept on going untill we found road again.
The beach had ended, the roads had ended, there was no bridge. The only way left to go was inland. So we went. Inland, in to towns again and onto busy roads. Before we realized it we were lost. Left, right, straight, back the way we came? None of it mattered anymore, we had found ourselves lost in the middle of the busy shipping ports of Barcelona, goods coming and going from everywhere in the world. Did I mention, the people didn’t speak English and we did not speak Spanish. It was full on adventure time!
So what did we do? We stopped, and we ate. We tried to figure out where to go and how to get to where we needed to be. A taxi? The bus? A train? What of the bikes then? We had already been away most of the day, we were fast approaaching the end of the afternoon and the closing of the Expo. We decided to stick it out. In casse you had not noticed yet, I may sit down and stop for a while, but I always keep going. I never give up entirely.
Then it happened, as quickly as we were lost, we found our way again. Left, right, turning, forwards, backwards moving through the labrynth of streets of the city, and then there it was like a bright beacon on a dark night, a sign for the Palau with an arrow pointing the direction.
Finally, after 6 hours on the bike, Palau St Jordi was in sight, the Olympic Space Needle visable on top of the mountain. Well, it might have been a hill, but after our trek this far it felt like a mountain. My cycling partner was better at climbing than I was and she beat me to the top. I did not care one bit, because I, me, the regular girl on a regular bike, did it! I climbed that mountain and got to the top without stepping off my bicycle and pushing it, or even parking it!
We had a half hour before the expo closed, it had taken us the entire day to get to our destination, and for me, the journey was amazing! There was just one thing, we now had to cycle the same route back to our hotel! The view from the top was wonderful, and it turned out that the way to get home, was one straight line, als maar recht door, straight on till morning. Had we just kept going forward, instead of doubting, back tracking and turning, we would have made it to our destination much sooner. That being said, I wouldn’t be able to share this adventure with you if we had.
It is a beautiful city, we wandered around it for a bit taking in the sights, yet we knew we had a long trek ahead of us. We rested, we laughed, and then we headed back to our hotel. Als maar recht door. Straight on till morning. Lucky for us, we were home before the sun set.
The moral of this story? Just keep going,you will get where you need to be in the end and you will be rewarded with amazing things along the way.
Als maar recht door.