Just a brief write up of a lovely few days touring out of Barcelona and around Catalunya. If anyone wants any more route info do shout, can't recommend it highly enough!
Arrived last Monday and met up with friendly forumite @pepperedmunky for a few beers and some local knowledge. My mate arrived late afternoon and we set out as directed along a lovely cycle path out of Barca along the river, stopped for a golden hour beer or two and then made it through the rather interminable suburban sprawl of Sabadell and Taressa into the Parc Naturel de Sant Llorenc del Munt i L'Obac, where we found a decent wooded spot for a bivvy and cooked a chorizo and bean stew in the dusk before an early night.
Wednesday we got up early, coffee, tea and croissants and set off up the climb to the peak. Cool enough to enjoy the climb we reached the information centre by opening time and refilled our water, and were then firmly disillusioned of our vague plan to reach Andorra by the friendly lady who was also an experienced cycle tourist and said we had no chance. We slightly scoffed at this but it didn't take long on the local rolling hills and punchy climbs to realise she had the right of it. But the best thing about vague plans is how easy they are to change, so instead we looked at a map, picked a body of water and headed for that. We made it to the Sau reservoir after a lovely day of dreamy roads and stunning views - Catalunya really is a joy on the bike, beautiful - quiet - roads, considerate drivers and views for days. After a late afternoon beer in Vic (charming gothic town recommended by pepperedmunky) it was an hour to the lake. This was very close to the best hour I've spent on a bike - golden sunlight, no-one about and each climb perfectly pitched to be challenging but enjoyably so and followed by those wonderful sweeping descents that barely require brakes and just leave you grinning. Slightly less grin-inducing was the fact we arrived at the lake and initially thought it would be impossible to reach the water as the sides were so steep as to be inaccessible and certainly no good for camping... but, the touring gods were smiling and (having been eyeing up laybys and passing places as camping options) we found a little path, followed it down and ended up at the most perfect little beach with a flat woodland behind it. After a much needed swim and wash (it was 30+ our entire trip) we cooked up a ridiculous pasta including 20 Euros' worth of iberico ham, got stuck into a carton of Don Simon's finest fruity red and called it a night after listening to tunes as the stars came out. This really is why we do this!
We gave ourselves a gentle day on Thursday, having decided to get to Montserrat on Friday and tackle the famous climb. So ~40ks and many tiny beers later we found a nice spot in a wood and bedded down.
Friday was set to be even hotter, so we set off early as the sun was heating up and had a magical morning - 30km of gentle downhills, so hammering along with tunes on and grins fixed, absolute heaven! We got to the outskirts of Montserrat, had a late breakfast and made the ridiculous decision to take on the climb on in the midday sun. This was a mistake. I'm no climber, but in 35 degree heat and with a heavily laden bike it was painful. I'd put an 11-32 cassette on so I was happy with the gearing but the feeling of imminent heatstroke had me taking shade breaks and pouring water over myself every 15 mins. Reading the TCR thread of people pushing on for 300k days in 40 degree heat makes me feel more than mildly queasy in sympathy and only increases my admiration for those wonderful lunatics. But, it was worth it, the views were incredible and the climb a real joy, at least beyond the sense of sous-viding my innards. The top is a slightly strange mix of religious pilgrims and Russian tourists but the views more than made up for it. After all the cokes and icecreams we hooned it down the mountain and made our way out of town to another wooded bivvy spot by a river - we rode ~5km down a ridiculous path to find it, which seemed to veer between south east asian craziness (lush foliage and bamboo everywhere with crumbling industry on the opposite bank) and the dramatic gorges of the Ardeche.
Saturday was a very pleasant 55km back to Barca, largely down hill, passing many local cycle clubs. Being heavily loaded, we stopped trying to join them until we met a group of old boys and young kids going at just out pace. I'm not sure how thrilled they were with our company, but they seemed pleased when we turned the hiphop off and stopped riding off the front only to gently drift back towards them. Our spirits were soaring and we had a night out in Barca ahead of us...
TLDR, Catalunya is amazing and recommend it to anyone looking for a lovely time on the bike. We also met loads of locals who were keen cyclists and more than happy to recommend routes and tips etc...