Caveat emptor. The next few weeks will see me post from my iPad with all that that entails. If it’s a bit wonky – that may be why.
As global warming once again plays merry with UK weather patterns I find myself relaxing in a shady spot, a cerveza in hand, kicking back in Alicante in readiness to begin my third solo venture across this amazing country. A sense of relief descends after I have done my chores. Packing the bike into the box is always nervy. Handing it over at Check In only serves to make me more tense. By the time I arrive here the box comes back to me with a few more dents than it had and it’s not until I’ve reassembled the bike, taken it for a test ride, and kissed the handle bars do my shoulders sag and I emit a huge sigh of relief. This time just one brake block knocked askew. Easy peasy.
This will be a new route once again. Alicante to Valencia to Zaragoza to Logroño to Vitoria to Bilbao and finally Santander…and lots of interesting places in between.
I don’t know what this ride will bring. There are more city stops than before,which is a double-edged aspect to it all. Great cities,yes, but cities can be horrendous to get in and out of on a bike.
What I do expect at the end of it all is to be able to put together the ultimate vuelta. Now that would be something. Me and Mrs. Monkey – 6 weeks in Spain – on bikes – I can dream.
But to reality. I know someone who will never eat in restaurants who put pictures of their food on their menus.In that case, in Alicante ,you’ll starve. It’s tourist town and it comes with the territory. And if you would like a quiet evening meal then you’ve got a walk on your hands, sorry, feet.
My hotel is almost a mile from where the action is. However, en route, I discover the excellent MACA, the Museo de Arte Contemporario de Alicante. Contemporary Spanish art at it’s finest. It really is a treat with that rarest of qualities for art galleries, a consistently high standard. I left there and headed for a noisy dinner. Restaurant tables run like a river through the centre of narrow alleyways leaving just enough room either side. Until the band turn up.
I love buskers. I am the father of a struggling musician so I know how tough it is. I always toss a coin into the hat. But a three course meal in Alicante will affect your waistline and your hearing. When the troupe struck up the theme tune to Match of the Day I had to acknowledge that they knew their audience.
As is to be expected on these rides Day 1 can be tough. It’s a ride out of the flatlands of the coastline into the hills. I’m heading North.
Alicante to Benidorm is a busy route. There are Brits to be fed. And I admit I had to keep my wits about me as I dodged on and off the road, in between the traffic, until I could head off into the hinterland. I’d done my prep and I knew it was a climbing day so I’d kept it short…30 miles to Alcoi.
I’d forgotten how heavy my bike was. It gets heavier the higher you go. I’d forgotten to rest properly yesterday and walked miles around Alicante. As a consequence as soon as I started climbing my legs refused to move. But as always with these trips there is only one direction, forward, and it was great to be out on the road again in the Spanish countryside.
No matter how much mental preparation you do, your heart sinks a little when you see a sign telling you that the next 10 kilometres are at 5%. That’s it. Up and up and up with an occasional ramp at a bend zig-zagging your way to the top. Grabbing half a banana under the shade of a lonely tree, gulping water and praying that your legs will hold out.
I climbed a thousand metres through dry, fierce hillsides with olive trees gripping to precipitous terraces.Warning signs told me to be aware of cattle and deer but I saw no livestock. Only mad dogs and Englishmen out in the mid-day sun.
It took me just under 3 hours to drag my belongings up the mountain and 20 minutes to roll them down into the town of Alcoi with its cobbled streets, beautiful blue domed church of Santa Maria, its fountains and street side bars. After the variability of Alicante the Alameda Bistro serves me good wine and a tasty meal. Friday night is kicking off and I’m cutting back on the walking for once.
I have my washing to dry.
See the side panel ? Buy the book of the first two rides. Fun for all the family. It’s not just for cyclists it’s full of ideas for travelling Spain off the beaten track. Go for it. It won’t break the bank and you’ll make an old man very happy.