After our lovely Mallorca and Menorca trip we were back in Stockholm again yesterday, after having shared an aircraft between Frankfurt and Arlanda (Stockholm) with two horrible, nasty Swedish drunks (yes they were men). I`m not religious in any way, but still I prayed to God that nothing bad would happen and was thankful that this was only a 2 hour flight…
This morning started with one of my favourite ways of waking up and getting your exercise for the day (bikes aren’t the only way ;)) – nordic walking!
I just love it: fresh air (although still quite chilly), blue sky, sunshine and a good podcast or music, (if you don`t just enjoy birdsong, which is also great!).
I used to be seen as a weirdo walking around with my sticks a few years back, but now it seems like it`s become more accepted which is good, cause it`s pretty sweaty if you do it right!
Although we are living in Northern suburbs of Stockholm with my mum for the moment (which is also were I lived as a child) the scenery can be beautiful even here <3.
There are even some fascinating old Viking burial spots in the area.
After five days intensive cycling we headed south to the city of Palma, the capital of this bonny isle for more leisurely pursuits.
And another routinely, if slightly larger, beautiful metropolis awaited us. We both got a bit of a Barcelona vibe about the old town of Palma, even the obligatory grand cathedral had a bit of the Gaudi about it.
OK, maybe not totally.
The standard winding streets and alleys that we have seen so many times before this week were as sweet and beguiling as ever and we reflected, not totally without emotion, that this might be the last time we see this kind of architecture for quite a long time.
We stayed however in the trashier area of Platja de Palma which together with Magaluf is the place that started the Spanish tourist boom of the sixties.
And god does it show.
The hotels along there look like they were built by the East German Stasi on an off day. The restaurants and cafés (with the exception of a very good Indian place that we found on the last evening) were all cheap and tacky with menus not only in English and German, but Swedish, Danish and Russian as well.
More than once I heard irate middle aged Germans talking in loud Teutonic Bavarian to confused and bemused locals.
Our hotel resembled a static Viking Line cruise ferry. The same food and the same “entertainment”, the rooms might have been slightly larger but the walls were just as thin. I was awakened by the coughing of a Danish smoker every morning at eight o’clock on the dot, and fell asleep to the sound of drunk white trash returning home after an evening at the British pub.
The place almost made me seasick in more ways than one.
Much nicer then to turn to our lovely little trip up to the town of Soller a bit further up on the west coast.
Our original thought was to bike there, we both felt seeing the multitude of cyclists around that we were missing the feeling of leather against lycra, but sadly it didn’t work logistically.
So we took the train instead.
The Ferrocarril de Soller was built on the profits of the citrus trade about a hundred years ago and offered a wonderful, if slightly stately, trip into the mountains.
From our destination we changed to a tram which took us down to the port in some style. It almost brought out the train nerd in me for a little while. It even had clickedy clackedy railway noises…
For some reason (which we found out later) Turkish and British flags were hanging all over the place. See exhibit 1.
Apparently this marks the build up to a festival that they have in the town every year where they celebrate and re-enact (with little regard to health and safety) a battle fought in the 16th (I think) century where the Christians repelled the Moors (Muslims).
(Too many brackets).
It would have been fun to see it.
Sadly though it was not to be.
Instead I sit here at Frankfurt airport looking out over a sea of aeroplanes in the rain reflecting on a very enjoyable little jaunt to the Iberian islands.
Only six days left before we leave for the real thing, until then a few loose ends to tie up before some sad, long goodbyes and pastures new.
On arrival in Ciutadella, a routinely beautiful town on the west coast of Menorca (in the way that all the towns around here are beautiful in the same narrow streeted, nice churched kind of way) we had a day off the saddle exploring and eating.
You can tell it is the calm before the storm as the town is basically asleep, waiting for the tourist invasion to come in June and July.
And unlike Mallorca there was not another cyclist in sight. The few we saw during the two days we were here I even got into the habit of waving to again! Nice to know that the old skills don’t die.
One reason for this is perhaps that Menorca is quite small, so to make room for a good ride we had to take trips off the beaten path. Our goal was the capital of the island, Mao (or Mahon in Spanish) which is only 42 kms down the road. You can see how we did this on the map.
We stretched the ride out with an extra 25 kms or so by finding a nice secluded beach on the south coast where we skinny dipped (sorry no photos) in a bracing sea and also by riding to the top of El Toro, which may not have been the longest but was by far the steepest climb we have faced on this trip. 350 metres straight up in less than three kms was a test of character and leg muscles to say the least.
The old road between Es Mercadal (where we ate a beautiful gourmet tapas lunch, very very much recommended if you are in the area) and Mao is called Cami d’en Kane and offered lovely cycling even though we had the wind in our faces. Someone we were talking to said that he loved Menorca because it reminded him of how Mallorca was 30 years ago and this road, with its farms, stables and old stone walls could almost have been stuck in a time warp from the 1950s.
Hardly a car and not a cyclist in sight.
Mao was routinely beautiful as well and had a nice strategic port which apparently led to the British turning it into the capital of the island during its occupation of the island in the 18th century. The bloody Brits got everywhere even back then. 🙂
The next morning shone bright and clear and we left Mao to go back to Ciutadella following a more northern route.
Kms ridden: 89 kms
The first stop was a place that the word rugged could have been invented for, Faro de Favaritx.
This is an active lighthouse set in, I guess, limestone. To be honest it could be any form of hard rock for all I know but I have a vague recollection of reading that it was limestone somewhere so I am sticking to that.
It was bloody windy, extremely beautiful in a, yes I have to say it, rugged kind of way and very desolate. You can imagine lighthouse keepers in the distant past going nuts stuck out there.
Ami suddenly became an even more magnificent cyclist when we had a strong wind behind us and a slight downhill slope. 57 kms/h was nothing to her as she flew into the routinely pretty town of Fornells.
She started whining though when we temporarily had to turn back into the wind and she started getting hungry. But we struggled through.
Back in Ciutadella we had intended to spend the evening blogging and sorting other computer stuff out but ended up discussing feminism and different national characteristics with a very interesting Italian fashion designer called Sylvia.
This explains the late arrival of this poetic masterpeice.
Hi there Sylvia by the way if you are reading this. See you one day in New Zealand. 🙂
After this hard days work to Formentor, we arrived back to our hotel in Alcudia as early as 3 pm- wo hoo!! Which gave us the chance to relax by the pool for the first time since we came here, get some sun over THE WHOLE BODY and not just bits here and there that cyclists tend to get 🙂 and eating strawberries- simple but nice!
In the evening we met up with one of my spinning leaders, Mari from my gym at home “Friskis & Svettis” with whom I`ve done challenging spin classes. Together with her husband and cycle friends (who were also here for a week of cycling) we had a lovely dinner.
As always we died on the pillow later while back at the hotel again and after packing everything for our Menorca excursion.
A gentle ten kilometres to Port de Pollenca was followed by a tough climb to the first vantage point.
As you can see there were some quite stunning views on offer. And as noted earlier cyclists absolutely everywhere.
In most cases when I am out biking I try to make a point of waving to or at least in some way acknowledging fellow velocipedes that I meet or pass on the road. (And occasionally when they pass me too although that pisses me off :))
If you were to do so here you would have used up a life time’s supply of arm movement within the first half hour. Even Elizabeth Windsor would be flagging.
This abundance of bikes leads to some interesting consequences. One of the nicest is that we end up ruling the road. With only a couple of minor exceptions we have found that drivers have been almost over considerate (if that is possible), patiently waiting behind us until it is absolutely certain to pass and then leaving huge gaps between right tyre and edge of road.
Certainly not the stereotype of what you expect of Spanish drivers.
Another consequence is that you get a really good idea of where you stand as a cyclist.
I have come to the conclusion that I am a pretty strong climber. I wouldn’t say that I enjoy the hills exactly because they are bloody hard work, but I seem to find it much easier than most. I love finding the right gear and powering past strugglers. Good for the old ego. 🙂
On the other hand I am a bit of a wuss when it comes to the descents. Some people just fly down the slopes and whizz around the hairpins risking life and limb while I always keep a very safe distance to the bike in front and my hands seriously close to the brake levers.
I was a scared little boy when I was younger and I guess I still am.
We reached the lighthouse at Cap Formentor about an hour later and admired 360 degree views of real beauty as well as the odd goat.
We do live on a beautiful planet, it has to be said.
After a satisfying sandwich we made our way back the way we came. Thankfully Ami’s new shorts and a slightly altered saddle position worked a treat and although she was still in a bit of pain it was obvious that it was far better than yesterday when she was close to hailing a taxi rather than having to ride the final kilometres to the hotel.
This trip has been and still is incredibly useful for us in as much that we are discovering and then ironing out small issues before our big trip across the States. Clothing, saddle positioning, posture and how to use gearing to get the most out of ourselves and the bike are examples of this.
Particularly Ami, who has done a lot less road biking than I have, has really learned a lot which will hold her in good stead when the big adventure starts.
She has always been very strong but now her technique is much, much better which leads to more confidence and ultimately better performance.
Tomorrow is a rest day as we head over to the smaller island of Menorca for a couple of rides there before heading back to Mallorca on Thursday.
88 kilometres today, out and back to a beautiful beach in the north east of the island, Cala Mesquida.
Lovely white sand, not too many people and freezing cold turquoise blue water. We dipped our naked bodies in quickly but were not mucking about. Refreshing, yes, but not pleasurable. Another month and it will be perfect.
The tough part of the day was the saddle soreness that Ami was feeling on the bike. At one point she was almost crying tears of pain. Sadly not so much you can do about it when you are 30 kilometres from home with no alternative means of transport but to grin and bear it. Still it was not nice to watch and obviously even worse to go through. It didn’t go particularly quickly at times so speed statistics will be conspicuous by their absence.
We will try today with (very expensively newly purchased) shorts with extreme amounts of extra padding and a slightly different height and leaning to the saddle. We are going out to another coastal point and back today and if it is too excruciating she will have to turn back or wait for my return somewhere on the road. Not ideal but fingers crossed. We both really want to see Cap de Formentor, it is said to be a really spectacular, hilly 60 km ride.
We got here on Thursday afternoon, tired as insert suitable metaphor here after getting up at four in the morning, and basically we just went straight to bed in our very nice and upgraded hotel apartment.
This morning though was a different story. Up early to get our rented bikes and quickly out onto the road.
We decided we were going to do a hard climb in the mountains today as we figured our legs are probably at their freshest before we have actually done anything, and the ride up to Col de Femenia from Alcudia where we are staying was a good test of our endurance. Hairpin bends and seven degree inclines abounded as we worked our way up the hill. I got there ten or so minutes before Ami and saw a discarded bike shirt hanging from a fence, commemorating a guy who had died.
It was either the case that he had passed away somewhere else and that this was his favourite spot or, more macabrely, he had actually kicked the bucket attempting the very climb that we were doing.
Not a nice thought.
By the way, I have never seen so much lycra in all my life as what we witnessed today in Mallorca. Before arriving here we understood that this island is a bit of a Mecca for bike people, particularly at this time of year and it is certainly the truth. Cyclists are everywhere; in the hotels, on the roads, in the cafés and restaurants.
If you are a fan of tight fitting shorts, camel toes and lunch box like bulges then this is the place for you.
People of all shapes and sizes, all ages and, as we are obliged to say these days, all genders are squeezing into their apparel, mounting their carbon framed steeds and heading off into the gorgeous countryside that Mallorca has to offer.
For this place really isn’t just Magaluff, drunk Englishmen, wanky modern music in shitty night clubs and bacon and eggs for breakfast in crappy cafés. There is a whole other side to Mallorca which is definitely worth discovering and the absolutely best way to do it is of course on a bike.
The smells for one thing are gorgeous. The only thing I can vaguely compare them to is the smell of fresh marijuana in the morning, although I am sure it isn’t that.
Ami is far better at these things than I am so maybe she will explain what the odours really are in a later post. Honeysuckle or whatever.
I can’t do any better than marijuana.
We ate a very nice paella in the town of Inca where I accidentally turned the Garmin off which is why the map of our trip today is divided up into two parts.
Here Ami made a disastrous mistake.
She decide to drink a sangria for lunch.
Here she is about an hour later (I got my first puncture of the week just before, just my luck) wishing she had never been born.
But a cup of coffee and some blueberry cheesecake later she seemed to get her second wind and the last thirty kilometres, which were pretty flat, absolutely flew by.
So either the moral of the story is don’t drink alcoholic beverages when you still have 60 kilometres to go or that blueberry cheesecake has the capacity to cure mild inebriation.