We started this day knowing that we should be in the Barcelona area by tonight, a full 3 days earlier than our original schedule. We had discussed where we could have spent more time, but Sarah was happy to be getting to the 'Med' and spending some down time near the beach. After looking at the map we had decided to head towards either Castelldefels or Sitges, to the southwest of Barcelona. To accomplish that we wanted to orient our route for the day to enter the Barcelona metropolitan area on the western side. But before doing so, the plan was to head towards Montserrat to visit the 'famous' monastery.
After a relatively large, by standards so far in the trip, buffet breakfast at the hotel we dressed, packed, and checked out of the hotel. Leaving the hotel parking lot we turned left and immediately started climbing. A few kilometers later we turned onto what we had expected to be a quieter road to approach Montserrat from the west. But the road was less quiet than anticipated, probably due to the sign I had seen just before our turn. That sign indicated there was road work ahead on the more major road and directed southbound traffic to the road we had selected. Sigh.I joked with Sarah a bit along the way that since this day was June 2nd, and that several things in the French Pyrenees were supposedly set to open on this day, that we should be headed north to avail ourselves of those opportunities. She did not buy the argument.
The climb continued upward until we reached the saddle pass on the western edge of the mountain. At this point the signs indicated that the monastery was to the east, along a road that traversed across the mountain just below the rocky spires. We stopped about halfway across that traverse to take photos; while I was taking the pictures my bike, which I had leaned against some trees, fell over. No damage, but the chain had jumped off the chainrings and gotten wedged between the chainkeeper and the seat tube. I had to remove the chain and then reinstall it in order to rectify the problem.
Towards the eastern edge of the mountain we stopped again to take some more photos. Sarah noted a sign pointing to a road descending from where we stood to 'Monistrol de Montserrat'. We could see one building that looked consistent with a monastery a couple of hundred feet down the mountain on that road. Convinced that the indicated road was 'the way' to the monastery we started to descend. The building we had seen from above turned out to be the Monastery of St. Benet, not Montserrat, so we continued downward .. and downward ... for 9 km and probably about 500m of elevation loss. At the bottom we realized that 'Monistrol de Montserrat' is the town at the bottom of the hill, and that the monastery is 'Monister de Montserrat'. To make a long story short, we realized that the monastery was up near where we had just been, and that to get back up there was a steep, 9 km climb. We opted to head towards the ocean and to return to the monastery via train later in the week.
There were few route choices to head south from where we finished the descent. The options were to start down a major highway (C55) for about 10 km before diverting off to the east, or to head north a couple of km then go over the hills towards Terrassa and then south. We took the first option and started south, stopping briefly to check out the tram that went up to the monastery. From there it was a grin and bear it ride south on the highway until Olesa de Montserrat where we diverted off to minor roads. We followed the Llobregat to Martorell then south to the western edge of the Barcelona metropolitan area.
Lunch was at a small restaurant on the northern edge of Martorell, a stop necessitated as much by my need to elevate my left foot as it was by hunger. Again the fare was the standard ham and cheese sandwich. From the lunch stop south and west it was a trip through mostly industrial suburbs of Barcelona with some high density housing developments thrown in for diversity.
When we finally entered Castelldefels I asked for a stop to check the location of hotels. We pulled up onto the sidewalk while I queried the GPS for hotels in the area. It indicated several about 1.5 miles SSW of our current position, right along the coast and right off a cross street named Pineda. Pineda was somewhere just in front of us it appeared from the display, so we knew we were close. We headed in the direction of Pineda but found that left turns onto that street were prohibited. To get ourselves pointed in the correct direction we went a block west of Pineda, then a block to the north, then back to where we could enter Pineda legally with a right turn. Pineda was barely wide enough for two cars, and there was a fair amount of traffic, so we took the option of using the portion of the sidewalk on the west side of the street that was marked as a bike lane.
As we came to the end of the Pineda we found a sign listing all the hotels and restaurants in Castelldefels, a board we studied carefully. We made mental notes of the locations of 2-star and 3-star establishments nearby then headed to the closest 3-star establishment, the Hesperia Castelldefels. It looked OK, but was across the street from the beach and had no ocean views. We opted to continue our search to the southwest and soon came to the Hotel Bel Air, sitting on the edge of the beach with balconies featuring beach views on 3 sides. Sarah decided to inquire about a room for the three nights before our reservation in Barcelona proper. She came out a few minutes later with the bad news: the place was booked for that night, but would have a room for the following two nights. They had called their sister hotel, the 4-star Playafels down the street, and the story was the same. So we returned to the Hesperia to inquire about a room. At the Hesperia we could get a room for the next two nights, but not the third. We decided to take the first two nights at the Hesperia and to try to get a reservation at the Bel Air for the third. After checking in, and storing the bikes in a basement storage room, we went upstairs to clean up before going back to the Bel Air.
Sarah enjoyed the small, in-room air conditioner and it was hard to pry her out of the room after we had freshened up. We walked to the Bel Air where we made a reservation for our third night in Castelldefels. That meant we would be in the Barcelona area for five nights and stay in three different hotels. Blech! From the Bel Air we headed to the beach where we had a nice walk along the water's edge, getting into the 'Med' up to our knees but keeping our eyes open as there were jellyfish scattering the beach. After about a kilometer of walking we slipped up to a beachside bar where we enjoyed a beer, on tap, while soaking in the sun and breathing the salty air.
Sarah had been intrigued by a restaurant, Patricios, across the street from the hotel so we headed there for dinner. No signs of life to be found and a sandwich board in the parking lot said that the owner was taking a personal day off. This led us to search elsewhere for dinner. We ended up at a touristy place in a mall like area just off the beach. At least they told us that the paella we ordered would take 40 minutes, an indication that the food was not all pre-prepared. The food was OK, the house wine a bit above average, and it was great to be at the end of the ride. We discussed what we might have done differently, but had no major regrets about what we had done over the past 10 days.