I want to ‘Go with Oh’ to Barcelona

One of the things I love most about cycling is the way it lets you experience a place in a way that is so completely different to any other form of transport. On the back of a bike, with the wind in your hair and the sun in your face, you get to see things you might normally miss in a car or on a bus. Everything feels more real and the adrenalin buzz, if you're fighting for road space with other vehicles, makes you feel more alive.

While this blog largely details my exploits crossing London by bike, in recent years I have had the good fortune to cycle in Australia, China, East Sussex and New York. It is the cycle trips that I remember most from my travels, probably because there's no better way to experience a new place firsthand than by pedalling the streets and seeing where you might end up.

One place I'd love to see by bike is Barcelona. I'd either hire a bike from a company for the duration of my stay or try the city's bicing scheme (along the lines of London's 'Boris bikes'). And then I'd hit the road to see landmarks associated with five of Barcelona's most famous residents:

1. The architect Antonio Gaudi's Casa Milà (La Pedrera), Casa Batlló, Crypt of the Church of Colònia Güell and his unfinished masterpiece Sagrada Familia. And, provided I could manage the hill, I'd love to see Parc Guell.

2. The architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner's two most famous designs, Hospital de Sant Pau and Palau de la Música Catalana, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

3. Museu Picasso, the museum housing the works of artist Pablo Picasso. I believe that the five adjoining medieval buildings that comprise the museum are worth a look for the architecture alone.

4. The Dali Museum, which celebrates the work of artist Salvador Dali. It's based in the coastal town of Figueres, Dali's birthplace, so I might have to catch the train there first, then cycle around, but I think my effort would be rewarded.

5. The Miró Museum, which celebrates the work of artist Joan Miró. This is located in the Parc de Montjuïc area, which would be also be fun to explore by bike.

Just writing about this stuff makes me want to pack my suitcase and fly out to Spain! Have you visited Barcelona before or gone cycling there? What attractions would you recommend?

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BadgeThis post is my entry in a blogger competition being run by www.GowithOh.com to win a month's accommodation in four cities across Europe. To find out more visit the competition page. Or to win one of four fantastic prizes, like the company's Facebook competition page.

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A 25 mile ride through the East Sussex countryside

A couple of weeks ago Mr London Cycling Diary and myself went to East Sussex for a week's rest and recreation. The rest element largely comprised reading books and going to the pub; the recreation element was a little more adventurous — we went on two long cycle rides.

In this post I'll write about our first cycle ride; I'll write about the second cycle ride in a separate post at a later date.

Both cycle rides were based on East Sussex County Council's Rye & Romney Marsh Circular Route Guide [download PDF] , a leaflet which we picked up by chance at the Tourist Information Centre in Rye.

On our first cycle — on November 1 — we opted for the shorter of the two rides. Beginning and ending in Camber Sands, where we were staying, the route took in Rye, Appledore and Lydd via Walland Marsh. The terrain was flat, the traffic pretty much non-existent and the weather pleasant, which made for comfortable cycling.

But the first long stretch — six miles between Rye and Appledore — was tough work, mainly because (1) we didn't know if we were going in the right direction (the signage in this part of the world does, occasionally, leave a lot to be desired); (2) it was a relatively long, straight A-road with little variation in scenery — in other words, it was pretty boring, and (3) typically, the only time we met traffic was when we hit the succession of S-bends, a couple of miles apart, that form this section of the route, which felt slightly dangerous, particularly if traffic was coming both ways.

Cycle-1-canal

But once we reached the town, found the turn off for Regional Cycle Route 11, trundled across the Royal Miltary Canal (above) and headed into the quiet lanes it was worth the effort.

Cycle-1-turkey-farm

We knew we were out in the sticks when we came across a turkey farm (above) — yes, that's likely to be your Christmas dinner running around. The birds all looked lovely and healthy, with free reign of a large field, and judging by the sound of them they were pretty happy too — or maybe they were just excited to see our bikes.

Cycle-1-bikes-and-church

ThomasBeckettChurch

A little further on we came across the 15th century church of St Thomas Becket (above), which is sometimes known as "the isolated church".

Cycle-1-church-and-sheep

It's actually slap bang in the middle of a sheep paddock. In fact, while we were parked up we managed to watch a farmer on a quad bike round up a flock of sheep with the help of a sheep dog. It was like having a front row seat to the World Sheep Dog Trials, but minus the annoying commentary.

Cycle-1-turf-farm

A little further on and we came upon possibly the greenest and lushest fields I've ever seen. They stretched into the distance and looked like the top of a giant billiard table. It was only later that we discovered it was Britain's largest (garden) turf farm.

Cycle-1-woolpackinn

After a somewhat hairy crossing of the A259 and a little bit of confusion about which direction to take, we came upon the Woolpack Inn, where we stopped for a quick drink — a pint of soda and lime for me, something more "heavy" for Mr London Cycling Diary — and a packet of crisps. Yes, we know how to refuel properly after about 17 miles of exercise… not.

Cycle-1-lanes

We then cycled through miles of lovely narrow lanes, some of which were lined with tall hedges, as we criss-crossed the flatlands of Romney Marsh.

Cycle-1-sign

While we followed the signage for National Cycle Route 2, it was Lydd's picturesque church tower, sitting on the horizon, which acted as a landmark guiding us towards home.

Cycle-1-route2

Once through the township of Lydd, we cycled along a traffic-free shared pedestrian cycle path that covers the five or so miles to the coast. Admittedly this was tough work: we were both tired after almost two hours of solid cycling and limited carbohydrate intake. The strong sea breeze and exposed nature of the track didn't help.

Cycle-1-seawall

But once we hit the coast a mile or so out of Camber Sands, how could we not feel joyful cycling along the top of the sea wall. It was wonderful!

It was even more wonderful when we stopped at a cafe at the end of our route for a feed of cheese toasties, chips and ginger beer!

Total distance: 25.93miles (41.72km) | Ride time: 2hr, 13min and 56sec | Average speed: 11.6mph | Top speed: 18.2mph