In Figueres: day ride to the NW - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

December 5, 2018

In Figueres: day ride to the NW

After all the splendor, drama and fireworks of the last four days, today’s loop from Figueres is just a ride.  Very pretty countryside, pleasant quiet roads, excellent cycling.  Not a candidate for best or most beautiful or most interesting day of the tour.  Just a fine ride. A good thing, because if the intensity keeps amping up like it has been I’m not sure my old heart will survive the year.

So I’ll take a bit of a blog break here, and just drop some photos in.  There is a bit of drama to the day we can talk about though: can we avoid wandering off onto an atrociously bad road for an entire ride?  Will we make it back to town to see Figueres’s best known attraction, the Salvador Dali Museum before it closes?  Will we see anything truly exceptional or new today, or will this really be just another ride, one we might easily forget?  Will our increasingly creaky and grindy bikes see us through another day?  

Answers to these vexing questions will follow, but first let’s look at the photos.  As long as the weather is good enough to break the camera out (and today’s weather, once again, is beautiful), there’s always at least something worth taking a shot at.

A few miles out of town, we’re on a great, quiet road with the snow-capped Pyrenees in the distance. At this point I get visions of seeing them steadily grow larger as we ride toward them, but they soon disappear behind the foothills.
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In Catalonia
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A near miss. This tree was alive and singing, with a chorus of about twenty magpies gathered on its branches. They quickly scattered as I reached for the camera.
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We wondered what this red orchard was - some sort of fruit tree, I assume - but we never came close enough to any like this to be sure.
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Andrea BrownThese wouldn't be blueberries, would they? Blueberry bushes turn red in the fall. I can't really tell how tall these are.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownIt could be. The color is right on, alright. I was thinking they looked like trees, but maybe not.
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1 week ago
The mountains are still visible for another mile or so. I think that’s the Spanish face of Canigu on the right.
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We had discussions about what this odd, thatch roofed structure is. Someone’s home? An outbuilding? A museum?
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Sant Llorenc de la Muga was the most unexpected find of the ride. We spent a half hour or more slowly wandering its streets, finding one delight after another. This is the XIII century Lower Portal, one of the three gates to the formerly walled town. The others look very similar.
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The mill race, built in the 1700’s to power the flour mill on the other side of town.
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In Sant Llorenc de la Muga
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A nice photo, but another near miss. The truly great shot was of the puppy and a finely dressed boy it ran up to greet and immediately flopped on his back for a belly rub. By the time I pulled the camera out, the moment was gone.
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Some wheels
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This village reminds me of Ceret in a way. Very photogenic, but there’s always some dang tree in the way.
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Jen GrumbyYou should go back with a chainsaw (an item worth it's weight in gold on a bike tour!!)

Goll-darned trees!
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6 days ago
Planter box and grill
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Our plane tree dose for the day
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Best mill wheel of the tour
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OK, that’s enough. Sant Llorenc is a great village, but we can’t spend the whole day here. Let’s move on.
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At Albanya the good road ends so we turn back the way we came. There’s not too much to see in Albanya, but there is this fine XI century gate, the old entrance to town that was replaced by the modern road from Figueres.
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Back in Sant Llorenc again. It’s been chilly and a bit damp for the last several miles - there is still a bit of the morning’s fog that hasn’t burned off yet - but it’s sunny and warm enough that we stop here to eat lunch and admire the old bridge across the Muga.
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Amazingly enough, we missed this bridge and the small stone chapel at the far end on our first pass through town. It’s visible from the road, but I was looking upstream when we crossed the river a few yards away.
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After Leaving Sant Llorenc we leave the Muga and tackle the largest climb of the day. Not much of a climb, but it does get us above 1000’ and into a different environment. We’re at the summit here, and I assume the hay bales are the summit marker.
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Bruce LellmanYes, hay bales always mark summits, especially round hay bales.
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1 week ago
Jen GrumbyTo Bruce LellmanTrue! Just remember that rectangular and trapezoidal hay bales are used for entirely different purposes. Don't let them fool you into thinking that you've reached the top of a hill!
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6 days ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyType your comment here
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5 days ago
Panta de Boadella, a large reservoir on the Muga in the hills above Sant Llorenc
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It’s greener here at the top, and a bit further into the foothills. Heather adds some very pretty color to the scene.
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I think this is the same variety of heather as above, but I’m not sure. I don’t know much about heather actually. Before our spectacular ride along the corniche east of Cassis last month, I’m not sure I even knew how to recognize heather.
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Also heather, but of a different variety? You tell me.
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Andrea BrownI think this is rosemary.
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1 week ago
Bill ShaneyfeltTo Andrea BrownBeat me to it! Nice to have someone else doing nature IDs!
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1 week ago
Andrea BrownTo Bill ShaneyfeltHi Bill! I am a rank amateur compared to you.
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1 week ago
Bill ShaneyfeltTo Andrea BrownI am definitely an amateur, but probably not even ranked...
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonThanks, team! I love knowing this one now. The blossoms almost look like miniature irises.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltI assume you were a bit late on the draw because you were sleeping it off after Chris put you to the test.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonThanks again, Andrea. Now that I know what to look for, I’m seeing rosemary everywhere here. I’m surprised at how woody it is, almost like juniper.
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5 days ago
Also a heather? I wouldn’t have thought so. It reminds me of salal, but I was surprised to discover that salal is a member of the heather family also.
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Andrea BrownDefinitely in the Ericaceae family.
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1 week ago
Definitely not heather, but rather our 🎵 Cool desert plant of the day 🎵. Jeff, STOP THAT! Once was sort of funny, but twice is annoying. We’re here to see Spain, and we’ve only got two weeks.
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Bill ShaneyfeltI think I ID'd that North American species just a few days back on "The not so long way down." Variegated century plant, probably imported by Portuguese explorers in the 18th century.

https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/55417/#b
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1 week ago
Bill ShaneyfeltTo Bill ShaneyfeltInteresting how some things get spread around and occasionally become so common for so long, they seem to be natives. Meanwhile other things become extremely aggressive invasives.
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1 week ago
Bill ShaneyfeltTo Bill ShaneyfeltInteresting how some things get spread around and occasionally become so common for so long, they seem to be natives. Meanwhile other things become extremely aggressive invasives.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltYup. Like that fuel tank flounder we saw a few days ago. Pretty soon, they’ll be in the sewers of New York.
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1 week ago
Chris PountneyVery happy to see the cool desert plant feature spread, keep it up!
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonThanks, Chris. Hopefully you don’t think I’m trolling you. It’s Jeff’s fault, really. I think he’s toying with me until I make another donation to the website.
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1 week ago
Dropping down from Hay Bale Pass, we head for home. The next twenty miles are predominantly downhill. These are the prettiest, most enjoyable miles of the day. The fact that it is mostly downhill has nothing to do with it.
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I’ve seen hay rolls left to sprout in the fields, but never in a large array like this.
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Bruce LellmanObviously not summit hay.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanHay! Nice to see you’re paying attention. Gold star!
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1 week ago
A narrow escape here. This is the end of a shortcut I had mapped into the ride. It looks innocent at the front end, but Rachael talked me down from the madness of testing any unpaved roads today. Thanks, pard!
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Castel de Mont-Roig above; birches or aspen below.
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Enough. It’s getting on toward dusk, and we’re still ten miles out. Just ride.
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So the answers to the burning questions of the day?  

No, we didn’t make it back in time to visit the Dalí museum.  That possibility fell off the agenda when we dallied so long in Sant Llorenc and looking at the heather.

Yes, we avoided terrible roads for an entire day, thanks to Rachael’s adamant insistence.  At one point we stopped at a tempting path and I said I was going down it.  No!  Yes.  No!!  Yes.  NO!!!  Yes, but at this point I let on that I was just tweaking her and needed to hide behind a tree for a moment.

Yes, we found something exceptional and memorable: Sant Llorenc de la Muga.  Worth a journey.  And better to have come upon it unaware and surprised.

Yes, the bikes made it through another day.  They both need a trip to the shop, but we’ve been holding off for Girona so we can drop them off while we take the train in to visit Barcelona.  My gears are getting quite bad though, so since we’re too late for the museum anyway we stopped in at both bike shops as soon as we hit town, hoping for a quick servicing or an appointment for tomorrow.  Neither is possible, at either shop - they’re both full up hurrying to complete their work before the four day holiday weekend that begins tomorrow.

We never think to research the holiday schedules, so we’re surprised by the news.  Tomorrow is Constitution Day, and Saturday is Immaculate Conception Day.  So, in all likelihood we won’t visit the Dalí Museum tomorrow either.  We’ll have to be content with a walk around the grounds.

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Ride stats today: 46 miles, 3,300’

Today's ride: 46 miles (74 km)
Total: 3,175 miles (5,110 km)

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Gregory GarceauDali--weird, wild, wonderful, provocative. I'd be tempted to stay an extra day for that museum. And I'm not generally much of a museum guy.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory GarceauI agree, although it was great just biking by and looking at the statuary outside and the museum itself. His arrwork is so intense that a little goes a long way. It would be great to be here longer and just dip in for a bit multiple times.
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1 week ago