Barcelona On A Bicycle

Barcelona, the Catalan capital, is rich in historic sites and classic tourist activities, which can be better explored on a bicycle
Rich in historic sites, Barcelona is an absolute treat for cycling enthusiasts. Credit Shutterstock
Rich in historic sites, Barcelona is an absolute treat for cycling enthusiasts. Credit Shutterstock

"There are two Barcelonas," said Alberto, a friend, Barcelonas,&rdquo said Alberto, a friend, as we cycled on the streets of Barcelona, &ldquoone on the east side of the Diagonal and one on its west.&rdquo We were biking on the Avinguda Diagonal, which is Barcelona&rsquos broadest and arguably the most important street. Avinguda Diagonal cuts the city into two halves, diagonally, hence the name. The construction of the street started in 1859, till it came into its current form in the 1970s. I was intrigued by Alberto&rsquos comment on two Barcelonas, so I asked him to elaborate.

&ldquoThe least poverty-affected areas where the wealthier bunch of people dwell are concentrated in the northwest of Barcelona, the upper half of the Diagonal. A person living in the northwest has, on an average, eight more years of life expectancy than someone living on the other side of the Diagonal.&rdquo

Surprised, I looked around. To my untrained eye, I saw signs of only one big metropolitan&mdashcrowds of people moving in tandem with a sense of urgency. Poverty was nowhere to be seen, but then I was cruising on the finest streets of the city. &ldquoStop&rdquo a voice from a random stranger forced me to brake. Lost in thoughts, I had mistakenly cycled onto the pedestrian path missing the traffic light that had turned amber a few seconds back.

Daniele, our biking tour guide, came to my rescue. &ldquoThey are still defining biking routes in the city, and there is always confusion,&rdquo she said.

I had arrived in Barcelona a few days ago. A walker by choice, I had planned to explore the city on foot. It&rsquos a big city, I was told, and cycling would be the better way to move around it. So, I hopped on a bike tour with Daniele, who guided Alberto, me, and a bunch of friends around the city.

Barcelona, the Catalan capital, is rich in historic sites and classic tourist activities. There&rsquos no better place to start than studying the architecture of Gaudi, captured in buildings, parks and cathedrals that punctuate the city. Daniele first took us to Passeig de Gr&agravecia, where we stopped at Casa Milà. &ldquoGaudi was always inspired by nature,&rdquo Daniele said, &ldquoand here you can see the curves on the building inspired by the sea.&rdquo

The balconies carried an unconventional rough-hewn appearance marked in wrought iron, apparently inspired by the rough waves of the sea. We biked along to perhaps the most famous of Gaudi&rsquos masterpieces&ndashcathedral Sagrada Fam&iacutelia. Sagrada Fam&iacutelia is always under construction, or so it seemed to me. Though I had been to this cathedral before, it was worth a visit again to see the latest progress.

&ldquoIt will finally finish in another dozen or so years,&rdquo said Daniele with a touch of wistfulness. We biked across the Arc de Triomf, constructed in 1888 when Barcelona hosted the Universal Exhibition and built it as a gateway to the fair. The monument was inspired by its counterpart in Paris and has become one of the city&rsquos iconic landmarks.

Next on our stop was the Olympic Village, built for the athletes who participated in the 1992 Olympic Games. To build it, a significant stretch of the seafront was recovered and converted into an artificial beach and a five km-long promenade.

As we continued along the promenade, I noticed how active the city dwellers were. In front of them, my cycling seemed less of a sport, and I chastised myself for taking it so easy. However, we were reaching the end of the tour, and I searched for a beachside restaurant to eat at.

As we parked our bikes and walked in the cool evening breeze, I was reminded again of what Alberto had told me at the tour&rsquos beginning. Barcelona is not one city but two, dissected by the Diagonal and each burdened by its realities. I had remained stuck to the more affluent part of the city, carefully avoiding its poorer half. Could I then claim that I have genuinely visited Barcelona

I resolved to come back again, this time to study the other half of the city. 

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