Apologies for the radio silence...
Over the past six months, there hasn't been much activity on leisurecyclist.com. Not because I have fallen out of love with cycling, travelling or getting out and about, it's just that the past few months have been really busy with other writing projects, wedding planning and not having the time to ride at weekends.
My weekend cycling activities have also been limited to rides around the local area due to the months and months of Northern Rail strikes on Saturdays. I even considered buying a used car as the lack of trains was getting me down!
The main reason for the relatively few updates on the site is that since the start of the 2018/19 football season, I have been writing a regular programme article for my local football team and League One side - Rochdale A.F.C. I am their 'New Found Fan' and most of my spare time has been used for football-related research and writing.
Football is a subject that has always been close to me and the article allows me to write about all manner of football quirks and local history as a first-time season ticket holder. More importantly, I have learnt about how to turn copy around for tight deadlines, proof-reading final versions of articles for print and seeking out topical sporting stories to feature.
In November 2018, I married my lovely fiancée Jilly at Rochdale's historic Town Hall. In order to prepare for the day, most autumn weekends and evenings were spent visiting an endless stream of retail parks to buy wedding related items instead of going out and about on my bike!
Evenings at home and commutes on the train consisted of fine-tuning budget spreadsheets, planning the honeymoon to Japan and China as well as sorting out music playlists.
All of the hard work was worth it though as the 'wedding fortnight' was the most exciting and complete time of my life so far.
But now I am back.
The train strike is over, wedding plans have concluded and I have just returned from my first cycling/football weekender of the year in Valencia.
The below is just a short summary of my weekend away to Spain in January 2019. I still haven't found the time to make a return to the detailed trip reports of old. However something is better than nothing especially as I have just renewed my annual Wix.com subscription!
Exploring the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia...
Valencia is somewhere that I have always wanted to visit. I actually bought a flight in the past to the city, but didn't go because of other commitments.
The purpose of the trip was to visit the City of Arts and Sciences designed by the internationally famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
Ever since becoming seriously interested in architecture and design, his works have featured heavily on my travels. I have seen some of his most famous buildings such as the Lyon St-Exupery TGV station in France, the Tenerife Opera House and Liege-Guillemins Station in Belgium. Calatrava's only UK project is the Trinity Bridge (Lowry Bridge) that crosses the River Irwell and connects Manchester with neighbouring Salford.
I flew with Ryanair and found a cheap £30 return flight going out to Valencia and back from Madrid. I also pre-booked a high speed AVE train ticket to reach the Spanish capital with a full day to explore the city.
The La Liga fixtures also allowed me to watch a match at the brand new Wanda Metropolitano stadium to see Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid side play Levante in an early kick-off. I also went on a stadium tour of the impressive and historic Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, the home of Real Madrid.
Football aside, I loved cycling around Valencia under bright blue skies and in a mild January sun. I'd almost forgotten how great it is to ride around a different city and discover an unfamiliar place by bike. My rental bike was of good quality and rented from Doyoubike for just 10 euros located not far from the main train station.
I was surprised by how good Valencia is to cycle around. Almost pan-flat and centred around the dried-up riverbed of the River Turia, the cycle network in the city is one of the most extensive in Spain.
However, bike users seemed to be outnumbered by the arrival of Xiaomi electric scooters from China. Local residents use the scooters to whizz up the city streets and smooth cycle paths.
After cycling around the ultra-modern landscape of the City of Arts and Sciences, I felt like the future had arrived.
Calatrava’s architectural playground is without doubt one of the most impressive places that I have ever been to. You can see why from the photos below...