Ever dreamed of a cycling trip in a breath-taking area of the world? Cycle Accident Claims Solicitor Jan Canter did just that and cannot recommend the north-eastern city of Girona, Spain enough. Read his journal-like article below to discover his unique experience.
Last month I finally took the plunge.
I enjoyed a bespoke road cycling weekend, staying in Girona on the edge of the Pyrenees.
The opportunity presented itself bearing in mind my wife is treating herself this month to a girly few days away in Ibiza to celebrate her 50th with her mates. How could she therefore complain about me having my own quality time? Timing is everything, as they say.
Organised through Luke (who was excellent by the way) at Love Velo, a bespoke cycling travel company, the itinerary was made easy. I took a jet flight from Liverpool John Lennon to Barcelona, then a fast train (45 minutes) over to Girona, picked up the made-to-measure carbon Cannondale full Ultegra hire road bike and I was off to the hotel. After a quick unpack and change, I was ready for the cycle adventure to really begin.
Girona itself is a lovely old mediaeval Catalonian town. I went for the cycling, but it was a major bonus to stay somewhere so pretty and picturesque. It is not too swamped with tourists either... a pleasant change from Barcelona, which I do love but has this one drawback for me.
The Bike Shop: Bike Breaks Girona Cycle Centre
This spot is more than just a bike shop, but rather a social cycle hub community. It is owned by the gregarious and extremely knowledgeable Dave who is actually English and a top road cyclist himself. The space buzzes with fellow cyclists and people dropping in for a chat. With its wall mounted flat screens that resembled a Sky Sports studio (I half expected to see Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville), it was possible to plot bespoke rides all around Girona and well beyond. And with the assistance of a very helpful Spanish assistant, I did just that.
I had a rough route in my head and followed it without any real difficulty. Sign posting in this part of the world is very good, which was just as well as I am not a techy Garmin type and those who know me also know my self-navigation skills aren’t exactly excellent. Heading north out of a Girona, the roads suddenly become very quiet indeed. Even wide roads are deserted, which is weird but wonderful, bearing in mind what we are used to in our own heavily-crowded island.
What’s more, the road surfaces are lovely and smooth with potholes being a rare sighting. When you add in the stunning cocktail green and mountainous scenery and sunny skies, does life really get any better?
Well, maybe it does as I found out on days 2 and 3.
The following day...
I took a group ride with the guys from the shop and other riders who turned up for the twice weekly free rides the shop organises. This time, it was 50 miles and a few thousand feet more climbing, broken up with a coffee stop at a remote cafe in the hills. The group of about 30 were from a good spread of nationalities including Australian, USA, South America along with the usual mix of French, Spanish and Brit’s who still seemed to make up the majority.
The final day...
On the final day, based on the local Shop cyclist Josemis’s own recommendation, I headed off south on my own for a 60 mile circular route. He said you just had to find this little old village called Monells. His eyes lit up when he mentioned it, saying it’s difficult to describe but to just experience it for yourself.
I realised when I got near that its beauty is probably preserved more by the secrecy of the place. There are no sign posts to it, apart from one small one which is hidden behind a tree. Then you see a little walled village on a hill top in the distance, with a church’s spire just appearing out of nowhere. As you meander down between the old little roads into the centre, you suddenly appear in a square which is completely enclosed by old houses, cottages and 2 cafes opposite each other. All the tables outside were completely taken up with cyclists sipping their cafe blanco.
Picture postcard bliss. I sit with 2 Spanish cyclists and talk the international language of road cyclists. They kindly invite me off with them to take the scenic route back to Girona through the valley. Later on that evening, I take the train back to Barca and I’m back in bed in Liverpool by midnight.
Other points of interest…
- This was my first experience cycling on a bike with disc breaks and I was very impressed. It made the winding descents much more comfortable.
- Those interested in a similar cycling trip have the choice of any type of terrain. If you aren’t a mountain goat, there are plenty of flat bits around Girona as well as more intense mountainous climbs… hence the reason it remains a training camp centre for the pros. I deliberately chose fairly gentle routes with a couple of decent climbs as I did not want 3 days of suffering.
- Having taken the trip solo but riding with others the majority of the time, my experience demonstrated just how social the cycling sport is, so don’t be put off by that.
- The train network in Spain is excellent but be prepared for the security screening of all baggage and the delays due to this. I nearly missed my train.
- Catalonia nationalism is very strong with Catalonian flags and yellow ribbons everywhere. Don’t make the mistake of referring to the locals as Spanish!
Traditional Catalan Fortress Town.
Jan's pit-stop in the beautiful town of Monells.
Monnells is popular amongst the cycling community.