Train tickets purchased… rental bikes ordered and paid for… AirBnB booked… bag packed (yup, one small trolly dolly for ten days), passport in hand – and I’m ready for the off!
For one reason or another, March was a pretty weird, stressful, and unusual month (take your pick of those words, they all fit the situation). I’m not going to go into that here as it’s not the topic I want to share. What I do want to talk about is the excitement of going on a new adventure and to a new destination, to me never explored before.
Two trains, no planes, and one automobile
Leaving the office in Leicester Square to get to St. Pancras International launched the start of our train journey from the UK to Spain, and before I knew it, I was with Tricia, Alison and Ruth on the Eurostar whizzing through the countryside on our way to Paris. The train is such an amazing way to travel, so much to see, people to watch, imaginary stories to make up about their lives and where they are going, to entertain us on our way. With a gin and tonic in hand, and much chatter, the time passed quickly. Before we know it we were enjoying another tipple in a bar in France!
After a welcome sleep at our hotel, we split into two; Ruth and me opting for a taxi to get across Paris, Alison and Tricia choosing to walk to the Gare du Lyon, before regrouping for breakfast and stage two of our journey from Paris to Girona. I hadn’t realised that France had implemented a ban on short haul flights, encouraging travellers out of the sky and onto the SNCF – perhaps that’s why it was full to the brim?
As I write, me and Tricia are watching the virtual realtime map as we approach the French / Spanish border. It’s not only been lovely to catch up and chat, but also brilliant to see the countryside change as we’ve gone through Nimes, Montpellier, and now the mountains are emerging on the horizon.
This trip will be different to others, as we’ve organised it ourselves – well, in reality Alison has done most of the heavy lifting, suggesting the idea of going to Girona in the first place, finding the AirBnB, and much more. So, what’s different about this trip? The first four days we’ll be having two wheeled adventures on our road bikes, followed by a further four days off road on gravel. With routes sourced through friends and fellow adventurers, we have approximately 40 to choose from. I love this kind of adventure, when there’s a bit of a plan and structure in place, but in reality, the days evolve as does the exploring of new territory.
I’ve heard that Girona has many coffee bars… and I love fresh coffee but it doesn’t seem to like me… but that’s not going to stop me sampling some deliciousness. Let’s hope the caffeine headaches don’t last for too long!
The Stats – My distance on two wheels
- 598km in total, road and gravel
- 7,750 metres climbed, road and gravel
Those numbers may not be huge but they tell a story of travel, adventure, giggles and much fun!
Favourite days in the saddle
In truth I’d say all of them, but if I had to pick two…
Our ride to the coast where we saw some of the Volta a Catalunya. The scenery is just incredible, the variety endless over the rolling hills and down to the sea. Great company and chat too! Pushing our timing a little having been stopped by the rolling road closures for the race, we eventually made it back to base before sundown.
This ride was titled ‘So much fun’. True to its name, the route was properly out in the wilds. It was like being a kid again, flying through the trees, off the beaten track, over sand, rocks, tree roots, little bumps, big downhills, a few 20% sections up to navigate, this route had it all! Me and Maria added a few extra KMs going around Banyoles lake, then caught up with Alison and Ruth for the wooded section flying up and down some paths and tracks in the trees.
I’d happily go back and do both of these rides again, and many more for that matter.
Tasty treats to fuel the fire
Hands down, the three things that pop into my head are the seafood pizza at the coast. Totally by chance we found a restaurant overlooking the sea, quite a wonderful location. And all this before we had the surprise of watching the pros in the Volta a Catalunya.
Second were the cakes at La Fabrica. Nestled in the cobbled streets of old Girona this place is utterly amazing, the cakes are out of this world, and the food is super tasty – perhaps made even more delicious after a five hour ride in the rain when you’ve skipped lunch, and need to replenish the stocks before you face-plant on the pavement. In all seriousness, I highly recommend this café, it tickles and pleasures to all the senses.
Third were the prawns me and Alison ate on our last gravel day. Me and Helen found this restaurant in the middle of nowhere the day before, I’d eaten a packet of crisps and a chocolate croissant (which was utterly divine) and drank a coke, before we raced the clock back to Girona to get Helen’s bike back to the shop for 5pm – but that’s another story of all together, skipping lunch whilst riding is not wise but does cause hilarity and much resourcefulness. Thankfully, with a minute on our side, our mission was complete and we finished with a fabulous Aperol Aperitz in the Placa de la Independencia, taking in the sunshine – happy days!
It feels like I’ve been away from home for a long time. In fact, ten days is a long time. We’ve made the most of every minute, hunted out new adventures, taken on new challenges, and discovered new ground – whilst also learning new things about each other, be that bike skills, family history, dance moves, and a host of other quirks to entertain and keep us smiling.
Whether on road or gravel, it has been incredible to cycle through the rolling Girona hills and see the snow-capped Pyrenean mountains in the background… they are in complete contrast to the red poppies and other fauna flowers dancing in the wind and spring blossom popping out on the trees.
This week has thrown everything at us… wind, drizzle, biblical rain, and finally some very welcome sunshine!! The geography here is vast and makes me realise – again – how on top of each other we are in the UK. Of course, most capital cities like London and Paris are busy. In contrast, it’s been great to have ten days away, with the majority spent outside in nature, in fresh air, in the elements, with friends who share a love of the great outdoors making memories to treasure.
Now on our train journey home, we are rolling out of Girona on the TGV towards Perpignan… to the left I can see the snow-capped mountains of Andorra. Funny to think that whilst we’ve been cycling, only a matter of a few kilometres away people are skiing and enjoying the mountains in a completely different way. It seems they spark joy all times of the year for many people – I know they do for me.
A big THANK YOU for all the giggles you gorgeous group of gravel girls ❤️
Alison (Dexy), Ruth (Root), Claire (Lady M), Maria (Magic Doctor), Tricia (Wordle Queen), Helen (Sharpie), Karen (Kamikazi)!
Until next time…