Spain: Cycling around Catalunya
January 1, 1970
by Karolina Wypychowska
What most of the people see in their minds when we think about vacation in Spain is probably a quite simple image – sun, beach, palm trees, parties, shopping on La Rambla and visiting La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Those who have already been to this country during the summer will most likely confirm that this vision is rather accurate. But are those the only attractions waiting for us there? Absolutely not! Spain is a very diverse country, depending to which region we will go. Not all the places are hot in the summer and there is way more to be seen than only the landscape of sandy beaches full of tourists.
Vacations in Barcelona might be a nightmare for people who value their personal space and the comfort of not worrying if all that we carry in our backpack/bag will stay on its place. Visiting beautiful monuments such as La Sagrada Familia or walking in the gothic old town and La Rambla (or rather trying to get through the crowds) and laying on the beach are not activities suitable for everyone. Luckily, Catalunya is a region which has a lot more to offer. Getting away from Barcelona is very easy and might be a pleasant change for people tired of the city. Sports and adventure enthusiasts for sure will come back happy from the vacations if they organize their time in the right way.
From the variety of activities I chose bike trips. I spent the whole summer in Barcelona so together with my friend Kornelia we had a lot of time to organize a few two-days bike adventures. In Catalunya there is a chain of bike paths called Via Verde (Green Way). It leads to different areas outside of Barcelona. Quite often it connects with the local roads of small traffic. Sometimes it happens that to get to the right path you have to take another road – it happened to us to ride a busy double-lane road before we got to Via Verde, or on a narrow road leading along the cliffs of the beautiful coast of Costa Brava.
Girona – Sant Feliu de Guixol – Blanes
Our adventures with the bike trips around Catalunya started from taking the train to Girona. Using the Catalunyan Railways, taking the bike is off charge – that makes it all a lot better! After the morning seightseeing of the town we set off. Today after experiencing four different bike paths I have to admit that the first day of all that we have done was the easiest one. It lead us mostly through fields, meadows, sometimes forests. We passed mainly small villages and thanks to that we could get a rest of the city. The same day we got to the coast to the town of Sant Feliu de Guixol where the marked Via Verde ends up. Since the sun was about to set we decided to spend our first night there outside “in the wild way”. Well maybe the area was not really wild but we managed to find a piece of a forest. We stayed there until the morning convinced that the summer night in Spain should be always extremely warm. Unfortunately there was no way to get a good sleep because our expectations for the temperature of the night in this hot southern country were way too high. We got quite cold that remarkable night. In the early morning we waited for the first rays of the sun and then we set off again. That was where the real “fun” was about to begin. Just after getting out of the town we started to pedal on the road located on the cliff with amazing views. After a few steep turns, already breathless and a bit worried if the rest of the way is going to be like that, we kept on pedaling looking forward to what the next turn will bring. Our excitement was quickly passing when we realized that after the next turn there is only another hill which we had to reach. Luckily the surrounding beauty was rewarding our extreme effort. Sant Feliu de Guixol is a town located about 100 km from Barcelona but it is definitely worth going to this area. Such wonderful beaches and cliffs cannot be seen in Barcelona. Even if you are not bike enthusiasts there are other means of transport that may take you there (unfortunately the trains don’t go there). We reached another picturesque town of Tossa del Mar, where we decided to take a rest. Another naive idea was to take a nap on the beach in the full sun (it’s impossible just like sleeping outside in shorts, without any cover). Tired of the heat we got on the bikes to get to Blanes from where we took a train back to Barcelona. Our first trip was such an effort that I doubted to go on the next one. But only after a few days we forgot about the pain of going uphill in the midday heat and on the next weekend we started another trip.
Ripoll – Olot – Girona
This time we took a train to the town of Ripoll – to the north of Barcelona towards The Pyrenees Mountains. This is where a small problem with finding the right way appeared. After a bit of roving in the area we got to the Green Way which we were going to follow. Actually we were not 100% sure of the way but we decided just to go on. We were lucky to choose the right road. Just in the beginning of this trip we started to mention the hilly cliffs of the last one. The way from Ripoll to Olot started with a giant mountain (I magnify it on purpose since my only bike trip experience was the one from the previous weekend). Going uphill, breathless in the summer heat we stopped for a break and a nap in the shade. At that point we had no idea that there was only about one kilometer left to get to “the summit”. After reaching it there was a reward of 20 km going downhill to the town of Olot. With the dangerous speed, holding the breaks we were riding a road of luckily small traffic. We could even think it got boring not having to pedal at all on a bike trip. However, after going uphill earlier that day, we just wanted to relax and enjoy the ride. The second night “in the wild” we spent close to our bike path just by a small forest. This time we were better prepared – I took a slipping bag which we used to cover ourselves at night – it was a lot better! In the morning we set off to reach the town of Girona where the previous trip started. This part of Via Verde was very easy, without any bigger hills. We got to Girona relaxed and calm. We took a train to Barcelona and in our minds we already had other ideas for the future bike trips to the places waiting for our discovery.
Of course there is much more bike paths in Catalunya then only these two. Together with Kornelia we had two more trips and on the last one (after my bike got stolen) Kornelia went alone.
If you don’t need a big luggage and luxury, traveling around Catalunya especially by bike might be very cheap. Sleeping in the nature, shopping in a supermarket and using the public transport where it’s needed and in other cases going by bike was a great adventure for us. Even more if we think that before going on a trip we had no idea how the way will look like and what will be waiting for us there.