Cycling the Catalan Way

It’s 9/11, the day Catalans in Spain celebrate their National Day, and it happens to be Sunday. Yellow and red striped flags have been hastily erected and flutter from the plane trees in town squares. We expect to cycle past celebrations and merriment somewhere, perhaps some dancing, or music on this their special day.

The day before our vivacious and welcoming hotelier, Sandra, with a modicum of English and arms waving, warned us ‘ah, la la everyting is close-d, I help you book your lunch tomorrow’.

I marvel at her perceptiveness. You see, food is important to our cycling troupe of six. We’ve got a healthy thirst for sampling local tapas and try to find the cutest bar for pastries and coffees and non-touristy cafes for lunch as a fair reward for our cycling. Even though at night, more culinary treats await us on our seven day gourmet cycling trip around the Costa Brava.

Mid-way yesterday on a 47km ride we broke an unspoken rule. After cycling over dusty, gravelly roads bordered by rice and corn fields in searing September heat and experiencing our first puncture, we happened upon a lush oasis, a restaurant terrace overlooking a large river at Collimer. Mmmmm, perfect especially as the decision to stop is not negotiable. We’re hot and tired and need refuelling. And yes, we are able to wait ten minutes while the staff finish their lunch.

After being ushered to the terrace, the wine waiter approaches and asks ‘Would you like a complimentary martini or cava?’ The eyes of our cycling collective meet. He has us at our most vulnerable stage. We’re depleted but unanimous in agreement, knowing our biggest hill climb follows lunch and our no-alcohol lunch pact will be in shatters.

But I digress. Sandra has an ulterior motive because it’s National Day and Sunday is her only day off. By booking us into a restaurant at Pubol she’s hoping we’ll be satisfied with cold platters of tapas around the pool that evening.

Pubol, the home, castle and museum of Salvador Dali’s wife and muse, is a mere 10km ride with only a few inclines. It’s our last day and we’ve mentally adjusted to the distance and feel the need to overindulge in case dinner is light. We order a selection of tapas: plates of croquettes, cod and ratatouille, tomato squeezed on toast with garlic, anchovies, olives, zucchini and salads, followed by sorbets and cheesecakes.  With I might add, a modicum of local rose.

Midway through our lunch we realise we’re surrounded by Catalans enjoying the day that they commemorate the fall of Barcelona and the loss of Catalan liberties in 1714 during the War of the Spanish Succession. They’re doing exactly what we’re doing – eating and drinking with their friends and families!

Sitting around the pool that evening we reflect on our self-guided tour from Girona organised by Pure Adventures. During unusually high temperatures, we’d covered over 210kms of cycle paths and minor roads passing apple and olive orchards, rice, corn, wheat and sunflower fields to historic villages, medieval castles, hilltop towns and coastal seafaring villages. We’d poured over maps and taken wrong routes, but it was the camaraderie, hard grunt and grassroots travel that had left us with the fondest memories.