A bicycle trip through the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains
14.07.2013 - 21.07.2013
From July 14 to July 21 I took a group bicycle trip led by G Adventures travel company through the Catalonia principality of Spain, north of Barcelona. My group cycled on three of the seven days, covering anywhere from 30 km to 55 km each day. We took a day of rest after each cycling day and explored the nature and communities within the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. Our trip ended up at a small seaside town on the Costa Brava.
Catalonia has a distinct language, history, and culture. In several places my group found Spanish was not widely spoken. I first heard about Catalonia in college during a military officer training class. The commanding officer of my unit had been the captain of U.S. Navy ship, and he was giving a lesson about how it was important to be knowledgeable about the culture and history of the places we would go in the world. He relayed a story about how his ship had docked in the port of Barcelona, and Catalan separatists started demonstrating next to his ship. He explained he was able to effectively deal with the situation because had read up on Catalonia before he arrived.
This picture shows what the Catalan language looks like. It comes from the La Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona. The text is the Lord’s Prayer/Our Father, a central prayer in the Christian religion.
The trip started in the town of Ripoli. Below is a picture of our group just before we started. The group gelled together nicely and we had a great time with each other.
In contrast to popular belief, some people do forget how to ride a bike.
Most of the cycling was on level grade, but the first part of the trip was the most difficult as we had to tackle a hill. It was only 300 meters high, but the incline was spread over 8km and took about 45 minutes to ascend.
At the top.
It was nice to drink from this mountain spring after the hill.
A few scenic pictures along the way to our first stop in the town of Olot.
Not all the scenery was pleasant.
We walked into a local festival in Olot.
We spent a day hiking around Olot and exploring nearby sights.
Along a watchtower.
It is hard to tell now, but many millennia ago this region featured several volcanoes. This picture shows a crater of one of them.
A town on top of a cliff right outside Olot.
This bridge in town outside Olot is 1,000 years old.
Our next leg of the trip was from Olot to Girona. We took the Bici Carril trail, which is an old railroad line that the locals converted into a nature path.
Breaking for lunch along the way.
After working up a sweat we stopped for a swim in an ice-cold mountain stream. I caught a good splash in the face.
The city of Girona has a long and bloody history, undergoing some 21 sieges since Roman times. Today tourists are able to walk atop the fortifications for some breathtaking views.
I witnessed a small demonstration of Catalonians marching for independence from Spain. These demonstrations are common and have been going on for decades.
Our tour continued through some picturesque farmland.
An interesting statue.
Our bicycle tour ended in the town Sant Feliu de Guíxols on the Costa Brava and we spent the afternoon soaking up the sun.
The next day several people in my group went on a sea kayaking trip.
The highlight of the trip was paddling into a cave and stopping for a swim.
Paddling by rock climbers.
Food Experiences during this Trip
A typical breakfast in Catalonia consists of white sausage on toasted bread with cheese and a tomato sauce.
A tapas restaurant I went to offered chicken wings on bread as a tapa choice.
Warning! Do not continue if you have a weak stomach!
I experienced my most memorable meal so far in Barcelona – a plate of pig ears. They are absolutely disgusting, and some of the pieces still had ear hair in them. I could only manage to try one piece (without ear hair). The meat consisted of a revolting combination of crunchy cartilage and slimy fat deposits. My group laughed their heads off at the expression I made when I ate a piece, but no one took a picture. They tried to get me to eat another piece so they could take a picture, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.