A week of vicarious enjoyment of cycling in Girona has brought with it a rich mix of expectations delivered, with a sprinkling of new discoveries.
Not, let me be clear, that I am actually doing any cycling myself! As a non-cycling hanger on to this, the annual pilgrimage to one or other of the cycling meccas of Europe provides a rich opportunity to observe the subculture that, in our part of the world, is labelled MAMILs – middle aged men in Lycra. This time, we have a group of ‘grubbs’ – generally retired or unemployed biking buddies – though still very much in Lycra. The label, and the fact that for the first time, bikes have been hired here rather than transported across the world, signals a slightly more relaxed approach, compared to previous trips.
Unusually, this group is lacking one of those classic alpha-males, of the must-beat-the-rest-to-the-top variety. With ages ranging across three decades, this is a group that rides together by choice. Each morning they set out, not too much later than the agreed time… though it has to be said there was quite a lot of standing around waiting for everyone to be ready to go.
The small frustrations of the first morning – when everyone was collecting their bikes, sorting out the fittings, remembering to eat!, discovering water bottles not yet filled – were not thankfully repeated, as everyone got more organised, discovering, for example,that the lift to our apartment could carry two bikes at a time if packed just right. We quickly fell into a routine, settling on the next day’s ride over dinner the night before – the local bike shop a mine of information, and provider of a Garmin pre-loaded with the recommended ride for the day. Morning started with coffee – our apartment equipped with an almost barista quality coffee machine – followed by breakfast, drink bottle filling, tyre pumping and so on.
Rides were varied, but generally brought the group home mid afternoon, with tales and sometimes photos of fields of wild poppies, beautiful scenery, and occasional dramas – “someone” not carrying spare tubes, or wandering off, or being unwilling to take instruction in appropriate bunch riding etiquette… Having spent a generally peaceful morning pottering about old Girona, the two non-cycling wives would find them, at one of the preferred cafes, drinking beer and eating ham and cheese toasties.
Laundry was the next priority, our apartment equipped with a decent washer but no drier, meaning that the lounge was generally taken up with a rather full clothes drying rack. Then occasionally, another walk in the old town…
The day they road out to the coast – Tossa del Mar on the Costa Brava – I braved getting the car out and taking a drive to meet them for lunch, though it has to be said, we were a little waylaid by a spectacular garden a bit further down the coast, and arrived in Tossa to find they’d already eaten.
Oh well… we looked after the bikes while they walked up to the castle to see the sights. I can report that the Mediterranean is extremely blue, extremely clear in these parts, but bloody cold! People at the beach were mainly baking themselves on what was a very stony shale-like beach. Reinforced my preference for sitting off the beach, with glass in hand, looking at the sea!
Getting a group of 10 people to make a decision about dinner was perhaps our biggest challenge, made even harder by the realisation a few days in that the reason we’d only found what can only be described as pretty poor cafeteria type food was that the actual restaurants don’t open their doors until about 8.30pm. At that point I took matters (and the list of recommendations from our AirBNB host) into my own hands, and decided that we would have at least two good dinners out – more about those later.
As the weekend passed the group started shrinking, with the departure of Paul & Helen on Saturday to return to London to move flats on Sunday. I headed off in the same direction on Monday morning – to a much-anticipated conference in London, leaving the group of Grubbs to fend for themselves for the final few days. I hear the tour was pronounced a success – with plenty of discussion about where to next. I heard mention of Tasmania (much closer to home) or perhaps Norway! I guess it will depend on who steps up to do the organisation – these tours don’t happen on their own! And this one will be a hard act to follow.