I did not organize this trip as a sight-seeing trip. I did some very basic research on each
city I was to pass through, copied some notes into an excel sheet, and barely read any of it. I knew that to save expenses I would need to camp frequently outside of cities and that my priority would always be to rest and eat to be ready for the next day’s cycle rather than to go see the sights.
That’s why I’m usually quite surprised when I do get to stay inside a town and I find it a wonderful place to visit.
Getting into Vilanova i la Geltru on the Mediterranean on day 14 was a big landmark day for me. I cycled from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean in two weeks! Vilanova was a lovely little quaint resort town and I stayed in a small hotel on the sea. Nothing could beat that.
The next day, day 15, I cycled on a twisting cliff-side road just over the sea. It was
exhilarating. I was like a child in a candy shop when it came to cycling through Barcelona. I’ve visited the city many times before but it never loses its magic. That is, until the traffic gets to you. It took FOREVER to get from one side to the other. There were too many traffic lights that turned red too many times for too many cars, busses, motorcycles, and taxis. It reminded me of Cairo’s traffic, just a bit more organized. If I were to choose one reason for never wanting to go back to Cairo again, it would be the traffic. I’m serious.
I eventually made it through Barcelona, happy I chose not to stay in it as that would have meant navigating through morning traffic the next day. I eventually arrived at my camp in a town a few kilometers outside Barcelona called El Masnou.
For various reasons, I had stayed in hotels over the past few days. I think it made me soft. I was not liking that camp. To be fair, the camps I had stayed in in Extramedura were very nice and hard to compete with. The weather was also warm. This one just didn’t compare. It did not have a functioning restaurant. Not only did that make food a more complicated ordeal, but it also meant that your only shelter was your tent. Your teeny tiny tent. I cycled through El Masnou to look for food. I didn’t like it. It was hardly as clean or as exciting as the other places I had been. I ate at a doner/kabab shop for the second time that day. At least it was filling. I bought some pastries for the next morning’s breakfast and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening sitting in front of the non-open cafe reading and fiddling on the Internet. It was cold and windy. I was moping. I would have rather been sitting in a nice bed in a warm hotel room. At 8:30pm, I got up and washed up in the camp’s public toilet. The women’s toilet area did not have a door so anyone passing by could see inside. You had the privacy of the small toilet and shower stalls, obviously, but that was it. I wasn’t happy. I went to Teeny Tiny, my tent, prayed the night prayer, slipped not very easily into my pajamas and settled into my sleeping bag. It was only then that I felt, “This isn’t so bad!” I was warm. I was shielded from the wind. And I was comfortable, believe it or not. With all the traveling I do, I can pretty much lay my head down anywhere and get a good night’s sleep. I did.
I was able to leave early this morning because I did not need to wait for a restaurant to open for breakfast. By 7:30am I was on the road. The cycle to Girona was a pretty straight forward one. The distance was average, the roads were average, the hills were average, and I had only one road to stay on from beginning to end. By 12 noon I was cycling into the city. I was in a rush to find a bike shop before they closed for the siesta. I found a hotel, checked in, and immediately headed to a shop the hotel receptionist recommended.
“Hola!” I said. “Do you speak English?” “No,” the bike mechanic said with a very big shake of the head to imply, “Not a word so I don’t know HOW this is going to work.” I had seen that look so many times since I’ve been in Spain. I ignored it. By now I knew that language was no barrier between me and the Spaniards. “My gears are giving me trouble,” I told the man. Actually, what I REALLY said was “Gears,” and pointed to the thing that changes gears on the handlebars, “Chick, chick, chick..and chain,” I said pointing to the chain and waving my hand to explain it kept falling off. The man understood me, of course. I have this communication thing down perfectly.
He took the bike, hung it up, and switched through the gears several times. They worked perfectly well. You know how your computer acts up and the moment the IT guy comes to fix it it starts behaving? It was exactly like that. I looked at the guy with a stupid look on my face. “No!” I protested. “When I’m pedaling” and I make a sign for pedaling, “it does chick, chick, chick!” He shifted through the gears again and there was no problem at all. I was shaking my head. “You show me,” he said and indicated for me to shift through the gears. I did and there it was! I felt vindicated and triumphant. “There! Chick, chick, chick!” The man shook his head, demonstrated on the gears using a prolonged explanation in Spanish, then basically said, in Spanish, “It’s not the bike, honey, it’s you.”
So there’s nothing wrong with the bike apparently. But I get to stay in a hotel again because I needed a bike shop in the city. And I’m warm and comfy.
I had lots of time on my hands, so after a shower and some food I was able to stroll
through Girona’s old town. And what a beauty it is! I must come back one day with the hubby. It is so romantic with its narrow alleyways lined by multicolored old buildings, leading here and there into small plazas that open onto lovely cathedrals.
It is a most lovely end to the Spanish portion of my trip, if all goes well tomorrow. The day I arrived onto the Mediterranean for the first time (two days ago) I posted the following on Facebook:
“There are bad days. There are difficult days. There are long days. There are hot days. There are cold days. There are windy days. There are rainy days. There are frustrating days. There are terrifying days. And then there are days like today that make all that all right: the perfect days.”
About today I wrote, “Normal days are perfect too.” And they are.
While cycling today, two cyclists passed me and one said, “Ole! Ole! Ole!” And that is the attitude I plan to start my day with tomorrow. I love Spain. I love it every single time I visit it. I love the culture and the history but more important than all I love the people.
And onto whatever the next phase may bring! Ole! Ole! Ole!