Does this word sound any familiar to you?
If NO, you and I both……..until the end of this January – for my case😃
I had been to the city of Girona before but only as a pitstop during a return trip from Tossa de Mar back to Barcelona (BCN)
When I was in BCN, a few people that learnt about my cycling passion recommended that I go to Girona.
While I know I really do love cycling, I couldn’t figure out the why that was a recommended place until I spoke to ALINA one of my classmates at the University of Barcelona.
Alina was among the first people I talked to from my master’s class and her exuberant character surfaces when she talks about something close to her heart and in particular: her HORSE and the city of GIRONA where her and her ROMANIAN family have stayed for as long as they have been in Spain
After learning about my blog, she – in a heartbeat – cordially invited me to go spend a weekend at hers to fully immerse myself in Girona
In case you GOOGLED (because well, you are one of those people that acknowledges that GOOGLE KNOWS EVERYTHING 😁), you will know the immutable fact about Girona, being a CITY in Spain with medieval architecture and ambience, that is worth experiencing on a bicycle or on foot.
What GOOGLE will not tell you though, is that it is a popular city amongst cyclists whose terrain is great for training resilience and is home to an amazing cycling-enthusiast family, from which ALINA comes
During the school term, Alina and I planned to do this particular trip but something always came up that made the trip impossible.
……..Until my last days, when I was about to LEAVE Spain
And just like everyone else – I suppose, the last days of moving from one country to another can be ERRATIC – as that’s the time you decide to do everything you have been putting off for ages.
I remember that weekend being one of the most intense I have had since the year began and a tricky one for Alina as well: I had limited time as I had made plans on each day being my last days in Barcelona, while Alina still had pressing assignments that she needed to submit at the end of that weekend
But when enthusiasm meets enthusiasm, surely there was nothing that would stop us from making this happen.
In this particular blog post, I will summarise a lifetime experience that I managed to achieve in one day with Alina in the driver seat – both metaphorically and literally – when I set foot in Girona.
Cycling and its first-times
When I told Alina I would be leaving for another country a few days after our exams, it struck her far as in that moment, the trip we had both wanted to do seemed like it would never happen
But Alina being Alina, she devised a way out of that fix and onto the fastest train, I was able to reach Girona on my last Saturday in Spain
When I arrived in Girona, Alina had planned to pick me up by car to take breakfast before we could head out for a trip through the mountains
As we drove through the cyclist-dominated blacktop streets of the city in the refreshing light of the morning sun, an air of tranquillity filled the atmosphere and was void of chattering or honking of car horns, which Alina responded to, as being a typical weekend in Girona, and the total opposite of Bustling Barcelona
Once we arrived at her home, the parents’ warm gestures, infectious smiles and tight hugs ARTICULATELY expressed how at home I was meant to feel in their BEAUTIFUL HOME.
As Alina treated me to a nice breakfast, the dad prepared the cycling gear and hand-assembled bikes that we would use on our mini-cycling trip
Now before I go any further, I would like to pause for a second and reemphasize something in case you missed it
A HAND-ASSEMBLED BIKE!!!
Mind-boggling for a “Masanafu” dweller like myself!
I had never used a road bike before let alone one that has been put together from scratch by HAND!!!!!!!!!
Furthermore, the piece I was going to use was used in the Olympics (I didn’t ask for details about which particular series)
I was flying once I learnt that, I felt held in HIGH REGARD
On top of making me feel like a fish in water – at home precisely, they esteemed me to ride a bike with such attributes
Did I mention Alina’s dad had an appointment that morning but decided to postpone it for later so he could join us to go for our ride?!
All the gestures towards me substantiated how much this family considers UTMOST HOSPITALITY as a prerogative for their guests, and that really enlivened my SOUL
Once we set out for our ride, my attention span was mostly towards the bike as I needed to master its nuts and bolts, in particular the gear system and HOW to comfortably place my hands on the different locations of the handlebars (Alina was a great guide in the latter regard)
Notably, I could not miss other cyclists that were on the road that outnumbered the cars on the road and additionally enjoyed being precedent road users before motor cars.
While we rode through the beautiful landscape, we had a few stops here and there to get lost in the beauty of the medieval buildings and nature that were peppered along the way and of course, to HYDRATE
The terrain itself was no joke especially during the first part, as this was characterised with several hills
But the company made it easier: Alina’s dad giving us tips ON how to maintain our breaths, while Alina and I randomly firing up into cheerleading sounds and phrases during the course of the trip
Once I got the hang of MY BIKE, the adventure through the outskirts of Girona became easier and an even more fun ride to be part of.
The second part of the ride was downhill all through and if you have ridden a bike before, you know this is the most fun part of being on a bike
My bike being EXTREMELY light, at some points I could feel the wind wobbling me a bit and yes, PROTECTIVE MODE kicked in, which kinda made me hold onto my breaks even tighter – something Alina tried to limit me from doing since she wanted me to experience the pleasure of speed while going downhill
Regardless of that minor issue, we had a thrilling ride back home making this bike trip a special one that I would not want to have any other way
Once we finished our hearty meal that was prepared by Alina’s mum, Alina and I set out to do the second part of the plan: seeing the rest of Girona on FOOT, with the help of a car
Prior to being in Girona, Alina and I had gone through her really nicely curated plan about how she wanted me to experience Girona in just one day
The second part of the plan included the following as you will learn later.
The Equine Experience
Seeing Alina’s fond Horse was most definitely part of the plan and I was down for it
Once we arrived at the gate of the stables, a sward peppered with horse rails and a stud of feeding horses lay ahead
When Alina and I were with the horses, I learnt a great deal about the animals that made me consider a horse being the one pet I would love to own someday.
The one thing that struck a chord in me was how sensitive horses are, and how attuned they are to people’s feelings and energy which emanates from a person’s body language during interaction.
I interacted with 3 of them, all with totally different pasts that further biased their temperaments as Alina explained to me; one being sensitive, the other being strong in character and the last one phlegmatic.
This manifested in the way they fed, plus the way they responded to the caresses and practical tricks we (Alina and I) performed
Everything was going well, until an incident happened
As I was engrossed in stroking the phlegmatic horse while taking EXTRA caution that all he felt was EMPATHY, a sudden wave of tremor passed through my body and in a flash, the horse withdraw himself away from me
I was TERRIFIED!
“Did I do something wrong to the horse?” I anxiously wondered
This caught Alina’s attention who on noticing what had happened, explained to me that I was electrified from touching the fence (I learnt that horse rails must be electrified to prevent horses from razing them to the ground)
And being a good conductor of current, I passed it to the horse which obviously, was not ready to go through electrocution trauma
“Phewxxxxx!” I sighed
The last thing I wanted to hear was that one of the horses didn’t approve of my being or better still…..my gentle strokes and caresses 🙄😅
Once we left the stables, we headed out to walk around Lake Banyoles, the largest natural lake in Catalonia
As we walked, the shores of the lake were jam packed with people and many with leashed dogs: Some walking and others running in the opposite and same direction as we were, and at different paces.
That particular walk was a delightful one.
As we strolled with Alina’s dog (the most eye catching I have seen) and watched the sun set, we talked about life and topics you would expect two intelligent damsels to talk about (CLUE:PG All ages😅)
We walked around the perimeter of the whole lake after which we entered the car to head to the old city
The Old city
As cold as Girona is in the night – colder than Barcelona actually, the place still had droves of people walking along the Jewish-inspired stone stairways while gazing upon buildings with the same Jewish style.
If you watched game of thrones, I am proud to show off that I was in the same spot: The REMARKABLE staircase of The Girona Cathedral that starred as the Great Sept of bailor in the city of King’s Landing😎 – yep, I KNOWWWWW you want to be like me when you grow up😁
The other place we couldn’t miss for anything was the famous STONE BRIDGE OF BASALU whose beauty we didn’t get to see much as it happened during night-time.
It’s quite obvious that at some point during this walk we fuelled our bodies with snacks, and these were Crepes (thin-bodied American pancakes)
Our final stop for the adventurous walk was at Alina’s family bike shop whose opening is in the offing.
The name alone took me by surprise: TATA BIKES shop, named after Alina’s dad.
This was a surprise for me because in Buganda, the tribe I come from, men are referred to as “TATA” by their offspring.
The linchpin of this enterprise is Alina’s dad, who is not only a human form of GPS for great cycling routes in Girona but also possesses prowess for bicycles and how they function
The evening that day ended in vibes, nice food, pizza, a movie night, great conversations all in the house that felt like HOME 🥰
Lessons and Highlights
If you have been following my blogs, you know for sure that there is a tinge of lessons and highlights for every first-time adventure I go for while on a bicycle, OR FOOT – from my last BLOG
For this particular trip, besides the nature, the beautiful sceneries and archaeological places I was able to see and visit, the following is still going to be EXCEPTIONALLY “A GIRONA MEMORY“
1. OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE
I am not sure if I highlighted this fact, but I have always been curious-but-afraid of trying road bikes
I am also not sure why that’s the case, but I have always preferred to journey on a wider handled-barred mountain/city bike than the more professional narrow handle barred – road bike
Could be because well, the wider the handlebars, the more comfortable, and generally road bikes – in my mind – are ridden by professional cyclists (and I don’t consider myself a professional one – YET! 😅)
After this experience, I can only confirm that fear is only a mindset that limits our boundaries in regards to how much our potentials can go.
Yes I know what you are thinking, “it’s only a road bike, it’s a piece of cake” butttttttt, the spectrum of fears in existence will surprise you – mine is prolly just a question of INEXPERIENCE.
And I mean let’s not ignore the fact that I got upper-back pains after this particular ride, which should reinforce my bias against road bikes.
But if you have some cycling experience, you know that all I needed to do was adjust my handlebars for that particular bike to reap all the benefits there are in using a road bike
Of course, I am definitely trying a ROAD BIKE again except I will be more informed to properly set all the bike parts in proportion to my stature in order to get complete MILEAGE from the rides that will follow.
I can’t express how much love I felt while in the company of Alina’s family
Each of the three showing it to me bountifully in their comfortable departments: Alina’s dad preparing a great bike for me, making sure I am well suited to ride in the mountains and most of all, DEFERRING his appointment just so I could enjoy the best bicycle routes in Girona; Alina’s mum making sure that I was okay at every moment I was in Girona, making sure I ate like a KING – or QUEEN in my case🥰👸🏽 and that I was happy at each instance whether inside or outside her home and in her absence or presence too, and finally; Alina for going out of her way and assignments to make sure I have the most memorable trip in Girona at NO COST.
This is more than what I could ever ask for from people I only met in a day and from a sweet soul like Alina.
Otherwise, I know I have me a home in Girona and I would definitely love to go back to enjoy all that bounty but less hurriedly this time😀
Let me know if you have any questions about this experience.