A recent week long vacation north of Barcelona found us cycling the byways and bike paths of the Costa Brava region of Catalonia. Stark coastlines where mountains meet the sea, green fields as far as the eye can see, vineyards, medieval villages, tapas bars, wonderful coffee, fish so fresh it fairly jumps on the platter, all were the backdrop of this wonderful weeklong getaway. An active vacation was what we were looking for, and cycling with Cycle Catalan afforded us just such an opportunity to be as active as we wished.
Cycle and Chill
“Cycle and Chill” holiday booked with Cycle Catalan helped us with all the legwork and made the technical parts of vacation planning simple. While they offer a variety of packages and trips, the one we opted for included a weeklong rental of a well outfitted, modern townhouse in Calonge, a mere three kilometers (approximately 2 miles) from the coast. The three bedroom townhouse had not only a private pool, full kitchen, and comfortable living and dining room, but came with a bird’s eye view of the ancient castle and church spires that chimed the quarter hour, reminding us to enjoy every moment of our precious time in this part of the world.
Cycle Catalan — professional outfitters
Alan, the friendly owner and proprietor of Cycle Catalan provides pick up and drop off at Girona train and bus stations, bike rentals, maps and routes. We opted for the housing package as well, but as this is a family run outfit, you can pick and choose the items you wish, and Alan and his wife Vivienne will tailor your package to your preferences. Alan was available for consultation over the course of the week, and provided not only excellent backup when we got a flat tire one day in the middle of nowhere, but also was available for pickup on a few of our cycle days, allowing us to wander farther without worry of having to cycle all the way back home. The cost for our week long vacation, including housing, bike rental, trip planning, drop off and pick up was approximately 700 EUR (730 USD) per person.
The cycling itself is glorious. Well-signed bike paths crisscross Catalonia, and the days we spent biking allowed us to get a feel of the land and the people, visiting out of the way places, secluded beaches, and quaint coffee shops and restaurants. The terrain is relatively flat making for easy cycling, and the bikes provided were excellent.
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Penthouse with spectacular view, Platja de SantPol
Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Catalunya, Spain
Going back in time
A favorite day took us to the heart of the medieval villages of the area. Beginning in the remarkably well-preserved village of Pals, which is located on a hillside, the winding alleyways passed houses, shops and restaurants. During the summer, Pals is overrun with tourists, but if you’re not one for crowds, try visiting during in off-peak season from October through April. Taking to the road, pedal your bikes through the countryside to Sant Feliu de Boada, another tiny village hosting a medieval square bordering the church, several ancient houses and working farms. A cup of coffee at Can Joan for a well-deserved break will hit the spot. Leaving modern transportation behind and cycling from village to village allows you to shed the cares of stress-filled lives, and to be present in the moment to soak up the atmosphere of an age gone by in villages that fire the imagination.
Olives, olives, olives
Our penultimate stop for the day was at Con Solivera, an olive plantation where the owners Hans and Daida, originally from Holland, set up shop in 1977, and since then have planted thousands of olive trees, and produce exceptional extra virgin olive oil made from Arbequina olives. Visitors can taste the four different varieties of oil and purchase their favorite to bring back as a souvenir. From there, you can make your way to your final destination, Peratallada. This charming town boasts a castle from the eleventh century, a moat, and city walls. Walking through arched passages and alleyways transports you back to an earlier, simpler age. But to say the least, we were more than happy to see Alan at the appointed time and place for our car ride home.
Rainy day fun
Even when it rains, Costa Brava does not disappoint. On the one day we had heavy rain, we cycled three kilometers (two miles) to the coast, and took a walk along the rugged coastline, enjoying the stormy grey seas. When the heavens threatened to open once again, we took shelter in a seaside café, ordered coffee, and enjoyed our books until the rain let up.
It doesn't get better than this
While 35-kilometer bike rides (approximately twenty-one miles) might not be everyone’s cup of tea, there is great flexibility in this vacation and you can tailor your itinerary to your needs. You are in charge and you can decide how often, and how much you want to bike. Wind in your ears, pedaling, sometimes slow, sometimes fast, soaking up the sights, it doesn’t get much better than this.
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