What can you say about Girona that hasn’t been said already? Especially to a cyclist. So I won’t bang on about the town here, apart from to say that to a Londoner living in a rural French village of 25people, Girona represented a fresh reminder of a once familiar coffee fueled civilisation now replaced by loping stray cats and Rene shouting at his broken hammer in the street outside.
It’s a lunch or bike build destination for me now just over the border, but my was my first experience of the town famed for cycling culture came about from a conversation with a friend at ENVE about an upcoming launch of a new wheelset (the 3.4) and a realisation I lived just an hour and a half up the road over the Pyrenees with a camera.
When I still worked, sometimes I played the role of journalist at a press launch while others I was the photographer recording the journalists’ exploits. For these wheels I was the latter.
It was also the first time I met the team that would become my local bike shop former pro cyclist Christian Meier’s famous The Service Course and his other pursuit, coffee roasting and brewing.
A mountain range lay between this and my village but it was a world apart. Like a Venice that you could drive into and park then ride out of across mountains.
As is so often the way with cycling, clients and chance meetings became friends and I’ve since returned countless times to ride, build bikes or just have dinner.
Interwoven with wheel introductions was coffee school where bean roasts were followed by a wine tasting like education of aromas then taste bud awakening and home made cake. I could see coffee school catching on but i imagine the hyperactive pupils would be a flipside.
Speaking of dinners, the one pictured here by the Velochef – Henrik Orre prepared in front of us within the tasteful walls of Chpt3’s headquarters did illustrate how the other half of the Pyrenees lived. A hundred kilometers north I doubted you’d have found a restaurant let alone expected it to be either open or serving this level of cuisine, but then as I was to realise, this would become a haven for my household when the closed restaurants locally or ¢15Euro (basic) salad reality ground us down post ride.
I think it’s rained at some point every time I have visited Girona and as first experiences go, heavy rain isn’t the nicest introduction to a set of road bike wheels, but out they went and at least the half of me in the car stayed dry.
The clouds had the occasional silver lining and jackets became gilets and shadows made a cameo appearance for me.
Before time was called on this little jolly there was just space to record the hardware in situ. WHich obviously meant the famous red bridge. Sheep dog training the tourists the real challenge compared with the age old balancing the wheels photograph.
Miles were covered and performance notes taken in various languages to be re-written into stories the next day. Afternoon coffee at the Meier family establishments, Espresso Mafia and La Fabrica followed with the periodic punctuation of a pro cyclist popping in to borrow the sugar.
My photographs were edited and car packed up, and as I rolled back into my village a couple of days later Rene was chopping wood outside his barn, the cats had barely moved and with the exception of two revolutions of the sun, it was exactly the same as when I’d left. Except I had had good coffee and a social life less than half a tank of fuel away for the first time. But not the last.