Lifestyle

A Train Ride to the Kingdom of Bicycles

By August 1, 2015 No Comments

I’m on the train speeding south through the French fields. It’s the end of July and summer is in full swing outside the cool carriage window. the crops are ripe, the sky is huge and moody.

I waved goodbye to my sister at Ashford train station earlier this morning. She was heading into London to go to work, I was heading for the Channel Tunnel on the Eurostar.

With me I have 2 suitcases containing all the essentials for a new life in Spain (coffee machine, track pump, 4 x sets of cycling kit…) The security guards helped me to provide the entertainment to my fellow travelers by unpacking my cases for everyone to see and putting the carefully vacuum packed pillows through the x-ray machine. Once reassured I wasn’t smuggling drugs or carrying knives (apparently the track pump looked like a knife on the scanner), the security man called in reinforcements to help re-pack my luggage.  Needless to say the case had no hope of closing again and I dutifully repacked.

At Gare du Nord in Paris I quickly abandoned the taxi rank after being asked for 75 Euros to take me and my luggage on the 20 min journey to Gare du Lyon. The Metro it was! At the Metro ticket machine I found two ladies also heading for Gare du Lyon. One was from New Zealand and off to Marseille for a friend’s wedding, the other was Italian and heading to Milan to see her family. She had made the journey before and managed to interpret the ticket machine for us all. She also knew which platform to head for – which was lucky as the lack of maps, signs and staff made the Metro pretty impossible to navigate. Two sweaty metro stops later we made it to Gare du Lyon and I lugged my bags onto the Perpignan train.

The stations pass and mountains start to appear on the horizon. The odd poplar tree marks the changing landscape. Everything is looking decidedly more French. The buildings are all a warm yellowy orange colour.

The idea to move to Girona started around 5 months ago, after Lee and I came back to rainy Kent after a glorious week in Almeria – a region close to the Sierra Nevada mountains in Southern Spain. We had stayed in a beautiful village called Bentarique with my friend Katie, her mum Polly, and brother Alex. It was February and we were out on our bikes in the sun every day. And Polly fed us beautiful food. Life was just better there. Our priorities for finding somewhere new to live were:

1. Climate – good for cycling all year round

2. Roads & traffic – good for cycling

3. Accessible for family visits (ie. reasonable to get to overland as my Mum hates flying)

Girona ticked all the boxes and a few months later Lee had found himself a job there and we were packing up our little rented cottage. We spent a week together in Girona in June, when I returned to finish off the UK race season with my team and serve out a reasonable notice period at my job. 6 weeks later, I’m heading back for good.

Girona

Finally, Perpignan and a mad 6 minute dash to the Barcelona train. Soon I’m speeding along the coast to my final destination – Girona. We dive into a tunnel and emerge in Espana! My new home.

The guy in the buffet car speaks the first Spanish of my new life (much better than the disorientating French!) Figures! One stop left until I see my lovely Lee again. Life is so surreal!

6 months ago I was sat in an office in London dreaming about the weekend’s upcoming bike race. Now I’m off to ride my bike in the sunshine and live the cycling dream with my boyfriend. The plan is to train hard and get super fit to have a proper crack at road racing next season without the limitations of working full-time. It’s an incredible opportunity and I can’t wait to get started. My first goal is the Irish stage race the Ras na Bam – I’ve got around 6 weeks from now to get as fit as I can.

We pull out of Figures. The icy air conditioning has finally cooled me down from the sweaty platform dash. Time to watch the world go by again… half an hour and I’ll be there!

There’s a beautiful sunset breaking through the clouds over the Pyrenees. I can’t wait for the morning to get out and ride out there. So beautiful! Let the adventure begin!

Pyrenees

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