By Brian Canty
I was in Ireland last week for the An Post Rás and as much as I love being home – especially when it comes to the relatively stress-free environment of reporting on a bike race, I’ve recently started to refer to me adopted homeland of Girona as home.
This kind of crept up on me in recent months and became more apparent in recent days when I found myself replying to questions with ‘No, no just here for the week, heading ‘home’ at the weekend.
Home in that instance meant here, Girona.
I don’t know if it will always be home but for now, and for the last 18 months, it has felt more and more like home.
So how do I know this?
Well, first and foremost is the fact I ALWAYS bring more stuff to Girona than from Girona.
As I write this from the departures lounge in Cork airport I have my laptop which rarely strays far from my side, my 10-kilo cabin bag (which is definitely closer to 15) and of course, another bike safely stowed in another bike box.
More and more stuff is arriving in Girona. My house on Carrer de la Creu has all my stuff.
A few things that make this feel like home are the simple things we probably take for granted in wherever it is we call home.
For me it’s the following things, though definitely not restricted to these.
It’s the welcome I receive from everyone in my apartment block – except the lady on the top floor who hates when I use the pool before 9am because she’s still asleep and my splashing wakes her up. Yes, we have a pool. Gets warm in summer you know?
The Catalans hold the doors open for me as I enter the lift with my bike – and they always smile doing it. They didn’t do that at the start.
The lady who owns the bakery on the corner of C/Rutlla and C/Creu knows that every time I’ve a race I’ll be having a double espresso to go and a dark chocolate croissant. She always wishes me good luck, gives me her finest ‘fuerza, fuerza’ (strong, strong!) gesture and is still there when I get back to hear me excuse myself with, ‘no fuerza fuerza hoy’!
The staff at ‘Sant Pau’ on the corner of C/Migdia and C/Creu love that I love their €2 coffee and napolitana deal. I tell them that in my country you’d pay €5 for this and they just laugh and do that shake of the hand all Catalans do when they hear shocking news.
I seem to be the only guy who washes his bike at the petrol station at the bottom of C/Creu. I usually go early in the morning as apparently this is an offence and I don’t want to attract any unwanted attention. I’ve been told off by one or two old people but the guy manning the pumps loves when I come down. He takes pride in his work and probably thinks I’m a pro. I haven’t, er, exactly told him I’m not…
Walking the old town at night you are guaranteed to meet someone you know. The people I know will be chilling at Cub with a coffee, people-watching on La Rambla, on Tinder dates in obscure places, watching a game in McKiernan’s, browsing the cobbled streets of the Barri Vell, jogging, eating an ice-cream on the steps of the cathedral or at the church of Sant Feilliu, eating €1 tapas outside Xibarri (Maria and Valeria!), going for a late night ride (that’s a bike ride folks!) or in the case of one cool Aussie, reading a book, listening to Jazz and sipping a glass of wine.
There always seems to be a car parking space for me when I need it most? Small things put me in good moods and here, it’s coming home from a race shattered and getting a parking space right outside my door. I ALWAYS win when it comes to getting a space. I’ve started to call it the Girona parking wars. It’s where multiple people are looking for one spot. I ALWAYS dive in. If only I had those cojones in the bunch sprint…
I get my fruit and veg at the same times in the same places and know exactly how much it costs. The usual pleasantries are exchanged, just like at ‘home’.
The afternoon siesta was something I couldn’t grasp when I came here. Now, I think it’s a stroke of genius that they knock off for a few hours in the afternoon.
Why? Well, if life is for living and the warmest hours of the day are mid-afternoon, why not be outside enjoying it?
Seems like common sense to me.