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Travel: Bikes, beaches and birdies in Girona, Spain

© Press Association ImagesThe relaxation spa at The Wellness Centre Hotel Camiral.
The relaxation spa at The Wellness Centre Hotel Camiral.

The dirt road plunges through a thicketed stone canyon. Blind turns come one after the other. The bike almost slips out from under me as I shift my body to skid through a turn, whipping up a cloud of dust which floats over the precipice and disappears into the dense forest below.

I steal a glance into the distance. The trees march towards Catalonia’s topaz coast, far off on the horizon and beyond the many hills I have left to tackle.

Fashioned from old railway lines, the Greenways (Visa Verdes) are long, straight and mostly flat, slicing through previously undiscovered tracts of Spanish countryside. With 1,900 miles of track sprawled across the country, they offer a challenging yet accessible way to bash a new path through the rugged Spanish outback.

I am in Catalonia’s Costa Brava, tackling one of the most impressive routes, from Girona to S’Agaró. At 25 miles, this is a substantial yet accessible ride. I learn the now-defunct railway once carried spiffy day-trippers from Girona to the beach resort of S’Agaró – and start to feel somewhat underdressed in skin-tight Lycra and padded shorts.

© Press Association Images
Hotel Camiral from above.

At the end of the route, I crawl into S’Agaró totally spent, but thankful my journey is only one-way, for I was savvy enough to prep a shuttle home.

Once a month, the PGA Catalunya resort, a hop-skip from Girona Airport, offers a guided tour of this Greenway with a transfer home. Thus I repose, while the hotel prepares my return leg, bike and all.

My muscles hot and aching, my skin sweat-parched, mean the sight of Hotel Camiral – PGA Catalunya’s five-star centrepiece – could not come as more of a relief.

I’ve scheduled my tailored recovery programme at their Wellness Centre. Entrusting my battered body to Emilia, I find myself whisked through a series of treatments that laugh in the face of my post-cycle pain.

First comes 20 minutes in the biomodulation chamber with low-level lasers, followed by a 90-minute deep tissue massage where, with the deftness of a surgeon, Emilia wrests my muscles from the bones beneath.

Now to cool off, and where better than the cryo-chamber, where at -160C, I feel my muscle fibres clench like a carpenter’s fingers. Finally, for the benefit of my mind and body, I embrace a 45-minute rest in the oxygen tent, flushing my blood through with the most vital of all the life-giving elements.

I depart feeling like a freshly-activated Terminator, a newly-minted fiver, a fruit that has just reached full ripeness. My muscles are spongy, my veins and arteries are full of effervescent fizz. I’m out the door, freshly dressed, hurling myself towards another slew of physical activity: golf.

© Press Association Images
A player tees off at PGA Catalunya .

The hotel is home to two of Spain’s premier golf courses, and my stay at Hotel Camiral includes a golf initiation lesson. It’s a fine chance to embarrass myself in front of the club pro, before I tackle a casual back nine, my balls pinging in all the wrong directions.

That works up an appetite, and here again, Hotel Camiral is ready to deliver. With dishes curated by chef David Vives, Restaurante 1477 lives up to Girona’s heritage of culinary excellence with a tasting menu of impeccable quality – and, with a healthy undercurrent to the menu, I unashamedly factor the six courses into my fitness programme.

Special mentions go to the tuna tataki with mango chutney and the free-range chicken leg with Catalan-style stuffing. High protein, low fat, vitamins and omega-3 aplenty – healthy eating tastes so good.

Reinvigorated, I awake the next morning ready to do it all again. Starting with a light jog around the sprawling grounds of PGA Catalunya, I take in the complex’s organic gardens, teeming by day with frogs and tortoises, by night with fluttering bats, all expertly cared for by a live-in biologist.

Then, after a dip in the hotel pool, I head to the gym before finishing my routine with a yoga class looking out over the Catalan mountains, painted cornflower blue in the distance.

It is a rare treat to depart from a vacation feeling fitter and healthier than when I arrived. But then again, this is Spain, a nation united by its love of sports.

From its new cycle routes to its world-class wellness centres, this is a country that prizes its culture of health and fitness.


P.S.

Huge projects like the Ruta Vía de la Plata (the Silver Road), a new route connecting Seville with Gijón, via the Camino de Santiago (another path becoming increasingly popular among cyclists) have established 2022 as Spain’s Year of the Bike, while also opening up a whole new way to explore the country.

Factfile 

PGA Catalunya’s Keep Discovering PGA package includes a stay at Hotel Camiral, breakfast and access to an abundance of activities, including bike rental, golf initiation and buggy hire, from £523 per night. Visit pgacatalunya.com