/* jquery */ /* jquery accordion style*/ /* jquery init */

10 September 2011

Two Wheels Over Catalonia by Richard Guise

Starting from Portbou, a little north of his second home in Llançà, this journey follows the Catalonia's coastal roads to Saint Carles de la Ràpita, before finishing with a couple of forays into the Catalan interior.

Richard's steady pace and uphill bike pushing, necessary to protect an iffy knee, give rise to detailed observations of his surroundings. Observations that enrich the reader's imagination with tales of vineyards, fig trees, orange groves and hillsides sprinkled with delicate flora and fauna.

But, there's so much more to this book than simply a bicycle journey. Richard's 16 years experience as a part-time Catalan resident, combined with his inquisitive enthusiasm, ever observant eye and gentle wit, lift this book well above the typical travel narrative.

For a start, many historical references provide a backdrop to the country and its people. A backdrop that's enhanced by personal anecdotes and destination-specific tales or traditions. There's even an engaging lesson on some of the subtle differences between the Catalan and Spanish languages.

An occasional geological interlude takes the country's history to another level entirely. The rather special Cap de Creus and its 450 million years old ptygmatic folded, tourmaline crystal studded rocks being particularly memorable.

Whether encountered on the journey, or in the end-of-day towns and villages, the oft mentioned food and drink is a chance to discover some of the local dishes, wines and brews, including their 'sin' beer. And it offers the reader another opportunity to pick up a few more useful Catalan words.

Then there's the many interesting, and invariably entertaining, cultural references: from anchovy museums to wild boar hunts, from vague timekeeping terms to a propensity for late night eating, and from the home of Salvador Dali to the rather shady proceedings involved in purchasing a Spanish property.

Even passages chronicling the country's transportation systems threw a few surprises for this reader, especially the Iberian peninsula's strangely non-standard railway track gauge.

In conclusion this beautifully absorbing, highly entertaining book delivers a real taste of Catalonia, its diverse landscapes, traditions, foods and, of course, its people.

No comments: