Girona, Spain. Somehow all those youtubers didn't do it justice.

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gurk700
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by gurk700

Welp, new forum section. Might as well add this thread since it's fresh on my mind.

Ever since seeing Girona featured in so many youtubers' videos, it peaked my interest. I'm usually someone who likes to pick the path less traveled. Not as much for cycling but in general tourism, I avoid popular places because a) they are crowded as hell for the exact reason that they are popular b) I seldom like the same things people like.

But you know, being that Girona is deemed such a cycling heaven, I really wanted to check it out. Videos / photos looked beautiful after all.

Well I finally had the opportunity to visit for a week in November. Yes, sadly only a week.. But it was enough to make me fall in love. Even my non-rider girlfriend fell in love. I rented a Colnago c68 (never rode a colnago before! didn't hate it at all!) and got 4 rides in totaling 10 hours. Did something different everyday. Sadly no time for Rocacorba but I'm not even sad since I know I'll be back.

Now, for context, I live in Northern California. I have insane variety, beautiful places to ride, good weather, good food etc here.
What made Girona so special for me wasn't just those things I listed about CA (although Girona has pretty much all of them). Love the coffee culture (always somewhat cringe when people talk about this but it is indeed great there) Love the historic scenery. Love how "condensed" it feels. Love how many bike stores there are in so many tiny nooks and crevices of the old town. Feel like living there I'd never shop online.

And SO MANY RIDERS.

At home here I go out for a ride and sure, on a nice day I ride by 40-50 cyclists. But in Girona you literally walk out of your apartment and see cyclists rolling out in the morning. Right in the middle of the "central" area. People's attitudes toward the whole culture seems so much more welcoming too. Maybe I'm being naive but it just felt such a daily routine of everyone's life. You go out of town with a bunch of cyclists at the same time, do your big ride and come back and bunch of other cyclists are rolling back in town at the same time. It's like an expected part of everyone rider or non-rider's routine. Again, who knows, maybe people hate it like everywhere else but I just didn't feel that.

In California, even though it's somewhat more friendly to cyclists (in parts) I pretty much every day have someone impatient with me, pass 2 feet next to me etc. In Girona I was literally in the middle of "rush hour" traffic (mind you for 10 minutes. It's so tiny that you ride in any direction for 10-15 minutes and you're in deserted beautifully paved roads and green fields and hills) and I just felt like I'm part of the traffic. 0 incidents. 0 impatience etc. Partially cause there IS no horrible traffic I guess. People just don't seem on edge at all.

Sorry if that was a verbal diarrhea. It's such a hard thing to put your finger on. The whole vibe I got from Girona is that it's an amazing place to live for a cyclists. Not just for all the things I already have in CA but also the attitude towards sports / cycling in general.

We love it so much that we made it our mission to be a cliche and move there one day. I even asked my work to see if they'll let me work remote so I can get a digital nomad visa. Sadly the answer was "no" (although they let me work remote from the UK). So plan now is to save as much money as we can for a year, rent our house and go to Portugal. I hear great things about Portugal as well and it would be a great first step to European citizenship so we can eventually find our way to Girona. In the meanwhile, I'll be visiting as much as I can.

That's all from me. Have any other forum members visited? What did you think? Am I crazy or was it indeed THAT good for you as well? Not even bothering posting photos and videos. I couldn't do it justice and if you type "girona" on youtube search you literally see it all.

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kode54
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by kode54

Thx for your extensive insight to Girona. It’s nice to compare it to NorCal. One of these days, I’d like to visit.
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GaBa
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by GaBa

I haven't been in Girona but lived in Barcelona for a year doing my Masters there. It's been 10 years now but memories are still fresh. Even back then cycling culture in that area was on a whole different level to my home country (Slovenia). You see HUUUUUGE groups of riders everywhere, get respect from cars (and other vehicles), not to mention scenery, e.g. going up north to Montseny, incredible.

So even though not completely the same thing, I can say with high degree of certainty you are not crazy, it really is that good. Spain is cycling paradise I'd say.

gurk700
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by gurk700

GaBa wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2023 12:01 pm
I haven't been in Girona but lived in Barcelona for a year doing my Masters there. It's been 10 years now but memories are still fresh. Even back then cycling culture in that area was on a whole different level to my home country (Slovenia). You see HUUUUUGE groups of riders everywhere, get respect from cars (and other vehicles), not to mention scenery, e.g. going up north to Montseny, incredible.

So even though not completely the same thing, I can say with high degree of certainty you are not crazy, it really is that good. Spain is cycling paradise I'd say.
It's actually so nice to hear that Barcelona was great too! Just my brief pass through to get to and from the airport, I could see there's hills everywhere. Which is always good news :)
If I go via finding a job or something, I'd have way more opportunities in Barcelona compared to Girona, obviously. 1 hour by train to Girona wouldn't be bad at all!
It's really all I can think about. Can't wait to actually do it.

GaBa
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by GaBa

gurk700 wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2023 12:11 pm
GaBa wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2023 12:01 pm
I haven't been in Girona but lived in Barcelona for a year doing my Masters there. It's been 10 years now but memories are still fresh. Even back then cycling culture in that area was on a whole different level to my home country (Slovenia). You see HUUUUUGE groups of riders everywhere, get respect from cars (and other vehicles), not to mention scenery, e.g. going up north to Montseny, incredible.

So even though not completely the same thing, I can say with high degree of certainty you are not crazy, it really is that good. Spain is cycling paradise I'd say.
It's actually so nice to hear that Barcelona was great too! Just my brief pass through to get to and from the airport, I could see there's hills everywhere. Which is always good news :)
If I go via finding a job or something, I'd have way more opportunities in Barcelona compared to Girona, obviously. 1 hour by train to Girona wouldn't be bad at all!
It's really all I can think about. Can't wait to actually do it.
Yes, I saw many cyclist during weekends taking train out of Barcelona and doing their rides away from the city. I met and joined a couple of times this club https://www.ccgracia.org/, was and still am amazed how well organised they / their rides are.

robertbb
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by robertbb

Timely post. My g/f and I are done with Australia (lots of reasons) and through her ancestry she is able to get EU citizenship. Our preference (as weird as this may seem to OP) is to move to the USA - we've both spent plenty of time there and we love it. A close second is Girona.

So much more to be asked/said on this topic, but to OP: would you say Girona is liveable for someone who only speaks English? (noting of course that holidaying at a destination, and living there successfully long term, are two entirely different propositions).

skinnybex
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by skinnybex

I spent 16 days in Girona back in March and rode about 1,300 miles in that time so I did every major route in the surrounding area. I stayed in an apartment right above the Service Course and it's truly a magical place to ride and relax. Great food, art, history and friendly people. I'll be returning again in 2024 but I just spent 6 days in Calpe and 6 days in Mallorca just last week. Calpe and Denia are just as good regarding the riding with better weather but the charm and atmoshere aren't nearly as good as Girona. I'll be in Portugal for work in early March 2024 in Lisbon but I plan on riding for a week in Algarve right after my event to add another place to my travels. My next return to Girona I'm doing more gravel since I've heard how amazing the various routes are.
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Mr.Gib
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by Mr.Gib

@gurk700, I share your impression of Girona. It is second to none as far as cycling culture goes - it is all about the bike. And yes, you will never encounter more patient and polite motorists anywhere in the world - period.

Mrs. Gib and I plan to spend our retirement in Europe and we have made some effort to find the nicest places to live and ride. To that end we have always added at week or two in a fixed location as part of our European summer mountain tours to test out various locations. In summer 2023 we lived in Girona for 10 days - had an fabulous bike centric (racks, work area, etc.) house two hundred meters from Pont de Pedra (the classic meeting spot for groups heading out).

As far as pure road riding is concerned, a minor let down for me regarding Girona was that getting to much of the best terrain (which is to the West), required passage of 30km of very ordinary flat straight roads. And then again at the end of the ride on the way home. The net result is that too many prime epic rides had up to 60km of filler. Yes, Els Angles starts right in town, but it's nothing special. It may be perfect for pros looking for some structured climbing work, but it does not qualify as epic. Don't get me wrong, I would be super happy to go back and would be content to live in Girona. And we routinely do 200 km plus rides, so some boring kms are not a deal breaker. But ultimately I preferred the riding in Pau, Alba, and Lucca by comparison. Each is different, but the common denominator was fabulous riding right outside your door. Pau was my favourite of those three - Pyrenees are right there so...

And one more item, you didn't miss a thing not riding the Rocacorba. The fame is not deserved. The surface of the upper half is so bad that coming down is extremely unpleasant and potentially dangerous. And the scenery, views, etc. meh. I think it's reputation is based on the fact that it includes 6 or 7 km at a steady 10%. Again, maybe good if you are preparing to compete in a grand tour, but for recreational cycling your time is better spent on other roads in the area. Although we passed Ashley Moolman Pasio at the bottom so it has that going for it.

Next summer I'll cross Switzerland and northeast Italy - mostly Dolomites but also some riding closer to Slovenia. Bassano Del Grappa looks like a good spot to hang out for a couple of weeks afterward. I'll report back.
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Mr.Gib
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by Mr.Gib

robertbb wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2023 10:22 pm
Timely post. My g/f and I are done with Australia (lots of reasons) and through her ancestry she is able to get EU citizenship. Our preference (as weird as this may seem to OP) is to move to the USA - we've both spent plenty of time there and we love it. A close second is Girona.

So much more to be asked/said on this topic, but to OP: would you say Girona is liveable for someone who only speaks English? (noting of course that holidaying at a destination, and living there successfully long term, are two entirely different propositions).
If cycling is a big part of your life, my vote is Girona all the way. As for the language, if you don't have to work in Spanish (or Catalan), then I wouldn't let it be an obstacle. There is enough English spoken to get by, and learning Spanish could be part of the adventure. But if you do have to work, regardless of language, making a good living in the US is statistically more likely.

I've spent time riding in some of the nicest parts of California, have family in San Fran etc., and while with enough money it would be great, it doesn't compare to Girona. The population density in the nicer US locations is more than I prefer, particularely as a cyclist. If OTOH you don't mind crowds and like the action...
wheelsONfire wrote: When we ride disc brakes the whole deal of braking is just like a leaving a fart. It happens and then it's over. Nothing planned and nothing to get nervous for.

gurk700
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by gurk700

robertbb wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2023 10:22 pm
Timely post. My g/f and I are done with Australia (lots of reasons) and through her ancestry she is able to get EU citizenship. Our preference (as weird as this may seem to OP) is to move to the USA - we've both spent plenty of time there and we love it. A close second is Girona.

So much more to be asked/said on this topic, but to OP: would you say Girona is liveable for someone who only speaks English? (noting of course that holidaying at a destination, and living there successfully long term, are two entirely different propositions).
It doesn't sound weird to be honest. I get it. US is weird man.. for us, we're very thankful because we're comfortable. I worked 2 jobs night and day for a few years to save half of a down-payment. She's been saving money since high-school. We bought a house right before covid. With 2 good tech jobs and no kids, life can be great here. Cycling is a HUGE part of my life, but it's not the only life. Some people seek other things and I can absolutely see some people preferring the diversity US can offer.

For me it's mostly the culture I'm kind of tired of. I was born and raised in Turkey. 20 years there. Then 20 years here and now I'm also a US citizen. As much as I hate my home country, I do miss that not every conversation with a stranger end up being about jobs or kids or the latest tech gadget or what to buy next. We have no interest in working in our 50's (only 10 years left for me). We want to be somewhere more... chill.

Honestly it might just be California that I'm tired of. It feels like you either have a six figure job or you're homeless. I'm sure I can find some of the things I want in other states. For me, I think I'll find it in Portugal and then Girona.

EDIT: Forgot to answer the language question. This was a concern for us for sure. Honestly, not so much for me as I'm an introverted hermit for the most part. But I was really concerned that my partner would a) Not be as into Girona because it seemed like there wasn't much going on besides cycling b) She's an extrovert and LOVES making friends. When we were in Girona, we got by speaking English. Everywhere we went, there was at least one person speaking pretty fluently. Sure it's not the same as living there but I feel like we'd be ok. Tech is also catching up with almost real time translations now. Give it 5 more years I feel like you can almost have a job in Spanish / Catalan speaking company because AI makes videos of you speaking in English into whatever language you want.

Anyway I think we'd also be more than willing to take courses and learn Spanish then Catalan. Always, ALWAYS wanted to learn speaking a 3rd language and this would be an awesome excuse.
Last edited by gurk700 on Wed Dec 13, 2023 12:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

gurk700
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by gurk700

Mr.Gib wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2023 11:42 pm
I've spent time riding in some of the nicest parts of California, have family in San Fran etc., and while with enough money it would be great, it doesn't compare to Girona. The population density in the nicer US locations is more than I prefer, particularely as a cyclist. If OTOH you don't mind crowds and like the action...
Yep. Plus, no tire setup / combo will be safe from drug needles, bullet casings or burnt car / broken window debris I pass by / over when I'm in Oakland or SF :lol:
Or you could just avoid all those, ride on east bay skyline which is beautiful, except once in a while you might be stopped and get your expensive bike stolen at gun point.

Peninsula is beautiful though. I miss living there. Forget about having a house there unless you make millions ofcourse.

gurk700
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by gurk700

Mr.Gib wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2023 11:23 pm
The net result is that too many prime epic rides had up to 60km of filler. Yes, Els Angles starts right in town, but it's nothing special. It may be perfect for pros looking for some structured climbing work, but it does not qualify as epic. Don't get me wrong, I would be super happy to go back and would be content to live in Girona. And we routinely do 200 km plus rides, so some boring kms are not a deal breaker. But ultimately I preferred the riding in Pau, Alba, and Lucca by comparison. Each is different, but the common denominator was fabulous riding right outside your door. Pau was my favourite of those three - Pyrenees are right there so...
Absolutely agree with this. Honestly it's why I mentioned I have the riding routes covered around here in CA and it's more about the culture in Girona.
Access to real EPIC stuff a major plus side of Girona though. But yeah... Just this past Sunday I rode to Mt.Diablo, up it and back. We're talking about Mt.Diablo, which compares to something like Alpe d'Huez on paper. There's also Mt. Tam, Hamilton, Hicks, Old La Honda, Kings, Page Mill.. then there's the south, Santa Cruz stuff.. Just endless.

So between CA and Girona, I'd take CA for very close epic climbs / routes. But every single aspect of living otherwise, I can't recommend CA to anyone anymore. Especially since covid.
I'll definitely take 60km of filler and a train ride to epic climbs :mrgreen:

skinnybex
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by skinnybex

I've lived in 6 different US states and travelled to more than 50 different countries for work or vacation. I currently live in Bentonville, Arkansas and I can honestly say it's my favorite place I've ever spent any extended amount of time living. Talk about bike culture and an abbundance of differing terrain then everyone should visit this part of the country at least once and ignore what they may have heard about this part of the US. But I could see myself living in Alicante or Girona full time at some point in the near future.
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gurk700
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by gurk700

skinnybex wrote:
Wed Dec 13, 2023 1:50 am
I've lived in 6 different US states and travelled to more than 50 different countries for work or vacation. I currently live in Bentonville, Arkansas and I can honestly say it's my favorite place I've ever spent any extended amount of time living. Talk about bike culture and an abbundance of differing terrain then everyone should visit this part of the country at least once and ignore what they may have heard about this part of the US. But I could see myself living in Alicante or Girona full time at some point in the near future.
Would've never guessed about Bentonville. How could I? I know ton of people around here who would avoid whole States cause of the way they vote in elections which is about the most idiotic thing ever. Which is also one of the good reasons to leave this place lol.
If the abroad plans fall through I'll definitely be traveling all over the US to find where I feel home and keep a wide open mind.

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tonytourist
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by tonytourist

Cycling in Girona is awesome. I went in 2019 and while I would change a few things about the trip, I really enjoyed the riding there. Rocorba was a good climb and while I didn't get to have any big days I know there are plenty of other routes I'd enjoy doing if I ever make it back. I would like to spend at least two weeks there but a month would be better.

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