Now, on a day with foghorns sounding and moisture dripping from fir trees, I remember the week this June we spent walking in Catalunya, Spain. Inspired by English friends who often do such walking tours, a sense of tempus fugit, and the willingness of our younger son and his sweet friend to come along, my husband and I signed up with the Alternative Travel Group out of Oxford. We chose “The Hills of Girona” their 28-mile, independent or “footloose” trip.
ATG provides a detailed Route Booklet, reserves accommodations along the way, and most importantly – arranges to have bags transported from one hotel to the next! A blissful luxury for people accustomed in our backpacking days to the daylong weight of babies and food, tents, and heavy clothes.
In a night and day of travel, we flew through London to Barcelona. Transiting Heathrow terminals is a walk itself between trains and buses and moving stairways. But we woke near Barcelona’s Cathedral to sunshine (beginning a pattern of sunny mornings and gathering afternoon clouds) and spend our recovery days walking and walking: the Ramblas from one end to the other, the narrow medieval streets of the Barri Gòtic, and Gaudí sights: Sagrada Famìlia (the press of visitors made it hard to do anything but admire its splendor and improbability from the street), and Parc Güell – where the climb to the top, past the famous mosaics, was dry and dusty with lavender, rosemary, and cactus.
At the great Barcelona food market, the Boqueria, we bought nuts, dried apricots, figs, and fresh fruit for the hike – and peered at elaborate pyramids of multicolored fruits and vegetables and Catalan meat and seafood in patterned displays – then boarded a train to head north.
Rupit, the “trailhead” for our trek – tiny, medieval, and magical – perches on a rocky promontory encircled by a river that is crossed by a trembly, hanging footbridge. Old stone houses squeeze together, and exuberant pink or red geraniums spill from boxes at each window. A euro coin switched on lights inside the church (begun in the 10th century) and revealed fresh flowers near the altar. The main street became a stone slab path and steps, seeming to be the natural rock of the ridge.
At the Hotel Estrella I sat on the bed and drew the window view. We all sat in the sunshine at a terrace table over the river to study the Route Booklet, drink a beer, and eat the first of many “crisps” cooked in olive oil. We laughed nervously (some of us) about this idea of walking 28 miles in three days.