Sun, sea and sweat – why Catalonia is the perfect place for an active holiday

The dirt road plunges into a thick stone valley. Blind rotates one by one. The bike nearly slides under me as I twist my body to slide around a particularly tight turn, kicking up a cloud of dust that floats over the cliff and disappears into the dense forest below.

I steal a glimpse into the distance. The trees meander towards the topaz coast of Catalonia, far from the horizon and beyond the many hills I have left to deal with.

The starting point is Via Verde in Girona (Gongo Maudsley / PA)

Oh Spain. No wonder this country is regularly ranked as the healthiest in Europe, because few other countries can boast of investing so much in sports infrastructure.

Bike lanes like this may only be part of that story, but they are definitely the main chapter now. Mega projects such as the Ruta Vía de la Plata (Silver Route, a new road linking Seville to Gijón, via the Camino de Santiago – another increasingly popular route among cyclists) have firmly established 2022 as the year of the cycling in Spain, while opening up a whole new way to explore the plot.

But despite big projects like this making headlines, there’s also a lot going on locally. In particular, it’s Vías Verdes (the greenways; viasverdes.com) that invites a new breed of casual athlete to try Spain on two wheels.

Built from old railway tracks, the Green Lines are long, straight and mostly flat, crossing previously unknown areas of the Spanish countryside. With 3,000 kilometers of track stretching across the country, it offers a challenging but accessible way to crush a new trail through the rugged Spanish outback.

I know this first hand, because here on the Costa Brava of Catalonia I deal in one of the most impressive ways, from Girona in S’Agaro. At 40 kilometers (25 miles), it’s a big but accessible trek. Better still, it was boosted at the start of the year by a €1.6 million improvement plan.

The evidence of the road’s past is like a scattered railroad before my eyes. Every few kilometers I find, among the suburban houses, a beautiful railway shed with sloping wooden roofs. These old stops have been transformed into tourist information centers and small museums.

Old Quart Railway Station on Via Verde Girona (Gongo Maudsley/Penn)

Both are essential stops – offering free bottled water – and information panels to tell the story of this route. I learned that the old railway once ferried stylish day-trippers from Girona to the chic seaside resort of S’Agaró – and I started to feel a little underdressed in cotton trousers. tight and padded lycra.

At the end of mile 40, I crawled back to S’Agaró completely exhausted, but grateful for my one-way ride today, as I was smart enough to pack my secret weapon – a family shuttle.

Once a month, the PGA Catalunya Resort, a stone’s throw from Girona airport, offers a guided tour of the greenway with door-to-door transport (€35/£30 per person). And so I rest, while the hotel prepares for the return air-conditioned, bicycle and all.

Jonjo Maudsley on his bike (Jonjo Maudsley/PA)

My hot, aching muscles, clammy, golden skin mean the view of the Camiral – the center of the five-star PGA Catalunya – couldn’t be more restful. I have already set up my own recovery program – a favorite of professional athletes – at their state-of-the-art wellness center, which recently received a €5 million injection. Entrusting my battered body to Emilia, I find myself going through a series of treatments laughing at the post-cycle pain.

First it is 20 minutes in the bio-modification room with a low level laser, followed by a 90 minute deep tissue massage where Emilia, with the skill of the surgeon, fights my muscles against the pain. hot bone underneath.

Now to cool off, and nowhere better than in a radiator, where at -160°C, I feel my muscle fibers grip like carpenter’s fingers. Finally, for the well-being of my mind and body, I embrace a 45-minute rest in the oxygen tent, washing my blood with the most vital of all vital elements (unique treatments from €60 / £51, packages available).

Bio-adjustment room in the wellness center (PGA Catalunya / PA)

I leave feeling like a newly energized Terminator, a newly minted five star, and a fruit that has just reached full maturity. My muscles are spongy, and my veins and arteries are full of vagaries. My 40 km bike feels like a memory from a past life. I now understand how athletes do the amazing things they do. I want to do them too and so I’m outside, dressed in new clothes, pushing myself towards another physical activity: golf.

The hotel is home to two of the best golf courses in Spain and my stay at the Camiral includes a starter golf lesson. It’s a good chance to embarrass myself in front of the pro club team, before tackling a casual back nine, my balls swinging in all the wrong directions on the 1,334 acre estate (green fee on request ).

Jonjo Maudsley cruising at the PGA Catalunya Resort (Jonjo Maudsley/PA)

It works to elevate the appetite, and again the Camiral is ready to please. With dishes prepared by celebrity chef David Vives, Restaurante 1477 honors Girona’s exceptional culinary heritage with a tasting menu of impeccable quality – and with a healthy flow to the menu, I unabashedly include all six courses in my fitness program.

We should mention in particular the tuna tataki with mango sauce and spicy chicken thighs with a Catalan garnish. High in protein, low in fat, vitamins and omega-3s, healthy eating just doesn’t taste good.

After fueling up and being active, I wake up the next morning ready to start again. Starting with a light jog around the expansive PGA Catalunya grounds, I can enjoy the resort’s organic gardens, teeming with frogs and turtles at night with bats flapping, all expertly tended by living biologist Oriol Dalmau.

Hotel Camiral from above (PGA Catalunya / PA)

Then, after a quick dip in the Hotel Camiral pool, I head to the gym – whose quality equipment makes me doubt my home gym membership – before finishing my routine with lunchtime yoga class with views of the Catalan mountains, painted cornflower blue in the distance.

It is rare that I leave the holidays feeling fitter and healthier than when I arrived. But again, it’s Spain, a nation united by the love of sport. From new bike paths to world-class wellness resorts, this is a country that values ​​its culture of health and fitness.

PGA Catalunya’s Keep Discovering PGA package includes accommodation at Hotel Camiral, breakfast and access to a plethora of activities including bike hire, tee golf and buggy hire, from €610 / £523 per night.

The two-day Spa-Cation package offers three treatments per person and one night from €491 / £420. Visit pgacatalunya.com.

Ryanair flies direct to Girona from London Stansted Airport all year round with fares from £28 return. Visit ryanair.com.

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