March 17, 2003 - Nabarrone, FR 166k**

The view from my 3rd floor hotel room in Girona, Spain.

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The big debate last night was whether we head straight north across the Pyrenees, saving 40km but adding bigger “hills”, or take the longer and less vertical costal “Costa Brava” route. A little sick of Spain, we decided to risk the hills.

Before we left Girona, Charlie took us on a brief riding tour. Once again we found a core walled city with walking roads, and a cathedral and church at the tip – this one a bit steeper than most. It also had a picturesque river running through it. Following are pictures of the cathedral, a staircase in the old city, and a river view.

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All in all, Girona’s seems like an interesting place, but by 8:30A we were pressing North.

This was a riding day. 10km out of town was the first of the big climbs. Even though it was cold, Charlie, I and Bryan stopped respectively at the beginning, middle, and end of the climb to reduce layers. You sweat most under the exertion of climbs with little wind to cool you. It was fairly steady big ups and downs in the Pyrenees, with the biggest climb being at the border.

I was amazed at the end of the day that I didn’t take more pictures. Grinding up and ripping down the hills absorbed most of our mental energy too. I was hoping for some good border crossing shots, but it was a disappointment. There was some nice stonework saying goodbye from Spain…

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… and a basically abandoned border crossing. There’s more fanfare crossing from Illinois into Wisconsin than going from Spain into France.

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but that was about it. The Spanish side of the border, on a moderate uphill, was full of dirty truck stop type stuff, plus restaurants and discos. The French side had the town of Perthus on an even steeper uphill (the peak was a couple of kilometers into France), full of neat bustling shops of all kinds.

Leaving Perthus was one of the two best downhills of the trip (the other one leaving Guadalupe). It was perhaps 15km of curvy, mountain road with little traffic and few towns. Then it was rolling hills to Perpignan where we stopped at a corner café for a nice lunch, and continued aggressive riding through the now French countryside for a late arrival at The Residence Hotel in Narbonne. More on Naarbonne tomorrow.

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