The Alt Empordà, Catalonia
The open skies of the Alt Empordà
I had forgotten what it was like to go cycling in the open countryside, under an immense sky, oxygenating my mind, body and soul. And the sensation of freedom at seeing an unpaved path disappearing into the woods, the sound of the pine trees whispering above me as they gossip in the wind and the spirited song of invisible cicadas resonating in the heat. Or the delightful rides through sleepy Catalan villages with their honey-coloured stone buildings warmed by the sun and window boxes with crowds of summer flowers craning their necks to watch me speed past.
Now that my bicycle is fixed, cleaned and oiled, I'm off on my early morning rides again, leaving the house as the sun sends the first soft beams on ahead to announce its imminent arrival. The dawn colours creep up over the mountains which loom up darkly on the horizon, stacked up one behind the other, like massive sleeping creatures. I'm revelling in the cool stillness of the morning, the birds' choir, the rabbits surprised by my wheels, sprinting off in jerky zig-zags, their white bobtails flashing behind them. Maybe they think I'm Mr McGregor. It's early but some of the older residents in the nearby villages are already out, hoeing, pruning, watering, growing their lunch and supper.
Sometimes I ride down to the sparkling river which gurgles happily, tickled by ribbon-like plants, polishing stones smooth. Up the hill and through the undergrowth, bumping down a clod-filled trail between fields turning a golden summery colour, with enormous round hay bales waiting patiently for re-location by tractors. The butterflies are beginning to unfold their wings and warm them up in the sun's rays, ready to flit off and visit their pretty playmates, the wild flowers. And then I come across July's brightest, happiest gift to us... a field drenched in yellow sunflowers, already awake, smiling at me. I want to hug them all and tell them I'm back and I'll be coming down to see them whenever possible.
Now I'm relishing these moments again, enjoying summer in the countryside, far from the big city.
Riding through the woods
Morning mist over the river
Trail through the woods
Field of sunflowers