Here's an excerpt from my new book You Belter Espana.
I happened upon the idea of riding a bike around Spain after reading a book called The Man Who Cycled the World. Written by a Scottish adventurer named Mark Beaumont, it described his whirlwind circumnavigation of the globe on a bicycle in 2008.
At 59, I’d hardly compare myself to the Mark Beaumont I came to know in his book. For starters, he clearly knew how to put a bicycle back together. Luck and my good friend Lore’s mechanical expertise are the only insurances I have when it comes to the durability of my bike on long distance journeys.
Beaumont was also self-sufficient-carrying all his provisions with him-and travelled quickly enough to smash the previous record time-by more than 80 days-for being the fastest cyclist to make it around the world. He took just 175 days. But it wasn’t the time he took to complete his journey of nearly thirty thousand kilometres that impressed me the most. It was more about the places he visited along the way and the experiences that came with them-sometimes daunting, sometimes curious, and sometimes moving-but in all cases, very, very memorable.
Our ideas and inspiration often come from the most unforseen events, not least learning about other people’s experiences and adventures.
Hence, inspired by Beaumont’s book and buoyed by a recent cycling journey around France I couldn’t wait to compare paella with quiche and baguettes with barra, not to mention how Spanish and Portuguese sangria matches up against a good French red wine.
Most of all, I long wanted to compare the lush French Pyrenean mountains and valleys with its dryer Spanish counterpart. And not least, there was a rather difficult mountain to the west, not far from Oviedo, that was beckoning for a third time.