We spent Sunday, October 19th in Girona, a small city north east of Barcelona. Having planned to get on the very exciting Alta Velocidad Española network, which runs at over 200km/h, we managed to turn up a the station two minutes late for the last train for two and a half hours.
We toyed with the idea of renting a car (such adventure!) before the boys got distracted in the FC Barcelona store and ended up buying match tickets for the AFC Ajax game. Sufficient time wasted, we bought our tickets for the slow train and hopped on fairly hassle-free.
Once we arrived in Girona, we realised quite how half-baked our plan was. We had no idea what was actually in Girona, let alone a map of the area; all we had was Dave reassuring us, “It’s supposed to be the Venice of Spain!”
Safe to say, when we finally came across the river, we were less than impressed: a dribble of water about five feet wide does not a Grand Canal make. Nevertheless, we powered on, and started climbing the wall that surrounds the city.
From here, we began to understand what there was to see in Girona: stunning views over the city and neighbouring mountains. I regularly made the team pose for cringe-worthy group shots. They endured them. What troopers.
From where we started, the wall is modern and purpose-built, with rather lovely typical Spanish villas set into the hills behind it, but the further we walked, the older the wall became. On the inside of the wall, Girona sprawled out higgledy-piggledy in front of us: apartment blocks from all eras and in all shapes and sizes squeeze in next to countless ancient churches along hilly, winding streets.
The main attraction in Girona is its spectacular cathedral, and we came across it almost by accident. Following the old wall (sounds like Game of Thrones, looks like Game of Thrones…) we wound up in a cool, shady garden.
After following steps up, down and in all directions, we finally came to the cathedral. From the back, it is impressive in scale, yes, but not beauty. Then we made it to the sides and front of the building, and were blown away.
Inside it was a bizarre mix of sombre grey stone and vast blank spaces and the ornate, decorative Catholic shrines with flickering candles reflecting in the gilded ornaments. Unsurprisingly, no photos were allowed inside – a crying shame because the stained-glass windows were spectacular.
I spent more time than others in the cloisters partly because I love a good cloisters – they always remind me of my favourite spot at school: lame, I know – and partly because the others managed to lose me and so while I was peacefully snapping pigeons drinking from the fountain, they were getting ready to eat their own arms off on the sun-warmed steps in the square outside.
When I realised I was abandoned I had that horrible lost-your-mum-in-the-supermarket feeling and had to do that awkward brisk walk characteristic of an English person in an uncomfortable situation. Fortunately I didn’t have to look far, but by the time we were reunited we were all ravenous, signalling it was time to make the difficult decision of choosing a place to eat. Settling on an incongruous Mexican restaurant, we greedily tucked into nachos loaded with chilli con carne, guacamole, and sour cream. I’ve learnt a new phrase this week which is “J’ai un coup de barre” which literally means ‘I’ve been struck by a bar’ but the French use it to explain a carb coma or food baby – that sleepy sensation you get after a delicious meal.
Thus sated, we wandered the streets for a while, before rediscovering the river. All right, it is *slightly* Venice-y.
After a quick ice cream pit-stop, we wandered through the streets in the early evening, and like any Spanish city, the town began to buzz with after-hours activity, which added to its charm. Plus, we got to take the AVE back to BCN. Such a good day.