We had originally booked to go to Lanzarote at the end of May, but because of the ferry times, this proved impossible. The outward sailings are only on Fridays and take 24 hours the returns are on a Wednesday and last 17 hours so we changed our plans. We decided to fly to Barcelona, hire a car and go wherever the road took us.
Our flight being a cheap Ryanair (€78 for us both return) arrived on time and within half an hour of landing we had picked up a Toyota from Hertz and were driving out of the airport.
Because we weren’t due to land until 8.30 in the evening, I had decided to choose a hotel close by. Anyone who knows the roads around Barcelona airport knows how confusing they can be especially as the road numbers have a habit of changing, but we followed the directions I had made and the journey was easy. Okay we did miss our exit but that was because a bus would not let us into the lane and insisted on sitting almost in our back seat but we did an about turn at the next junction and retraced our steps. It was starting to get dark and things look very different in the dark even so, we were in the hotel by 9.30pm.
After a hot shower, a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast we took a leisurely drive. One of the best things about Catalunya (Catalonia) is its variety of landscapes that are beautiful and picturesque. It ranges from the Pyrenees, which even in May can have snowy peaks to the golden beaches of the Costa Brava. The region is not as popular as Costa del Sol which is good because it’s relatively quiet so easy to get around and experience the real Spain.
Girona is just such a place. It is located about an hour from Barcelona and is a must see. Here you can experience the strong essence of Catalan culture that can be felt in every corner without the hordes of nearby Barcelona.
The city is not big. It has been inhabited since before the Romans and is surrounded by a vast medieval wall. You can walk around it in a couple of hours seeing the main attractions including the famous cathedral whose construction was first started in the 11th century and finally completed in the 18th century.
One way for a city to capture my heart is through its architecture and Girona’s unmistakable riverfront quickly captivated me. The red and yellow buildings adorned with Catalan flags that run adjacent to the Onyar River are reminiscent of Amsterdam or possibly Venice (although I’ve never been to Venice so this is only in my mind’s eye). These houses have become famous and are part of the unique aesthetics of the city. Wherever you see Girona mentioned, there is normally a picture of these so naturally we took one or two.
The Jewish district, one of the best preserved historic sites in Europe, is the heart of the old town and winds its way uphill from the river in a labyrinth of alleys and winding cobblestone streets in which to spend hours getting lost.
I had read on Tripadvisor before our visit of Rocambolesc the ice cream shop belonging to Jordi Roca, the youngest of the three Roca brothers who are considered to be some of the top chefs in the world. The reviews in this case were correct, the decor is like something out of Willy Wonka and the choice of ice creams is to die for even the way they are served is fantastically theatrical.
Finally, Girona is home to a rather famous lion statue. You’re supposed to climb the platform and kiss its bum if you want to return to Girona. Well Jim joined the queue to climb the rickety steps so no doubt if he returns then I will too!
Girona has that unpretentious, liveable quality and no matter how busy it seems when looking to park the car once you start walking, you turn a corner and find peaceful tranquillity. I think it just might be my new favourite city.