Or, Catalonia Holiday: Day 1, Part I
Since Ryanair’s bargain-basement flight to Girona, Spain lands at about 9pm, it made sense to stay the night in Girona and see the city the next day before heading to Barcelona. The city’s ‘Equity Point’ youth hostel was cheap, friendly (the front desk lady, so eager to speak English, was adorable), and pleasantly not busy. I had only one roommate, an Italian guy who was on the last day of his vacation, and he was as quiet as I was, until night fell. Then he snored for hours.
The next morning I locked myself out of my room at breakfast, but checked out at ten o’clock and plunged into the narrow streets of old Girona. Girona is a fairly dull, modern city – on the edges. The bus from the airport drove through literally an entire street of nothing but furniture superstores. But old Girona is different: built in medieval times, it’s almost entirely pedestrianized, full of narrow alleys below marvelous window-boxes. I meandered through the especially old Jewish Quarter, visited the cathedral, and then, using a navigation method called “which way looks the most fun?”, wandered aimlessly through a glorious garden and up the steps onto the truly ancient walls of the city, built by the Romans nearly two thousand years ago.
The walls are narrow:
The walls are also exhilarating, from end to end, and walking from the cathedral along them back to the river is the most fun that you can have in Girona. It’s also exhausting, so afterwards I had to reward myself with a gigantic pain au chocolate.
More wandering, this time through Girona’s shopping district and across its many bridges (for purposes of photography), led to the discovery of a ‘harmonia mundi’ classical music shop, which, ambush-like, surprised me so much I left some money in it and re-emerged with Maurice Ravel’s complete piano music, plus one of the very first performances of Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony and a couple other goodies. Lunch, a three-course meal of mushroom soup, beef stew and flan (!) at the Restaurant Vinil, was outstanding. In England, it’s pretty easy to have a bad beef stew; even good stews are usually heavy things, with sauces that just sort of sit on your tongue like guests who won’t get off your couch until an hour after the party is over. The Vinil stew wasn’t like that; it was light and crisp and clear, and felt almost effortless. That means that it must have taken a whole lot of effort. Both meat and potatoes were literally softer than butter. Superb!
But, full, well-walked, and with a huge backpack on my shoulders, I felt the need to move on to the next stop. Girona is a rewarding little city: the old quarter is a marvelous little district, the cathedral beautiful, and the “Passeig Arqueologic” (walk up to the Roman walls) was fantastic. But the allure of Barcelona awaited, just an hour and a half to the south. I boarded a slow train and had a siesta. That turned out to be extremely good planning, because although I planned to spend the night resting and recovering from the exhausting first day (about 4.5 miles of walking total), that plan just wasn’t going to happen.
Cliffhanger! Continued in a later post…
P.S. I’m pretty sure you can click the pictures to view gigantic versions