Monday, April 30, 2012

My Girona

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

Our final day in France dawned crisp and grey, and we all scrambled around to clean our mobil-home and pack for our respective journeys home. 

After handing over the keys, we travelled back to Argelès-sur-Mer for some final chaussons aux pommes (apple pastries), and then dropped Luuk and Amy at the train station.

We drove south, and the day got windier as we progressed. Just like the day we arrived in France, the day we left brought gale-force winds, which continued into Spain.

As we drove over les Pyrénées and through the Spanish countryside, the weather grew warmer and it was a very pleasant journey. At one stage, there was some sort of accident on the road ahead (we think a truck broke down) and we got stuck in the longest queue we've ever been in, mostly trucks!

However, it was still a beautiful journey, and we arrived at our stylish hotel mid-afternoon, tired, but ready to explore. 
Love the decor!
This time around, I was prepared. I told Adam to have his passport ready so that I could use my fancy Spanish phrase when checking into the Hotel, then we would bluff the receptionist's hasty Spanish reply by flourishing the passport. (Which, I had ascertained, was usually the reply - some form of "Please can I see some I.D.?") Unfortunately Adam wasn't listening and turned around to the receptionist and said "er sorry, do you speak English?". Foiled.

Some facts about Girona:
  • Girona is a city of over 96,000 people, located in the region of Cataluña (Catalonia).

  • Girona was originally a Roman citadel, then passed into the hands of the Moors, then was won by Charlemagne, and was part of the Kingdom of Aragon (The hometown of Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Fernando y Isabel) (Ferdinand and Isabella - everything sounds so much more romantic in Spanish though, don't you think?!).
  • The city was a great centre of Jewish culture until 1492, when Jews were expelled under the Catholic Inquisition.
  • The Cathedral was originally a mosque, but after the Moors were expelled, it was altered to become a Catholic place of worship.
  • Much of the city's defensive walls were demolished in the 1800s, but some parts have been restored in recent years. 

The fortifications

(Not the Park!)
As we walked the streets of Girona, we came across a beautiful park (Parc de la Devesa) and wished we had more time in the city, as looked like a lovely place to explore. According to Viquipedia (!) it is 40 hectares and is the biggest park in Cataluña.

Yes, I touched it.
Girona is built around three rivers, and so there were many bridges - which kept the Engineer happy. We also came across the Roman wall and fortifications - which kept the Historian happy. These were amazing, but to Girona's detriment, they weren't well looked after - the beautiful ancient fortifications were covered in litter and the stale odour of urine.
Possibly worse than Narbonne because with these you wanted to spend so much more time looking around or poking around old towers, but you just didn't know what you were touching. Eew. 

Scoops of coconut and mango. Yum. 
Grossness aside, the weather was beautiful, and as you can see, the city looks lovely in pictures. Soon we stumbled upon a newer, more upmarket part of the city, and we enjoyed walking around and having an icecream.

Sniffing an English speaker (not literally), I asked the Gelato man to remind me how to ask for something in Spanish. (Yo quiero....) I tucked this away carefully.

The City of Girona, Spain

Soon, we were getting pretty tired and hungry, and the strong winds were getting a bit much. We rustled up some tea and fresh baguette from a local supermarket, and headed back to our hotel room. Adam watched some football while I wrote some postcards. 

Me writing my postcards. 

The next morning, we had another quick explore of the town centre and then found a café for a breakfast of coffee and pastry.

Aha! Here was my chance!!

"Hola! Yo quiero un café con leche y un croissant. Gracias." ("Hello, I would like a coffee with milk and a croissant. Thanks.")
The waiter began to prepare my order.


Until he turned around and shot off a rapid-fire comment, with a smile and a nod.

I smiled and nodded in return, my usual response in this situation, and Adam turned to me and whispered "What did he say?".

My reply? "I don't know."

Soon, we guessed that he meant we were to take a table and he would bring us our order, so we found a table outside in the sunshine. It was the best coffee we'd had on our holiday, and probably better than most English coffees (apart from the Kiwi-style hipster joints). I sat and wrote my postcards (properly, this time) while Adam took some final pictures.

We then realised we had to be back at our hotel in 15 minutes to check out, so we took off à toute vitesse (at full tilt)

It was a gorgeous day for a drive, and we arrived in Barcelona to a balmy 23 degrees. And a 1.5 hour delay on our flight. I can now say assuredly that the food in Barcelona El Prat airport is TERRIBLE. Gatwick airport beats it hands down.

We arrived back in London to 11 degrees and rain. And promptly wished we were back in Spain! Time to save for another holiday!

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