Historic Girona in Catalonia, the North Eastern corner of Spain is a really lovely atmospheric city. It has everything you could want for a weekend away – a romantic atmosphere if going with a lover, narrow winding streets, and the River Onyar with its many pedestrian bridges. What makes an UNESCO World Heritage Site? I don’t know as this surely qualifies.
I went with a girlfriend, courtesy of the Costa Brava Tourist Board. We stayed at the modern Hotel Ciutat de Girona, which is centrally located and just a few steps from the Onyar which flows through the town’s centre. Round the corner to the hotel, the street bordering the river is filled with small, individually owned boutique shops. Across the bridge the old town has a Ramblas, the place where the locals come to socialise. It is lined with overpriced cafes, but is a great place to people watch, and on Saturdays there is also a flower market.
Girona has a Museum of Jewish History covering the six hundred years from the middle of the twelfth century until they were expelled in 1492. Within its walls is a lovely courtyard with a sculpture by the artist Frank Meisler. In the summer concerts are held here, as well as story telling of Jewish fairy tales for children. www.ajuntament.gi/call
There are 91 steps to get to the Baroque cathedral, which towers over the town. Once you have climbed them, there are wonderful views of the Pre-Pyrenees Mountains. The cathedral’s interior is gothic, with no columns so it looks much higher than it actually is. Inside is a museum displaying a magnificent tapestry in needlepoint of the Creation dating back 1,000 years.
Nearby, bizarrely, there are also twelfth century Arab baths built by the Christians following on the model of a Haman with several rooms providing different heat temperatures.
Food lovers will want to visit the undercover market in the Place of Independence. Stall upon stall display their wares, all look very enticing. One of the stalls sells a traditional regional speciality escauvada, cod fish salad made with peppers, black olives garlic, parsley and fresh tomatoes. Sadly, the food was only to take away, and there was nowhere nearby to try it.
The houses bordering the river are painted in colours associated with the sun, dark pinks, terracotta, and yellow. Recently several of these houses, once the home of the architect Rafael Masó (1880 – 1935), have been opened to the public as a museum. The houses have been maintained as they used to be from the era of the noucentista period, relating to the arts and crafts movement in the UK. http://www.rafaelmaso.org
If you enjoyed your stay and want to return, search out the lioness sculpture. Legend has it that you have to kiss its bottom! Steps are provided.
I flew to Girona with Ryan Air.The flights leave at the unsocial hour of 6am, which for me, meant a 3am start. However it does mean that you arrive around 10am and have the whole day to explore. National Express have buses running every fifteen minutes to Stansted airport. http://www.nationalexpress.com