So finally and thankfully here we were, my son Gianluca and I, after much indecision, in Girona, Spain. Sorry, Catalonia.

2017-07-17 15.59.08You won’t see the Spanish flag anywhere in Catalonia. The only exception was on ATM screens, the second flag after the one of Catalonia, so that one chooses the preferred language for further operations. You will see, on the other hand, all over the place, either the flag of Catalonia and even more often the flag of the independence movement, with a blue triangle and a white star added on to the red and yellow stripes of the Catalan flag. In the old town, a huge independence flag covered the facade of a building close to where we were staying in the Jewish quarters of the old town.

They have a referendum in October on whether they should become independent from Spain. The Spanish government considers it to be illegal. There may be a silent majority in Catalonia itself that doesn’t agree with independence, but, believe me , it’s very silent. The picture below is the only sentiment that you’ll see publicly proclaimed. “Catalonia a new European state”. Or simply the word “Sì”. Lots and lots of them.

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I’m a bit ambivalent about this. I understand that if a population doesn’t consider itself to be Spanish, you can’t force them to be Spanish. On the other hand, I’ve become used to Spain being Spain, and Barcelona being in Spain. In which league would FC Barcelona compete if they suddenly found themselves cut off from Spain? Would their biggest rivals for the national title be Girona? Or would they remain in La Liga? And what sort of independence would that actually be, then? Well, it’s up to them to decide. Or maybe not because Spain has already made it amply clear they’re not going to allow them to break away. I just hope the silent “No” will win the day as a unilateral declaration of independence would create much confusion and possibly even conflict. Spain is much too nice a country to have another civil war.

Gianluca and I discovered just how nice during the four days that we stayed in Girona. We arrived in the afternoon, waited for our Airbnb hostess to take us into a fabulous accommodation in the heart of the old town, at the edge of the Jewish quarter. We settled our things in there, rested for a while and went out for our first reconnaissance. We crossed one of several bridges over the river that separates the old town from the modern part of the city. I encountered a view that was already familiar to me from internet research…

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We crisscrossed for a few times, back over a bridge designed by the one and only Gustave Eiffel…

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… towards the much hyped Rambla. It’s a street with shops, tourist cafes and restaurants, and of course tourists. Not really impressed. We moved on and eventually came back to the Placa de la Indipendencia for our first evening meal in Girona.

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The following day, our first full day in Girona, was a tour de force of discovery of this lovely town. The cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria is situated at the top of a wide flight of steps. This was reputedly rendered famous by the TV series Game of Thrones. I began to watch this recently and immediately gave up. Too many beheadings. While I sat down in the shade to rest my aching sciatica, a guide came along with his crowd of clients and began to explain about the cathedral. The most memorable piece of information was that there were 90 steps leading up to the cathedral, grouped into three sets of 30. We had to verify, of course. It’s 28, 29 and 33. He was correct about the total.

We walked around a concentration of streets, placas, museums, churches, ‘Arab’ baths…

 

Our target for the day were the “muralles” – the walls. It’s the perimeter wall of the old town on the east, practically the highest part of the city. You can walk along a passageway on top of it and admire the main attractions and the rest of the city from a high vantage point.

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The total length of the wall is about 3 kilometres. There are various access points to it but, being a sufferer of a travel related syndrome known as FOMO – fear of missing out (Gianluca immediately loved this expression) – I wanted to do the whole length. Which was very ambitious, given my present precarious state where I can hardly walk more than a hundred metres before having to sit down to rest. Not to mention the early afternoon heat: this was mid July in Spain.

We were rewarded with some wonderful views!

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Several towers provided the opportunity to rest and admire the panorama below, in between stretches of wall.

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Such a lovely town! We felt at home here after just a few hours. From breakfast in the open air exactly in front of the main entrance to our apartment, to the walk up the hill towards the heart of the Jewish quarter…

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To the evening meals at Zarpanzar, Le Bistrot, El Pou del Call…

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And then there’s the rest of the region. Girona is conveniently far, and close enough, to Barcelona, and a hub from where to visit beautiful surroundings – the Pyrenee mountains in the north, the Costa Brava to the south, medieval villages, valleys, lakes…

If you haven’t been there already, I suggest you go see for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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