Day 1 – Girona
Leaving the comfort of Blanes, we first headed north, away from the coast, for our final city visit in Spain, Girona. We drove to the small settlement of Quart, a little way south east of the city, parked in a free aire, then caught a local bus into city centre, only a few miles away. The air was colder than at the coast, chilly in the shade and we wrapped up warm until our walking efforts warmed us.
We reached the centre and after a few questions to the friendly tourist office guide, we had maps and a plan. First we climbed the many stairs to Les Muralles Medievals, the city’s Medieval walls that line the northern side of the centre. The views immediately became exceptional, with stunning vistas out over the patchy red rooftops and out to the snowy Pyrenees mountain peaks behind. Tall cypress trees, bright green against the rusty roofscape, added a strong vertical emphasis to the foreground, contrasting with the horizontal mountain range behind.
We climbed each passing watch tower in turn, seeing the views evolve and open up different scenes around the city. We passed the remains of the original city walls, Les Muralles Romanes, where little but the foundations had been retained. We reached the Arab baths, Els Banys Àrabs, but were enjoying our exploring we didn’t investigate closer. We passed the impressively positioned Catedral, then La Basilica de Sant Feliu, with its tall stone tower that is visible from almost anywhere in the city.
The town was filled with music as we wandered; we passed first an old gentleman, sitting on a fountain edge, slowly squeezing out emotive, sombre tunes on an accordion. Then near the main door of the cathedral a young girl played beautiful, soulful melodies on a silver flute. Around the next corner a scruffy, bearded old chap with a violin, a much more talented player than his demeanour would suggest, bowed and picked some soaring Vivaldi that filled up the narrow passageway. We crossed the river on a small pedestrian bridge and passed a young guitarista who finger-picked complex flamenco and, occasionally, bluesy tunes with a carefree abandon. The sweet, melodic sounds reminded just how much an injection of beautifully performed music can greatly enhance any experience. Each perfectly complemented the space and moment and lifted our senses to all aspects of the city, and we took note of more details and absorbed the atmosphere more deeply for these gloriously uplifting accompaniments to our walk.
For a different experience, away from the built history and easy beauty, we decided to visit the centrally located Museu del Cinema, a very interesting museum that housed, over three floors, many classic and iconic items from the history of films and film-making. It had many original cameras and examples of animation artwork, short films about the development in equipment and technique, through to a selection of recognisable props from modern movies.
After our museum visit, we passed under trees still dropping yellowed autumn leaves, along the banks of the river. We passed Les cases de O’Onyar, the houses on the River Onyar, that together form the quintessential vision of Girona. We walked up a narrow alley leading to a large stone archway and the Sant Martí Sacosta church at the top of many stairs. We walked the city’s central La Rambla, a beautiful arch-lined street with neat rows of trees and many cafés fully filled with customers, all outside braving the cold so they could be a part of the lively ambiance.
From the city, we decided to walk back to Quart, along a Via Verde cycle route we had read about. It was around 6km home, a pleasant stroll in the warming afternoon sunshine that allowed us time to gather our thoughts on the delight that was Girona. It had that slightly scruffy, used but well-loved, homely feel of a favourite toy from childhood, safe and comforting and now a secure and welcome memory.