My flight was to Barcelona, but since I'd already been several times, I decided to take advantage of the trip to see some other parts of Catalunya. I asked everyone I teach and work with for recommendations, and came up with a couple I decided to pursue. First one being:
G I R O N A <3
Just in the trip passing from the start of the town to the bus station, I knew I was deeply in love with Girona. The north of Spain and Catalunya have an incredibly different feel than the rest of Spain, and especially in Catalunya, it has a very French and other-world influence. Many people get to Catalunya, and don't even consider themselves in Spain anymore. Likewise, most Catalans don't consider themselves Spanish. It all contributes to this magical feeling of entering a new country, but your mobile phone still works without extra charges! I think that's part of why I always, always, always looove being in Barcelona, or now I know, anywhere in Catalunya. (And no, not because my mobile works w/o fees! Although for the "wanting to be a travel writer" purpose, it does help quite a bit. But not when you intentionally leave your charger behind so you have to keep your phone off most of the time. And, I digress. . . )
When the bus arrived at the station, which is very easy to get to from most places in the city, I decided to do what I always do when I get to a new place, have no plan, and no one else to consult or consider: wander aimlessly!
This is my single-most preferred way to travel and get to know a new place. I follow God and my inner guide, and always, always, always end up in amazing places. He always leads me down some random street, up some random staircase, away from the people, and into a perfectly wonderful, natural place. (Are you gathering that that's what happened to me upon arriving in Girona?) I arrived around lunch time, but didn't really want to go eat in a restaurant, so I decided to wander around, and then buy fruit at whatever fruit shop I stumbled upon first. I walked past some art exhibitions, found a fruit shop, and then decided to wander around and find a place to eat.
Girona is quite hilly and mountainous, and has some amazing views and sights to see. The river runs through the city, and they have a beautiful cathedral, castle/fortress and old city center. Having caught glimpses of all this, when I saw paths leading up, I decided to follow them. I came upon this narrow, empty path of stairs that seemed to lead up into the hills, and after some debate, decided to "just keep going to see what was around the next corner." I figured if I hit a dead end or came upon something displeasing, I could just go back down. Of course by now I was sweating and breathing pretty heavily, but something inside me kept calling me to continue and not turn back. And oh my gosh, I am so glad I kept on going up, up, up!
I ended up on top of a hill, looking down at all of Girona, with the landscape of the mountains it sits within behind it, green grass and beautiful, bright flowers all around me, a deteriorated tower behind me, and a view of a small town on top of a hill off to the other side. It was a greyish kind of day, so it gave the somewhat gothic city a theatrical look, but with all the green forests and fields around it, it could be anything but depressing. It was exactly the kind of place I wanted to start my trip and time, and the perfect setting to have a light, healthy lunch.
God is G O O D !
I stayed up on that hill for a long time. Listening to nature, talking to God, enjoying my fruit, dangling my feet over the wall I'd decided to turn into my lunch bench. Looking around, breathing the open air, sending love into the city, and giving thanks for the perfection of what had come to be reality. The whole time I was there, I only saw two other humans. One guy down below letting his dog run around, and one gal who came and sat at a bench near me to smoke a joint and let her puppy run around. It was complete solitude, and completely wonderful. I wanted to stay up there forever, but inside I felt ready to get down and wander the streets of Girona that seemed to be calling me. And thankfully I listened, because after a short hike down, just as I was re-entering the old center, it started to rain. :)
Luckily I always travel with my Spirit Hood and had decided against wearing sandals for the trip, so I put on my hood, and kept on going. An older man stopped to ask if I was going into the center, because he was going by car, and could give me a lift. I respectfully declined, saying I wanted to continue my route and the rain didn't bother me. It became a bit strange, when instead of continuing his path to his car, he somewhat followed me along mine. I stumbled upon an old fortress, and noticed he kept being exactly where I was going to end up wandering. I evaded him a bit by hanging back in certain parts, and then we ran into each other. I asked him what I was exploring, and he told me it was one of the two old forts Girona used to have. The other isn't around anymore, but I wasn't sad, because this one was MAGIC! So many little coves of trees growing and plants. So many paths to wander, towers to climb, and walls to walk along.
At one point a man sitting on a bench asked if he could "make me company," another offer I had to decline. I kept to parts where there were people to avoid any unwelcome advances, but other than that, the experience was perfectly fine. And because Girona stretches quite far, but is also very small, I ended up right by the Cathedral Sant Feliu. I decided that, since it was raining, touring it would be a nice idea. I used my student card and only paid 5 euros, I think the regular price was about 7-9.
Coming from Sevilla, where we have one of the most impressive cathedrals in the world, I can't say that the Catedral Sant Feliu was sooo impressive, but if you're there, it's pretty nice. And the guided tour is free, so you can actually learn about the stuff inside, versus just passing by thinking, "I can't believe how much money the Catholic church has in _______, ______, and ______'s!" Another bonus is that just down all the stairs, in the plaza at the bottom of the cathedral, is a free museum you can visit.
I kept wandering through Girona, and kept falling further in love. The river runs through the town, and it's lined with windows that give you a peek into a life, a cafe, a shop, or a restaurant that sits on its bank. And the greenery, my gosh, it's so green up north! All the rainfall contributes to this astounding color scheme and overflow of nature. And even though it was raining most of the day I was there, people were still walking around, and there were no signs of depression, especially since its artistic feel seeps through and can be seen all over the place.
I roamed around in my loving daze, seeing the streets, the sights, eating a crepe that was so full of Nutella I'm not sure the woman has anymore to this day, and then, after a coffee and some writing time, decided to find a place to stay for the night. Only two of the 10,000 requests I sent on Couchsurfing.org were responded to, and neither was in Girona. So I decided to stay in a hostel for the night.
I ended up staying at Room In Girona on Calle Santa Clara, and it was a really good place. I dropped my stuff off in the room, changed into some dry socks, and then went back out to wander a bit more and have dinner. I took a long lap around the city, and was able to find the Indian restaurant I'd seen earlier. You can read about both Room In Girona, Taj, and other tricks & tips for traveling these parts right here!
It was interesting that, on the walk back to the room to go to bed, I was a little sad. I was wishing that I had a friend or someone that I could go out with, and even more when I passed by an event going on in a main square -- five tapas for five euros, as well as five glasses of wine for five euros. I wanted to drink wine (not exactly five glasses) and try delicious pintxos (tapas in the north), hanging out, conversing, and enjoying the fact the rain had passed and the night was young. But instead, I went to my room, and slept/was in bed for nearly 12 hours.
The next morning I was planning to take the train to Figueras to go to the Dali Museum, so I woke up, ate from the included, extensive breakfast at Room In Girona, and then headed onto my next adventure. (With no remaining melancholy for my solitary state felt from the night before!:) I accidentally missed the train I could have just made when I thought it was leaving in an hour and from a different platform. And by the time I realized what I'd done, I'd missed the train by half hour (about how long I'd been there), and would have to wait another hour and fifteen minutes for the next. I was a little disappointed, but decided to take advantage of the time and sunshine to walk to the large park in Girona.
From above, it looked like there was a little forest in the middle of the city. But after talking to the front desk at Room In Girona, I learned that it's actually a big park. So I immediately was bummed that it'd been raining all day and I hadn't made it to the park. This missed train chance was the perfect opportunity for me to go to something I'd rather visit than a museum or church: nature.
The park is really large and long, and the entire thing of it is tall, beautiful trees. I was walking through it, when I came upon this intensely massive market. They had everything from meat to sweets, fruit and veggies to clothes, and so many other things I didn't even see. I asked an insanely nice police officer about it, and he told me it takes place every Saturday and Tuesday. If you're there, go to it, it's great!
It was the perfect, perfect way for me to finish my ideal time in Girona. Huge market, some bananas for breakfast, friendly conversation with strangers, and lots of fresh air to breath before entering the train!
Girona overall was a dream. I fell in love instantly, and left wanting more, more, more. I am definitely planning on going back, and will absolutely be sure to stay for at least a full weekend! If you're looking for something to do in Spain, get yourself to Girona, and explore the lush, green, gorgeous forests of the north! It's well worth the time and minimal effort!
Blessings, Love, Travels & Light to all!