Five Weeks in Girona (Costa Brava), Spain

This summer I lived in Girona, Spain for five weeks.  Why? – you might ask.  I had been to Girona twice.  The first time was for a mere two hours in 1992 when I was in Barcelona for the Olympics

Visit to Girona-1992 [note houses were less colorful then]

Visit to Girona-1992 [note houses were less colorful then]

…and then again last year for 2-1/2 days for a TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) Conference.  There was something about this region that just “spoke” to me.  After the TBEX Conference, I vowed I would return to spend more time there to explore and “hang out like a local.”  Also, many of my customers are interested in visiting Barcelona these days, but they often don’t think to venture into the northeastern region of Spain, which has so much to offer.  I wanted to be prepared to provide my travel customers with more insider tips on what there is to do and see, not just in Barcelona, but also “outside” the city, in the region known as Costa Brava (the coast)/Pirineu de Girona (the mountains).

I was surprised upon arriving at how familiar the town of Girona felt to me as I settled into my new ‘hood.  For the first three weeks I stayed right in the heart of the Old Town…

My 'hood in Girona

My ‘hood in Girona

…and for the other two weeks, I stayed in a place “up the hill” where I enjoyed this great rooftop terrace…

Rooftop Terrace

Rooftop Terrace

…with a phenomenal view of the Girona Catedral and the Sant Feliu….

View from Rooftop Terrace

View from Rooftop Terrace

So, what does one do when they are trying to live like a local?  One of the first things I did was go to the Saturday Market, which is what I do every Saturday morning.  In Spain, it wouldn’t be a market without the “meat” truck…

Meat Truck at Saturday Market

Meat Truck at Saturday Market

The Piel de Sapo (toadskin) melons were in high season…

Girona 007

“Toadskin” Melons

…the inside looks like a honeydew, but the taste is much sweeter.  (It’s a great accompaniment  to the Iberico and other local hams, which I came to love!)

I was living near a plaza (Placa de Sant Feliu) where they had weekend concerts…

Concert in the Plaza

Concert in the Plaza

…as well as my favorite gelato store with their Chocolatta Negra (dark chocolate), which was to die for.

I walked along the city wall…

City Wall - Girona

City Wall – Girona

…to enjoy the views…

View from Girona City Wall

View from Girona City Wall

Most tourist buses stop for a two hour tour of the city (as I had done in 1992) and during that tour you get a view of the city wall, and maybe even walk up to add a photo to your collection.  Getting to walk along the entire wall and envision life in Girona when the wall played a big part in the city’s history during medieval times (11th to 15th centuries) was a real treat…especially since I had the wall almost entirely to myself.

I took a tour of the city of Girona with a local tour guide, which includes one of the best preserved Jewish Quarters in Europe…

Narrow alleyway in Jewish Quarter-Girona

Narrow alleyway in Jewish Quarter-Girona

… together with a wonderful Jewish Museum highlighting the importance of the Jewish culture in Girona.

I hopped on the train a few times and went down to Barcelona (about 1hr, 20min by regional train and less than 40min by high speed train) where I met up with fellow travel bloggers whom I had met in Girona last year.  One friend took me to her favorite rooftop bar…

Rooftop Bar-Hotel Espana, Barcelona

Rooftop Bar-Hotel Espana, Barcelona

…through many of the neighborhoods such as El Raval, El Born, Barri Gotic and Barceloneta…

Frank Gehry Fish Sculpture at Port Olympic (nr.Barceloneta)

Frank Gehry Fish Sculpture at Port Olympic (nr.Barceloneta)

…as well as the Parc de la Ciutadella…

Parc de la Ciudad

Parc de la Ciutadella

If you want a tour guide, she’s the best!

On another trip, I met up with four travel customers of mine who were in Barcelona, and we enjoyed a visit to La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

I also checked out a few more of the Barcelona attractions myself, such as Casa Batllo…

Gaudi's Casa Batllo-Barcelona

Gaudi’s Casa Batllo-Barcelona

…El Hospital de Sant Pau…

Domenech i Montaner's Modernisme Hospital

Domenech i Montaner’s Modernisme Hospital

…Palau de la Musica Cataluna…

Montaner's Palau de Musica

Montaner’s Palau de Musica

…and took in an opera at the Gran Teatre de Liceu

Liceu Opera House - Barcelona

Liceu Opera House – Barcelona

I rented a car for a couple of days here and there and visited the wonderful rugged coastline, staying at the Aiqua Blava Hotel, featuring spectacular views…

AiguaBlava Hotel - Costa Brava

Aigua Blava Hotel – Costa Brava

I stopped off at the Pubol Castle…

Elephant Sculpture - Garden of Pubol Castle

Elephant Sculpture – Garden of Pubol Castle

…the home that Dali had purchased for his wife, Gala, and one of the three sites known as the Dali Triangle.

I walked along brief portions of the coastal walkway (which runs from the northernmost part of Spain for 200km, with superb views of the sea and coves, linking the coastal parks and villages along the way)…

Coastal Walkway, Costa Brava

Coastal Walkway, Costa Brava

I made a too-brief stop at the wonderful walled town of Tossa de Mar…

Tossa de Mar

Tossa de Mar

On another auto excursion, I checked out the medieval town of Besalu, with its majestic bridge…

Bridge at Besalu

Bridge at Besalu

…then headed on to Santa Pau…

Walled town of Santa Pau

Walled town of Santa Pau

…where I enjoyed a two-day stay at the charming Hotel Cal Sastre…

Outdoor garden at Hotel Cal Sastre

Outdoor garden at Hotel Cal Sastre – Santa Pau

…and hiked in the Garrotxa Volcanic Natural Park…

Croscat Volcano - Garrotxa Region

Croscat Volcano – Garrotxa Region

For my final excursion outside of the town of Girona, I utilized the public train/bus service to visit the other two pieces of the Dali Triangle…the Dali Museum in Figueras…

Salvador Dali Museum - Figueras

Salvador Dali Museum – Figueras

…and his home at Portlligat…

Salvador Dali Home - Portllgat

Salvador Dali Home – Portlligat

…near the seaside town of Cadaques…

Cadaques - Costa Brava

Cadaques – Costa Brava

The region has so much to offer including the coves and rugged Costa Brava shoreline and the green (or snowy) stretches of the Pyrenees mountains… a rich cultural history from the Iberian to the Greek to the Roman to the Catalan periods…with a varied architectural landscape of Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Modernisme…and the mark of the surrealist artist, Salvador Dali…plus diverse activities such as kayaking, biking, hiking, golfing, sailing and skiing…local wines and gastronomy (one of the best restaurants in the world is in Girona, the Cellar Con Roca, although I couldn’t get a reservation…you have to reserve a table 11 months in advance)…the options are limitless.

The time went by so fast and I didn’t do nearly everything I had wanted to do. But I surely did accomplish one thing….I fell in love with the Costa Brava/Pirineu region of Spain!

 

[Watch for details for a small group tour to Costa Brava in the Spring 2014].

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2 Responses to "Five Weeks in Girona (Costa Brava), Spain"

  1. Margaret says:

    Gosh, you’ve brought back so many memories. I have been lucky to have holidayed in this region a few times. Isn’t Girona just beautiful? Did you get to St. Feliu? My brother has a place there…. and yes, he’s managed to eat at Cellar con Roca – the photos and his description makes me so want to get there 🙂

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