“A Nation (and its people) is an organised community with its myths, its rituals and its ways of behaving, its common history, imagination and beliefs” Sami Naïr (Algerian born French political philosopher)
It is said that Girona consistently wins a Spain country-wide poll of citizens on preferred places to live and I had a really good feeling about the city and as we sat and sipped cool beer I thought that it might be a place that I could return to.
I used to think that it might be nice to sell up and go and live abroad but as I have got older I have abandoned the idea. The reason for this is that I wouldn’t want to end up in a British ex-pat condominium and I imagine that living outside of this would bring its own problems. I am English not Spanish or French and my character, behaviour and whole way of life has been created from an English heritage that, even if I wanted to, I could not lay aside and become something that I am not. So I am happy with life now, I agree with Sami Naïr and I do not yearn for something different and let’s face it lots of people across the World would be pleased to be able to live in the United Kingdom.
But, now I have another idea. It always annoys me when I see a poster advertising something that happened last week, before I arrived, or will take place next week, after I have gone home, so I think I could be happy to live for a while, say twelve months, in a different country so that I could enjoy everything that takes place over the course of a year in a Spanish town or city and I would be very happy to place Girona on my short list of potential places. Later we walked past a famous statue of a lion climbing a pole and there is a story that if you reach up and kiss its arse then one day you will return but there was too much spit and dribble on its butt cheeks for me to take out this particular insurance policy.
After we had finished our drinks we went next to the archaeological gardens and walked a section of the city walls but it was intensely hot on the exposed high level walkway so we didn’t do anything like all of it, maybe about half, just enough to admire the views over the city and towards the Pyrenees to the north and then returned to the welcome shade of the narrow streets. They were good walls but in my opinion not as good as Ávila in Castilla y León or Dubrovnik in Croatia.
We crossed the river again several times and then on the western side we came across the Plaça de la Independència, which, for the time being anyway, has nothing to do with the current separatist movement but celebrates the War of Independence against Napoleon Bonaparte.
Geographically the city is in an exposed and precarious position and over the course of history Girona has endured as many as twenty-five sieges which gives it the distinction of being one of the most besieged cities in all of Europe.
Especially by the French!
It was set upon by the royal armies of France under Charles de Monchy d’Hocquincourt in 1653, under Bernardin Gigault de Bellefonds in 1684, and twice in 1694 under Anne Jules de Noailles. In May 1809, it was besieged by thirty-five thousand French Napoleonic troops and held out obstinately until disease and famine compelled it to capitulate on the 12th December when finally the French conquered the city after seven months of siege.
The afternoon was slipping away now so it seemed sensible to find somewhere to eat before everywhere closed down for the late afternoon siesta so we wandered back to the tourist centre and unusually for Kim selected the first place that we came across. Unusually because normally Kim always rejects the first place on some wierd theory that the next one will be better! Anyway, not this time and we were welcomed in, sat down and fussed over and as this was our last meal before going home thought it appropriate to select a final paella and it was a good decision because we enjoyed a good menu del dia and the main course was delicious.
And now our time in Girona was coming to an end so after settling up for our lunch we left the restaurant and walked back the way that we had come, investigating more side streets, steps and cobbles along the way until we reached the river and took the direct route back to the bus station for the return journey to the airport hotel.
The nicest thing that I can say about the hotel was that it was convenient. We had chosen it because on the following morning we had a seven o’clock flight back to London Luton so it made sense to stay nearby but we were glad that we had eaten in Girona because the self service restaurant food didn’t look very appetising and all in all we were glad that we were only stopping there for just one night and we were happy to wake early the next morning and make our way to the departure lounge for the early flight home.
It had been a good journey – we enjoyed our time in Catalonia and I was beginning to firm up my ideas about coming back!