Tag Archives: Girona Postcards

A to Z of Cathedrals – G is for Girona in Catalonia

I have had to decide between two strong candidates for the letter G, Granada in Andalusia and Girona in Catalonia.

I have picked Girona…

Eventually and inevitably we arrived in the square in front of Santa Maria Cathedral whose Baroque façade conceals an austere Gothic interior that was built around a previous Romanesque church, of which the cloisters and a single tower remain.

We found the energy to climb the steps from the square to the Cathedral but once there Kim declined the opportunity to go inside and left me to visit the interior of the building alone and see the World’s widest Gothic nave and the second widest overall after St. Peter’s in Rome.

Read the full Story Here…

This, by the way is the Cathedral in Granada

I also considered the Royal Monastery in Guadalupe but that technically isn’t a Cathedral so that would be cheating and I have to save my cheating for later…

Catalonia, Girona and Final Moments

Girona Catalonia Spain

“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.

Girona Coloured Houses Catalonia Spain

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!

Girona Catalonia

Catalonia, Girona in the Footsteps of Patrice Chaplin

Girona Coloured Houses Catalonia Spain

The airport transport bus arrived shortly after midday and took about twenty minutes to negotiate the busy roads into the centre of Girona and drop us off at the railway station where the early afternoon temperature was nudging its way towards forty degrees centigrade.

Having been once before I thought I would remember my way around but I was completely mistaken and had to ask for directions several times before I was confident of the route towards the river and the centre of the city.

For several weeks my friend Dai Woosnam had been insisting that I read a favourite book of his called ‘Albany Park’ by the author Patrice Chaplin (Chaplin interestingly because she was married Charlie’s son, Michael) which is an autobiographical story of life in Girona in the late 1950s (actually it is much more than that but it seemed right to read it because I was visiting the city) so I started it before I travelled and finished it appropriately in the very city where the story is set.

Writing about a visit to the coast Patrice wrote: “We waded out at the edge of the sea to a fishing village and it was so lovely we promised to go back and stay. When I did go there, ten years later it was unrecognisable.  Only the name remained of what was once so exquisite” and she could probably just as easily been writing about Girona because here in the commercial part of the city the roads were busy, people were rushing and the shops were brash but as we approached the river Onyar and the characteristic Jewish quarter I like to think that we came across something timeless and also something that she would certainly be able to recall.

It is a very good book and just like Dai I recommend everyone to read it.

Catalonia Door Detail Girona

At the first bridge we stopped like everyone else to take pictures of the coloured houses with precarious balconies with rusty iron railings carelessly leaning out over the lazy river, shallow, fringed with reeds and with huge carp prowling the bottom searching for food and as I surveyed the scene I remembered this piece of pointless advice from a tourist guide that I had read: “…don’t attempt to jump in to the Onyar River from any of the bridges across it. In addition to being difficult to get back out of, the water simply isn’t deep enough for the height and you will sustain any number of grievous injuries upon landing.”

So resisting the temptation to dive in to cool down in we walked on into the narrow streets of the old town looking for some shade instead.

The old town is packed onto a hillside alongside the river, which is spanned by a series of  bridges that lead to the shopping area. We started along the pedestrianised shopping street of Carrer Argenteria then up the narrow, cobbled Carrer de la Força, which, it’s hard to believe was once part of the Via Augusta, the road that led across Spain from Rome, and from the tenth to the end of the fifteenth century was the main street of one of Europe’s most important Jewish quarters.

Climbing all the time we stopped frequently and took frequent and sometimes pointless diversions into side streets and blind alleys, up steep steps and along difficult cobbled passageways. We were grateful for the shade and I searched all the time for the Girona of Patrice Chaplin and in this labyrinth of lanes like a spider’s web I was almost certain that we were somewhere close.

Eventually and inevitably we arrived in the square in front of Santa Maria Cathedral whose Baroque façade conceals an austere Gothic interior that was built around a previous Romanesque church, of which the cloisters and a single tower remain.  We found the energy to climb the steps from the square to the Cathedral but once there Kim declined the opportunity to go inside and left me to visit the interior of the building alone and see the World’s widest Gothic nave and the second widest overall after St. Peter’s in Rome.

To a certain extent I understand Kim’s opinion that one Cathedral is very much like any other and I wouldn’t be able to argue with that point of view and cite Girona as an example that she is mistaken but I enjoyed the walk around the chapels and the cloister and the museum which took about thirty minutes before I was back in the searing heat of the afternoon sunshine and it was time for a short break and an Estrella so we walked back towards the river paying attention to restaurant menus as we went because we planned to eat later and then found a little bar with pavement tables in the shade and we stopped for a rest.

Girona Catalonia Spain Cathedral