Sunday, 19 October 2014

Mooching south of the border

Being just 2 hours drive from the Spanish border means that day trips, overnighters and mini trips are all possible. So, as the weather in southern France got a little cooler, we headed south. Our last Spanish trip  in the spring, had been to Figueras, all of 20 minutes south of the border. This time, we went mad….and went to Girona, a further 15 -20 minutes drive from the Figueras turn off on the motor way. ( We, by the way, consisted of Mark and I, and Jane and Steve, who also came to Figueras with us).

So…. Girona. I knew there was an airport there…..part of Ryanair’s collection of destinations….but not much else.  Jane, had been before, many years ago, and knew the cathedral was interesting. Our French teacher in Caunes told us about the walls, some great little places to eat, and where to park the car. ( It was in a large free car park on the edge of the city….unfortunately she didn’t tell us how to find our car again 2 days after we had parked it…… it took us some time to locate exactly where it had been left ! )
The cathedral, from the walls which surround one side of the city

We arrived in time for a quick check in at our very centrally located hotel and a tapas lunch, before heading off to walk the walls around the medieval part of the city, giving amazing views across the city and north to the Pyrenees.

us, looking over the walls towards the mountains
Apart from the obviously fabulous architecture, we were immediately aware of the Catalan desire for independence. Just a couple of weeks after the Scottish referendum it was interesting to see the demands for a similar vote here. The unofficial vote, promised to be ignored by the Spanish 
government is set for 9th November.

in English......for the tourists ????
Our 3 day/2 night trip was spent wandering, sitting drinking coffee, wine, green tea, nattering, discovering the Jewish quarter, the Arab baths, fabulous churches and museums….and one or two shops, as well as eating some great meals and stopping regularly for ice creams ( for Steve...although to be honest, Mark usually joined him ).

alleyways, incredible stone floors, around every corner

Cathedral cloisters

gardens by the was very warm and humid here.... mosquitoes abounded.

wall walking, photo taking, phone checking......

one of the many ice cream shops

tourists at the Cathedral, with evidence of shopping

They studied the maps so carefully

There was also a considerable amount of map reading undertaken, in an attempt to introduce a system to our wanderings. Please note that I refrained from this activity, preferring to document my fellow adventurers attempts to work out where we were and where we might go next.

Wall art, seen in the "modern" town, following an abortive attempt to find a department store, but provided a walk through the less touristy part of the city as dusk fell.

Steve, choosing his ice cream

Musicians entertaining us whilst stopping for yet another coffee.

The archeological museum was a treat.

During our last evening meal, we wondered about a young man who sat in an attic window, reading and smoking. We decided he was clearly a radical Catalonian, probably reading the Spanish equivalent of “Germinal”……the other theory was that he posed as a moody student for tourists like us , every night.
Our angry young man

Finally, on our last morning, we discovered  a very unexpected Girona delight. 

We found the Museum of Film just around the corner from our hotel. It held an amazing collection of early methods of projecting still and moving images and as we were the only people in the place for at least an hour, we took our time and studied….and played with the exhibits.

magic lantern slides

The more recent moving image displays were equally fascinating.

Boots worn by James Dean

The lamp from Sam's piano in "Casablanca"... You must remember this.......

We confirmed our view that Spanish coffee is excellent, that south of the Pyrenees the temperature is a tad higher than north of the Pyrenees, that we feel completely useless at conversing in Spanish and felt ridiculously fluent in French as soon as we re-crossed the border and that we are incredibly lucky to live so close to this part of Spain.

Mark and I are off back to Yorkshire next week, but we are already planning our next Spanish trip with Steve and Jane. It is so good to mooch around places like this, enjoying seeing new things with people whose company you enjoy.

Jane and Steve
Janice and Mark
 ( The intrepid adventurers, as we might have looked undertaking The Grand Tour, 150 years ago.....not sure what the Victorian photographer would have made of our travelling costumes).

 I think it will be Barcelona next !


  1. I have never heard of Girona, Janice, but it sounds wonderful for a short visit. A medieval city, archeological and film museums, and so much more. Good coffee is essential, we find when travelling. Hope you get to Barcelona, which I'd very much like to see. Maybe one day. xx

    1. I think I accidentally published a half written post was surprised to see you had commented before I thought I had published ! Anyway..... it was a great trip, and although we have all been to Barcelona before, we know there is so much to see, mooching around will be great fun.But I would certainly recommend anyone visiting northern Spain to make sure they didn't miss is a delight.

  2. Girona was the first place that I ever visited in Spain. In fact it was also my first visit abroad as a teenager. We caught the train from Paris to Girona through the night, it was a big adventure for me at the time.

    1. I'm sure this wont be my last trip there...such an interesting place.

  3. How far south will you get next time, I wonder? Girona looks spiffing - and the ice cream parlours don't look bad either.

    1. It is so good just to be able to hop across the border, even for a day trip...not one of the advantages i had considered when we first moved here. Barcelona by train will be our spring trip I think !

  4. You are lucky to have so may walled cities within driving distance. They always seem so romantic to me.

    1. ...and I always thought it was just a Ryanair destination for those wanting to get to Barcelona on a cheap flight ! its a great place.

  5. Sounds like a great, fun mini trip, lovely that you can get the best of both worlds (countries) and explore the lovely towns and a little shopping to boot! xcx

    1. I suppose it is quite surprising how different northern Spain feels to southern France...within a couple of kms, everything feels very different...but yes, it is lovely to have the option of quick trips "abroad".

  6. My son & family discovered the delights of Girona last year. They loved it AND they bumped into Mani from The Stone Roses who kindly posed for a photo with son's wife!

  7. What a perfect way to round off your summer in Caunes, Janice. I've never been to Spain, but Girona looks wonderful - just my kind of historic city. No wonder you had such a good time.

  8. It was a perfect end to our time in Caunes this year..made special by sharing it with good friends.

  9. How about Cadaques? Nice little spot within easy reach.

    1. I love Cadaques... we stopped there on our way back from Figueras earlier in the year... a great spot, and as you say, easy ( for us) to reach.