The Pulse of the City
After parking in a garage and dragging our suitcases over the cobblestones, we arrived at our apartment. The front balcony over looked La Rambla and the bedroom overlooked the river. It was like no other place we had never stayed before. We unpacked and went out to check the city, which was like no other place we had ever been. The streets, alleys and long sets of steps, all made of stone, made it easy to see why they filmed Game of Thrones here. We began to notice signs of the Catalonian independence movement- signs hanging from buildings and people wearing flag capes. Wandering down one alley we saw the sign below hanging between two buildings, which made us wonder if we should be there at all.
We hired a guide for the day from the information center entitled Girona Walks. She had a wicked sense of humor and spoke english well, but even so, I could tell I was only picking up part of what she was putting down. She took us around the city for about 2 hours, taking us to the arab baths (Banys Arabs), Basilica de Sant Feliu and and Sant Pere de Galligants, showing us things we would have never discovered on our own. She pointed out the various places Game of Throne scenes had been filmed. Some were not immediately recognizable because they were shot with green screen background, but once she pointed them out and showed pictures of how they actually looked in the show, they came to life. She claimed to be certified to give GOT tours, along with a slight smirk, and I couldn’t tell if she was serious or not.
I questioned her on the sign we had seen regarding tourist apartments and the general feeling towards tourists. Her response was that the unrest was caused by a small group that could not remember the past. According to her, Girona was a dying town until the tourists came and brought it back to life. Now that it has been rejuvenated a selfish group of people want it all for themselves. “Always be sure,” she said, “tourists are welcome.”
After lunch at a Catalan Restaurant we walked up the alleys and stairs, eventually arriving at the Jardins dels Alemanys, climbed the tower and walked along the top of the wall. Then it was back to tour the Cathedral. Its grandeur and majesty are undeniable, but I can’t help thinking that all the money spent constructing it could have been put to better use.
At dinner that night at one of the outdoor cafes on La Rambla, we saw several groups of demonstrators wearing flags and beating drums.
The Carrilet Bike Trail
The Carrilet is a bike route that follows the the route of the narrow gauge railway that once linked Olot and Girona. On Monday morning we rented bikes at Eat Sleep Cycle in Girona and set out to find the trail. There were some hairy moments biking across the city to the trailhead, but luckily cars pretty much always stop for cars and pedestrians. We rode about 7.5 miles towards Olot, passing garden plots, then what appeared to be tree farms, and a whitewater kayak course. Then stopped for lunch and turned around, returning to Girona around 3:00. The bike store, like everything else in Spain was closed from 2:00-4:00 so we road to the Parc de la Devesa, the largest in Girona- dating from medieval times- sat on a bench and read until the bike store re-opened. The bikes they rented us were Ridleys and the best bikes we ever rented.
On Monday night the demonstrations grew louder than ever. From our balcony we could see large group at the outdoor tables banging on the table and chanting. Eventually others came out onto their balconies and began banging drums and chanting along. We did not know about the court sentencing scheduled for Tuesday and did not find out about the ramifications until we arrived in Tamariu on Wednesday.
Girona was very enjoyable, the crowds not as bad as Barcelona and its smaller size makes it very accessible.