30 August 2009

A visit to Girona

Since seeing internet images of Girona, I have wanted to visit there and take photos of my own. For my birthday earlier this week, J surprised me by renting a car and driving up to the city for the day.

As we drove through the Costa Brava region, we were more than happy that we had chosen Barcelona as our home. The towns were predominantly hotels and tourist apartments which screamed "British Package Holidays" wherever we looked. We were not that impressed!

Driving into Girona, I started to wonder if I had been wrong about this city. It was more modern than I had expected and I couldn't see any of the interesting architecture that I had seen on websites. Parking the car, we emerged out of the carpark to see what we could find.

To my relief, we weren't far from the river, and this is where our true Girona experience began. The old part of the city is built along the Onyar river, and it wasn't until we ventured over one of the bridges that we found ourselves surrounded by beautiful old buildings.

Click on the images to view larger sizes

Girona01Houses line the Onyar River

We wandered into Independència Square, edged by restaurants, and chose one which offered local fare. The square is very pretty.

Girona06Apartments in Independencia Square

Girona051 local man and 4 tourists

After a delicious meal of seafood paella
, we made our way across the M. Gómez Bridge to lose ourselves in the old part of the city.


Girona has survived 25 sieges and has been captured 7 times. It was first inhabited by Iberians (a mix of Greek and Roman), and has also lived under Moorish, Roman and French rule, before being declared as part of Barcelona and ultimately awarded its own city status. (It is now one of the 4 principle cities in Catalunya together with Barcelona, Lleida and Tarragona.) In the 12th Century, there was also a thriving Jewish community in Girona, until the Jews were expelled in 1492 by the Catholic Kings.

Girona07A house with Sant Feliu in the background

It was extremely hot, about 40°C, so we were very pleased that we had thought to bring bottles of water with us. We carry a partially-filled frozen bottle, and another filled with cold water which we use to replenish the frozen bottle as we drink from it. There's nothing like iced water on a hot day, and the salty paella had made us thirstier than usual.

Girona20A pretty courtyard entryway

First stop for us was the Arab Baths: so called, because in 1194, they were built in the Arabian style. For €2 each, we toured the inside in about 10 minutes. It's interesting, but not fascinating. For me, there were more pleasing sights to photograph outside the baths.

Girona10The vault of the Arab Baths in the foreground with the Sant Feliu steeple behind

Girona11Sant Pere de Galligants

Wandering back along the path from the baths, we came to the foot of the staircase which leads to La Catedral de Girona - an impressive Basilica which dominates the old town's skyline. The Moors had used the old church as a mosque, and when they were also driven out (circa 1015) , the mosque site was remodelled into a site for a Catholic cathedral.

Girona12The massive La Catedral de Girona

There are 86 steps up to the front door - we know, because we counted them as we climbed. No photography is allowed inside, but the cathedral has the distinction of featuring the largest single arched vault in the world - it is an impressive sight. I wouldn't have thought that it was much bigger than the one in Santa Maria del Mar cathedral in Barcelona, but apparently it is!

Coming out of the cathedral, we meandered through the narrow and pretty streets of the Sant Marti and Jewish Quarter. I took lots of images!

Girona19Sant Marti

Girona18The steps at Sant Marti - luckily we went down them

Girona16Beautiful apartment buildings were abundant

Girona13Siesta time while all the mad tourists are walking about

The old buildings were very beautiful, and there were interesting shops to peer into along the way.

Girona23A tattooed woman, with the tattoo artist, browses the catalogue for her next ink design

Girona22University starts next month!

Girona21The metal restorers discuss a project

Hot and happy, we crossed over another bridge to get back into the newer part of the city, found our car and drove back to Barcelona. We made good use of the car by driving up Tibidabo so that I could take a night-shot of the Temple de Sagrat Cor - but that's another story.

Girona24The river from the other direction

What a perfect birthday, made possible by a thoughtful and loving partner who made it even more special.


meg said...

how cool! a bit different from the squatter settlements along the sides of the rivers in Suva! I LOVE the photo of the arab baths vault, wow...(and the tatoo one of course)...

Jayne said...

Amazing photos hon - definitely a place we'd love to go & see! We fell in love with the architechture in Italy & I too snapped away at so many stunning apartment buildings - they appeared to hold so much character & I always left thinking "I wonder if..........."
Belated happy Birthday sweetheart. I'm sorry i haven't been in touch but this past month has been bloody hectic. I'm starting to get settled in the new shack, so will try & make a plan to knock out an email during the week :-)

nzm said...

Thanks Meg. Yes, slightly different from the Suva shanties! Unfortunately the tattoo one is too soft to enlarge - I hurried the shot - damnation.

Jayne! Think of you a lot and wonder how you're settling back into Seff Affrica. Thanks for the birthday wishes! Hugs to you and Mike.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

What a wonderful treat for a birthday girl! Happy birthday. Such beautiful photos.
Read today that some Oz tourists were in Spain -when they came back they said - the place was full of foreigners!

Pandabonium said...

So colorful. And you captured it so well. I love the 4 tourists and 1 local on the bench - a classic! Happy Birthday (sorry late) and wishes for a wonderful year ahead.

I second Meg's vote for the Arab Baths and Sant Feliu steeple.

Pandabonium said...

Did I write "Sant"? A mix of Saint and Santa I guess.

word verification: quird, as in "that Pandabonium guy is kind of quird, don't you think?

nzm said...

Wendy: thanks for the wishes. Yes, Spain is full of foreigners - especially over the summer. We heard many different accents and languages - and lots of kiwi and ocker voices! After all, Spain is the second-most visited country in the world after France, so it's no surprise that we encounter a lot of tourists in one of the most popular cities in the world.

Pandabonium: Thanks for your wishes, and for a quird kind of guy, I do like your humour! ;.) Yes, I like the tourists and local on a bench too! And, around these parts, Sant is the masculine version of saint, while Santa is used for the female saints.

nzm said...

Having written that, I have to wonder why Father Christmas is called Santa! ;.)

Keefieboy said...

Brilliant pics, as always.