After a day in Cadequés , my travel partner/boyfriend and I took a train to our next stop on our Catalonia trip, Girona. Spoiler alert: Girona actually was my favorite city that we visited on this extended weekend trip not only because there was a big festival going on, but also because of it’s mix of medieval history, Catalan charm, and nature.
After getting off the train, we walked to our Air Bnb where we were greeted by our host who was super friendly and gave us lots of great recommendations for what to do around the city. He also warned us that even though there was a festival going on, lots of the concerts were probably going to be cancelled due to the political tensions. If you were not aware, many Catalan leaders have been sentenced to jail time for voting to become independent from Spain. Throughout Girona (and other cities in Catalonia) we saw numerous Catalan flags with a star on them to support the independence of the region and yellow ribbons to support the liberation of the political prisoners hanging from windows and buildings.
Once we walked to the historical center, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that many festivities were still happening despite the tensions. On the stone bridge, the Pont de Pedra, we saw local vendors selling artisan gifts and once we reached the main street, La Rambla, we heard music and saw a crowd of people watching a drumline. It was the perfect way to get excited and re-energized after spending the day exploring a village and taking buses and a train. We didn’t choose Girona because of the festival, in fact, we didn’t even know it was happening until we got there! After walking by the City Hall, we learned that the festival was for Sant Narcís, the patron saint of the city.
After watching the drummers we strayed off and explored some of the small medieval streets and admired the city by night. After walking around we got hungry and decided it was time for dinner. After seeing that König Sandwiches, a tapas place recommended by our host had a super long wait, we walked around until we found a veggie friendly place and enjoyed our fill of tapas there. Even though we were tired we decided to stay up to watch a free concert by the cathedral. Catalan music and sprit filled the air and I felt really special to be able to be a part of it even though I was just a tourist. After the concert ended, we walked back to the Air Bnb, this time taking a route through a carnival, where the rides and games made me think of the US.
The next morning our plan was to see the city and monuments in the daylight, then go on a hike our host told us about if we still had time. For breakfast we popped in a little local café literally just called El Cafè, were we had cappuchinos and chocolate croissants (not the same and not quite as good as the French Pain au Chocolat), which I kind of regretted because of my dairy-sensitive tummy. In the same café was a lively group of people all wearing the light blue polo shirts. We wondered if they were all go workers or something. Little did we know that in a few short hours we would discover something special about those people.
On our morning walk we saw the Cathedral, which for all you Game of Thrones fans, was where one of the episodes was filmed. Normally you have to pay to visit, but since it was a Sunday, we got in for free and got to see part of the mass.
Next we headed over to the fortified wall, built by the Romans. You have to walk around a bit to find the stairs to get up there, but once you do, there are some really nice views of the city! We also ran into some historical reenactors giving a demonstration about how they used rifles.
We also payed 2 euros to see the ruins of Arab baths, which was small but interesting and made me want to go to a spa. Girona is really cool because of the history of all the cultures that once lived there. There is even an old jewish neighborhood! After our walk we needed to kill some time before lunch becuase in Spain, lunchtime is between 1pm-3pm. We stopped in a bakery and shared a local specialty a Xuixo (pronounced shoo-shoo) which is like a sugar coated cylinder-shaped donut filled with crema catalana.
My boyfriend also insisted that we have some vermouth as an apéritif before lunch, which apparently is a popular wine-based drink in Spain. We ended up going back to El Cafè because it was a nice local spot. We chose the white vermouth because we are both sweet-tooths. Lots of other people were out having vermouths and cervezas. The vermouth was so good we ended up getting a second glass, then joined some other people outside becuase there seemed to be something going on.
What we ended up seeing was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. There was a group of people climbing on top of one another to form a human tower! So that’s why the people from this morning were all wearing matching shirts. We watched different teams build towers and quickly found out that Vermouth is quite strong despite its sweet taste. After some research we found out that these human towers are a Catalan tradition called castells. This moment was my favorite part of the trip because of the strong catalan pride and community I felt watching the castellers.
After our finishing our vermouth and watching the castells, we decided we should probably have some lunch. We ended up going to a vegan restaurant which was too busy the night before. We had some yummy plant-based dishes, which was probably good considering all of the tapas we had been eating. Following our lunch, we decided to squeeze in the hike to the Castell Sant Miquel.
We started out by the monastery and took a small road until we reached the hiking path. This trail was also very easy on foot. On our way up (and down) we saw lots of Mountain bikers, as there is also a bike path in addition to the foot trails. I originally was not super excited for the hike becuase we had been on little hikes the two days before and I was getting tired, but as we went up the mountain I was happy to be in nature. When we reached the summit, there was a little castle/fortress type thing, which we climbed up. From the castell, we saw peaceful and beautiful view, which was worth going out of our way for. On the way down the sun was setting, which was perfect timing. After the hike we went straight to the train station to make our way to our final destination: Barcelona.
Thank you so much for reading about my adventures! Stay tuned to hear about my time in the Catalan capital.