Tag Archives: Catalunya

In the heart of Catalunya: Girona and Figueres

Not far from the French border, Girona (in Catalán and Gerona in Spanish) is less than 100 km from Barcelona. Ryanair planes fly here so it could be a great destination for a short and not too expensive getaway. I have been here a few times, the last one being April 2015 and once again I find myself in a pretty city with nice architecture, away from the hustle and bustle of Barcelona, with a lot of character and just a short drive to one of the most gorgeous coastline of Spain.

Girona is not a big city, you could easily explore it in less than a couple of days (depending how much time you want to dedicate to museums etc). It’s very pleasant to walk around since plenty of areas in the historic district are car-free. There is plenty to see in the old town: the Cathedral, Sant Pere de Calligants, the Jewish quarter, Plaça de la Indipendencia.

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Girona Cathedral
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Plaza de la Independencia

If you’ve got a car and a spare day, go and visit the former Benedictine Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes (almost an hour from downtown Girona).

When we visited Girona we based ourselves in a budget hotel just outside the old town, Hotel Margarit: very reasonable room rate, super clean room and walking distance from the centre. For lunch, we had a quick and reasonable menu del dia (daily menu) in one of the many restaurants in Plaça de la Indipendencia and then we started exploring. In the evening, we treated ourselves to a nice meal out in Placa del Vi, 7 in the namesake square. Despite reading some negative reviews on Trip Advisor, we personally had a very good meal with great choice of wines by the glass (I particularly enjoyed the Riversaltes dessert one). Unfortunately (as sometimes happens in Catalunya), despite noticing that we were foreigners (I can speak Spanish but not Catalán) the staff didn’t make a lot of effort to try to communicate with us other than in Catalán. Not a problem of this particular restaurant, since it has happened to me on more than one occasion in this region so I suggest you don’t get put off by this and just enjoy the nice food and lovely atmosphere.

If you are not here on a budget and you are prepared to pay some serious money to taste some amazing food, don’t forget that Catalunya region has got plenty of Michelin starred restaurants (53 as of Autumn 2015), including El Celler Can Roca (3 Michelin stars).

Not far from Girona there is another small town well worth a visit: Figueres, the birthplace of Salvador Dalí, one of my favorite artist. Figueres is twined with St. Petersburg, FL, another great city where for Dalí’s fans. It was an absolute genius and his Teatro Museu is true testament of that.

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He once said: “I want my museum to be a single block, a labyrinth, a great surrealist object. It will be totally theatrical museum. The people who come to see it will leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream”. Once you are in you will soon understand that he has fully achieved his purpose.

Figueres is a relatively small town so you could easily spent just half a day here and combine it with a visit in the nearby Cadaqués or Port Lligat, another one of Salvador Dalí hot spot.

 

 

 

 

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Postcard from a fishing village…

The last time I had been here was during an incredibly hot summer, back when I was 16 I think. I remember the heat because it was almost impossible to walk around before the sunset. I wasn’t driving at that time – of course – and I didn’t remember the road to get here.

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From Barcelona it’s just over 2 hours (and that makes it a hot spot for weekenders); the last length of the journey is a pretty high and winding road (especially if your driving boyfriend suffers vertigo!), before you start your descend to the bay. Once at the bottom, you get rewarded with one of the most charming white fishing villages of Costa Brava, in the Alt Empordá region: Cadaqués. Whilst a lot of the Costa Brava villages/towns have been taken over by mass tourism, Cadaqués still retains its old charm: white steep and narrow alleys, lovely bars and restaurants set in the most scenic corners, beautiful views of the crystal blue water, picture-framed water front in a stunning location. An overall sense of tranquility and mellowness pervades this pocket-sized town and you will get it as soon as you step in.

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View of Cadaques

In the past, Cadaqués had been frequently chosen by many writes, painters, poets and artists in general as a holiday spot or as a place to have a second home. Dalí, Picasso, Miro’, Magritte, Lorca and Breton just to name a few. And you can’t really blame them. Dalí is particularly celebrated in the area (his former house in Port Lligat – not far from Cadaqués – deserves a visit) so keep you eyes open to spot his face around town.

I was there last April, long before the crowds started to take over – as every summer – this tiny village of just over 2,500 people, with prices sky-rocketing and making it a mission impossible to find a not overpriced accommodation. But in April (still with a strong Tramuntana wind), it was perfect as it was: a quiet fishing village with few people around enjoying the serenity of such a gorgeous place. Spend a few hours wandering its narrow streets, walking the sea promenade and nosing in the few open shops.

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Weather was still far too cold for a swim (unless you are used to swim in the North Sea, I suppose) but if you are happy with walking and enjoying a clara in an outdoor sun-soaked terrace facing the sea… well, then come in April (or at least no later than June)! 🙂 You will beat the crowds and once there you will soon understand how nice is to be almost on your own in such a magical town.

I can’t recommend any place to eat because we chose to have a jamón y queso sandwich-to-go and sit by the sea to enjoy the awesome scenery… can’t really blame me!

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No restaurant can beat this view!

If you have come to Cadaqués, you may have already stopped at Figueres, a nice town home to the stunning and unique Salvador Dali Theatre Museum. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s definitely worth a trip on his own, so have a look at my post on Girona & Figueres!

I left Cadaqués with true beauty in my eyes: the white fishing village, set amidst the darkness of the surrounding mountains in the cerulean of a Spring windy day soaking up in the blue-green water is possibly the best postcard to bring back home.

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