Girona – My First Medieval City

2 Jun

I’m currently sitting on a stopped train in the South of France for an indeterminate amount of time.  I’m aware of this because there have been continuous announcements of my train’s electrical problems, and I’m only a stop away from my destination – Montpellier.

This morning I discovered that it was much easier to make my way to France than to explore the North of Spain, as a two hour train ride seemed preferable to a ten hour bus.

Though, I felt France’s call.  For some reason, intuitively, as much as I wanted to explore more of Catalan it felt like it was time to leave.

Maybe it’s because I feel the pulse of Europe and all the places I’ve never been.  While Catalan is a country within a country, a country with its own unique language, Spain is the only country in Europe that I’ve ever spent any time in.

However, Girona surprised me with its beauty and charm.  It’s a small Medieval city that is shaded with light and romance, containing one of the largest Cathedrals in Europe.  

Jordi, a friend of a friend was my tour guide.  An attractive Catalan who is very proud of his city.  He continuously made me laugh with his humor, commanding way and own unique brand of English.  At one point he turned to me and said, “Samanta, you like me,” and I thought, “wow this guy is confident,” though later I learned he was actually giving me a compliment.

He took me to a restaurant that sat at the steps of the ancient Cathedral, and I had a delicious Focaccia sandwich.  After we briefly stopped by a discotech, and I loved hearing the popular Catalan songs.  The next day we walked through rambling paths of dirt and greenery that once marked the entrance and exit of the city. 

When we stood on the bridge, over the river, that was lined with brightly colored buildings I couldn’t help but think of the photos that I have seen of Venice.  The Church bells rang at every hour and gorgeous choral music floated out of the Cathedral.

A small Italian child became fascinated with me and stopped to stare as she struggled up the large steps of the Church.

Jordi showed me the original neighborhoods and walls of the city, which contained many cobblestone steps.  He said, “once it was full of prostitutes and drugs, but now very wealthy people live here,” and it was obvious that money and modernity lay behind the 10th century windows.

After the tour we stopped for a cafe sola on Las Ramblas, a street where cars are not allowed. Then we bought delicious crepes of Serrano ham and goat-cheese and strolled down the streets as the sunset.

Now, today, as my train slowly rolls through the French countryside (despite my current stop), I look out the window and know that I am surrounded by landscapes that inspired so many impressionists.  While alone, it’s reassuring and somehow familiar, making me feel that I’m moving in the direction that I have always wanted to go in. 

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