This is the second in a series of guest posts by our writer Emma Clair Kelly, who attended the #Catalunyaexperience blog trip on our behalf. They spent a week exploring the beautiful region and after a trip to Barcelona, next stop was Girona, a pretty and seriously underrated city and then gorgeous Costa Brava..
Barcelona is becoming more and more popular city destination every year and it’s easy to see why, the city oozes a vibrant atmosphere that is intoxicating. But what people don’t realise is that that intoxicating vibe spreads far outside the bounds of the Catalan capital. Just a short drive outside the city, past fields of olive groves and farmland, lies the sleepy town of Girona.
It’s often overlooked but what the tourist masses don’t realise is it’s one of most colourful and attractive cities in Spain. The city itself rose with the Roman Empire and is located on a river that connects Girona to the rest of Europe, when walking across the bridge the first sight that beholds you is the church of St. Felix- built in honour of the conversion by the empire to Christianity but also doubled as a fortress with thick, domineering walls, overshadowing the rest of the town. Other beautiful architecture includes the imposing Baroque Saint Mary and the pretty city square which is flanked by the ornate façades of the surrounding buildings.
Although I believe the most attractive feature of the city is the mile long length of intact Roman city walls that encapsulates the town. Walking along their boundary surrounded by a beautiful tiered garden, nicknamed the Archaeological Gardens due to the amount of artefacts found during their construction, you have a gorgeous view of the nearby mountains as well as the coastline and on a clear day, you can see France.
Following the path of the walls you come across the ancient Arab baths which, is one of only five left in Spain, though it is in immaculate condition it is no longer in use. The etchings in the stone and intricate carvings show the unique craftsmanship that existed in the province centuries ago and is replicated all over Girona. The town can also boast the widest gothic arch in the world and is named in the Guinness Book of Records, it is truly a feat of engineering of a bygone age.
Aside from historical importance, broken records and stunning architecture, Girona can also boast being home to the ‘Best Restaurant in the World’ voted by the 50 Best Restaurant Guide – just outside the city walls lies the dream restaurant of the Can Roca brothers- El Cellar de Can Roca. The brothers dream was to create a restaurant where they could work the way they wanted and give diners a unique food experience- therefore, they have a metaphysical and spiritual approach to the food and wine they serve, in their glass atrium restaurant secluded from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Their restaurant is designed with a 45° angle of light coming through the windows which, Gaudi believed was the best angle of light when looking at a masterpiece- and the Can Roca brothers know how to create masterpieces. To quote the 50 Best Restaurant Guide review- ‘Rock on, you Rocas’!
If you cannot wait the eighteen months to indulge in their gastronomical wizardry, head down the road to their mothers place where they honed their craft and still eat their lunch today. Enjoy some mothers cooking with a difference in the heady atmosphere of mama Can Rocas. Make sure you ask for some of the Cava created only for the Can Roca family. There are no bubbles like it anywhere else!
There’s nothing like some fresh sea air after filling up on delicious food. Just over an hour outside Girona are the beautiful beaches of the Costa Brava. Follow one of the many paths around the coast to walk off your lunch and take in the gorgeous views of the glistening ocean, head towards a secluded bay and dip your toes into the warm Mediterranean.
For the ultimate in Med luxury take a boat ride on the Jolie Biche across the bay, sail by the former beachside residence of Truman Capote and drop anchor in a secluded bay to jump into the crystal waters before enjoying a continental breakfast on board. On a clear day you can see right along the coast and if you’re lucky you will see some sea life. Sail on to the nearby town of Llfranc, a quiet beach town with quaint pastel coloured façades lining the dock and a strip of golden sand. A stunning rocky path will take you snaking along the coast and retro coffee shops serve rich coffee and crisp tapas. Don’t leave Llfranc without having some fresh, locally caught mussels and whitebait at the Restaurant Terrama and check out the local craft shops too for some unique locally crafted souvenirs.
For a holiday that truly excites all your senses and without a hint of hustle or bustle, venture outside Barcelona. Fill up on some of the most delicious food the country has to offer and work it off with a swim in the sparkling blue of the Mediterranean or walking the acres of coastline paths. So when you are in a vacant or pensive mood, among the pavements grey of the city – allow the memories of Girona, the ocean and Llfrance to flash upon your inward eye and that is the bliss of it all.
All words by regular contributor Emma Clair Kelly. Photos 1-6 were by Graham Padmore and photos 8-9 taken by Emma Clair Kelly. Emma was a guest of the Catalan tourist board but all her views are her own.