Though the UK has been experiencing a bizarre heatwave, we’ve decided to leave Blighty’s sun-soaked shores behind and head back to the continent. Temperatures may have rocketed to 36˚C earlier in the week but where we were headed was even hotter…
Viva España! Or Catalonia (it’s spelt Catalunya over here). Where you stand on the issue may be linked to whether you wanted Scotland to become an independent state about nine months ago, for these two places share similarities. Strong culture and history. Ruled by a bossy southern neighbour who has given them extended powers recently but refuses to envision them as independent in the future. Beautiful coastlines. Perhaps not similar weather though…
|The 'Estelada' is the flag expressing a wish for Catalonia to be independent|
|An 'Estelada' hangs in a Girona street. Right next to a strange puppet sitting in the air...|
The most famous city of the region is Barcelona, which we will visit later in the week. For now, we rented a car, gave it the ‘suitable’ name of Raquelita, and sped north to the village of Vidreres: base camp for the week.
There really isn’t anything in Vidreres; its remote location can be summed up by our internet map saying that we were staying on ‘Unnamed road’. Nevertheless, our rural home was easily found and we were soon dozing in the evening sunshine.
Vidreres is in the Girona province of Catalonia, named after the main town in the vicinity. We took a day trip to the town and explored its narrow streets, which offered welcome shade on a day that topped 38˚C on the thermometer.
|You might think that the heat has gotten to me at this point but apparently kissing the rear of this lion means that you will definitely return to Girona. I demonstrated for a nearby tour group. None of them followed me...|
Girona has been a popular place for a while and many people have wanted to claim it as their own. Indeed, we were informed that it has been fought over in almost every century since the Roman era. The consequence of this is a cultural mesh which showcases the town’s Muslim, Jewish and Christian heritage. Girona’s main attraction is its imposing cathedral, which overlooks the modern western side of town from a hill across the river.
|The narrow paths of Girona|
|Various dates are suggested for when the Cathedral was built - I'll just tell you it is very old|
Part of the Catalan tradition is the menu diari (menu of the day), a cheap lunch option offering you a three-course meal in the region of €10. Portions are slightly smaller than ordering individual options but the result is the chance to try many local dishes, such as local sausage which looked like worms had been squashed together, for a reasonable price. On a scorching day such as this, the refreshing melon soup was a gift from a higher power. Sounds strange, tastes divine.
It is unfortunate that many visitors to the area fail to reach Girona, though I can (sort of) understand the reasons. They are golden, sandy and licked by a tranquil blue sea.
The Costa Brava is famous for its beaches, with busloads of tourists unloading in places such as Lloret del Mar for a week of sun, sea and sand. It is not the type of holiday I can do – mainly because I can’t sit/lie still for that long and wilt in the heat like a daffodil being exposed to the desert for the first time – but I can appreciate that other people enjoy lolloping on a beach turning brown/pink/lobsterish.
That’s not to say that I can’t spend a little bit of time at the beach. Raquelita led us to a variety of wildly differing beaches on Spain’s eastern seaboard:
Tossa del Mar (spectacular location with a castle overlooking the beach)
Aguiablava (very busy but a lovely cove)
Llafranc (quite touristy but large enough for one to have enough space)
Canyelles (beautiful beach and very quiet)
It has been a very relaxing few days, with evenings spent enjoying paella or barbecuing chorizo at our temporary residence. People have been very friendly (and patient with my complete lack of knowledge of either Spanish or Catalan) and we couldn’t have wished for better weather. What fascinated me is that everything seems to have happened in slow motion; it is a very different way of life over here.
There is a place in Catalonia, however, that may not adhere to the laidback vibe possessed by the rest of the province. The big city: Barcelona. I’ll tell you all about that next time. Assuming we can summon the desire to leave this most sedate little village…
Love you all