This week can be summed up in two words – bike riding.
Jacqueline and I love getting out on bikes and exploring local areas and as mentioned last week we are staying very close to the Via Verde. Jacqueline is somewhat fitter than me and suggested we cycle to the medieval town of Girona – a lazy 30 kilometres away! I reluctantly accepted and we set off quite early to beat the heat. The trail follows the old narrow gauge railway line that linked Girona to the coast at Sant Feliu de Guixols and is well maintained. The surface is mainly compacted earth with some parts being on bitumen roads and concreted paths. It’s generally flat however there were a few ups and downs along the way as we rode through varied scenery of cork oak forests, fallow fields, corn crops and industrial estates on the outskirts of some of the towns.
Girona is a walled, medieval city that can trace it’s history back to Roman times. The ‘old town’ is protected on one side by the River Onya and developed up the adjoining hill from the river and was enclosed by a massive protective wall. As such the ‘old town’ is a maze of narrow streets that make for excellent exploring. We made our way through the shaded streets to the Cathedral and Bishops Palace (which is now a historical museum) and wandered around before going to Independence square for a bite to eat. As we still had the return ride (in 34 degree heat) we decided we would come back (by car) later in the week to take a good look around this nice town.
Our return visit to Girona a few days later afforded us more time and fresh legs to really explore. First item on the agenda was to walk the medieval walls that surround the city. On the way to finding these we came across the Els Banys Arabs or the Arab Baths. These date from the 12th century and are similar to todays Turkish baths. There was a locker/meeting room followed by a series of 3 rooms (cold, warm and hot) that patrons visited.
A short walk away from the baths we found the medieval wall and walked it’s entire length. There has been a fair bit of restoration work done but you get a great sense of how well protected the city was as you stroll along it. We have visited many walled cities on our travels over the years and the thing that struck us was how high these walls were. They were massive! We explored the narrow streets of the Jewish quarter and returned to the Cathedral to take a look inside only to find that it was closing early due to some special function/service!!! Perhaps if we visit a third time we might get to see inside!
We finished our time in Girona with a fantastic vegetable and fish paella at one of the many busy, cafes that surround the Placa de Independence (Independence Square) with a new friend from France- Pierre. We house sat his Labrador for him and his wife Patricia near Gibraltar earlier in the year and it was great that we were able to catch up with him again. It was a pleasant, cool evening with many families out walking, children palying and some locals playing petanque/boules in the square. We love the al frescoe dining in Spain and the general ambiance of these places.