We were languishing in Valencia. Nothing was wrong exactly. The city center was beautiful, people were friendly, we ate well. We did some day trips, they were nice. We were enjoying ourselves. But we’d lost our spark, our enthusiasm. Were we finally tired of traveling? After all, we’ve only been home to Paris for 3 weeks out of the last 6 months; that would be a reasonable assumption. We couldn’t just up and leave, could we? What about our experiment, our theme of the year to stay places for at least a month? That would be giving up, and only in February! Then one morning we said screw it, we’re outta here. Nice isn’t cutting it. Life is short and our list is long. And breaking arbitrary rules is good life practice, especially when they’re your own rules.
So, Girona! Girona had been on my list forever, but it never made it to the top until now and frankly, we chose it this time due to its being on the train line back to France. What an oversight! Girona is the often-overlooked second city of Catalunya, Barcelona, being of course the never-bypassed first. But while Barcelona is the poster-child for overtourism, Girona is beautiful and quiet. People ask you where you’re from and how you’re enjoying their city. In Barcelona, you’re greeted with Tourist Go Home signs. Here, we don’t have to go into full personal effects lockdown mode when we leave the house. Our friend Julie said, Girona, it’s like Barcelona, but you get to keep your wallet. But this isn’t the time for a Barcelona rant, this is time to state my case why Girona is a fantastic destination in its own right, not just as a day trip.
So what’s so great about Girona? Beside it being off the majority of tourists’ radar, it’s an incredibly preserved and intact medieval city, complete with its Jewish quarter and defensive walls, scads of green space, ruins for climbing around on, tons of cafes and bakeries, art centers and history museums. The historic center is still a living city and not just full of tourist shops. There are hardware and sewing stores, bookstores, and small, hip grocery stores. And bike shops. Lots and lots of bike shops. Because Girona is home to a disproportionate number of European pro cyclists! We were wondering what was going on, then we met a young Australian pro who’d just moved here. It’s a town that has all the amenities they need and the surrounding hills, not to mention the nearby Pyrenees, are perfect training grounds.
Curiously, the language situation here is the opposite of Valencia. All official signs are in Spanish, with Catalan in second place. However, menus and all other signage in shops are in Catalan only. We hear predominately Catalan in the streets. But everyone we’ve encountered speaks English as well.
Girona is a small city, but Barcelona is under an hour away by train if you need your big city culture/tourist hoard fix. Sadly, we can’t stay here for a month, we need to get back to Paris. But it’s on the list of places to return to, despite the fact that we didn’t manage to kiss the lion’s rear.