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Clare
Clare

Day 7: Girona

Yesterday was our last full day in Catalonia/Spain, with the aim of today being to cross the border into France en route to our next destination of Perpignan. Originally our plan had been to travel to Perpignan from Barcelona on a fast train, but unfortunately I had forgotten to buy the tickets soon after they came on sale and by the time I finally remembered, it would have been about €50 each to take the train. A bit of panicked Internet research later, we found that it was possible to get a bus to Perpignan from Girona for only €18, and the bonus was that we would get to spend a bit of time in Girona as well.

The first stage of the journey involved travelling on the local suburban train from Mataró to a place called Maçanet, a journey of about an hour. This was fine, but when we arrived in Maçanet at around 10am we were rather confused because we couldn't find any information about the connecting trains to Girona. There was no timetable on the wall, no loudspeaker announcements and no information on the display boards on each platform. We had partly had this problem in Mataró earlier in the morning, because they didn't announce which platform the train was leaving from until a minute or so before the train departed, which is probably fine if you get the train every day and know which platform it normally goes from, but not terribly helpful if you're a tourist and need to carry suitcases up and down staircases depending on the platform choice. We coped in Mataró, but in Maçanet we were rather bemused. Luckily it wasn't just us and several other tourists were wandering up and down the platforms, trying to find any sign which might indicate which one the train for Girona was due to depart from. Eventually one man who seemed to know more than everyone else authoritatively said that it was going to be platform 3, so we all settled down to wait. Happily he was right, and so when the train was announced a minute before its arrival, we didn't have a frantic rush to get to the right place. Within 20 minutes we were in Girona :)

The map of Girona in our Spanish guidebook wasn't very comprehensive so our main aim was to make our way into the town centre and find the tourist information office. Fortunately this turned out to be relatively easy, despite the fact that the station is about 20 minutes outside the main town, and we soon had a much better map, as well as some advice on the best things to see if we only had a couple of hours to spend in Girona.

One of the most striking sights in Girona are the colourful houses which line the banks of the river. We had seen pictures of these when researching Girona online, so one of the bridges across the river was our first stop.

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The newer part of Girona is across the bridge, on the far side of the river. The man in the tourist information office had recommended that Plaça de la Independència would be a good place to get lunch.

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After a quick look at the square, we crossed another bridge back across the river...

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...and into the old town.

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In the distance we could see the striking tower of the church of Sant Feliu.

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We walked towards it to get a better view.

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Nearby was Girona's cathedral, which had a rather daunting flight of stairs to climb to reach it.

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There was a nice view once you made it to the top though.

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Climbing a hill behind the cathedral, we found the entrance to the town walls. These were originally built in Roman times, being rebuilt and fortified during the sixteenth century.

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There were quite a few steps to negotiate, but we soon had a great view of the back of the cathedral...

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...and of the surrounding countryside as well.

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At once place in the wall there was a spiral staircase which led up to a higher viewpoint.

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We were really enjoying the scenery, but the heat was baking!

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I think it would be nice to stay overnight in Girona and walk around the walls in the early morning/evening before it got too hot.

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We had time to walk round most of the fortifications before heading back down into the old town and across the bridge into the new town in search of lunch. Girona seems like quite a popular place with tourists, and so the menus of the day we were seeing advertised were more expensive that what we had been paying elsewhere in Spain this week. We eventually settled on a place where I was able to have pizza and Tim ordered a Catalan sausage. We were initially just going to have these, with some wine, but after we ordered Tim noticed that this restaurant also offered a menu of the day for €16.95 and these dishes were part of it. We didn't want a starter at this point, but he went to speak to the waitress to see if we could switch our order to be the menu, with the result that we wouldn't have to pay extra for the wine :)

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We enjoyed our main courses, followed them up with some chocolate icecream, and were expecting the bill might be around €40 in total, because we had also had a bottle of water and a beer. Imagine our surprise then when it arrived and was only €22! Tim spoke to the waitress and she explained that she had only charged us for one menu of the day at €16.95 (plus the beer and water) as we hadn't had starters, so had only had two dishes in total rather than four! So what was going to be our most expensive meal of the holiday actually turned out to be a bargain :) And it was a lovely location to eat in too.

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Our time in Girona was drawing to an end and we made our way back towards the station for our bus to Perpignan, which was due to depart at 14.50. It arrived promptly and we got a seat without any problems. It was an interesting journey, as we passed through increasingly mountainous countryside on our way to the French border. I didn't expect there to be any checks once we got to the border, but our bus did get pulled over by the French police who had a cursory look at everyone's passports.

Within less than two hours we had arrived in Perpignan, and the aparthotel we are staying in very conveniently happened to be situated right opposite the bus station. We checked in and were rather confused, upon being asked whether we wanted Wi-Fi in our room, to be presented with a router and told to install it ourselves! Luckily Tim's was able to understand all the instructions in French :)

We went for a preliminary stroll around Perpignan this evening and it seems like it has a pleasant town centre, with lots of palm trees. We will be exploring in more detail tomorrow :)




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