A taste of Catalonia
This week's place is really about the region of Catalonia. Days are meant to be enjoyed both in appreciating the area's culture, and in exploring the excitement within it: to feel the essence of nearby Barcelona without having to cope with the crowded metropolis itself.
The city of Girona existed during Roman times. Afterwards the Visigoths ruled, followed by Moors who swapped control with Charlemagne and his successors over the next several hundred years. It was once ruled by Wilfrid the Hairy, which you've gotta love. Historical merriment skulks where thou wist not.
Partly we hope to inhabit sidewalk bistros here; maybe we'll find and enjoy a table at the bottom of this stairway, and strike up conversations during which I shall be completely at the mercy of the linguistic generosity of those who include us in their conversation, and/or be dependent on Michele's recollections of Spanish language studies at San Diego State, back in the day. I do not do Español
But at the end of the day, it's the leisurely pace here that we look forward to, compared at any rate to what big-city Barcelona might offer.
two hours by rail from Barcelona, with similar history but in a more bite sized setting — a rich past to balance with tapas and Spanish wine
A flourishing Jewish quarter prospered in Girona from the 12th until the 15th centuries, at which time Catholic authorities reduced Jewish stay-alive options to two: exile or forced conversion. So if a building is an authentic part of that carefully preserved neighborhood, one may be certain it dates from that earlier, more inclusive cultural time.
Tempranillo still on the vine
This is, I think, the view we will enjoy turning our heads in one direction to look up at, from that bistro table seen in the picture above by the tapas. It's within easy walking distance of the very old bridge pictured in yon page-top illustration, and not too many jogs among the old streets from the local Carrafour food store whose groceries will inhabit our kitchen cupboard for the week. The point of such places is partly the air and scenery and general ambiance of the ancient walls with their not-quite-grasped flourishes, sure; but mostly it's getting to see and hear and (if we are very fortunate) to interact with local folks. On their turf and partly in their own language. Those are seeds of the most important memories to be made in Girona.
And I put this photo there (much neatened from the Google-gleaned version of it) simply to illustrate some of the layers of history that Tel Girona has to offer us insofar as we are willing to dig for them.
About our lodgings over this several-week foray.... Many Cruise-mates we will meet at our Miami boarding of Oceania's Riviera, as we sail from U.S. shores, are now wondering on their Cruise Critic roll call forum, which hotel they might like to spend their nights in before departing Europe for home again. Generally it seems their intent is to spend that token night or two in a room as American-flavored as possible — insulated from as many of the little oddments that make (in their case) Portugal, Portugal — as they can. My hope is do the polar opposite, both here and every single day of those weeks in each of four wonderful European countries.
We will be torn, whether to enjoy eating-in meals indoors, right here in the room pictured (dramatic, artistic light washing over stone and old brick walls and undulating stucco which suggests mysterious, ancient structures beneath) — or to sit at the outdoor table on the terrace beyond that door, with sweeping views of this historically-layered medieval city.
As for day trips to Barcelona? It's hard to imagine wanting to break away from here; but we do want to visit Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia cathedral there and so, yes, a train ride looms.