We took a day trip by train 100km from Barcelona to Girona, an ancient Catalan town initially settled by the Iberians. The Romans occupied it, then the Visigoths, until the Moors conquered it in 715. Charlemagne reconquered it for the Christians in 785, then it changed hands between the Moors and Christians numerous times until the Moors were driven out in 1015. It was an important Jewish centre from the 12th century, until the Catholic monarchs expelled all the Jews from Catalonia in 1492. Later on it was besieged and occupied by Napoleon.
The Cathedral and churches mostly date from medieval times, though one old church is in fact a Roman temple. The Basilica is beautiful, in the classical style of its time. A long section of the old city walls (besieged 25 times and breached 7 times) remains, and you can walk along them. The River Onyar meanders through the old city, crossed by numerous bridges.
We were particularly impressed by Girona Art Museum, full of ancient religious paintings, sculptures, altar-pieces and other beautiful relics. We were struck by the number of rather gruesome depictions of martyred saints, by a pregnant Virgin Mary, and by several depictions of the Madonna squirting breast milk onto some fellow’s face (our religious knowledge failed us, obviously)
We had taken the precaution, anticipating (correctly) that Girona would be teeming with tourists, of booking a table for lunch at Aroz y Piex (“Rice and Fish”). We had another memorable seafood meal, again choosing our own assortment of fish and other creatures. A free glass of champagne was provided while we waited for our meal to be cooked. The highlight was a squid-ink paella with bacalao (salted cod) and asparagus.
After our lunch we had just settled on a shady bench when a colourful procession of the Bolivian residents paraded past. We followed them out of the town and through a wooded park to a grassy site where they were celebrating the festival of San Isidro.
Back in town, strolling around, suddenly a group of musicians appeared, who set themselves up in a plaza and began playing lively Catalan music. The local people dropped everything (literally, in piles on the street) and formed circles to dance. Diana felt moved to join in, which I’ve recorded for posterity!
As the sun set, while we waited for the train ,we enjoyed tapas and a couple of glasses of the local vermut (vermouth).