As I drove into Girona, I began to cry happy tears. Girona was my home for six years. It’s where the husband and I made a home together, where I made friendships and grew up with those friends through my twenties. It’s a city steeped in history and tradition without sacrificing progress and modernism. A city that I grew to love deeply and that I still miss terribly. It was a city that I made mine and that I embraced whole-heartedly.
My dear friend Natasha lives in my old building so going back to her place was like stepping back in time and into my old life. The last two times I’ve been back since I moved away, it has felt like that. Not so much a vacation, but a return to my life. I hope that this post inspires you to visit and if you are ever in Barcelona, to take the hour train ride to Girona so you can discover it for yourself.
I spent the first evening out with my girlfriends at my favorite tapas bar, Zanpanzar. It’s on the Cort Riel in Girona, a street that bustles with activity each night of the week. There are two French restaurants, the best Indian cuisine I’ve ever had, two traditionally Catalan spots, a wine bar and that’s just half the street. After dinner we had an apertif and headed home as there was much to explore the next day as it was the start of Temps de Flors, my favorite time of year in Girona.
Temps de Flors is held for a week and the entire city gets into it. Every business puts flowers out and many participate in the competition for best display. It is something that is taken very seriously. Up until the wee hours of the morning the night before, people are still putting the finishing touches on their creations. Sculptures made entirely of roses, tulips that seem to be floating in the air; nothing is too grand for this week. The entire city is scented with flowers and it’s so beautiful it can bring tears to your eyes.
Girona has been fought over since its beginning and has earned the name, ‘a city of a thousand sieges’ and the walls that fortifed it are still standing and are used as a tourist route around the Old Town. and . The Romans named it ‘Gerunda’ and it became a hub that linked Iberia to Rome. The Jewish community populated the city for over six hundred years and in 1809 the city survived an attack that lasted seven months by 35,00 French soldiers. When the Catholic Monarchs expelled the Jews from Catalonia, the old passage ways remained and the ‘Call’ or Jewish ghetto, is one of the best preserved in Europe. The Cathedral, where I was married, has the widest Gothic span in the world.
I woke early to get a croissant ( of course ) and coffee con leche at my favorite cafe. I sat and people-watched as long as I could. It was bittersweet seeing the same families that I used to see everyday, again. Still going about their lives, the children a foot taller but really, the same. The waitress was the same one and she looked at me in surprise, as if seeing me again made her realize she hadn’t seen me in so long and here I was again out of the blue. I walked the same path a hundred times that day, back and forth from the place I used to live to the Old Town to visit friends. One of the best things about Girona is that you can go from one end to the other in about forty-five minutes. You can cross the whole city on foot and not even break a sweat, yet there are about 100,000 people so it isn’t so small.
Even though I didn’t go to the World’s Best Restaurant, I went to perhaps the World’s Best Gelateria, made by the same brothers of El Cellar de Can Roca that was just awarded that title this year. I had my ‘usual’ scoop of Lavendar gelat with an additional scoop of Rose. It seemed fitting given the flower festival and suddenly I was consuming flowers with all of my senses.
Later that night I went to dinner at another favorite, Le Bistroit, with my friends as well as Els Jardins de la Merce, a bar and restaurant tucked away, a hidden jewel of a place that we would all like to keep secret. We stayed out far too late laughing, talking and enjoying life. I miss those girls more than they probably know and am so grateful to have them in my life, even from a distance. Reflecting on my time back in Girona has made me realize that it will always be my home, no matter how long I am away from it.
So I truly hope that you can go someday or thatif there is a place on this Earth that makes you feel this way, that you can make the most of it. If you do happen to visit Girona, share your photos with me by tagging #wanderfullifestyle on Facebook or Instagram!