Explorations of Girona
Our first moving day dawned bright and sunny over the beach in Barcelona. Our plan: Bike to Gava train station, take the train to Girona, find a place to stay. What happened: exactly that… sorry to be anticlimactic.
We rolled into the train station in Girona, and sent runners off to find out about local accommodation. We had read that there were no campgrounds in Girona, but being from Canada I though this to be absurd. Surely there would be camping in or around a city of 90,000 people. They discovered that there is, in fact, no camping in Girona but that there were two hostels with vacancies. We ended biking to the less expensive of the two hostels and checked in for two nights, no problem.
Our rooms weren’t quite ready so we had the hostel staff lock up our packs and bikes, and took to the town. Girona is famous for a couple things, one of which is the city wall.
We started at one end and walked all the way to the other (uphill.. we found out later that it is advisable to start at the other end so that way you’re walking downhill) stopping to admire the view from several towers still intact.
At the other end we were treated to a beautiful garden. In and amongst the crumbling medieval architecture at this side of the wall is a lovingly cared for, vibrant garden.
People were sitting on benches and enjoying the wonderfulness of their surroundings and we did the same. All the vines, trees, and flowers growing all over the structures made the whole space seem enchanted. I was very pleased with this find.
Once we’d left the gardens it was time for some architecture so we walked down into the town to look at the churches. They have a couple of quite large churches on one end of the old city, but we couldn’t go in because they were closed for Migdiada (Catalan for Siesta) at the time. The one thing that made an impression on me was a street performer providing some ambient music to the front steps of the church. He was playing what looked like an upside-down kettle-drum with his hands, and was making a soft, relaxing sound that reminded me a little of a harp. I didn’t get a picture, but really wished that I could have recorded a little sample of his playing.
Then our amblings took us to a church that Jim was interested in seeing, Sant Pere de Galligants, but which has now been converted into an archaeology museum.
Much of the original structure is still there for you to look at, and up above the cloister they have many artefacts from various archaeological digs in the area. The stories are all about the Iberians, along with the other powers that eventually settled in the area or won land here through conquest. This turned out to be a great warm-up to our expedition into the ruins of an Iberian village later on in the week.
At this point, the afternoon was wearing on so we decided to return to the hostel and check in to our rooms. Over the course of the next week we would spend a lot more time exploring the nooks, crannies, shops, bridges, and restaurants of Girona.
06-03 Mozart Concert
The next day, Sunday, we decided to have a “down day” to catch up on planning, laundry, blogs, etc. It was showery all day. At various times, we read, slept, explored and did laundry.
Ellen and Jim had seen a poster for a Mozart concert, featuring the Orchestre de Cadaqués under the direction of Neville Mariner. It was to feature the clarinet concerto and the Requiem. The hostel staff were very helpful in finding out about tickets (available one hour before the concert), and Jim thought the auditorium where the concert was to take place was in the centre of the city.
In the afternoon Andrea and Ellen set out on the bikes to explore, found some green areas, stopped to watch fish apparently mating in the river, got soaked with rain, and just by chance took a route past the auditorium where the concert was really going to take place.
Andrea prepared a meal for us (Jim and Ellen) and we set off early (in the pouring rain) to get tickets, arriving about 25 minutes before the box office opened. We had an hour to kill before the concert, so went to the bar and had a drink and people-watched. The concert took place at 7:00, which is around supper hour in Catalunya, so there were tapas on offer as well as beer, and the specialty wine of the region, cava, a sparkling white. It seemed to be the thing to do to have a nosh before the concert, at intermission, or even after as the bar was open 1 hour after the concert.
The concert hall was magnificent, comfy seats, lots of wood, incredible acoustics, fabulous view even from the cheaper seats. It probably seated about 1,000, this in a city of about 100,000, and was probably about 2/3 full, and not just with the grey-haired set–there were people of all ages, including teenagers and several children.
The concert too was magnificent. Neville Mariner is now 82, but very spry and active. The clarinetist was one of the best we have ever heard, the orchestra was magnificent, with lots of young players and the pianissimos in the concerto were spine-tingling. One note of interest was that the clarinet soloist warmed up during the orchestral introduction by playing the violin part! After the concerto he treated us to a virtuoso display of clarinet technique–he seemed to be having so much fun! The Requiem was a wonderful performance as well. We left the theatre feeling awestruck at the level of performance and at the support for the arts in Europe in general.