This was our second visit to Girona and we owe it all (well kind of!) to a kiss on a lion´s ass!
Before you get to a conclusion, let me start by giving a small brief to this beautiful little town.
This small town of roughly 100,000 people is located about 118 kms from Barcelona in the area of Costa Brava, boasting of deep blue skies and a coast line which has featured prominently in the Bollywood movie “Zindagi na milegi dobara”.
From a Foodie´s perspective, this place also has the unique distinction of being the birthplace of Molecular cuisine through its most iconic (and now closed) restaurant El Bulli as well as the current winner of the Best restaurant of the world title – El Celler de Can Roca.
This restaurant has a waiting list of over a year and my second visit to this Roman city was a direct result of me finally getting a table in this restaurant to celebrate my 40th birthday. The story of this experience makes up for a different write up, but first about this beautiful city.
As it is relatively close to Barcelona (40 minutes high speed train ride), it can be easily covered in a day, however, it is most advisable to club it with some of the very picturesque towns around it. One can easily go to the snow clad mountains as well as the golden sandy beaches from this place, but for both of the same, own vehicle is a must.
The city, dating back to 79 BC used to be a Roman city (parts of which can still be seen today) and was later known as a prominent Jewish settlement. Off course, as all the ancient cities, the city is divided into its modern parts and its ancient parts, but what´s most impressive is the fact that the ancient part is also an active residential neighborhood as well.
The ancient part of the city can be easily reached by walking down from the local station and can be accessed by crossing over one of the many bridges which connect the ancient city with the modern one. The bridges also offer a very picturesque view of the river Onyar and the colorful buildings on the bank of this river.
While many houses within the ancient quarters are converted into hotels, bed and breakfasts and guest houses, there are still some houses which house local residents, some of them have converted them into their offices. It seems as if each house competes with the other for its beauty. Beautiful centre courtyards sport orange trees which are laden with fruit at most times.
As you walk down the narrow alleys of the city, admiring the various stone steps that lead you to the different parts of the Jewish settlements, you feel like having been transported back in time. Each building, each stone, the taps jutting out, the lamp posts hanging from the walls; each of them seem to be carrying a history of their own; A story that is theirs to tell. Walk around, admire the architecture and immerse yourself in the history of this beautiful city.
During this visit, the sky was overcast and there was a slight drizzle, we covered the Museum of Jewish history, which houses some nice artifacts from the city´s history and proceeded on to the Watch tower and part of the medieval walls. This part offers one of the most panoramic views of the city of Girona and this is where we spent some time to catch the sun set through the cloudy sky. I got some of the most beautiful pictures of this visit from here.
As the sun set we moved towards the magnificent Cathedral which looms large over the city and standing below the several stairs of the cathedral, one can’t help but wonder how small we are in the scheme of god.
The plaza offers a magnificent view of the cathedral and it is here, that we saw, during our last visit, a nice little performance of line dancing by the local residents. …and this is where we kissed the lion´s butt during our last visit. Legend has it that during the olden days the security guards manning the city door had a secret code and would let pass only the ones who would come and discreetly kiss the butt of the bronze statue of the lion perched upon an iron post. Over time a myth around this tradition has built up relating that whoever kisses its butt is sure to return to this gorgeous city.
Without wasting much time, I jumped to kiss the lion only to realize that the bronze statue was super cold due to the wet weather and I got stuck to the statue for a few seconds, much to the amusement of my partner. I only hope now, that the second kiss holds true like the first one and I am back to this gorgeous city for some more adventures soon!
Night was upon us and the city turned into a dreamland with the tastefully placed lights throwing a beautiful light over the monuments, the dark sky up above, the Onyar River reflecting the lights…the whole ambiance turned superbly magical. One has to be standing there in person to truly visualize the magic that takes place once the lights come on. My pictures may not do the right justice to the city scapes.
As a last stop of our tour, we stopped at the famous chocolate/gelato shop, owned by the worlds bet patisserie Jordi Roca –ROCAMBOLESC, here we had a grilled brioche bun centre filled with a luscious creamy gelato topped with the toppings of our choice….hot bun and cold ice cream in that weather, it was certainly an orgasmic experience in the already magical evening.
As we walked back towards the station, we couldn’t help but wonder, why such a magical city doesn’t appear in the best cities of Spain. The city that magically transports you back in time through its narrow alleys, magnificent cathedrals, beautiful museums, some of the warmest people I have met in this side of Europe and over all, best most amazing food! This is one city I am sure to come back again because even though I have visited it twice, I feel there is so much more to discover and explore! I look forward to return for its annual festival of flowers, when the city magically converts into a flowered city and feel the magic once again…..this is a wish and I hope my kiss on the lion´s butt would help me make it a reality once again!!