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Sept. 22: Girona

The plan today was to go out to breakfast, and Phil and Kurt would walk to get the car and we'd be out of the hotel and on our way to pick up Heide by 9. Not to be.

We headed over to the Cafe' Zurich for a quick bite to eat at around 8:30. Great ambience -- the place has outdoor seating right on the Placa de Catalunya across from Las Ramblas. But the food was not very good (croissants were stale). So Kurt ate most of mine (and his as well), and after some coffee, they took off to rent the car. I, on the other hand, stopped at Starbucks to get a fresh croissant and another double espresso.

I returned to the room, checked out, and got directions to Heide's hotel. Kurt and Phil showed up with a Mercedes C class (nice!) at around 9:30. Kurt helped me schlep the luggage down to the car. It was a good thing I was planning only to take an overnight bag and leave the rest of the luggage at the Hotel Atenea, because the trunk in that car is rather small.

We hopped in the car and sat... and waited... and waited... and waited. Because of some impending event in Place de Catalunya, our little street was blocked off at our end. There was also a parking garage just past our hotel, and a truck blocking the garage. Cars were queued up, waiting to get into the parking area. We were going in the opposite direction, and were completely blocked. So we sat there for about 30 minutes until a cop arrived to try to direct the traffic jam out of there. Finally, we exited our little street, and zigged and zagged our way to the hotel.

Heide was waiting for us, so we stashed our extra bags in her room and all hopped in the car, after getting directions to Girona from the concierge. It was now around 10:30 AM.

We headed up to Girona on the freeway. The toll roads are smooth as silk and very nice to drive on. The area outside of Barcelona was very nice, Tuscan like almost. After about an hour, we had made it to Girona, only we didn't really have directions to our hotel (or at least we didn't think we did).

So we wandered around Girona, which is a fairly big city, looking for the historic center. The signs got us there, and as we came into the main part of town, we did see signs directing us to the Hotel Historic, where we were staying. Just as we found the old town, the way was blocked to get in. A policeman directed us to go to the back of the cathedral (a building you cannot miss).

So we visually followed the roads to where we thought the back of the cathedral was, which took us through the university and its cobbled and narrow streets. Unfortunately, the way was blocked. We wound up going back to where the policeman was. This time there was a different policeman, and when we explained where we wanted to go, he let us pass into the historic center.

The historic part of the town was built several hundred years ago, before there were cars. Therefore the way is very narrow. By this time, I had found the directions on my laptop, and we wound our way through these narrow streets. At a couple of places, we had to fold down the mirrors so we could pass through narrow alleys. Finally, we were lost. So I made Phil ask someone, and it turned out it was just around the corner from us. And, as we found out, it was just around the corner where we had been turned back from the last time. Doh!

We parked in front of the hotel, even though it meant that there was barely room for another car to pass, and checked in.

While waiting for the proprieter, we noticed a display case that had signed jerseys from most of the American cyclists who live here or come here often -- Lance, Levi, George, Fast Freddy, Christian Vandevelde, and Dede & Michael Barry. Pretty cool! Later in the evening, she told us a bunch of stories about Lance and others who have stayed here. All in Spanish, of course!

We were shown to our room, which is really a two-bedroom apartment (all for 97 Euros, I might add!). It's huge! And, it has two balconies that overlook the cobbled streets.

It turns out that a movie is also being filmed here, just around the corner from where we're staying. It's a period piece (supposedly set in France), and there were a number of extras milling about in three-pointed hats, and period clothing. The movie is called "Perfume." Must look it up on IMDB when I get my internet connection back. We kept stumbling upon them filming at various points during the day, and stopped a few times to watch.

We strolled down the old town, and around the newer part of town, looking for a bike shop. At this point, all the shops were closed for midday. But we didn't really find what we were looking for (a shop that sells local team jerseys). It was a lovely stroll, however. Then we stopped at a local eatery in old town for some lunch. Heide and I both had a delicious seafood paella, and Phil and Kurt had country-style pizzas.

After lunch, we strolled over to a local gelateria and had our daily fix. By this time, it was getting to be about 5, and we decided to go visit the cathedral.

Girona's cathedral is one of the most massive I've ever seen. It has the highest vaulted ceilings! We took the audioguided tour through the place, which was short, but quite interesting.

From there, we strolled down to the bottom of the old town, and found the entrance to the wall that rings the old city. You can walk around the wall for quite some distance, which is what we did. The city (and the wall) is quite hilly, so we got in a lot of hill and stair climbing today. The views from the wall are quite spectacular as well.

We went back to the hotel to freshen up, and then headed on out for dinner. We found this delightful place with outdoor seating, where the tables were set on a little candlelit piazza outside the restaurant with stairs above and below. It was quite picturesque!

After asking the waiter for help to decipher the menu, we had country-style pizzas (which were quite delicious), and Heide had a meat and potatos type Catalan dish. We topped off dinner with crepes for dessert. I think I ate too much, but it was worth it. (Besides, we have burned off a *lot* of calories that past few days.)

A few more flights of stairs later, and we were back at our hotel, sated and content.

Tomorrow we will head on out to Figueras to take in a tasted of Dali'.

I do hope that I'm able to come back to this town some day. It's just the right size -- not too small and not too big. The old town reminds me so much of many old towns in Italy. It really is quite beautiful. If you ever go to Spain, I'd highly recommend this town (and also, the Hotel Historic).

My only complaint is... no internet. But that's probably a good thing in reality ;-)