25 October 2014

Girona Day One took me on to a high wall and ended with fireworks

After Barcelona my next stop was Girona just an hour away by train and still just about in Spain. I got up at a leisurely hour, I was on holiday remember, and struggled with the confusing metro system to get to the main station where it was easy to find the train to Girona.

The hotel I was staying for a couple of days, Hotel Gran Ultonia, was conveniently situated next to the old town but that meant that it was a little distant from the station. The walk took about ten minutes and was pleasant enough though the cobbled pavements made the wheeled suitcase a little noisy. I got to the hotel around 11am, quickly dumped my stuff in the room and headed the short way into town.

The town was carved into two by a tamed river and this is what gave it one of its main features, the houses that ran right up to, and even slightly over, the river bank. This was not the ordered canal-side architecture of, say Amsterdam or Venice, and it had its own charm because of that.

Large parts of the old town were only open, or mostly open, to pedestrians and that included several of the bridges that crossed the river. This one, Pont de les Peixateries, was my favourite and I guess it is most other people's too.

The solid construction comes from the designers, Eiffel (they also did towers), who were tasked with building a bridge that could survive the frequent flooding. It has been there since 1877 so I presume that it does.

I also loved the red paint, another reminder of Amsterdam, and the way that the bridge disappeared into the buildings opposite.

The views from the bridge were also the best of the riverside, in my opinion. This one is fairly typical of the several that I took from slightly different places and at different times of the day. Unfortunately the river was fairly low and exposed some of its less attractive features.

The building at the top was the Cathedral which would feature heavily for the next couple of days because of its prominent position.

Maps do not tell the whole story, especially tourist maps, and the one that I was using neglected to tell me how steep the hill was moving east away from the river. You know it is steep when roads are staircases. It was a pretty staircase though.

The main reason for walking up a hill is for the views; views like this one. My hotel is somewhere in the cluster of tall buildings at the back to the left, the river flows through the middle of the picture as indicated by the exposed flat-fronted buildings and the town square is behind the white faced buildings on the right; that is where I had lunch earlier.

I was deliberately heading for the city wall but I was not expecting this.

Having climbed up the hill to get to the wall I then had to climb up a lot of steps to get to the top of it. I've climbed a few city walls in my time, it's the sort of thing that I like to do, but I do not recall any that has such a steep drop on the inside towards the city that it is protecting.

Just in case the wall was not tall enough there were several towers along the way, such as the one here where the wall changes direction, and I climbed all of them.

The Cathedral was close to one section of the wall and my route north along the east side of the city took me right up to it and then around it as the wall edged towards the west.

The afternoon sun was being very kind to the terracotta roofs and the stone walls and they combined to produce some warming views.

The wall itself was something of a triumph.

At some recent point it had been substantially and sympathetically restored. A fair amount of the wall was old but all the walkways and much else were new. It could be argued that so much rebuilding could count as desecration of an ancient monument, and I can understand that, but in this case I think that bringing the wall back in to use was worth the loss of some history.

The wall was certainly popular and I had to wait a fair while to take the pictures that I did with so few people in them.

There were several ways on and off the wall and I came off by the Cathedral and having climbed down off the wall I next had to walk back down the hill. I had options and chose to go down these steps that led to a little square. And in that square was a cafe that was an ideal spot to pause for a drink. It had been quite a long walk along the wall on a hot day and there were no cafes up there.

Rested I meandered back toward the hotel taking in more narrow streets and another bridge.

I got back to the hotel early evening and made good use of their decent wifi before going out again for a meal. The hotel said something about an annual event taking place in the town at 10pm so I delayed going out until just before then and headed for the little town square. I was lucky to get a table at a restaurant right on the square as somebody left just as I arrived, presumably they preferred to have their evening meal before 10pm.

The fireworks started at ten.

I was on the terrace of the restaurant when the fun started and was ready for my meal, not fireworks. Those in the know were all wearing old coats to protect themselves from the showers of sparks. The last time I had seen anything like that was the squibbing at Bridgwater Carnival though that was a lot more structured.

Some of the sparks fell towards me and my meal but only enough to create entertainment, not enough to worry about. The fireworks soon moved on in a raucous procession through the town leaving me to my meal. A fitting end to a remarkable day.

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