- If you can dream it, you can do it. Walt Disney
Visit Girona, Spain
The so-called “City of the Four Rivers”, shows us a historic centre dominated by medieval buildings and reminders of Romans, Arabs and Jews. Inside the walled enclosure of "La Força Vella" you can find the culiminating works of its historical destiny. Its excellent position between the Pyrenean chain and the Costa Brava makes a multitude of trips possible, for example, to natural areas which are worthy of mention. Everywhere, the traveller will have the opportunity to try the regional cuisine which brings together in its recipes products of the sea and the mountains.
Set in the valley of the Ter, at the confluence of four rivers, we find the city of Girona. One of them, the Onyar, divides the historic centre from the modern city. The old centre of this Catalan city preserves remains of its long history, from the time it was founded by the Romans in the 1st century B. C. To them we owe its original wall, whose remains stretch from the Archaeological Walk to the Wall Gardens.
La Força Vella
Set in this walled enclosure (La Força Vella), stands the Cathedral. Its Romanesque origin is shown in its fortress-like appearance and strategic location, although the most outstanding aspect is an immense Gothic nave, the widest in Medieval European architecture. Inside, it preserves one of the textile jewels of Catalan Romanesque, the Creation Tapestry. Beside the entrance staircase to the cathedral is the Pia Alomoina, an old charitable institution in Gothic style.
Girona has other key pieces of religious architecture, like the Benedictine monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants, a historic-artistic monument; or the church of Sant Nicolau. These are Romanesque churches whose apses and octagonal cupolas deserve a close look as they form key elements of the Catalan medieval style. The convent of Sant Doménech, built in Gothic style and clear example of the importance of the religious orders in the colonisation and repopulation of Catalonia during the Middle Ages, stands amid gardens.
Also to this historical period belong important displays of Arab and Jewish art, the result of these cultures living side-by-side with Christianity for centuries. So, you will discover the multitude of small streets making up El Call, the Jewish quarter of Girona. Calle Força is the heart of this district, which had a synagogue and centres of cabbalistic study. The Plaça del Oli and the Plaça del Vi maintain all their flavour; and, in them are some of the greatest jewels of medieval palace architecture, like the Fontana d’Or. The Call is currently one of the best preserved Jewish quarters in Spain.
Not far from here, a Capuchin convent houses the Arab Baths, where we should point out a pavilion built on eight fine columns and crowned by an octagonal cupola. Before crossing the river and walking towards modern Girona, you can climb up to the belltower of Sant Feliu or go to the Pont de Pedra (Stone Bridge) over the Onyar, where you can get overhead views of all the houses in the city and their façades painted in ochres, dark blues and copper. On the other side of the river you will find one of the most beautiful examples of Catalan Modernism, the work of Rafael Masó. Outstanding buildings are the Teixidor Factory and the Punxa House, among others. The Hospital de Santa Caterina, a Baroque building from the 17th century, is also in this area. And, on the other side of the Passeig Devesa, is one of the recreational areas for the people of Girona, the Parc Devesa. This is an exotic forest area largest made up of plane trees, giving a strong contrast with the city's medieval architecture.
The Costa Brava
Girona's excellent position, at the end of the Pyrenean chain and the Costa Brava, bathed by the Mediterranean sea, makes it easy for you to tour the whole province. The coastline that unfolds from Portbou (in the north) to Blanes (in the south) is made up of medieval churches, fishing villages, Roman remains, wide beaches and coves with clear water, among areas of cliffs. In all of them, the juxtaposition of sea and mountains forms an unforgettable landscape. You must not miss places like El Port de la Selva, with its monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes; the Cap de Creus Natural Park; the landscapes of Cadaqués and the gulf of Roses; historic-artistic sites like Pals; or walled towns beside the sea, like Tossa del Mar. And these are just some examples.
Right on the Costa Brava, in the village of Begur and on Aiguablava beach, is its Parador de Turismo. It is a modern building that has all kinds of leisure facilities as well as enviable views of the cliffs of Punta D'es Muts, on which it is located. This lovely environment, surrounded by sea and pinewoods, is a fantastic place for discovering Girona cuisine. The combination of products from the coast and inland create recipes like snail stew, flame-grilled vegetables with romesco sauce (made with almonds and chorizo pepper) or rice with fish as starters. Among second courses, you can choose from grilled fish, chicken with spiny lobster or rabbit with chocolate. "Crema catalana" (custard with caramelised sugar on top) or apples in puff pastry, might be among the desserts you choose. All this suitably accompanied by whites, reds and rosés with the Ampurdán-Costa Brava Denomination of Origin.
The summits and valleys of the Eastern Pyrenees are also worth a detailed tour. The valleys of Ribes and Núria soften a mountainous landscape crowned by high summits and crossed by fast-flowing rivers. The natural and landscape wealth of the Pyrenees is enriched by the medieval buildings of Puigcerdá or Sant Joan de les Abadesses, the popular architecture of mountain villages like Queralbs or ski stations like those at La Molina or Masella.
The high natural value of Girona has earned the protection, as natural parks, of the Empordà wetlands and the Volcanic Area of La Garrotxa. These places are very different from one another. which tell us of the richness of this Catalan province. They can be toured with the help of information offered by their information centres.