Sunday, November 18, 2007

Girona/Barcelona

From Malta we flew to Girona in Spain. It is a fairly small city about 100km north of Barcelona and a Ryanair hub so we didn't have much choice. I knew nothing about it but I am glad I went. We had to spend two nights there and for the first time in ages, couldn't find anyone to host us and ended up in a little hotel. We'd originally planned to spend all our time and sleep in Barcelona but I'm glad we didn't. We ended up spending the first day (or what was left of it) in Girona and then doing a day trip to Barcelona the following day.
Girona was quite nice actually. It seemed really quiet while we were there but then it might've been that all the shops were closed in the afternoon. The old town isn't too big and we had a pleasant stroll around. There is a small river flowing through the middle and the apartments come right up to the edge. They are also quite colourful so it is an interesting view from a bridge. There's also an intact city wall going around the old town in a semicircle from nearly the river's edge. We walked all the way around it, admiring the view and stopping off to take a closer look at the main cathedral. It is noteworthy as the widest single-nave (one main door) cathedral in the world. It actually looks a little funny because most have 3 doors and this one is a single only so has a lot of empty space on the front.
Barcelona was the surprise disappointment of Europe. Of all the European cities we've gone to on this little side trip, it had the lowest overall rating by our group. Not sure exactly why but it was. I suppose it might have something to do with the fact that there didn't seem like a whole lot to do even though it was so big. The main attraction is art and architecture too which we aren't all that interested in, although we did run around looking at different buildings designed by Gaudi. He's definitely unique, I'll give him that. The Sagrada Familia church was the only work of his that I knew for sure but there are lots of others scattered about town. La Sagrada Familia church is totally bizarre and I have no hope of explaining it here. Most people have seen a picture of it somewhere as it is the most famous landmark of Barcelona. Actually, you'll have to just look it up, my descriptive skills are sorely lacking when it comes to this stuff.
Another famous area is La Rambla street. It's a touristy street in the centre of town full of street performers, outdoor pet shops, flower stalls and artisans. We gave it a walk through too and it was pretty busy but I can't imagine the craziness that must go on during the summer. La Rambla leads down to the waterfront area where they've rebuilt the harbour into an outdoor "park" area with a cinema, walkways and other recreational activities.
Why didn't we really like it? Well, for one thing, it kind of stinks. Something we're used to, but at the same time, not really wanting in a European city. Most of the monuments or sites of interest seemed to be scaffolded so we really didn't feel like we saw all that much. There is also tons and tons of graffiti everywhere! All over the old town, on every door there seems to be graffiti. The streets aren't full of litter but you don't really get the impression that the people care too much about maintaining the beauty. It was pretty dark in there during the day and I wouldn't want to be walking around the old town at night alone. It feels like that kind of town. I don't know the statistics but I have heard that Barcelona is also the pickpocket capital of Europe these days too. I guess it just seemed a little more edgy than other places we've been which might sound a little strange if you look back at our trip and where we've been.
I know others like the city and think it's great. Maybe someday I will go back but at the moment I can only write about what I've seen and felt. The following day we caught a flight (finally our last for a while) onward to Fez, Morocco.
Ammon

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