It’s now well into Autumn, the leaves are changing colour and for the last week in October, Girona hosts it’s biggest and most spectacular party of the year….. The Fira de St Narcis. Girona is the capital city of the province of Girona in northern Catalunya and with it’s colourful riverside houses and ancient architecture, it is a popular destination in it’s own right in spite of being just 100 kilometres from Barcelona, Catalunya’s Capital. Situated on the confluence of the rivers Onyar and Ter, it is naturally divided into the modern city to the west and the old town or Jewish quarter to the east. Girona is ancient…. the old quarter is packed full of museums, narrow traffic-free cobbled streets, Roman and Jewish buildings, churches, bars and restaurants and is well worth a visit for the day.
First things first though, I took a group of friends hiking for the day in the Montseny mountains, a protected green space situated on the coast in between Girona and Barcelona.
At the Font de Passavets near Santa Fé de Montseny, there’s a handy parking area and after a bite to eat and a coffee, we headed towards the peak of Turó l’Home on a 2 hour circular hike through beech and pine forests until we reached the top of the mountain at 1712mt (5620ft). It’s an easy hike, suitable for children and well documented through the Wikiloc website http://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/home.do
Some spectacular views today above the cloud and a good place to have a picnic. From here, it’s a short walk along a ridge that connects the mountain top at Turó de l’Home with its sister peak at Les Agudes, also spookily at an altitude of 1712mts.
From here you can see the coastline of the Costa Brava, the mountains of Monserrat, famous for it’s monastery, spectacular views of the Pyrenees and the iconic mountain at Pedraforca and after a pleasant 90 minute walk through forest tracks down the other side of Les Agudes, you arrive back at the parking at Font de Passavets.
Girona has been packed with people all week, here to visit the street markets, Gigants, Correfocs, chiringuitos (street bars) and live music and today, they have come to see the Castellers. Given UNESCO status in 2010 as “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”, these human towers are generally static, but today, they form a four-tier human pillar that runs up the steps to the entrance to the Cathedral. You’ll need to get to your spot well before hand though as this is very popular, but we think, well worth the wait.
This is the land that health and safety forgot. The top most Casteller is called the “enxaneta”, typically a small child of 5 or 6 years old. The enxanetas now wear safety helmets, and today, thankfully, all the Castells were “Descarregat” (completed successfully without mishap). They do sometimes collapse, although there are always plenty of people at the bottom, called the “Pinya” to catch them.
After the Castellers, the cathedral square empties and the crowds head across the river to the Devesa forest where there is live music and chiringuitos selling food and beer until the early hours. We decided to stay in a chiringuito which was raising money for the deaf community. Two of my favourite things…raising money for good causes and drinking beer… Girona is a small and friendly city. You can easily walk around the old quarter in an afternoon and there doesn’t appear to be the same problems with pick-pockets and tourist traps that plague Barcelona during the summer months. Whilst we were waiting for the Castellers, we found plenty of people willing to be subjected to my bad Spanish or eager to practice their English.
During the days, the city is full of stalls selling paintings and jewellery etc and you can easily spend a morning here browsing the shops and I recommend a long lazy lunch in one of the many restaurants in the old town, especially this place in front of the Staircase which leads you to the Convent of Sant Domènec. This is one of the most famous and most photographed parts of the old town and the restaurant charges a very modest €15 for a menú del dia.
On the last day of the Fira (fair in Catalan), it’s time for the fireworks. We made our way up onto the old fortified walls to the north east of the city for the best view in town…
About me… I have lived in Calonge (province of Girona) on the Costa Brava since 2003 after retiring as a pilot from the british Royal Air Force. My passions are hiking, biking, skiing, photography and discovering and sharing the hidden cultural treasures of this beautiful country. My day job entails managing a luxury self-catering rental Villa, Casa Cal Domino, and in my search for new and interesting things to do for my clients whilst they are here on holiday, I have been genuinely overawed by the beauty and diversity of this land. I’m not leaving any time soon. I love it here and I hope to inspire you to come and discover this wonderful country for yourself.