Day 2. Exploring Girona

We had slept so soundly it was difficult making a move, but after turning off the alarm clock several times we finally managed to rouse ourselves, coming to life with an invigorating shower followed by a delicious breakfast in the restaurant of the Doubletree by Hilton.

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The spacious breakfast room in the Doubletree by Hilton Girona

Set up for the day, our first stop was at the Lion Market Hall where we wandered through the stalls observing the locals shopping for their fresh produce. The market hall is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and continues to thrive with its attractively displayed stalls and small cafes.

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The Mercat del Lleo, (Market Hall) Girona

From the market hall we strolled along the narrow cobblestone streets of the old quarter glancing in some of the older, traditional shops looking attractive with their original shopfronts and signs.

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Fresh produce on sale in Girona’s market hall

It was already becoming quite warm so we popped into a bar in the Placa de la Indepencia for some cool drinks before participating on a Girona Walking Tour (€12 per person) which commenced at 12.00 noon. Tours operate several times daily in both Spanish and English with approximately 18 people on our tour. We don’t usually opt for this kind of activity but as it included admission to two historic sites we thought it looked good value and we would give it a try in the hope we would discover some hidden gems in the city.  Our tour guide Carmen was very informative leading us through the old town of Girona in an engaging manner.

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The starting point of our tour near the Benvinguda Bridge

From our starting point at the Benvinguda Bridge we crossed the river and made our first stop just a few steps away on C.Colderers at the statue of ‘The Lionesses Bottom’.

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Climbing up the steps to kiss the Lionesses bottom

Girona is home to numerous myths and legends and as tradition goes, the fable says that if you kiss the Lionesses bottom you will surely return to Girona! From our first experiences, we were enjoying the city, so we climbed up the few steps and did just that, hoping to return one day.

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One of the  mythical flies adorning walls in Gironna’s old town

It was then just a short distance to our next stop, relating to another of Girona’s fables and this time the Mythical Files. According to medieval records, in 1285, Girona was surrounded by the troops of the French King Phillipe the Bold. The French soldiers ransacked and damaged numerous churches including that of St. Felix where they tore open the tomb of St. Narcis. Suddenly a swarm of stinging flies emanated from the tomb, flew over the city walls and attacked every French soldier. The enemy panicked and fled in disarray restoring peace to the people of Girona. Since then, Girona has retained St. Narcis and his flies as an emblem of the city.

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Walking along the old city walls in Girona

We then continued onto a small section of the old city walls and then back down to the Monasterio de Sant Pere de Galligants (admission included in the walking tour). Here we were able to explore the Benedictine monastery and its delightful cloisters where we learnt about its history from our knowledgeable guide.

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Cloisters of the Monasterio de Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona

Just around the corner from the monastery lie the Arabian Baths (admission also included) where we given a guided tour. These baths are actually Romanesque and were built in the 12th century, inspired by both Roman and Arabic designs. The baths remained in use until the 14th century. The entrance hall features a central pool and ornate columns reminiscent of exotic palm trees with pineapples cast in stone growing on top.

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The entrance hall to the Arabian Baths, Girona

To one side are two more rooms, one cooler and the hot room featuring the remains of its original chimneys and ovens. There was an opportunity to ascend an outdoor staircase from where we had splendid views looking down onto the ancient building.

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Steps leading to Girona Cathedral bathed in sunshine and looking much nicer than the previous day

Leaving the Arabian Baths, the tour continued to a stone bridge that some readers might recognise as a filming location in Series 6 of The Game of Thrones and to the steps of the Cathedral where scenes were also captured. Fortunately, it was bright and sunny enabling us to enjoy much better views than when we visited the previous day.

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Enjoying lunch on Rambla Libertat, Girona

Our tour concluded in the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter, an historic part of the city and one we planned to explore in more detail during our stay. It was 2.00 p.m. when we completed the tour so we found a shady table in one of the restaurants along Rambla Libertat where we relaxed with glasses of Estrella beer and a mozzarella and a tomato panini each.

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Rocambolesc Gelateria. Girona

We’d arranged our next activity for 4.00 p.m. so there was ample time for some shopping and ice creams from the famous Rocambolesc Gelateria. The shop is owned by the Roca brothers, the team behind El Celler de Can Roca, one of the best restaurants in the world. Their delicious ice creams are reasonably priced and are available in a variety of flavours and, in addition to traditional cones and tubs, can be selected in the shape of several of Girona’s monuments. We were definitely in ice cream heaven tempted with their unique flavours, toppings and shapes and although we couldn’t afford to dine in their restaurant, we had done the next best thing!

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Casa Maso, Girona

Approaching 4.00 p.m. we continued the short distance to Casa Masó the family home of the architect Rafael Masó (1880-1935). It is the only one of the famous houses overlooking the River Onyar that is open to the public. One hour guided tours (maximum 8 people) can be pre-arranged Tuesday to Saturday with standard admission €6.

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The entrance hallway, Casa Maso,, GIrona

The house is the result of the combination of four adjoining homes acquired by the Masó family between the mid 19th and early 20th centuries. The ground floor contains the museum shop, a video room and gallery and was originally a print shop. After a short introductory talk we were shown an interesting video detailing the buildings that Masó had designed.

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The Dining Room, Casa Maso

The house is unique as it has been preserved with the decorations and furniture of the time. We climbed the original staircase to the first floor with its beautifully tiled floors and walls all designed by Masó himself. Feature stained glass windows incorporating a rose design were inspired by the Scottish architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and these allow natural light to flood into the building. Enclosed, narrow balconies on each floor overlook the picturesque river with tiled floors designed by Masó himself.

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Delightful enclosed balconies with tiling and decorations designed by Maso

The collection includes many objects and works of art made or acquired by the family and their ancestors over 300 years. Along with the Glasgow architect. Mackintosh the house also contains some influences of Barcelona’s famous architect Antoni Gaudi. It was an extremely interesting and engaging tour led by a knowledgeable guide who was clearly passionate about Masó and his home. We knew little about Casa Masó before taking the tour but it was actually one of the highlights of our stay in Girona and is highly recommended.

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The large white building overlooking the river is Casa Maso

It was about 5.30 p.m. by the time we returned to the hotel and after a welcoming cup of tea our plan had been to go up to the rooftop pool for a swim. Unfortunately, it had started raining so the idea of relaxing on a sun lounger for an hour or so soon lost its appeal and instead we got ready to go out to dinner.

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My delicious grilled lamb with roasted vegetables

Later, we returned to the old town armed with an umbrella each and found an attractive restaurant with indoor seating. Our dinner of moules marineré, grilled lamb with roasted vegetables followed by slices of almond cake was delicious as was the carafé of local wine to accompany it. The end of a very enjoyable day exploring delightful Girona.

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39 thoughts on “Day 2. Exploring Girona

  1. jasonlikestotravel

    Sounds like another lovely day in Girona. I love the idea to have ice cream served in Girona landmarks, that’s so cool! Worth getting an ice cream for that novelty alone 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I must say that you are very lucky to live so close to many wonderful places. I get to go to Europe one a year and it is more than most people who live here in Canada. So I am grateful when I go and I enjoy every minutes of my time over seas.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Girona is gorgeous Jonno, and so peaceful and sophisticated. The lamb was delicious and part of a reasonable fixed price three course meal including wine in the cellar of a small restaurant. It’s strange that Girona is full of myths and legends but perhaps other cities are too and we just don’t know about them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooof. I’ve tossed my coin into the Trevi fountain, but I’ve never kissed the lion’s bottom (how does one say that in Spanish, “besa la parte inferior del león?”). Never the less, lion’s bottom or not, a lovely tour. Gracias.

    Liked by 1 person

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