Girona, Good Bye Spain

Trip Start Apr 25, 2007
Trip End Oct 03, 2007

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Flag of Spain and Canary Islands  , Catalonia,
Monday, June 18, 2007

The drive from Playa d'Oro was uneventful, and we reached Girona in less than an hour. We had booked a room for 60 Euros a night in the oldest part of the city, the Jewish Quarter. Our hotel, the Hotel Bellmiral , was a renovated house with all the charm of the past. The walls in our room were stone and mortar, and our window looked out onto a pedestrian street that probably hadn't changed in centuries. We walked around the Jewish Quarter, through the Jewish Museum, and along the Onyar River. Girona felt like a medieval city to me, the colors reminded me of an Italian city such as Florence or Venice, and I wished we had more time than one day to explore. We were also surprised by the variety of restaurants, modern, traditional, experimental.....unfortunately the one we picked was a disappointment, but how can you not go into a place that offers such delicacies on the menu as, "confuted rabbit" or "pie of fragmentation hand grenade"?
In the morning we had breakfast in the hotel's flower filled courtyard. (It was an interesting study in cultural anthropology: at breakfast were two Japanese girls, three French women, a young Spanish couple, and us. The Japanese girls never looked up and were so quiet you didn't know they were there, the French women were picky and unfriendly to the hotel owner, the Spanish couple smooched, talked and laughed out loud......). We wanted to linger in this old city, but we had it in mind to drive to the Barcelona airport the long way via Montserrat, a monastery in the mountains, so we reluctantly left and began our day.
Having grossly underestimated how long it would take us to make our way up the winding road to Montserrat, we had exactly 20 minutes there to park the car, run to the monastery, look at the Madonna from afar, and run back to the car. I had been there before, but it was still a sight to see those finger-like rocks protrude into the sky, as well as the thousands of tourists and hundreds of tour buses. The entire complex was huge and impressive, nestled into the hillside. All along the way were vendors selling local goodies like honey and cheese as well as souvenir shops selling all sorts of monk-made products. Had we planned it right, we could have hiked up and around those mountains but, happily for Dan, we had to rush to the airport.
The following drive was one of those where your whole body is tense and all you can think about is the fact you are going to miss your flight. We made it to the outskirts of the airport with possible time to spare to fill the rental car with gas, only we missed the entrance to the gas station and found ourselves at the rental car counter. Here was the moment I had been dreading for the past ten days, when I was sure the Hertz employees would shout obscenities regarding their mud-splattered baby, whisk it off to the car wash, and then shout even more obscenities at the long dent down one side. I had already planned what to say ("what dent?") and whom to call (the nice lady at the credit card company), but all the Spanish Hertz lady did was hand me my contract back and say, "Gracias", without even looking up from her desk or glancing at the evil car that had tortured us with towings and tickets all the way up the coast of Spain. That was it? I was almost indignant at the lack of concern, but Dan rolled his eyes at me and wisely whisked me away into the airport terminal.
We had spent seven weeks in Spain this time around and had seen more of the country than ever before. We had met more locals, interacted in depth with more people, and spoken more Spanish than I thought was possible! This trip reinforced my previous experiences that Spain really was about the noisy enjoyment of life, food, family, wine, and even religion. I had never seen so many people, from construction workers to street cleaners, walking the streets smiling and singing out loud, nor seen so many people touching each other affectionately while talking, men arm in arm, old couples hand in hand. Spain isn't perfect: the service is slow, the cats are starving, and there is a dire lack of vegetables in restaurants! But when I'm standing in a crowded, noisy bar and the bartender finally reaches over the crowd to hand me a rioja and a tapa, and all I can here around me is Spanish, I'm pretty much in heaven, and I know I'll be back. For now, though, it was on to the Czech Republic.
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