Saturday, October 03, 2009

Friday, october 2 - to Girona

We had breakfast in a neighborhood joint near our Madrid hotel. We had the sense that the regulars were well known. Fresh-squeezed OJ, good coffee, and a couple of greasy, totally-mysterious churros, slender and curved, without sugar. I saw one guy dipping his into coffee - I guess that would improve the experience. Had to try 'em.

We did our final packing, the pre-arranged shuttle picked us up and we got to the airport by 11:30.

Now the surprise. We were flying on a discount airline, and the pre-purchase rules were very strict about carry-on weight limits. Imagine discovering that our main bags were 19 kilograms over the limit, which would cost 20 euros/kg, or over $300 extra.

Our carry-ons were permitted 10kg each, so we had a frantic 20 minutes, transferring as many heavy things as possible to our carry-ons, with the knowledge that they had both weight and size restrictions.

We got everything pretty close to the limits and the check-in lady cut us some slack on the final 3 kg.

We got on board, the only english speakers we heard, surrounded by spaniards (who resumed their loud chatter whenever the flight announcements shifted from spanish to english).

At the Girona airport, we took the pretty-cheap bus to the central station, then rolled our bags to the hotel, stopping on the way for a cool drink at an outdoor café.

Hotel Ultonia seems fine - comfortable room and great location. We settled in and relaxed for an hour, before heading out. We are just 5 minutes from the river and old city, and it is absolutely charming.

Posh stores line the Rambla, and the narrow, canyon-like medieval streets are wonderful.

We made our way up to the majestic, ancient cathedral an hour before closing, paid the 5 euros apiece and were amazed to have it all to ourselves. We spent time in the rooms-of-treasures, admiring the many 13th, 14th and 15th century paintings, tapistries, and gold-and-jewel encrusted ceremonial objects.

The main nave is immense, and we walked thru the dim, cavernous space, while appropriate classical music echoed. Nobody else around, so I disobeyed the stern 'no photos' injunction.

It was great standing in front of the gleaming high altar, knowing that those wacky
medieval Christians had built their church directly on top of the previous temple, erected way back in the 2nd century by those incredible (and persistent Romans) .

The ticket-seller at the cathedral recommended a restaurant that happened to be one that I had also noted, in my many hours of internet research. We found it.

It was the best restaurant in the world.

The setting, outside on a quiet side-street with steps leading up to an amazing ornate carved façade, was perfectly gorgeous, and the food, wine, dessert, coffee, and service were perfect. Finally and uncharacteristically, it was, compared with othe meals so far on this trip, cheap.

We are going back there for lunch.

Full day in Girona planned for tomorrow. Looks promising.

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