Day 12 – Girona

Day 12 (6-19-17) was our last in Spain.  We took it pretty easy – after breakfast at the hotel, we drove into Girona’s center and walked around for a bit.  We saw the cathedral, a nicely preserved set of Arab baths (which are basically just the next era’s version of Roman baths), and went to the Jewish History Museum.  The museum was nice, though it was more of a read-all-about-this-topic kind of museum rather than a look-at-these-artifacts kind of museum.  It was cool to learn about this history of the Jewish neighborhood in Girona, as well as more about the Inquistion.  

After our morning, we had a lovely lunch at Probcador, near the Jewish History Museum.  We each got the set menu (salmorejo, grilled tuna, and chocolate truffles for Chris; salad, steak, and a strawberry mousse cake for me) and enjoyed our food with a nice glass of ros├ę.  It was so pleasant to just sit and enjoy – it was our last meal in Spain!  (Our last real meal, I should say – we did buy sandwiches in the airport for dinner) 

Once we had finished lunch, we hit to road and drove back to Barcelona, where we dropped off the car and then headed to the airport for our flight to Lisbon.  The drive was really nice – we could see lots of little towns and hilltop castles from the highway.  

If you’ve never rented a car while traveling before, I highly recommend it.  Depending on your itinerary, it can actually be cheaper than trains, and it allows for a lot more flexibility. Driving also makes it easier to get to some less-visited places, exactly the type of places you might want to go.  ­čśë

I was definitely scared the first time we rented a car in Europe – during our honeymoon in France – but it’s really not that much different from driving in the US; in some places, like Spain, it’s actually more pleasant!  Morocco last year was truly horrible, but only in the cities, and luckily, Chris is an amazing copilot.  It is important to make sure that you have either a paper road map or a digital one downloaded onto your phone – that’s what we do: Chris uses google maps and sometimes maps.me, both of which allow you to download customized areas, though maps.me allows you to mark points of interest while offline as well, while google maps required internet to see anything that you’ve saved.  Parking is another thing that you also have to consider, though again, Chris is amazing at figuring out where parking is before we arrive, so that’s usually not a problem for us.  

I don’t think I’ll be driving in a place like England or Thailand anytime soon (wrong side of the road!), but for now, renting a car has allowed us to really get the feel for a place and explore it a little more in depth.  

But, at the end of the day, we traded our car (a Mercedes, I should add) for a plane and flew to Lisbon!

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Day 11 – Tarragona to Girona

Day 11 was another lovely day.  It wasn’t quite as jam packed as Day 10, but it was still pretty long due to our move from Tarragona to Girona.  

We left Tarragona early and arrived at Roses about half an hour later.  It’s a beach town, with a shoreline crowded with bodies bronzed from too much sun and too little sunscreen.  The main street along the beach is lined with tourist shops full of junk and cafes with bad, exorbitantly priced food.  

In other words, it’s the kind of place we, but Chris in particular, hate. 

Then we entered the site.  Roses was an important port town from Roman times through the 18th century.  In the 16th century, a citadel was built near the beach as a defense against pirates and the French. Excavations within the citadel revealed Roman fish salting vats (duh) and several houses from the medieval town, while the remains of a church and monastery from the 10th century which had been expanded and reinforced over the centuries were still visible.  There is a small museum with material found during excavations (including some really cool looking swords from the 16th century) and then you may wander the grounds inside the citadel at leisure.  

It was a gorgeous day and the walls of the citadel rose up around us, the ruins, and several rows of olive trees.  Chris got to work while I caught up on postcards and blog posts, then we wandered the walls and the 10th century church.  It was so pleasant we almost didn’t want to leave!  But time was pressing and we had another site to get to.  

After a rather lengthy lunch, we drove to the site of Emporion, near modern Sant Marti d’Empuries.  It was originally a Greek trading colony, then Roman soldiers were stationed there during the Hellenistic era, which meant that it eventually became a Roman city.  The site is huge and gorgeously situated – from almost everywhere in the site you can see the ocean, a most beautiful sparkling blue.  

We wandered around the site and found some fish salting vats which Chris didn’t know about (I call these “surprise vats” and at least it means I get to sit down for a few minutes), so he took some time to photograph them.  The best part about Emporion in my opinion is the audio guide. Audio guides have been available at a lot of the places we’ve visited, with varying degree of informational value and organization.  The audio guide for Emporion was outstanding.  It was informative as well as engaging, and gave clear directions for where the next number marker would be.  I definitely felt that someone listening to it might actually get a sense of what the Greek and Roman iterations of the town were like.  

At the end of the tour, we stood outside the pomerium, or city limits, gazing at the ruins of the amphitheater with the city wall behind us.  The whole site seemed totally empty, not another person in sight – it was almost closing time – and the only sound came from the wind whistling through the tall grass.  As I stood there, all I could think about were the people who would have made this city a bustling hub of trade and industry, and how now all that is left is a few piles of stone.  It was so poignant I felt myself getting a bit emotional, as corny as that is.  But that’s why I love what I do – getting swept up in imaging what life was like, but at the same time recognizing the fragility of it all.  Ashes to ashes, and all that.  

Anyway, emotion aside, we trekked back to the car and drove on to Girona, a little medieval town near the border with France where we would be staying the night.  After a hasty dinner at a sort of tapas buffet, we fell into bed, exhausted.