Our family vacation in Spain included a road trip to Girona and surrounds- architecture, art and all the churros!
EuropeSpain1 day / August 2019
Highs & Lows
Walking the city walls
The road tolls when driving from France
We woke early one morning, looked at each other, shrugged and said 'let's go to Spain!' That's how we started our Spain family vacation. We drove to Girona, explored the beautiful city, ate the beautiful food and visited the incredible Dali museum in Figueres. We ate churros and tapas and left with full tummies and a desire to explore some more of Catalonia.
We arrived early in the morning and the carpark we happened upon placed us right at the entrance to the stairs that led to the top of Girona's famous city walls (Carrer de la Muralla). Walking the walls was a beautiful way to see the city, from the perfect vantage point, and it was such a highlight of our Spain family vacation.
We had been told that an ancient toilet could be found along the walls and we all had fun searching for it (we found it, you can't miss it, but you might miss its purpose if you didn't already know what it was!). We also enjoyed the unusual for us greeting of 'hola'. Three months in France meant the girls were a little baffled when passersby were not saying bonjour!
Along the walls there are towers reached by spiralling staircases (worth it) and lookout points offering the most sensational views over the terracotta roof tops of Girona's ancient skyline and the walkway is shared with tourists in awe of the beauty and locals walking their dogs and exercising.
Our aim was to wander the walls straight to the Girona Cathedral but when we looked down upon the Jardins de Alemanys and saw a lone violinist busker setting up, we descended the stairs to enjoy the beautiful sounds in the beautiful surrounds. This space was a little bit magical. There were little alcoves accessed by a main courtyard with places to sit and take it all in. The spaces were quiet and private and lovely; friends whispering to each other, lovers holding hands listening to the violin and us, in awe of it all.
Spurred on by the legend of a punished witch turned gargoyle, we reluctantly left the gardens headed for our original location: The Girona Cathedral. It was here we sat, on the front steps of the cathedral and ate our lunch. Reflecting on the wonderful day we'd had so far in beautiful Girona with the stunning, gothic cathedral as our backdrop.
By this stage of our adventures, the girls had become adept at sniffing out the best of the local cuisine proffers. In this case: churros. It definitely wasn't difficult to convince us but it did prove difficult to find a place that served them. A really lovely lady at the Tourist Information office gave us a location and directions but we definitely had to work hard to find it... though of course the reward was worth it and we can wholeheartedly recommend Montse L’Artesena on Carrer de la Cort Reial, 9. Think gorgeous little terrace, friendly service and chocolate sauce. So much chocolate sauce.
Gustav Eiffel (famous for building a certain eponymous tower in Paris) also designed a bridge that crosses the river in Girona. It's industrial (and bright red), doesn't inspire as much awe as the tower but is still a fun thing to have seen. The girls pointed out the similarities in the design style and we enjoyed a piece of our favourite country being adapted and translated into Spanish.
A wander down the Plaça de la Independència with ice-cream in hand, past some familiar settings we recognised from Game of Thrones, ended our perfect day in Girona.
Our Rosie is a budding (7 year old) artist and loves the opportunity to engage with some famous pieces of art, so of course we could not miss the opportunity to visit Figueres, the birth place of Salvador Dali.
Figueres is right on the French border with Spain in the Costa Brava region and is worth the 45 minute drive from Girona. The town itself is sweet but the main drawcard is the Teatro Museo Dali, the museum and final resting place of Salvador Dali.
Hot tip: to avoid being one of the grumpy looking people waiting in the sun in the very long line outside the museum, we recommend booking tickets online before you arrive. This made it all so straight forward for us, we waltzed right in (past the angry line dwellers) and straight into Dali's strange and wonderful world.
We were so glad we made the side trip to Figueres. The museum houses the most extensive collection of Dali's works and was (as expected), wild and whacky. Dali himself is buried in a crypt below the theatre at the heart of the museum. We all were totally enthralled. Some of the pieces are interactive and there are full installations, sculptures, paintings and drawings. Our unanimous favourite was the installation known as Mae West which required participants to climb a ladder, observe what seemed to be an ordinary room from a particular high angle, to reveal the face of "Mae West". Totally extraordinary (in the most literal sense of that word) and delighted all of us (though we had to lift the three year old up as she couldn't reach the view finder).
There are also holographic artworks and jewellery on display and the Cadillan Plujos room is not to be missed. In fact, all of it is unmissable. It's such a treasure trove of Dali's best and most curious pieces and the 7 year old now includes melting clocks and half eaten loaves of bread in her everyday drawings.
Q & A
What would you have changed?We would have stayed longer. It was so beautiful, we felt like we could have taken more time to enjoy our Spain family vacation.
Anything go wrong during the trip?Nothing went wrong. It was perfect.
Restaurant recommendations?For churros: Montse L’Artesena (Carrer de la Cort Reial, 9)
Tips you would give a friend?Take cold water, sunscreen and a hat it is VERY hot in the Summer.
Transportation Tips?There's ample parking in Girona for a reasonable fee. A car is not necessary to explore the city but to venture to surrounding areas it definitely helps.
Any surprises?How difficult it was to find churros! Don't worry, we worked hard and got it done of course!