Sunday, January 24, 2010
With unprecedented wisdom, we decided to spend our last night in Spain in Girona (the airport we were flying out of) rather than getting to Barcelona late in the evening, and trying to get to Girona early enough the next morning to catch our flight.
We stayed with a couchsurfing couple whose abundant generosity amazed us. Pitu picked us up at the bus station, and took us to his home where he kept putting piles of food in front of us and telling us to Eat! Eat! Eat! He was extremely apologetic for offering me tuna salad after Ted spilled the vegan beans. Instead I partook in some pasta salad, several tangerines, and a genuine "Catalan traditional food", pan amb tomaquet. This is when they take a piece of bread or toast, smear the pulp of a tomato all over it (sometimes they use garlic in addition to tomato), drizzle it with some olive oil and sprinkle it with salt. A tasty tread indeed. I asked Pitu if I was supposed to eat the rest of the tomato and he looked at me like I was crazy and said that he guessed I could, but if I wanted a tomato to eat he has better ones for eating that he would gladly give me.
Pitu and Laia, along with their friends visiting from Barcelona, took us out for a tour of the town. We started off sipping tea and chocolate (which Pitu insisted on paying for, because we were his guests) at a cute little cafe and then we wandered around the city, up and down cobbled roads, asking and answering questions and learning all sorts of things about Catalan culture and tradition.
(we stumbled upon a movie screening of one of laia and pitu's friends films about the homeless of girona. looked so beautiful and heartbreaking. too bad we dont speak catalan. we asked the film maker, in very poor spanish, if the film would ever see wider release and he looked at us like we were crazy and said no)
(crossing a bridge over the river onyar. it was constructed by the same people that brought us the eiffel tower)
(the catalonians are intensely separatist. there was separatist graffiti everywhere in girona. the picture at the beginning of this blog is a perfect example of this. below is as well. so many catalonian flags about. catalan is a lot different from its castillian counter part (the castillians were the most interested in imperialism and thus it is the most wide spread version). the signage in girona is in castillian spanish and many signs were spraypainted out and spelled in the catalonian way)
(legend has it that if you touch this statues butt, you will return to girona. pitu got really excited and was soon hoisting me up to touch it)
Another gem brought to our attention by our generous/excitable host. It remains a mystery of how it got there to both us and our host.
A highlight was certainly learning about Tio. Tio de Nadal is the Catalan answer to Santa Clause. We discovered this after Ted took a picture of what looked like a log wearing a Santa hat.
(a store well stocked with tio)
As it turns out, Tio is, in fact, a log whom is often depicted wearing a Santa hat. But discovering this was perhaps the best part. The following conversation, or something like it (it has been quite a while) ensued after Ted shot his photo:
Pitu: Do you know Tio?
Pitu: No. Tio, Catalan tradition. Him (pointing to image in photo above)
Us: Please explain!
Pitu: He is a section of a tree (lots of hand motions)
Us: A log?
Pitu: Yes! A log with a blanket on his back and then the children beat him with parts of a tree. . .
Pitu: Yes! And they beat him saying "Tio! Tio! Tio!" Until he, how do you say, going to the bathroom? (More motions)
Us: Going to the bathroom?
Pitu: Yes. . . (obviously not satisfied with our answer) And the parents put presents under the blanket to make it look like he goes to the bathroom presents!
Us: Do you mean poop?
We were amazed at this tradition, and still are. You can read more about it here, and we recommend that you do.
Pitu and Laia had to run a marathon in a forest early the next morning, so they could not stay out too late. They went home, leaving us to wander Girona with a spare key in hand. At Pitu's recommendation, we ate at this amazing crepery, full of repurposed buses and bus station parts, with walls adorned with classic advertising. The food was delicious, and the service top notch.
(eggs! sausage! crepe! [Ted, you turd, don't forget the salad!])
Full bellied we found our way back to Pitu and Laia's classy apartment (Did I mention how cute it is? They have impeccable taste and their home has plenty in it to Oooo and Aaaaah about. Including a genuine Calder mobile). Pitu left three bottles of Ratafia, two little glasses and hand written descriptions for us to read when we sample them. (Ted had asked Pitu about a lovely decorated bottle we saw on our Pitu lead walking tour of Girona. Pitu was really excited and explained that Ratafia was the Catalan national drink and that he even brews some himself.) I could only try two, seeing as the third contained cream, but they were certainly tasty. An anise infused sweet nectar with a kick of something else I can't put my finger on.
The next morning we set out for some more exploring before our flight, but to our disappointment, we discovered that nothing in Girona is open on Sunday morning. So we peeped through windows and revisited some of the places we had seen in the darkness to see what they looked like in the light.
All in all we were pleasantly surprised by Girona, having previously thought of it as a mere airport town, a pit stop to Barcelona. We discovered that Girona has heart and character all its own and well worth a visit or an extended stay.