I love the medieval city of Girona, although a city this size scarcely seems large enough to be a city at all. I love the way its cathedral rises out of the earth to greet you as the plane swoops in to land. I love the pomegranate and peach houses that line up all higgledy-piggledy, as though eager to please my lens. And I love, most of all, the legacy you can find here thanks to the work of two men.
The first goes by the name of Gustave Bönickhausen, a French enginner, although don’t let that put you off. I have a feeling you already know his work well and if you don’t believe me, have a look over here. That’s right, he’s the man who came up with the ironwork that made lovers swoon, that defied all the critics and that gave Paris its icon. He also changed his last name along the way.
But before he got around to either of those two things, he made a detour to Girona and built a bridge there. A short, scarlet mesh of a contraption that lured me dangerously close to the word “monstrosity.”
But once I stood upon the Eiffel Bridge, I had a change of heart. Sure, critics might say it looks as though it was flung up one night by the same construction company that takes care of car parks or, worse, the Ryanair website design. But once you’re on the bridge, looking out at Girona, the sweetness of Eiffel’s eye begins to shine through.
Girona’s riverbanks are beautiful. They deserve to be seen as much as they can. The violence of the red and the criss-cross of the beams simply encourage your eyes to look away faster. It’s the only explanation.
Or is it…
On my last visit to Girona, I thought of another. To avoid a migraine, you sprint across the bridge, reaching 50 Santa Clara earlier than expected. And what lives at this hallowed address? Why an ice-cream shop from Jordi Roca, the man who served up heaven in a pink and white spiral at the tastebud trembling El Celler de Can Roca restaurant earlier this year.
Named Rocambolesc, it’s filled from floor to ceiling with stripy boiled sweets captured in old-fashioned jars, plus scoops, cones and tubs of ice cream in vanilla, chocolate and spicy mandarin. There are cookbooks to inspire creativity and queues that snake out through the door.
Yet just like the bridge, the ice creams are short, and so are the jars. That’s Girona for me, really, summed up in three words.
Girona. Short and sweet.
Now for some lovely photos…
Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. Now published by Lonely Planet, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic Traveler & more, she feels most at home experimenting here: covering unusual journeys, thoughtful travel and luxury on www.insidethetravellab.com