“Going from weightlessness to having my balls in a sling, was not the best part of the ride.” Adventure in Costa Brava was going to end up being more uncomfortable than I’d expected..
In this article, 3 awesome experiences that will satisfy your 3 most important travel senses: Food, fun and adventure in Girona Spain.
You see, travellers have missed a trick.
They flock to Barcelona, admittedly a wonderful destination, and have no idea that a short distance away is one of Costa Brava’s most photogenic cities. Girona has all of the charm without the wall to wall tourism, football thugs, pickpockets and hen parties.
It’s close to the Girona airport, which has regular Ryanair (hello budget!) flights coming in from all over Europe.
Plus, the history of the city goes back long before even the Romans turned up. Although little remains from that far back, the Catalan Gothic architecture that fills the old town will satisfy you that you are leaving the 21st century once you hit the streets of Girona.
And the food… Well. Your tastebuds are in for a treat.
Food Fun Adventure in Girona Spain
FOOD – Txalaka (Discover the Pinxos!)
You almost certainly know about tapas already. Spain’s famous small plates are a great way to enjoy a bite of many different dishes per sitting, rather than committing to a single meal.
What we didn’t realise was there is a new tapas craze sweeping Catalonia right now – and its all part of the “Bueno Bonito Barrato” philosophy (Good, Cheap, Nice/pretty). Recession busting food has never tasted this good.
Its called “Pinxos” (Pinchoz). The literal translation is “Skewer”. Essentially a massive buffet of tapas bits on sticks or in little bowls. Walk up, help yourself and pay at the end.
These places are becoming quite common and can be spotted simply by looking out for any restaurant that has a table full of plates of things with cocktail sticks in, sitting just inside the doors.
If you are in Girona, we found a very popular local place, Txalaka (Chalakar), which serves Pinxos that blew our frickin minds. In fact, every delicate bite of every pinxos exploded with flavour. From a simple chorizo on bread, sweet, spicy and meaty. To the sundried tomato, olive and anchovy combo that matched sweet, ripe and strong tomato perfectly with the salty fish and olive. Even the chocolate brownie rocked!
Each little dish is 1.60 euros, and 5 or so dishes is probably enough for a regular person to feel satisfied. The best thing, of course, is the selection is so diverse it was almost impossible to try everything we wanted before we’d eaten too much.
Their cheapest house wine is also only 5 euros a bottle. Make sure you check the price first though as we ended up with the better house wine by mistake (13 euros), it was amazing wine that I highly recommend but budget busters will be content with the cheaper option.
Calle Bonastruc de Porta, 4
17001 Girona – Girona
FUN – Plan a visit for Girona Flower Festival 2016
One of the few times of year when Girona is really bustling is during the annual flower festival every May. As a red-blooded, carnivorous male, a flower festival may sound a bit namby-pamby to warrant my attendance. But, I was surprised. Although the average age of attendees seems to make it feel more like a retirement home excursion, this is not a typical flower display.
Forget rural towns that just pile flowers in baskets around a town square. When it comes to Costa Brava, the home of Gaudi and Dali, flowers get abstract.
You walk past unexpected alcoves where flowers hang on wires inside picture frames. They are arranged up the central aisles of church steps. A collection of bicycles, painted entirely orange, are suspended on the wall, surrounded by long grass.
It’s quirky. It’s flowers turned art and you can’t help but appreciate it in context with the medieval architecture. Even without the flowers, walking around Girona is an experience of discovery. With it’s 3 dimensional city scape, which google maps cannot hope to avoid getting you lost in, you’ll find unexpected corners and stairways under arches which lead God knows where.
No matter where you end up, as it won’t really matter, you’ll always find something. And, during the temp di flors, it will almost certainly be a mind bending floral display that you encounter.
Even without flowers, the charming up-and-down secret streets of the old town are perfect for photography, getting lost and finding yourself in a cafe (preferably with a beer or wine).
⇒ Here are some more great tips about Things to do in Girona
Adventure – skydiving Empuriabrava
If taking photos of flowers sounds like something more appropriate for your mum, we have an adrenaline pumping alternative.
Less than 1 hours drive from Girona is one of the best skydiving sites in the world. Skydive EmpuriaBrava has a 100% safety record with tandem dives. Yes, you will live. Not only will you survive the 50 second free fall, but your dreams/fears will be realised.
Your dive instructor will be attached to you. No training is required, just enjoy the ride.
I can sum up my experience like this. 2 seconds of brain exploding fear as your mind tries to comprehend why the hell you just decided to step out the door of a perfectly functioning airplane. Then, 48 seconds of completely in-the-moment, overwhelming presence in reality.
My life did not flash before my eyes. Instead my mind emptied, not an experience I’m accustomed to. All I felt was the rushing air of 200Km/h free fall. I saw was the epic scenery of the snow capped mountains of the Pyrenees on one side of me and the natural harbour of Empuriabrava stretching into Mediterranean sea on the other. The white noise and perfect scenery occupied every ounce of my brain.
Other than the cameraman desperately trying to get my entirely occupied self to respond in a fun way, I was absorbed. No future. No past. Only now.
And then the parachute opened. Had it been 50 seconds? or had it been a month? Going from weightlessness to having my balls in a sling, was not the best part of the ride. But, the final, slow decent lets you reflect on the experience, really take in the view and also come to the realisation that you are not going to die. You really did it. That. Actually. Happened.
You swing through the air, more awake than any coffee could have stimulated you. At this point your instructor explains how to do the landing. I felt like perhaps this is a topic that should have been covered prior to take off…
After touch down you’ll have an adrenaline buzz that lasts all day. And, I must warn you, you may just want to do it all again the next day. And the day after that.
It should be noted that many skydive sites have a shorter free fall than EmpuriaBrava. 50 seconds is actually a pretty long drop. This is regarded as one of the best sites in the world, largely because of the views, also because of the level of safety.
Treat Yourself: Nord 1901
If cheap beds and shared bathrooms are getting too much, how about a touch of affordable luxury?
At 100 Euros a night for a double room that literally envelops you and hugs you to sleep, Nord 1901 certainly felt like a splurge option worth the price tag. A 10 minute walk from the train station and about 30 seconds from Girona’s iconic red steel bridge.
Honestly, I think we ate about 10 euros of ham each for our inclusive breakfast, so you can save on needing to buy lunch too! It was good ham. The silky cured stuff with the “good” fat that melts in your mouth, rather than being chewy. Fresh squeezed orange juice (incl.) is also a bonus.
The service was both friendly and proactively helpful. I personally loved the grey and brown tones – nice to have a break from rooms that are all plain white. It is not quite boutique style, but it is a large step above generic international chains.
We were staying at Nord 1901 as part of the TBEX bloggers conference. We are under no obligation to enhance our report and this is an honest account of the quality we found given the price.
Budget Private Rooms:
We only stayed in Girona for 2 nights and spent both of those at Nord 1901. The following information is based on my analysis of other traveller reviews on booking.com and trip advisor.
Looking for a really cheap room?
Very central location in the old town. Some rooms have limited views or no window – make sure you confirm in advance which room you are booking into. The main complaint is the thin walls – so pack earplugs. Otherwise, this is a you get what you pay for place with a great location and clean rooms.
Once again, thin wall is one of the main complaints. Perhaps it’s because there are a lot of old buildings in the old town… The other main complaint is that the owner is often grumpy and highly strung – Do NOT ring the doorbell when you arrive. Once again, it’s basic budget but clean.
AirBnB is always an affordable alternative to check out too. Get $25 (£16/22E) off your first stay with AirBnB using this link.
We arrived in Girona from Barcelona using a Eurail pass and Interrail Pass. Contrary to some of the stories we had heard, we didn’t need to make any reservation for this trip on the regular train. There was no extra fee to pay. We just walked on. Reservations are necessary in Spain for most express or sleeper trains, so check in advance.
With Game of Thrones scheduling filming in Girona, you may want to get there before it becomes overcrowded with TV tourism. Go now! Don’t wait.
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Food, fun or adventure? What is your pick from this article – leave us a comment below.
Disclaimer – We were sponsored by both Skydive Empuriabrava, Eurail and Nord 1901 Hotel. Sponsorship does not sway our opinions and companies we work with are aware we will leave honest accounts of our experiences regardless of being sponsored. All the other experiences on this guide were done without sponsorship.