Making the most of living close to the French-Spanish border, like promised I went to Spain on a day trip last weekend with Kamilla and Julia.
Girona is a mere 40-minute train journey from Perpignan, or about an hour in the car. It is quite pricey to get the train though; it may only be a short journey, yet it costs 20€ one way (aller simple)! The train line is run by RENFE, the Spanish network, and so my French carte jeune or Young Person Railcard, is invalid on these trains (this sucks for discounts to Barcelona!). I should consider a tareja joven (a Spanish railcard) at this rate before I even go to Salamanca! In order to ease up transport costs, we organsied a covoiturage (for 8€!!) for the way home in the evening, with a young French couple from Montpellier on their way home from a holiday in Spain. A bit of French practice after a day practising some Spanish in Spain!
Girona itself is beautiful and there were so many great photo opportunities. We shared tapas at lunch, appreciated the views of the colourful buildings from the various bridges in the city centre, explored the ruins of the ancient city walls and last but not least, made the most of the shopping opportunitues, something a bit lacking here in Perpignan (of course, after siesta had finished!).
Despite Perpignan (Catalan: Perpinyá) being located in North Catalonia, where I have spotted Catalan flags flying high in the city centre streets and where road signs are written in both French and Catalan, I do feel like I am still in France. I was partially concerned before I left the UK that everyone would speak Catalan here and that I would struggle to get by in not knowing this language, yet Perpignan is very much a French city in my eyes. Yes, I see Catalan flags and yes I see Catalan road signs, but 99% of the people I have met here are French, speak French and identify as French.
Yet, Girona, only 40 minutes away by train, is a city that is in a completely different situation and in the heart of Catalunya. Most apartment balconies proudly display their own Catalan flags, the menus outside restaurants are all written in Catalan and even more, when I go to a clothes shop, the assistants spoke to me in Catalan before I switched the language to Spanish (the first time I have heard Catalan spoken since moving here). It’s incredible just how different the Catalan vibe is in Girona to Perpignan.
The funniest thing was when I interacted with the waitress at the restaurant and the clothes shop assistants, as they all spoke some French to me. It was quite nice for people to assume this, instead of switching to English for a change. I don’t think ‘Merci, au revoir’ is Catalan at any rate.
I am going to Villefranche-de-Conflent tomorrow (one of the top things to do in this region according to my guidebook) with some friends, by taking the bus for 1€. It is an hour and a half from Perpignan and located in the mountains.
For now, let’s just appreciate some photos of beautiful Girona. Me encanta 🙂
Have you visited Girona or another part of Catalunya ?