Our hotel here is very smart. Everything is brown, tan and minimalist except for the display in reception. Right in the center of the space pastel coloured paper lanterns, metal birdcages and dried flowers hang over a rectangle of artificial grass around which swathes of straw have been draped. The straw keeps catching in case wheels and being dragged around the carpet. John and I stood looking at it as we waited for the girl on the desk to finish talking on the phone.
We asked for a map of the town. “A street map or one of the Flower Show?” she asked. We opted for both. By a happy accident we have arrived in Girona at the time of its’ annual flower festival. Buildings throughout the city put on displays of art and flowers. Most of them are in the old town, some outside buildings, others in gardens or courtyards, some take place indoors. Whether in public or private spaces all are completely free to visit. We had no idea it was on and may well have missed it had we visited the city when we had sailed nearer to it. First we set heading for the river. On our way we passed a crocodile of tiny schoolchildren, the first of many such parties we were to see chattering excitedly.
Our first flower display was hung from a bridge designed by the famous Eiffel. The bridge had all his hallmark metalwork, but crossed the river flat as a plank, so was possibly an early work. Hanging from it were flowers and streamers of hay, which in truth was a bit messy and from a distance looked like Spanish moss. As we threaded up away from the water the street was hung with kitsch plastic umbrellas and mobiles made from bamboo canes and coloured tissue paper. I speculated the flowers were the work of local schools, who were being brought round to view each other’s efforts.
The next courtyard put paid to that notion. A lattice of white twine hung down three storeys with big white daisy heads suspended in test tubes at eye level and flower covered post cards littering the floor below. We continued up and around through displays ranging from the artful to the plain odd. Rather than go into detail I will put up lots of photographs, (when the signal is strong), which if you click on will play as a slide show.
The city itself is beautiful and the backdrop of snow peaked mountains stunning.
My favourite display was a swathe of flowers climbing some steps at the University. The University displays were themed on Shakespeare’s four hundredth anniversary and the carpet up the steps represented a flowery mead with quotes mentioning particular plants in English. We sat under some trees in a courtyard at the foot of the steps and had coffee. As we descended the hill to visit the Arab quarter we joined a throng. Suddenly the streets were full of people, mostly older than us, but all determined to see the displays, forming long queues and taking no prisoners. The coach trips had arrived on the scene and the schoolchildren were being gathered up and shepherded away, probably for their own safety. John and I decided to leave the hubbub behind and headed back to the other side of the river, took in a few quieter displays and then found a table for lunch ahead of the rush. It was two in the afternoon, but the rush comes later here. We had the set menu of the day a goat’s cheese salad with strawberries followed by pulled lamb and mashed potatoes and a creamy thing with raspberries.
Too tired to face further sight seeing we headed back to the hotel, which was just as well as the heavens opened and the rain sheeted down. I expect the streets cleared pretty quickly and at least it would keep the flowers fresh for the following day.
We travelled back to Barcelona by bus and saw a bit more of the landscape. John kept an eye open for the chemical plant he used to visit outside Girona, but a lot more industry had built up since then and nothing looked familiar to him.