Thursday, June 14, 2012

5 Days Exploring Catalunya: Part 1

I just got back from a 6 day trip exploring Catalunya, and can I just say how happy I am I saved this for my final trip, instead of going earlier in the year. If I had gone any sooner, I would have spiraled down into a deep depression about what a sad city I have spent my last year in.

But thankfully, that didn't need to happen.
Instead, I'll only have to spend my last week in Algeciras really, truly hating the city.
So it could definitely be worse.

My friend Kaitlin and I met up in Girona last Thursday night.
The city was gorgeous, full of life and old architecture, and everything that Algeciras is not.
Thursday night we explored the city and splurged on fondue for dinner. Which is something I don't understand. First of all, we couldn't order it to share: we each had to order a separate serving. Secondly, a single serving of fondue should really be enough for 2-3 people. Thirdly, add that to the amount of bread needed to eat all the cheese, and we wound up feeling pretty sick that night. The whole idea of it just doesn't make apparently we have a lot of educating to do on the subject of fondue etiquette.
I loved all the medieval architecture and window decorations.
 Girona Cathedral
River-side houses.
Friday, we traded the big city for a small Costa Brava beach town, L'Estartit. There's not much to say for the town, except that it is a hotspot for those interested in exploring the Medes Islands. (Which we were.)

The Medes Islands are a group of 7 tiny islands just off the coast of northern Spain. The waters around them are protected by the Spanish government, so the number of boats, scuba divers and snorkelers allowed each day is carefully regulated. There is an incredible diversity of fish and plant life, and lots of underwater caves and tunnels to explore. These islands were my original reason for going to Costa Brava, for scuba diving. However, after some problems with my contact lenses, I had to "settle" for snorkeling instead.
The water was fuh-reezing so we had to wear wetsuits. 
The wetsuits made it easy to float, so instead of struggling to swim we could just float quietly and watch the fish swim by underneath. Or, if you're like me, you could dolphin-kick with the fins and chase after schools of fish like real dolphins do. It was so exhilarating! (I might have had a ridiculous amount too much fun doing this.) The guide caught my eye during the middle of this, laughed underwater, and gave me a huge thumbs up.
When I took the time to calm down, it was equally exhilarating to be as still as possible and watch all the little fish swim by in front of my goggles. In the words of our Dutch friend, "Look at all the fishes!!" (I love non-native English speakers!)
Speaking of our Dutch friend, we quickly befriended him on the boat, and before long he was offering us a place to stay if we ever made it out to Amsterdam. Awesome, right? Until Kaitlin and I left without getting a name or number. Fail. That day will forever be remembered as the day we let Holland Man go. Dammit.

On Saturday, we went to explore another nearby town, Lloret de Mar. We knew absolutely nothing about this town before going, except that it had a really pretty garden that was highly recommended on Viator. So, when our bus dropped us off in the middle of this.............we were highly unprepared.

There are so many things wrong with this picture...should we start with Burger King and the Statue of Liberty?
Kaitlin and I called this place "the love child of Hollywood, Las Vegas and Cancun." That was the shortened version, anyway. 

Despite the strange beginnings, we did eventually find the garden. And it was worth it. 
From the garden, we looked down the coastline and found a small, rather hidden, pebble beach. The 20 minutes I spent swimming in the ocean was one of the most exhilarating, cleansing, refreshing feelings I've had in a while. There's nothing quite like a swell of icy cold salty ocean water knocking you off your feet to make you feel like a kid again. 
This was also the day Kaitlin and I checked 'visit a nude beach' off of our European to-do list. But it was actually more like: 'stumble accidently onto a nude beach and then run away with as much dignity as possible'. There were sooo many old naked man butts. Too many. 
To top off our spectacular weekend, we wound up getting surrounded by a group of kids pounding on drums in the middle of the town square back in Girona. We were just standing by watching, when all of a sudden the group dispersed and each kid grabbed the hand of somebody watching. They said "come on!" And then when we were in the circle and surrounded, they yelled "dance!" and started playing again. It was sheer madness, and one of the coolest things I've ever been a part of. And yes, those tall people are girls on stilts. Talk about talent!
Stay tuned for the last 2 days of the trip, after Kaitlin left and I did some exploring on my own!

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