Places

Places to visit outside of Girona

The list of places below is just a start. There are numerous Catalan towns and villages on the coast, inland and up in the mountain areas waiting to be discovered. So, for now these are a few places that we’ve been to since we moved her. They all make a great day trip and I think the furthest place we mention is only 90 minutes by car. Just before we dive in I should mention the airport I suppose.

Girona has its own modern airport (officially called Girona-Costa Brava), and the gateway for package holiday visitors on their way to Costa Brava resorts. A former military airport, it’s about 15 kms away near a town called Vilobi d’ Onyar. Since we arrived in 2006 I’ve watched it expand, adding many more check-in desks and new multi-storey car parking. 

It’s fallen in and out of favour with its biggest airline user Ryanair, which over time has dropped a lot of routes like Girona-Madrid. We were lucky to try that once. It still operates there but cuts certain routes during winter, like the one I use, Girona-London Stansted. Other airlines have come and gone, it could certainly do with a boost in new carriers. Even travelling out at the height of summer, getting through security is fairly quick.

The arrivals and check-in areas are on the ground floor where there’s also a tourist information desk, near the car-hire desks. If you’re picking someone up or dropping off, you can park free for a few minutes outside, within the blue-painted bays.

The spacious departure hall is upstairs, where you can also find the usual duty-free shops and cafes, with views out towards the mountains There’s also an outdoor terrace area with a small kiosk/cafe where you can do some last-minute sunbathing.

Getting to the airport from Girona. A taxi will cost between 25-30 euros and there’s always plenty of taxis just outside Girona train/bus station. There’s an airport bus service which leaves on the hour. Travel time is about 20 minutes and it drops you off outside Departures. The entire bus station is now underground, next to the entrance for the AVE or fast train platforms. Take the escalator down, turn left and look out for the ‘Barcelona bus’ or Sagales’ desk. Back in 2020 a single ticket was 2.75 euros and you can pay as you get on, the stop was out by the far end. Check www.barcelonabus.com as there’s a winter and summer timetable.

Getting to Girona from the airport. Taxi rank outside Arrivals and 25-30 euros. For the airport bus service as you leave Arrivals turn right and walk down a short distance to a large open area which should have coaches parked showing ‘Barcelona bus or Sagales. This is also the same spot if you want to get the bus into Barcelona. There’s a small ticket office. The Girona-bound bus leaves from stop No.1 on the half-hour and the last bus is about 11.30pm.

Getting to Barcelona from Girona city. A choice of 3 train services with the AVE or fast train being the most expensive, but the platforms are underground with security checks so allow time for this. If you’re going shopping take the ‘media distancia’ train (leaves from the platform above ground) and get off at Passeig de Gracia which is a good place to start from. If you need to travel from Girona to Barcelona airport there’s a Sagales bus service that takes you to both Terminal 1 and 2. Ticket desk is in the underground bus terminal. A single costs 19 euros, it stops once at Barcelona Nord station then continues to the airport (T2 is first drop-off) taking a total of 2 hours. Restricted timetable, check the same site as above).

From Girona you can also get trains to other places in Catalonia, Spain and beyond. The fast train AVE service can get you to Madrid in 3 hours or Paris in 6 hours. There’s little that actually runs to or along the coast. Except to Llanca, about 45 mins and further on to places like Port Bou near the French border. For coastal destinations you’d have to take the buses. What used to be the railway track along the coast is now a cycle path. Here’s a link to the RENFE (Spanish rail operator) www.renfe.es

Barcelona

I’ll only mention it briefly here as there will be a dedicated section just on Barcelona later on. The Catalan capital has numerous attractions like its famous Gaudi designed houses, the Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, the port, beach area, its Rambla and of course the shopping!

If you are living or staying here it’s a great day trip and well worth the effort. If you have kids try to visit the ‘Cosmo Caixa’ in Montjuic. From Girona you can drive down the AP7 motorway which will cost you about €12 in tolls each way, or the much, much slower N-11 route for free.

Or catch the train from Girona. This is what we do as parking in Barcelona is difficult and expensive.  With trains there are 3 types. The fastest is the high-speed AVE which takes just 38 mins with no stops. Next, the ‘Media Distancia’ which takes 1hr 15m with 5 or 6 stops. Last is the slow ‘Regional’ which my kids call ‘the chicken train’ as it takes 1hr. 45m because of the many more stops. You pays your money and takes your choice.

Castle San Miquel, Els Angeles, nr. Girona.

Head out of Girona going past the university area, heading towards Quart and pick up the signs for Els Angeles. The road meanders upwards for a few kilometres and past a couple of restaurants like Can Pol and then becomes more of an unmade road so take care. When you finally arrive at the ruins there is parking space, and it’s also a popular mountain biking route. The views are amazing, and by climbing up the iron staircase inside the tower (Mirador) you can see Girona below, and as far as Banyoles to the north.

Banyoles

North of Girona, about 15 km and best known as the site for the rowing events during the 1992 Olympics. It’s got a huge natural, volcanic lake set amidst pretty countryside, and well worth a visit, especially if you have kids. There’s a wide footpath that goes all the way around the lake which will take you about 2 hours with some great views. You do lose sight of the lake in a few places and there’s a free bathing spot along here too, with a lifeguard. Dog walkers will have to keep their dogs on a lead, local rules.

The local nautical club (Club Nautic) is perched right on the edge and if you walk through the entrance it has a nice lakeside restaurant and outdoor cafe which anyone can walk in and use. During the summer months there’s a roped-off area for lake swimmers and the water is shallow in places for kids. They set aside a grassy lakeside area for lounging or sunbathing which has some shade, a kiosk with snacks and beers (plastic glasses) and popular at weekends with families. We tried it once during August, the water was quite warm and clean. At the time there were many forest fires and we watched as planes came down over the lake to collect water to dump on the fires beyond our view.

Further along there’s a large cafe called La Carpa which faces the lake, has an outdoor area and serves food till late. Nearby there’s Banys Vells another bar/grill we frequent with only outdoor seating, facing the lake and a wooden pier that extends right out onto the lake. A great spot for a beer and tapas, plus you can swim in the lake from here, for free.

Banyoles has undergone a lot of recent renovation work to its old quarter ( Bari Vell ) of cobbled streets and small squares, worth walking around. The tourist information office is located at the front of the lake in a former fishing house (pesquera).

Nearby is an archeological site with a re-creation of a village from the early Iberian times. Two museums of note are the Archeological museum, Museu Arqueològic Comarcal de Banyoles in Pl. Font 11, situated in the Gothic palace of Pia Almoina.

Every September they hold a large swimming race the length of the lake, which I’ve seen once. Swimmers wear wet-suits and there are separate races for kids, men and women. Another nearby place you should make time to visit is Besalu.

Besalu

It’s the stunningly well preserved 11th C. fortified bridge over the river Fluvia that greets you before you cross over into this small village full of stone houses and medieval charm. It also has the rarely seen remains of a Jewish ritual bath house or Mikwah, two Romanesque churches and a 12th C. monastery. Every year over one weekend in early September it turns back into ‘Besalu Medieval’ a two day festival of medieval reenactments, displays and music of that period. Walk amongst inhabitants dressed in period dress and sample local produce from some of the food stalls. Entry price applies, it gets very crowded with visitors, plus allow some time to park your car. There’s a large parking area just outside the village plus an information point just before you cross the bridge. www.besalu.cat Not far from Besalu and Banyoles is Santa Pau.

Santa Pau

A small, pretty, picturesque hillside village near Olot. Located amongst the natural park area of Garrotxa which is full of old extinct volcanoes. You can get here by taking the main road from Girona to Olot, going through a few tunnels or take a more shorter, scenic, winding route from Banyoles. It makes a pleasant day trip, walking around its old, cobbled streets and courtyards and there are some great countryside views around. This old 12th C. village is known for its local beans and hosts an annual festival every February. There are also several walking routes which are sign-posted in the village, and a small tourist office. www.visitsantapau.com Keep going in a northerly direction for Olot.

Olot

A fairly large and prosperous Catalan town with a rich cultural history and the capital of the Garrotxa region. Its natural park area has many extinct volcanic cones within it. We followed signs for one that is near to the town and walked up. Some great views await you when you reach the top and the town itself has many fashionable shops and squares. Not so much a place in which to stay in but perhaps included as a day-trip. www.olot.cat It has a good xmas market (mercat de nadal) in early December. If you’re a fan of Monasteries then nearby Sant Joan de les Abadesses has a very good example (entrance fee applies).

Camprodon

Near to Olot, we visited this small mountain town once in late September and it was very quiet but things get busier during the winter ski-ing months because of its proximity to ski resorts like Setcases, just up the road. However, it does also have a particularly nice 15th C. bridge with a defensive tower. We were here again on a sunny Sunday in January and there seemed to be many visitors strolling around, sitting in outdoor cafes or enjoying the many fine restaurants. www.campradon.cat

Ripoll

The provincial town of the Ripolles region. If you’re travelling in this direction, up towards the mountains then it’s worth a brief stop but it’s a bit industrial, although the Monastery is its most important monument. We spent a few hours here just walking around and I remember visiting some nice cake shops. Nearby, there’s the town of Ribes de Freser (worth another stroll) which is one place where you can catch the Cremallera (zip) train up to the Vall de Nuria.

Vall De Nuira

A popular Winter/Summer weekend destination amongst Catalans. Access to this small, valley resort is solely by the Cremallera (zip) train which you can catch from a choice of three stations below. We caught ours from the station at Ribes-Vila in the tiny mountain town of Rebes de Freser. This electric train winds its way up the mountain and after almost 40 minutes signals its arrival at Vall de Nuria by blowing its whistle. Adult (14-64) tickets about 25 euros, kids 15.50.

It has a few ski-runs and a cable car which makes it a popular place for day-skiers in winter. Summertime activities include horse and pony rides, boating on the lake and rambling along sign-posted paths. Great for a day-out, it takes about 90 minutes to drive from Girona, up through Olot and Ripoll.

Tossa de Mar

A much nicer alternative than it’s nearby, overbuilt, tacky package-tourist neighbour Lloret de Mar. This small coastal resort has a nice sandy beach, no high rise hotels and a castle walk with some great views of the Costa Brava coastline once you reach the top. From here you can really see why they call it the Costa Brava or wild coast. There’s paid car parking on the beachfront and one end of the beach has some interesting rock pools and rocky outcrops for kids to explore. Plenty of places to eat here, especially up near the castle tower with some great views out across the bay. Nearby is a bronze statue of Ava Gardner who starred in the movie that was filmed here called Pandora and the Flying Dutchman in the 1950′s.

S’Agaro

A favourite of ours as it’s barely 30 mins. by car from Girona. S’Agaro has a very chic feel about it, with a lot of expensive cars jostling for parking spaces at weekends., Small but pleasant sandy beach (Sant Pol) with a cute timber boardwalk. A spattering of low-rise hotels and restaurants on the seafront. It seems a lot like a summer weekend place as there’s not a lot to do here at other times. We often come here out of season to have a Sunday lunch in one of the restaurants facing the beach.

Further along the beach there are some posh looking seafront apartment blocks, and at one end a gated entrance for cars, to a swanky hotel (La Gavina) and a residential area, although you’re free to enter on foot.

There’s also a nice coastal path that will take you another beach La Conca that has a beach bar (chiringuito) in the summer. Restaurants along the S’Agaro seafront. We’ve tried Can Laura a couple of times which is fine and relatively inexpensive. At the far end, there’s one called Barbieri’s which does a set price menu, as it was a Sunday it cost 16.90 euros, drink included, and was better. If you want an outside table at any place along here then try to eat early, for us that’s part of the fun of eating here, that you get a sea-view and soak up some of that sun! Las Dunas in C/ Josep Amat 18 looked nice but pricey menu, with tables spread around its pool as it’s also a hotel. S’Agaro also has an annual music festival (July/Aug).

Monells

This really is worth a visit, it’ll take you about 25 mins by car from Girona. Head out eastwards from Girona on the C-66 road signposted Palamos until you reach the edge of La Bisbal. Lookout for the Monells sign, and turn right for a few kms. Leave your car in the public car park on the edge of the village and walk into the centre of Monells.

It feels like you’re walking back into the Medieval past, along narrow, cobbled streets full of old stone houses set above numerous, wide stone arches. It’s not really a working village, its well healed residents probably live in Barcelona and come up only at weekends and during summer. There are one or two restaurants in amongst the side streets, which offer set menus but no outdoor seating.

There are also two more basic bar/restaurants (open all-year round) that both serve food and snacks, in the double-porticoed square which is traffic free. Great if you have kids that just want to run around while you eat. Summertime can get busy so make a reservation. Someone also mentioned a restaurant called l”Hort de Rector as being good.

The two main hotels here are: Hostalet 1701 is a restored old building that faces the central plaza and is well worth just walking in and having a peek at lots of artifacts that decorate the reception area, walk through and you’ll find a charming, small pool area at the rear of the ground floor.

The other Hotel is on the edge of Monells and is more modern looking, low level building with what looks like a grass roof and a restaurant at the side called Restaurant Monells. We ate here once, outside on its summer terrace, the setting however was better than the food, except for the first course of snails (cargols). We also went to Monells on one sunny Sunday in February to watch a local Fiesta that involved loads of horse riders and people dancing the traditional Catalan Sardana dance, in the main square.

Madremanya. Near Monells with quaint, narrow winding streets.

St. Pere Pescador Go in a northerly direction from the coastal resort of L’Escala, going through pretty villages like St. Marti d’Empuries and follow signs for St.Pere Pescador (which is actually inland but the beaches are due east). Hugging the coastal road and passing some camping sites you then turn right, this road ends at the beach where free parking is plentiful and access to the beach is just a few metres away. The sand is fine and the water is shallow for quite a way out, across the water you can see places like Roses and Empuriabrava. The beach itself has one beach bar, a red-cross first aid cabin and a freshwater shower. Many of these northern coastal spots do get very windy, locals call it the tramuntana wind.

Caldes de Malavella Translated it means ‘waters of the bad witch’ and roughly S. E. of Girona past the airport. It’s a nice town with some Roman ruins and its own spa hotel. Famous for its mineral waters like ‘Vichy Catalan’, a sparkling water bottled at source-very nice! It also has a train station.

Llanca One of the Costa Bravas’ most northerly sea-side towns it has an uncommercial feel to it and a number of small coves with dark sand. We walked along one of its coastal paths in January and yes, the sun was shining but a bit windy as the area here does get the tramuntana winds. It has some great views across to its neighbour Port de la Selva. A small fishing port cum marina has daily fish auctions that I’m told are good to watch. Of course that means there’s got to be a few good fish restaurants, Los Pescadors (The Fishermen) near the port is supposed to be good. We took the train from Girona, about a 40 minute journey each way. www.llanca.cat

Cadaques One of the most attractive of the northerly Costa Brava resorts that we have been to and well worth the drive up a long winding road and then down again, to get there. The little town has a real bohemian-chic feel with its white painted houses, and it’s long been a popular place for artists hence a lot of galleries. The view is dominated by the church of Santa Maria. We didn’t find the beachy areas of which there were a few dotted around, that big or that sandy and so we sat amongst the small fishing boats. Nearby is Portlligat where the famous Catalan artist Salvador Dali lived for a time, and the Cap de Creus nature park. During August it hosts an annual international music festival.

L’Estartit

The first thing you see when approaching this beach resort is its 13th C. castle high above the town. Best known for its long, wide beach and reasonably shallow water, perfect for families. Huge, free parking area close to the beachfront. This really is one of the widest and longest beaches around. The charming, whitewashed town centre comes to life in the summer evenings with shoppers and diners. Be sure to visit the Isles Medes, visible just off the coast, glass bottom boat trips depart from Estartit to these protected seven islands which also attract scuba divers.

L’Escala

A former fishing village now a much larger coastal resort and working town with a quaint old quarter and a modern area, Riells full of holiday homes, apartments and some campsites. The two parts are linked by a pleasant coastal road with a wide path which makes for a nice stroll. Gets very busy with tourists during the summer months, quiet out of season. Head over to the sheltered beach at Montgo if the wind picks up. Nearby, north of the town are some Greco-Roman ruins at Empurias, an important historical site. www.lescala.cat

Just up the road is the pretty village of St Marti or reachable via a coastal path from L’Escala which is more enjoyable. Along the way there are several small coves, easily accessible and a few good restaurants within the village itself. A 10 minute walk away is the Riomar hotel, the beach in front allows dogs, has a good beach bar and popular with kite surfers.

Lloret de Mar An overbuilt package-tourist resort that was the Costa Bravas’ first attempt at attracting us Brits to a fortnight of warm English beer, greasy fry-ups and Euro-pop being bashed out all night long. It’s very built-up with hotels and apartment blocks, and a huge contrast to other nearby much nicer places. However the beaches are decent, especially Platja de Fenals. I read this apt comment elsewhere “Lloret de Mar is best seen at 30km. per hour on your way to Tossa de Mar.” That I’m afraid explains it all.

Torroella de Montgri Just 5 kilometers inland from Estartit, worth spending some time in its old narrow streets within the old town quarter. There are plenty of little squares and courtyards, small shops, cafes and restaurants dotted around. The place seems to have grown since my first visit 20 years ago as a tourist, with many more new, modern developments on the town’s fringes. I noticed a small 4 star, swanky hotel in town which has just 8 rooms called the Palau Lo Mirador. During the summer the town hosts an annual classical music festival, with many concert dates that span July and August.

Sant Feliu de Guixols More of a real working town than just a beach resort, it has a kind of faded, lost-granduer look about it which adds to its charm. Explore the town behind the sea-front promenade where you’ll find the marketplace and plenty of places to eat. The Rambla, a wide avenue that runs at right angles from the seafront has a good restaurant, El Dorado. If you are living or staying in Girona this is probably the nearest coastal resort to drive to, at about 25 mins. The sandy beach is clean, with beach showers, lifeguard and toilets. During the summer there’s a small pontoon anchored just off the beach with a slide that people swim to. A few attractions and rides along the promenade, which open in the evening. It also has a toy museum (Tomas Pla Collection) with over 2,500 toys dating from 1860 to 1960, most of Spanish origin, Rambla Vidal 48-50.

Santa Cristina d’Aro. Just a few kms. inland from St. Feliu this small, boring-looking working town has expanded in recent years, and has a few urbanizations spread out behind the town and up the hillsides.

St. Antoni de Calonge. This sea-side town adjacent to Palamos has a nice, warm atmosphere but feels more of a holiday place than a working coastal town like Palamos just up the road. Indeed, you can stroll along the beach-front from here to Palamos (20 mins) and even all the way to Playa d’Aro (1hr 45) in the opposite direction. Very much a popular summer destination for local Catalans, many who have second homes here. It has a wide, long beach split into about 3 coves and a seafront path for walkers and cyclists. Walk for about 2 kms. north along this path and you’ll reach Palamos, the next coastal town.

Platja d’Aro. A favourite destination for local tourists and nightclubbers. It has a long sandy beach and plenty of hotels, bars and cafes along its sea-front. It’s also a popular place for Girona locals to visit on a Sunday as most of the shops here are open, in contrast to Girona where they’re all shut. We had the beach to ourselves when we visited once in mid-October for its annual beer festival. It also holds an unmissable annual Carnival in early February. Very nearby is the Les Gavarres natural park area and a stunning golf course atop a residential area called Mas Nou. Just follow the road signs for Golf d’Aro, the road is quite steep for a good few kms. but once you get to the top there are some stunning views.

Palamos

A beach resort as well as an important regional fishing port and working town, the harbour area with its fishing boats and yachts separates the beach area with its clean, fine sand and it doesn’t get too packed, so another good one for families. There’s a coastal footpath which takes you into St. Antoni d’Calonge, which makes for a nice 30 min. stroll. While the modern, residential parts of Palamos behind the seafront are quite ordinary looking, its old town is better and an enjoyable place to walk around on summer evenings, checking out which fish restaurant to eat in! Summer-time evenings the seafront promenade nearest the harbour has a small arts and crafts market. One day in August we tried a boat trip on an old sailing vessel which you can book inside the Fishing museum. It departs from the port area, takes you out to sea a short way, hugging the coast and lasted about an hour but all in Catalan!

Calella de Palafrugell Head for the inland town of Palafrugell and then follow the signs for Calella. This is one of our top favourites and has buckets of charm, with five small beaches or coves. Its botanical garden, Cap Roig also hosts an annual, summer music festival with many famous national and international artists. We keep coming back here as its one of our favourite beach places, and to one of these coves you have to walk down some stone steps to get to a small beach. Its got a restaurant directly facing the beach, another good spot to have your lunch or a drink while the kids play in the sand within eye-shot.

Summer-time it gets super-busy here, in the evenings people promenade around town and I got the impression it had more Spanish visitors than your usual English/ German mix of tourists (that probably go to larger places like Estartit and L’Escala). The houses and apartment blocks are all low rise and it has the usual mix of touristy shops, restaurants, bars, and a few art galleries. There’s a tourist road train that leaves from here, which takes you up to the local lighthouse (faro) which has wonderful views of Calella. I’ve also been here in December to have lunch, as there are still a couple of places open at weekends, but walking around the town was strange as it felt like a ghost-town with just no one around.

Palafrugell The inland town itself is probably not much to write about but it does host a particularly good Spring carnival. Head out to pick up signs for nearby Llafranc and Tamariu which are both small, charming beach resorts with some good sea food restaurants.Nearby Llafranc has some low-rise hotels along its short seafront making it an ideal place for a short stay or day visit. Parking during the summer in all these tiny resorts can be very difficult because of the dramatic increase in visitors. Drive a little further inland from Palafrugell to Pals.

Pals A well preserved, walled medieval town really worth a visit that attracts a lot of summer tourists with parking areas on the edge of town. We’ve been here a few times and love just walking around its narrow streets, lined with restored stone buildings and enjoying a drink or snack in an outdoor bar. www.visitpals.com

You’ll find many vantage points where you can look across miles of surrounding, lush Catalan countryside. Apart from the town walls it’s also noted for its church of Sant Pere and the Casa Museu de la Pruna. It has a weekly market on Tuesdays. If you are here at Christmas the town holds a recreation of Christ’s story on a number of days, including Xmas eve and beyond, which is highly recommended. We saw it back in about 2008. It starts early evening, you pay to enter, then follow a route through the village with locals dressed up as shepherds, angels and tradesmen at work. Don’t forget to spot the caganer! www.pessebresvivents.cat There are also signs for Pals beach (Platja de Pals) which is nearby to the East. The easily accessible beach is long, sandy with a life-guard station, a couple of beach bars, toilets and outdoor showers. Plentiful parking behind the beach area, plus numerous camping and caravan sites, restaurants and shops as you go back up towards Pals town.

Begur A well-healed coastal resort with a small beach area and a hilltop village above, and on the way to a few similar chic places like Aiguafreda. The village is just inland and has a nice mix of restaurants, bars and boutiques. Its wealth came from the former Spanish colonies and returnees built many large colonial style houses. Many of the modern homes within the outlying urbanizations are built into the side of the hills, and there are some spectacular views around. Every September over one long weekend, it hosts the ‘Fira Indians’ to commemorate its colonial links. Plenty of people flock here to dance salsa and drink Mojitos in many of the public squares. Live music, food stalls open till very late. The dress code is wear white. We knew about it for years and only went in 2019, but because of Covid in 2020 it was cancelled. www.begur,cat

There are also a couple of very exclusive, up-market places near here called Sa Riera and La Tuna.

La Bisbal Near to Pals, 12kms away is this large town, famous for its ceramic and clay products and the principal town for this region. Worth a stop to stroll and browse around its many shops. www.labisbal.cat

Peratallada Another pretty, well preserved  Catalan village with an old church worthy of a visit, full of stone houses and near to La Bisbal. We had a stroll through the narrow streets one pleasant, sunny afternoon and ate lunch outside. Car parking is on the outskirts, so parking outside the village boundaries is best. It’s got a few arty-type shops, a couple of hotels, a few hostel/B&B type places, and a fair number of restaurants to cater for the tourist visitors. It hosts an annual wine/xmas fair in early December.

Verges. It may just be another small Catalan farming village which you pass through on the way to the coast to places like L’Escala and Estartit but, on the evening of Easter Monday locals dress up as skeletons and other scary characters to perform the ‘dansa macabra’ or death march. Highly recommended. Starts around 9-10pm, but the procession itself can be as late as midnight.

Figueres. A large town and a place more famous for its Dali Museum (Museu Dali). We tried to visit this place but the queues were enormous, so we’ve left it for another day. Instead, we went inside the toy museum nearby.

Vic. The provincial town of this area, Vic is noted for its large, old square which hosts a weekly market on Saturday and a good place to buy locally produced pork meat products like dry cured sausages (fuet). We spent a pleasant couple of hours walking around the streets that lead to the square, observing local life. It’s about a 1 hour drive from Girona, heading upwards through some pretty rolling countryside.

Further afield.

Andorra. Although it’s a good 3-4 hour drive from Girona, I’ll give it a brief mention here, as many locals seem to go there for the shopping, ski-ing, spa hotels and as a summer destination. Perhaps the lure of its tax-free shops is waning as people tell me that prices are about the same these days.

Valencia. Be prepared for a drive  of about 4 to 5 hours from Girona, south along the AP7 toll road. We visited the city during one Easter break and had a hard time finding a suitable hotel, but spent 3 days visiting such must see places like the Bioparc, and the City of Arts and Sciences.  The Bioparc is an open-air type zoo environment arranged into several habitat zones which we all enjoyed, you can easily spend a whole day here. The Ciudad de las Artes is also impressive. Several futuristic-looking white concrete buildings are all near each other, with the Oceanografic, one of the best.

Flea market, Perpignan, France.

Held on every Sunday, early until 2pm in Perpignan, just across the border in France. Takes about 1hr.15mins by car from Girona, and I travelled with a friend who was driving and spoke some French, as we had to ask for some directions. The flea market area is huge and we managed to park the car easily, although even when we arrived at 9.30am it was already quite full.

It’s roughly divided into two parts, one has all the flea market things and the other half is more modern items you’d expect to find in any street market in the U.K. Within the flea market area there was anything from old bric-a- brac to collectibles and antiques at all price levels. My friend stumbled across an old French magazine with a cover of the 1966 England world cup team, at only 1€ and an old Singer sowing machine for just 8€.

I picked up a nice old glass soda bottle but was surprised to see the price was 70€, so I came away with nothing that day. It made for an interesting morning and we were back in Girona in time for a late lunch.