Okay we’ve been living here in Girona for fifteen years and I’ve never done a looking back type of blog post before, so here goes. It may well even stretch to a second part.
When people say time flies it’s true, as it doesn’t feel like that long. I’m even mildly surprised to be honest.
Where do I start I ask myself. In general terms I think that Girona’s charms have been noticed by more outsiders who’ve made this place their new home. We’ve been lucky to have met a wide range of people, not just other Brits.
One such story comes to mind. In the early days having very young kids meant you often bumped into other parents with similar aged kids of their own. Especially in kids playgrounds. On one such occasion we found ourselves in the tiny Catalan village of Monells. By the way, if you’ve never been there do yourself a favour and put it on your list.
Our kids could never pass a playground without stopping and trying out the slides and swings. It was here that we struck up a conversation with a young German couple with their baby. It turned out they were living nearby in a converted farmhouse that was split into smaller apartments. A friendship kind of developed and we’d meet for a coffee whenever they came into Girona.
He was quite jovial and entertaining, ruining my preconceived stereotype that Germans lack a sense of humour. They too were here in Catalonia, Spain living the good life. Curious as we always are as to what people do to survive here, he told me he was working for an American company.
The twist was that the US bosses always believed he was working from his home town in Koln, Germany. To mask this charade everytime he had to speak to them, he’d have to check what the weather was like in his supposed hometown, just in case they’d ask. If memory serves me right they went back to Germany to have their second child, and we lost contact.
The losing contact with good friends we made here who returned to the UK was a recurring theme amongst the many British expats we knew. Their reasons were many. Family, friends, frustration with the education system here, health are all part and parcel of the why’s.
Another common thread we found was that once they’d left, future contact was minimal or non-existent. People who we’d got to know very well, mixed socially many times at each other’s places and then nothing.
Maybe I’m being too sentimental but life moves on and many other long term resident friends are still here. They include Americans, Dutch, French, Ukrainian, Italian with a sprinkling of Catalans and Spanish too.
I even met an elderly Dutch lady who had read my blog and decided to move to Girona. A lot of the bonhomme involves long liquid lunches, sharing stories of what made us move here, and how much better it is for the kids.
Ours were quite young when we arrived in 2006 at 6 and 8. They deserve some credit as far as what we’ve made them endure. Jumping from a small quaint village primary school in the English countryside to a foreign land where they understood zilch.
Kids are quite resilient though, and get on with it. We didn’t have the funds to place them into an international school, so the local state school would have to suffice. The rarity of being the only English kids in class soon wore off too. However, their ability to pick up the language meant that nowadays their Catalan is indiscernible from local natives.
They’ve also grown to appreciate the many plus points of living here, including being fluent in 3 languages (English, Catalan and Spanish). As parents we fare less better in the language stakes, calling them into service when needed.
I even get a bit cagey when Catalans ask me how long I’ve been here. I think they expect me to be a fluent speaker by now, more forgiving if I’d only chalked up a few years. I can’t deny that I find it harder to learn than Spanish, and that Catalan is so dominant in Girona. I keep telling myself that I must try to improve.
The other big story over the last decade has been the surge in popularity of all things cycling. Though popular long before we arrived it’s been boom time for property rentals, and even ‘cycle-themed’ cafes and coffee shops. Those international cyclists are big fans of not only the surrounding topography, but also the climate and cuisine.
The restaurant scene within Girona’s old town area has certainly edged slowly towards the more expensive end. The culinary kings of Girona, the Roca brothers have added to this exclusivity be extending their empire with a hotel, ice cream parlour and a rather oddly named restaurant, Normal.
That new normal is if you can wait a few months and prices are anything but normal.