Whilst it hasn’t exactly been a barrel of laughs in most places around the world, the ban on most things cultural here in Girona has surely run its course. Even some of the long standing music festivals have woken from their enforced slumber and are promoting themselves. Not that any real promotion is necessary as I’ve read that their concerts have been selling like hotcakes.
The ‘get out and enjoy’ genes have reawoken and rightly so, the thought of getting out enjoying yourself is kickstarting the road back to a Covid-compliant normality. Quite how that all pans out for the summer season remains to be seen. The memories and experience of last summer linger to some extent, kids especially are yearning for as normal a summer as possible.
So, because of current restrictions and being conditioned to a life of monastic seclusion, I was just a little surprised to see posters popping up all over town advertising Girona’s annual flower festival, Temps de Flors. It’s always been a high point of the year, an expectant time when we anticipate better weather and temperatures. A kind of precursor to the many other cultural and culinary delights that follow.
That’s another oddity this year, the yo-yo weather of late. Easter-week saw a run of warm weather to be replaced with a climate more akin to winter as temperatures see-sawed wildly. As a long entrenched resident this is not what I’ve been used to, having one eye on the heating bills, which normally have a downward trend by now.
So it’s nice to hear that the local powers that be have decided to hold the flower festival again, but the rumours are, on a much lesser scale. In normal times Girona’s old town, where most of the action occurs is overflowing with visitors from far and wide, even France.
The flower festival has become a real victim of its own success. So much so that we never went ourselves until the last few days because of the crowds. The local town hall (ajuntament) graciously supplies free maps which feature all the exhibits and stopping points, which runs into over a hundred.
It’s boomtime for Girona’s cafes and restaurants, but old town residents can’t wait until it’s over. The chief complaints being that simply going about your daily business is difficult. If you’ve ever visited you’d know that the maze of narrow streets means bottlenecks and a snail’s pace of navigating all the important bits worthy of seeing.
One perennial example is the Arab Baths (Banys Arabs), where constant queuing is the norm all day long. They use a one-way system, and a chance to enter for free to see the interior floral displays. Ordinarily there’s a small entrance fee. Just around the corner is probably the most anticipated exhibit, the steps leading up to Girona’s Cathedral. It’s quite a large blank canvas, and a talking point amongst locals as to how good it is compared to previous years. This photo is from 2019.
It’s an opportune time to see inside many private courtyards and interior spaces otherwise closed off to public view. That includes Girona’s air-raid shelter, near Placa Catalunya, built during the time of Spain’s civil war (!936-39). Whilst it doesn’t wow in the floral stakes it’s one for the curious visitor.
Another exhibit, now sadly crossed off the route map due to redevelopment is an old former cinema at the rear of the town hall. This building remained boarded up, unused throughout the year, only to open during the festival. The seating areas were long gone, as was its roof space, with just rusty girders showing off its nakedness. Sometimes it featured dramatic art and floral installations with the subtle addition of haunting music. In 2015 it had as part of its perplexing theme, these hanging chairs.
Another popular stopping point is the long expansive steps at Pujada de Sant Domenec that lead up to the small intimate church of St Marti. Opinions differ as to whether the best view is from down below or from up above. Do pop into the church to view their displays.
There’s a lot to get around if you’re just here for one day, comfortable shoes will help and a bottle of water as bars stay busy all day.