Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cruise: Day 6

Because I had spent a week in Spain before on vacation, on the coast and in Barcelona, I chose to use our port day in Spain to explore Girona. My excursion advisor told me I would love it, and that I could easily do it on my own, without paying for an excursion. So without a map, without a guidebook, without any advance research or planning (so unlike me!) I set out. The first bus was at 10:20, so I wandered the early morning streets of Palamos as the shopkeepers were cleaning and preparing for the day. I came across a beautiful old Gothic cathedral (built 1439-1521, according to the sign). The door was unlocked and the interior was completely still. Because some small candles flickered around the room, I knew I wasn’t the first in here this morning. But for a brief few moments, I was alone with my thoughts, with God, in the quiet. It was a lovely start to the day.
Leaving the church, I found the bus station, and briefly struck up a conversation with one couple from the cruise ship. There were no other cruise passengers, so we began chatting as we boarded the bus. Quickly, Richard (from Middlesex), his partner Marzena (Mar-ZZHAY-na,) from Poland, and I became traveling buddies. We discussed American politics, higher education in England, health care, unemployment, travel destinations, growing up Polish, … with the exception of religion, we pretty much solved the world’s problems on the bus to Girona.
By the time we arrived an hour later, we felt like old friends.

We didn’t have any guidebooks, and only a tourist map, but the three of us stayed together to see what there was to see. I still don’t know exactly what I saw. But it was fabulous. We wandered cobblestone alleys and took photos of each other everywhere. We found our way to the Arab baths, built in the 11th century, and almost completely intact today. We ambled through the Jewish quarter. We climbed up the “Passaig Archaeologique” – is it a fortress? Is it a castle? Is it a monastery? – and discovered hidden gems: gardens, vistas, gracefully rendered architecture. We even discovered a stone toilet built into the city wall, which by that time Richard could almost be convinced to take advantage of. We walked along the ‘Great Wall of Girona’ (Never heard of it? Well, it’s there.) Sensing the desperation for facilities, and not finding them where they were marked on a map, we deferred to Marzena’s direction into an art museum, where we found clean modern bathrooms.

By this time, we were ready for tapas and wine. We stopped at a cafĂ© along the Rambla and shared lives and stories and laughs. It began to rain and we followed our internal navigation system back to the bus station, where the line for tickets was too long for me to get a return ticket (they had bought round trip, but I had not.) So I made the decision to travel sans billet, and my partners in crime aided and abetted me, even offering me fresh fruit from the ship’s morning buffet that they had absconded with.

After our arrival at the ship, they invited me to dinner and the show with them later that evening. All in all, it was a lovely day, with lovely people.

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