Girona is a city in north-eastern Catalonia (Spain) with a population of 100,000. It is located 100 kilometres from Barcelona and 70 kilometres from the French border. It is situated at the confluence of four rivers (the Ter, Onyar, Güell and Galligants) and a large part of the surrounding area is classified as a protected area of natural beauty. Its proximity to the Costa Brava and the Pyrenees make it a popular tourist attraction and a place to practise outdoor sports. Girona is endowed with the services of a major city and the charm of a small town, and is especially renowned for its medieval monuments.
The climate is Mediterranean, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild winters. Average temperatures range between 13°C and 17 °C.
What to eat in Girona?
This unusual rice ('arròs' in Catalan) was introduced by Arabs from Valencia, and it's thought that in the 12th century, the rice of Empordà contributed to the feeding of all of Catalonia. The most well-known varieties that are grown in the town of Pals are the traditional 'el bahia' and 'el bomba', and the more modern 'el carneroli' and 'el nembo'. It can be used in numerous different dishes, especially rice stews, a typical Empordà plate, as the rice doesn't overcook and go too mushy.
This local bean, also known as the 'banyolí' bean, is a typical kind of legume from the Baix Empordà and Estany area, and has been grown here for many centuries. You can spot them by their brownish colour and the lack of a black eye ('ull negre'). Recently, and thanks to efforts to promote regional products by various restaurateurs, its cultivation has been expanded. They're excellent eaten with shredded cod ('bacallà escaixat') or grilled vegetables ('escalivada')
In times past, Girona wasn't really a place to find beef ('vedella', which can also be translated as veal), especially not among the working classes who were more used to pork or chicken. However, this dish became popular as one served at town festivals ('festa majors') and celebrations, a recipe for special occasions. The combination of the juicy meat (which nowadays may well have been raised in Girona) that has been well stewed, the mountain, mossy scents of the wild mushrooms ('bolets'), and the slow-cooked sauce is just superb. This is a great dish for dipping your bread into, and is perfect for all carnivores.
Prawns ('gambes') have been fished for generations off the coast of Palamós and other seaside towns such as Blanes, Arenys, Roses and the more southerly Tarragona. Tasty, red and fat, they share a maritime current with the prawns from Soller in Mallorca, which are from the same family. There's not much more that needs to be said about this gastronomic treat. Enjoy them simply grilled with salt, garlic and parsley; and savour the moment.
This very sweet pastry filled with cream was created in the 1920s, and is the Girona adaptation of a French treat called 'chou a la créme'. Nowadays what you'll find is a deep-fried pastry covered with sugar. You can buy them in bakeries outside Girona, but we say that only the ones made in the city are the authentic 'xiuxos' (pron. 'CHOO-chos'), and the most memorable. A must-try.