Thursday, July 16, 2009

Homage to Catalonia 1

Girona is a very salubrious town as long as you confine your activities to the old town and its immediate environs. The old town hugs the banks of the River Onyar, which conveniently separates it from from the undistinguished new town,and climbs uphill to the cathedral. Two things are immediately obvious to someone coming from Paddyland, the streets are clean and the traffic is minimal - like a lot of Continental cities the rights of the citizens to a reasonable quality of life comes before private enterprise. Ireland prefers the private affluence amidst public squalour model.The women are dark and saucy looking with tatoos much in evidence. Must be a cultural thing, I saw two well set up tatoo parlours (studios?) within a few hundred metres of each other. I paid a visit to the Museu D'Art and throughly depressed myself looking at the work of the Catalan master Isidre Nonell. I should have realised what I was in for when I saw his first series of paintings was entitled the Cretins of Boi - gloomy portraits of hapless wretches in an insane asylum, painted near the end of the 19th Century. Things didn´t get better as he progressed into the 20th - though his subjects changed class as he painted more affluent looking women in various states of introspective misery. And all so dark - while outside the sun was splitting the stones. We met a cheerful Irish girl in a local bar and she directed us to a restaurant called Occi for dinner. We were expecting something Catalan and funky (beans and sausage, rabbit etc.), instead we got the only chi-chi restaurant in the town. The decor was international minimalist chic - a warning sign. But I knew we were definitely in trouble when the waiter offered us kangeroo. We struggled to find something edible on the menu - when we finally got the food, the tuna we ordered was raw, a detail on the menu we fatally missed. We drowned our sorrows on Tokai afterwards - and resolved to try some local cuisine next, and find the Catalan word for raw.