Saturday, September 10, 2011

Weekend in Paradise Part One

Sometimes I look at fellow bloggers' posts documenting their recent mini excursions or road trips and I can't help but think to myself... I won.  It's not their fault.  Not everyone has some of the most amazing landscapes and impossibly charming villages so close to home.

This past weekend ended up being a big deal.  For a long time, David and I had been contemplating cashing in the lovely gift that Sonia and Manuel had given us for our wedding.  It was a Smart Box, one of those gift certificates that comes with a booklet of several options.  As soon as we opened it, we knew we were going to go with a spa day.  So, last week, we finally selected a date and facility, and decided to make it into an event.  We booked a night in the same hotel as the spa.  I consulted with a coworker to find out which little towns in the surrounding area would be the most worth checking out.  The week slowly but surely came to an end, and Saturday morning—bright and early—we were north-bound, giddy to embark on a long-overdue adventure!

MENU.  MUSIC.  ARTISTS: GLEE.  SONGS: ALL.  GO!  Despite the GPS sporadically tweaking David's nerves a bit, the drive was a blast!  It was totally reminiscent of all the road trips we used to make together out of Columbus (Chicago, Michigan, Pittsburg, Cincinnati...).  We arrived at the hotel and promptly took in what would be our home for the next twenty four hours.

The Old Wing, where our room was.
The Grand Staircase
Cute little common area by our room.
After check-in, we went up to our room to leave our belongings and change into our swim suits and robes.  Our spa appointment was at 11:30, so we headed right down.

I have never relaxed as much as I did that afternoon!  The name of the hotel is the Vichy Catalan, which is also the name of a brand of sparkling mineral water (of which the factory is right next door).  The Spa's theme was this special water, which is supposedly, due to the minerals, beneficial to the body in many ways.  We began our session with an hour in the thermal circuit.  This entailed a giant jacuzzi filled with Vichy Catalan, two amazing saunas, as well a strange path of smooth stones and water jets meant to massage your legs and feet.

After this luxurious hour, we had an inhalation session.  For about a half hour, we sat in front of tube that expelled Vichy steam in our faces.  It sounds ridiculous, but it was one of the most relaxing experiences of my life!  

Next, we were taken up on an elevator for the main event.  An hour-long double massage.  My masseuse was a godsend.  I'd never had a professional massage before, let alone a full body massage, and I struggled to contain my ecstatic moans.  David, on the other hand, was struggling not to whimper.  His masseuse was a stocky blonde woman who looked like her name could be Helga and who quite possibly hailed from Sweden.  Not long after her "man hands" attacked him, he was already pleading for mercy!  But, despite the pain, he enjoyed the massage almost as much as I did.  Afterwards, they gave us a few minutes to lay there before we got up and got dressed.  Neither of us could move.  The aromatherapy, the candles, the music.  It was all too much.  I was pretty sure that elevator had taken us straight up to heaven.  Luckily, the reality we then had to go back to was nothing to fret about.

We went up to our rooms and relaxed a little while watching a movie about Judy Garland.  And then we decided to take a little road trip.  David had seen a little blip on the map, representing a lake, so we decided to head up to Banyoles and check it out.  We were not disappointed.

As soon as we arrived we found a little bar right on the edge of the lake.  I saw a sign for cheap mojitos and new it was meant to be.  They ended up being the best ones we had ever tasted!  (Except maybe for Sonia and Manuel's.)

After our drinks, we decided to take a walk along the lake.  Being from Michigan, you wouldn't really expect lakes to impress me all that much.  But being from Michigan, I'm not really accustomed to seeing lakes flanked my mountains.  The combination is breathtaking and creates an atmosphere more serene that I could have ever imagined!


All along the lakeshore, there were these tiny abandoned houses where people used to dock their boats.  When I saw this one, I immediately fell in love.  I instantly wanted the deed to this little place.  Can you imagine having this as your writing space?  I just know I could gush out a whole novel in one sitting if these were my surroundings.

As we entered the town, it became clear that there was some sort of sporting event going on.  As we neared a large park, we caught the final phase of a triathlon.  It must have been a tense one, because before long we were dodging an ambulance on its way to treat a participant.  Minutes later a helicopter swooped in and landed right next to the track to rush the patient off to the hospital!  It was a truly surreal thing to witness!


After that little incident, the walk back to the car was quiet and relaxing.  All and all, the excursion was a perfect follow-up to our day at the Spa. But soon we would need dinner.  So we decided to make our way back towards the hotel.  Right by the car, we found this sign and decided to honor our brief stay here with a photographic farewell.

The route we ended up taking to get back ran right through the city center of Girona.  Just to give you an understanding, We live in Barcelona, which is part of the Autonomous Community of Cataluña.  Cataluña is broken up into four provinces: Barcelona (in the middle, on the coast), Tarragona (also on the coast, to the south), Girona (to the north, on the coast as well), and Lérida (to the west of Barcelona).  Each province has a capital of the same name.  All of the places we visited this past weekend were to the north, in the province of Girona.  But now I am talking about the city.

David and I had come up to the city of Girona once before, for a flower festival.  I fell in love with it.  It's charm is so unique and the lifestyle here is palpable.  It's not an enormous city like Barcelona, but it's just big enough.  The vibrant medieval neighborhood gives it a truly romantic air while the quirky riverside denotes an authentic European metropolis.

Now that I'm looking at photos and reflecting on that festival, I'm realizing how badly I want to blog about it!  But just to give you a sneak peak, here are a couple of photos from that day!

WOW, right!  Just wait until you see the photos from the festival.  This place is MAGIC.  And, as it turns out, it's just as spectacular at night.  

We decided to stop and eat here.  We were wondering through this trendy, old neighborhood when it dawned on David that his old co-worker's parents owned a restaurant nearby.  We asked a waitress who'd just stepped outside for a cigarette if she knew where Artusi, the restaurant in question, might be.  Low and behold, it was just around the corner!  The ambience in the restaurant was divine and the food was absolutely exquisite!  It was an ideal date night, made even better by the fact that it wasn't even planned!

An hour later, after a drive far darker than we're used to these days, we arrived at the hotel.  I wanted to party long into the night, but David had sleep on his mind.  This was probably a good thing, since we had a long day ahead of us!  A day, I'm afraid, I'll have to explain in Part Two.  I can't believe how long it's taken me just to get here!  I'm sure you'll need a break too, but check back soon to hear about the wonderful medieval villages and exotic rock islands we discovered in the conclusion of our fabulous weekend that we somehow managed to cram into a single weekend!