In Girona, there aren't many shops with large windows, neon lights or loud music. The discreet bourgeoisie of the city also affects local businesses and can be seen in the personalised service, such as when customers are greeted by name. It's a cliché: the most successful clothing stores are considerate and exclusive shops, while some of the more famous are those that offer the most eccentric and charming knick-knacks and figurines.
This sort of charm is woven into the fabric of Girona. Let's take a walk through some of the most charismatic shops in the city.
On Girona's C/Ballesteries you'll find numerous interesting shops, but we have a special regard for Papers for two reason: firstly, the big range of Tintin products, and second, because its papier-mâché figures are the perfect gift for anyone. If you're a Tintin fan, we know you've probably already stopped reading this and are even now making your way to the shop. To the rest of you, we'll just say that you'll discover figures representing men and women exercising all sorts of professions, but if you can't find the one you're looking for, they can always make it to order. And they can even, through quick, confident strokes with the paintbrush, convert a male doctor, teacher or police officer into a female equivalent. We also love the pretty wrapping paper and notebooks with covers made out of the facsimiles of old magazines.
Bernat and Toni are from the Catalan towns of Manresa and Granollers respectively, and say that they've got textiles in their blood. After dedicating themselves to the organisation of fashion-related events, styling and artistic direction, in 2015, they changed Peru (where they'd lived for years) for Girona, where their project has been very successful as they offer a very Girona product: clothes and accessories that are high in quality and timeless. They prioritise national and Scandinavian labels that are manufactured in Europe, or in an ethical and controlled way, such as the designs of Matka, from Galicia, which are put together using delicate materials from Nepal using pedal looms, and that are acquired under the principals of fair trade. Also under the principal of business with conscience, delicate underwear for men from Foxhouse, artisanal shoes by About Arianne and the designs by Gratacós window designer Juan Pedro López share an open space and a lot of zen with artisan items from Peru, such as cushions and mocassins made by hand.
This small shop selling local food products has also found a niche in the world of catering, even though it's a sector in Girona where there's fierce competition. The two partners explain that, as well as an idea of business based on communicating the emotion and love for good products from Catalonia, they're united by the fact that they were born on the same day in the same year. And it's true that this small, inviting store has something magic about it, the result of the mix of an indiscutable taste for packaging and the aroma of the mythical Can Xapa de Bordils chocolate, made artisanly with 85-percent cacao and candied dried fruits. The carefully selected range of products includes oil from the Empordà made from species of olives that are rarely found, wines of which limited bottles were made, such as the Còsmic from Agullana (which you'll basically only find in a few restaurants) and cheeses from local dairies. Oh, and sorry for keep going on about it, but the chocolate from Can Xapa is ridiculously good.
The name says it all - 'Touched by the wind', a declaration of profound love for the Empordà and its significant winds. In fact almost all the pieces in this shop come from this area, and as well as a shop it's also an interior design and creative lighting studio. On sale you'll find typical, but not stereotypical, souvenirs from the counties of Girona, such as ceramics from La Bisbal and works by artists established around the Empordà; you'll also come across creations from their own workshop, located in Camallera, where they work to restore old furniture and create one-off lamps. Apart from these objects, which share the quality and high-standard of their primary materials, and via collaborations with the local artisan community as a way to increase sales, at Tocats pels vent they can carry out tailor-made project for your home interiors or create a singular piece that puts flatpack, mass-produced furniture in its place. They opened in December 2015, and have plans to expand in the near future.
Jewellery designer Nausica Masó is the granddaughter of Girona architect Rafael Masó (1880-1935), and her work is strongly influenced by the modernist movement of which Masó was a key member. In her creations, which she makes using either new precious metals or recycled ones brought by clients, we can easily see the duality of a style that is halfway between the organic and the search for rational balance. Having said that, as well as various geometric pieces that have clear architectural inspiration, there are others that tend towards ethnic styles and still others directly inspired by the work of the famous architect. The stained glass featuring a fly and a hen, installed in the birth house of Masó on C/Ballesteries (it can be visited if you book in advance) are constant reference points in her pendants and earrings. Nausica never knew her grandfather, but she profoundly admires his work, and feels they're united by their respective work: Masó also designed jewellery for his wife.
The growing number of beards to take care of has seen a re-blooming of traditional barber's shops, those places that smell of wood and masculinity which started to close down after shaved footballers began to establish themselves as global benchmarks for masculine beauty. In this particular barber's, open in 2015 as an extension of a hairdresser's with more than 30 years of experience, and with a design that in itself deserves a visit, they celebrate the death of the metrosexual, the arrival of normcore, and the existence of men who've learnt to take care of themselves without losing all sense and who like to enjoy some time for themselves. Rituals such as shaving with a cut-throat razor and hot towel, and the trick to having a perfect beard for three days, are all available with advanced booking.
This small florist's on the corner of Plaça del Vi brings a touch of light and freshness to a space that's so grey and solemn, and in Girona plays the role of the main square. Small but bursting with flowers and plants, to such an extent that they spill out of the windows, Flor a Punt is specialised in seasonal plants and floral arrangements for special occasions, but you can also stop by to buy a bouquet or simply to cheer yourself up with a sight of this generous place that helps make the city a little bit prettier.
The couple in charge of this small 'colmado' (traditional grocer's) where they stock everything (yes, absolutely everything) deserve a prize. At a time when the Barri Vell was filling up with shops aimed at tourists but it was increasingly difficult to buy oranges, Lautaro and Neus rolled up their sleeves and opened L'Estuca to serve local residents, and encourage them to stop by the colmado for a chat as much as the shopping, rather than visit a supermarket. With the passing of time and changes made to the store, it's now a fantastic mix of neighbourhood shop and delicatessen that fights to keep its prices competitive and stand up to the big chains. They have local fruit and vegetables, craft beers, organic wines and a small selection of wine in barrels, but you'll also find daily necessities such as washing liquid for your clothes. If you spend more than €20, they'll bring the shopping to your house for free, a service that has become indispensable to many older residents of the Barri Vell, and others who are not so old but very busy.
For more than 30 years, La Carpa (the name pays homage to the fish that live in the river Onyar, which passes just below the shop's windows) has shown children how to play and also excite the senses of grown-ups with their vintage-style, but still challenging, toys. Games, mobiles, puppets, lights for wall projections and perhaps the prettiest toy every seen, a small wooden show with strings for learning and practising how to tie your laces so that you can go out running. Everything's well-ordered and arranged in this small, historical shop on C/Ballesteries. If you go in there, not only will you find the perfect gift for the youngest members of your family, but also for the inner child that we all have and all too often lose from sight. They also have an online shop, which isn't the same of course, but might work as a consolation prize - following them on social media means you can enjoy a non-stop show of fun and colour.
If you live on planet Earth, it's probably not necessary to mention that Girona is where you'll find a place considered, more than once, the best restaurant in the world: El Celler de Can Roca. The owners, the three Roca brothers, are totally committed to the city as well as being some of its most famous sons, and the fact that El Celler is not within the reach of all budgets gave them the idea to create somewhere that everybody, or almost, could at least try some of their desserts. They wanted to rescue the concept of the ice cream cart but rules are rules, and in the end they opened a workshop on C/ Santa Clara, which makes clients feel like Charlie in the chocolate factory. But let's talk about what's really important here: the ice creams. They serve six flavours that change with the seasons – the latest concoctions of lavender and coconut, and a mix of green vegetables, have been a big hit – and stock a 'wardrobe' of tubs so that you can take your cool treat away, which range from more or less conventional flavours, such as chocolate with green tea, to real innovation such as toast ice cream with olive oil. A really unmissable experience.