Missed it this year? Make your trip to Spain unforgettable by attending the Flower Festival in Girona next year!

Planning next year’s spring vacation is probably at the bottom of your priority list right now, as I am sure you’re currently busy vacationing with your family or friends (or solo), sipping cocktails by an overcrowded pool or hiking somewhere “off the beaten track” far away from everyone and everything. Hotel swimming pools, fruity cocktails, beach parties, or tranquility and soul searching is kinda what summer is all about. You might even be vacationing in Spain – as this country is quite popular among tourists and travelers alike (in case you’re one of those people who don’t like to label yourself as tourist).

Perhaps you’re currently vacationing in the city of Girona?

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In that case, I’m sure you’re having a great time visiting this charming Catalan city and I hope you’ll be back in May – when the city is even more gorgeous, more colorful, more vibrant than ever.

Yes, dear ladies and gentlemen, every year in mid-may, Girona is transformed into a magical flower haven!

I’m talking rainbow magic. Unicorn magic. Every bridge, every monument, every building, every street – everything is decorated with beautiful flowers, arts and crafts and colorful fabrics, to celebrate the wonderful season of spring.

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What is the story behind the festival?

It all started out as a small exhibition contest at the Municipal Theater Hall of Rest in 1954. The event received great feedback and plenty of interest from people who visited the exhibition that year and the success was repeated the following year. With growing involvement of citizens, the event grew bigger and better, year after year. In 1979 it was (for the first time) organised on behalf of the l’Associació dels Amics de les Flors i dels Jardins (Association of Friends of Flowers and Gardens), and in 1983, the l’Associació d’Amics de la Girona Antiga (Association of Friends of the Old Girona) was also involved. This allowed the opening of many more patios and private gardens that remained closed to the public during the rest of the year. Since 1992 the City Council has also been involved in the organisation of Temps de Flors. What once was a small exhibition has over the years evolved into a large festival, as we know it today. It’s a celebration of spring, flowers and the city of Girona!

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How did I hear about it?

While planning my solo trip to Toulouse (France) and Narbonne (also France), I knew I wanted to cross the border and visit a city in Spain – but I wasn’t quite sure where to go. While doing a bit of research, Girona caught my interest. Not only did it look like a charming city, but according to the city’s official website I’d be there just in time for a flower festival? And just like that, it was settled. I was going to Girona!

How did I experience it?

I arrived at my hotel, which happened to be located right next to a bunch of colorful, decorated tents displayed side by side, all along a large shopping street. I didn’t want to spend more time than necessary in my beige and boring hotel room, as I didn’t wanna risk missing out on all the spectacular photo opportunities waiting for me outside, on every single corner. My camera battery was fully charged, my phone was dying. I went to the bathroom, peed as fast as I possibly could, and ran out the door faster than you could say “have fun”. I was impatient. Just like a little kid in Disneyland, waiting in line to meet their favorite princess, I was ready to witness magic firsthand.

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I snapped a few pictures of the colorful tents, and made my way to the nearest bridge. Did I want to do a little shopping from the vendors selling handmade products? Did I want to photograph the view of the colorful buildings and their reflection in the water? Was I feeling hungry yet? I was too excited about everything to even make up my mind and focus on just one thing.

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I went photo-crazy and paparazzied everything that looked even remotely colorful. A lot of those pictures didn’t even turn out that well, and many were photobombed by selfie-takers, ice cream-eaters, angry old people, careless children, tour groups and other photo-crazy tourists just like yours truly.

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Whether I was strolling along the narrow streets, crossing the different bridges or exploring the Sant Pere de Galligants medieval church and monastery, I was always surrounded by colorful art in different shapes and forms. Sometimes even in the cheeky shape of a butt with a flower sticking out of it (those pervs!)

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Every now and then I asked strangers to take pictures of me, but most of the time the result was worse than anything I could ever imagine. While visiting the monastery, I found a lady who had a Nikon – just like mine – and asked her to take a photo of me. Thanks to her, I have at least one nice photo of myself from the festival.

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The only time I let my feet (and camera) rest, was while I was busy eating tapas and drinking wine or vermouth at local restaurants. Good thing I don’t live in Spain, because all those croquettes and Spanish ham can’t possibly be good for me. To make matters “worse”, I ordered a healthy salad….with delicious pieces of deep-fried cheese inside of it. Just like everything else I’ve ever eaten in Spain, it was amazing.

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And how can anyone possibly resist eating ice cream from the famous gelateria Rocambolesc while wandering around town in twenty-five degrees Celsius? I sure couldn’t!

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As much as I enjoy traveling solo, the beauty of this festival was giving me the blues and made me miss my boyfriend. I shared the entire experience with him through photos, videos and texts, but it just wasn’t the same. This festival is an experience that needs to be shared with someone. With your partner, your children, your parents, your friends. It’s not something you should keep to yourself. And frankly, no matter how good your photos are, they’ll never capture the essence of being there, experiencing it and seeing it all with your own eyes.

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Are you as excited about this as I am?

Because I sure will be returning next year!

Dates for next year’s festival are not yet announced. Visit the official website of Temps de Flors to stay updated. Hope to see you there!

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30 before 30 – The deadline and the unexpected events

To fully understand what this post is all about, I suggest you read part 1 (when I made the decision to challenge myself and why) and part 2 (when I was halfway into the challenge and already starting to mess things up). I know I said I was gonna publish this post on my actual birthday – which I didn’t do. There’s also a whole bunch of things on that bucket list of mine, that I didn’t do. Some of them because of unexpected, and very unfortunate events. Others because, well, I guess I just forgot about them while being busy traveling solo and two days after returning home I was already on the road again – this time to the Netherlands – with my boyfriend. 

Well, that’s a lame excuse, I know. But I never said I was perfect.

Before sharing the fun stories about everything I managed to complete during the second month of the challenge, I’d like to tell you the shitty story of the day Murphy’s law punched me in the face and made it impossible for me to complete some of the things I’d been excited to check off the list.

On May 11th, I was ready to embark on my last solo trip as a twenty-something (before my last non-solo trip as a twenty-something). I was ready to jump on a train from Paris (home) to Toulouse and do a lot of research on the city my partner and I are planning to relocate to (for business purposes). I was also ready to visit beautiful Narbonne, drink wine and enjoy the ambiance of the south. I was ready to train-travel from France to Spain and visit the flower festival in Girona. I was ready to fly from Girona to Pisa to see the leaning tower and eat pasta all day long. I was ready for one week of soul-searching and living out my bucket list.

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But then I got robbed. While still in the peaceful suburbs in the south of Paris, I bought a train ticket at Bourg la Reine, my local RER station. It was eight fifteen in the morning and people were rushing to work and school. On my back, I had a little black backpack carrying my laptop, my camera equipment, the current book I was reading, my tickets and reservations and some cheese and crackers packed in aluminium foil. In my hand I carried a black suitcase, and worn over my shoulder was my cross-body bag containing my wallet, passport and smartphone.

“Shit, my train is already on the platform”, I thought to myself as I ran as fast as I could and hoped there’d be an available seat on the train, to avoid standing like sardines in a can, while balancing all my belongings and my clumsy body all at once.

Sadly, there wasn’t. And to make matters even worse, three huge dudes barged onto the train and squeezed themselves into the already crowded space. The three surrounded me and one started asking bizarre questions while the others were being rude and pushing everyone around them. I tried to hold onto my belongings, but it wasn’t easy, as I could barely even move. The three rude guys got off on the next stop, and that’s when it hit me; I had been robbed.

My passport was still there and so was my phone. My wallet, on the other hand, was gone. And I hadn’t even made it to Paris yet. I had been a victim of a crime in a neighborhood where I was supposed to feel safe. Where mainly families and other peaceful suburbans live. I called my bank and I had my card cancelled. I went to the police and filed a report. I cried. I called my boyfriend. I called my parents. I borrowed money. I missed my train. I was forced to buy a new expensive ticket despite the fact that I showed SNCF (the train company) the documents from the police to prove that I missed my train for a valid reason. I cried again.

Finally, I made it to Toulouse – and all the other places on my list. My budget was drastically cut, but I made it. I later found out that the men who robbed me had targeted me already from the moment I bought a train ticket from the self-service machine at the RER station. The machine was probably bugged and the men managed to steal 1200 euros from my account before my card got canceled. As soon as I found out, I cried again. By then, I looked like a red puffer fish, from all the sobbing.

Because of this unfortunate event, I was unable to do 22. Splurge on something I wouldn’t normally spend money on as I had to prioritize my money on, well, food and accommodation. Which means I also scrapped 23. Unusual Spa treatment and 2. Go to a concert (alone). Being traumatized and all, lead me to comfort-eating pretty much anything that looked somewhat tasty and made it too hard to get started on a strictly vegan diet for a week (27. Be 100% vegan for a week). I’ll try again – maybe even for multiple weeks – on a later occasion. Maybe I’ll even sign up for some sort of a spiritual retreat where I can 3. learn to play an instrument (bongo drums or something?), 11. take a class outside of my comfort zone or 8. take a cooking class (vegan or raw food?), 13. learn to meditate and 14. become “one with nature”. Are those retreats even a thing or am I just assuming things based on stereotypes? 

Now, let’s move on to the things I DID manage to check off my list.

19. Do something that scares me

location: Toulouse, Narbonne, Portbou, Girona, Pisa

So, getting my stuff stolen really sucked, but there was still one positive outcome of the situation. I chose to go on with my one week solo travel, even without the financial security I’m so used to having. I knew I could risk ending up broke by the end of the trip, but I still went ahead with my plans. Although I couldn’t afford to visit museums, go shopping, have spa treatments or anything like that, I did have a great time just wandering, observing, photographing, reading – and eating a lot.

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5. Eat whatever I want – and eat A LOT

location: Toulouse, Narbonne, Girona, Pisa

French pastries, Spanish tapas and Italian pasta. Did you really think I’d be able to resist any of that? Of course not! Did you really think I’m someone who cares about dieting? Nah, life’s too short to spend it avoiding all the good stuff. Macarons, eclairs and religieuse’s are simply just too amazing. So are cheese-filled croquettes, manchego cheese, bread, olives, deli meats. And let’s not forget about all the delicious pasta dishes in Italy. And their tiramisu! Yum!

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17. See something I’ve never seen before

location: the Netherlands

Amsterdam had been on my bucket list for many, many years – and right before my thirtieth birthday, I got to explore not only Amsterdam, but several other beautiful places in the Netherlands. I fell in love with the charming little cities Delft and Gouda. Honestly, I fell in love with EVERY place we went to while roadtripping through the land of windmills, bicycles and canals. The Flemish architecture, the friendly locals, the picturesque streets and bridges. How could anyone not fall in love with that?

I had never seen real windmills before and I was totally amazed by the ones in Kinderdijk and Zaanse Schans!

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21. Explore somewhere new for a day – no map, no plan

location: Portbou, Spain

Portbou is a nice little town on the French-Spanish border (on the east-coast). The local train station is mainly used as a transit-station for people traveling between France and Spain and I’m not sure if that many tourists visit Portbou for any other reason than just to kill time while waiting for their next train? I had three hours to spend visiting the town, before catching my train to Girona – so I decided to just  wander around aimlessly, maybe take some pictures and enjoy the view of the sea from a terrace bar. Besides that, no plan. And it worked. I enjoyed just walking around on my own, with no check-list, no guidebook, no tips or ideas – in a place I knew absolutely nothing about.

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26. Visit a really weird museum or gallery

location: Amsterdam and Paris

In my previous post, I expressed how disappointed I was with Centre Pompidou being closed on the very same day I had taken myself out on a date, specifically to go there. Well, not long before I embarked on my solo trip, my partner and I went there with some friends of ours. My partner is not into art at all and is probably the least creative type imaginable (engineers, huh?). Me, on the other hand, I love art. However, there’s a lot of modern, abstract art I simply don’t like. As much as I try to understand what the artist is trying to express with a displayed urinal or a mono-colored painting with no patterns, nothing, I just don’t get it.

In Amsterdam, my partner and I, put our cultural hats back on and visited a couple of museums. I wanted to visit the Anne Frank house, he didn’t. I wanted to visit the Rijksmuseum, but I didn’t even bother asking if he wanted to go there. We did, however, visit the extremely weird Sexmuseum and the surprisingly interesting Red Light Secrets – the Museum of Prostitution.

6. Attend a major sports event

location: Paris, France

The 2017 Men’s Ice Hockey World Championship was held in Paris this year, and my boyfriend had tickets to three different games. One of them was my home country, Norway, against Switzerland. He went to see the other two games with his father and promised me I’d get to go with him to cheer on Norway (I was cheering, he wasn’t). I am a proud viking. Of course I had my face painted with the Norwegian flag on each cheek. Of course I had a flag in my hand. At one point I even had two. I had a great time channeling my inner viking…until Norway lost and I left the game feeling grumpy.

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30. Do something out of selflessness

location: London and Amsterdam

I have never been a stranger to supporting a good cause, and I’ve always given money to charity and to homeless people when I have a little extra to share. So technically this wouldn’t need to be on my bucket list as it’s something I’ve already done before. I just put it there as a general reminder that one should always motivate oneself to give back to the community and help fellow humans (and animals) in need.

I recently helped crowdfunding an independent drama film, Homeless Ashes – a movie that will raise awareness of homelessness in the UK. And in Amsterdam, I visited The Catboat (animal sanctuary) and donated money.

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29. Try a dish I’ve been skeptical about trying

location: Narbonne, France

People who know me well, know I’m not much of a fish eater. Especially salmon. And tuna…I might even go as far as saying I hate the taste of tuna. I’ve tried tuna salad, pasta with tuna and tuna sandwiches and all those things made me wanna vomit within a second.

While in Narbonne, I visited a nice gastronomic restaurant (Restaurant Gaia) recommended by the lovely bed & breakfast I was staying at (La Maison Gustave). I ordered a three course meal – along with an amuse-bouche. For those who don’t know what amuse-bouche is; it’s a single-bite pre-appetizer offered to you by the chef, and it’s not something listed on the menu. It’s a surprise element. A joy for some, a nightmare for picky eaters. There I was, without my significant other, who’s usually there to finish my plate and eat all the things I don’t like.

In front of me, there was a small piece of tuna steak accompanied by some kind of citrus-mousse. The tuna looked nothing like the tuna I’d tried before. It looked like beef. I tasted it. The texture was like beef too! And the taste wasn’t even that bad. Well, the aftertaste was, but some large sips of red wine washed it all away. I texted my boyfriend the good news: “tuna isn’t that disgusting after all!”

His reply? “I told you so”.

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My verdict of this project?

Bucket lists should not be taken too seriously, but having one scribbled down ain’t gonna do no harm. My list was the extra little push I needed to book that solo trip. It was the little push I needed to do things I wouldn’t normally do. And thanks to that list, I will always remember the last months of my life as a twenty-something girl.