Go to Girona, they said. It’s beautiful, they said. It’s where they filmed Game of Thrones they said. It won’t take you long to get there, they said.

And I nodded in agreement, resolving to visit this illustrious city at the first opportunity. I had just turned 18 and was on my first adult adventure, working as an au pair close to Barcelona. In a stroke of luck, I ended up with a precious couple of days where I was free of my charges so I decided to take up everyone’s recommendation. For the past couple of months, I had been hopping on planes to the Balearic Islands; zipping around on buses; and winding my way through Gaudi’s city on its metro system. I was relishing the independence of post-school life and having so far navigated my way around with success, I felt increasingly confident in my public transport skills. I’d glanced over the route in a naively blasé fashion before setting off at midday and was soon settled on my connecting train.

After 30 minutes, I looked up and was somewhat disconcerted to still see the shimmering blue of the coast as the train trundled on. Surely, we should have started to go inland by now, I thought to myself, as Girona, unlike Barcelona, is not on the coast. Scrabbling around with my poor Spanish I soon discovered that whilst I would eventually end up in Girona, I had taken the ‘scenic’ route a.k.a the sluggish train which takes 2 hours, as opposed to the 30-minute high speed train. Snaking through the lush Catalonian countryside, I cursed my incompetence, feeling that by the time I arrived and found my bearings, it would be virtually time to go home.

Looking around the empty train (empty for obvious reasons), I spotted a kind face and asked if she was also going to Girona. She said that she was, and we soon struck up a conversation. Belu was in her twenties, Argentinian, an evangelical Christian and living in Girona; she was sponsored to work on a study about tourism in the city. I have rarely been met with such amazing kindness as that which Belu showed me that day. She took me to the separate high-speed station in Girona and waited for me to buy a return ticket, guided me around the city and to the magnificent gothic cathedral. After what felt like hours of conversation, with someone whom I felt I had known for years, we hugged goodbye and Belu said that I was welcome to stay with her if I ever returned to Girona. Thanks to Belu, I had enough time to tour around the cathedral and get a flavour of the city. Even though I wished for more time, it felt serendipitous that my own ineptitude had caused me to cross paths with such an incredible, unusual individual.

Bella Stock

Bella is in her second year reading English at Teddy Hall.