Lleida. The undiscovered Catalán province

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When one thinks of Catalunya (no one who actually knows anything about Spain, besides George Orwell, will call it Catalonia), they will probably think of the capital Barcelona, the beaches of Girona, the mountains of Girona, the beaches of Tarragona or Salou and Portaventura in Tarragona (especially if they’re Basque.) They’ll think about the current controversy about their independence or the best football team ever, FC BARCELONA. (I am a bit more for Valencia, but I am also a diehard Barça supporter.) Dali will come to mind. But I doubt Lleida (Lérida in Spanish, but usually known by its Catalan and official name, Lleida) will be in the top 5 places mentioned.

Lleida capital is a city of about 140,000 habitants and can easily be seen in one day. It’s a bit far and expensive to do in a day-trip from Barcelona, but it makes a great pitstop along the way to Bilbao, Zaragoza or Madrid. It has a lot of green and a lot of history to explore.

As I love my undiscovered gems, Lleida had always been on my mind as a place to visit, especially in my quest to visit every province in Spain. In September 2013, I had my opportunity to visit the capital city on my way back from my annual visit to Barcelona. After struggling to find an affordable place to eat on a Sunday afternoon, I checked into a super nice (for the price) pensión. I think it was the Hotel Goya, but I’m not 100% sure. I dropped my stuff and went off exploring.

I first found the Seu Vella, the old Cathedral, which is a cathedral that was also used as a fortress, which is on a hill overlooking the town. The trek up here is worth it as it offers spectacular views of not only the city but also the country surrounding it. They also have the Seu Nova, the new Cathedral, which isn’t “new”, just newer, built in the 18th century. I later made my way through the Casco Viejo and took a stroll along the Riú (River) Segre. I remember watching dogs play and ducks swim in the river. I tried practicing my catalán as I could.

The surrounding province appeals to me, and I know of many places in the province I want to visit in the future. I think most of the Set Meravelles of Lledia have yet to be discovered. One day, when I’m a rich and famous writer, I’ll be able to explore as I wish!

Set Meravelles

1. Lleida

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Lleida capital is a small city with beautiful architecture, a river and tons of history. It is also your best bet to stay to explore the rest of the province.

2. Seu Vella and the Surrounding Hill (Lleida)

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Also known as the Castell (Castle) of Lleida, the old cathedral is a beautiful medieval building that took over two hundred years to build, from 1203 to 1491. It’s located on top of a hill that offers amazing views of the city and surrounding country. It’s part of the Route of 1714 that shows the most important historical sites of the War of Spanish Succession and the most important site of Lleida city (in my humble opinion). Felipe V used it as a fortress when the Seu Nova was commissioned in the 1700s.

3. River Segre and its bridges (Lleida)

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The River Segre is a tributary of one of the most important Iberian rivers, the Ebro, and flows through Spain, Andorra and France. There are many bridges that cross the river in Lleida that connect the two sides of the town. Like most cities with rivers, there are many pathways to walk, run, bike and allow dogs to play, and the river plays an important part in the city’s history.

4. Val d’Aran

The Valley of Aran is the only part of Catalunya located north of the Pyranees and they have their own language, Aranese, which they speak over Catalán and Spanish. It is home of many endangered animals, and the largest village is Viehla with 3000 residents. The entire valley only has about 7000 residents. I can’t wait to have the opportunity to explore (and write about) this valley. The comarca borders France and Aragón and is in the extreme north of the province.

5. Valle de Boi

The Boi Valley is another valley that is located in the northwest part of the province. It is home of nine Romanesque churches and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. It’s also home to the highest ski resort in the Pyranees, It’s not far from the Val d’Aran, but it is smaller in population with only 2000 people in the valley.

6. La Seu d’Urgell

La Seu d’Urgell is a small town of 12,000 people located on two rivers, the Segre and the Gran Valira in the Pyranees. Close to the historic centre is a park built for the 1992 Olympics where you can still canoe and kayak today. It’s one of the biggest towns in this part of the Pyranees.

7. Cervera

Cervera is a small village of nearly 10,000 people located in the south of the province close to Tarragona and Barcelona provinces. It has one a medieval part and was once home to a university that moved to Barcelona in 1833. One of King Felipe’s courtesy titles is “Comte de Cervera.”

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