Archive for November, 2006

Josep María Subirachs

I’ve never been accused of rapidly clicking into something. Alex knew this trait of mine for a long time and always waits for my “eureka” to come. In truth, she’s already suggested it months ago. Anyhow, this post is about Josep María Subirachs, a catalan artist born in Barcelona 11 March 1927. To read more about his interesting life and see other works go here.

About a month ago, Alex and I went to Mercé, a fiesta here in Barcelona. We were down in Placa de Sant Jaume in Bari Gotic and found that the public were permitted to tour the Generalitat, a governement building facing the square. It’s actually Palau de Generalitat and was built in 1596 so we were really interested in touring. Once inside, I came across this wall with an impression embedded in the wall.

Jump ahead a few months to Nov 25. That’s the day we went hiking in Montserrat. When we were walking from the cathedral to the cafeteria, Sebastian pointed out another sculpture. It had the same style as the photo above.

Here’s a close up of the face. It’s as if someone imprinted their face in the rock. To view it is really amazing, it changes with the light.

As if this discovery wasn’t fateful enough, Alex and I were walking home last night and passed Banc Sabadell building on the Passeig de Gràcia. This is what we saw ……….

Actually, these last pieces were what sparked my interest. Here’s some detail of this piece which is part of dual works. The face will turn as your viewing perspective changes.

The labirynth on top of the pedestal. I have no idea as to the meaning of the items in the relief.

And here’s the right side of the piece.

and a detail of this piece ………

Much to my surprise, I found out that this other piece, which is right around the corner from our apartment, was also created by him.

It’s amonument to Narcís Monturiol. who is the real inventor of the submarine. It was created in 1963 of concrete and copper and is approx 420 cm. high.

I think this is pointing the way to a project. The artist has many pieces here in Barcelona and around Spain. I should try to find as many as I can before I go back to Canada,

November 30, 2006 at 5:28 pm 3 comments

Barcelona Weather (Nov 30, 2006)

Wow, got up this morning and found the temperature to be 7 C. I looked at Toronto and it was 16 C and Montreal was 10 C.

IT”S WARMER OVER THERE THAN HERE ……………. I’ll let you know what the daytime temps are like.

Ok, by the end of the day we had a high of 18 C so it wasn’t too bad. I notice it’s currently 6 C in Toronto and 17 C in Montreal.

Enjoy the day wherever you are.

November 30, 2006 at 8:01 am 1 comment

Fall/Winter in Barcelona

Alan is still wearing sandals. I’m ok in just a fleece sweater. Sounds like a cool summer day?

Nope, it’s November 29th!! And it was 22 C the other day!

After seven Canadian winters, this weather feels really weird. I can only imagine what it must feel for Alan, who has lived in Canada all his life. As for me, I’m pretty sure I’ll miss the snow. There’s nothing quite like waking up one day to find the world covered in white. That was always my favourite time in the winter. Early in the morning, before the snow-removal trucks came by to clear the streets. Sometimes all you could see was a lonely set of footprints crossing the street. And the silence. The snow works a bit like a sound muffler so it’s usually pretty quiet when it snows. It is so peaceful…

But that’s ok. If we miss snow too much, we can always catch a train north and be in the middle of a ski resort in a couple of hours. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to enjoy the unusual nice weather and feast on the fall products at the local markets and whatever hint of fall colours we can find (most trees are still green).

Squash at Vic Market

Maket at Vic

Mushroom season

Rovellons

Girona colous

Chestnuts

Girona colous

November 29, 2006 at 10:02 pm 7 comments

Nov 25th: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Violence against women persists in every country in the world as a pervasive violation of human rights and a major impediment to achieving gender equality. Such violence is unacceptable, whether perpetrated by the State and its agents or by family members or strangers, in the public or private sphere, in peacetime or in times of conflict. … [A]s long as violence against women continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace. —In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary-General, 2006

Yesterday was International Day for the Eliminatio of Violence Against Women and the beginning of a period of 16 days chosen by women of 130 countries around the world to bring out awareness of the issue. Why 16 days? Because the period between Nov 25th and Dec 10th is marked by several important events in this fight:

Nov 25th: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This day was chosen because it was on this day in 1960 that the Mirabel sisters, three women who had the courage to oppose the dictatorship of Trujillo in the Dominican Republican, were murdered.

Dec 1st: World AIDS Day. Established by the World Health Organization in 1988 to focus attention on this world epidemic.

Dec 6th: École Polytechnique Massacre. On this day in 1989 a gunman breaks into an Engineering school in Montreal and kills 14 women before killing himself. The day became a hallmark for the fight against gender violence.

Dec 10th: International Human Rights Day. Celebrates the adoption by the UN in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in response to crimes committed by the Nazis against Jews, homosexuals, Roma, communists, etc and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US.

Denise Arcoverde, from the blog Sindrome de Estocolmo and creator of the NGO Grupo Origem, made a public plea that we all say something about it during the next 16 days to create, hopefully, a bit more awareness. I felt compelled to answer so expect a post on each of those dates during the next 16 days… It would help if any of you in the blogosphere remember those dates, even if it is just one post during the next couple of weeks.

Around the world, violence against women is a major cause of death and disability among women aged 16-44 years of age. As an UN report points out, it is as serious a factor as cancer and a greater cause than traffic accidents and malaria combined. Here in Spain the issue is in every major newspaper. Over 60 women have been killed by their partner or former partner this year alone. Many had restraining orders issued against their attacker.

The numbers probably pale in comparison with places like Brazil, where over 200 are killed in one city alone, but it is intolerable nonetheless. The positive side of all of this is that people are talking about it. It seems most people I talk to are aware and concerned about it. They seem to agree that as long as women are in an inferior position, things like this will go on. But judging from the cases mentioned in the newspapers, it seems to me that many cases of violence against women are caused not so much by the woman’s inferior position but by the inability of certain men to accept their wive’s equal position within society and their marriage. While women’s rights and position have improved by leaps and bounds during the past 50 years, much within our societies has still to catch up with this change. Most women’s work is still of the underpaid, undervalued category, and many men (and women) still see women as inferior and treat them accordingly.

I think the first phase of women’s rights’ movements across the world involved, to a large extent, convincing women themselves of their rights and their equality. I think our governments and society now need to convince the men of that fact. We also need to admit that women are not equal to men. We are different. We are equal as human beings. We are equal perhaps in terms of capabilities. But we are different. It’s not enough to guarantee access to jobs and schools.  We also need a flexible workplace  that allows women who have children to consiliate their roles as mothers with their jobs. We need accessible childcare services so that single women can manage a family on their own. We need our law-enforcement services to adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding violence against women. The list goes on. As the UN secretary-general said, our path towards peace, equality and development will be marred as long as violence against women persists. And violence against women will persist until our society fully embrace women’s rights and contributions.

Some sites on the issue:

Human Rights Watch: Women’s Rights – Latest news and campaigns regarding women’s rights around the world.

Instituto de la Mujer – Spanish government organ dealing with women’s issues. Provides many statistics regarding violence against women in Spain and the rest of Europe.

No más violencia contra las mujeres – Spanish site developed by Amnisty International.

Stop violence against women – Also by Amnisty International. Dedicated to the 16 days of activism to stop domestic violence.

Women’s Human Rights Resources Programme –  Located at the University of Toronto, Canada. Contains a database of legal resources related to international women’s rights as well as specific Canadian cases.

Not a minute more – Site devoted to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women created by UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women).

November 26, 2006 at 6:08 pm 2 comments

A Saturday in Montserrat

What a day. We just now returned from a hike up in Montserrat. It was a great hike, but right now I am really tired. I love the going up but coming down really plays havoc with my knee and right now, my knee is swollen. I’ll have to figure out an exercise to try and strengthen it for downhill treks. OK, I’m too tired to write anymore so I’ll go and work on the photos for this blog.

We were out the door at 7:15 to meet whoever was coming on this hike. We were meeting at Placa Espana near the tower at 8:00. Sebastian, Alex, myself and Zephyr, Naomi’s nephew were the hiking crew. We caught the 8:36 train and arrived in Monistrol de Montserrat an hour later. Last time we were there we took the funicular to the monastery and we missed the beautiful old streets ofMonistrol de Montserrat.

I wonder about the traffic through these streets 500 years ago.

As soon as we got off the train, the trails were marked. You had to keep your eyes open to catch the markings but they were there. We followed them trhought the town and ended up at the trails GR5 and GR96. The GR (Gran Recorrido (Spanish) or Gran Recorregut (Catalan)) is a network of long-distance footpaths in Europe, mostly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. Many GR routes make up part of the longer European walking routes which cross several countries so we are only connecting to a small portion of the trail. GR5 and GR96 are a single trail at this point. We passed an old orchard, and I mean OLD, and the remaining trees assumed some really amazing shapes. This was one of the most gnarled. The reason, it was made up of two trees that had wound around each other.

This old path had two sentries guarding the way. It looked like the entrance to another world and the area had a very mysterious feeling to it.

At the beginning I couldn’t shake the feeling of all the souls that had passed this way before. This trail was also part of the pilgrimage route to the old monastery. It was almost 1000 years old and had seen many pilrims pass this way.

We had passed the place where GR5 and GR96 separate. We took GR96 upwards and as we climbed higher, we could see GR5 far below us winding its way along. The two trails meet at the monastery but from here, looking down on GR5, you wouldn’t know it.

After a while, we stopped for some food and to take in the area. Of course, Sebastion saw the old frame on the post and suggested a photo in it. So here we have Alex, Sebastian, Zeph and myself.

We still had to walk well past thatdistant bluff with the boulder at it’s bottom and we noticed that the clouds were getting lower. It looked like it might get foggy again.

We’re getting closer to our destination and the sun is trying to break through the low clouds.

The rock cliffs are made up of smaller stones held by some sort of hardened clay or other cement like material. It’s really hard and the embedded stones are quartzes, flint like rocks, marble. Much of them seem to be rounded by water like in stream beds. I’m just guessing on this so it might be interesting to read up on the geology of this area, how it happened to come into existence.

We were quite high up when the fog began to beat out the sun for dominance. The vegetation at this location was quite dense with fair sized trees.

Well, a few more metres onwards and the fog came in. It was really beautiful but I’m glad it came late. If it hadn’t we wouldn’t have been able to see the wonerful views on our way up.

There were some really interesting berries on the way up. Here is a photo of one of them. Zeph was also commenting on all the wild spices he found growing alongside the trail.

We finally made it to the monastery. The fog made it absolutely stunning. I wish I could have had the expertise to take some more photos of the area but this is all I can offer.

Alex wanted to go into the cathedral because she heard that the choir was going to sing at 1:00. The children’s choir at Montserrat is world famous for it’s music and school of music. Here’s a detail of inside the cathedral. There was a choir singing but not the one Alex wanted to hear.

From the cathedral we made our way to the cafeteria to eat something and chat for a bit before heading back. On our way back to the trail we passed this modern version of a knight in a medieval alcove. The artist also had a work in the Generalitat in Barcelona. It’s the inverted maiden that I have photos of in flickr. The Knight is also inverted in the stone.

Wow, the fog really picked up on our way down. It was really beautiful the way the wind would blow it by. We were going to return by way of GR5 so we would have a different trail to return on.

And on the way down, more interesting berries. Sebastian saw the colour of these and I had to get a picture.

As we descend the fog begins to lift. It wasn’t coming and going as we thought (or as I thought) but it was us who were going into it and coming out of it. It was the cloud ceiling itself and we were climbing into it on our way up and descending out of it on our way down. I should have realized it when we saw the peaks from Monistrol. They were in the clouds.

The GR5 was a wide path with a gentle slope downwards. Most of the climb down was immediately after leaving the monastery. There were stone steps, hundreds of stone steps, leading down to the wide path. It be a big surprise to those who take GR5 upwards. A nice leisurely walk until you hit the steps. It must be a 400 metre climb up those ill spaced steps.

The sun trying to get out again.

And we finally make it back to Monistrol de Montserrat. It was a great day.

By the way, upwards is fine, downwards is hell. My knee has a great deal of trouble going down. If anyone has any suggestions to get it into shape, please, let me know.

Have a great week.

November 26, 2006 at 5:20 pm 3 comments

Sunday, November 19

Well, this is the last Sunday of Christine’s visit. It’s weird but after a visit by friends, we’re always at a loss of what to do. This feeling only lasts for a few for a few days until we can re-adjust. Today, we decided to head over to Montjuic and show Christine around. It was a beautiful day on the mountain. When we arrived up at the fort, a cruise ship was just arriving in the port.

You can see all the sailors out enjoying the beautiful November weather. Wow, what a statement, beautiful November weather. Feels weird saying that. Anyhow, we walked over to the other side of the fort to see the sun over the Mediteranean, simply gorgeous.

That’s the side opposite the city and there is a lot of industry, including the airport on that side. We walked around inside the fort and the flowers are all in bloom. One bed of flowers was unkown to us and quite strange looking. They looked like the back of a long necked birds.

Down in the moat is a special area for archery. The targets are about 250 metres from the archers and they use scopes to see where the arrows hit. There were quite a few archers, most of them beginners, but one fellow was really quite accomplished. He had a beautiful compound bow and when he let the arrow loose, you couldn’t follow it. They are really fast. He was consitently hitting within the yellow ring and had two or three arrows in the centre. Quite the shot.

We rounded the fort and I had to take this picture of the rampart with guns pointed out over the sea.

They had quite the commanding view of anything coming near Barcelona. After leaving the castle we walked back down the way we came. It was much easier going down than heading up to the castle. Once we reached the old olympic diving pool we took the funicular all the way down to Poblenou. We went to a restaurant in Poblenou for lunch and after went over to Jackie and Sebastian’s so they could say goodbye to Christine. It was a great day like all the others with Christine. As I said, it will take a few days to readjust when Christine returns to Montreal on Tuesday.

November 24, 2006 at 9:02 pm Leave a comment

A Casa Portuguesa: Is the luso-hispanic divide breaking down?

Despite sharing a border and being ruled once by the same king for nearly a hundred years, Portugal and Spain have always kept each other at arms’ length. The two countries have much in common but numerous wars over the centuries led to a relationship that at times have been marked by open mistrust and antagonism. For long they simply ignored the other’s existence; Portugal turned towards alliances with England while Spain looked up at France. The opening of a little Portuguese haven in Gracia shows that this distance is beginning to shorten.

One of the great advantages of the development of our global village, the advent of mass tourism, the Internet, and the breaking of barriers brought forth by the EU is that old rivalries slowly fade as people discover that the country next door is actually a nice place to visit. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I’ve met a lot of people here who has lived in Lisbon or other parts of Portugal. They have encouraged Alan and I to visit and in a few weeks we’ll be setting out to Lisbon.

Last night we discovered a wine bar/delicatessen/bakery specialized in Portuguese products. It’s up in Gracia, on calle Verdi, past the cinema. Called A Casa Portuguesa, they have wonderful pastéis de nata and while having one with a nice cortado I struk conversation with the outgoing girl behind the bar. She thought I was German at first but that’s another story. Anyways, they have been open only two months and are doing well. The owners are Portuguese and soon realized there were no Portuguese shops in Barcelona (!). They decided not only to fill that void and provide the Portuguese community with a shopping spot but also to educate the locals on things Portuguese. As soon as we mentioned we would be visiting Lisbon in a few weeks, the Portuguese girl behind the bar pulled out all kinds of guide books and starting writing down recommendations of places we should visit. She was so nice!! If that’s the way people are in Lisbon, this promises to be a memorable trip!!

As for the long-held rivalry between Spain and Portugal, the girls assure me they have never once experienced it here in Barcelona. They mostly get surprise and interest from locals as they discover the rich culture of the little country on the other side of the peninsula. One young guy exclaimed “wow! they make wine in Portugal??” The girls just smile incredulous and without missing a beat go on to introduce the poor soul into the richness of the Portuguese wine industry.

With a space so inviting and warm, there’s no way the rivalry could last 😉 These are the pictures of last night’s port wine tasting event:

Portuguese goodies

hmmm, those jams and fruits look wonderful…

Vinegar

Clever way of displaying bottles of vinegar

serving port Cash

A Casa Portuguesa is on C/ Verdi 58, Gracia, Barcelona. Check out their website on www.acasaportuguesa.com . Don’t miss the Ginginha de Óbidos (sweet cherry liquor) served in chocolate cups. The Pasteis de Belem are also very good.

November 23, 2006 at 7:34 pm 2 comments

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