Archive for January, 2007

Pictures from Arenys de Mar

The problem with having a film camera is that I’m always behind when it comes to posting pictures on this blog…

Anyways, the pictures from our trip to Arenys de Mar are in! Click on the image below to watch a slideshow:

Arenys slideshow

January 31, 2007 at 9:22 pm 2 comments

Monks, kings, markets & calçots

Yesterday was amazing! We drove through wine country, discovered a gorgeous thirteenth-century monastery, wandered through the market at Valls, and drove through half the region searching for calçots.

I can´t wait to tell you all about it but since I´m at work right now, I´ll direct you to Alan´s blog, where he talks about our day and shares some of the beautiful pictures he took.

January 29, 2007 at 5:28 pm 4 comments

Valls, Jan 28, 2007

In the province of Taragona in Catalonia is the small pueblo (village) of Valls which dates from before the 13th century. Alex had heard that they were having a big fiesta this weekend and it involved food. Calcots to be exact. These are calcots…..A sort of onion.

 

The calcots are roasted on an open fire.

While the visit was interesting it wasn’t the highlight of the day. Before I get into that I have to tell you how the day began. We had been planning for a few weeks and invited our friends to come along if they wanted to. Alex looked at transportation and we found out that the only train up to Valls left Barcelona at 7:00 AM with the return leaving Valls at 6:00 PM. I was not too sure about this as it meant that we’d be stuck there whether we liked it or not, but I was commited. We went to bed around 10:30 Saturday night to get up at 5:00 the next morning. At 1:30 I heard my phone. It was a message from Sebastian. He wanted to go to Valls but didn’t want to get up so early so he was offering to drive. We agreed and he came to pick us up in the morning. Alex sent text messages to people she thought might show up at the train station in the morning explaining the change of plans. By chance, Joy caught us before we left the city and we picked her up too.

Off we go. We pull off the highway and head towards MontBlanc on a secondary road. This is wine country and there were vineyards on both sides of the road. Beautiful scenery. On the way, we happen to see a sign for a monestary in Poblet. Alex had come across frequent documents from 1354 that came from there so we decided to go there. It was fate taking care of us again. Here’s some history on the monestary

The Cistercian order, initiated in 1098, founded Poblet in 1151, less than a hundred years later. Most of the rooms and buildings were completed in the 12th and 13th centuries. These facilities are virtually intact. They are today as they were back then. Other than normal upkeep and repair, no restoration has ever been done.

The history of the monks who, day after day, made the growth and continuity of the monastery possible has never been written and probably never will. The monks still live here and have not deviated from the original ideals of the founders of the Cistercians and, likewise, the founders of Poblet, who originated from Fontfroide.

Entering the monastery through the front gates gave us a small glimpse of what was to come.

This beautiful iron gate was made by blacksmiths. You could see the workings in the iron. Just gorgeous.

The dining room. We were there around lunch time and ours was the last tour through. You could see the tables set for the monks who would arrive soon.

From there we were taken to the place where the monks worship. To the side of the alter were the tombs of kings and queens. The tombs of Pere III (1319–1387) & his successor Joan I, both were rulers of the Crown of Aragon (Catalonia, Aragon, Valencia & Balearics) were here. Alex was so happy to find this out. She calls them “her kings”.

 

Out in the cloisters, the light was amazing. Even shadows on the walls hinted of the past with an air of mystery. You could almost feel the presence of those who passed before.

This area was so peaceful, I guess it was a place for contemplation.

The sound of trickling water made it even more tranquil. I was really in awe of this place.

The architecture and detail out here was gorgeous and it was all original. The craftmanship was awesome.

We left the cloisters to enter another part of the monastery. This was the dining area of the lay people who worked for the monks. As the population of the order diminished, the dining room was no longer needed and was converted to a wine cellar.

From there we climbed some steps to another part of the facility. Notice the hand rail, stunning work.

They were all waiting for me around the corner. Notice how cold they look, it was pretty chilly that day.

I didn’t think the day could get any better and from here we headed over to Valls. We were too late to get the calcots. They had run out of tickets. Apparently, you buy tickets and get a complete package of wine, bread, some sauce and roasted calcots, plus an apron. There were people standing at long tables with their aprons on and eating their calcots. We tried to find a restaurant to eat but they were way too expensive. We decided to drive a bit to see if it would get less expensive and it did. We stopped in one small place that had a castle on the hill. What a day.

This one will be hard to top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 29, 2007 at 3:06 pm 3 comments

Calçots

We are leaving soon to Valls, a town near Tarragona for their famous calçots festival. I’ll write all about it when we get back, but for more info you can check out:

Festa de la calçotada de Valls

Sal DeTraglia’s Virtual Tapas Bar

calçots

January 28, 2007 at 10:03 am Leave a comment

Travelling the world…

At our friend Zephyr’s birthday party yesterday we met a very cool couple. Peace and So Jung are from Korea and are taking a thirteen-month trip around the world. In the past seven months they’ve been through Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and then by land through Cambodia, Laos, China, Tibet, India. From India they flew to London and Liverpool (he’s a big Beatles fan), and then Barcelona to study some Spanish before they start the next leg – South America! This morning they left for NY for ten days. The next six months will take them through Cuba, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, then back to Europe to explore Scandinavia & Eastern Europe before they moved on to Japan and then home.

I really admire people who do that…. I secretly hope I can do that one day…

GOOD LUCK PEACE AND SO JUNG!!!!

Peace & So Jung

January 27, 2007 at 4:03 pm 1 comment

Meeting friends from the blogosphere

Bruna is a Brazilian web designer who spent many years in France and now lives here in Barcelona. Cris is a Brazilian chemist, who lives in Paris where she does a master in chemistry and works for L’Oreal. We first met in the blogosphere and today we met in person for the first time.

Girls out for lunch

I discovered Bruna’s blog when I was searching for info on living in Barcelona. Somehow her blog came up and I got hooked right away. She seems to be a very positive and adventuresome person, and we would post the odd comment on each other’s blog. She’s also a great writer. I’ve discovered Cris’s blog through Bruna’s site recently and have enjoyed reading her impressions of Paris, a city I love.

Bruna and I have been trying to get together for a while and with Cris in town for a few days, we decided to grab the opportunity and have lunch together. We went to Wushu (no, it’s not the only restaurant in this city! this time it was Bruna’s fault; she suggested it) for lunch where Cris and I had the special of the day:

Curry Rojo con Ternera

Curry rojo con ternera & boniatos (red curry with beef & sweet potatoes)

While Bruna had this wonderful dish:Curry Verde con Gambas y Vieiras

Curry verde con vierias & gambas (green curry with shrimp & scallops) [must have it next time, it looked very yummy]

For dessert, we all had the dessert that came with the special of the day:

Tatin de Manzana

Tatin de manzana con gelado de coco (Apple pie with coconut ice cream)

We walked out very happy and I wish I could have gone with them to explore the city. Alas, I had to work…

But now that I know where Bruna lives and since she swims very near where I work, maybe we can get together more often 😉

January 26, 2007 at 7:16 pm Leave a comment

Paella Day

Thursday is Paella Day here in Barcelona (maybe in all of Catalunya?). Every bar and restaurant that serves a menu del dia (those lovely three-course meals with drink and bread that one can get for as little as 7 euros) has paella on the menu on thursdays. Nobody really knows when/how the tradition started but it’s been around for as long as people can remember.

Paella is one of those emblematic foods that became the gastronomic symbol for a particular country, much like feijoada in Brazil and curry in India. Like the curry it’s a pretty general dish rather than a particular recipe (it basically mean rice cooked in a paella – a wide, flat dish) and like the feijoada, despite being known internationally as the country’s national dish, it hails from a specific region and it is better known (or better period) in some regions than in others. I don’t think I would go for a paella in Madrid (as I wouldn’t go for a feijoada in Manaus), but I wouldn’t miss one in any Catalan or Valencian seaside town.

In Barcelona, there’s paella for all tastes. There are expensive ones at the seafood restaurants around Barceloneta, there are crappy, horrible ones at touristy restaurants across the city (stay as far away from restaurants with a placard in front with several pictures of paellas saying “El Paellador” or some such name), and homey, honest ones at bars & restaurants for lunch. I tend to favour the latter. So on thursdays Alan comes to meet me at the archives, we go over to one of the many bars & restaurants nearby and have lunch together. Today’s paella had seafood (shrimp, bits of calamari, mussels, clams…) and meat. I had a salad to start – they call is a ensalada verde but it resembles very little the green salads we eat in canada; the lettuce (that’s the green part) comes covered in tuna, cucumber, carrots, tomatoes, olives, onions, corn nibblets, bits of pickles, chicory, endives, etc… – followed by the very juicy and fresh paella, acompanied by peach juice and finished with yogurt. All for the modicum price of 7.50 euros. Hmmm, as Borat would say – I LIKE, very MUCH. Long live Paella Day!!

Here’s a picture of Sebastian and Patxi making paella & black rice when we first met:

Chefs at work

I have to get him to teach me how to make it….

January 25, 2007 at 7:46 pm 3 comments

Wushu – New season

Yesterday we introduced our new friends Kim & Steve to our favourite restaurant in Barcelona. Wushu had been closed for about 2 weeks while Brad & Paula did some work on the place and took a much-needed vacation.

They started the new year with a new menu. Some of the basis remained – Brad’s amazing thai curries and attention to detail were still there – but dishes changed somewhat. The red curry – which I love! – now comes with duck & eggplant, the yakisoba comes with kanagaroo meat, and there’s a new green curry with prawns that looked really yummy. The prices of the mains went up a notch and the list of appetizer grew. According to Brad, they wanted to make the place more “restauranty” and less “noddle-housy”. Lunch menus continue – from tuesday to friday you can get a special dish of the day with dessert & drink for 9.90 euros. A really good deal considering the quality of the food and service.

Still highly recommended. I think I’ll have the green curry next time.

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Wushu Wok/Restaurant/Bar is on c/ Colomines, 2, right behind the Mercat de Santa Caterina (Born). 933 107 313 . They are open Tue-Sat from 13:00 to 23:00.

Update: Wushu has moved to larger premises:

Avda. Marqués d’Argentera 1
08003 Barcelona
Metro: Barceloneta
Tel: 933 107 313

January 25, 2007 at 9:12 am 2 comments

Photo Morning

This morning I didn’t really feel like going to the gym but I had to do something. I decided to go down to the docks where all the commercial fishing boats are. My intention was to try and get some interesting photos.

Alex and I headed out the door at 8:00 and the first thing we noticed was …………IT WAS COLD. Not Canadian cold but cold enough to make your bare hands uncomfortable. Actually, it was 5 C but windy. We took the bus down to where Alex is doing her research and stopped for a coffee near there. She went to work and I took the tram down to the beach. I walked along the boardwalk looking for something to photograph. The sun was shining straight in from the Med and it was bright. The waves were breaking a little off the beach and the sun behind them made for an interesting subject. I’d never shot waves before so here was my chance. Down to the water’s edge I go, get the camera out and …… couldn’t see a thing. Camera settings were on the lcd but the sun was so bright I couldn’t see anything. I had to guess and use the viewfinder. Here’s what I caught and I’m quite pleased considering …….

This last one was the worst of them all. The sun was directly in front of me and I couldn’t even see the actual wave. I went by the sound and shot when I thought it was breaking. Pure luck.

I kept walking to the docks but I couldn’t get close to the water. Everything was blocked off on the dock side and the beach side was full of construction. I was getting coolish (a true Canadian would not be cold in +5 C) at this point so I headed back home. At least it wasn’t a total waste and I actually enjoyed the morning.

Oh, here’s another photo I came across on my computer. Just loaded it up to Flickr

Have a great day.

January 24, 2007 at 1:12 pm 2 comments

Blog for Choice

Today marks 34 years since Roe vs Wade, the historic US supreme court decision that allowed the legalization of abortion in the United States. Canada liberalized abortion for some pre-determined cases in 1969 and completely decriminalized it in 1988. Unfortunately, that´s not the same in Brazil, my home country, where abortion continues to be a crime unless the mother´s health is at risk or the pregnancy was the product of a rape.

When I was 17 my best friend´s girlfriend became pregnant. He was still in high school, she was starting dentist school in another city, away from family and friends. She felt she couldn´t go on with the pregancy and luckily for her, my friend´s dad was a doctor who was able to perform the abortion in a hospital, safely. It was not a decision taken lightly and both my friend and his girlfriend suffered greatly for it.

In Law School, we once discussed abortion in class. The teacher used to be against legalizing abortion until she lived in one of the poorest parts of the country and understood the reality behind the criminalization of abortion – how can you discuss the moral and ethical issues against abortion to a poor woman, who already has ten children under her belt, who had no access to contraceptives and whose husband walked away?  She will abort no matter what – with or without a risk to her own life.

I am pro-life and pro-choice. I am pro-choice because I believe that a woman has the right to make the difficult choice to end a pregnancy. And I consider myself “pro-life” because I think that denying a woman the right to make that choice only result in more death and suffering. Legalizing abortion would mean more women would be able to seek help and counselling from a trained medical professional and fewer would die. Maybe with that she would be able to make a choice that isn´t marked by panic and despair.

Furthermore, legalizing abortion would not mean that they would be encouraged or that the number of abortions might go up. Brazil, where abortion is illegal, has one of the highest rates of abortion in the world. Thirty percent of all pregnancies end up in abortion, that is 1.4 million abortions. Holland, which has one of the most liberal policies regarding abortion, has one of the lowest rates (10%). And in Canada, there has been no marked increase in abortion rates since the decriminalization of the practice 19 years ago.

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For abortion history, law and figures in Canada, go here.  

For a brilliant overview of abortion through history, go here. (in portuguese)

For a lucid discussion of the difficult moral and ethical issues that surrounds abortion, go to Denise Arcoverde´s blog. (in Portuguese)

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This post is a response to NARAL Pro-Choice Action Network´s call for bloggers everywhere to talk about the issue today.

January 23, 2007 at 2:06 pm 1 comment

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