Archive for February, 2007

First morning

I stepped outside at 8:45 in the morning. Outside, the streets are alive with people. The first thing I notice are the children – the streets were filled with little ones going to school. As I closed the door behind me and stepped onto the street, two little Pakistani girls walk by accompanied by their mother; the girls were singing Barça´s anthem as loud as they could. I smile as their childish “Barça! Barça!” recede into the distance. Welcome to the Raval.

February 27, 2007 at 1:32 pm 3 comments

The Raval

On the post below, my friend Regina asked whether the Raval is in Barcelona or if it’s another town. So here’s a little history of this neighbourhood west of the Ramblas.

Map of Old Town

The red line on the map shows the outlines of the old Roman & medieval town of Barcelona. To the left is the Raval and to the right is the trendy area known as the Born. In 1800 most of the Raval was made of small farms located just outside the town walls and a few buildings that go back to the Middle Ages like the hospital on C/ del Carme – which now houses an art school, the Biblioteca de Catalunya, the Institute of Catalan Studies, and a medical school – and the Royal Shipyards on the southern part of the neighbourhood, near the water. Map

With the nineteenth-century industrial revolution, many textile plants were opened in the area and the immigrants poured in from around the world. The Raval quickly became known as Barrio Chino in reference to the problematic parts of San Francisco’s Chinatown. The neighbourhood was very seedy, dirty and densely populated, making it a prime spot for many epidemics during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Drugs and prostitution characterized what was then known as the darkest side of Barcelona.

Like most parts of Barcelona, the 1992 Summer Olympics had a great impact on the area. The police cracked down and dismantled the drug rings and cleaned the neighbourhood of its prostitutes (a few sites still survive) and the area has been gentrified greatly in the past decade. It’s still rough around the edges and remains the area of Barcelona with the largest proportion of immigrants, particularly from Pakistan, North Africa & the Philipines. 80% of children at the local school are immigrants.
//www.masterperiodismo.fbg.ub.es

Maybe that’s why it reminds me so much of Toronto’s Kensington Market, which is also a neighbourhood created by many waves of immigrants and despite recent attempts to gentrify it, it continues to have a character and style all of its own. That’s sort of what attracts me to the Raval. There’s an energy in the air that is unique to the place. If one looks past the seedy streets with its graffiti and suspicious stairwells, one sees that this is perhaps the one neighbourhood in Barcelona where children still play unsupervised on the streets. “Este és otro mundo” (this is another world), says Nuria Aparecido, of the Fundación Tot Raval, a neighbourhood organization. I can’t wait to be part of it, even if it’s just for two months…

————-

De la historia del Raval a la historia del mundo – the outline of a very interesting project assigned to a grade 6 class of a school in the Raval. The objective is to learn a little bit more about the history of the world by discovering the history of the Raval

Fundació Tot Raval

Short history of the area (in Spanish)

February 24, 2007 at 6:40 pm 6 comments

Moving to the Raval

We are moving to the Raval this weekend. Our rental contract is up on March 1st and since it’s not worth renewing it for another two months, which would have cost us another month of rent just to sign the paperwork, we’ll be moving in with our friends Jackie & Sebastian. I should be interesting to live in the old city for a while… Besides, I really like the diversity and energy of the Raval. It reminds me a bit of Kensington market in Toronto.

We’ve mailed a couple boxes to Canada this week but I think we’ll have to mail a few more before we leave on May 2nd. It’s amazing how much stuff one can accumulate in 11 months!!

February 23, 2007 at 5:12 pm 1 comment

Lunch on top of a mountain

Map of CatalunyaAs some of you know from Alan’s blog, last Sunday Sebastian, Alan and I took the train up to Vic for a bit of hiking.

What a day! We left Barcelona on the 9:22 train to Vic and our friends Pau & Mireia met us at the train station. We first met Pau & Mireia at Jackie & Sebastian’s place. Mireia is a PhD student who worked with Jackie at the research lab in Barcelona. Pau works as a contractor (sort of – they call it a “technical engineer” here) and, as a member of a hiking club up in Vic, he helps preserve the regions’ trails. They are a wonderful couple and some of the nicests & warmest people we have met here and the reason I get very deffensive when anyone says the Catalan are cold and unfriendly.

But I digress. Back to our hike. Pau had made reservations at a restaurant – Sanctuari de Cabrera – at a centuries’ old house on top of a mountain outside of Vic. It seems to be quite a local institution and families make a big outing out of hiking to the restaurant on the weekends. We drove part of the way and then hiked the last two hours to the restaurant. You can read all about it here. The path up there was wonderful and the building itself was…. well, you’ll see it on the slideshow below:

Click here to start slideshow

The place was obviously known only to locals. The owner freaked when Pau told her that we were from Canada & Brazil. It was the best trip we have done here. That’s what travelling is all about for me – going off the beaten track and connecting with the locals. And this weekend we got a taste of the real Catalunya…

Needless to say we had a wonderful time and will be going out with Pau and Mireia on another excursion soon… The question is: will it be the sleepy towns around the Pyrenees or the Costa Brava?

February 23, 2007 at 12:42 am 4 comments

New Camper shoes!

When I got to Spain, a friend of mine in Canada mentioned I should look for Camper shoes. “They are amazing!” she said. Unlike many women, I’m not into shoe-shopping that much. It’s not that I don’t like shoes – I love them – it’s just that my mother was always like Imelda Marcos and since we wear the same size, I’ve always just borrowed her shoes. It wasn’t until I immigrated to Canada that I discovered that I actually only possessed two pair of shoes! I’ve bought some since then but somehow the habit is just not there.

Anyways, I checked out those camper shoes sometime back in the summer and I fell in love. They are so much fun!! Here’s the pair I bought back in the summer:

My first camper shoes!

The original Camper Store hails from Mallorca and in 1981 the first branch in Barcelona was inaugurated. Since 1992 it has spread around the world and they have become quite popular lately.

I wanted to get a pair of boots and couldn’t decide between two. So Alan offered to get me one pair as an advance birthday gift and I got myself the other one. Here they are:

Cute boots

Back Boots Alan gave me

The soles are what really marks a pair of Camper shoes:

soles 1 soles 2

February 22, 2007 at 8:59 pm 10 comments

Why I blog…

I’ve been indirectly tagged by Erin to give five reasons why I blog. My answers will not be as elegantly put, but here they are:

1. As a way of keeping in touch

In the past ten years I’ve lived in five different cities in three different countries. My family lives in Brazil and I have friends all over the world. When Alan and I set out to spend a year in Barcelona, we both knew it would be one of those life-changing experiences that we would like to share with our friends. This blog, as the title suggests, was created so that we wouldn’t have to stuff our friends’ e-mailboxes with pictures and stories. This way they are free to log on and catch up whenever they feel like it… And if someone else out there comes across it and learning something about Catalunya and Spain in the process, hey, that’s great!

2.  As a travel journal

Because this has been such an amazing year for us, both Alan and I felt that it was important to keep a record of it for the future. Ideally, I would one day host my blog in my own server so I can be sure the content would never be lost…

Like Erin, the act of writing about my experiences here makes me even more attentive than usual to what goes on around me.

3. To share my photographs

I’ve recently taken up photography as a hobby. It helps me get my mind off my studies and alleviates the stresses of an academic life. Plus, going out with a camera forces me to look at the world very differently and the fact that some of those photographs will end up here later forces me to be more sensitive about what is it about this place that I would like my friends to know, what sort of feelings I would like to share… Besides, my writing is not good enough to stand on its own, I need some pretty pictures to keep my readers entertained 😉

4.  The people

Internet for me has always been about connecting with people.

I still remembered the first time I went on the Internet, back in Jan 1996. Commercial internet was barely on its infancy in Brazil but a cousin of my cousin’s had internet at home since he worked for the WHO (world health organization. We dropped by for a visit, he showed us a couple of websites and then logged on to IRC, an online chat server. It blew my mind away. The idea of being able to talk on real-time with people across the globe was just amazing to me. I had internet at home a few months later.

Through this blog and the blogs of the people who come here, I’ve met many incredible people.  Some have inspired me to be more engaged with the world around me, others have touched me for their open-mindness and positive attitude, some I have met personally, others I keep meaning to, and some are friends or family who have since created their own blogs… The ability to be able to exchange opinions and learn from all the amazing people I have met since I created this blog, keeps me coming back…

5. It helps me think and take a position

People like Denise, Erin, Regina, and my brother Jota, have really inspired me to think more clearly about some of the issues that shape our world today. One of the things I enjoy most in life is to be able to have a good conversation with someone, particularly if that person has different ideas to share. This blog allows me to share something that has been bugging me lately with friends & family around the world, who can then discuss the matter with me…

——-

Anyone else out there wants to take this on? Let me know if you do!

February 21, 2007 at 6:47 pm 9 comments

Cantonigròs

This past weekend we went on a camino with Pau and Mireia. This hike had been in the works for quite a while. Sebastian and I had talked about organizing one way back in January. We wanted to hike up north, around Vic and Pau, who is a member of the hiking feferation in Vic, knows many of the trails there. We contacted him about a month ago to see if he was available to go for a hike with us. Sunday was the day we went. We let people know where we were going and when to meet but in the end only Alex, myself and Sebastian went from Barcelona. We left for Vic on the 9:20 train out of Placa Catalunya.

Pau i Mireia

An hour and a half later, we arrived in Vic. Pau and Mireia met us at the train station and off we went. They told us that they had made reservations for lunch and that we would be hiking to the restaurant, eating and hiking back. We were in for a huge, pleasant surprise. We headed off in the direction of Olot, which is north of Vic. The highway progressively climbed as we got further from Vic. The whole landscape changed from what we were used to in Barcelona. Most of the trees were bare of their leaves and the sky, wow, so dramatic. The sun and clouds were having this huge battle for dominance and the clouds were winning each skirmish, although at times it seemed the sun would win. It was like this for the entire day and made for some of the most dramatic skies I had ever seen.

So here’s a photo of what Barcelona was like on Thursday of last week, lush and green. Keep this in mind when you view the photos from our hike.

We pulled into a parking lot for a restaurant and our hike began. we were in an area called Cantonigròs. Pau pointed the way and off we went. The light was really flat so it was hard to get good photos since there was hardly any contrast.

We walked down the highway to a dirt road that went towards the mountain.

Actually, the road ran along a valley in between mountains, the scenery was amazing. We walked past working farms and the livestock was right there. Some of the biggest bulls I have ever seen were here too. These are cows by the way.

The path eventually started to wind it’s way upwards. It started off with a gentle climb and as we entered the forest we ran into some hunters with their dogs. We could hear dogs howling since we entered the valley. I’d never seen hunters with dogs before (except in the movies) so it was quite a treat.

Aparently there are a lot of wild boars here and signs were everywhere warning hikers of the possible danger. We kept on walking upwards and the path started to narrow at points as we made our way across the terrain.

That soon ended as we started some serious upward movements. The path varied from lots of vegetation to rock. The sky kept up the show and at this time, the clouds were really winning the battle. They were so thick it was getting dark.

You could see we’d climbed a fair bit up into the mountains

and of course we had to shoot some photos (just the excuse I needed for a rest)

After our rest, ooops, I mean photo session, we climbed at a much quicker rate. The slope of the path increased quite a bit. I was sweating like mad. I sweat easily, even just doing my weight workout. I keep meaning to ask a doctor if it’s good to sweat so easily or is it a sign that something is up. I’ll have to wait until I get back to Canada I guess. Here’s the view from a little higher up, note the sky again. The sun is starting to gain a little ground.

At this point we’re “almost” at the restaurant. It’s on top of that mountain in the back and if you look closely you can see the trail that leads up. This was going to be fun (tongue in cheek).

We started up the trail and Sebastian, the mountain goat, went bouncing up the trail. You can see where we had come from and now, where we are going.

I went up at a good rate and stopped about half way up. I could actually hear my heart pounding, it was amazing. On the way up there was a marker and it gives you an idea of just how high we’d climbed in 1 hour and 30 minutes.

On top of this mountian were more trails continuing on and walking the narrow trail gave you fantastic views on both sides of the range.

It was weird because the sun was winning the war on one side and it seemed like the clouds were gathering on the other side to attack.

This was an amzing place to be. So close to the edge and nothing to guide you. You really felt the three dimensional world when you looked at the edge of the cliff.

There was also a geological marker placed at the top and there were indicators to different areas on the horizon.

As high as we were, the trail climbed even higher. Since our table was ready we only went so far.

From here we turned around and went back to the restaurant.

The restaurant, Sanctuari de Cabrera, is in a building that heralds from medieval times. It was a church and a sanctuary and the church is still there beside the resaurant. A really amazing place and a fantastic treat.

We had salad, mountain paella, beef, wine, dessert,coffee and penty of great conversation. I might add that at the beginning of the day, we, or should I say they, decided to speak only spanish and catalan. I survived and even managed to get into the conversations.

Pau and Mireia even taught me how to drink wine from a porron, a catalan wine dispenser. It takes a bit of time to master and after pouring lots of wine on my face and shirt, I finally managed it.

Here’s some clearer photos of the porron.

The room was very humid with all the cooking going on and the outside looked so uninviting. Fog was just rolling across the ground and being inside was so comforting.

The cooking was done like it has been for centuries, by fire. The kitchen had few modern conveniences since the place was so isolated.

When we left, it seemed like the sun was finally going to win the war, at least in the valley we were heading down into. The dark clouds were still blowing across so it could go any way.

The return trip took far less time than it took to get up there and when we finally made it back to the car, the sun poked out and gave us a grand farewell.

Shortly after that photo, the clouds waged a massive assault and won the day. Less than 2 hours later, the rain started.

Pau and Mireia had given memories that we will treasure for the rest of our lives. A fantastic day with fantastic friends.

February 19, 2007 at 8:11 pm 5 comments

Thursday’s Walk Feb 15,2007

I post all my photos in a place called Flickr. It’s more than just a storage place for photographs, it’s also a virtual community of photographers, artists and all types of creative individuals. One of the things I enjoy about Flickr is the ability to join a group. These are special interest communities. One may be only for critiquing, one for Black and White photography, etc.

There is one that stands a little above the others with the addition of it’s own web site that interacts with Flickr. It’s called UTATA. The admins are great for getting projects going and a regular project is the Thursday Walk. This week was Utata Thursday Walk 44. All you have to do is get out there on Thursday and take some pictures. This Thursday I did and this is what I saw and where I went. Those who visited will remember these places.

When I stepped out of our apartment I was met with clear blue skies, a great day.

I started my walk towards the Med and on the way I saw two police on horseback. We don’t see too much of that here in Barcelona so I was pretty cool.

At the next corner there were a bunch of police directing traffic. Four officers were on the sidewalk watching three others in the street. I suspect they were from the police academy and were training. I tried to get their photo but one waved me off so I figured I shouldn’t push it.

I kept walking towards the Arc de Triomf at the end of Psg Sant Joan with the sun in my eyes, it was really bright.

Once on the other side of the arc I noticed the bicycle path, this city has a very large network of cycle paths all over the city and on weekends the people are out in force on their bikes.

Looking to the right I noticed I could see the spire of Santa Maria del Mar with the sun shining between the buildings, gorgeous light.

I walked down the centre of this massive walkway and noticed a large group of elderly men playing a game of ……… Don’t know what it’s called but they were into a serious discussion (maybe cursing the dam paparazzi which was me)

I walked all the way down to the entrance of Parc Ciutadella and ventured in towards the mechanical sculpture. I turned and saw the Musee de Zoologia.

That big gear to the right is part of a massive sculpture. There were ducks in the water and they weren’t afraid of people because I got really close to one.

From there I walked throught some groves of palms and other trees. They were watering the sun shinning through the branches made for a very dramatic scene.

I stayed until they turned off the water, the air was cool and you could feel the oxygen that was in the dense brush, really fresh. I went over to the big fountain and just sat on a bench observing people with their dogs or kids or just reading books.

The sound of the water, the sunlight shining throught the trees and the cool air in the shade made this place a very peaceful and relaxing place.

I was supposed to meet Alex at 1:30 and go for lunch. It was around 12:30 and she called to see where I was. I told her and 10 minutes later she joined me. We went to lunch at a place on the corner of Psg Pujades and Lluis Companys, of course we ate out on the terrace and it was Paella day.
It was a wonderful day, it was a Thursday Walk

February 16, 2007 at 4:20 pm 3 comments

Two Weeks

Well, it’s been a very busy two weeks. Last week we went out for beers with Keiko, Sarah, Francesca and Matt. Keiko is going back to Japan after being away for over 8 years.

She left on Feb 9 and we all had to say our goodbyes. She’ll be living with her mom just outside of Osaka. We’re all going to miss her. Francesca is heading out to Bilbao and then back to Florence until about mid March so it was kind of an adios for her too.

Sarah is friends of all of us. She was our profesora in Spanish school and we all keep in touch.

And here are the three togather. I call them “las tres chica teeras”. They are great people and I’ll miss Keiko.

After we got home from that little soiree, I received an email from a friend in Toronto. William is teaching classical guitar at York and he had a student, Jordan, who was coming to Barcelona for spring break and he wanted to buy a guitar. I bought mine here and I thought the luthier where I bought was a special place. I sent an email to Jordan and agreed to meet him when he arrived on Feb 10. We actually met up on Feb 11 in Bari Gotic. He was here with his dad, Ron for a few days of relaxation. We hit it off like old friends and ended up showing them the sites for their entire stay. We brought Jordan to the guitar store on Monday and he tried out quite a few instruments.

He found one he really liked, an Alhambra and that was that. We spent the next few days touring and dining and chatting.

For their last night here, we took them to our favaorite restaurant in Barcelona, Wushu’s. During our brief time together Ron and I discovered a link we had from way back. When I was around three or four we lived in Ottawa, just off Island Park Drive. Our backyard bordered with another house that was owned by a fellow named Joe Feller. Well, it turns out that Ron know’s Joe Feller’s son and had actually been inside that house. We had been chatting about links in life and that started me thinking about some other events that happened and put me into a particular space. One that came to mind immediately was the writing of the previous post, Tribute to Our Frineds (Ron and Jordan are part of that group now).

Listen to this, it’s so strange. The reason that post is there is because a female French journalist, dropped a copy of “The Little Prince” in the Sahara desert, during the Paris / Dahkar rally. I won’t go into the sequence of events that led up to the post but I will relate the last piece. We went to see Moussa (see Alex’s blog for more info) and his words really brought the value of things to the forefront. He was the catalyst that caused me to write something I only would think about. I’m sure there are many more I could find out about. Anyhow, that one was cool.

Jordan and Ron have left now but we, both Alex and I, feel our lives are richer for having met them. I must thank William.

February 14, 2007 at 7:55 pm Leave a comment

My Valentine

I´ve always known I would one day find my soul-mate. I never dreamed he would be Canadian or 27 years my senior, but life often has a funny sense of humour. How does one identify a soul-mate? How do you know for sure? You just do. I´m a true Gemini. I´ve always been restless, curious and indecisive. I´ve always taken pride on my independence and avoided relationships and commitment like the plague. I have trouble making big decisions. Yet, from the very beginning I knew Alan and I would be together. I never once felt confused or doubted my feelings for him or his for me. There was no question or insecurity about getting married and moving to Canada, a place I barely knew anything about.

We read each other´s thoughts through the Internet. We could (and still can) talk for eight hours straight without running out of things to say. We make each other laugh. But most importantly, together we are better people. And that´s what a soul-mate is: a person who loves us exactly how we are but with whom we become a better person.

Happy Valentine´s Day Sweety!!!

It is a beautiful fact

that you and I together

can make one hour

into a holiday

Nanushka

sweety & I

February 14, 2007 at 6:30 pm 9 comments

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