Posts filed under ‘Fiestas’

A Great Day

Tuesday, April 17, 2007.

What a day. In the morning I worked on some photos that I had set aside and around noon I went over to Alexandra’s archives so we could go for lunch. Alex wanted to go to a place with a terrace that was across from Parc de le Ciutadella. We had a great lunch outside. The park trees have their new growth of green and it was really spring like (at a temperature of 24 + it was more like summer). After we ate, Alex went back to work and I went off to the park to lay around in the grass. I found a great place in the shade of a palm tree so I pulled out my ipod, set up my knapsack as a pillow and lay down on the grass. Lot’s of people all around me doing the same thing, just relaxing.

I don’t know how long I lay there but a group of swedish girls sat down close by to sunbathe. One of them, Erika, started chatting, really friendly and bubbly (almost too bubbly). She was here in Barcelona for a month. It turns out she comes here every year for a month and has been doing so for the past six years. She tells me that she has made friends from all over the world and has kept in touch with most of them. We hung about for most of the afternoon and when she left I went to a new spot by the big fountain. I looked out over the scene in front of me and couldn’t beleive it. This was more like dreamland than reality.

I think the thing that really clinched it all was when this guy cycles in and stops by one of the palm trees. He was carrying all kinds of things, 2 guitars, a drum and a big bag full of other stuff. He parks his bike and begins to unpack. Next thing I know, he’s pacing off the distance between the palm trees. I was really curious so I watched what he was up to. Turns out he was stringing up a strap between the two trees. A bunch of his friends arrive and they all settle in. They just radiated a joie de vie that made me slightly envious. It was really amazing. Anyhow, the strap was for walking on. Some were tightrope walking, others sitting around dinking matté and others making music. I loved it and thought about all the young people over in Canada who should make it a point of coming to Barcelona. It’s a paradise or maybe it’s mine. who knows.

Anyhow, for the past few weeks I have been playing around with a game on internet called Second Life. It’s like a chat room but you have animated characters that represent you and there is a virtual world to explore. It’s quite the place with buildings and roads and averything else a person can think of. I usually go to this specific spot and just watch the interaction of the animated characters. All kinds of outfits and animations that I could never describe in words. My point is that watching people in the park was so similar to watching the fantasies in Second Life that I immediatly fell in love with Barcelona all over again. It’s not the place for everyone but for me, it is amazing. Some compare it to Paris in the beginning of the last century.

I’ll miss this place.

April 19, 2007 at 11:12 am Leave a comment

Easter Weekend

We had an amazing Easter weekend. On Friday, Alex wanted to go to a parade which was starting in Raval at this huge old church. Other churches added groups to the parade. It started at 5:00 so we went close to where it bagan. Apparently, it makes its way to the cathedral and arrives around 8:30 at night. Leading the parade were 2 mounted police. Beautiful horses and uniforms. The riders were very friendly too.

We picked a spot where people were shortest and right across from the mounted police. While we were waiting for the parade to start we met these three Catalan women. They were just too funny. They were chatting up the mounted police and flirting with them. They were laughing and have a great time. We chatted with them and they told us all about the parade, where they lived, how long they’d known each other and lots of other chit chat. The one on the right said I looked american and apologized when I told her I was canadian. We had so much fun with them.

The procession started and this massive float came down the street. It was being carried by many men who were actually under it and physically carrying it. One man was in front of the float yelling out instructions and directions. There was lots of gold on this float. Really gorgeous.

The fixtures just glowed in the sun. Very beautiful creations and I am sure they were REALLY heavy.

In between the floats were people walking. A group of Spanish women in traditional dress walked by and I managed to get her attention and a big smile. I was so excited I blurred the shot. I had to soften it up to save the photo but her smile was beautiful.

The parade had other marchers and one other huge float but I didn’t manage to capture them well. The crowds were too dynamic and it was hard to get good photos.

On Saturday, Sebastian drove us to Besalou, it’s just 50 kms from the french border and on the way we could see the snow covered mountains of the Pyrenees. Just beautiful. The drive through the country was just great. The trees were just showing the tinge of green that showed new life was on it’s way. It made me feel amazing inside and I enjoyed it immensley. We arrived at Besalou and I was really pleased we had come here. It was like out of a book.

Walking around the city we popped into an artist’s tellier. Josep was the artist and once again we were treated like old friends by another catalan. They are so welcoming. We chatted with him for quite along time and he shared a bit of muscatel wine with us. A really interesting individual and I loved his workshop.

Lot’s of studies and unfinished pieces.

We left Josep and wandered around the town some more. I guess you can only see so many old buildings and churches. I tried imagining what it was like 700 years ago but couldn’t get there.

The others had a good time and Alex wanted to see some part of the Jewish legacy that this village held.

Just outside the walls, down by the river, was a very serene scene. I could have sat under the tree and lost myself. Everyone was getting hungry and we still had to get to Olot.

We finally arrived in Olot and had a great meal there. It took a bit of time to find the restaurant because Sebastian was looking for one that they had been to a while ago. It was well worth the wait because the food was sooooo amazing. After eating we finally managed to catch up with Joy and her friends. We had been paying tag with her all day. We all went for a drink at some bar in Olot and then headed home. We went over towards Vic and saw snow by the side of the road at the higher elevations. It was a great day.

April 10, 2007 at 3:19 pm Leave a comment

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

Portugal

On Friday, December 8, Alex and I boarded a ClickAir flight to Lisbon. We had been planning a trip to Lisbon and Alex managed to buy 2 return tickets for 120 euros. It was my first experience on a low cost carrier and we were travelling with just carry on luggage. The flight was not full so there were no problems but I don’t think I’ll travel low cost again because of one thing, the open seating. If that flight were full, it would have stressed me out totally. I know, it shouldn’t but ……….. Besides, if you book further out, the prices are not that high on regular carriers. We’ll have to see.

Alex was planning our Lisbon activities even before we left Barcelona. What restaurants we’ll eat in, what sights we’ll see, if there’s anything extra special to visit, etc. She loves doing that when we go on a trip somewhere and really knows her way around once we get there.

After a 2 hour flight, we landed at Lisbon airport. It’s not far from downtown and we had no problems finding the aerobus to take us there. It cost 3 euros but that included all day access to trams and buses (not metros). We got off at Praca dos Restauradores, walked across the square and found our hotel without any trouble at all.

After dumping our bags, we headed out the door to do some exploring. We walked up to Bairro Alto and Chiado because Alex had found a restaurant she wanted to have lunch at. When we got there we found it closed so we did a random thing and found another one. After eating we walked over to the 1920’s café, Brasileira, in Chiado. Once the haunt of writers and intellectuals, it has maintained it’s look and feel from that era.

After a fine café, we jumped on the 28 tram and took it to the end of the line. This route is a must because it takes you from the crest of one hill, around the castle on the other hill and back down to the square.

The driver was very friendly and actually picked us up between stops. These trams are beautiful cars from an era where craftmanship dominated. The inside was beautiful wood and brass.

Lisbon is a city built on 7 hills and the streets in some areas are very narrow. The trams are perfect, small and powerful, they can get up the steepest streets and around the tightest corners. The regular trams and buses would not be able to go into the older parts of the city.

After wandering around all day, we went back for a siesta before heading to Walter’s and Detlef’s restaurant, Pano de Boca. Before that, though, we had to have a ginjinha. GinJinha has to be the most localised drink in the world. It is only found in certain neighbourhoods in Lisbon.

Ginjinha is a cherry liquer and it is the only thing sold in this bar.

This place had crowds outside, sipping their ginjinha. It was a great way to finish up the day.

After resting a bit we headed out for supper to Detlef’s restaurant.

He managed to talk me in to having a beer, a dark beer on top of that and I really enjoyed it. We finally met Walter, Sebastian has many tales about experiences working with Walter, and I was really glad to meet him at last.

We sat down to an amazing meal. I had wild boar that was excellent, VERY good. Detlef picked the wine and it went very well with my meal. Detlef, if you read this, send me the name of the wine in a comment. Alex and I want to thank you and Walter for an excellent evening, it was great.

The next morning we were out of the hotel by 8:30. We were going up to Castelo de Sao Jorge in Alfama. The oldest remains found here date back to the 6th century BC.

The castle itself has parts that date from the 10th – 11th centuries. It was here that Vasco da Gama was welcomed by King Manuel I after returning from India. It was declared a national monument in 1910 and sits up on the top of the highest hill in Lisbon. To get there we took the 28 tram and walked through the back streets at the top.

After wandering around medieval streets we finally came across the castle.

Walking in the castle grounds was very peaceful. It was hard to imagine that this was a building designed for war and I’m sure that many unpleasant things happened to people here.

The slope was very evident here, it would have been a difficult place to storm.

We walked all around the castle, up steps along the ramparts, lot’s of places to explore.

We left the castle and started walking in the general direction of our hotel. On the way dwon, Alex went into an artisan’s shop. She called me in and I was astonished. It had been a stable for horses and each display was in a stone water trough for the horses. This building predated the earthquake of 1756. They didn’t really know it’s age but the coat of arms over the door was dated around the 15th century. They were pretty sure that the coat of arms had been added to the building and was not part of the original building. Across the street was the cathedral Sé. It was started around 1150 but earthquakes and fires have taken it’s toll.

The cloisters was being excavated by archeologists. There were roman and moorish artifacts being found here. Even the outline of roman streets were here. The building is in rough shape but that just adds to it’s beauty.

We walked back to Bairro Alto and Chiado and went for lunch. You’ll have to read Alex’s blog about our meals, she’s the food expert and lover. After lunch we went to the ruins of Igreja do Carmo.

Founded in the late 14th century by Nuno Alvares, the church was at one time, the biggest in Lisbon. It was destryed in the earthquake of 1756 killing many as the roof and walls collapsed on those inside.

The chancellory survived the earthquake and now houses an archaeological museum. It’s very interesting. We walked around some more and found dedicated trams for the steep streets.

I must confess that my knee was killing me walking around. When we went back to the hotel I soaked it in hot water to ease the pain. It had swelled up a lot too. This is the first time ever that I noticed swelling in my knee.

The next day we were on the streets by 9:00. We were going to Belem to see a few things that Alex had noticed. We hopped on the bus that took us along the river and got off at the Torre de Belem. It seems that Sunday is the day that all museums are free so we went to both the Torre and Mosteir.

Commisioned by Manuel I in 1515 as a fortress in Tagus river. It’s in amazing condition and the stonework is amazing. It once stood in the middle of the river but now lies just offshore. Leaving the Torre we went across to the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos.

The entrance to the monastery is full of intricate detail, all carved in stone.

Building started in 1501 and was cared for by the Order of St Jerome until 1834 when all religious orders were disbanded. The cloisters in this monastery are stunning.

These are the halls around the central courtyard.

Time for coffee and an extra specila treat. Just around the corner from the monastery is Pasteis de Belem. This cafe has been here since 1837 and is world famous for its little pasteis.

We had a little lunch and then ordered the pasteis. Wow, we were not disappointed at all. We ordered 2 more becaue we noticed that everyone ordered 2 each and not wanting to be too different, we adapted. We actually went back the next day.

The rest of our visit was wandering in no particular fashion with no particular destination, just to take some photos like these……….

an HDR shot of a street showing how steep they can be

A water fountain at the end of tram # 28 route

Alex has a lot more to say about our food experiences and especially, thanks to Detlef’s tip, the surprise we had on our last evening in Lisbon. Go find out about it in her blog.

For more photos of Portugal, go here…….. or, for a slide show go here.

December 13, 2006 at 1:07 pm 4 comments

A Park and an Airshow

I cannot believe that September is over. The time seems to be flying past as quickly as some of the aircraft we saw this weekend. It seems like yesterday when Norbert and Carole arrived and they left over a week ago. Once again I had trouble adjusting to the quiet after being busy. It always takes a day or two to readjust.

This Saturday, Alex and I took the metro up to Parc del Laberint. It’s way up in the mountain, just beyond the range of the city maps. Needless to say, it is off the tourist path. We took the metro L3 up to Mundet and walked up from there. It’s quite different from the Barcelona we know in Eixample, much more modern. By the way, we didn’t realize that it cost us 2 Euros each to get in (it’s free on Sundays) but we didn’t mind since the fee is used to help maintain the park.

The theme of the park is that of the neoclassical garden of the XVIII century. Very romantic with lots of statues and fountains and most importantly, secluded benches. There is a house which belonged to the Marqués de Llupià y de Alfarràs but it is in great need of repair and is closed off to the public. In a garden house nearby, there is a defence tower, known as the Torre Subirana, which dates back to mediaeval times.

There were very gnarled, twisty trees lined along one of the pathways. Quite interesting shapes but I didn’t capture the feeling in the photo.

We hurried thought the park because we arrived there later than we had planned and Alex had things to do at home. To be honest, it was not an inspiring day but you can’t expect every day to be.

On Sunday, we headed down towards Forum. We caught the number 6 bus and took it to the end of the line. It’s another area of the city that we had never been to and the area used to be industrial. It’s in the process of change and a very interesting place to be with a camera. We couldn’t explore because we were going to see an air show. It started at 9:00 and we got off the bus at around 9:20. I could here jets, not the muffled jets that propel commercial aircraft but the growl of high performance fighter aircraft. I can usually recognize a Harley Davidson by it’s sound and jet engines are the same. We hurried to the beach and when we got to the boardwalk an F16 was streaking by the beach with full afterburner. OK, I got goosebumps and Alex laughed at me.

The beach was actually empty because we were so early. It was a gorgeous day too and people were in the water.

I was soooooo sorry I didn’t have a longer lens because I just couldn’t capture the majesty of these aircraft. A french Mirage shot by as we walked towards Mar Bella.

They weren’t flying high but were out over the water where a large naval rescue boat was cruising in case it was needed. The ship was fairly far out making the Mediteranean look so inviting.

When we got to Mar Bella, two Harrier’s flew by, boy are they ever loud in flight mode ……

It was a slow fly by so maybe they needed power to stay in the air. One hovered in front of the Forum and scanned the horizon like a hunter seeking prey. It actually looked ominous as it hovered there………

The beach was starting to fill up as more people arrived to take in the show so we went down to the water’s edge to watch from there.

The aricraft stopped for a while and some parachutists put on a display. One carried a huge catalin flag on his way down, truly impressive and the control these people have is amazing.

They all landed in a little marked off area of the beach. Some seemed to hover way up while waiting for the others to land. While he was coming down he freaked out the crowd by diving towards the beach. We thought hi chute had failed but it was a controlled, RAPID descent.

A group of prop aerobatic aircraft did some loops and stuff ………

For piston engined aircraft, they were pretty impressive. Those engines must be pretty powerful to pull the aircaft straight up like that.

We were waiting for the grand finale. Vueling was supposed to do a fly by with an Airbus 320. They were going to fly past the beach at 200 metres and I really wanted to get some photos. They never showed so I guess they needed the aircraft for something else. Oh well, I probably would have been disappointed with the pictures because I didn’t have the proper lens for the show. We left there at around 12:30 and started walking towards the city.

We wanted to go to Barceloneta and meet up with Patxi. It was the last day of a week long fiesta and we were going to have lunch there. It didn’t happen and we ended up at Wushu’s for lunch. It was packed, we were tired and hot and the cava tasted GREAT. While waiting for a table, Jackie and her family showed up. We met her parents and her aunt and chatted with them for a bit. Wushu was too busy so they went on to Cardemons. We had a great lunch (as usual) and chatted with the owners Bradley and Paula for a bit before going home. It was quite a full day.

October 3, 2006 at 12:48 pm 5 comments

Gran Fiesta de Barcelona – Mercè

Norbert and Carole visited this week and we were really happy to see them. We spent the week wandering around the city and I had my first experience with pickpockets (see the previous post). We also discovered another little alcove in Bari Gotic. It was so relaxing and peaceful, almost zen like.

The sound of trickling water combined with the soft reflected light really made this alcove a place for reflection. What really added to the ambience was the sound of classical music filtering in from outside. There was a violinist and a cellist playing just outside the building.

I hope they enjoyed their week here as much as we enjoyed having them visit.

Well this weekend really was another kicker. Mercè started on Friday and it was a very wet day. It rained on and off for most of the day and a lot of events were either cancelled or postponed. It must be extremely disappointing for those who have dedicated so many hours of their time to organize, construct or practice for this major Barcelona event.

We had planned to attend a number of events on Friday but decided it was too wet. Besides, we had a party to go to that night. Tio Seb was having a surprise birthday party for Jackie at a club called Senses. We had a great time there and Jackie was completely caught off guard. They have a lot of friends and it seems like they all showed up. It goes to show how really great people those two are. We left the party around 2:00 and I heard it went on until about 7:00 the next day. Needless to say, all our plans for taking in the Mercè on Saturday were shelved. Saturday was a quiet day, a day to recharge my batteries.

Sunday we were up early and headed to Plaça de Sant Jaume to meet Francisca at 10:30. The square was packed.

The giants were performing when we arrived and because they were giants we could see them, at least the upper half of them. They are quite amazing and always come in pairs, man and woman. Some sport real hair and are very lifelike.

After the giants paraded around the square, Francisca discovered that the public was allowed in the Palau de la Generalitat. What a treat. The inside of this building is gorgeous and the few photos I took do not do it justice.

The marble floor is made of individual tiles of differnt coloured marble. You had to look very closely to see where they actually joined. From a distance they looked painted. The craftmanship put into this building was beyond words. On one wall, which is a modern addition and is actually a piece of art, is an inverted figure. The figure is a hollow in the wall. If you look at the bottom of the figure you can see what I mean.

From there we walked over to Ravel to eat. Alex and I had eaten in an Indian restaurant called Shalimar across from Jackie and Sebastian’s place and we really enjoyed it. Alex decided to call them so they came down and ate with us. Sebastian told me that he too had a quiet day yesterday (I wonder why). We visited with them for a while and then headed home. It was a full day.

Monday we wanted to go hiking but the trail we wanted to take was probably too muddy to be any fun. We were going to take the GR6 trail over to Sant Cugat. The beginning of the trail is very steep so we decided to do it some other time. Instead, we grabbed both of our cameras and headed to Bari Gotic (old Barcelona). We just walked around taking photos of anything that appealed to us. Here are some examples………

I saw this one when I was watching my feet.

This poster and reflection made me do a double take when I caught it out of the corner of my eye.

And then we needed an animal shot to round out the day, he was probably wondering what the heck we were doing……

We headed in the general direction of home and found Psseig de Gracia was closed to traffic and filled with kiosks. We browsed our way up the street and came across these wild hair dressers………..

The red dresser

and the gold dresser

So the long weekend comes to an end. It seems like we always chance upon the most interesting things because of wandering randomly around.

Hope you all have a great week.

September 25, 2006 at 5:36 pm Leave a comment


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