Top 5 comics

Inspired by this post on my brother's blog, I decided to come up with a list of my 5 favourite comic books.

1. Neil Gaiman's Sandman – this was my absolute favourite during my good old days of comic book geekness. I could hardly wait for the new issue to come out and had it put aside for me the day it arrived. My favourite character was Death and I wore her symbol, the ankra (the egyptian symbol of life) everywhere. Here's a good intro to Sandman. 

2. Alan Moore's Swamp Thing – The first few issues were pure poetry. I love the way it was connected to the Sandman series. A very sad love story.

3. Alan Moore's V for Vendetta – I guess everyone knows this one now.

4. Camelot 3000 – One of the very first adult comic I read; probably not that good but I have a soft spot for any version of the Arthurian legends. Tristan reincarnated as a woman is unforgetable.

5. Lobo (DC Comics) – the most gruesome, violent comic anywhere. I guess I just like a sick sense of humour.

I was also very particular to the Kazuo Koike's Lone Wolf and Cub and Crying Freeman; some of the X-Men (before the Phoenix story); Alan Moore's Watchmen (considered by some the best graphic novel around); Neil Gaiman's Mr. Punch; actually anything by Frank Miller, Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman(whom I had the pleasure to hear speaking in Toronto).  


Cava, sol y sushi – what a weekend!

Saturday – cava, playa y sushi

The weekend started with a visit to Freixenet, Spain's largest producer of cava, the Spanish champagne that has become popular all around the world. Located in the little town of S. Sadurní d'Anoia in the Alt Penedès region, it was an easy 40 min train ride from Barcelona, made even easier by the fact that the factory is right across from the train station. Perfect for carless people like us!


We took a tour of the facilities (free!) that included a 20 min video presentation, a guided tour through the old cellars and the modern plant, and a glass of cava. The video and the guides explained the process of making cava – a process we were familiar with from our wine tasting course in Toronto – which is the same process used for making champagne, the only difference being the region and the kind of grape used. I personally prefer cava to champagne, which I find grossly overated and overpriced.
Bottles in the cellars 

Apparently, Freixenet holds 80% of the cava industry in Spain and 9% of the wine industry in the world! Quite a big company. And to think it is still family-owned.  

 We were back to Barcelona around 2:30 pm and since it was such a gorgeous day (not unusual in this city), we set off to the beach. We didn't bring our camera but here's what the beach looks like from someone else's Flickr account:

We were joined at the beach by Alan's friend Mark and my friend Joy. I hope J. doesn't think we were trying to set her up…. Anyways, we had a good, lazy time at the beach and by 6:30, at Joy's suggestion, we headed to the champagne bar, a place that can best be described as quite an experience. I won't say much about it because Alan will blog about it later on. Sufice it to say that it was a total blast!

We got home at around 9 pm, had a shower and went out for a sushi buffet at a nearby Japanese restaurant. After a bottle of wine and mounds of sushi and tempura, we were ready for bed.

Sunday we woke up late (8:30 – quite late for us), cleaned a bit and headed off to the beach. We are now all sunned out and ready for a glass of chilled cava from Freixenet! 

A Brazilian in Barcelona

An old friend of my dad’s has a daughter who’s in Porto (Portugal) for a couple of months. She emailed me a couple of weeks ago to ask for hotel recommendations in Barcelona. I offered our humble abode and she arrived last Friday for the weekend.

Melissa is a doctor doing residency in pathology and we hit it off right away. She’s adventuresome, likes trying different foods and has travelled every weekend of the past month to make the most out of her short stint in Portugal. Since she was in Barcelona for only two days, I recommended she take the Bus Turistic. On saturday she visited Passeig de Gracia (La Pedrera, Casa Batló), Las Ramblas, Barri Gotic, the beach, Port Olimpic, and Montjuic. On Sunday I walked over with her to the Sagrada Familia and Hospital Sant Pau.

Alan and I walked by Gaudi’s masterpiece more than once but this was the first time I took some time to look at all the details. I realized the carvings on the two sides of the church have to do with the life of Christ. The older side (detail above) has scenes from his life, the newer side have the details of the passion of Christ, with scenes devoted to his trial, death and ressurrection. It was fascinating. Next time I go by I’ll get some pictures of the other side for you.

At Hospital Sant Pau (about which both Alan and I have talked before), we looked for the Pathology lab. Unfortunately, it was closed.

On Saturday night we went to our first big party in Barcelona. It was our friend N’s 30th birthday party and the party represented Barcelona – it was held in a beautiful apartment in the old town, with high celings, colourful walls, and tiled floors, the guests were from all over the world and the food was amazing. I don’t have photos but it was nice that Melissa had such an ideal Barcelonian experience in her two days here.

Horror in Brazil

The headline says it all. During the past few days the organized crime in São Paulo launched attacks against policemen and inmates in almost 100 prisons throughout the state rebelled. Last count had 40 policemen and 71 criminals dead during the past three days. When will our politicians look beyond their own personal gains and design an effective long term public security policy? Not only do we need an overhaul of the police force and penal system but also proper social reforms that would give those at the bottom the chance to find a future outside crime. I guess things will have to get much worse before the Brazilian people will stop taking it and demand more action. Unfortunatelly the people are too accepting. The ones who get fed up leave the country rather than fight for change and the ones who stay, well, the majority don't even know what they can do to effect change. Very sad.  It really pains me to see such a beautiful country with such great people falling into such a pit. Don't know what the answers are…

La sardana

As many of you know from Alan's blog, this past weekend we made it to Park Guell for the first time. While the park itsef is very large and very nice, the greatest treat was walking into a Catalan festival and watching dozens of people, young and old, performing the sardana.

La sardana at Park Guell

 This very traditional Catalan dance is performed every week in front of the cathedral in Barcelona and in many festivals by regular people rather than professional performers. I've been wanting to see it since I got here but wasn't sure when and where to go. Watching it with the city of Barcelona as a backdrop was unforgetable!


the game of threes…

I know it's been a while but you'll have to fogive me. This past week I went to the archives for the first time and although the experience is kind of neat, it was also very stressful. I'm still unsure if I'm doing the right thing of even looking at the documents the right way. But nevermind that. Here's a fun game, if you want to reply with your own answers in the comments, feel free!!

20 years ago I…

1. was in 6th grade and hated my school; the next year I went to a girl's only school
2. watched the first Fifa world cup that I can remember
3. wrote my first diary

10 years ago I…

1. met my husband on the internet
2. learned French
3. lived in Recife – one of the strangest places I ever lived in – and got my dog, Tequila

5 years ago I…

1. started my undergrad in history
2. after 8 years wasting away in law school I discovered that I was finally good at something
3. learned to dragon boat3 years ago I…

1. started my PhD in history
2. moved to Toronto
3. made some good friends

1 year ago I…

1. passed the PhD Latin exam
2. turned 30 and cut my hair short
3. took my parents to Paris for the first time

So far this year I…

1. passed the dreaded comps
2. have moved to Barcelona for the year
3. travelled by train for the first time

Yesterday I…

1. spent the day at the archives reading 14th-century royal letters, or attempting to do so
2. had lunch for 3 euros near the archives
3. watched the last two episodes of Lost, after downloading them from the Internet

Today I…

1. went to the library of the Institut Millà i Fontanals
2. visited our friend N. at her last day working at Custo
3. had an amazing 2-course lunch menu for 7 euros in the old town

Tomorrow I will…

1. write a letter to my friend J.
2. go to Park Guell in the morning
3. go rollerblading in the afternoon

In the next year I will…

1. finish my research in Spain
2. become fluent in Spanish and achieve a comfortable level in Catalan
3. go for a holiday in Formentera

In the next minute I will tag…

1. Alan
2. Christian
3. Roberbel

Txacolín & Helado Italiano

In the basque language (Euskera),txacolín is a fizzy, dry white wine poured from a great height. Here in Barcelona it is also the name of a very popular (among locals) tapas bar where the order of the day is pinchos and montaditos. A pincho (pinxo) is a little tapas served on a small slice of bread. Almost like a canape. A montadito is a little something on a skewer (a toothpick or a larger skewer). 


Everybody sits around a very long horseshoe bar and the barman gives you a small plate. You can then take whatever you like on the counter and at the end of the night, the barman counts how many toothpicks were left and charges you accordingly. A small toothpick costs less than a larger one. 


Alan's class decided to meet at Txacolín one evening and I joined them. The two of us had about 15 pinxos/montaditos and 7 glasses of wine for 30 euros. The glasses of wine (txacolin) were small but the tapas were very filling. I thought it was a bargain since we sampled a mix of shrimp, salmon, bacallao, really nice beef & sausage to name a few of the things we had.

A few days later, we went for helado near our place. At pl. de la Revolucion (Gracia) there is a little Italian ice cream shop that is reputed to be the best in Barcelona. Everything is homemade and very fresh. The old Italian lady that serves the ice cream took a shine to Alan and always gives him a wafer with his helado ;

Last time we went, we arrived at the square at around 4 pm to find out the place only opened at 5. Oh well… We went for a walk in nearby C/ Verdi, a very picturesque street running north in the middle of Gracia and were back to the square at around 4:30.


We noticed plenty of people sitting around near the ice cream place so Alan lined up early. He was the first one into the shop and this time I let him go on his own. He wanted me to go with him to help with the language but I said "you have to know how to order ice cream on your own!" Of course, I didn't complain when he came out with the wrong flavour for me ;)