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.

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

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 ;)

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….

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

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.

The iPod to measure value of currencies

For some years, the price of McDonald´s Big Mac was used to gauge the value of a specific currency. Now one of Australia´s largest bank has developed a new indicator for foreign exchange based on Apple´s ubiquitous digital music player. iPod nano

One of the basic differences between the two foreign exchange indicators is that whereas Big Macs are made in a host of countries, iPods are made only in China and in theory it should cost the same anywhere – with some allowances made to import duties and volume discounts.

The first reading of the iPod index for 26 countries listed Brazil as the place where the iPod is most expensive and Canada where it is the cheapest. No surprise there. My brothers always ask me to buy electronic equipment for them when I go to Brazil for the holidays. I once went to the Brazilian Apple site and was shocked by the cost of computers. My 12″ Powerbook, which cost me about CDN $ 1,800 (roughly about BR$ 3,500-4,000) was listed at almost 10,000 brazilian reais!!! That would be almost CDN$ 5,000 at the time. For that reason alone, I leave my Powerbook at home when I go to Brazil…

If you want to know more about the iPod index, go here.

What’s that for thursday???

snow???

What’s that coming out of the clouds on thursday (jueves)???? That would be sooooo cool but I’ll believe it when I see it. Alan is not looking forward to  all this cold. Being Canadian, he is all too aware of how badly prepared to handle the cold buildings are around here… And Canadians can face -40 anyday but they hate feeling cold inside their homes.