Per nosaltres, la nació és una cosa viva, plena de sentit i de cara el futur, i la raça és una cosa morta, pobra de contingut i plasmada sobre el passat.[…] Per nosaltres els forasters que vénen a Catalunya – que sempre acollim amb els braços oberts – i pateixen amb els nostres dols i gaudeixem amb les nostres alegries, i que ens donen fills, que les nostres dones no en pareixem prou, són tan catalans, en la nostra interpretació futurista de la nació, com nosaltres mateixos. No fem absolutament cap diferència.

Rafael Campalans, 1923, founder of the Unió Socialista de Catalunya

Loose translation:

We believe that the nation  is alive, full of feeling and looking towards the future, and race is dead, a thing poor in substance and stuck in the past. For us, the foreigners that come to Catalunya – and who have always been received with open arms – and share with us our pains and our joys, and who give us children, are as Catalan, in our futuristic (progressive) interpretation of the nation, as we are ourselves. It makes absolutely not difference.

I found this quotation, from 1923, in an article dedicated to the issue of immigration in Catalunya today. Salvador Cardús i Ros argues that immigration had always played a crucial role in the development of Catalunya. This phenomena can be traced as far back as we have reliable demographic information (i.e. the 17th century) as the region has always had a low birth rate. Yet, currently, the issue of immigration is seen in a negative light as a threat to national identity. Cardús i Ros proposes that this situation should be reversed by turning immigration into a place for the collective memory of Catalunya, considering it as a part of the nation. Very interesting.


Lunch today

During my year at the archives in Barcelona, I often wished for a place where I could have a simple salad or a sandwich with more than one ingredient in it. Today I discovered the place I had been looking for. Vonblum is a special place, where design meets gastronomy. It is partly a café and partly an art shop and the attention to detail is noticeable everywhere.

I happened on the place in search of my friend Bruna, whom I met through her blog even before I came to Barcelona. Once I got here we finally found an occasion to meet and have remained in touch since then. She has degrees in Fine Arts and Computer Science and has combined the two designing websites and doing other creating things. Since I’ve recently started doing some more web designing of my own, I called Bruna up to see if she was free for a meeting. She said this week she would be really busy because she was helping a friend at her restaurant but that I should come by since it was not too far from the archives. “The food is good; my sister is the chef,” she added. So Alan and I went there today and were very glad we did.

This is what I had for lunch today:





It was amazing! As Bruna said in the comments below, I’m very happy to learn that this blog had a hand in the coming together of the place. Jessica, the owner, met Bruna through this blog when she searched for Wushu on google. Through Bruna, she met Barbara, Bruna’s sister, and the two planned the restaurant and the food. The way the internet brings people together never ceased to amaze me!!

Some pictures of the space and some other food we saw there:


cheesecakeroastbeef sandwich

I simply LOVED these antique lamps:


avocado & chickenBarbara

You can see more pictures and Alan’s take of the place, in his blog.

Dancing egg, Vermut, and Ciutadela

What a day! We had no plans today and figured we would just have a lazy day since it was raining on and off and chilly. We all woke up late (around 10 AM), Sebastian cooked us brunch and around 2 pm Jackie, Alan and I decided to go down to do some shopping for dinner. As we went down the stairs, I mentioned to Jackie that I wanted to see the dancing egg. Known in Catalan as El Ou com balla (how the egg dances), it is a particularly Barcelonese tradition to make an empty egg dance over the jet of a public fountain during the week of Corpus Christi. This year, because of the drought, the event was restricted to only six fountains in the city, all of which use a mechanism that recycles its water. Since today was the last day and we somehow missed it during the year we lived here, I really wanted to see it. So instead of going shopping, we headed to the Plaça del Rei, to the Palau del Lloctinent, where the old Archives of the Crown of Aragon used to be located. It was actually quite neat:



Sebastian met us there and we then went to a local Vermuth bar to have some traditional Catalan vermut with some tapas. We weren’t that hungry but made short work of some patatas bravas, buñuelos de bacalao, jamón de jabugo (the good stuff!), pan con tomate, and pimientos padrón. For some reason, Alan and I thought vermut was very bitter but the stuff at this local bar was quite nice. We’ll definitely check some other places.

Inside the bar:

Inside vermut bar


cala del vermut

From there we went to Parc de la Ciutadela, where there was to be a big festival today but I guess the rain scared everybody away and there wasn’t much going on.


After wandering around the park a bit, we went to the Born in search of ice cream for Jackie, who had a craving. We found an open place near the Catedral del Mar, where I could have hot chocolate (the yummy Spanish version but not quite as good as the one from my favourite chocolate place in Gracia) while she had her ice cream. On our way home, we stopped at a friend’s house for a visit. She greeted us in her bathrobe – she had just got out of bed (it was 6:30 PM!), good thing we could foresee that and brought her some breakfast from a nearby bakery. We hung out for a while and made it home for a lovely couscous dinner with lamb and vegetables. Tomorrow I get up early and hit the archives…

To my Brazilian friends

I used to follow Brazilian news but as time went by, I only saw things getting worse rather than better and I confess than I now spend many weeks without following the news. I’ve never seen so much waste of human and natural resources than in the country where I was born. Senator Jefferson Perez, a man of principles – a rare breed in Brazilian politics – died this past week and I couldn’t help reproducing here this speech he gave in 2006 about his deep disappointment with the state of things in his country. If you want to read the speech, continue reading below…

Continue reading “To my Brazilian friends”

Coffee heaven

cortadoI don’t think there are enough words to explain how great it is to be able to order coffee the way I like it without having to go through lengthy explanations of how I want it done. In France, all I had to do is ask for a café noisette and here in Spain I ask for a cortado (or tallat in Catalan). No eyebrows get raised and back they come with exactly what I wanted: a long espresso with a bit of hot milk. In Toronto I always have to explain that I want an espresso with a bit of hot milk. “You mean, a latte?” In North America, a latte is usually a short espresso with at least a cup of hot milk added to it making it more of a coffee-flavoured milk than a real coffee. So I have to say, “No, it’s not a latte. It’s an espresso, made in an espresso cup, with hot milk to the top”. In some places I can make myself understood by saying it’s a macchiato with more milk than foam. It’s always a struggle. But for the next month, I don’t have to worry about it. All I say is “un cortado, por favor/ un tallat si us plau”.

Wushu and lost pictures

After a cool train ride through French and Spanish countryside, in which a nice Frenchman on his way from Narbonne to Perpignan pointed out Cathar castles along the way and instructed us on how the Albigensian crusade had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with territorial expansion of the French monarchy, we finally arrived at Barcelona’s França station, where we were met by our friends Jackie and Sebastian. On our way out of the station we passed by… WUSHU! I knew they had moved to the street where the station is located but I hadn’t been to the new place yet. So we stopped to say hello to Paula and Brad. They were happy to see us, Brad showed us around his new kitchen and they both seemed very happy with the new place. We ordered some cava to celebrate, for which Paula didn’t let us pay at the end since they hadn’t seen us in a year. We promised to return soon enough.

And soon enough we did. We went for lunch today, our first day in Barcelona. And we were definitely not disappointed. The lunch special today was a choice of salmon or chicken in a Laksa sauce (a malaysian curry) with steamed rice and dessert was a chocolate tart/cake. Everything was to die for. I took some really amazing pictures of the place and the food but unfortunately, something went wrong when I was downloading them from my camera and all of the pictures I took from a certain point on the train trip to today are now corrupted and won’t open. I haven’t given up trying to “uncorrupt” them, but it means I don’t have any pictures. It is very disappointing and it makes me wanna cry whenever I think of all the spontaneous pictures I took today – such as the two ladies selling flowers in front of the cathedral who posed for me and all the amazing food pictures from today’s lunch. Oh well. I guess we’ll have to go back.

Butte aux Cailles

Butte aux caillesThe Butte aux Cailles started out as a working-class village that sprang to house the workers of the factories that used to dot the 13th arrondissement. It was one of the last strongholds of the Paris Commune revolt in 1871 and was largely untouched by the Haussmanian remake of Paris into the city we know today. Today, the neighbourhood has both a Bohemian flair, with its neat boutiques and bars – with nary a chain store in sight – and a small village feel, with its narrow streets dotted with children playing. Best of all, the crowds of tourists and the multilingual menus advertising steak frites and onion soup seem to have stayed in the Quartier Latin.
Continue reading “Butte aux Cailles”

One day in Paris

We arrived last night in Barcelona and I have a lot to say about the trip in general, but for now, I’ll leave you with the pictures of our lovely spring day in Paris. After a nice lunch at Chez Janou, near Place des Vosges, we spent the afternoon and evening exploring the lovely neighbouhood of Buttes aux Cailles. It reminded me a lot of Gracia, our favourite spot in Barcelona. A village within a city… Just click on the picture below for the slideshow:

slideshow here