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.

Packing the Aeronaut

As promised, here are some shots of how I packed my Tom Bihn Aeronaut for my one-month trip to Europe (1 night in Paris, about 25 days in Barcelona, 3 nights in Segovia, 1 night in Madrid). Before you all commend me for doing what seems impossible, let me just say that I’m not following the rules for traveling light as closely as I probably should. Most packing lists for clothes list about 4 bottoms and about 5-8 tops. I have way more, here’s a list of the clothes I’m bringing:Aeronaut

  • 2 skirts (I intend to buy another one there)
  • 1 dress
  • 2 pairs cropped pants
  • 1 pair casual pants
  • cropped yoga pants
  • about 14 tops (!) which includes 2 long-sleeves t-shirts, 2 short-sleeves shirts, 2 polo shirts, 3 t-shirts, 4 sleeveless tops, 1 sweater.
  • 1 bikini
  • assorted underwear and socks
  • 4 pairs of shoes (that breaks all the rules of traveling light) – 1 pair of Teva sandals, 1 pair of sporty Keen hiking sandals, 1 pair flip flops, 1 pair converse shoes

All of that fit very loosely in my Aeronaut. I used two large packing cubes and put all the tops in one and all the bottoms (except bulkier pants) plus underwear in the other. This is how I packed:

Continue reading “Packing the Aeronaut”

Wushu has a new website!

Check it out. All the pictures under “menu” and “novedades” (which appear when you click on “ubicacion”) are mine. The middle picture in the middle is also mine. I’ve had everything on their menu and had a plato del dia at least once a week – always something different, which isn’t on the regular menu – and I can tell that Brad is very talented. Everything is to die for. I love everything about it. We started going there in September 2006. Brad and Paula certainly deserve all the success and recognition they can get. This is what it says on their home page:

Bienvenidos a Wushu Restaurant,

Wushu abrió sus puertas por primera vez en un pequeño local detrás del mercado de Sta. Caterina, en Agosto de 2006. Con dos woks y cinco mesas solamente, un año y medio más tarde llegó el momento de trasladarnos a nuestra ubicación actual; una bonita avenida en el centro histórico de Barcelona, en el barrio del Borne.
La filosofía de wushu sigue siendo la misma: ofrecer una cocina de calidad a un precio asequible. Ingredientes exóticos y productos frescos, recetas caseras y generosidad.

Nuestro chef australiano Brad Ainsworth ha trabajado con algunos de los mejores chefs de Sydney, Tailandia y China. Ha elaborado un menú con orígenes en el sudeste asiático, cuya especialidad son los currys tailandeses; se hacen a mano en el local. Además, los platos se preparan al momento y nos enorgullece decir que solamente se hace un salteado por wok, para que tenga el característico sabor ahumado. También todos nuestros postres son caseros.

Ven a comer o a cenar en un ambiente relajado y con un servicio atento. Descubre en nuestro bar cockteles con un toque exótico como el mojito al té verde y el bloody geisha y una carta de vinos con pocas referencias cuidadosamente escogidas.

one more week…

Plans for tomorrow include:

  1. Revise conference paper [check]
  2. Write panel proposal for big international medieval conference, due on Thursday [check]
  3. Write paper proposal for less big medieval conference at the Centre for Medieval Studies here at U of T, due on Thursday as well [check]

Wednesday I share my experiences at the archives in Barcelona at a workshop for students preparing for research and after that, it’s all about figuring out what I’m bringing to Barcelona and where we’ll be eating in Paris, which is of course a VERY important question…

Update: Yay! It all got done! So I had to go out this morning and have a beer to celebrate…

Hiking sandals

I’ve tried the best and lightest hiking boots and shoes but they all leave my feet way too hot. So, we hiked mostly in the Fall and Winter when we were in Spain. This time, I’m going to be hitting the trails with these:

I wore them all day today and they are soooo comfortable. Can’t wait to walk to Sant Cugat…

10 more days…

I just realized, today, that we only have 10 days left before we leave for Barcelona. Eeeeeeek. I have so much to do! I need to revise my paper for the conference in June, figure out what I’ll need for working on my chapter while I’m there, what clothes & shoes to bring, gifts for friends… eeeeeek. But at the same time, I’m getting really excited.

I can’t wait to go to Wushu:

wushu

See our friends Jackie & Sebastian:

Jackie & Seb

Go hiking with Mireia & Pau:

Pau, Mireia & Seb

Have amazing, colourful, nine-hour meals with all our wonderful friends:

friends

Take the high-speed train to Segovia:

train

And simply hang out and have fun with all the wonderful friends that have made Barcelona our home:

friendsfriends

friendsfriends

And Joy & Jesús, Brad & Paula, Matt & Elena, Bruna, and many others….

Can’t wait!!!!

Barcelona is NOT a war zone

In about two weeks, Alan and I will be going back to Barcelona for a month. Of course, for us, visiting Barcelona is not quite living any other foreign destination – we lived there and Alan still fondly refers to it as “home”. But still, I like roaming through travel forums to read about other people’s recent trips, what they saw, what they did. Inevitably, they share their impressions and these can be either positive or negative. While I enjoy reading about other people’s experiences, I also get very frustrated with human beings’ (natural?) propensity to generalize, essentialize, and misunderstand a culture not their own. We have all heard of Parisian waiters’ fame for being surly and rude, which is nothing but a stereotype. In forums about Barcelona, people tend to focus on two issues: crime in Barcelona and the rudeness of the Catalan people.  Because I got tired of trying to dispel some of these notions, or at least to put them in perspective, in the sites I belong to, I decided it was about time I got it out of my system here.
Continue reading “Barcelona is NOT a war zone”

2007 in pictures…

It was fun doing this last year, so I thought I’d continue…

January

We watched the arrival of the Three Kings in Barcelona, walked along the beach in Barcelona, went to the calçots festival in Valls and happened upon the wonderful monastery of Poblet along the way, and discovered the little town of Arenys de Mar – more pics here.

Three Kings Barcelona beach ArenysPoblet Calçots

February

In February I met Moussa ag Assarid, enjoyed the Festes de Santa Eulália, a festival dedicated to children, and had lunch on top of a mountain near Vic.

Moussa Castellers de Barcelona Festes de Santa Eulalia Lunch at Vic

March

In March Alan and I went to Girona for a bit of a research trip, where we also had some amazing food and I became tempted to find a project that would allow me to spend a year in that amazing city

Street in Girona Tourists in Girona Old books

April

Last month in Barcelona – we visited friends in Mataró and otherwise simply hanged out in Barcelona

Archives Mataro View from Sara's house in Mataro Capoeira in Raval

May

Back in Canada after 13 months in Spain! We stayed with our friends Pearl and Al for the first two weeks and then left for Brazil to visit my family. While we were at Pearl’s, she took us to Todmorden Mills and Bufflers Park.

Yonge & Bloor Good friends Good friends 2 Todmorden Mills Bufflers Park

June

We moved into our new apartment and enjoyed summer in TO; I invented some cool salads and we had a blast at the Pride Parade.

Welcome basket BCE Place Kensington Salad Friends Pride Parade

July

We celebrated Canada Day at the harbourfront and visited Montreal, where we had to spend a few hours at the market. We also went on the first of many photo shoots with Mel and discovered Ireland Park.

Canada Day Montreal Ireland Park Toronto urban beach

August

A great month in Canada. We cycled quite a bit, watched the opening of the CNE, and I got into black & white photography.

Opening of CNE First b&w Bike ride - harbourfront East Chinatown Little Indi

September

September was back-to-school month. Super busy, no time to go out and take pictures. But it was also the month I got my piercing and Alan got his tattoo.

Piercing Tattoo

October

Halloween month! So of course we checked out the action at Church street and I got some good pictures

CatCat Warrior Geisha

November

Remembrance day and another trip to Montreal

End of fall Montreal Remembrance day

December

It seems all I did between November and December was mark papers and exams. But there was also a snowstorm in TO and our trip to Barcelona and Paris!

Snowstorm Barcelona Riding on bicing Kids playing in Paris Invalides

And 2008 arrived like this:

Snowstorm

Arrived in Barcelona

We arrived in Barcelona yesterday at noon, after an uneventful journey from Toronto, connecting through Frankfurt. The weather here is amazing for those of us coming from Canada; fifteenth celcius and sunny feels like the height of summer for us! We haven’t had a minute to spare: we went out for lunch with Joy and Jesus yesterday, then out to a bar at night to watch Barcelona play Madrid (Barca lost, sniff ). This morning we left at 9:30 to meet with Tonicito, a Catalan who lives in Salzburg and whom I only knew through the blogosphere. We met Toni and his wife for breakfast and, as I suspected, hit it off great. We felt very touched when they gave us a nice gift of chocolate delicacies from Austria. We’ll definitely be sending him some stuff from Canada and hopefully they’ll be able to come and visit us some day. We might come by their place in Austria this summer… After meeting with them, Alan and I meandered through the Born to buy some Christmas gifts for Joy & Jesus (with whom we are staying), had lunch at the Mercat Santa Caterina, drove Bicing here and there, and finally made it home around 6 pm. We’ll probably leave soon to meander through Gracia…

It sure feels nice to be back. I love Toronto but nothing really beats the energy and joie de vivre of Barcelona. This is such a happening place! I’ll write more when I get back to Toronto and have a few pictures to show. Being busy is a great thing right now. Keeps my mind off things