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

The birth of a research assistant

I had been planning to go to Girona to collect some documentation for a long time now but couldn’t figure out the best time to go. As usual, the decision was made for me when I found out that a famous Spanish historian would be giving a public lecture in Girona on Thursday night. Perfect, I thought. We’ll go to Girona, I can do research during the day while Alan wanders around, catch the lecture at night and we could spend the night. With that in mind we set out on Thursday morning.

I found a very nice two-star Pensión near the cathedral. Pensión Bellmirall is in a 14th-century house on a nice side street. We were very pleased with our room:

Room 2 at Bellmirall

After checking in, we set out to the Archivo Diocesano de Girona, where I had to collect some documents. Alan didn’t really feel like wandering the sights on his own so he volunteered to take pictures of the documents I needed. Since this was the first time he handled 14th-century documents, he was in constant awe. I’m always telling him about the neat books and documents I see people working with at the archives here in Barcelona and he was pleased to have the opportunity to handle some of these himself.

Register of Letters from the bishop Opening the books

This one still had its original cover:

Pink cover for an account book

Every once in a while we would find little drafts and notes stuck inside the books:

notes

I was very pleased at the two archives I needed to visit. The people at both the Archivo Diocesano and the municipal archives were very friendly and nice. There was no red tape to speak of – no one demanded an introduction, reference letters and the like – and I was allowed to bring anything in the room. Very low profile. Both archives are also up to date with their use of technology and are working hard to digitize their documents.

After the work at the archives was done, we went out for lunch and took the afternoon off to explore the city a bit. The old town of Girona is beautiful and considered one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. The city is also considered the best place to live in Spain. We had been there before and you can see some pictures here and here.

I really enjoyed our time there, maybe I’ll make the Jewish community of Girona my second project… That way we could spend a year there ;)

Despite feeling guilty for abandoning my main research here in Barcelona for a few days, the trip was successful and we can home with a few hundred pictures of documents that I can use for my thesis… And Alan has been named my official research assistant ;) Go here for Alan’s take on his new job. Now, if only I could teach him paleaography….

Amazing food in Girona

Of course, after all that researching we needed to eat! I was determined to have a good eating experience and after a bit of research, I decided to have lunch at Mimolet, a new restaurant about a block away from the cathedral in a tiny side street. Call it gourmet Catalan at its best. It’s not cheap but for a restaurant of its class I didn’t find it terribly expensive either. A three-course lunch menu is 14.75 euros (at night an 8-course degustation menu runs at 40 euros, which is not bad at all). The meal was well worth it. We set right beside the cheese counter and all my efforts to live dairy-free went up in smoke and I had the five cheese taster for a first course. All I can tell you is wow, it was great.

How could I resist all those wonderfully smelly cheese??

Cheese at Mimolet

As a main course I had grilled dorade, a tasty white fish from the Mediterranean, served with some nice grilled vegetables. The fish was done to perfection – cooked only until it reached opacity. Alan had Arroz con sepia, which is a rice cooked with a kind of calamari. We both had coconut sorbet with ginger as dessert, served rolled in a nice bit of crepe. I liked the meal so much that I would love to go back one day to have the tasting menu…

At night we went to the Creperie Bretonne for some highly-recommened crepes. Although the crepes were all perfectly done and I discovered a new-found love for dessert crepes, which were never my thing, the neat thing about this place was the decor. They had a bus – that’s right, a bus – inside the restaurant! The bus was hollowed out and the waiters used it as the salad counter:

Bus Bus 2

All in all, a very successful eating holiday ;)

Mimolet is on C/Pou Rodó, 12 tel 972 20 21 24

Creperie Bretonne is C/ Cort Reial, 14 tel. 972 218 120

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Update: There’s a Creperie Bretonne in Barcelona as well! It’s located under the big golden fish at the Passeig Maritim. And this one also has a bus inside:

Creperie Barcelona

Photo from Creperie Bretonne’s website.

Lunch on top of a mountain

Map of CatalunyaAs some of you know from Alan’s blog, last Sunday Sebastian, Alan and I took the train up to Vic for a bit of hiking.

What a day! We left Barcelona on the 9:22 train to Vic and our friends Pau & Mireia met us at the train station. We first met Pau & Mireia at Jackie & Sebastian’s place. Mireia is a PhD student who worked with Jackie at the research lab in Barcelona. Pau works as a contractor (sort of – they call it a “technical engineer” here) and, as a member of a hiking club up in Vic, he helps preserve the regions’ trails. They are a wonderful couple and some of the nicests & warmest people we have met here and the reason I get very deffensive when anyone says the Catalan are cold and unfriendly.

But I digress. Back to our hike. Pau had made reservations at a restaurant – Sanctuari de Cabrera – at a centuries’ old house on top of a mountain outside of Vic. It seems to be quite a local institution and families make a big outing out of hiking to the restaurant on the weekends. We drove part of the way and then hiked the last two hours to the restaurant. You can read all about it here. The path up there was wonderful and the building itself was…. well, you’ll see it on the slideshow below:

Click here to start slideshow

The place was obviously known only to locals. The owner freaked when Pau told her that we were from Canada & Brazil. It was the best trip we have done here. That’s what travelling is all about for me – going off the beaten track and connecting with the locals. And this weekend we got a taste of the real Catalunya…

Needless to say we had a wonderful time and will be going out with Pau and Mireia on another excursion soon… The question is: will it be the sleepy towns around the Pyrenees or the Costa Brava?

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.

Pobles de Catalunya: Arenys de Mar

As described below, Alan and I went to Arenys de Mar on sunday with out friends Matt & Elena. Known in the Middle Ages as Santa Maria d’Arenys, this town of about 9,000 inhabitants had a very important port from the 16th century onwards. It had then four shipyards and a large shipbuilding industry. After the ports of Spanish America were opened to Catalan commerce in the 18th century, Arenys quickly moved ahead to supply ships for the journey. There were 45 regular ships that travelled to America by the end of the century. The town lost much of its strength in the 19th century, with the advent of steam engine ships and the construction of the docks in Barcelona. Since then it has dedicated itself mostly to tourism and fishing.

We left Barcelona on the 10:18 train and arrived in Arenys a little after 11 AM. The town is quite pretty, spread between the mountains and the sea. We walked from the train station to the older part of town and saw our first odd sighting: bottles of cava. They were everywhere, by each door, reaps of bottles. At first we thought they had some big party on saturday night. But then we realized there were no other kind of bottle – surely if they had a party there would had been beer & wine bottles as well? Other than that, the streets were charming, with that quaint mediterranean seaside feel to it.

We continued our walk and made our way up the hill to the cemetery, which is supposed to be one of the high points of Arenys. I like cemeteries. Oddly, I can’t go to funerals -I didn’t go to any of my grandparents’ funerals, and the few funerals of strangers (usually a friend of a friend or a relative of a friend) I attended left me feeling ill. But somehow, I find cemeteries quite nice and peaceful. The one in Arenys was on top of a hill overlooking the sea and had lots of really nice monuments. I struck conversation with an old lady that was watering the flowers near her family’s grave and she was obviously very proud of the place, despite complaining that the town used to be much nicer thirty years ago. She did enlighten us on the cava bottle mystery. Apparently, in Arenys de Mar everybody puts out their cava bottles on sunday for recycling. Not any bottle, just cava bottles!

The walk up the hill opened our appetites so we walked down to the port to look for a restaurant I had heard about that serves only fresh fish and seafood. It was 1:30 pm and the Bar del Puerto was packed already! As anybody who has been to Spain before, 1:30 pm is quite early for lunch so the fact that the restaurant was already full was a good sign ;)

We had salad, calamares a la romana and boquerones en vinagre to start, a platter of mixed grilled fish and seafood as a main (it was really good!), dessert, coffee, water and wine for less than 20 euros per person. A very good meal! By the way, we ate outside, it was nice and warm and we could hardly believe it was mid January!

After lunch we spent a little while exploring the docks, before we took the 4:30 train home. I took a lot of pictures but unfortunately, I won’t have them developed until later in the week. For now I’ll leave you with a few shots I snapped with Alan’s digital (you can also see more pics on his site):

Port at Arenys

Bar del Puerto

The line up at the restaurant continued all afternoon…

Line up

update: for more pictures, go here

Pre-trip: Arenys de Mar

Since we only have a few more months left before we go back to Canada, I decided it’s about time we explore a bit more of Catalunya. The plan is to mix the occasional weekend trip with a day trip on sundays, depending on how much time and money we have.

So, this sunday we’ll go to Arenys de Mar, a small town in the Costa de Maresme, about 50 min by train from Barcelona. The town has one of the oldest ports along these shores (still very busy), a few nice modernist buildings, a famous cemetery with lots of interesting monuments since many modernist architects were buried there, a mineralogy museum, and literary fame. The famous Catalan poet, Salvador Espriu, immortalized the place in his poems, where the town appeared renamed as Synera (Arenys spelled backwards).

Should be interesting. I’ll have a report tomorrow with a couple of pictures from Alan’s digital. My pictures will take a few days as usual…