2007 in pictures…

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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 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


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

CatCat Warrior Geisha


Remembrance day and another trip to Montreal

End of fall Montreal Remembrance day


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:


Some ads with royal motifs

I know the season is past, but I just had some film developed and wanted to show some ads to do with the three kings. They were everywhere during the Christmas season! In addition to the milk carton I had shown before:


There are also ads inviting children to bring their letters:


And encouraging people to shop at the market (I love the king pulling his shopping cart!):


Cabalgata de los Reyes – part II

I felt like a 5-year-old again.

We arrived at the port around 3:30 pm to wait for the arrival of the three kings, scheduled for 5:30. There was a stage set up for the kings to greet the crowds before proceeding to the Port Authority building where they were received by the mayor, who gave them bread & salt as symbols of hospitality and the keys of the city. Around 4:30 they started playing Arabic music to get everyone in the mood and around 5 pm one of Their Majesties pages went on stage and introduced some of the other pages and the royal postmen (special pages responsible for collecting the letters that kids brought for the three kings). Everything was elaborately produced and well choreographed. The kids were totally entranced. And so was I.

Here’s what the area looked like 2 hours before the event:

Port of Barcelona

And here is the same place at 5 pm:

Port of Barcelona

As I explained in a previous post, the kings arrived by boat, a massive three-masted sail boat that is usually kept at the maritime museum. And here’s their arrival:

The three kings

From left to right we have Baltasar, Gaspar & Mechior, who according to the Spanish tradition hail from the Middle East, the Himalayas & Nubia (between Egypt and Sudan) respectively. I really enjoy this tradition because not only it has more to do with the nativity than Santa Claus, but also because it gives children a chance to get exposed to multiculturalism. The three kings (aka magi or wise men) are supposed to represent the three corners of the world, which in Biblical times meant Asia, Middle East & Africa. So all the clothes, music, props, evoked the cultures of that part of the world. In homogeneous Spain, it felt like a breath of fresh air. It was also quite fun to watch the kids clenching their letters addressed to “SS Majestades los Reyes” address “Oriente”.

We watched the kings disembark and then we went to Via Laietana to wait for the parade, during which the kings and their retinue were supposed to distribute 15 tons of candy. Here are a few more shots.

Kings greeting the mayorExciting childStar of BethlehemAngelsFriendly helpers




If you want to read more on Santa Claus vs Los Reyes, here’s a campaign in favour of the three kings (in spanish): click here

Cabalgata de los Reyes de Oriente

The wise men will arrive at the Portal de la Pau, near the Columbus statue at the old port of Barcelona at precisely 5:30 pm. At 6:30 they´ll start the parade around the city, acompanied by a royal retinue of 900 people including artists, volunteers, municipal police & students from music & dance schools.

The theme of this year´s parade is science & magic, to mark the Year of Science. According to El País, despite being considered magicians, the three kings are also eminent scientists and plan to perform magic tricks while sharing with the kids their knowledge of physics, mathematics & chemistry.

More info on the parade at the City of Barcelona website

Santa Claus vs the three Wise men, pt II

And for a quick update. The big parade is friday night and, as I said on my previous post about it, it happens in most towns of Spain. Well, it seems some took this whole conflict with Santa Claus a bit seriously – I read yesterday that Valencia prohibited any Santa from showing up at its Cabalgada de los Reyes. The kids can wear whatever they like, but no red suits.

It feels a bit surreal for Alan and I to walk downtown. Here we are, enjoying some post-Christmas blues, but as soon as we hit downtown we realize it ain’t over yet baby. All the stores are packed and opening extra hours (even during siesta!). It’s the week before Christmas all over again!!!

Of course, we won’t miss the parade on friday. Stay tuned for that.

Santa Claus vs the three Wise men

Christmas in Spain has been a nice surprise. Coming from a Catholic country that was colonized by an Iberian state, I assumed Christmas here would be much the same as back home. Or at least more similar, with Christmas being celebrated on Dec 24th, for example.

I couldn’t be further from the truth. At first you think it’s much like in the rest of the wold. Streets, houses and stores are decorated with lights. People run back and forth trying to get gifts. Most flee the city to spend it with their families in their country homes. They all plan on gorging on as much food as possible. Check, check, check, double check!

When you look at it more closely, however, you notice the differences.

Take Santa Claus for example. In the western world, we all assume he is intrinsic to Christmas. Some people complain that we’ve moved away from the original meaning of Christmas as a holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ, to a purely commercial event symbolized by Santa and his gifts. He is even in Brazil, where he looks quite odd wearing his winter clothes in the middle of the summer. But in Brazil he doesn’t arrive on a sledge – how could he? there’s no snow! – but rather on a helicopter! Anyways, here in Spain Santa isn’t very big. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean that Spanish kids don’t get their gifts. The exchange of gifts is the same and kids write letters. But not to Santa. They write to the three Wise men (aka the Magi or the three kings) who, according to the Christian story, visited Mary and the baby Jesus bearing gifts.

To be faithful to the story, therefore, the big exchage of gifts doesn’t happen on Dec 25 but rather on January 6th, the day of Epiphany, or Twelth Night. On January 5th most Spanish towns celebrate the Cabalgata de los Reyes, when the three kings arrive in the town and the children go out to see them and ask for gifts. It’s kind of like the Santa Claus parade in Norh America.

Here’s what happens in Barcelona:

“On 5 January every year, the evening before Twelfth Night (Epiphany, 6 January) the Thee Kings (or Three Wise Men of the New Testament) arrive by boat at the waterfront of Barcelona (Moll de la Fusta) to be greeted by the Mayor of the city and conducted to the nearby park of Ciutadella. From there the Three Kings depart in their carriages, the principal part of a grand parade that proceeds slowly through the streets and avenues of the centre towards the Olympic Stadium. The Kings and other participants in the parade throw barley sugar sweets and other candies to the children lining the route. There are many stalls along the way, especially along Gran Via. The days leading up to the parade allow the opportunity for children to inspect the Three Kings’ boat and carriages, and to leave messages requesting gifts, which they (and adults, too) receive, traditionally, on 6 January”

I think it’s a really nice tradition. I mean, it does make more sense and it preserves more of the Biblical story. At least it keeps Christ part of Christmas, because to explain who the three wise men are, you need to talk about Christ. But like everything else that is more local, this is being threatened by globalization as more and more Spanish kids want to get their gifts on Dec 25th… Some do both Santa & los reyes.[update: they’ve just said in the local news that 2 in every 5 Spanish kids get gifts on both dates] I hope they don’t lose their tradition.

Fore more Spanish Christmas holiday traditions see here.

To illustrate the central role of the three wise men within Christmas tradition here, I leave you with a picture of our milk box:

The three wise cows

Stay tuned for a post on a unique Catalan traditions – the caganer & the caga-tio: