No-Bull Barcelona

No BullOn Friday, we ran into an anti-bullfighting demonstration in front of the Generalitat (government of Catalunya). Tourists usually expect to see bullfighting everywhere in Spain and get disappointed when they get to Barcelona and find that the only bullring in town is basically a show place, geared towards the tourist market. Bullfighting is not a Catalan tradition and many Catalans feel strongly against it. The group below is trying to collect enough signatures to force the government of Catalunya to ban the practice in its territory.


bull Anti-Bullfighting


Happy birthday to me!

This weekend we celebrated my birthday at Wushu with a few of our very good friends here in Barcelona. Paul, Wushu’s talented dessert chef, even made me a special cake and we spent an amazing four hours at the restaurant, enjoying the company, the many bottles of cava, and, of course, Brad’s amazing food.


I had my favourite dish – the red curry with roasted duck (on the left) and next time I’ll try the laksa (on the right):

curry laksa


There are more pictures on my flickr site. It was a very busy weekend, which included dinner at Wushu on friday night with other friends, shopping in Gracia on saturday morning for a lunch on sunday that Jackie and I were organizing, then dinner at Wushu again on saturday night and finally a big lunch on sunday, when I cooked a not-so-traditional Brazilian feijoada for friends. Tomorrow we catch the high speed train to Segovia. It’s probable that I won’t be accessing internet there so stay tuned for a report on the trip to Segovia some time next weekend!

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.

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.

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:


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:


Take the high-speed train to Segovia:


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



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”

Longing for Barcelona…

It’s 3 pm and I should really be reading about Galileo Galilei for next week’s tutorial or perusing some fourteenth-century documents for the first chapter of my thesis; instead, I’m at a café near the library having just finished lunch (!) and now enjoying an nice espresso with a bit of hot milk with a tiny cookie, just large enough to add subtle contrast to the coffee. I’ve been in a classroom since 9 AM jumping from tutorial to tutorial and my eyes can’t really focus on a written page right now. This week was harder for me than for the students in many way. They had no reading to do for this week’s tutorial. I, on the other hand, had read and comment their proposals for the final essay – which they handed in last week – and then come up with handouts and design a workshop on how to research and write a proper history essay. Hopefully, some of them will take what I said at heart or will at least take a look at the handouts I distributed.

But enough of my babbling about work, after all, this is the wrong blog for that. I meant to talk about Barcelona and Toronto.

All this sitting-around-in-cafes-sipping-espressos-and-having-lunch-at-two-o’clock business reminded me of the life I had in Barcelona. It was nice. I woke up around 7 every morning, got ready, and Alan and I would leave the apartment around 8-8:30 and stop at the bar at the corner of our street to have coffee (picture beside) and often a small bocadillo, a cheese or cold cut sandwich served in a thin baguette bread, with some olive oil and tomato. Some days I would go to the gym before hitting the archives and in those days we would leave the house around 6:30 and have our coffee at a bakery near the gym. In both places – the bar and the bakery – we became one of the regulars pretty quickly and we never even had to order our coffees. At the bar, Kiko and Paco always knew what kind of coffee we preferred and had them ready by the time we sat down at the bar


I would make it to the archives around 9:00-9:30 and would work until around 1 pm or so. In the summer, when the archives closed at 2, I would have a short break around 11 for a coffee and not really stop for lunch but during the rest of the year, I’d take my hour lunch break at a nearby bakery. I’d leave the archives around 5:30 or so, Alan and I would have dinner shortly after I got home and we would then go out for a bit of a stroll around Gracia. In the summer we would stop for the best gelatto in town, in the winter we would go for coffee or a hot chocolate. On weekends we would either meet friends for ten-hour lunches, go to the beach, go hiking, or simply check out some nearby town. We were always meeting friends for endless chats.

I don’t know what it is. I like my life in Canada, I’m busy, I have lots of good friends, we go out frequently, but I often miss our Barcelona life. Maybe it was the nearly perfect weather that kept our spirits up. Maybe it was the fact that although we were busy, life seemed to go on at a slightly slower pace. Also, doing different things every weekend made us feel like somehow our life was more meaningful.

But I also think I’m in that phase after you move from one country to another in which you romanticize the life you left behind and forget the negative things. I don’t really remember now how uncomfortable I felt reading all the negative press about immigration and the way immigrants were perceived, how hard and how long my friends had to work to earn very modest salaries, the bureaucracy that often made daily life complicated, how disconnected I felt to my department here in Toronto…

But nothing like a few days there over Christmas to make me feel refreshed again. Can’t wait!!!