Thursday, March 15, 2012

A little excursion

It is another sunny morning here in Barcelona. I am sitting in the lounge next to a big wooden carving of a stick figure who is folded onto himself with his elbows on his knees and his oversized head in his hands, with huge bulging eyes looking out from underneath a bowler hat. Opposite me there are a pair of narrow french doors letting the sun in onto a painted wooden rocking horse that sits beneath them. While I suppose these are both potentially quite creepy, they really made the place for me when we first walked in  (as maybe future friends or guardians, I'm not sure which). I also immediately loved the concrete walls painted various shades of orange and yellow, which at the time just seemed suitably "Spanish" but which, I have since learned, can also seem to create light and warmth.

Our own room has a window that looks out onto a ring of buildings surrounding a wide expanse of roof that sits a few floors below us. We are one of many windows, washing lines, lives that all look out onto one another. The roof below is a hangout spot for pigeons which are chased by seagulls which in turn are dwarfed by another type of gull that likes to stalk around the place. They seem to be quite content with the three multi-coloured cats that wander around and sun themselves, maybe because the big gulls can match them in size (as you can see my bird-naming is somewhat lacking). Anyway, they all keep us and the surrounding flats company with their hawking and meowing and wailing day and night. Again, something that might be considered awful but that (maybe just for us, maybe just for now) often provokes a smile.

Last weekend we had a chance to get out of the city though, which as wonderful as it is, is nonetheless quite dirty despite the constant street cleaners rolling up and down the roads and footpaths leaving them wet with puddles. It was a relief to be "in the moutains" (by our standards it was more like being "in the hills") 20 minutes by train in Les Planes. We went with the language school to "la fiesta de la calçotada" in honour of "calçots". These are a Catalan delicacy - a type of large spring onion that is cooked on a barbeque until it is completely black and sooty, then peeled (by holding the stem and pulling upwards), dipped in a tomato based sauce and eaten with relish. I say with relish because it's held high in the air above upturned faces and then lowered into mouths that are wide open and smiling at the same time. Calçots are only in season for one or two months a year I'm told, and so apparently Catalonians take every chance they get to enjoy them.

So about 30 of us made our way to Plaça Catalunya and then onto the train with bags and bags of onions in tow. When we arrived, we were faced with a huge barbeque area - a long line of pits for cooking behind a big collection of green picnic tables filled with bottles of wine (later to be mixed with coca cola to make a "calimocho" or with lemonade to make what we dubbed "poor man's sangria" - delicious), "alioli" and various other essentials. The cooking was already in progress and of course, one of our chefs just happened to be a Kiwi - Peter from Kerikeri, who naturally did an excellent job. The menu was to include everything from potatoes wrapped in tin foil to whole grilled artichokes, sausages, steaks, sardines ... It was a feast, turned into a fiesta by the sunshine, the number of strangers sharing one space and of course the calimocho. It was basically really awesome.

(At first when my teacher told us about it she said the calçots were cooked in fire ... "so we go to the mountain". At first I didn't understand how these two relate to one another (bonfire maybe??) but I have since learned that barbeque-ing in Barcelona itself is illegal, which I guess is one of the reasons that places like Les Planes exist and are used with such enthusiasm). 

We also got to meet some new people, students from the school and staff members and other random strangers. It has not ceased to amaze me all the different reasons people come to Barcelona (we have in fact meet very few "Barcelonans", even our flatmate is from Galicia, in the north). It seems to be a great place to come if you are living in Europe and are having a mid/quarter/late life crisis or are just a bit stuck (provided you have funds/work here). Actually, we also met an Australian man in his 60s who had sold up everything at home and arrived here a few weeks ago, so I guess there are no geographical limitations...

With love, as always, hasta luego!

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