Tuesday, September 24, 2013
We did enjoy breaking our routine to welcome friends from White Rock. It was a very quick trip but we did visit Cadaques, the picturesque village where Dali and many others painted. Since our friends are real foodies we went to Compartir for lunch. Compartir is the restaurant run by three chefs who worked at El Bulli, which was touted as the best restaurant in the world for many years before the chef, Ferran retired.
We decided to sit outside to enjoy the beautiful day. The whole idea of Compartir is that you share, thus the name Compartir, which means exactly that in Spanish. Our lunch began with a glass of apple calvados with a lovely foam on top. I must say that it went down very easily.
We continued along the coast to Port Ligat and Dali's house. Unfortunately, we had lingered too long over lunch as the last tour was full for the day. Back in the car, we continued to the Cap de Creus, the easternmost point on the Iberian peninsula. I always love the drive through the giant rocks with their strange, eerie shapes.
It was time to return back to the Nautica for a glass of cava, enjoying the view over the marina. We arrived back home just in time to watch a full moon slowly conjure itself from the mountain facing the house, a perfect start to a laughter filled evening.
Monday, September 16, 2013
Herge drew on the news stories and books of the day. On display were clippings of articles about fascist plots, ships, pictures of the desert and the race to the moon. There were postcards, catalogs and even a book about Rasputin. Entertainers such as Rudolph Valentino were also included in his books, Valentino in Cigars of the Pharaoh. Each display featured a different book and all the clippings and other materials that Herge used for that particular book. The pictures, when compared with the originals, are remarkably accurate.
It was really interesting to see how Herge had developed his colourful books from events of the time. And of course it is easy see how the books still retain their popularity today.
After a short walk we arrived in El Born. Our first stop was the new Mercat de Princessa, which is really a number of tapas bars with beautiful displays of meats, breads, sausages, desserts and wines on display. We didn't stop for anything to eat today but we will go back there the next time we stay in el Born.
Initially we were quite surprised that there is no market on the site today. In fact Seamus had some difficulty coming to grips with this. It didn't matter though, the building is magnificent with its high ceiling and 19th century cast iron architecture.
Notarized documentation exists about the area so that it is known who lived in the buildings. At the sides of the market or cultural centre are museums showing daily life in the area with lots of ceramics and displays and a war room. We will visit these next time we are in Barcelona.
We did visit the restaurant or tapas bar for a beer and some beautiful pan tomat, grilled wonderful, multigrain bread with tomato rubbed in it. Delicious. At one end of the restaurant was a huge nine-screen display showing the stages of the magnificent renovation.
After a quick visit to the nearby Santa Catarina market to admire the food displays, we went to the adjoining Market restaurant, our favourite, for lunch. We had an odd non Spanish lunch of a 'melt in your mouth' Thai chicken curry and oriental ribs that came with rice wraps, strings of cucumber and a black bean paste. We were instructed to eat them like Peking Duck. Never having had Peking Duck we were a bit baffled for a minute but managed to eat the delicious concoction with no difficulty.
A window shopping walk up the incredibly busy Passeig de Gracias finished our day. Unsure about the time of the Figueres train, we made it to the platform with two minutes to spare.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
After months of resistance Barcelona finally surrendered on September 11, 1714. Modern Spain was born, but Catalonia was to pay a heavy price for its support for the Austrian candidate: Catalan language was forbidden and Catalan institutions abolished. Every year, on September 11, Catalans commemorate the day on which Barcelona fell, honouring those killed defending the country's laws and institutions.
In 1931 the Catalans regained their freedom with Catalan being taught in schools and Parliament reopened. Sadly, this was not to last. Catalunya once again found itself on the losing side, this time in the Spanish Civil War. The Franco dictatorship came down heavily on all things Catalan. It was forbidden to even speak Catalan, let alone teach it in the schools. Everything was governed from Madrid. The Civil War was a particularly bad time for El Port de la Selva, which was bombed twice.
The barbecue's had been fired up and now everyone formed an orderly line for a giant sausage on lovely, fresh crusty bread accompanied by a glass of red wine. We sat on one of the benches overlooking the beach and thoroughly enjoyed our food. Independencia.
Wednesday, September 11 dawned, Diada Nationale. Today was the day of the Catalan Way, where hands would be joined in a giant chain running from the French border in the north down to the province of Valencia in the south to mark solidarity for Catalan independence.
Following Franco's death Catalans regained some of their independence but today they give more to Spain financially than they get back thus spurring on the independence movement. When we returned from our coffee young and old were waiting for the bus to take them to the spot where they would join the human chain. In the square the sardana band was playing and people were performing the traditional Catalan dance, which is always performed on special holidays.
It was a lovely experience to see such a well organized event with people obviously enjoying themselves in a such a calm and friendly fashion. It will be interesting to see how the government in Madrid reacts to this show of Catalan solidarity.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Empordalia Cooperativa in Pau. Lots of people were milling about, and the open air tourist bus that is like a train was ready for boarding. We were off but unfortunately sitting in the back, which brought back long forgotten feelings of being in the back car of a roller coaster every time we went around a curve. We cut off the main road and stopped in the middle of a vineyard.
We carried the bins into a long room and placed them beside big, old wooden carriers for the grapes. But first, breakfast. We adjourned to the next room for pan tomat - fresh tomatoes rubbed into bread leaving just the pulp - an assortment of meats, local red and white wine and some biscotti. Fortified, we went back to our grapes.
It was time to wash our feet again and get those pips out from between our toes. The press was assembled and everyone took turns dumping their wooden container into the press. Much of the juice just ran through into plastic containers but to ensure that all the juice was extracted from the rappa, or must, it had to be pressed by pushing the lever back and forth, click, clack, click, clack. When it would go no more the press was taken apart leaving just the must that can be used for distilling grappa or other local liqueurs.
Meanwhile the juice had been dumped into an aluminum container and from there jugs and then bottles of juice were filled. We were given a little glass of the juice we had all made; it was sweet but not too sweet. Delicious. The juice from the press tasted slightly different since the stalks were still on the grapes. Best of all we were given bottles of our juice to take home with us with strict instructions to put them in the fridge.