Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

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El “Invierno” de Barcelona

November 13, 2011

Believe it or not, its almost halfway through November already, and here in Barcelona, they’re gearing up for winter. Sandals, shorts, tanktops all gone into storage and a wide array of scarves, hats, boots, and coats take their place. This is what happens in most places when winter starts to hit, right? So why am I blogging about it? Well, because it still gets up to 20 degrees Celsius here, or higher! And it never gets lower than 12 or so! For those of you, like me, not yet accustomed to celsius, I’ll translate: 20=68, 12=54.

Last week there was a rain storm that lasted about 5 days, and I’ll admit, I got a bit chilly. And when I went to Andorra, which is in the mountains, I was actually legitimately cold. But come on, Barcelona, how can you expect me to wear scarves and boots when its over 60 degrees out?

As I mentioned in my last post, one of my favorite things to do in Barcelona is walk around the city. It’s beautiful here, and I love walking, people watching, and learning the city… Hoping to know at least some parts of the city as well as a local before I leave. But the tough thing is that though I try to dress for winter, after all that walking, layers have to come off. So much for looking like a native.

Apart from that, however, the exciting thing about the winter season, whatever the temperature, is that Christmas is coming soon!! And Barcelona is getting ready. I can feel the rumblings of the start of my favorite part of the year! Every year they put up decorations all over the city, overhanging the streets, strewn on the lampposts and trees. They haven’t lit any of them yet–I hear that doesn’t happen until December 1–but they’re still there, full of potential energy and potential Christmas cheer!

I can't wait to see this lit up!

Diagonal/Passeig de Gracia. Look at all those lights lining the street!

And in mid-December they start putting stands up on Gran Via and Plaza Catedral that sell all kinds of Christmassy items, and… churros!! I hear the best time to eat them is in the winter… Maybe it’ll get cold enough here by december so I can dream of curling up under a warm blanket or eating freshly made churros with hot chocolate!

yumm!

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My new philosophy

November 7, 2011

It’s pretty easy to please me, but I do have some things that make me extraordinarily happy. Among these are (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Sorry. Couldn’t resist): taking walks, speaking Spanish, singing, parks, and coffee shops. I’ll have you know that on Saturday, I got to enjoy going all of those. And I got some homework done too.

It was during one of my many walks wandering around the city on Saturday that I formulated my new philosophy for life in Barcelona: keep your eyes open and wear comfy walking shoes. Deciding on a new philosophy, however, made me think of a song from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” (which you can watch here). It’s kind of like “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”: If you give a Kristen some time walking around Barcelona by herself…

  • She’s probably going to start talking to herself. She may actually say some pretty profound things, but eventually, she will say something that reminds her of a song she knows, which means…
  • She will start singing to herself. And since she only knows the lyrics to songs in English (apart from “La Camisa Negra” by Juanes and “Waka Waka” by Shakira), she will start to feel guilty for using English when she’s in Spain to practice her Spanish, after all. (Even though she had been talking to herself in English earlier, but she notices it more when people start staring at her singing an obscure American song out loud while walking) So…
  • She will start talking to herself in Spanish. But seeing as it’s quite difficult to express her deepest thoughts in a foreign language, she will probably subconsciously switch over to English, which brings this scenario full-circle.

Yep. That’s my life here. That cycle actually happens pretty much every time I walk alone. Which happens several times a day.

P.S. I did a wordle of my blog! Not sure how it works exactly, since I just typed in my URL and it popped this out, but that’s faster than my copy-pasting every blog entry, so I took the lazy route. Wordle is pretty fun. 🙂

Wordle: Barcelona

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Café

November 5, 2011

Ok. I’ll admit it. I’m addicted to café con leche (coffee with milk). It all started with the jetlag, over two months ago. The 6 hour time difference and 10+ hours travel time was enough to merit coffee in order to stay awake, and my host parents offered it at breakfast. But then they kept offering it. And I kept drinking it. And then classes started, and I started drinking it between classes as well. So now, I’m hooked, and there’s no going back.

For those of you who don’t know, the coffee in Spain is not like coffee in the US. They don’t use filters and medium-ground drip coffee. No, here, coffee is actually a shot of espresso. I used to think I liked drinking strong coffee black, but that was back when I thought Starbucks was strong. So, here, I drink it with milk. Which is all good because most people here drink it with milk too.

The cool thing about the coffee here is that there aren’t as many options. You can’t order a venti double shot soy caramel macchiato with two pumps of raspberry and extra whip. (Unless you go to Starbucks… they do have them here) Usually cafés offer plain coffee, coffee with condensed milk, coffee with milk, lattes, and cappuccinos. And that’s about it. And they don’t offer large sizes either. Believe me, this coffee is concentrated enough that you don’t want a venti of it. But even if you did, you wouldn’t be able to find it anywhere (besides Starbucks).

Another thing is that they don’t drink coffee on the go. Sure, you can get it to-go at most places, but you just don’t see people walking down the street sipping a coffee (unless they’re tourists…drinking Starbucks). It’s all about enjoying the coffee, savoring it. Some places even give you a free piece of chocolate or free small pastries to eat with it.

Here, it’s less about having a complicated favorite coffee drink with the perfect combination of flavors, and more about enjoying the simplicity of strong coffee coupled with the smooth texture of milk and the sweetness of a bit of sugar. And while I love Starbucks as much as the next guy when I’m in the US (actually probably a bit more than the next guy), it’s not the way they do it here.

P.S. The original point of this blog entry (before I got off on this long tangent about coffee consistencies and tastes) was to talk about my new favorite hangout spot. My friend recently showed me this really cool café close to the University, and I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s a cool atmosphere of college students, couches, art, and music. Kind of reminds me of a blend of two of my favorite coffee shops in the US, except better, because it’s in Spain. Everything’s better when it’s in Spain.

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[ˈʎuβ̞ja]

October 28, 2011

I know, by now you’re probably saying, “enough with those funny symbols, already!”. But this word (“lluvia”, the Spanish word for “rain”) is so fun to transcribe that I couldn’t help it!

So I said earlier that I wasn’t going to talk about the weather because it’s the “composition of lame conversation”… but hey, I’m a woman, and that was a couple days ago, so I’m allowed to change my mind.

When I was packing all of my things to come here, I read on the recommended packing list: rain boots and rain coat. And I thought… hey, I live most of the year on the North Shore, Massachusetts, I don’t need any of that. It doesn’t rain in Barcelona. And, for most of my first month or two here, my thoughts were correct. But, here, when it rains, it pours. Literally. The first time I encountered Barcelona rainfall was–unfortunately–during La Mercè. It rained off and on all day on Saturday, and then it poured Saturday night. That meant that they canceled a ton of stuff, and we got a bit wet. But it ended up working out okay… I borrowed a friend’s umbrella, the rain stopped after a couple of minutes, and we accidentally stumbled upon an awesome jazz concert!

The rain doesn’t always have such fortunate results, however. Take earlier this week for example.  My housemate Alain and I wanted to take a walk around the city, but it was POURING down rain. That didn’t stop us from taking a walk; we just got really wet. And then yesterday, after class, I thought, ‘Oh, it’s only a ten minute walk home, and I have an umbrella, so it’s unnecessary to take the metro two stops to avoid the rain.’ About a minute after that decision, I was soaking wet and regretting it.

But all unfortunate things can be positive if you put the right spin on them. I always like to look at negative situations as adventures. And yesterday, I enjoyed a delicious cup of tea after I dried off. I bought some Kusmi Tea when I was in Paris, and I needed a rainy day to try it out. So even unfortunate rainy events can be good things! 🙂

Mmmmm. 🙂

Although I hope there won’t be too many more rainy days here, I’ll take everything as it comes. I’m fortunate, however, that in general Barcelona has beautiful weather all year long.

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La Vida en Bar-thay-lona, parte 2

October 26, 2011

Just because I’m a linguistic nerd and I’ve been doing lots of phonetic transcriptions recently, and since it makes a segway between last post and this one, here is the phonetic transcription of “Me encanta Barcelona” (I love Barcelona), in the peninsular dialect, of course: [meːŋˈkan̪t̪aβ̞aɾθeˈlona]. Don’t forget the “th” sound!

I’m sure you were dying to know how to phonetically transcribe “I love Barcelona”, and now your life is complete. You’ll thank me later. 😛

So apart from enjoying the fall weather, I’ve been spending a lot of time walking around the city with my housemate from Quebec, who is leaving in a little over a week! Therefore, I’ve gotten to know the city a little better (it used to be that I’d spend my time during the week after class doing homework in the library or in my room on facebook, so this is a much nicer alternative, although I have spent less time doing homework…). All that to say, my appreciation for this capital city of Catalonia, Spain is growing even fonder every day! 🙂 With that, here I will pick up where I left off on my Top 10 favorite aspects of Barcelonian life:

  1. Gaudí – Okay, so any list of great things about Barcelona has got to include its most famous resident, the innovative architect that is the face of the modernismemovement. Apart from the fact that his work is so innovative and important for students of art and architecture, even for the artistically-uninformed linguistics student that I am, I can appreciate that his works are really cool! I haven’t been to all of his famous houses yet (I still need to go to Casa Vicens and Calvet, and also the crypt of Colònia Güell before I can feel content with the amount of Gaudi that I’ve seen), but I’ve seen the main tourist attractions: Parc Güell, Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and Casa Milà/La Pedrera. His work is overwhelming to see, and I highly recommend that anyone who admires art or nature visit Barcelona to see his works in person. The cool thing is that you can see famous Gaudí works of art just walking around the city–they’re right there in the middle of downtown!

    The view from Parc Güell - including the Sagrada Familia: center/left on the horizon

  2. Nature. Speaking of parks and horizons… Barcelona has such an incredible mix of magnificent natural scenery. From the sands of the Villa Olympica or Barceloneta, the grassy, tree-covered terrain of the many municipal parks, to the mountain of Montjüic, Barcelona has much more than just man-made art and architecture to offer; it also has the beauty of nature!

    Palm trees in Parc Guell!

  3. Català. Em dic Kristen. Visc a Barcelona. Parlo una mica de català. (Tr. My name is Kristen. I live in Barcelona. I speak a little bit of Catalan.) Okay, so you thought I had moved on from linguistics for this blog entry. False! It all comes back to language. Part of the reason why I chose to go to Barcelona was because they speak Catalan. It’s fascinating to hear and see the interplay of the two languages here. Nearly all official postings or safety warnings are written in Catalan first, then Castellano, then English. But sometimes they leave off either Castellano or English (it’s always funny to see something written first in Catalan and then in English, as if all the Spanish-speakers who don’t know Catalan or English aren’t welcome here). It’s perfectly normal here to hold a conversation where one person speaks Catalan and the other understands, but responds in Castellano. A large part of the Catalonian identity is tied up in their ability to speak their own language, and they aren’t happy when the government tries to take this away from them (as did Franco). For me, this city is sociolinguistically, psycholinguistically, and phonologically provocative, so it’s pretty much a linguistics nerd fest every day.
  4. Sangría. It’s true. Sangria is delicious. I would drink it everyday if it weren’t so expensive. Picture this: real fruit juice, cut-up fruit soaked inside, wine, sugar, fanta, and a bit of liquor. Result=pure paradise for your tastebuds. 🙂 Now imagine trying to NOT drink this every chance you get. Every restaurant in Barcelona sells it, and no two sangrias ever taste exactly the same, so it’s necessary to try it as often as possible, right?

    mmmmm... 🙂

  5. Anti-Rush. The people take their time here. You literally never see a native Spaniard walking down the street, a cellphone in one hand and a coffee or half-eaten sandwich in the other. In contrast, that is the definition of the majority of people walking around in cities in the US. (perhaps a minor exaggeration, but you get my point.) Here, most businesses close for several hours in the middle of the day so people can enjoy a nice midday meal and a siesta. Going out to have coffee with someone usually means staying and talking for hours. It’s very important to really enjoy good food and good company. I like that. In America, it’s too easy to make hurriedness and busyness a priority, when that’s not really what matters. It’s better to just sit back and relax a bit, take time to enjoy yourself, and really invest in the place you are at the moment, not worrying about what’s next.
Well, there you have it. I could probably easily pick another ten, but these are some things that really stick out to me and warm my heart to this beautiful city.
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La vida en Bar-thay-lona, parte 1

October 22, 2011

So since I haven’t written in a while, there are a majority of topics I could cover. I could talk about the change of weather. But really, that’s the composition of lame, dry conversations, so I won’t go there. I could talk about what it was like to have a clash of two worlds when my parents came to visit me. But I’m not in the mood for that. I could actually cover some of my recent(ish) excursions, like when I went to Paris, Tarragona, Madrid (again), or my excursion today to Besalú and Figueras. But that just makes me sound like a tourist.

But today marks the two-month anniversary of my arrival here, and I think that deserves something more pertinent to my actual life here. Not that fun excursions or weather changes or parents coming aren’t part of my life, but they’re just fun blips. What I’m talking about here is my day-to-day, mundane (although I’d hardly call it that!), typical routine here. I love Barcelona in a way that I can’t fully explain, but I’m going to try to scratch the surface.

So, without further ado, I will commence with the rather cliche top 10 list: My top 10 favorite aspects of Barcelonian life (in no particular order).

  1. Pan con tomate. (Bread with tomato) Ok, those of you who haven’t been to Cataluña may think that it’s silly to include a simple food item like this in my top ten list, but really. It’s such a staple here. And so delicious. All you do is put spread some garlic (directly from the clove) on some baked bread, cut up a tomato and spread its juice around on the bread, drizzle some olive oil, and sprinkle some salt (and a lot of times they don’t use the garlic, but for me, that’s what makes or breaks it). Apart from this being a side dish to almost all meals, they also use the same recipe (without the garlic) to put on sandwiches made with baguettes. This moistens the bread and brings out the flavor of the meat or cheese! 🙂

    Pan con tomate. Mmmmm

  2. The independent mindset of the Catalan people. Okay, so I’m going to try to not make gross over-generalizations, but forgive me in advance if I approach this the wrong way. To state it briefly, Cataluña (an autonomous community of Spain, which used to be its own nation prior to September 11, 1714) has its own culture, its own language, its own unique gastronomy, and many other unique aspects, and a lot of people here have strong opinions about being separate from the overarching culture of Spain.  Although I myself don’t associate politically with any Catalan or Spanish party, I find it incredibly interesting to observe. There’s a strong cultural bond here.

    They write it in English so the tourists understand. And of course this is supposed to say "not".

  3. El Barrio Gótico. I said this from almost the beginning of my trip here, and it’s still true. I love the gothic area of the city. It feels like it’s the beating heart of the city. And it’s also just so beautiful and full of surprises around every corner. This weekend they’re having a food and wine festival, and there’s an open market in the plaza in front of the Cathedral. During the Mercè, there were a lot of great events there, and there is always some sort of cultural activity or at least a couple street performers hanging out in various places around the area. Apart from that, it’s a remnant of a former time–there are buildings and walls that are very old, much older than the US, and I like the atmosphere that it gives the area.

    Part of the Roman Wall from ancient Barcelona, in the Plaza de Ramon Berenguer.

  4. [θ]. Alright, so allow me to nerd out here for a minute. The dialect of Spanish here is very different from that spoken in Latin America. One of the most obvious differences, apart from the use of “vosotros” and words and phrases that are different, is the “th” sound (phonetically represented as [θ]) for the letters “z” and sometimes “c”. Since I’m taking phonetics and phonology of Spanish here, I am constantly reminded of this change of pronunciation. I know, I’m a linguistics nerd for allowing dialects of Spanish fascinate me so much, but that’s how it is.
  5. Balconies. When you walk down a street in Barcelona, if you take a minute to stop and look, you will see balconies and terraces and flower pots on all of the apartment buildings overlooking the street. That, mixed with the stone that is typical for almost all the buildings in the city, gives it a look that is very distinct from cities in the US, which are normally built with a lot less focus on aesthetic value. They have this in lots of European cities, and it always makes me happy. It feels like I’ve been transported to another world.

    See this? Isn't it pretty? Now imagine this on every street in the city. 😀

This is taking longer than expected (it always does, I suppose), so I’ll leave the list here for now. Stay tuned for the next five, hopefully coming soon!
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La Mercè in a nutshell

September 27, 2011

How to sum up an entire three day weekend full of incredible activities into a single, readable blog entry is out of my ability, so excuse my oversimplification of what I did this weekend at the Merced.

Basically, I can narrow it down into three categories:

  • Crazy Spanish/Catalan activities, including the gegants, un desfile (parade), castellers, and, of course, the correfoc.
  • Concerts.
  • Fun times with friends.

So, first off. Spanish/Catalan specific events.

I already mentioned a bit about the gegants in my previous post, but the cool thing is that we got to see them on display (without people inside them) later, and that was cool. My camera was dead at this point, so I’ll just steal a picture from facebook.

My friend, the angry turtle.

Also, in addition to the dance of the gegants which I saw Thursday night, we also got to see a parade of them, with drums and fire and confetti and other such amazing events.

If you think this fiery creature looks dangerous, just wait til I get to talking about the correfoc!

But I think my favorite part of the weekend was the castellers, the human towers. I can’t even express how incredible it was to see. Basically people climb on top of each other and stand on each others shoulders. Up to 9 layers high. It’s ridiculous. And I was really close to the action, after I fought my way through the crowd. We were packed into a plaza like sardines, but it was all worth it, because it was so amazing to see.

Really. Words cannot express how cool this is.

But coming in close second for my favorite cultural event of the Merced is the correfoc. Meaning “run of fire” in Catalan, this is essentially a band of crazy people dressed up as demons running down one of the main streets in Barcelona, spouting sparks from giant fireworks, aimed directly at the crowd of people watching. And also, some of the gegants–for the most part the creepy ones, but also some of the non-creepy ones–were part of the correfoc, each equiped (and constantly re-equiped) with plenty of fireworks to shoot at the crowd. Pictures don’t do this justice, so I’ll include a video that I took, including the screams for help that happened when I was showered with sparks. So. much. fun.

However, I must also include a few photos from the night, for your enjoyment. Remember you can click any of them to see a bigger size.

This monstrous beast was terrifying to behold.

The pig of doom.

I love this cow! 🙂

All of the above-mentioned things just made me happy beyond reason that I am in Spain, and, more specifically, that I am in Barcelona. I can’t imagine being anywhere else! I love it here!

I will hopefully write more on the other two parts of this weekend of festivities that is the Merced, but if not, to quickly sum it up, I saw: Merengue, Jazz, Swing, Rock, Man Man (the only American band at the Merced), electronic, and many other types of bands in concert, for free! I also spent a lot of time getting to know friends, listening to nineties music, going to a circus (that was kind of a disappointment), and walking around–sometimes getting lost in–the city. It was a lot of fun, and I wish I could do this every weekend!

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