Seeing double

Balkans, Barcelona, Catalonia, England, London, North Yorkshire, Valencia

Getting two images for the price of one. That’s this week’s Lens-Artist Challenge, hosted this week by Jez. I’m keen on seeing double like this.

Do I prefer a simple canalscape?

Regent’s Canal, London.

Or a cloudscape?

Lake Prespa, North Macedonia

A few birds could add some interest …

I often like urban reflections …

… or surprising reflections …

… or just a peaceful scene by a river …

Near Saint Naum, North Macedonia

… which is where we started. The featured photo is from a boat on the River Guadalquivir in Seville.

Love your local library in Catalunya

Books and reading, Catalonia

Last time I took you to a library, it was a rainy day. During our month away, we had just one day of rain – more like a couple of hours – when we were staying with Emily and family in Premià de Mar. She was at work. Miquel was at work. Anaïs was at nursery. Reader, we went to the library.

We found plenty to do. There was the display of children’s books about the sea. And another one of graphic fiction.

There was the stock of English books. Lots for learners – quite impressive. The English language fiction was less so, though it was better than our library’s collection of Spanish books (and we have none in Catalan, unsurprisingly).

With everyone at school, the children’s library was empty. But there was a dedicated room for the youngest borrowers, so they could make all the noise they wanted during story-time sessions. There was a lecture hall, a roof-top performance space. In fact we were impressed.

And as we left, we spotted this poster in Catalan. Go on. Have a go. If you’ve ever learnt any French, or Italian or Spanish for that matter, I think this piece will be accessible to you. And you won’t have trouble agreeing with its sentiments.

For Rebecca’s Love your Library, a monthly challenge for … of course, library-lovers.

Postcards from Mataró

Catalonia, Spain

From Premià de Mar, you could go south west to Barcelona, or northeast to Mataró, a town of some 120,000, and that’s what we did today.

It used to be a textile manufacturing town. It saw the very first railway in the whole of Spain run between here and Barcelona in 1848. It’s still a prosperous and busy town.

We saw an exhibition of Catalan gigantes, those colossal figurines and heads processing on ceremonial occasions through the town, and later, in local shops, gigantic Playmobil figures on display, for – er – Playmobil week. Mainly we hunted down Modernista architecture. But that’s for another day …

Postcards from Premià de Mar

Barcelona, Catalonia, Heritage

We’re having a quiet day. We’re exploring Premià’s change from fishing village to dormitory town via its skirmish with industrialisation in the 19th century. Few signs are left of its days as a textile town, like many in Catalonia.

Fishermen’s cottages built round about 1839, just before industry arrived and expanded the town.

But here’s something we can’t get our heads round. The textile and gas industries depended on coal. And the coal was transported from Barcelona by rail, on the very first trainline in Spain, opened in 1848.

But where did the coal come from? Asturias, some of it. But most of it came by sea from England. Just think: England, all the way down the coast of France to the Iberian peninsula which had to be skirted virtually in its entirety. It seems economic madness, but it can’t have been.

The station still exists. The nearby docks hardly at all. One man and his dog play in the shallows of la Descàrrega. I’m sure they don’t give a thought either of this area’s industrial past, nor of its more recent role in the Spanish Civil War. Bunkers were erected here to protect the railway signals from attack by Francoist troops, and you can see their remains in the featured photo..

One happy dog. His master’s having a swim. That’s Barcelona in the distance.

Postcards from Sant Andreu

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Daughter Emily has lived in and around Barcelona for ten years now, so we feel well-versed in its tourist destinations. It’s fun for a change to get to know different neighbourhoods.

Today, we explored Sant Andreu, which was until the later 19th century an entirely separate town, a textile town, the home of Fabra i Coats (surely you or your mum had a sewing box full of brightly coloured Coats threads, though they won’t have come via Spain?). This factory complex is now an arts centre, not very busy this rainy day. And at Christmas time, it’s transformed into a toy factory for the Three Kings to collect the gifts they’ll deliver to the children of Barcelona at Epiphanytide. It’s a popular family destination at that time of year.

Our explorations began and ended with churches. First the church of Saint Andreu de Palomar of course, which gives the area its name …

This 19th century church has its beginnings in the 10th century. We’d like to have explored it more.

… and then Sant Pacià, which we were keen to see, as its mosaic floor was created by Gaudí in his early days. Irritatingly, both buildings were shut.

Sant Pacià. Firmly shut. Another Gothic Revival church.

Never mind. Mooch about with us and enjoy the cobbled streets of the old town, its Modernista buildings and independent shops: orange tree lined and bougainvillea bedecked. The area has a great feeling of community. We’d cheerfully live here.

Postcards from Badalona

Catalonia, Spain

We love our time with the family in Premià de Mar. Their home here is only some twelve miles from Barcelona, and well connected by rail and road. But it’s a world away. Strictly no tourists. Just everyday people living everyday lives.

Sometimes we venture into neighbouring towns for more of the same. Today it was Badalona and its charming Old Town – Dalt de la Vila. But no town in Catalonia can hold its head up high if it’s not protesting about something. Today we witnessed …

… painted protests against the projected destruction of some of this quarter’s oldest buildings …

… a small protest by and for pensioners (are you sitting comfortably?) …

… a poster near the beach: your struggle has secured freedom for others. We must continue the fight.

… and the inevitable posters proclaiming the need for Catalan independence.

Let’s finish with a few shots demonstrating some of the charms of Dalt de la Vila.

The featured photo, by the way, is of Badalona’s town flag.

A Historical Happy Birthday

Catalonia, Festivals, Spain

This week’s Lens-Artists Challenge invites us to focus on birthdays. We’re not big on birthdays in our family, but back in June 2019, something special happened. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

We’re in Spain. Emily and Miquel had invited us to celebrate her 30th birthday with them, so off we went to Barcelona on Thursday. Where they immediately announced ‘Some friends have lent us their holiday home near the coast for the weekend. Don’t unpack. We’re off in an hour.’

The sun was setting as we arrived at a village, somewhere near Girona. As the car came to a stop, I was sure it must be the wrong place – there were cars in the drive, and this was no small holiday cottage. We got out anyway…. and a line of people appeared on the balcony singing ‘Happy Birthday’…. to me!

It was my family. My whole family. My three children, their partners and children had all secretly plotted and contrived to come here for a long-delayed 70th birthday celebration, just for me, here, this weekend. And I hadn’t suspected a thing.

On the actual day, two years ago, Ellie was in the middle of chemotherapy and celebrations were in short supply.

So here we are, all 15 of us, all in the same place at the same time – something that almost never happens. For a whole long weekend of glorious weather, spending our days playing with the children on the beach, and exploring, and our evenings on the terrace outside eating, drinking and talking, always talking…..’

June 1st, 2019

Let’s have a miscellany of the house, the sitting-round-together, the beach, the meals, the Catalonian ambience, and even … a praying mantis.

That first evening
Celebrating in town
Eating out by the beach

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas …

Barcelona, Catalonia, Festivals

… my true love gave to me

Twelve Caga Tiós …

Hmm. Thirteen here. Ah well: one for luck.

We’re still in Barcelona you see. But we could be anywhere in Catalonia or Aragon. And we’re still with the scatological. Caga Tió  is a log. A log with special powers. He’s a poo log, who excretes presents. Children must look after him well before Christmas, feeding him with dried beans, bread or orange peel. But when the festival arrives, they must beat him, hard, until he produces their presents. Whilst beating him they might sing this song:

We’re leaving Christmas behind now. In Barcelona, and Spain generally, things are just hotting up. Tonight, the Three Kings will progress into town, and tomorrow, extended families will get together to exchange presents, in memory of those Wise Men who toiled over field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star to bring gifts to the infant Jesus. (Well. It’s Covid Time. No more than 10 in a family group this year)

Cabalgata de los Reyes: 5th January 2019

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas …

Barcelona, Catalonia, Festivals

I only planned to tell you about the tenth day of Christmas, but Susan of London Senior took the view that I’d started, so I ought to finish too. So here we go: it’s a little rude, but don’t blame me …

If you visit Catalonia at Christmas time and take a look at any crib scene, there at the back, somewhere behind the infant Jesus will be a figurine – a caganer – squatting down doing A Big Job, a Number Two: choose your own euphemism. The message seems to be that we are all sisters and brothers under the skin: mighty or humble, rich or poor, old or young, we all have the same kinds of body – and bodily functions, so get over yourself and don’t give yourself airs and graces. All are Equal in the Sight of God.

These photos were taken a few years ago. The roll call of Those in Charge seems to have changed a bit – can you spot Gordon Brown here? But you’ll see someone you recognise, I’m sure.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Eleven sh***ing caganers …