Bullfighting is dead. Long live retail therapy.

On the way to meet Emily and Miquel today, we spotted a large arena. Surely that must be a bullring? But bullfighting’s outlawed in Catalonia, so what could it be now?
It was the former bullring. Built at the turn of the twentieth century in Moorish style, with a capacity for sixteen thousand spectators, it never really earned its keep. Even before the sport was banned, Catalans didn’t enjoy bullfights, and the Arena saw its last fight in 1977.

The building stood empty and unused till 1999. Richard Rogers’ architectural practice was selected to design a state-of-the-art complex of shops, cinemas and restaurants which also preserved the historic red facade.

It’s wonderful. Shopping’s no fun as far as I’m concerned, but gazing at the massive girders which hold the current structure in place, or walking round the roof terrace (in the pouring rain) to have 360° views over Plaça d’Espanya and beyond was a fine way to spend a morning.

La fiesta de los Reyes: part two.

Today was why we came to Barcelona in early January. Emily’s partner’s family invited us to share in today’s traditional family gathering. How could we refuse?

We’ve just had the best of days, with about thirty members of Miquel’s wider family. We’ve muddled through in Spanish, in English, in French. We’ve watched with pride Emily’s integration into this loving and close family group.

Lots of eating, lots of drinking. Then everyone had to share in eating the traditional Three Kings cake, el roscón de Reyes. We’d all chucked five euros into the pot, and the person who found the little pottery king in their slice won the lot – all but five euros. Miquel won that, for finding a bean in his slice.

Then it was charades. Can you imagine? But this little detail made us laugh. If you need to indicate that the title you’re miming is in English, you drink from an imaginary cup of tea whilst crooking your little finger ….

A very good day has been had by all. Thank you, Miquel’s family, for making us so welcome.

Snapshot Saturday: You can never have too many snowdrops

2018. Our earliest snowdrops.

On New Year’s Day, I excitedly posted a photo of the earliest snowdrops of the year, spotted that very morning.  If I’d known that this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge was to be ‘Growth’, I might just have held back.

As it is, I now realise just how special those early hardy little shoots are.  That little patch of snowdrops I showed you was alone, quite alone on a sea of bare earth, creeping ivy and a few shriveled Autumn leaves.

Let’s fast forward maybe four weeks.  This is what the garden and surrounding woodlands will look like after all the hundreds and thousands of local snowdrops have grown, pushing themselves forth through the chilly frozen earth.  Our annual miracle.

February 2017.  All the local snowdrops have arrived.

Click on any image to view full size.

La fiesta de los reyes

Did Father Christmas come your way the other week? I hope so. 

But this year we’ve come to try to spot another team bearing gifts. We’re in Barcelona, where tonight children are waiting eagerly for their Christmas presents from – the Three Kings.

It was at Epiphany that the Magi visited the infant Christ, and at Epiphany that they continue the tradition by bringing gifts to all Spanish and Hispanic children.

We’ve already spotted them. Here they are, slowly winding their way through the crowded streets of Barcelona with their accompanying queens, elves, African drummers and jungle creatures. My phone hasn’t made a good job of recording their visit. I hope my camera will have done better.

 

Supplementary Snapshot Saturday: First snow

The weekly photo challenge posed by WordPress is taking a week off.  I don’t have to.  I thought I’d add to the piles of photos clogging up the internet showing snow.  Snow in the garden, out by the lake, up a mountain, shutting down the motorways, whitening city streets ….

We woke up this morning to bitter cold.  Minus One Celsius.  This will make my American and Canadian readers laugh.  Look at this post from my blogging friend Kerry.  Where she wakes up it’s  -32, and steam is rising from the frozen lake.  She’d better not read this.  Where she is, nobody ventures out, not even – especially not even – the cats.

This is snowy weather British style.  Just a couple of inches.  Just enough to snarl up the transport system and fill the airwaves with ‘Is your journey really necessary?’ type warnings.  It’ll probably be gone tomorrow.

 

 

Click on any image to view full size.

PS.  Happy New Year!

 

 

 

In which a Christmas gift has conditions attached *

We are a horribly traditional couple, and no role model at all for our grandchildren.  If it’s jobs round the house that need doing, Malcolm’s your man.  He’s a very handy plumber, and spending the morning fiddling with the electrics presents him with no problems at all.  He’s good at what he does. I’m not even any use as the gopher.  I’ll bring him the wrong sort of screwdriver, and am apt to confuse hammers and mallets.

Cooking however is a different story.  I’ll open the fridge and plan a meal round whatever catches my eye or needs using up.  I read recipe books for fun, but rarely use them whilst actually cooking.  Spending time in the kitchen is relaxing for me.  Malcolm requires a detailed recipe, and if he finds we’re out of some minor ingredient, the planned-for dish is hastily abandoned.  In advance of actually cooking, he carefully lines up, measures and weighs all he needs, just like Delia Smith used to do.

So this Christmas, I’ve given him a present designed to remove cooking-related stress.  Here it is: a whole book of dishes needing only five ingredients, and top of the best-seller lists as well.

Jamie Oliver’s latest book.

Very meanly though, I’ve insisted that in return for the gift, he has to plan and cook a dish from it once a week.

He says he’s up for the challenge. Happily, he hasn’t given me a D-I-Y book in return. No home deserves my botched attempts at repair and maintenance. Instead, he’s given me this: much more my cup of tea.

 

  • Malcolm says I ought to call this post ‘The Poisoned Chalice’.  I think that’s a bit harsh.