Sunday, 30 June 2013

Festa del Foc

Last week was St Joan, with fireworks and general bad behaviour with gun powder. I managed to get away from all of that though.

"You can't stop me - I'm the biggest pig in the world!"

The "Diables"
Last night was the Festa del Foc - or Fire Festival - and was much more fun! On the night of the 29th, the whole village of Cardedeu gets together to celebrate St Pere. There is music, food, dancing and even firework performances. I have to admit - the village life here is very friendly, and communal - and there is always something happening in the village, especially in the warmer months!

Everyone and their dogs were out! I missed the 9pm kids show of the "Diables," but I did watch the 'adult' show at 11:30pm. Mind you, the kids hadn't gone to bed at all - that's Spain for you!

The "Verro" in its death throes.

The performance follows the story of the "Verro," a huge wild boar. The pig dances around, doing his thing, and then the villagers come to kill it. The hunt is fierce, and during this part of the performance,  guns are fired, fireworks are let off, and lots of noise in general. Finally, they take down the Verro, and then they celebrate. But, every night on St Pere, the "demonis" came back and haunt the villagers.

Its a fun night, there is lots of noise, lights and music. Thank god its all over for another year!!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Sant Joan

Midsummer's night here in Catalonia is not a pleasant experience. La Nit de Sant Joan is celebrated in all of Catalonia - from small village to Barcelona alike. It is one of the biggest celebrations in the country... and I hate it!

 people buying fireworks (petards  or petrados in Spanish).
On this night, the 23rd (and usually about a week before AND a week after), people run around with fireworks and try to blow things up. From small children to adults who should know better, crackers, rockets and every kind of explosive are being set off all over the country. Fancy losing your eye? Them come on over and join in the fun! I don't think most people actually even know why they are celebrating it... just another long weekend to most.

I have celebrated it here before - in fact, the first month after moving to Catalonia in 2007, my wife and I went to Andorra to see a friend and also join in the party. I enjoy bonfires, a few beers/wine, sparklers and fireworks - mix them together, and them put them in the hands of a young, drunk adolescent, and you have the recipe for disaster... crackers thrown at people or cars, put in rubbish bins, and I have even seen some put into empty cans of soft drink - can you spell 'home-made grenade?'. Previous years we have spent it in Cardedeu as well, at a friend's house party. You would think that adults having a meal, a few drinks and some music would be responsible - well not when fireworks are around...

This year - no way! We decided to hit the French side of the Pyrenees, get into the mountains and away from the noise and chaos. Having limited time (needed time to relax on Monday before hitting a long day on Tuesday), we didnt go too far, and only hiked for a little while. A couple hours walking around the Porte-Puymorens area, taking in the fresh air and mountain views was just the ticket to disconnect for a day.

the first lake on the 'Ruote des Lacs' near Porte-Puymorens

There was a down-side however. The place we stayed at, a place called EquiLibre in the village or Porta, was a big disappointment. The service was pretty much non-existant (we turned up, it was unlocked and no one was around) and when we did get service it was rude and pushy (the bill slapped down on the table while we were still eating). So, we had a crap meal of Spaghetti Bolognaise (very French!), a lettuce salad (which means just lettuce leaves), the bill in front of us (which was 37 each including the lumpy-pillowed bunk bed) and when we didn't move to pay it, as we were still eating, the owner came back and tapped on the bill and said "so, you pay now, oui." We were eating with some French hikers (all who were over the age of 60 - one in his 70s! - and still going strong) and they were disgusted by this as well. Visit this part of France, but don't visit here! It is not typical mountain/southern French hospitality!

Poppies flowering in the fields.
On the way home on the Monday, we stopped in at a small village called "la poble de Lillet." A quaint little Catalan village with a 14th century stone bridge, was now quiet after the festivities, with only traces of St Joan. We didn't hear any crackers going off, nor see any children lighting rockets, so we were able to walk around in peace and take it in. Yup, just us and the old people, as the youth of the village were still sleeping it off.

On the whole, a nice little break before Summer Intensives start - 5 weeks of intense English teaching, for the students and the teacher!

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Origins of Uncle Travelling Matt

The origin behind the name 'Uncle Travelling Matt' is a fairly simple one... but let me tell you anyway, as its not as simple as I'm and uncle and I like to travel. Close though!

Well, I had been sending these travel emails since I left for the UK in 2004. It was in Ireland the following year when I met up with a rugby mate of my brother's that I was given the name. I had just become an Uncle (I was in a pub when I heard the news, and it was on St Patricks Day), I was drinking with half of Dublin at the time, and since I liked to travel, he gave me name.

Lets go back a little on this one. If you were born in the 80s, or 70 possibly as well, you would remember a kid's television program called 'Fraggle Rock.' The main character had an uncle that, at the end of every episode, would send his nephew a letter, telling him all about the weird and wonderful places that he had seen. This is truly where the nickname came from - that with the coincidence of my first name.

If I Blog, am I not a Blogger?

Well, this is the first Blog that I have ever done!

Now, the reasons for having a blog... well, I do have a good excuse. Over the past 10 years I have been sending emails, telling the story of my travels, and signing them off as Uncle Travelling Matt. Many people often replied back, and said that they loved reading my emails, found them interesting/funny/long but funny/interesting, and some even suggested a blog... so here it is!

Although I have been (quite!) busy in the last 10 years, getting about here and there, I will start from today with this blog. I'm hoping that my best trips arent behind me! It would be great if everyone could still read and comment on these trips, as I think I will be doing away with the 'old-fashioned' emails now.

Thanks for all of your support and comments over the years, and happy reading - heres to the future of Uncle Travelling Matt!

Birthday Weekend

The always impressive Pedraforca. Just beautiful! Hiking with a touch of snow. Winter was setting in by November, and although ...