Sunday, 28 July 2013

Beautiful Cardedeu

I am really lucky to be living here in Cardedeu. I know I am leaving soon, but I do know what I am missing. It is such a peaceful village, surrounded by fields and farms, but at the same time, there are so many things happening all year round that you never get bored!

The fields around Cardedeu
As far as festivals go there is the Festa del Foc (mentioned in a previous post), the Fira de Sant Isidre in May (which is like the Easter Show in Sydney), and of course Festa Major, which is in August. Festa Major (which I am eagerly awaiting) is a week long party - music, beer, friends, performaces... great fun! It's name 'Festa Major' means Major Party - and it is!

Castellers - part of Festa Major
There are many more, throughout the year, such as music festivals, arts and crafts (there is an antique fair every month), markets every Monday... the list goes on!

The Ajuntament of Cardedeu (Town Hall).
As far as the town goes, there are some amazing houses. These houses were built by wealthy people from Barcelona - Cardedeu really become popular as a weekend retreat from the 'Big Smoke' of Barcelona. You can see many of these house around Cardedeu, and even do a Modernist tour (The Modernist Era is the early part of the 20th Century when Guadi wis kicking about building things everywhere).

One of the Modernist houses in Cardedeu.
Cardedeu is very well situated too. 100 kms from the French border, 10 kms from the coast, and a 40 minute train ride into the centre of Barcelona. I much prefer living in a village, rather than a big city - and I'm feeling that more and more lately. In fact, soon I don't think I will even be able to live in a village - I think I am becoming a big of a recluse.

Sunset in Cardedeu.
Well, for anyone coming to Spain, or Catalonia, I have some good advice! First of all, call me and tell me you're coming, and we'll have a great time as I will show you round. If you don't know me, my advice is: Don't just see Barcelona (which is beautiful, but in my opinion slightly over-rated!), get out there and see the things that are so close to Barcelona, but much better. Let me give you an example.

The Sagrada Familia - Guadi's unfinished masterpiece.
Montserrat - this is the Catalan's sacred mountain, and only about 45 minutes away. Montserrat is the patron Saint of Catalonia. There is a cathedral halfway up, and plenty of walking over the mountain. It is a great spot for hiking, relaxing, and just taking in the fresh air - you're very high, and it seems like the top of the world! 

Montserrat at sunset.
My plan - enjoy it while I'm here. Cardedeu is a great place, and one place that will always remain in my heart and in my memory. I will be back!

The green fields and blue sky of Cardedeu.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Weekend at Frenchie's

It's great to actually be able to say 'I think I will go to France for the weekend,' and then do it. That's exactly what I did this weekend.

I've been working all July, morning and evenings, so a quick weekend getaway has been much needed. We thought to head north a bit, through Ripoll and Camprodon, and cross the Catalan-French border over the Col d'Ares. Most people head for the water when the weather is baking, but I love the mountains.

The Col d'Ares.
The Col d'Ares is the top of the mountain pass between France and Catalonia. It is important because it was used extensively during both the Spanish Civil War and WWII. Catalan who were being persecuted by Frano's goons made the 8km crossing to safety, and POWs also made the trek out of Nazi occupied France to (relatively) neutral Spain. Today, we did it in a car.

Party lights in Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste.

The cathderal of Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste.
We spent an evening in Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste, a lovely little French town nestled in the mountains, just on the other side of the pass. The town was part of Catalonia until separated in the 17th Century by the Treaty of the Pyrenees, but it still holds onto its Catalan past - Catalan flags are abundant, even the independent one, and some of the older people still speak Catalan. The town itself only has 1,000 inhabitants, but it has city walls, old cathedral and plenty of bars, restaurants and life. While we were there, there was a 'festival of bands' there, and marching bands came parading through the town, making plenty of noise, but putting smiles on everyone's faces. Our hotel was a little way up the road, at a tiny place called La Preste, where only a handful of people live, but it is popular for its natural thermal baths and has expensive hotels to prove it.


The Sardana
Sardana of 2
We popped into a town called Ceret, only about 30kms from Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste, still in France, and were greeted by the main square full of people dancing the Sardana! The Sardana is the national dance of Catalunya - and I had thought a fading tradition, but it looks to be doing fine! Everyone got involved, young and old, and large groups danced around the square, and there was even a Sardana circle of two.

Heading home, as we only had 2 days away, we decided to stop in one of my all time favourite Catalan towns - Camprodon. The last time I went there was in October 2007, and it was Castanya time. Castanyas are Horse Chestnuts, and here it is traditional to cook them and eat them with sweet potatoes in October. In fact, they celebrate it here, rather than the American holiday Halloween. It was cold then, being mid-autumn in the mountains, but today was baking hot - just the way I like it! Sun, cold beer, and a river running through a Medieval town with a bridge - I am a sucker for Medieval towns and bridges, and when you put them together! I'm glad I could stay for a bit here before leaving - I enjoy revisiting places that I loved the first time, and finding that I still love them.

Camprodon from the bridge.

A lovely weekend I must say, but tomorrow it is back to reality... but I'm not going to think about that today, I will leave it for 5 minutes before work starts on Monday morning!

(By the way - I mean 'Frenchie' in the nicest possible way - I love the French!)

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Goodbye Catalonia - I will miss you!

"I still call Australia Home!"

It's what all Australians say, no matter where they are living at the time - Australia will always be home.

And on that line, the decision has been made to move back to Australia. Yes, it's happening - this year! We have been thinking this one over for at least 6 months, but probably more like 9 months. Should we go or should we stay? There are many reasons to stay, and many to go...

Money. Always on people's minds - whether in the back of it or not, its still there! Spain, and Europe in general, is in quite a sorry state of affairs in this regard. There is very high unemployment in Spain right now - more than 26% (and about 50% for young people) - and even people that do have jobs are getting their salaries cut. Teachers, doctors, nurses - all of these people are losing hours and sometimes their jobs... some things should not be cut, ever.

so desperate for money, the Spanish government is selling off nearly everything they own
On the other hand, Sydney has just been named 3rd most expensive city in the world to live in. There are reasons too for this - the high Australian dollar and it's popularity. It is a wonderful city to live in - green and clean compared to most other big cities around the world, buzzing night and day life but easy to escape for peace and quiet, food, people and culture from all over the world, and lets face it - it's gorgeous!

The sun setting on the city of Sydney.

There is work to consider - I have a stable job here teaching English, and what will I do in a country full of native speakers? Packing up and moving to the other side of the world is always a big deal, but since I've done it a few times already, it's (slightly) more manageable.

There are many things I will miss about living here in Catalonia. Australia has many things to offer, but every country is unique in it's own way.

Cadaqués, one place that will always be on my favourite's list, and I will never tire of visiting. It's the Med at its best - blue, calm, and perfectly complimenting the white houses of the town.

the beautiful Cadaqués.

The medieval bridge of Besalú.

The festivals and partys that are always happening here, especially in the warmer months - you just don't really get that anywhere else! Festa Major for example - where else does a party last a whole week?

Food? What is Catalan food? GOOD! Fuet, llonganissa, butifarra, pa amb tomaquet, galtas... sorry, did you get any of that? Fuet is smoke, peppery porc and looks like salami, but is FAR better. Llonganissa is veyr similar, but bigger, better and more expensive :) Pa amb tomaquet (bread and tomato), is a stable here - whether you order a burger or a sandwich, they always rub the bread with tomato... yum YUM! Galtas is actually porc cheek - now you may be thinking, there are lots of the pig to eat, why the cheek? Let me tell you - its one of the best parts! Port snout is always great fried up nice and crispy... I dont recommend the trotters though, I think they smell like sweaty food (as taste the same...), but they love em here. And pernil - or ham. They cure it here, and you can buy it in store sliced, or just get the whole leg and do it yourself - it's what people buy and eat for Christmas.

I could name more and more things and places... Girona, Tarragona, the mountain of Montseny (which I see everyday from my living room window), Camprodon... the list could, and does, go on. Being so close to France, the Pyrenees, and basically being so close to Barcelona airport, it is the gateway to the rest of Europe! Now I'm getting 'homesick' for here!!

Gustave Eiffel's bridge in Girona.
The move will be in October sometime, so there is still time to see a bit more here, spend time with the In-laws (or Outlaws as I call them... they are wonderful though! I will miss the family here), and catch up with friends. If you're in the neighbourhood, you're running out of time to see me before I go... if you've been waiting for this moment for some time now, well, you're in luck now!

Adeu Catalunya!

Australia - HERE I COME!!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Visca Catalunya!

Picture a Sunday afternoon in sunny Catalonia...
Pa amb tomaquet (tradtional Catalan food)

Supermarkets, shopping centres and every other shop is closed. It's Sunday - its Family Day. The bakeries open in the morning, as everyone needs their 'Pa amb Tomaquet' (bread and tomato), but that's it. 35 degree heat, nobody around... perfect day for chilling in the backyard, dozing, or having a tinnie or two.

a 'tinny' of beer (traditional Australian food)
Well, the village of Cardedeu wasn't doing this! They were out protesting for independance from Spain! Although this was only a trial run for September 11, which is the National Day for Catalonia, there was a good turn out - about 800 people. There were flags in abundance, and good spirits all-round.

The idea was to make a human chain, or 'cadena humana,' from Cardedeu to Llinars (which is the next village, about 3 kms away). Although the chain didn't make it the length of the village, it was still a good effort.  People lined up, held hands, smiled and waved flags. Flags, flags and more flags there were - capes, full-body coverings, t-shirts - anywhere you could stick a flag, one was stuck there!

Along the line, old blunderbusses (or 'trabucaries') were fired by men and women wearing traditional Catalan  costumes. At the end of the demonstration, a few (too many) words were said by some local politician about this and that, then what everyone had been waiting for - the releasing of the flag! Up until this point, the Senyera (the name for the Catalan flag - I love flags with proper names!) had been tied up nice and neatly to a flag pole at the top end of the village. On queue, it was released... well, half-way. We all thought for a minute that it was all going to go wrong - the big finale was going to be ruined by a stuck flag! Then, as everyone was still breathing in, hoping, a warm summer breeze came in and brought the flag to life - WOW! What a relief! All 20 guns were fired, including a small cannon that had been wheeled up the hill, scaring kids and adults alike, then the National Anthem began.

Everyone knew the words!

Who said 'The Youth of Today' don't have any respect!
What a great afternoon! Proud to be Catalan they are - not overly nationalistic or patriotic - just proud of being who they are. No flag burning, no bad words to say about any other country - they just want to have theirs. I think people have a lot to learn from the Catalans - they have not resorted to violence, but have always tried for independence peacefully and with discussions and openness. I hate to say this, but in many other countries there would have been a few problems.

Well done Cardedeu! Next - Catalonia! On September 11 the whole country will be lining up in a Human Chain, right up and down the coast, as a peaceful protest to say: "Spain, give us a referendum, give us our freedom!" It is supposed to be a Democracy, so the people MUST have a say!

"12 Highlanders and a bagpipe make a rebellion" - Scottish proverb

Birthday Weekend

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