Monestir de Pedralbes.

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Whenever I visit the amazing city of Barcelona, I try to discover something new I hadn’t seen before. No matter how long my visit to Barna is, I am always left wanting more, and I usually try to arrange my trips to coincide with a trip to Barcelona.  Cuando visito la ciudad increíble de Barcelona, siempre intento descubrir algo nuevo que nunca he visto anes. No importa cuanto tiempo tengo en Barna, siempre quiere volver. Suelo intentar arreglar mis viajes para coincidir con una visita a Barcelona. 

A mate in Valencia told me I should visit the Monestir de Pedralbes (Monastery of Pedralbes), located in the barrio of Sarrià. I love this barrio, as it’s outside the masses of tourists and has the feel of a Catalán village and not a huge, metropolitan city. Un colega en Valencia me dijo que debería visitar el Monestir de Pedralbes (Monasterio de Pedrables), ubicado en el barrio de Sarrià. Me encanta este barrio como está fuera del centro y las masas de turistas. Me siento como si estuviera en un pueblo catalán y no en una ciudad metropolitana grande. 

 

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On Sunday afternoons, the monastery is free, so I took advantage of this like a good Catalán would (the Catalans are famous for being a bit stingy, though I have never actually seen it in action.) The name comes from the Catalán words “pertas ables”, or white stones. You can probably guess what the building was made of. Los domingos por la tarde, es gratis entrar el monasterio, y aproveché de eso como un buen catalán. Los catalanes tienen fama de ser tacaños, aunque no es la verdad en mi experiencia. El nombre “pedralbes” viene de las palabras catalanes “pertas ables” o “piedras blancas”. Ya puedes imaginar como han construido el edificio. 

 

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The monastery is beautiful. It was hard to believe I was still in Barcelona. I explored every centimetre of it and loved the architecture and history. It gave me a sense of calm, something very hard to find in a bustling city like Barna. A highlight was the old kitchen. El monasterio es precioso. No me pude creer que todavía estaba en Barcelona. Exploré todo el monasterio y me encantó la arquitectura y la historia. Me tranquilizó mucho. Este sentido de paz interior es algo difícil encontrar en una ciudad bulliciosa como Barcelona. La cocina antigua era especialmente interesante. 

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The monastery was founded by King James II of Aragón in 1326 as a present to his wife. After his death in 1327, Queen Elisenda de Montcada had a palace added where she lived. The palace remains weren’t discovered until the 1970s. There are three floors and a lot of arches. I wish I had known the history of James II and Elisenda when I had gone as it would’ve added to the experience. El monasterio fue fundido por el Rey Jaime (¿Jaume?) de Aragón en 1326. Era un regalo para su mujer, la Reina Elisenda de Montcada. Después del muerte del rey en 1327, la reina añadió un palacio y vivió allí hasta su muerte. El palacio no era descubierto hasta los años 1970s. Hay tres pisos y muchos arcos. Ahora ojalá que supiera la historia de Jaime II y Elisenda cuando fui. La experiencia siempre es mejor cuando sabes la historia. 

 

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To get to Sarrià, you have a variety of options. The FGC train line 12 will leave you at Reina Elisenda, and it’s about a 10-15 minute walk. Metro Line 3 (Green) leaves you at María Cristina or Palau Reial, and the city buses H4, 63, 68  and 78  are another option. Para llegar a Sarrià, tiene varias opciones. La línea 12 de FGC te deja en Reina Eilsenda, y es un paseo de unos 10-15 minutos. La línea tres (la verde) te deja a la parada María Cristina o Palau Reial. Los autobuses (o gua gua para los canarios, puertorriqueños y cubanos) H4, 63, 68 y 78 son otra opción. 

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Escape from Fallas!

I love the monumentos of Fallas, I really do. The fireworks are a dazzling display each and every time. The Carrers de Llum are a masterpiece. And who doesn’t have a certain fascination with watching things safely burn? Molan los monumentos de Fallas, de verdad. Los fuegos artificiales son una exhibición resplandeciente cada vez. Els Carrers de Llum son obras maestras. ¿Y a quién no le fascina cosas quemar (con mucha precaución)? 

However, I do not like hordes of people, and I do like travelling. As I haven’t had a lot of holiday time this school-year to take off to unexplored rincones of Spain, I decided a while back that I was going to use this time to travel. Sin embargo, no me gustan las aglomeraciones de gente,pero me gusta viajar. Como no he tenido muchos festivos este año escolar para explorar rincones desconocidos de España, decidí hace mucho tiempo que iba a usar estas vacaciones para viajar. 

I saw various monuments being planted and the streets lit up before leaving on Wednesday morning. Y antes de irme, vi la planta de varios monumentos y las calles llenas de luces antes de marcharme miércoles por la mañana. 

My stops included Teruel capital, Albarracín, Jaca, Canfranc and Huesca capital before ending the trip in Barcelona for the weekend. Las paradas incluyeron Terul capital, Albarracín, Jaca, Canfranc y Huesca capital antes de acabar en Barcelona por el fin de semana.

Teruel was nice to visit again, Albarracín and Jaca incredible jewels, Canfranc is a special place, and Barcelona always rocks. I even found a new, special place in Barcelona I hadn’t been to before. Now that I’ve visited Huesca, there are only three Spanish provinces left for me to visit. Estaba bien visitar Teruel otra vez más. Albarracín y Jaca con joyas preciosas. Canfranc es un sitio especial, y Barcelona siempre mola mogollón. Incluso descubrí un sitio especial en Barcelona que no conocía antes. Y con Huesca…ahora solo me quedan tres provincias españolas para visitar.

I want to take time to write about them the way they deserve, so be on the look out very soon. For now…time to rest. Quería tomar mi tiempo para escribir de ellos como merecen, entonces…a continuación. Por ahora…toca descansar.

A weekend (sorta) in Turin.

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My mom told me she was giving me 100€ to do a trip on my birthday. I had planned, before this announcement, to do a weekend in Barcelona and the Catalán Pyrenees. My mind was changed by this gift, and I looked at three cities with roughly the same RyanAir prices: Turin, Cologne and Hamburg. The return flight straight to Valencia from Turin made me go ahead and choose Turin. I wish I would have had more time. Mi madre me dijo que iba a darme 100€ para hacer un viaje el fin de semana de mi cumpleaños. Antes, había planificado un fin de semana en Barcelona y los Pirineos Catalanes. Este regalo me cambió la mente, y investigué tres ciudades que tenía más o menos el mismo precio de vuelos de Ryan Air: Turín, Colonia y Hamburgo. Había un vuelo de vuelto a Valencia desde Turin con un buen horario, y por eso elegí Turín. Ojalá tuviera más tiempo.

Turin, or Torino in Italiano, is a city of 892,649 residents (metropolitan area of 2.2 million) in northwest Italy close to the Alps. It was home of the 2006 Winter Olympics and was Italy’s first capital city in 1861. It’s home of the FIAT automobile headquarters and the famous Italian football (soccer for the Yanks) team Juventus.  Four rivers flow through the city, and it dates back to ancient times when it was attacked by Hannibal in 218 BC. (not Lector, of course). Turín, o Torino en italiano, es una ciudad de 892.659 habitantes (area metropolitana de 2,2 millones) en el noroeste de Italia cerca a los Alpes. Los Juegos Olímpicos del Invierno en 2006 tuvieron lugar allá y Turín era la primera capital de Italia en 1861. La sede de FIAT está allí, y el equipo famoso de fútbol, el Juventus, juega en Turín. Hay cuatros ríos en la ciudad, y su historia es grande e incluso incluye ataques de Aníbal en el año 218 a.C. (Desde luego, no era Hanibal Lector.) 

The Cattredale di San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist Cathedral) is home of the Shroud of Turin, which is believed by many to be the shroud Jesus was buried in. The Cathedral itself was built between 1491 and 1498, whereas the Chapel of the Holy Shroud was built 200 years later, between 1668 and 1694.

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Dentro de la Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista (la Catedral de San Juan Bautista) se encuentra la Sábana Santa, la sábana en cual el Jesús Cristo era enterrado. La Catedral fue construida entre los años 1491 y 1498,  y la Capilla de la Sábana Santa fue construido unos 200 años después, entre 1668 y 1694. 

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My trip began with a night in Barcelona. I often fly out of Barcelona because I love the city and take any advantage I can find to spend time there. I don’t think I’d be happy living there, but I am happy travelling there whenever possible. After a night out on the town to celebrate my upcoming birthday, I spent Saturday morning at the Santa Llucia Christmas market near the Cathedral and took a stroll along the beach, because December. El viaje empezó con una noche en Barcelona. Muchas veces vuelo desde el Prat para tener una excusa visitar la ciudad que me encanta tanto. Creo que no estaría feliz viviendo allá, pero estoy contento viajar allí cuando pueda. Después de una noche celebrando mi próximo cumpleaños, pasé la mañana de sábado en el mercado de Navidad de Santa Llucia a lado de la Catedral y fui por un paseo por la playa, porque diciembre…

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I caught Rodalies/Cercanías train to Terminal 2 at Prat and survived another Ryan Air flight. The bus from Torino’s airport (one of my least favourite airports now!) costs 6.50€ one-way as of December 2016 and takes about 40-50 minutes to Torino Porta Nuovo train station. I had no problems finding it and even had time for a quick dinner. Cogí el Rodalies/Cercanías hasta Terminal 2 en el Prat y sobreviví otro vuelo de Ryan Air. El autobus desde el aeropuerto de Torino Caselle tarda 6,50€ (en diciembre de 2016) y tarda unos 40-50 minutos para llegar a la estación de trenes Porto Nuovo. No tenía problemas encontrar el autobus y tenía tiempo de sobra para cenar. 

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I stayed at a nice AirBNB about a 20 minute bus-ride (40 minutes walking) from the city centre (Piazza Castello). Sunday morning, I awoke bright and early to take advantage of the day. My first stop was the Piazza Castello, a beautiful square in the heart of Turin with an old castle and a few palaces. There was another Christmas market there, and I enjoyed practicing my rusty Italian. Me alojé en un AirBNB a unos 20 minutos por autobus desde el centro (Piazza Castello), 40 minutos andando. El domingo por la mañana me desperté para aprovechar del día. La primera parada era la Piazza Castello, una plaza bonito en el pleno centro de Turín con un castillo y unas palacios. Había otro mercado navideño allí, y disfruté practicar il mio italiano cutre. 

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Next was a cappuccino and croissant on the busy shopping street, Vía Garibaldi, which the Torinese say is the longest shopping street in Europe. I went to the Cathedral to see the Shroud before finding the famous Museo Nazionale di Cinema and the Mole Antonelliana. I should’ve bought my tickets online, as there was a queue over an hour long to buy tickets. Since my time in Turin was short, I decided not to go and went for a nice stroll along the river instead. The Fiume Po had some nice sights of Torino. Después, tomé un cappuccino y cruasán en la calle famosa de compras, Vía Garibaldí, que según los de Turín, es la calle de compras más larga de Europa. Fui a la catedral para ver la Sábana Santa antes de encontrar el famoso Museo Nazionale di Cinema y la Mole Antonelliana. Había una cola larguísima (más de una hora). Os aviso, mejor comprar las entradas por internet. Como no tenía mucho tiempo en Turín, elegí dar un paseo por el río en lugar de ir al museo y subir el torre. La Ría Po tiene bonitas vistas de Torino. 

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I had an early for me (I’m mostly Spanish now!) lunch around 1:30 PM. It was some mediocre lasagna. It was near Mole Antonelliana and was named King’s. My fault for choosing a touristy place, but I have had better lasagna from Mercadona. Comí pronto, sobre las 13.30. Era lasagna mediocre cerca de Mole Antonelliana y el restaurante era King’s. La culpa era mía como elegí un restaurante en un sitio turístico, pero para ser sincero, he probado mejor lasagna de Mercadona. 

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I wanted to eat lunch early so I could make my way to Sassi to catch the Trenino a Superga, a basilica on the Superga mount overlooking Torino that has, on a clear day, great views of the city. It wasn’t so clear, but I saw some beautiful views of the Alps! Quería comer pronto para ir a Sassi para coger el Trenino a Superga, una basilica en el monte Superga a lado de Torino que, en días asoleados, tiene vistas bonitas de la ciudad. El día era algo nublado, pero vi vistas preciosas de los Alpes. 

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The train leaves Sassi every hour on the hour and returns from Superga on the half hour. It’s a blast to the past train, and the basilica, built between 1717 and 1731, is beautiful. There is also a crypt for members of the royal Savoy family. I was more interested in the views of the Alps. I can finally say I’ve seen the Alps. El tren sale de Sassi cada hora y vuelva de Superga en la media hora. El tren es un viaje por tiempo, y la basilica, construida durante 1717 y 1731, es hermosa. También hay una cripta de la Familia Real Savoy. Me interesaban más las vistas de los Alpes. Por fin puedo decir que he visto los Alpes. 

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After returning to Turin, I walked back along Via Garbaldi back to where I was staying, and I had a pizza dinner at Gustaso which was good at a decent price and not as touristy. Después de volver a Turín, caminé por Via Garbaldi hasta donde me alojé y cené una pizza en Gustaso. Buen precio y no era muy turístico. 

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Monday morning (my birthday!), I went for a last meander through the centre of Torino, taking Via Roma to the Porto Nuovo train station to catch the bus back to the airport. I was sad to leave after such a great trip. Lunes por la mañana, el día de mi cumple, fuí al centro para un último paseo por el centro de Torino, y después fui por Vía Roma hasta la estación de Porto Nuovo para coger el autobus al aeropuerto. Me entristecí despedirme de la ciudad después de un buen viaje. 

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As the year is coming to an end, and my planned hikes for the upcoming weekend might be ruined by rain (but when this posts, it will be the past weekend, whoaaaa), I am counting the long walk along the Barceloneta beach as hike number 37/40. Easy walking along the beach for as long as possible! The walk around Superga is hike #38. With the walking I did in Torino city, it would definitely count for the kilometres. Como este año va acabando, y las rutas que tenía planificado para este fin de semana va a estar estropeados por una “gota fría” (aunque cuando publiqué la entrada ya será el fin de semana pasada…wuuuuaaa), voy a contar la ruta por la playa de Barcelona como Ruta #37/40.  Era una ruta super fácil por la playa. Como hice una ruta pequeña por Superga, eso será Ruta #38. Como caminé mucho en la ciudad de Turín, cuenta por los kilometros hechos. 

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I didn’t have enough time in Turin, that’s for sure. I would’ve enjoyed the nearby Valle de Aosta even more. I made the best of a short trip and saw what I could. If/when I return, it will be to make it a home base to explore a great region of Italia. No tenía tiempo suficiente en Turín. Me habría encantando la cercana Valle de Aosta aún más. Hice lo pude durante un viaje corto y vi lo que pude. Cuando vuelva, será para hacer como un base para explorar una región bonita de Italia. 

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(Hikes 37-38/40. KM walked unsure.)

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Merlí.

Spanish television, in general, is not that great. Sure, La que se avecina is entertaining, and Polonia from Catalunya and Vaya Semanita from the Basque Country are actually much funnier than Saturday Night Live usually is. In fact, until now, I’ve only been able to get into one Spanish series, the horrible yet wonderful Física o química, a teen soap with 20-something actors playing teenagers and their slightly older teachers. La televisión española, en general, es una mierda. Vale. La que se avecina es entretenido, y Polonia de Catalunya y Vaya Semanita de Euskadi son mucho más graciosos que Saturday Night Live suele ser. De hecho, hasta ahora, solo me enganchó una serie española, la horrible-pero-genial Física o química, una telenovela de adolescentes con veinteñeros haciendo el papel de adolescentes y sus profesores que tienen un poco de años más de ellos. 

Then I came across MerlíAhora he descubierto Merlí.

Merlí airs Monday nights on Catalunya’s TV3 and is in Catalán. I stumbled upon the Season 1 DVD at FNAC (a wonderful European shop that sells music, films and books, along with other electronic gadgets) by chance, and I started streaming the show at their website, watching it with Catalán subtitles in an effort to improve my Valenciano/Catalán. It’s not so difficult to understand for me. I know there are some versions on YouTube with Spanish subtitles, and I would love to see Netflix pick it up (a pipe dream!) so it could get the attention it deserves outside Catalunya.  UPDATE 10 JANUARY 2017: IT IS ON NETFLIX USA!!! El TV3 de Catalunya echa Merlí los lunes y está en català. Encontré los DVDs de la primera temporado un día en FNAC por casualidad, y después empecé a verla por la página web de TV3 con subtíulos en català, haciendo un esfuerzo en mejorar mi valenciano-catalán. No es muy difícil entender, al menos para mi. Sé que hay algunas vídeos en YouTube con subtítulos en castellano, y me encantaría verla en Netflix (una quimera, ya lo sé) para que pueda recibir la atención que merece fuera de Catalunya. NOTICÍAS 10 ENERO 2017. YA ESTÁ DISPONIBLE EN NETFLIX USA. 

The show centres on a middle-aged philosophy teacher who is hired to fill a vacancy at his son’s secondary school. His son, Bruno, is in 1 Bachillerato (the optional two-year course for Spanish students at the end of secondary school), and is none too happy with his father working at his school. Bruno is coming to terms with being gay and in love with his friend Pol, who has trouble at school in every class but philosophy. Merlí’s style of teaching and lack of respect for the school norms gets him in constant hot water with the director and head of studies. He tutors an agoraphobic student after work is over, and he also romances another student’s mother, giving it all the complicated entaglements to hook a viewer. La serie trata de un profesor de filosofía que está contratado para dar clases en el instituto que su hijo asiste. Su hijo, Bruno, está en el primero de Bachillerato y no está contento tener su padre como profesor. Bruno está en el proceso de aceptarse como gay y está enamorado de su amigo Pol, quien tiene problemas en todas sus clases menos filosofía. El estilo de enseñar de Merlí y su falta de respeto por las normas del instituto crean muchos problemas por Merlí. También da clase particulares a un alumno, Iván, que sufre de agorafobia y tiene relaciones con la madre de otro alumno. Todo los líos necesarios para enganchar los espectadores. 

The writing is top-notch, the acting is some of the most professional I’ve seen, and the cinematography is more of what I expect from HBO or Netflix than a regional network. Los guiones son geniales, y la actuación también. La fotografía es más del estilo de HBO o Netflix que un canal regional. 

For those of you who speak Catalán (or one of the languages 198372 varients), I highly recommend that you go to watch it now. For those of you who don’t and are interested, I will let you know the second I find out if there are English or Spanish subtitles. Youtube is the best bet. Para los que hablan catalán (o uno de los 198372 varientes), os lo recomiendo empezar a verla cuanto antes. Para los que no lo hablan y que están interesados en verla, os avisaré cuando me entere que hay subtítulos en castellano o inglés. Por ahora, busca en YouTube. 

I’m looking forward to being fully caught up on Season 2 before the Season 2 finale on Dec. 12. Me da ilusión acabar la segunda temporada antes del último capítulo de la temporada el día 12 de diciembre. 

Carreterra de les Aigües (Barcelona)

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“One summer, I was backpacking in the foothills of Tibidabo in the Pyrenees near Barcelona…” “Un verano, estaba haciendo senderismo en las faldas de Tibidabo en los Pirineos cerca de Barcelona…”

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Guess what, Joey Tribbiani? I actually did it! I first heard about this famous route a few years ago while giving a class to a student who lived in Barcelona. Ever since, I’ve wanted to do it, but as I usually have bad luck with weather or am wanting to see other places in Catalunya when I visit Barcelona, I never have gotten the chance to do the Route of the Waters. ¿Sabes algo, Joey Tribbiani? Lo hice de verdad. La primera vez que alguien me contó de esta ruta famoso era cuando estaba dando una clase de inglés a una alumna que viviá en Barcelona hace dos años. Desde entonces, he querido hacer la ruta, pero o tenía mala suerte con el tiempo o hay otros sitios para visitar en Catalunya cuando visito Barcelona. Nunca he tenía la oportunidad hacer la Ruta de les Aigües.

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This time, I changed things! ¡Esa vez era distina!

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Tuesday morning, March 29th, the last day of my spring break holiday, after breakfast and checking out of my hotel, leaving most of my bags behind, I caught the commuter train from Provença to Peu de Funicular…or so I thought. I caught the wrong train, and I had to backtrack. In the city centre, this didn’t take too much time. Martes el 29 de marzo, el último día de mis vacaciones de Semana Santa, después de desayunar y hacer check-out del hotel, dejando la mayoría de mis cosas en el hotel para recoger más tarde, cogí el tren de Provença a Peu de Funicula…o pensaba. Cogí otro tren que iba a otro destino, y tenía que volver al inicio casí…pero no tardó nada en el centro de la ciudad. 

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When I finally arrived at Peu de Funicular, I took the funicular to the top of Vallvidrera, and I asked for directions for the Carretera de les Aigües, an old road used to transport water in Tibidabo. I found my way down some stairs next to the pharmacy, and five minutes later I was at the 3,5 kilometro marker. Cuando por fin llegué al Peu de Funicular, cogí el funicular hasta Vallvidrera, y pedí direcciones para la Carretera de les Aigües, una carretera antigua que era usado para transportar agua en Tibidabo. Encontré las escaleras a lado de la farmacia como me dijeron, y unos 5 minutos después estaba en el marcador de 3,5 kilometros de la carretera. 

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The trail goes along Tibidabo offering views of the city. On a Tuesday morning, there were a few runners and a few cyclists, but no tourists. What a great break from the chaotic city centre of Barcelona! I walked to the starting point 3.5 kilometres away and back, stopping for many photo opportunities and to do some writing. La ruta va por Tibidabo, ofreciendo vistas de la ciudad. Un martes por la mañana, había unos corredores y unos ciclistas, pero no había turistas. ¡Un buen descanso del caos del centro de Barcelona. Caminé hasta el inicio de la carretera a unos 3,5 kilometros de distancia y volví, parando para hacer fotos y escribir un rato.

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On the weekends, it’s probably a lot busier, but it’s more used by the natives of Barcelona. It might just one of Barcelona’s better kept secrets. Perhaps I shouldn’t be giving it away, eh? Durante los fines de semana, creo que estarían más gente, pero es más usado por los de Barcelona. Quizá sea uno de los mejores secretos de Barcelona. Igual no debería decir nada, ¿oi? 

Hike #6/40 /Ruta #6/40 de 2016
Date/fecha: 29-marzo-2016
Kilometros: Around 8/sobre 8
Difficulty: Pretty easy 

 
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No Day But Today. Només que avui.

DSCN1056  I became a Renthead in 2005 after seeing the film Rent. Jonathan Larson’s story of a group of Bohemian New Yorker’s trying to live life to the fullest struck a chord with me, and I saw the film twice in theatres and bought the DVD the day it came out. He sido un superfan de Rent (“Renthead”, o cabeza de Rent en inglés) en 2005 después de ver la versión cinemática. Conecté mucho con la historia de Jonathan Larson se trata de un grupo de neoyorquinos intentando vivir la vida al máximo. Vi la peli dos veces en cines y compré el DVD el día de estreno. 

In 2006, I saw it on stage the first time, and I loved every minute of it. En 2006, vi la obra de teatro en director por la primera vez y me encantó. 

In 2007, I saw it on stage a second time, and I had the opportunity to meet Anthony Rapp, who plays Mark Cohen in the film and originated the same role on Broadway, when he spoke at my university for National Coming Out Day.  I later read his memoir Without You, which he had autographed for me. En 2007, volví a verlo en director una segunda vez, y tenía la oportunidad de conocer Anthony Rapp, quien protagonizó Mark Cohen por la primera vez en Rent original y después en la película, cuando habló en mi universidad sobre salir del amario para Día de Salir del Amario. Después me leí su biográfia Without You, que tengo firmado por Rapp. 

So it comes as no surprise that when I heard about a two-month performance of Rent in Barcelona, I had to go. This was the first professional production in Catalán, I believe (there have been a few schools that have performed it in Catalán), and it was directed by Dani Anglès, who was Mark in the 1999 Spanish-language production of Rent in Barcelona. Entonces, no es gran sorpersa que cuando me enteré de un espectáculo de Rent en Barcelona, sabía que tenía que verlo. Creo que es el la primera vez la producción han montado en catalán, aunque ha sido escuelas que lo han performado en catalán). Fue dirigido por Dani Anglès, quien interpretó Mark en la producción en castellano en Barcelona en 1999. 

For those unfamiliar with the story, it’s Christmas Eve and the electric has gone out. Collins is going to visit his ex-roommates, Mark and Roger, but is attacked in the Streets. Angel, a drag queen, saves him and makes a killing literally as a doggie hitman. Poor Akita, Evita. The dog belongs to another ex-roommate of Mark and Roger’s, Benny, who now owns the building where Mark and Roger are squatting in. Mark’s ex-girlfriend Maureen is planning a protest, and Maureen’s new girlfriend Jo Anne is a radical lawyer. Roger meets his downstairs neighbour, Mimi, when her candle goes out and she needs someone to light it for her. Roger, Mimi, Angel and Collins are all HIV positive. Throughout the year these friends fight, make up and live 525, 600 minutes of love. Para los que no saben la historia, es la Noche Buena y no hay luz. Collins va a visitar sus antiguos compañeros de piso, Mark y Roger, pero hay un ataque en la calle y Collins está lesionado grave. Ángel, un drag queen, le salva la vida y después mata a un Akita, Evita, por dinero. El perro es el perro de otro compañero de piso antiguo, Benny, quien ahora es dueño del edificio donde Mark y Roger están ocupando ilegalmente. La ex-novia de Mark, Maureen, está planficando una manifestación contra Benny, y la novia nueva de Maureen, JoAnne, es una abogada radical. Roger conoce a su vecina del piso debajo el suyo cuando necesitan alguien para encender su vela. Roger, Mimi, Ángel y Collins son serapositivos. Durante el año los amigos lo pasan bien, discuten y intentan vivir al máximo los 525.600 minutos de amor.

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The performance in Catalán was incredible. The stage is very similar to the original Broadway layout, very simple but perfect for the Bohemian vibe. What amazed me most was the cast. Víctor Arbelo was a fantastic Roger, almost as amazing as Adam Pascal himself. (Any Rent fan knows what a compliment this is!) Albert Bolea won me over with his performance as Ángel Dumott Schunard. Nil Bofill (Mark), Mireia Òrrit (Mimi Márquez), Xavi Navarro (Tom Collins), Anna Herebia (Maureen), Queralt Albinyana (Joanne) and Roger Berruezo (Benjamin Coffin III) also were subperb in their performances. I have to say my third time seeing it was much better than the other two times. A wonderful job was done by all involved. La producción en catalán fue increíble. El escenario es muy parecido al escenario original, muy simple pero perfecto para el ambiente Bohemio. Lo mejor fue el elenco. Víctor Arbelo era un Roger fantástico, casí tan genial como Adam Pascal. (Cualquier fan de Rent sabe el cumplido que le doy ahora mismo). Albert Bolea me convenció como Ángel Dumott Schunard y lo hizo genial también. Nil Bofill (Marc), Mireia Òrrit (Mimi Márquez), Xavi Navarro (Tom Collins), Anna Herebia (Maureen), Queralt Albinyana (Joanne) y Roger Berruezo (Benjamin Coffin III) también eran fantásticos en sus papeles. Gracias a ellos, la tercera vez que vi Rent en directo era lo mejor. Felicitats a tothom/felicidades a todos involucrados con la producción. 

A fave moment was when the second act opened with “Seasons of Love”, and the cast sang it from various points within the theatre. Everywhere you looked, there was a cast mate singing his or her heart out. Un momento favorito era cuando el segundo acto empezó con “Horas de Amor (“Hores d’amor)) y el elenco la cantó desde el público. No importa a donde miraste, pudiste ver alguien cantando de su corazón. 

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It was closing night, so emotions were high. This gave an extra special meaning to the performance, and I was sad to hear the last chords of “Finale B”. I have an intermediate level of Catalán, but between my level of Spanish and knowledge of the show, I was never once lost. Rent was able to transcend languages. Fue la última noche de esa producción, y por eso era muy emocional. Había algo especial en el aire, y me estricé escuchar los últimos acordes de “Finale B”. Aunque solo engo un certificado B1 en català, con mi nivel de castellano y mi pasión por la obra, nunca me perdí. Rent puede ir más allá de los idiomas. 

Always remember: No day but today. No hay més que hoy. Només tens avui.

Now, can I have a little moo? Ahora…¿podéis muuuuuu conmigo?

Another Barcelona weekend.

Vic i Barcelona 081 I can’t get enough of Barcelona. Nunca me cansaré de Barcelona.

There’s just something about the atmosphere there that I love. While I don’t think I could live there due to all the tourists, I do visit at least once a year to practice my Catalán and to remind myself of what it’s like to dream. Hay algo del ambiente de Barcelona que me encanta. Aunque creo que hay demasiados turistas para poder vivir allí, visito al menos una vez cada año para practicar mi català y recordarme lo que es soñar. 

I booked my flights out of Barcelona so I could have an excuse to spend some time there before and after my Semana Santa trip. It was a long 8 hour bus ride from Bilbao in the rain, but as soon as I got off the bus at BCN Sants, where it was NOT raining, I felt right back at home. He comprado los vuelos desde Barcelona para tener una excusa quedar unos días antes y después de mis vacaciones de Semana Santa. Era un largo 8 horas desde Bilbao a Barcelona en la lluvia, pero cuando me bajé del autobus en Sants, donde no estaba lloviendo, me sentí como si estuviera en casa. 

I found my AirBNB apartment, left my stuff, and I found a dog park nearby where I stayed to play with some of those canine friends I love so much. A cheap dinner of patatas bravas at a place I’ve already forgotten, and a night at Punto BCN and Arena disco…not too late, but it is a tradition to go there. Arena is the first gay disco I ever went to back in 2003, and it is a tradition to go there. Encontré el alojomiento de AirBNB, dejé mis cosas y encontré un parque para perros cerca donde me alojé y jugé mucho con los amigos perros que me encantan tanto. Una cena de patatas bravas y una noche en Punto BCN y Arena…no me quedé muy tarde, pero es una tradición ir allí. Arena es la primera disco que fui en el año 203, y es tradición ir allí. 

Sunday I slept in and strolled down Gran Vía leisurely from Rocafort after a great breakfast close to the metro Rocafort. I had a cheap lunch before meeting up with a friend who lives in Barcelona at Poble Nou, a place I hadn’t been to before. It’s a great neighbourhood and close to the beach. It doesn’t have all the tourist that the centre has. Dormí tarde domingo, fui por un paseo por Gran Via desde Rocafort después de un buen desayuno en _____ que está a lado del metro. Almorcé barato antes de quedar con un amigo quien vive en Barcelona en Poble Nou, un sitio que no conocía antes. Es un barrio chulo, a lado de la playa y no tiene tantos turistas como el centro. 

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I saw Rent in Catalán on their closing night, which was a fantastic show (more to come). I was sad, as always, to leave on Monday morning to the airport. Fui a ver Rent en català en su última noche, que era genial (más por venir). Me entristicé, como siempre, dejar lunes por la mañana para ir al aeropuerto.

More problems at the airport due to some French air strike. I am thankful for a delay, as the following day were the attacks in Brussels. I didn’t know anything about what was to come, but I saw a lot more of the Prat airport than I had wanted to! Tenía más problemas en el aeropuerto dado del huelga francesa. Pero estoy agradecido por un retraso, como el día siguente fueron los atentados en Bruselas. No sabía que iba a venir, pero sí, vi más del aeropuerto de Prat que quería.

Barcelona is always a great place to visit. I just can’t get enough of this city. Visca Barcelona 🙂 Barcelona siempre es un sitio chulo para visitar. Nunca es suficiente de esta ciudad. Visca Barcelona! 🙂 

Spanish Nationalism: The Catalans, Basques and Spanish.

Disclaimer: I am Switzerland and not taking a side in this eternal argument. I am neither Spanish, nor Catalán, nor Basque, and this is not my battle. I am aiming to write a post about the current situation in Spain without taking a side, and I am trying my best to show respect to a delicate situation. So please, proceed with caution! Also, this is a VERY condensed history. The full history is much more complex. This is a watered-down version.

My first time in Barcelona, I fell in love.

I fell in love with the city, my first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea, and my first glimpse at this amazing language Catalán. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I loved the discos, the beautiful Catalan guys, the streets, I even loved the Rambles, the kilometre long street that now is completely filled with tourists and I have successfully avoided on my last three visits.

I went back to Toledo, where I was studying for a semester, full of dreams of an amazing life in Barcelona.

I was greeted with “No, no way would you ever want to live in Barcelona. The Catalans are horrible people, and you’d have to learn Catalán. It would be better when you return to Spain to work and live in Madrid.”

I unfortunately took this attitude back to the States with me.

In 2008, my last year of university, I took a Spanish nationalism course. We studied the works of the famed Generación de ’98. We looked closely at works by Valencian, Catalán, Galician and Basque writers. We constantly talked about what it meant to be Spanish, using Ortega y Gasset, Unamuno and Machado as our sources. I wish I could retake this course now after living in Spain for so much more time. I would understand so much more than I did then.

Spain is not a nation. Spain is a country that consists of many nations. Galician, Asturian, Cantabrian, Basque, Navarran, Aragonese, Catalan, Valencian, Balearic, Murician (not “I’m *Mer-i-cuhn, give me my hamburger!), Andalusian, Canarian, Extremadurian, Castilian, Leonese…Spain is a concept dreamed up by the Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabella of a unified Iberian Peninsula.

To understand the situation in both the Basque Country (further referred to here as Euskadi) and Catalunya, one must look at their history.

The Catalans were always tied to Aragón and the Kingdom of Aragón since the 1137 union of Aragón and Barcelona. During the Catalán Revolt from 1640-1652, Catalunya was a republic under French protection. The northern parts of Catalunya were ceded to France in the 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees, and the victory of King Felipe V during the War of Spanish Sucession lead to the abolition of Catalan and all non-Castilian institutions, along with the change to Spanish in all legal documents.  During the 19th Century, Catalan Nacionalism began to grow, and the Generalitat de Catalunya returned during the Second Republic of Spain. However, during the Franco dictatorship, Catalan was prohibited. Of course, people continued to speak Catalan in secret. I know people in Valencia who studied it in the basements of their teachers as it was forbidden to be taught.

In the 1980s, Catalanismo was rampant throughout Catalunya. As Barcelona prepared to host the 1992 Olympic Games, Catalán began to regain the strength it had before Franco. The Catalans were also jealous of their Basque brothers-in-spirit who were given much more autonomy and freedom to do things their way.

Euskadi is a small corner of Spain located between Aragón, Castilla León, Cantabria and the Cantabrian Sea. Euskal Herria, the land of the Basque speaking people, refers to Euskadi, Navarra and Iparralde, or Basque France. It’s hard to get to on foot, and the weather makes the Irish and the Seattlites wish to return home to a less rainier environment. Noah, builder of the arc, is said to have been Basque. The Basques remained isolated, and the Romans and the Moors left them alone for the most part. During the reign of the Catholic Kings, the Basques made a deal, exchanging an oath of loyalty to Queen Isabel in return for overseas claims and the ability to govern themselves. The French revolution brought about the end of this self-governing term.

During the Carlist Wars, the Basques feared a liberal Spanish constitution that would ruin their self-government, so they sided with the traditional army under Tomás de Zumalacarregui, who died in the Siege of Bilbao in 1835. A weak Pamplona in Navarra would sign the Kingdom of Navarra out of existence in the 1841 Ley Paccionado (Compromise Act), and Navarra became a province of Spain. At the end of the third Carlist War in 1876, King Alfonso XII’s army emerged victorious, the Act for the Abolition of the Basque Charters was signed, and the southern Basques were under Spanish control. (The northern Basques have a similar complicated tale with France.)

During the Second Republic, both Catalunya and Euskadi enjoyed a lot of autonomous freedoms. The Spanish Civil War began, and the Basques sided with the Republican side where Navarra was supporting Franco and the Nationalists. After the bombing of Gernika (Guernica in Spanish. You might know a painting or the song by Brand New), many Basques went into exile. During the Franco regime, any regional language was prohibited. Basque, Catalán and Gallego were banned. The treatment of the Basques during this time lead to the terrorist group ETA, now in a permanent ceasefire since 2011.  (There have been Catalan terrorist groups too, for the record, but none lasted for a long time nor had the impact of ETA.)

When Franco died in the 1970s and King Juan Carlos restored a parliamentary monarchy, Euskadi and Catalunya were granted autonomous freedom (along with the other 15 autonomous regions of Spain). The Basques and Catalans were free to come out of the underground cellars where they had been studying their languages and speak it in the street.

The problem is, the Basque Country was granted a lot more freedom than Catalunya. After living in the Basque Country for two years now, I can honestly say I feel a big difference every time I cross the border into Cantabria or go to other parts of Spain. I can’t pinpoint the exact difference, but there is one. The Basques live as if they have already gained independence from Spain, referring to Spain as if it were a different country.

I honestly feel like the guy who tells the preacher to go f*** himself in the middle of Sunday School every time I say something positive about Spain while living in Bilbao. For that reason, I use “the greatest peninsula in the world”  on my blog to try to emphasize my love for the entire Iberian Peninsula. And you always have to say “Aquí” (here) or “la península” if you want to refer to Euskadi and Spain in the same sentence. It’s being politically correct and avoiding conflict.

The Cataláns, in my experience, still refer to themselves as being Spain, although with a frown or a sigh, dreaming of a unified “Països Catalans” (Catalunya, Andorra, Comunitat Valenciana and Illes Baleares, plus Northern Catalunya in France). “Aquí en España” is something never said in Euskadi but still said in Barcelona. The Basques will say “Voy a España, a La Rioja” (I’m going to Spain, to La Rioja), where as the Catalans still tend to  say “Voy a Logroño” (the capital of La Rioja).

The difference in autonomy has led to some resentment from the Catalans. Their quest for independence honestly began by feeling if they asked for something big, they would be rewarded with what they wanted, equal footing with Euskadi. Today, though, many Catalans want complete independence, fueled by Spanish government who wants to take away freedoms from the Catalan language and trying to go back to a Spanish-only way of life. As Spain has been suffering a horrible economic crisis since 2008 (despite the prime minister’s words to the contrary, the crisis is NOT over), they feel that they would have a better chance on their own without being bossed around by Madrid.

The Basques are sitting in silence, trying to recover from the horrors of ETA and restore their goodwill with the rest of the peninsula, learning from Catalunya’s trial and error process and planning a day in the probably not-too-distant future when they present their own plans for a referendum.

The rest of Spain usually remains angry and upset, and it’s a topic that is 100% unapproachable for mixed company. I may jest to my closer friends about how I miss Spain, but it’s not something I would ever say to the Basques at large. I still have dreams of perfecting my Catalán and living in a village somewhere between Barcelona and València with my husband and two golden retrievers, writing the day away. However, I would prefer to do it in Spain and not an independent Catalunya, which at this point in time could be catastrophic for both Spain and Catalunya, as economically, one cannot live without the other.  I also don’t want to have to go through customs and currency exchange every time I travelled from a point in the peninsula to my beloved Barcelona!

That said, I do respect the Catalans a lot and understand their frustration. Sometimes I worry that having a blog named in Catalán could lead toward resentment to me, the American with the Valencian soul.

This has just been a very brief introduction to the politics, the feelings and the history that has led to Catalunya’s quixotic quest for independence.

For more information on the Basques, be sure to check out The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky. It’s a fascinating read. I’d love to find something so entertaining on the Catalán history!

Another weekend in Catalunya.

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I’ve been toying with the idea of a summer in Catalunya for a while, long enough to be able to find some bus tickets (round trip/return) for only 10€ from Bilbao to Barcelona for this weekend (May 14-16). I had two interviews lined up for Friday, and I have to say, I was quite impressed with Barcelona (as always) and even more with the professionalism found in how they conduct interviews. Lately I’ve been receiving messages on Whatsapp demanding I connect to Skype that very instant so they could interview me, Skype interviews being unconfirmed or them not showing up, and the like. So kudos for that. He estado pensando en pasar el verano en Catalunya durante un rato ahora, durante tanto tiempo que aproveché una oferta de ALSA en un viaje de ida/vuelta por solo 10€ de Bilbao a Barcelona para este fin de semana (el 14-16 de mayo). Tenía dos entrevistas el viernes, y tengo que decir que me ha impresionado Barcelona (como siempre), esta vez por el profesionalismo de las entrevistas. Ultimamente tenido las experencias de recibir mensajes por Whatsapp exigiendo que conecte yo en el momento para una entrevista, sin cita previa o aviso previo, entrevistas nunca confirmados o entrevistas donde la persona no pareció, y más experencias así. Enhorabuena a Barcelona por su profesionalismo. 

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After my Friday interviews, I had a very great (and cheap) meal at Si b moi located near the Badal metro stop, which is close to the famous Camp Nou. I had never actually been to Camp Nou, and I was quite excited to finally see where my second favourite fútbol club plays (I am louder with Barça than I am with València given that I am also quite anti-Real Madrid, who doesn’t just care about València CF. Barça will annoy!). I was quite emotional and still hope to see a game played here one day. I still miss my fave players David Villa and Cesc Fàbregas though. Después de las entrevistas, comí bien y barato en el restuarante Si B Moi ubicado cercá de la parada de metro de Badal, que está cerca al famoso Camp Nou. Nunca había ido a Camp Nou, y me dio ilusión visitar y ver dónde se juega mi equipo de fútbol segunda preferida. (Hablo más alto sobre el Barça que el València porque también soy super anti-REal Madrid, a quien le importa un bledo el València. ¡El Barça también sirve para fastidiar!) Estaba super emocionado y sigo esperando ver un partido aquí en el futuro. Todavía echo de menos mis jugadores favoritos, David Vila y Cesc Fàbregas. 

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Any trip to Barcelona includes a trip to the Barceloneta. My fave café, Ke, located in the heart of Barceloneta, was packed, so I went looking for other cool places located downtown after a windy stroll on the beach. I didn’t find any that really tickled my fancy though, as I was tired and getting headachy, typical for me with heat and lack of sleep. Cualquier viaje a Barcelona incluye una parada en la Barceloneta. Mi café preferido, el Ke, ubicado en el corazón de la Barceloneta, estaba llena de gente, y por eso busqué otro sitios en el centro después de un paseo con mucho viento por la playa. No encontré ninguno que me gustaba mucho, como estaba cansado y tenía un dolor de cabeza, típico con el calor y falta de sueño.

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Saturday I woke up on my own and decided to go to Blanes, a village located in Girona that is the gateway to la Costa Brava with a population of just over 40,000. The train station is located a good hike from the town, but for 1.85€ you can catch a bus. I opted for the hike and was unimpressed until I finally got to civilization, the town centre, and the beaches with their beautiful, crystal blue Mediterranean waters. My fave part was the Sa Palomera rock. The city has been the site of a few battles and more than a few storms (the most recent in 2008), so they have had to rebuild on occasion. I lamented my lack of time to visit the San Joan/San Juan castle on the nearby hill for more spectacular views. Sábado me desperté sin poner la alarma y decidí ir a Blanes, un pueblo de Girona que es el portal a la Cosa Brava y tiene una población de 40,000 personas. La estación de tren está lejos del pueblo, pero hay un autobus que cuesta 1,85€. Elegí el camino. No me impresionó hasta que llegué al centro del pueblo y las playas con sus aguas preciosas y azules. Mi parte favorita era la Roca de Sa Palomera. La ciudad ha sido el local de algunas batellas importantes y más de un par de tormentas (la más reciente era en 2008), y por eso han tenido que reconstruir más de una ocasión. Lamenté la falta de tiempo para visitar el castillo de San Juan que también debe ofrecer. 

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However, it was a hurry up and wait situation as the train back to Barcelona had a unprecipitated stop. A train just ahead of it had actually hit someone on the tracks. I’m trying to find some more information. Most people were complaining about the delay, myself included (it was about an hour and 20 minutes), but then I realised…someone probably lost their life, and we’re complaining about an hour. I explored Matarò a bit during this time and found it unremarkable, besides the beaches. I was impressed with my ability to take it all in stride this time. Sin embargo, era dar prisa y esperar porque había muchos retrasos por la vuelta a Barcelona dado que alguien era atropollado de un tren. (Sigo buscando más información). La mayora, yo incluso, estabamos quejado del retraso (era sobre una hora y 20 minutos), pero me di cuenta…alguien probablemente se ha muerto, y estámos quejandonos sobre una hora de retraso. Caminé por las calles de Matarò un rato y no vi nada super interestante, salvo las playas. Estaba contento con mi propia habilidad para aceptar todo con calma esta vez. Poco a poco.

 

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I’ve been trying to move to Barcelona for about five years now. I left Valencia in 2011 dreaming of Barcelona, and life took me to Madrid and then Bilbao. Will I ever end up in Barcelona? Who knows. Llevo desde 2010 intentando trasladarme a Barcelona. Me fui de València en 2011 con sueños de Barcelona. La vida me tomó a Madrid y después Bilbao. ¿Acabaré en Barcelona? Quién sabe…

Tarragona. Where Rome and Catalunya collide.

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It used to be a tradition to go to Catalunya every Christmas break, so when I went back to the States in 2012 for my first Christmas with family since 2007, I wanted my flight to be from Barcelona. I was adamant about that, despite living in Madrid. On my way back, I gave myself time to tick another province off my to-do list…Tarragona.

Tarragona is a city of 138,000 people located an hour or so from Barcelona. The province is the southern most of the Catalan provinces, and the capital city is famous for its Roman monuments. Most people think of Salou and Port Aventura when they think of Tarragona, but me being me, I think of the Roman monuments. I love the Roman theatre that is right on the sea.

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I only had one day in Tarragona unfortunately. These things happen when you’re rushed for time and jetlagged from the flight back from the States (like I am writing this entry two years later!). I caught a morning bus from Barcelona, where I was staying. My first impressions were that it was a typical city of the Greatest Peninsula in the World, nothing too exciting. That’s the problem with the areas around the bus and train stations. They’re interchangeable in most cities. When I got to the casco antiguo (historic centre), I fell in love with the city and its history. I bought a combined ticket to visit the most important monuments and had time to see 5 of the 6. I tried to practice my catalán, which at the time I was in my first year of studying; however, they responded in castellano (Castilian Spanish) so I went with the flow. There are also various old houses worth visiting. The day went by fast, and I had gotten the return ticket for too early. I could’ve spent a few more hours or another day exploring. As it is, there are many places in the province I would like to visit one day.

One thing worth mentioning, Tarragona is said to have the most expensive taxis in all of Spain.

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Tarragona Romana

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Known as Tarraco to the Romans, Tarragona still has many Roman ruins that can be visited today. I missed seeing the aqueduct 4 km (2 miles) north of the city and the Tower of the Scipios 6 km (4 miles) away. I also didn’t have time to see the Forum. I was able to see the amphitheatre on the sea, the circus, the capital/citadel, the walls and the Pretorium tower. Tarragona is one of the most important Roman ruins in the peninsula, along with Mérida in Extremadura and Cartegena in Murcia. The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Catedral de Tarragona

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The Cathedral of Tarragona blends Roman and Gothic styles and was declared a national monument 110 years ago in 1905. Construction began in 1154 and the “new” cathedral began in 1331. It was restored in the 1990s. During the restoration, they discovered a temple to Augustus.

Reus (yet to discover)

The city name Reus (population 101,000) is said to come from the Celtic word “red” from “reddis/redis” which meant crossroads, or from the Latin word for prisoners, which meant it was a Roman prison. Choose carefully which tale you believe! At one time, Reus was the second-most important city in Catalunya until Tarragona and Lleida overtook it in the 20th century. Today it is the 9th largest city in Catalunya and has an airport popular with Ryan Air flights, making it a popular tourist destination. One of the sites of interest is a centre for the famous Gaudí.

Castells de Valls (yet to discover)

Catalunya is famous for its “castells” or human towers. The small city of Valls, population 25,000, is famous for both the castells and a green onion known as calçot. Although the castells are a staple of festivals throughout Catalunya, the ones in Valls are rather famous. At a calçotada, you can try recently harvested calçots and maybe see a castell.

Montblanc (yet to discover)

Located close to the Prades mountains, Montblanc is a medieval village of around 7400 people. The village is famous as the Legend of Saint George (known around these parts as Sant Jordi) and the dragon is said to have occurred here. Today Sant Jordi is celebrated in Catalunya by giving books and is connected to Día del Libro (Day of the Book) as it’s also the same day Shakespeare and Cervantes were said to have died. Today you can still see the walls of the village and take a stroll through the medieval streets.

Tortosa (yet to discover) 

Located on the Ebro River, Tortosa, home of 34,000 habitants, is the home of the Castillo de la Suda, an important castle dating back to Roman and Muslim rule. Tortosa was recaptured by the Christians during the Second Crusade. Today it is part of the Camino de Santiago del Ebro, one of the lesser known caminos. It also has a cathedral and magnificent views.

Salou (yet to discover)

 Located 10 kilometres from Reus and Tarragona, Salou is a major vacation destination for much of Spain (especially the Basque Country. I hear you can hear more Euskera (Basque) on the streets than Catalán during peak holiday seasons!) It’s home to many beaches and, most famously, the Port Aventura theme park.