Saturday, 29 December 2012
I know I'm the queen of the weekend break, but this one the week before Christmas was really exciting, even for me. I've been wanting to go to Berlin for about ten years, but it had so far never happened. This year I decided it simply had to.
True to form, we did almost no tourism at all, apart from a half-hearted trip to the Brandenburg Gate, and accidentally coming across the Berlin Wall (which holds not particular cachet for me; in fact I look on it quite cynically). What we did do is eat fabulous enormous German brunches with yummy German bread, visit posh Christmas markets to drown ourselves happily in mulled wine, and hang out with friends... Albert has a couple of friends he met in Bonn now living in Berlin, and I have a friend from London. It was the best way to experience the city in a weekend: a bit of traipsing about, a LOT of eating, and hearing the impressions of people who live in the city. I officially love the German capitol.
Prepare for a bit of photobombing... I couldn't think of any really logical way to split this post, since most pictures were taken on the first day.
and Christmas markets... and being really really happy with ham and roast potatoes and kale and sausages and of course my eternal Glühwein (favourite winter drink of all time).
Wednesday, 26 December 2012
I stayed in Barcelona for Christmas this year, which I wasn't terribly excited about (I love holidays with my family). On the other hand, I only got back from summer break two months ago and flights to Vancouver are €1,000+ at this time of year, so it seemed sensible.
I visited the compounds Shitting Log. Went for a coffee with Baileys (tis the season to overindulge) and then to Albert's grandparents for lunch.
On Christmas Eve we saw The Hobbit, which was entertaining enough but as usual filled me with rage against Peter Jackson. I just think the guy's a bit of an idiot. He thinks he's infallible and can do whatever he wants to Tolkien's stories, and he's just faithful enough that you have to take the movies seriously. But then everything is done so heavy-handedly, every reaction to everything has to be seen about four times, and he's way too action-happy (did not need a twenty-minute chase through the Blue Mountains). Also, he manages to get a bad performance out of someone as talented as Cate Blanchett. Martin Freeman as Bilbo was pretty excellent though.
Right, rant aside, I finished Christmas by going for drinks with some friends. I'm very family-oriented and this was the first time I'd ever been out on Christmas night, but it was good fun. There were even some spontaneous yoga-poses on bar stools in the wee hours--not quite dancing on the table, but getting there!
Friday, 21 December 2012
Vacaaaaation!!!! Who else is starting the celebration today? I have to work a couple of days next week, and I'll probably work from home, but right now I am one happy camper, and even finished my Christmas shopping (she types, smiling smugly to herself).
It's been a crazy few weeks. There was a recent exciting trip, which I'll share more of when I get hold of all the pictures, but meanwhile:
Above: me and my favourite Joan Miró statue in the park near my house.
I went on a fish cooking course in the Costa Brava, and learned to make some yummy things, including paella. It was even better because we got to watch and learn, then eat a four course lunch to try the results...
"Suquet," a fish and potato soup (looked and tasted way better in real life than in this photo)
We had our after lunch drink out of a porrón. These were apparently invented so the fishermen could take drinks out on the water with them, because glasses would fall over but these were sturdier. I managed to get it all over my sweater and up my nose, just like every other time I've tried drinking out of one!
Sunset over the fishing boats in Palamós.
Change of country: watching Albert and friends do open mic nights in Bristol
Whilst looking rather French.
Monday, 17 December 2012
I've been going through a phase of voracious reading recently (actually, voracious everything, I seem to be grabbing life by the horns this year) and the fact that it's winter just makes reading seem even more the logical choice. These were taken in a big, bright, warm room in Bristol, with a view over clustered roof tops and a back garden in which I've seen foxes at dusk, wearing a plaid flannel dress (the ultimate reading outfit no)? Erm, that would be me wearing flannel, not the foxes, clearly. :D
I'm multi-tasking bookwise. I always like having 5 or 6 books on the go to suit all moods and handbag sizes. I'm reading Anna Kerenina (yes yes, but movie versions are a great excuse to finally read that classic you've been meaning to for years), Christopher Isherwood's masterpiece Goodbye to Berlin, a Catalan classic Cadaqués, (here's when I went to beautiful Cadaqués a few years back) a book of short tales about interesting women who lived in Barcelona through the ages, which is fascinating as a social history, and rereading the biography of Louise Brooks by Barry Paris that so enthralled me last winter. I'm really enjoying all of them... does anybody have any recommendations for when I'm done?
Incidentally, my Kindle (which I've had for about 2 years) is a life saver. I love the texture and smell of real books as much as the next bookworm, but I don't love the overweight baggage fees or trying to track down English language books in foreign countries... for transient lifestyles it's a must, although it's not that photogenic.
Reading in bed comes with a built-in siesta!
Photos by Albert
One of my favourite posts from last year was also in favour of plaid flannel dresses...
Monday, 10 December 2012
England in winter is best known for its "battleship grey" skies, but it was actually sunny for all seven hours of daylight, or whatever passes for a full day at this time of year, on Saturday in Bristol. I remember when I used to live in Glasgow years ago, being nonplussed when it was literally dark by 3pm in December. Of course, the flipside was that in June, traipsing your way home from a night out, it would be getting light at 4am before you've even made it home. One thing I really enjoy about having lived in a variety of places is the way that your sense of what's "normal" becomes warped and finally more flexible, whether it's to do with weather, food, languages, or hundreds of other little instances.
Friday, 7 December 2012
I work half days at my main job, and generally choose to do it in the morning. One day a week though, I like to work in the afternoon, so I can do something interesting on a weeknight and have a leisurely breakfast with a friend with an equally random timetable on a weekday morning.
On a recent Wednesday I went to see my friend Mercè's boyfriend playing a gig in a bar:
And Thursday mornings my friend Aga and I have started working our way through Barcelona's nice breakfast places. Recently, it was café-meets-exhibition space Cosmo...
These kinds of little traditions are definitely what keep the gloomy winter at bay...
photos of me by Mercè and Aga, respectively
Monday, 3 December 2012
With Albert and a friend in town for the weekend, it seemed as good a time as any to engage in a winter breakfast tradition... chocolate con churros. I only do this about twice per winter though, to avoid the inevitable heart attack. Below you'll find the typical pudding-thick hot chocolate completely submerged under a wad of whipping cream, plus churros, melindres and an ensaimada. I have a feeling I may have eaten more than everyone else...
colourful tiles on Carrer Petritxol
Then it was time for a lengthy wander through the streets, leading inevitably to my favourite Sunday morning destination, the second hand book market at Sant Antoni (previous posts about this are here and here--they are also documents to the growth of my hair over the past year!) It was time to renew my collection of Asterix in Catalan!
I may as well include this picture, of a Barcelona fashion magazine from the 30s, since the woman whose stall it was yelled at me enough for taking it. :D
It was election day, essentially a one-issue election--shall Catalonia hold a referendum on separation from Spain? (which is actually illegal in the Spanish constitution, which might tell you something about the current political situation). The pro-referendum parties won 87 seats vs. 48 for non-referendum, so I guess we're headed to the polls! Plenty of Catalan spirit on buildings all over town meanwhile.
And then my friend and I went to famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí's Casa Batlló (it's good having tourist friends in town). I'm about to become an insufferable Gaudí expert since I'm currently translating a book about him at work... Casa Batlló was marvellous, and worth the (kind of steep at €20) admission.
Anyway, just another Sunday really!
Photos of me by Albert