Monday, March 30

White Daisy Detail

White Daisy Detail [enlarge]

A detail of a white daisy. I hope you like this macro which looks better if you click on the image. A white daisy is just that, I don't have much to say considering I have published other similar posts before. See two of them here: Daisy Paradise and Morning Daisies in Bellaterra.

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Friday, March 27

Kitsch Art or Messy Balcony

Curious Barcelona balcony [enlarge]

Some people contribute to art without ever knowing it. Haven't you realized that some balconies in Barcelona are participating in some kind of silent permanent exhibition? I have seen many. A long time ago I posted a very unorthodox artwork with serious cartoonists' influence on an anonymous Barceloneta balcony. This sudden outburst of artistic manifestation is more frequent in the narrow streets of the old part of town. It seems that as there is no room enough for such hype of creativity artists feel the urgent need of showcasing their one-of-a-kind exhibits in the balcony.

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Tuesday, March 24

Young Triton Sculpture, Placa Catalunya

Triton Sculpture, Placa Catalunya [enlarge]

I found this sculpture in Plaça Catalonia. There are several important sculptures around the square but this one representing a young triton carrying an enormous shell on his shoulders looking up proudly towards the last rays of the afternoon sun seemed one of the most beautiful in spite of all the pigeon natural paint on the shoulders.

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Wednesday, March 18

Bread and Coques, Help Yourself!

Bread and Coques [enlarge]

We are only three days away from the official arrival of spring on the northern hemisphere, March equinox, and I say official because at least in Barcelona we are having a wonderful fair weather since last week. Buds are sprouting from tree branches, people are talking outloud on bar terraces again or getting a tan on the beach. Over the weekend, thousands flee from the city and set to discover towns nearby in many different ways. Some are veteran excursionists and therefore insist on places they consider a favorite or consult with other experienced fellow travelers about secret troves. But the majority of mortals like me are used to dealing with randomness, trial and error methods and surprises whether they are good or bad. Sometimes we organize a trip to a historical site and then try local restaurants completely blindfolded (big mistake here!). Most of the times though, we first decide on what to eat and where and then if possible include the historical place, the celebration or the local market as an extra. In other words, we travel with the stomach. Local food markets are a fantastic wild card. You can kill two birds with a single shot. Say you blew it and couldn't find a comfortable restaurant where they made a good paella or tapas like some tasty chistorras from Navarre and Spanish omelette, for example, no problem. You run to the nearest stall and jump on the kind person behind the counter like Attila the Hun after crossing the Mongolian prairies, taking a good bite at all the sample food they offer for free, drinking from the wine porron on the house and then maybe, just maybe you buy a thing or two at the most. The cherry on top would be that you could bargain but they are not stupid either. Please visit local markets and try local food like these Catalan coques covered with all sorts of ingredients. Notice in the image you also have bread and empanadas (pie).

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Saturday, March 14

Bobbin Lace or Pillow Lace, An Artful Skill

Bobbin Lace or Pillow Lace [enlarge]

Call it bobbin lace, pillow lace, bone lace or simply lacework, this technique, in which thread, pins and shuttles are dexterously combined, may not compete with sophisticated lace making machines that produce complex designs but definitely it is much more artistic. I mean, you can enter a drawing in some computer program to automatically weave an elaborate piece of lace but you will lose art and tradition in the process. This is something that is handed down from one generation to another, it is a passion and a hobby. This woman, Isabel, was participating in a local contest of puntaires which is the Catalan word for a person who does needlepoint work, and there you saw women of all ages and even some young boys. They were extremely skillful and it was really amusing to be standing there witnessing the stubborn endurance of this ancient medieval craft that is reluctant to disappear. See also Bobbin Lace (Encaje de Bolillos), a previous post with a brief explanation of the process and an illustrative video.

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Thursday, March 12

Dressed Spanish Olives

Dressed Spanish Olives [enlarge]

Lets talk about food today, about one of the cornerstones of the traditional Mediterranean diet: olives. In Spanish they are called aceitunas derived from aceite which means oil. In Catalan we call it olives too, with the stress on the i, being oli the word used to designate such oleaginous liquid. The scientific name, Olea europaea, speaks for itself about the final product obtained from the fruit and the origin and habitat of this tree. There are different kinds of olives with some peculiar names many times conditioned by the region where they are grown.

Green olives as the name suggests are picked from the tree before they ripen. Black olives are then the ripe ones, to be more precise, those ripened on the tree. There are about 14 varieties classified in Spain: Blanqueta, Callosina, Arbequina, Gordal sevillana, Cornicabra, Manzanilla cacereña, Villalonga, Serrana de Espadán, Morrut, Changlot Real, Canetera, Alfafara, Hojiblanca, Carrasqueño de Córdoba with a whole lot of local synonyms. No need to say that other countries in the Mediterranean like Italy, Greek, Syria, Turkey have their own.

Before serving the olives, some preparation is required to get rid of their normal bitterness. You may buy them canned or bottled but there's the possibility of dressing them on your own. Green olives like the ones you see in the image, acquire that final salty spicy flavor from the extra ingredients people put into the dressing. Don't bother taking those in the bottle to make your own home-made concoction. You need them clean to start with, without previous treatment although it says they are salt free. Once you manage to buy them free of salt, you put them in water to get rid of the bitter taste, change the liquid every 12 hours till the greenest of them tastes sweet. If you don't cut them into halves or squeeze them first the process will take longer. The more you squeeze the shorter the time. The container where you place the olives must not be made of metal nor should you use any metal object or your hands to remove. Once sweet, they are ready to take that dressing. The dressing is applied by layers and shall cover the content. They will acquire maximum flavor in about a week. The ingredients depend on you although there is a certain limitation of course. You may use garlic, thyme, laurel, oregano, paprika, cumin, fennel, orange shells. Remember the basis is water but you can add lemon and/or vinegar. I am not a cook myself and cannot take responsibilities for the right results here but in essence, you may come up with some tasty aceitunas aliñadas in the end.

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Tuesday, March 10

Hungry Biker at Catalonia Square, Barcelona

Biker at Catalonia Square [enlarge]

This might as well have been a good post about the benefits of vegetarian food but since I am not an unconditional let's just talk about the place and the scene as such. For those who have never been to Barcelona, this guy is chewing carrots in the middle of Placa Catalunya, one of the most frequented spots downtown. This is like, say, the place where the church and the town hall would stand if this was an old village. The place is the landing strip for thousands of pigeons that live in total connivance with the man behind the pigeon food stand. If the little rat-like creatures stay two steps away from you in all of the urban area, here, in the square, in the event that you dare to throw some seeds or whatever similar object at them, they will ominously perch on your hair and shoulders and you will immediately feel like Tippi Hedren in The Birds. What about our subject today? Was he waiting for his girlfriend, was he anxious, was he on a rigorous diet? We will never know. Take a look at how Catalonia Square looks from above in a previous post: Plaza Catalunya As Seen From El Corte Ingles store (click for the larger image. It is a little blurry cause the store window was in the way and it's got this sort of protective coat to filter the sun rays falling on the top floor restaurant)

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Monday, March 9

Shell Bracelet and Sunday Afternoon Blues

Shell Bracelet [enlarge]

It was Sunday, a very boring bloody Sunday afternoon and I stayed at home. I had the blues, I was down, depressed, you know, like any odd weekend before horrible Monday comes. My archives were reaching the red mark, way past the warning sign saying, alert, alert tomorrow you will have nothing to post so I decided I had to fetch some insignificant objects and let go my imagination. As you see my imagination had decided to go for a walk without me so I came up with this "miserable" macro of some plain shell bracelet. Please be lenient with me.

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Friday, March 6

Grilled Leaks Soaked in Romesco Sauce? No, Just Some Calçots

Box of Calçots [enlarge]

Do you dig grilling some baby leeks to later soak them in romesco sauce? I do! Well, it is not exactly a leek nor it is an onion or a garlic plant but something in between. It definitely reminds you of onions when you smell it and taste it. Maybe the only difference is that calçots, as such is their name in Catalan, neither bite nor make you cry. Here you have a great bunch of calçots that are traditionally consumed this time of the year. I won't get any deeper into the story about what they are or the ritual followed before and during a calçotada since that has already been described in this previous post of mine: Catalan Traditions, La Calçotada.

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Wednesday, March 4

Catalan Lancers at Tres Tombs Parade, Sand Andreu, Barcelona

 [enlarge]

Taken last year this image shows two lancers opening the famous Tres Tombs parade at Sant Andreu quarter, Barcelona. It is a yearly event in which locals tour some neighborhood streets riding beautiful horses or on board of carts of elaborate design. There are other shots depicting Tres Tombs parade:

  1. Flute Player

  2. Coach Drivers

  3. Strong Horse

  4. Children

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Monday, March 2

Hurakan Condor - Port Aventura's Dreadful Drop Tower

Hurakan Condor - Port Aventura [enlarge]

Hurakan Condor by the Swiss company Intamin AG is a frightening drop tower which provides the happy customer with a thrilling 3 second free fall ride from a trifling height of about 300 feet or 100 meters. Wanna see how it looks like from the top? Check a Hurakan Condor ride video. There are other famous attractions in Port Aventura like Dragon Khan which were featured here in the past.

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