Barcelona Photoblog: April 2010

April 29, 2010

Catalan Sausages: Botifarra d'Ou


A close look on one of the most delicious sausages in Catalonia: Botifarra d'Ou (literally, although I don't think there's an equivalent in English, Egg Sausage). As the name suggests it is made of eggs and meat. It is served in slices and has a more delicate texture and taste than other sausages. According to Catalan traditions Botifarra d'Ou is served the first day of Carnival aka dijous gras or dijous llarder (Fat Thursday)

If you missed other posts dealing with Catalan sausages please check: Botifarra Negra, Botifarra de Pagés or the whole story: sausage. This picture was taken at Mercat de l’Abaceria Central in Gracia quarter.

April 26, 2010

Modernist Building at Plaza del Sol, Gracia Quarter, Barcelona

Modernist Building at Plaza del Sol, Gracia

At Plaça del Sol square in Gracia quarter, the most bohemian neighborhood in Barcelona, there's a modernist building that really stands out due to its wonderful preservation. I have seen it in hundreds of pictures but I wanted to show my own version.

These pastel colors are real so imagine what a feast it was for my eyes to be able to contemplate this beauty from a terrace table across the square in the company of friends and chatting over some beers.

Buildings like this you have a gazillion in the city and believe me my friend, you don't need the beer to get a sudden break of emotive architectural admiration cause the sober ones seem to have the same expression of awe before most of them.

Come join us, it is fun, cultural and educational! By the way, you can even sit on the very floor of the square to have a pleasant chat or enjoy the best local paella at L' Envalira (Catalan link) next door. Envalira (Link from monopolizing travel company Tripadvisor)

April 25, 2010

Old Lady at Mercat de l'Abaceria Central de Gràcia

Old Lady at Mercat de l'Abaceria Central de Gràcia [enlarge]

Patiently waiting for her turn this sweet old lady seemed to have stopped time in Mercat de l’Abaceria Central at Travessera de Gràcia, 186 one of the almost 45 markets there are in Barcelona city. The image of elderly people carrying a shopping trolley bag is quite familiar over here as it is relatively easy to buy food just across the street and important markets are just a few bus or subway stops away. Gracia quarter is one of those neighborhoods with a little bit of everything, shops, bars, terraces, architecture, art galleries, pedestrian-friendly streets, trees, beautiful squares and a bohemian atmosphere. Curiously this quarter I haven't covered much in Barcelona Photoblog in the past. I hope I change that soon.

April 21, 2010

Belly Dancer in Barcelona

Belly Dancer in Barcelona [enlarge]

As I don't want to be accused by adepts and opponents alike because of my ignorance in this matter I prefer to leave you the link to the Wikipedia article explaining what belly dance is, the Western and the Eastern approach as well its different variants. Dancing is beyond the purpose of Barcelona Photoblog although many of the different belly dancing schools in the city well deserve some promotion. Come to think of it, I don't have any particular preference so why don't you check all there is to it at World Belly Dance or on Belly Dance Superstars. The only thing I can tell you is that watching it from a short distance is fascinating and hypnotic.

April 19, 2010

Innocent Happiness

Kid smiling [enlarge]

It all started one day when you were cast onto the stage of life without permission, from nothingness. You showed under the limelights with an impeccable brand new soul, a pure heart and a neat innocent smile. You just wanted to know and you asked for nothing in return. Magic ruled in the small kingdom of your playroom and worries were not part of your vocabulary. And then they taught you manners and gave you some tuition so you behaved like them. It took a lot of work but finally they managed. You became one of them but you lost something along the way, your innocent happiness. Where did it go?

April 16, 2010

Liquorice Sticks and Garden Cutters


This picture is not about tools but these cutters on top of a bunch of Liquorice sticks do look nicer and add up to the idea of gathering roots, the roots of Glycyrrhiza glabra. This I found in a market in a town near Barcelona which is irrelevant now. I am sure you know Liquorice and maybe you like the flavor. I prefer it this way, as is, in its natural form, something which is common in Spain. I certainly don't like the taste of liquorice candies. It has medicinal properties but I think you better read all the information following the link above. By the way, we call it regaliz.

April 13, 2010

Boqueria Fish: Fresh Gallo

Boqueria Fish: Fresh Gallo

As with all species mentioned here in the past, there is a certain percent of error in the classification I give since many times I forget to write down names when I take pictures. This one looks like a John Dory or Zeus Faber (Gallo, Ceo, Zeo or Pez de San Pedro in Spanish).

The name Gallo (rooster) is also given to other species of fish in Spanish that are different in appearance and have different scientific names such as Lepidorhombus wiffiagonis aka Megrim.

This is not an ichthyology treaty so just concentrate on the fresh appearance and the fact that you can buy some at La Boqueria market in Barcelona or maybe other fish posted in Barcelona Photoblog recently.

Update 2023: Due to the huge popularity of the original post (for reasons still unknown to me) the frustrated scientist in me (who dreamed of being a marine biologist) has decided to abound in the topic and do some justice to the beauty of a John Dory or Gallo fish.

The Zeus Faber: A Remarkable Species with Many Common Names

The Zeus Faber: A Remarkable Species with Many Common Names

The Zeus Faber, also known as the John Dory, is a unique and iconic fish species found in the coastal waters of the eastern Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean and Black Seas. As a fan of marine biology and ichthyology, the study of fish, I am fascinated by this distinctive fish and its many common names across languages.

In English, the Zeus Faber goes by several colorful names, including John Dory, St. Peter's fish, and dory. The name John Dory is thought to be a corruption of the French jaune doré, meaning golden yellow, referring to the striking yellow and black patterning on the fish's body. St. Peter's fish comes from the myth that the dark spot on the fish's flank is the thumbprint of St. Peter, left there when he removed a coin from the mouth of a fish.

In Spanish, this fish is known by two main names: gallo and pez de San Pedro. Gallo means rooster in Spanish, an apt description of the Zeus Faber with its tall dorsal fin resembling a rooster's comb. Pez de San Pedro mirrors the English St. Peter's fish, referencing the biblical apostle.

In Catalan, Zeus Faber is called Gall de Sant Pere or Gall or Sant Pere. Gall means rooster, like the Spanish gallo. Sant Pere means St. Peter.

It is fascinating how the common names in English, Spanish, and Catalan all draw comparisons to a rooster's comb or reference St. Peter. These creative names speak to the Zeus Faber's distinctive appearance and religious legends surrounding the species. However, it is important to note that gallo in Spanish refers to a different fish species in some regions.

Taxonomy and Classification

From a taxonomic perspective, the Zeus Faber belongs to the family Zeidae under the scientific order Pleuronectiformes. As a flatfish, it is closely related to other dorsally-asymmetrical fish like sole, flounder, plaice, and halibut. Its genus name Zeus derives from the Greek god, while its species name Faber comes from the Latin word for craftsman.

The Zeidae family contains just one other species - Zeus gurnardus, or the gurnard John Dory. The John Dory is larger in size and has a deeper body than the gurnard John Dory. Both species are found in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic.

Key Characteristics

The Zeus Faber exhibits several unique external characteristics that distinguish it from other fish:

  • Tall, extended first dorsal fin resembling a rooster's comb
  • Distinctive black and yellow color pattern on body
  • Large, spiny head
  • Small mouth with teeth
  • Asymmetrical, flat body shape
  • Dark spot on flank thought to be St. Peter's thumbprint

The John Dory can grow up to 60 cm in length and weigh up to 2.3 kg. It has a compressed, oval-shaped body and is broader than it is deep. The eyes are located on the right side of the head, with the left side of the body appearing white or blind. Small, fine teeth line the jaws.

The flank patterning features a golden yellow background with six distinct black vertical bands. Black or blue markings surround the pectoral and caudal fins. The John Dory's scaleless skin is very thin and semi-transparent.

Habitat and Distribution

The Zeus Faber inhabits the coastal waters over sandy, muddy, and rocky seafloors along the eastern Atlantic coast from Norway to South Africa. It is abundant throughout the Mediterranean and found as far east as the Black Sea.

John Dory live mainly at depths between 10 - 250 meters, but occasionally venture to 350 meters deep or come to the surface. They prefer saltwater temperatures between 10 - 20°C. Though mostly solitary, these fish occasionally form small schools around rocky coastal areas or reefs.

Predators and Prey

With its large mouth and sharp teeth, the John Dory is an opportunistic carnivore that feeds on a variety of smaller fish, cephalopods like squid and octopus, and crustaceans. Some key prey items include anchovies, sardines, mackerel, shrimp, and crabs.

Despite being predators themselves, John Dory fall prey to larger carnivorous fish like groupers, larger tuna, barracuda, and sharks. Their camouflage coloration helps them avoid detection from above. John Dory have also been observed following venomous weever fish, likely for protection from predators.

Gallo in Spanish

As mentioned earlier, the name gallo in Spanish also refers to a different species - the whiff, or Lepidorhombus whiffiagonis. The whiff belongs to the same order as the John Dory, Pleuronectiformes, and shares its asymmetrical flat shape. It is found in the northeastern Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Like John Dory, whiff possess camouflaged coloration, although they lack the distinctive patterning. Instead, whiff display sandy brown, yellowish, or reddish hues to blend in with seabeds. They have a slightly oblong, oval profile.

While whiff and John Dory overlap in range, their depth and temperature preferences differ. Whiff stay closer to shore in shallower, warmer waters of 80 - 150 meters depth. The similar body shape and habitat likely accounts for the shared common name of gallo, despite being different species.

Culinary Significance

The Zeus Faber holds an important place in European cuisine and food culture. In England, the John Dory has long been revered as one of the finest eating fish. Due to its notoriously low population numbers, however, it remains an expensive and prized delicacy reserved for gourmet seafood lovers.

Valued for its fine white flesh and subtle flavor, John Dory are often baked, pan-fried, or grilled. Chefs carefully fillet the spiny fish to remove bones and skin. The meat stands up well to a range of sauces and spice rubs.

In Catalonia, John Dory appears in classic seafood stews and rice dishes.

Overfishing Threats

Regrettably, John Dory populations have declined over the last several decades due to overfishing. They are extremely vulnerable to trawl and gillnet fishing methods. Their habitats have also been degraded by destructive bottom trawling practices.

John Dory reproduce slowly, taking 2-3 years to reach sexual maturity. Their low fertility and slow growth mean they are very slow to recover from population declines. For these reasons, sustainability organizations like Seafood Watch recommend avoiding Atlantic-caught John Dory.

However, fisheries in the Mediterranean have made progress with more responsible management. Mediterranean-caught John Dory are a better choice for sustainability. With conscientious consumer demand and smart regulations, we can prevent the loss of this iconic species.

The Zeus Faber remains one of the most unique and cherished fish in the ocean. While many know it as John Dory, St. Peter's fish, or gallo, marine biologists recognize its scientific name that pays homage to both mythology and taxonomy. Safeguarding this species for future generations will require a collective effort between scientists, fisheries managers, chefs, and consumers who appreciate its value. With some care, this fabulous fish can continue thriving for centuries to come.

April 12, 2010

Ramblas Angel

Angel human statue in Las Ramblas de Barcelona [enlarge]

This angel was mentioned before in Barcelona Photoblog: Angel or Devil, a popular living statue in Las Ramblas. That time I thought to emphasize the face and not the wings but I owed you the full size human statue. The rest, the pop art background blurred with radial effect on CS4 maybe is too daring but I had fun doing it. Good week everyone!

(Barcelona Photoblog has been kindly listed among the 50 Most Amazing Architectural Photography Blogs by Photography Colleges, a good guide to find online photography tuition. I wanted to thank them and show you my Architecture and Sculpture in Barcelona set on Flickr, a collection of pictures you can find in my blog archives as well)

April 09, 2010

Under the Sea

Submarine View by Maremagnum Pier in Barcelona [enlarge]

Strolling along Maremagnum pier and in spite of pollution I found this paradise lost. The picture is rather bizarre but I like to see how life grows in its own mysterious ways. Have a nice weekend!

April 08, 2010

So Close and Yet So Far

So Close and Yet So Far [enlarge]

I had my doubts about the title this time. The picture could have been called Bad Companies, Dubious Shelter, Not So Safe, Sour Sweet Dreams or whatever. I finally decided for how something that is so close to this person like Bank Santander in this case can give him so little and yet ironically offer improvised shelter. Framing is awful, sorry about that. Red I kept to stress the logo of one of the most prosperous banks in Spain. The rest is obvious.

April 06, 2010

Jogger in Gran Via de les Corts, Barcelona

Jogger in Gran Via de les Corts, Barcelona [enlarge]

Good weather is around the corner. The time will come when we will have to take those T-shirts out of the drawer and let them gently wrap around our bellies not always fitting the way we expect. While watching this jogger running along Gran Via de les Corts in Barcelona and noticing that well known slogan on his Nike sweat shirt - Just do it -, I can't help laughing to myself: Just do it? Come on! During these Easter holidays I got into my sports clothes, took a deep breath to wake up early and jog around the neighborhood. I can swear I tried my guts to just do it but suddenly my legs ceased to exist, disappeared, gone, kaput as if by chance I had trodden on wet cement. My brains were somewhere else, betraying me in connivance with my feet, stubbornly advising to halt. If at least I had brought a couple of beers with me I could have carried them easily on top of my belly and go sipping happily along the sidewalk. Just do it? I wonder who the heck came up with that slogan. Maybe it's only about will. Or they are telling you, just go and buy those fabulous running sneakers. You'll be as fatter as can be but it will be fun and you'll look so smart that you won't even care about your shape! 

Note: The above story is only fictional. The author is in shape and has nothing to do with or against multinationals.

April 05, 2010

Easter in Barcelona: La Mona de Pascua

Easter in Barcelona: La Mona de Pascua [enlarge]

Today we celebrated the end of Easter our own way. Easter Monday is a holiday in Catalonia and in other parts of Spain while in Madrid for example it is a normal working day. For this special celebration it is customary that the Godfather or Godmother brings La Mona de Pascua to kids in the family. Monas may adopt many different shapes and are built on top of a cake or look like tortell de reis (a sort of roll making a circle) although lately the design is so sophisticated that the base is less important and it ends up being an haute cuisine work of art made of dark chocolate and nothing else. Of course it can simply consist of a chocolate egg or animals like those in today's picture but most of them resemble toys either representing famous characters or elaborate houses, ships and a long etc. Small chicks and colored feathers are very common as decoration. There are slight variations in traditions, ingredients and shapes depending on the region so I have sticked to the case of Catalonia. By the way, the word mona comes from Arabic munna meaning provision to the mouth. I hope you have enjoyed these Easter holidays.

April 04, 2010

Barcelona Metro: The Underground Man

Barcelona subway [enlarge]

Barcelona subway according to my opinion offers a rather good service and it is quite modern if compared to other cities. But I am not here to praise our underground system or to talk about finding directions either. Everything is well indicated as you can see. I just want to show the silhouette of this man under the spotlight and let you make up your own story. Happy Easter!

April 01, 2010

Swing Kid

Kid standing on swing, Barcelona [enlarge]

Anonymous kid standing on a swing under the last rays of the sun in a lonely cold winter afternoon at the park across the street as taken by my daughter, Sara, from our bedroom window. Happy Easter everyone!
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