Barcelona Photoblog: October 2013

October 29, 2013

The Mae West Room at Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Catalonia

Mae West Room by Dali

Today's image was taken at the Museu Dali and it is not a painting but an illusion created by Salvador Dali expressly for the Theater Museum in Figueres (province of Girona, Catalonia).

This work, is indeed based upon one of his paintings: Mae West's Face which May be Used as a Surrealist Apartment, 1934–35.

Mae West had a clear influence on the Catalan artist, particularly in the movie called: She Done Him Wrong (1933) by Lowell Sherman, where she plays a very seductive saloon owner. An important part of the illusion, in the foreground of the composition, are those lips that reminds of a cozy sensual couch, that slightly resembles a wood-and-satin piece of furniture by Dali known as The Mae West Lips Sofa (1937) although that one was pink, or better said, "shocking pink" as the lipstick shade inspired by the actress, developed by fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli.

For those of you who have not visited the Dali Museum yet, let me tell you that to see the face you have to climb a small set of stairs and look through a sort of circular magnifying glass to better appreciate the isolated objects that integrate the composition.

Salvador Dali, was born in this location in 1904 and was even baptized in the church right in front of the museum. Nevertheless, he did not spend all his life in his hometown.

Dali studied at the Academia de San Fernando (School of Fine Arts) in Madrid in 1922 although he was suspended later, but not for academic reasons. He went many times to Paris and was influenced by Picasso, among other artists. All in all, he became world known as a surrealist artist in the period that goes from 1929 to 1937 in which he produced many of those paintings we admire so much today, such as ‘The Persistence of Memory’ (1931). Yes, the one with the melting watch!

The artist also visited the United States where he lived for eight years with his wife Gala. From 1950 to 1970 his works included new themes, on many occasions, of religious nature but also erotic or recalling his childhood as in previous years. Gala was also present in his paintings often. After she died in 1982, he was no longer the same, and his health was affected by a motor disorder until his death in 1989. 

October 23, 2013

Casa Comalat: Art Nouveau Balconies

Casa Comalat Barcelona: Balcony

Casa Comalat is the most emblematic modernist house by Catalan architect, Salvador Valeri. This jewel of Catalan Art Nouveau, has two façades, the main entrance facing Av. Diagonal and the rear at carrer Roselló.

At first sight, nobody could tell the two of them belong to the same building if it were not for the intense use of undulated shapes and exuberant decoration, prominent features in the work of this artist.

Built between 1909 and 1911, the house inevitably reminds you of the strong influence of Gaudi's famous curves upon the artists of his times.

In the image today, there is only a balcony, as both sides of the house have been covered here in Barcelona Photoblog in the past (Avinguda Diagonal - Casa Comalat and Catalan modernisme: Casa Comalat).

Of course, this is not any kind of balcony as you can appreciate in the extremely beautiful and whimsical shapes of this wrought ironwork. I could tell you about the fabulous doorway, the gallery defiantly protruding from the façade crowned by an impressive pinnacle or about the shape of the turret on top of the building, or what is more, we could be talking for hours about the wooden galleries and the delightful ceramics on the other side of Casa Comalat, that are not precisely what you would choose to adorn the back side of anything, in the sense that, on that part, you feel like you are about to enter the Candy house in Hansel and Gretel fairy tale but why not concentrating on the details of this single balcony and let imagination fly. I took more pictures that will eventually appear on this blog, so do not miss them. Thanks for your time.

October 20, 2013

Porras with Hot Chocolate

Famous porras with chocolate
Porras with chocolate in Barcelona

If you fancy secret places out of the touristic routes, places not so charming but equally exquisite because of the quality of the product you get and if you cannot leave Barcelona without tasting those porras or churros with chocolate somebody was bragging about just before you came visit us, then you should know that there is this small cafe, frequented by locals, very near Metro stop Fabra i Puig (Red Line) called Churreria Laia (carrer Malgrat 82)(Passeig de Fabra i Puig, 146) where you can satisfy your most guilty pleasures.

For those of you that don't know what a churro is, let me tell you that it is just dough made right in front of you by mixing flour, hot water and salt inside a blending machine made for such purpose. Once the dough is ready, some portions are placed inside another machine called churrera that pipes everything through a star-shaped nozzle that gives it that characteristic prism-like shape. The dough comes out of it as if it were tooth paste slowly making a spiral that is then fried and served hot. You usually sprinkle sugar on top.

Update 07/2023:

'Porras differ from churros because they contain an extra ingredient: baking soda or, in some cases, yeast. The dough for the porras contains flour, salt, water and baking soda and we must leave it to rest for a period of several minutes before putting it in the fryer in order to release carbon dioxide and result in a much softer dough. . There is also a difference in the proportion of flour in relation to the amount of water: the amount of water is higher in the mass of the porras. Churros are loop-shaped, thin in thickness, and have a dense dough. Instead, the porras are fried in the form of large spirals and then cut into pieces; they are thicker and spongier because they have air inside.' - according to Churreria Desi 

So Porras, which are very popular in Madrid (and other regions of Spain, check this post from Valencia about the difference between churros and porras), are not just thicker as you can see in this image but carry that extra ingredient. In Madrid, porras are a staple of the local cuisine and are often consumed for breakfast or as a mid-morning snack. The result is a heavenly treat that pairs perfectly with a cup of thick, rich hot chocolate. Madrid boasts numerous traditional cafés and pastry shops where locals and visitors alike can indulge in the pleasure of porras. One of the most renowned establishments is San Ginés, a charming café located near Puerta del Sol. San Ginés has been serving porras since 1894 and is often crowded with clients eager to experience the iconic combination of porras and their famous hot chocolate. The porras in Madrid tend to be thick, dense, and slightly chewy, providing a satisfyingly substantial bite.
Moving to Barcelona, although you can find porras as such, more than often you will end up having our churros or xurros with different form and texture. The dough used for churros is typically made with a higher proportion of water, resulting in a lighter and crispier end product.  In other words, although you can find porras or what looks like porras but carrying a filling (which is not a porra), churro or a xurro in Catalan, is the usual thing to have. Anyway, porras you can find.
Xurrerias, specialty shops that specialize in churros and sometimes offer porras, can be found throughout Barcelona. These establishments attract locals and tourists with the enticing aroma of freshly fried dough. One popular xurreria is the iconic Xurreria Trebol, located in carrer Corsega 341. 

Do you have porras in your city? Spanish porra also refers to the sticks or batons carried by the police so I am sure you have some porras and they don't serve it with chocolate!

October 02, 2013

My Own Barcelona Sunset

Barcelona Sunset [enlarge]

This picture was taken from my mobile phone the other day. It was one of those strange afternoons when the skies seem to be soaked in the blood shed by some imaginary Gods after engaging in some cruel and gruesome battle.

It was funny to spot a neighbor on the roof nearby, cellphone in hand, bearing witness to the same wondrous moment of nature. How many times in a day, month or year can the scene out of your window change? That is a mystery to me, constantly surprising you with better results, on and on.

Just like watching a damn kaleidoscope, always different, always magical. I have trapped one of those many possible frames of your city skies, in this case a sunset in Barcelona, do you have yours?
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