Wednesday, March 29, 2006

TORTOSA - Catalunya's own GRANADA

So, the secret destination which I was taken to, as a part of the celebration of our third anniversary, was Tortosa (province of Tarragona). Located in the most southern part of Catalunya, at various times, I had the feeling we were stepping outside of the 'Catalan Nation', and were directly plunged into the deep south of the Spanish Heart, yet, most of the towners, locals and immigrants alike, spoke
nothing but Catalan.

Upon opening my eyes from a drive-induced stupor, and after spending half an hour digging our van out of the sand dunes in the Delta, I was thrilled to see that one part of the secret 'surprise' was a night in the Parador's, a national chain of luxury hotels which were renovated from old castles in various parts of Spain. What struck me immediately after getting out of the van on the highest part of Tortosa, is how much I am reminded of Granada. Perhaps it was the castle/hotel, like la Alhambra, perched high above Tortosa's medival center, surrounded by a shield of Gypsies living among trash and poverty, as in Sacromonte, or it could be the labrynth of narrow streets from the old Jewish neighborhood, which has now been turned into half tourist attraction, half ghetto.
We decided to take a walk down to the center via a ´less traveled road´, contrary to a kind warning from the hotel clerk. In the beginning, we thought it was merely a short stretch of transitional road to the center of the town, but after a few minutes, we realized we were in the dead center of a very questionable neighborhood, where trash was piled high and proud, and children and cats were lounging outside, filthy and suspicious. Somehow as we thought it couldn´t get worse, it did, children gradually gave way to young adults, grouped in threes, hanging around in parks, parking lots, just waiting. Then groups became groups of groups, and curiously enough, no visible women could be seen in any immediate vicinity.
view of the hotel from the Gypsy street

The comercial side of the center is divided by a lovely river, and as with all beatiful cities with a river in the middle, it had a distinct smell and charm all of its own. After the adventures of getting lost in a rapidly darkening city with full of shadows and hidden corners, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal in the Parador´s, where we were staying for the night. Although not quite yet in Valencia, I had the best paella of my life, it was made unconventionally, with duck and artichokes, and it was delicious!
River at night in Tortosa

Dark and unknown corner

Gargoyles lurking at night

Freaky smoke

One of the best ways to finish a meal where buttons needed to be unhooked, and zipper unzipped, is to walk around an old castle above a beautiful medieval city (in the comfort and safety of the parking lot, of course). We wandered for a few minutes before we came upon a distinct wailing which came unmistakbly from a Gypsy singer. I suppose due to sounds travel upward and the night was clear, we were able to participate, as voyeurists do, from afar, a unique and unforgettable moment. It came from the same shady street which we took to go down to the center, now shielded by a wall of history, class and culture differences, the same street exuded a mysticism known to me only through books. Yet the daunting cries and sorrowful wails cut directly to the heart where a common bond can only be shared by being human. I could see the group gathered around the opened front door of a dilapitated building, the rhythmic strumming of the guitarist´s arm reflected across the night, children running around, immitating the voice of the singer, which is at the same time hilarious and endearing, punctuated by a few stray dogs barking in the dark distance. Having wanted to see or hear a flamenco ´show´ every time we go down to Granada, and NOT having been able to do so each time, made this serendipity meeting even more special to me, there wasn´t any audience, it is not something to learn in the school or even at home, the children are immersed in it while still in their mother´s womb, and it becomes a way of life and expression, it is vital, not as an aesthetic, but rather, as a integral part of life, to be inhaled, like air. It is crude and unrefined, all too harsh for the ear in the stillness of the night, yet, it brings a sense of ultimate calm to the listener when hearing someone expelling pains which have seized all of us in some point in our lives.
Secret Concert - viewed from far away

Part two to our celebration will be Venice this upcoming weekend, let the mysteries begin!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

L'AMANDA in Catalunya!

Somewhere, somebody is looking for this little coat (Carrer de l'Hospital)
photo by: Amanda

Our make-shift pet, borrowed from an unsuspecting (but yielding) dogwalker on Portal de l'Angel: ---but, WHO walk their pets on Portal de l'Angel??
"Duque", the Dog with one earring

My first chocolate FONDUE, thanks to A's initiation :)

Original wall tiles from 15th century (Courtyard from the Center of Catalan Studies)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A memorial visit on March 11 to the Train Station - MADRID

The Train Station Where the Bomb went off on March 11, 2004

The Largest Spanish Flag I Have Ever Seen

Almond flower - signature of an Iberian Spring

A ´Parfumed Avenue´ of Almond Blossoms

The Fallen Angel (Angel CaĆ­do) - probably the only sculpture of Lucifer in the world

Glass Palace (Palacio de Cristal) in the Retiro Park - exhibition center

Monday, March 13, 2006

Spring in Madrid

**if anyone is ever in Madrid around March, the Royal Botanic Garden would be a nice welcoming place to visit, the intoxicating mixture of aromas in the air alone, will be worth the trip
Camellia Japonica

Sky lit by magnolia blossoms

A single magnolia flower

An Acacia found only in storybook forests :)

Running through the soft hair of a Weeping Willow

Family under a Weeping Willow

Sunday, March 05, 2006

La Garriga portraits - Sunday Lunch

strange low clouds on the way to La Garriga

Nabi and Enric




Nabi and Enric again

an observer