Saturday, January 28, 2006


The first two pictures are of a parade that came through the neighbourhood last Sunday. We aren't sure what the occation was but there were lots and lots of horses.

The big building on a mountain is the monestary of Sant Pere de Rodes.

The other two were taken at the ruins of the Iberian town of Ullastret. The rououd pits you can see in the one were for fire, they figure that was a community building of some sort.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Yesterday, Sandra showed me how to make these cookies which are traditionally made in Catalonia around Halloween time. The exciting thing for me is they are gluten-free. They can be made with either sweet potato or regular potato but here you can only get the sweet potato around Halloween.

Big Batch/ Small Batch
(About 4 dozen) /(About 2 dozen)

1 kg. ground almonds /250g ground almonds (2 cups?)
800 g - 1 kg. sugar /200 - 250g sugar (1 - 1 1/3 cup?)
200g potato /50g potato
1/4 L water /62 ml water
grated rind of 1 lemon/ grated rind of 1/4 lemon
4 eggs separated /1 or 2 eggs separated
Your choice of pine nuts, coconut, sliced almonds, cocoa, dried fruit, etc...

1. Boil potatoes in their skins and let them cool. Peel and mash.

2. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl except the eggs. We found it was easiest to use our hands and add the water a little at a time (it might not need that much.) Keep mixing till a smooth, soft dough is formed.

3. The recipe say to form the dough into egg-sized balls but I don't know what size of eggs they are thinking of. They should be more like golf balls, if that.

4. Lightly beat the egg white and dip balls in it.

5. Roll balls in either pine nuts, sliced almonds, coconut, cocoa, or anything else that tastes yummy.

6. Place balls on a greased cookie sheet and brush with slightly beaten egg yoke.

7. Bake in a 180 - 200 C oven (375F?) for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

*Please note: Everything in our recipe is measured in weight so when I say "cups" it's a rough guess. I made the small batch and it was pleanty.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A few interesting things about Spain

1. The area around Barcelona is called Catalonia and is a distinct society with its own language and culture, much like Quebec.

2. You can get a bottle of wine here for 1 euro. Too bad I don't drink.

3. The Christmas nativity scenes here include a figure of a little boy with his pants down going poop. For some reason this is a symbol of prosperity.

4. Meal times are later here. Lunch does not start till around 2pm when most businesses close down for several hours while people go to eat. They will open again around 5 for several more hours before dinner.

5. If you eat out at an off time the locals might make rude comments about tourists.

6. The temperature at this time of year is about 11 - 15 C in the day and 4 - 6 C at night.

7. People seem to think this is cold and walk around with fur coats on at noon.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Things were much better the rest of this week. Once I rested up my friends started taking me beyond the apartment to see some sights. Thursday we started with downtown Barcelona which is very much set up for pedestrians. A train will take you into the city from nearby towns like Sant Cougat where Philippe and Sandra live but it is always crowded so we don't expect to get seats. Once in the city I was very glad to have Sandra with me because she has learned quite a bit about the history so it was like having my own personal your guide. I was overloaded that day with historic building after historic building as well as all the shops, the market, the people, the language (Catalan not Spanish) and all the tiny little things that were pointed out to me like the gargoyles on the walls and the remains of an old Roman aqueduct.

Friday was the Catalan art gallery which is in a building that was built for the 1929 worlds fair. It is also the same area where they had the Olympic games. Near by is a little village that was also put together for the worlds fair. It was built to show all kinds of buildings from around Spain and now is used for artists shops and restaurants.

Yesterday we took a drive north into the mountains. The first stop was the ruins of an Iberian town that was dug up by archaeologists over the last few decades. They figure it was built around 500 BC. I really enjoyed it but I have noticed that almost none of the signs here are in English so I need a lot of translation.

After that we drove to a little town by the sea just below the French border where we had lunch. I am trying to be adventurous and eating new things and it was in this town that I was introduced to a dish called paella (I think). It is rice cooked with meat and seafood so I tried muscle, squid and crayfish for the first time. It's a good thing I am no longer a vegetarian.

Above that town is a mountain with a little road winding up to the top. When the Christians were hiding from the Arabs back in the 900's the built a monastery up there called Sant Pere de Rodes. It is no longer in use but they have restored it for the public to visit so we spent the rest of the day there. This was definitely not the sort of thing I would see back home! It was huge and may as well have been a fortress with the thick stone walls. The inside of the church walls used to be painted with pictures of saints and Bible figures but they were getting ruined there so they have been removed but I had already seen what was left of them when I went to the art gallery.

This, being Sunday in a good Catholic country, was a day of rest. I think it would have been anyway. We needed a break.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

36 hours later...

The good news is I made it to Spain safe and sound.

Monday was the day I was set to leave home and things had pretty much fallen into place. My visa had come in just in time, paper work was taken care of, I had said goodbye to friends and it looked like everything was going to fit into my suitcase. (By the way it is really something to figure out what you will need for a year and try to fit it into a suitcase and two carry-on bags.)

I think I woke up around 7:00 - please remember that number- and spent the morning doing some last minute things. I had about an hour of pre-trip anxiety but everything was fine and my family took me to the bus where we said goodbye. Once I was on my way the excitement really started to kick in.

At the airport I was told that the suitcase that I had stuffed as full as possible was 18 lbs over the limit. "Well, you have two choices," said the lady. "You can either buy yourself another suitcase or pay $35."

I paid the $35, sent the suitcase on its way and headed off for the security check.

Other than that everything was smooth. There was a couple of hours to wait at the airport but the passed quickly and in no time I was in the air watching movies and being served dinner. I had a window seat and the seat next to me was empty so I was able to take off my shoes and stretch out most of the way there. It would have been great for sleeping except that I love flying so much and was so excited to finally be on my way Europe. I tried to sleep but gave up thinking it wouldn't be that bad. Maybe I could doze on the next flight.

There was a lot of cloud over Munich and as we got closer to the ground we got snow. All I could see as we landed was farmland covered in snow. It actually looked very much like home. From the way things looked the runway could have been the Deseronto Road.

I was a little nervous because I had never had to catch a connecting flight before but I got checked through just fine. There were two big differences between the airport there and in Canada. One is that the shops look very fancy there and included expensive looking jewelry stores and a lingerie shop. The other difference was the booze. I got there at 9am and there were men sitting around having big glasses of beer with their breakfast.

There was a couple of hours wait for the flight but we were told there would be a delay because of the snow. Annoying but not that bad. When they did board us we were put on a bus and driven out to the runway. I couldn't believe it. This was a little plane and we had to get on it from a little set of stairs on the outside like in the old movies. Once again I had a seat to myself.

There was quite a bit of snow by this point so we had to wait. And wait, and wait. And then, "I'm sorry ladies and gentlemen. I have just been told that due to the snow there will be a delay of at least 3 -4 hours. This flight has been cancelled. "

Back we went on the bus to stand in line to get new flights. The line was long. I think I was standing in it for about an hour. When I finally got to the desk the lady found my another flight but said, "I can't book this, we have to go see my colleague."

Okay, over we go and this lady starts asking me if I speak German. No! Okay. I got booked onto another flight but didn't make it to the gate in time. So back I had to go to get a third flight booked. Now, by this point I was very aware of the fact that I had been awake for about 22 hours and was trying very hard not to cry as I waited in line again. It was okay, there was another flight but not until 7:30. I found my gate, sat down and figure out how to tell people where I was.

I got a calling card but had to get a stranger to explain how to use it because I didn't know how to dial within Europe and kept getting a German recording telling me I was doing it wrong. When I finally got it right the number I had for my friends was busy. I called and called and called but couldn't get through. I finally realized that I could use the card to call home but Mom could hardly hear me when I got her. At least I was able to tell her sort of what was going on and she said she would try to get in touch with our friends for me.

The plane finally left for Spain but not without about an hour delay. I got to sleep for about 10 minutes but was pretty revved up from dealing with everything. When we landed guess who's bag was missing.

I was never so happy to see friends in my life. It turned out their phone was not working but Dad had sent an email that got through and they were there to get me. Everything has been fine since.

The suitcase was brought over this evening.

Not counting the 10 minute nap I was up for a total of 36 hours so needless to say I am still a bit tired. I think I am going to go rest some more.