Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Madrid in 4 Days: Beautiful Art, Architecture, A Royal Palace and Various Barrios

 Madrid in four days was an artsy adventure of architectural and historical highlights, a combination of modern and old scenes, and a meander through different barrios (neighbourhoods). While Sean and I both felt that something was missing - perhaps because of the massive lack of Christmas spirit we expected - we did feel that Madrid was a clean, interesting city that would be easy to live in.  Feeling too old for hostels, we opted to stay at the Ibis (regular) hotel, which meant that we had to choose the affordable one of the three - about a 15 minute metro ride from the centre. It was a great way to see the whole city!

Christmas Dinner at Metro Bistro

We arrived in Madrid on Christmas Day, as this was the most economical option when we considered the train and hotel prices!  We booked one of the few recommended restaurants on Tripadvisor which still had availability. Metro-Bistro is a beautiful restaurant - although it had limited vegetarian options, I had a pumpkin crema (soup), roasted pita chips with hummous and a dessert with dulce de leche that was way too sweet.  Christmas spirit wise, Madrid is not much better than Barcelona - and I must say that the Christmas markets were tacky and boring - and we went to three plazas! 

National Geographic's Madrid Walking Tour was where we started the next morning - Boxing Day or Sant Estevan as they call it here- and it was a beautiful overview of the old town and historical highlights, including Templo de Debod, an Egyptian temple in a large park.  We saw the architectural highlights as well, including the Royal Palace and Cathedral beside it - must-see sites!  In fact, the Royal Palace has a modern art museum inside it (check out the slideshow to see some awesome pics!)
Royal Palace, Madrid

Banker's district, Madrid

Perfumeries & Shopping

Who knew that Madrid was a perfumery haven with unbelievably great prices? It just so happened that I had run out of my Burberry Brit eau de parfum a couple days earlier - and I found it, on sale! Actually, it's lucky I did since they have apparently stopped producing that line. I also decided on Marc Jacobs Decadence after hours of roaming through the El Corte Ingles perfume department with Sean.  We also found an excellent winter coat for Sean - which he ended up buying at the Barcelona branch.
Sean musing over modern art

Malasaña - The Hipster Part of Town & Other Places to Eat

Malasaña and Chueco are two áreas that are definitely worth checking out.  We were in Chueco on the Saturday evening for some lovely, spicy (though pricey) Mexican food at Tepic. We also ate at the Chipotle-style Tex-Mex chain restaurant called Tierra Burrito the next day.  Madrid definitely has MUCH better Mexican food than Barcelona. We then visited the area Sunday during the day to see the sites. It’s best known for being gay-friendly and being an old neighbourhood that was revamped by a younger crowd. Pictures say more than words in this case - check out my slideshow below!

We spent Monday afternoon in Malasaña and then Buen Retiro Park before catching our evening train back to Barcelona. What a lovely area! It is the “hipster” area, I guess – it reminds me of Whyte Avenue in Edmonton or Kensington in Vancouver – loads of trendy cafes and places to shop. We window-shopped and had pizza on a terrace at a place right in the square - it was good, but then it started raining for we cafe-hopped for a bit.

Ojala! was our greatest find - a cute cafe with excellent specialty coffees and a neat atmosphere - it has sand in the basement to mimic a beach scene, a Beatles-inspired gender neutral bathroom and a very interesting teal and pink theme for its decor.

Cafe with Cocoa Tequila
Cafe with Baileys and Cream

Check out the slideshow below to see the best parts of our trip!  Again, it's about 50 pictures long, so adjust the speed settings in the top right hand corner if you like. If you're on a mobile device that does not support Flash, view my Flickr Set by clicking here,  - click on the first picture and then hit the play button for the show. 

Enjoy! Stay tuned for my New Year's adventures post with Kristin's visit, a night photoshoot and more to come! Happy Holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Photowalk in Sarrià: A Beautiful Barcelona Barrio of Contrasts at Christmas

On a quest to meet more people in Barcelona, I've joined several Meetup  groups - one of which is Camara Creativa. As the group's very first meetup, we went on a 2.5 hour photowalk around the beautiful neighbourhood of Sarrià this morning. One of my favourite things about Barcelona is that it is a city of neighbourhoods - every barrio  has a unique feel or theme, with varied prices, architecture and people. Alessandro (a professional photographer) and Ana, the organizers, took me (I was the only one who came to the first meetup!) around the neighbourhood and through the Christmas market to give me some tips. You'll have to check out the slideshow at the end of this post for my view of the neighbourhood, but here are the tips and a couple of my favourite shots of the day:
Girl with Christmas Spirit in Sarrià Market - one of my favourite pics of the shoot!

Photography Tips

  • Get the smallest camera you can for photographing people - it's much easier if they don't notice and you can take candid, natural pics
  • To take a closeup of someone standing in front of you, but facing you, take a photo of the architecture above, then pose as if you are checking out your photo on your digital camera and snap the pic you really want - inches in front of you. It sounds a bit strange - but it worked so well for Alessandro that I will have to try it!
  • Set up your scene even if there is a car or something blocking it - take photos, align your camera and wait  - until the obstacle disappears and the subject you are looking for walks by. It takes a lot of patience, but it makes for beautiful photos.
  • Remember to use the exposure settings! (I was on Aperture mode and used to just changing the F-stop, but the exposure definitely makes a huge difference! Then, use Lightroom for editing.
  • Look for contrasts - I especially liked the playground shot we took, as there are pieces of old walls and old doors that must have been buildings at one point - leading to a modern looking playground (see the slideshow!)
  • Reflections in windows make for excellent photos - sometimes a tree with leaves can show up in the window of a beautiful building, or flowers of a plant across the street appear in a neighbourhood window - it's incredible. (Check out my slideshow for examples)

My Favourite Shots of the Day

Scootering through the ancient door to the playground!

Pensive and Festive at Christmas!

Floral reflections in the architecture

Here's the slideshow! I hope you enjoy it... unfortunately, this won't work if you are viewing this site from a mobile device, so go directly to My Flickr album page here, click into the first photo, and press the play button in the top right hand corner. Remember, you can hover over the upper right corner to turn on/off titles and change the speed of the slideshow - there are about 50 photos in this one, so you may want to choose medium or fast!

My Good Luck Muérdago

On a holiday related note, I received a muérdago, or Besque in Catalan, from my student's mom last week. It's a traditional plant only available at Christmas time that is supposed to bring good luck. There is only one catch - you cannot buy one for yourself! It must be a gift to bring someone else luck.

I feel so happy to have received one - let's hope it works! We all know what I'm wishing for in the New Year. Here's to my first year officially "in my thirties" to being a year made of the stuff of books and movies, as I like to say ;) 

The holidays are almost here - stay tuned for my tales of Christmas in Madrid with Sean, New Year's Eve somewhere fun, and a photoshoot of holiday lights in early January and more!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Barcelona's Best Eats: Restaurants and Cafes near the University & Raval

SandwiChez Chai Latte
Until six weeks ago, if you would have asked me where to eat out in Barcelona, I wouldn't have said much, but now I have a list for you!  I usually cook at home and sometimes go to my favourite pizza place - the most delicious pizza I have ever had, which happens to be around the corner from my apartment- called Eccola   

Over the last month and a half, Robby, Marina and I have been trying to get more PhD students out to events; we've been networking, hosting workshops on Mendeley and other tricks, and trying to bring a North-American style spirit to the uni. My friends have also been kind enough to volunteer to help with my data collection (I'll blog a separate post about my qualms regarding the lack of university resources in BCN...) 

This has meant a lot of work and time at the university, long days, and dinners or lunches out. Luckily, in Barcelona, this only means 10 euros a time for a three course midday menu, but still, it adds up, so I'll have to revert back to my normal self soon ;)

SandwiChez has become my place for Chai Tea Lattes - although they are a bit pricey at 2.50 (compared to normal Spanish coffee shops). I'm sure they are super bad for you and have sugary powder in them, but when it starts getting chilly and you're waiting for a bus, this is an excellent way to warm-up!

Cosmos  has become my go-to place to study. They even let dogs study beside you! So, I've been walking Kiara 45 minutes from my place to the cafe and then letting her make friends with all the customers while I study. It's perfect! The only catch is that I am spending too much money on coffee here  *sigh*
Kiara studying with me at Cosmos Cafe, Barcelona

Photo from tripadvisor
Marina, Robby, Irene and I brainstormed the idea of the Mendeley workshop over lunch here.  Affordable and delectable, this restaurant offers a varied selection - everything from a French dish to an Indian dish - at a great price. It's just a few minutes' walk from the University - so check it out!

Vegesana  has become a go-to for a quick meal, as their midday menu is only 7 euros for two courses and a coffee.  It's completely vegan and located two steps away from the university, on Carrer Aribau. 

Shalimar   - good Indian food in BCN at last! I'd only tried a couple other places, which people I was with thought were good, but I didn't think were great. This was definitely great - not too oily, great curry - not very spicy, but other than that, good Indian food. It's in Raval, which is actually only a 10 minute walk from the university, as well!


Armonia is a great little vegetarian and vegan restaurant on Carrer Valencia that serves delicious meals. Their two course menu is about the same price as three course ones other places, but it is definitely worth a try. Delicious, homemade, healthy  - yum!

Rosa del Raval

Rosa del Raval is a great place for Mexican food  - in fact, I've only had Mexican food twice over the last few years, and the only time other than this lunch break, was with Anna at Rosa Negra, the restaurant's other location!  I do like Rosa del Raval better - it's less of a bar and more of a restaurant, less crowded (at least at lunch hour) and has cute decorations. Plus, they actually have spicy sauce!

Bun Bo has excellent Vietnamese food, with a couple of vegetarian options (they'll substitute tofu in a couple of their dishes). Their mid-day menu is 9 euros and we could barely finish it! I'd also try a daquiri while you're here - they are made with fresh fruit and not powder...mmm! We went here on a Friday  and a bunch of people came - it was great! 

Of course, I still have Happy Cow's list to work through - Dayna, I'm all ready to eat vegan when you come to visit me! I'm definitely excited that at least a handful of the PhD students - the new ones included - are ready to hang out this year. There are 31 of us and yet I've barely met half!

It's too bad eating out is so much more unhealthy and expensive than eating in ;) Enjoy these eats!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

PhD Nerds & Wine Night: A Fun House Party!

PhD Party Fun: (From left: Marina, Irene, Robby, Sapna, Sanders). We missed you, Eva!
Saturday night was a fun time at my place with a few of my PhD friends finally getting together for wine, appetizers, piano, geek speak and whiteboard doodles. Last year the program seemed quite lonely; the social aspect was lacking no matter how hard we tried to get people together. Finally - it's getting a little bit better; those of us who want to collaborate academically and socialize together are finding each other!  

Also, I had a great excuse to spend Saturday making a  few (mostly healthy) recipes I really like and a couple new ones from my favourite food blogs. Check them out -  they are so delicious and so easy to make! Easy Parmesan Mushrooms (I add basil and tomato), Greek Salad Layer Dip  (so delicious!!!) , Zucchini Hummous, Potato Nachos (I used diced tofu instead of bacon bits)  and Marscapone Brownies.

What I learned(What's a post about a nerds' night without some geeky bullet points?)
  • Robby can write Hindi script and understand the differences between the 3 (or 4?) th, k and d sounds that I never could. We had some fun on my whiteboard
  • We have some serious piano players in our PhD group - time to motivate each other to practice!!!
  • White wine makes for  a much worse hangover than red wine
  • I miss the days of being 25 and under and never getting hangovers ;)
  • Ensaimada is the name of a pastry in Spanish, but can also used be to describe cuddling up into a ball, like Kiara did on the sofa when she'd had enough puppy fun
  • Empanada is a Spanish pastry, but also means to "be out of it" - which some of us were this morning!
So, we need to get more of our PhD students out to the seminars that occur quite regularly. A few of us are actually hosting a seminar together on December 10th - Mendeley & Other Tricks of the Trade  - to help people come together and learn. We are hoping people show up!

 According to the list there are 31 of us currently in the same PhD program, plus a handful that have graduated in the last year! People tend to live 40 minutes or so away, do the program part-time, and/or not show up to seminars and workshops, so I think I've only met about 10, maybe 11 people in total. It's usually just 5 or 6 of us hanging out. I know many people are working a lot, but there must be a way to motivate people to hang out at least once every semester!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Copenhagen and Jeune & Jolie: Two Beautifully Different Films on Love, Sex & Humanity

 Two beautiful films - two beautifully different perspectives on love, sex and human emotions. Both are riveting stories with talented actors that were unknown to me -Gethin Antony & Frederikke Hansen in Copenhagen and Marine Vacth in Jeune & Jolie .  Though they were both seemingly simple in terms of plot, they were somehow gripping. Saturday night was a stay-at-home Netflix and pizza night, a much needed rest after a horrendously busy couple of weeks. That's the funny thing about doing a PhD - you are always busy, but never quite seem to be getting anywhere quickly; this led me to the best four hours of cinema I've seen in awhile.

Copenhagen is an independent Danish film  directed by Mark Raso. Released in 2014, it tells the story of a 28 year man whose best friend ditches him on a "guys trip" in which he had intended to find his grandfather, his last known living relative.  Jaded, the protagonist sets off on his own and meets an optimistic Danish girl who understands life with an absent father. Connecting on an emotional level, William and Effy develop a strong bond - that is, until William discovers that the beautiful girl he has fallen in love with is 14 years old. Asking the question - how relevant is age in love?- the film touches on a sensitive topic and leaves the viewer to develop their own opinion.

Jeune & Jolie (Young & Beautiful) is a French film by François Ozon released in 2013 and has all the characteristic bizzareness of French cinema that I love  - including the surprise ending. Isabelle is a stunningly gorgeous 17 year old girl who loses her virginity to a random boy at the beach one summer and is bitterly disappointed and ruined by the experience. She turns to using her body to earn money - and with a few clicks, becomes a companion to older men who are unfaithful to their wives and taken by her beauty. From her own emotions, to her family's discovery of the truth to the event that finally makes her reconsider her actions, this poignant film portrays the drama of human emotions.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Brunchin' Barcelona: Fabulous Eats at Federal Cafe & Onna Cafe

I've said it often enough - there are three things I miss about Canada - people, brunch and banks (and other paperwork related endeavours). Well, it turns out there is decent brunch in Barcelona, although a bit pricey and hard to find.  Remember when I went to Brunch & Cake near the University? I just had the cake, but the brunch did look delicious - just a bit out of my budget that day!

Onna Cafe, Gracia, Barcelona
This long weekend I was lucky enough to hang out with two great friends I met in Spanish class last year -- Anna and I had brunch at Federal Cafe on Saturday. It's a cute cafe named after a town in Australia, and serves delectable brunch. I had poached eggs on thin toasts with spinach and halloumi cheese and Anna had a burger with potato mash---yum!  I could not for the life of me figure out how to ask for my eggs to be poached HARD in Spanish!!! They thought I meant hard-boiled eggs and they don't serve those. Vocabulary help, anyone?! I don't like runny eggs!

After more than two months of both being too busy to hang out, Anna and I met up and chatted over brunch and lattees  (very un-Spanish, I must say). Sometimes you have to take a few moments to embrace the expat culture of a city you live in, and indulge in a little bit of your own country's culture, too!

This morning,  Olivia and I had a lovely cup of coffee at Onna Cafe in Gracia (they roast their own beans!!!). I had mine with almond milk and she had hers with oat milk. It's a cute, uncrowded little cafe with wooden stools and tables and fresh, aqua coloured booths. Their brunch selection is basically a sandwich or banana bread, but the coffee is DIVINE  (and it's only 3.50 for the coffee and sandwich deal!) I will definitely be back here!

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Barcelona's Jazz & Food Festival: Stereotypically Spanish Disorganization or Where NOT to go in Barcelona

Jazz & Food Poblenou 2015In general I love Barcelona and my life here, but I do have to have an honest, not-so-happy-go-lucky post once in a while. Marina, her sister Elisa and their friends and I decided to check out the Jazz & Food Festival in Poblenou on Saturday night. It's a 12 hour festival finishing at midnight, and we arrived around 8:30 pm to a disorganized disaster. (They claim that this is the last and "best" day of the Voll-Damm week long festival).

1) There was NO JAZZ.  Spain, I understand that you tend to stick to the unfortunate stereotype that the country is disorganized and inefficient, but seriously?!  They were playing "gypsy music" --Marina and I are not sure if this is at all the politically correct term, but that's what was displayed on the giant projector screens. Basically it was eclectic, sometimes off-tune and genre-less. 

2) There was NO FOOD.  That's right, they ran out of food. Remember, Spanish people eat at 10pm, so expecting food at 8:30 is not unreasonable. Not only did they run out, they continued to sell "tokens" and did not put any sort of sign up that they were sold-out. Marina and I were lucky enough to find out because we tried to ask for vegetarian food. The other people were queueing for a long time.  Even if we had gotten food, it was about three times the price it normally should have been.

Except for the Ramen stand, where you had to pay 5 euros for a bowl of ramen, but queue until you could get a seat. There was enough seating for SEVEN people. Yup.

3) There was NOWHERE TO QUEUE.  This is very Spanish anyway (think: the metro), but really - you had no idea which line was for what. 

4) There were NO RETURNS ON TOKENS.  That's right, we're out of food, but you can't return the tokens (minimum 10 euro spend to even BUY a token).  We ended up in a queue of tens of people complaining that they want to return the tokens they had bought minutes before. The lady at the desk answered in Catalan and basically said the only way to get your money back would be to either spend it all on drinks, or write a letter to the organizers and ask for the money. Ha. Like that would even work in Spain. Luckily, we sold our remaining tokens to drunk people in the drinks queue.

Yes, a bit of grumpy post. I had an incredibly long and stressful week (data collection, yay) and was really looking forward to a Saturday night out.  I guess I'll have to check out some real jazz spots in Barcelona ---stay tuned!

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain at the V&A and Brasserie Zedel: A Delectable French Experience

The V&A (Victoria and Albert) museum's current exhibition - Shoes: Pleasure and Pain is worth the 9 quid (12 if you're not a student). It takes about an hour and a half to wander through, marvelling at the fashion progression in shoe design over the last century. I found the interactive shoe history timeline, also available on their website, spectacular. There was no photography allowed, so I'll just have to advise that, if you're in London before February, you take a look for yourself!

Alex's birthday dinner was the evening after we celebrated by going to the fabulous production of Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Alex picked the most spectacular restaurant for us to enjoy a meal.  We went to Brasserie Zedel, a French restaurant in Picadilly, in the building that used to be Regent's Palace Hotel.  It had an elegant, decadent atmosphere; you'd feel as if you were rich - yet the prices were surprisingly affordable and the services was impeccable for London!  In fact, we didn't even tell them it was Alex's birthday, but the servers are trained to "look out" for celebrations. They noticed Alex putting away a card at the beginning of the evening, and when she got up from the table for a moment, a waiter quickly checked with the rest of us if it was her birthday we were celebrating. They then brought her a surprise dessert after we had ordered! 

The food was delicious...I had a lemon asparagus potato dish (they even have a vegetarian menu!). Next time we go to London to see a play (perhaps on the way to Canada next summer, if I can manage to get PhD research stay abroad and vacation dates aligned), we'll definitely go here for dinner first! See the photos below for pictures of the French "floating island" dessert Alexandra had, and the beautiful cappuccino souffle that I had. 

Happy Birthday Alex!

Posts on the weddings I attended in the UK coming up shortly (as soon as those official wedding photographers release the photos!) Other than that, my life is back to semi-normal - intense PhD work, data collection and analysis, seminars, teaching, finding time for the gym and attempting to play the piano better! (By the way, I did pass that DELE B2 Spanish exam, with flying colours, so I'm super happy about that. Next up: C1 French (DELF) in a year or so. I'm losing my French!! Here's to a successful semester ahead!

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet: Best London Play Ever!

London theatre is one of the ultimate attractions of all time - and  Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet at the Barbican was the best I've ever seen. My favourite Shakespeare play with an absolutely stellar actor -  Benedict in BBC's Sherlock Holmes had me hooked! Alexandra, through her Barbican theatre membership,  booked the tickets 1.5 years ago - in June 2014, after waiting 5 hours in the virtual queue two weeks in advance of the show opening to the general public. The timing was perfect, as I happen to be in London this week for a couple of weddings - blog posts on those coming up shortly.

Sapna at the Barbican
I have never seen a set so amazing! Every detail was perfect - and the cast really brought Shakespeare to life. We even had a small celebrity citing - we saw Jimmy Carr, a famous British comedian. Thanks so much to Alex for managing to get tickets - INCREDIBLE!!  We had wine before the play and at the interval - Alex was so excited she couldn't even eat the salad we made for dinner!

Every time I go to the theatre I feel rejuvenated, artistic, elegant and entertained. Other plays I've seen over the past few years are Singing in the RainWe Will Rock YouWickedBook of Mormon, Fatal Attraction, Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.   I love dressing up and going to the theatre to see actors - and going with Alex, especially to celebrate her birthday was doubly special.  I feel so lucky to live in Spain and be able to come to London so often!
Alex and Sapna at the Barbican

Thank you, Alex for a lovely time in London! I can't wait to come back and visit you again! Readers, stay tuned - a post on the lovely French restaurant we went to for Alex's birthday dinner, and a day of London house rental shopping - coming up!

Girls at the theatre - Alex and Sapna

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sopar amb Estrelles: Dinner Under the Stars at Mount Tibidabo's Observatori Fabra

Barcelona city view from Mount Tibidabo
Sopar Amb Estrelles at the Observatori Fabra was a beautiful event we attended on Tuesday evening for a belated birthday celebration for Andrés.  The Observatory is located at the top of Mount Tibidabo, with a perfect view of the city. I didn't know anyone who had been to the event before, but it had excellent reviews online - the evening's festivities and charming ambiance definitely didn't disappoint!   The link above details the dinner under the stars program, which takes place only in the summer months, until the end of October. It's a romantic, beautiful and classy soiree that begins with a reception where you are given a glass of cava on arrival and have half an hour to marvel at the views.  

While you watch the sunset, you are served an appetizer (caviar and tuna for the carnivores; veggie chips and eggplant hummous for me)  followed by a three course meal prepared by a relatively well known chef called Miguel Guimera, the head chef of the Paradis restaurant in Barcelona. The Paradis catering group is the official group for the FC Barcelona Football club.  Andrés had the Observatory Menu and I had the vegetarian version, of course.  

Photos of Sopar amb Estrellas Observatori Menu are definitely worth taking a look at (the link is to their own Flickr set). For the main course, they serve Bacalao fish with olives and oranges (truffle risotto for me) and for the dessert, we had a beautiful cold mousse/icecream type dessert - check out the photo in the link above; it's hard to describe! I had ordered the celebration package, so we received an extra glass of cava and a delectable piece of chocolate cake.  Happy Birthday, Andrés!
Telescope from 1904 - Europe's oldest telescope still in use!
During the latter portion of the meal, a funny South American man presents a few interesting facts about the solar system and the moon, in particular. The Real Academy of Arts and Sciences runs the observatory and is actively involved in space research there, so it was interesting to look at the moon from their point of view! Then, there is a tour of the history of the Observatory, and then an explanation of the historic pieces on display in the museum room. Finally, we had a fantastic view of the moon from a giant telescope that you have to take a flight of stairs to reach! There is also a beautiful terrace where you can check out the view again.  I love Barcelona - it's gorgeous!  I feel so lucky to be here!

Barcelona night city view from Observatori Fabra

Sapna & Andres at Observatori Fabra Sopar amb Estrelles, Aug 25, 2015

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Festa Major de Gracia: Barcelona's Biggest Summer Festival

Festa Major de Gracia is the biggest summer festival in the city, so Anna G, Cristina and I decided to check it out on Thursday, the second last day. Neighbours who live in 18 streets in Gracia, most likely via a neighbourhood organization, choose a theme and create a fantastic display outside their apartments and balconies, above the tiny, winding streets of this beautiful and historic neighbourhood. The link to the festival above shows the advertisement posters for each street, if you'd like to check them out! Gracia is a bit of an artsy neighbourhood - where I took my art class at Espai Medusa actually - so it's a perfect fit.

Carrer Verdi, which displayed a beautiful Japanese theme this year, has won first prize 9 out of the last 13  years the festival has been running, this year included.  The runners-up were Carrer Fraternitat, with a monster theme and Sant Antoni, with a Paris theme - I don't remember now if that's the same one that had Moulin Rouge or not - but the reanactment of Moulin Rouge was artistic. Carrer Mozart won for best use of recycled materials, which was also beautiful.

Next year I will definitely visit all the streets, bring my proper camera (looks like my mobile camera has now officially died and will not take photos anyway), and attend the festival on the first day when the displays are new and have not been trampled through by thousands of people ---and on the last day, when they apparently have a fireworks in the street type of display where you should wear old clothes, because you are likely to get them singed by sparks.

Japanese dragon, Carrer Verdi

Sapna, Anna G, Cristina - photo credit to Anna!

Japanese lanterns

Sumo Wrestler @ Carrer Verdi, Barcelona

Carrer Fraternitat

Carrer Mozart
One of my favourite aspects of Barcelona is the different neighbourhoods - they actually seem like mini-towns or cities; it's like Barcelona is a city of mini-cities, all with their own style. Apparently there are festivals in different neighbourhoods too, but I have yet to check them out.  Festa Major de Sants is going on now, and it's only a 10 minute walk from my house, so I'll have to walk over there with Kiara and see what we find. I promise that next year's post on Festa Major de Gracia will be much better - and include a slideshow of all the streets!  

I love living in Barcelona. Mental note: Do not plan to actually get any PhD work done in August.  This "the whole city is on holiday" atmosphere is much too contagious. There are guilty piles of pilot data analysis which absolutely must be done before my real data collection the weeks of September 14th and 22nd - on my desk (well, on my figurative desk - memory sticks and computer files are more like it). 

Don't worry, you haven't missed the "special event" I've been on's on Tuesday (a birthday surprise for someone who could potentially be readng this, so my lips are sealed until my next post ;)

Stay tuned!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Sunset Picnic at Montjuic Park with My Lab: A Beautiful Sunday

My beautiful Lab/Shepherd cross Kiara and me

Anna G. and Kiara
Puppy water bottle
 Last Sunday evening, Anna G and I decided to take Kiara to Montjuic park for a sunset picnic. Just a few minutes walk from Placa Espanya, this is a gorgeous park that is mostly known to tourists for its magic fountain, which I'll get to at the end of this post. When Sean and I went to Montjuic in early June during the day, it was nearly empty. Anna and I were also surprised at how few people there were around 8pm on a Sunday.

Here's a tip:  Don't be lazy, and take the stairs as far up as you can go.  It's like a mini-city up there. We stopped at the fields outside the Olympic Park, where Kiara actually PLAYED BALL. She hasn't done that all year and I thought it was because my little baby is almost six and just didn't want to run around like crazy after her CCL - Canine Cruciate Ligament - leg surgery  in England last year. It turns out she just needed REAL fields, not the small parks that are surrounded by roads and beaches and cars and too many people. She was chasing and fetching and returning the ball like a little puppy :) I love my pup so much...I am SO lucky to have her, and the best part of summer is having more time to spend with her. By the way, this is how K drinks water: straight from the  1.5 litre water was empty fast!!!
We had a fairly healthy picnic - Anna made potatoes with herbs, and I made a chickpea spinach tofu salad; we had a bunch of fruit for dessert, which Kiara eagerly waited for! Oh, and wine, of course. We are in Europe - wine is a given!!!
Sapna and Anna selfie
Healthy Picnic at Montjuic Park

Sapna and Kiara at sunset/twilight

Sunset at the artistic Montjuic Olympic Park
Okay, so the part about Montjuic's Magic Fountain -the tourist trap that is beautiful, but just TOO full of tourists. It's a colourful fountain show that happens Thursday-Sunday evenings at 9pm from March to October , and Fridays and Saturdays the rest of the year. I had seen it several times already, but this time, we just happened to be walking Kiara down the hill when it was on.  It is a MUCH better view from up there and there are no tourists tripping over their own feet trying to take pictures in the dark!!! It's also very romantic with the lights and the night view of the city, so I've mentioned it to Andrés and we'll definitely be doing a sunset picnic here in September, once I return from the two weddings, day in the English countryside with Juliet  - remember when we had a  girls' weekend at Juliet's parents' Tudor home in Bury St Edmunds?- and seeing Benedict Cumberbach in Hamlet in London with Alexandra.

Montjuic Magic Fountain - View from top of the hill
Montjuic Magic Fountain - view from the touristy part
I will have to get pilot data analysis done before I leave in a couple weeks - eek that will be a crazy week - but so far this summer has been amazing. Stay tuned for a special event - now moved to the 25th - that I'll definitely have an incredible update post on!!!