Sunday, January 31, 2016

Turning 31...& Three Must-See Movies: Macbeth, Joy & The Big Short

From left: Marina, Sapna, Robby, Elisa
 Turning 31 makes me cringe just a I'm actually "in my thirties". Yikes. This is a  bit of a belated birthday post - two weeks late - plus a few must-see films that I have to recommend (I've managed to have a Wednesday evening or two free- and that's cheap night at Barcelona theatres-  3.50 euros!) 

Anna and Sapna
My birthday fell on a Sunday this year, so Robby, Marina, Elisa, Anna and I headed out to Gusta Pizzeria. Remember that place that Kristin and I ordered from on New Year's Day, when Eccola was closed? It was lovely!  It's actually also a bit famous, since Beyonce visited and took a photo with the owner, which is hanging in the front entrance. Robby also made me homemade tiramisu for dessert ---mmm....and we also tried to go to Gelaaati - the best gelato place in Barcelona - but they were closed!  Why? Barcelonians don't eat icecream in the "winter". It's really sad, actually .... quite a few gelato places close for the season after the first week of January.

Tiramisu, gelato and real Italian pizza - the only three reasons I could never be vegan!
Gusto Pizzeria


Macbeth Poster
 I thoroughly enjoyed Justin Kurzel's version of Macbeth. It was a bit more violent than I've ever imagined Macbeth in my head- but the cinematography portrayed the themes perfectly. For me, the most incredible actor was Lady Macbeth, played by Marion Cotillard. Her manipulation of Macbeth, her conniving ways and her eventual guilt and realization at the havoc she has caused and the chain of events she triggered - is phenomenal. Banquo and Fleance's roles, as well, stand out and bring the story to life. Whether you're a Shakespeare fan or not, this is a must-see.


Joy Poster
Joy was completely different than I had expected. I went in with very little knowledge of the film, just the feeling that I needed to escape reality for a couple hours -and I was rewarded with strong character portrayls and an interesting storyline. Those of you who know me, know that those are the two main aspects I search for in a film; I want depth and beauty and art; it's even better if it's based on a true story.  The best part of the film for me was the drama of family dynamics - portray with an exaggeration that is so close to reality, you start to believe it.

La gran apuesta Poster

The Big Short

The Big Short is one of those movies, I'll admit, that I was attracted to because of the actors names - Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt - why not, right? I didn't even know what it was about...I assumed it was something about gambling.

In reality, it's an excellent movie about the beginning to the financial crisis in 2008 - and the reasons behind it. It's hilarious because the mortgage housing market crash is explained with ridiculous metaphors, celebrities and a newscaster style narrator (e.g. "Now here's _____to explain what a subprime loan is". It makes the American banking system (rightly or wrongly) appear to be a complete sham - you'll be laughing and cringing the whole way through.

Other than a few film breaks, my life has been PhD insanity, mixed in with a bit of French speaking review (I have a tutor now!), photography and other meetup groups, the gym, the piano, and doga (yes, that's dog-yoga!) with Kiara. So I'm super busy, but loving it. Stay tuned for photos and tips from my latest Photography Meetup!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Barcelona Photowalks Day & Night: El Born & Placa Catalunya

Girl with Blue Hair
Here's a short post about my last two meetings with Camera Creativa, the photography meetup I've joined in Barcelona. Alessandro Albini teaches the classes and charges 5 euros per person for a 2.5 hour class. We choose a focus every class, learn a little bit of theory and then take advantage of having a professional by our side as we (patiently) try to learn to take beautiful photographs. Last week we headed to Placa Catalunya for night photography - without a tripod, I really found it difficult - so that may be my next big purchase! Yesterday's day-time walk through El Born was spectacular though - Barcelona really does have some beautiful, vibrant, unique neighbourhoods!  

We especially worked on "fotos robadas" - stolen photos where the subject is in their natural environment and has no idea they are in the picture.

Happy Puppy Silhouette

Photography Tips

  • As I mentioned in my post on my Sarria Photowalk, the best way to take photos of people is when they don't notice! 
  • The main point I learned from this class was that there are three things you need to look for in photos  - light, colour and gesture. This really helps when you're trying to set up photos 
  • Silhouettes take practice!  It's really important to take a look at exactly where the light is falling
  • Don't forget to look for symmetry in your background - and then take your 70-300m lens and camp out there for awhile - until the perfect subject walks by; that's when you take the shot
  • Learn how to use a polarizing filter properly (apparently you need to move it according to reflections of the sun - I need to learn this...)
  • Remember- with the 70-300m lens - people can't see you are taking a photo of them (they usually think you are photographing the wall/building you are looking at). So, relax, and set up your camera - and shoot!
I have a book on lighting (David Busch's Quick Snap Guide to Lighting) - that I bought about five years ago and haven't used yet! That's definitely going on this year's goals list, which as you know, I update every 6 months, more or less on my birthday and half-birthday.

My three favourite photos from the 3 hours we spent in El Born are the ones above and the one below. I'm not normally a huge fan of kids - but this one was super cute and was in the street posing like a fashion model with absolutely no prompting - and no idea there were photographers around!  Check out the slideshow below it, too (mobile device users - if your device doesn't support Flash, please click here to view my Barcelona Streets album on Flickr , click on the first photo and then click through.

Girl with Suitcase pose

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Happy New Year!: Ringing in 2016 with Friends, Fireworks, Wine & Nespresso!

Kristin & Sapna - Blurry Mirror Selfie! Jan 2, 2016
One of the best surprises of 2015 was Kristin's visit to Barcelona for New Year's Eve.  What a spectacular, last minute surprise!

La Dolca Herminia- New Year's Eve Dinner

Kristin arrived on December 31st in the afternoon - despite several attempts, I still hadn't managed to find an affordable New Year's Eve dinner menu  (affordable meaning less than 135 euros each....)  I had hoped to take Kristin to Mount Tibidabo, as the rooftop/terrace restaurants there are one of the best parts of Barcelona - but, of course, the regular 50 euro menus turned into 150 to 200 euro (per person!) menus on NYE.  Kristin, you are going to have to come back in the summer to visit me and see the spectacular views on a rooftop terrace!

So, Thursday afternoon we headed to Vinalium to pick up wine to start with, and finally found a 55 euro menu that was seafood free for Kristin and meat and seafood free for me - at  La Dolca Herminia.  We had an excellent salad (with lychee!) and a beautiful mushroom risotto as the second course. The third course was a bit less enthralling - maybe because we were full. Kristin had steak and I had a soy burger patty with veggies. Dessert was also a bit disappointing - it was a square that had a burnt chocolate taste (which we think was on purpose...) - I must say the cinnamon icecream was great, though! We were also given 12 grapes to put in our mouths with every ding of the midnight clock bell, as per the tradition.

Dinner started at 9:30 pm (of course...), so we ended up having to leave early (11:15pm) to rush to catch the fireworks. We only made it to Plaza Espanya tho (a good enough view) - making it all the way to the Magic Fountain was impossible! It was a great way to ring in 2016 though!

Pizza, Wine & Netflix Night!

On New Year's Day, Kristin and I opened the second bottle of delicious wine and had a wonderful, college-student like night of Netflix, Pizza and Wine.  Here are the two amazing wines that we picked out (Castillo de Monesma Crianza & Miquel Jane's Sauvignon Blanc, with the help of the salesperson. Both of them were about 15 euros in total - which is super expensive for Spain.  I LOVE the wine culture here!

Since my favourite pizzeria, Eccola was closed because of the holiday, we spent over an hour finding a delivery pizza place that was actually good (I've tried a few and they are NOT Italian pizza). Kristin found one called Gusto Pizzeria - and it was amazing. It's on, so make sure you try it!   We watched Hilary Swank's You're Not You, an incredible film about a pianist who gets ALS and the teenager she hires to take care of her. It's so amazing to have friends come visit!

Nespresso Happiness! 

Sapna & Nespresso Inissio

Perhaps one of the best surprises was that Sean and Kristin had planned together (even though their visits were separate!) to surprise me with this lovely, red Nespresso machine - and 200 capsules (which arrived yesterday). My favourite flavours so far are Kazaar, Dharkan, Vanilla Cardamom, Vanilla Amaretto, Caramelito & Arpeggio (the latter because it reminds me of the family I stayed with in Morges, in 2004). 

 I am in love - such beautiful flavours of varying intensity, a stunning colour machine, recyclable capsules, beautiful accessories and, a visualization of the next country where I will live -  Switzerland!!!  They have well-resourced universities, linguistics researchers, mountains, nature, SALARIES you can live on, a multilingual context - and hopefully, by the time I get there, a few of my friends.

Thank you so much for visiting me, Sean and Kristin - and for the lovely gift. I am so lucky to have the best friends in the world. Happy New Year, everyone - and Feliz Reyes (Three King's Day) for those of you in Spain!!!