Thursday, June 30, 2016

Penedes Region Wine, Touring Barcelona & San Juan Festivities!

Grape Vine, Jean Leon Vineyard, Catalonia, Spain
Remember when Sean and I went winery hopping to Freixenet and Pares Balta a few months after I arrived in Barcelona, or when Sheena and I hit up Napa Valley's vineyards (click links for posts*)? Well, my brother had never been to a winery, so when he came to visit last week, that was the first item on our agenda.

We decided to take the touristy coach so that both of us could drink - so we visited Freixenet cava bodega, which I'd already been to with Sean (see the post at the top for slideshow)  - and two other famous ones:  Torres  and a much smaller one now owned by Torres, Jean Leon.  

At Jean Leon we tried "unfinished" wine to understand the process (disgusting), and also got to try grapes off different vines, which was interesting. I should have paid to sample their reserve wine - because the bottles are incredibly expensive! I did try their rose though and while I'm not usually a rose fan, this one was really great. Their wine bottles are really cool, too - the expensive ones have labels with art pieces, which would make for beautiful gifts.

I also learned that roses are placed next to each row of vines because they are a delicate plant; if there is a disease, they'll get it before the vines, which will be saved. 

The Spanish countryside is so beautiful - and the weather is perfect -  it's really a pity that the economic situation is so awful. Maybe I can find a way to make life work here!

Rishi at Jean Leon vineyard

Barcelona & San Juan

Window, Casa Batllo
We spent the next few days touring around (well, Rishi did mostly - I joined for a few activities!), and tackling my go-to list for people who come to visit me in Barcelona

 (*hint *hint - potential visitors from Canada?)

  • Camp Nou - actually I've never been, but I'm not that into football
  • Montjuic Magic Fountain and Olympic Park
  • Las Ramblas and a walk around the center and the university
  • Tapas at La Flauta
  • Horchata  - a bean based delicious drink - the best are in Valencia, but Valenciana comes quite close!
  • Beach Day!
  • Picasso Museum - definitely worth a visit. I'm not a fan of the temporary exhibit though (his sketches)
  • Gracia, the Gothic Area and my favourite gelateria - Gelaaati Di Marco!
  • Drinks at El Nacional
  • We also had drinks at an amazing terrace (not so amazing view) on the 6th floor of Hotel Pulitzer, in Placa Catalunya
  • Drinks in El Born  - we went to La Hacienda for cocktails and Mexican food - pretty good - and then to Alsur Cafe for slightly cheaper cocktails that were just as good
  • We had a coffee in the Palau de Musica - which is a beautiful  building where they have musical concerts, flamenco shows and symphony performances
  • We skipped Montserrat, Girona and Tarragona because of time constraints

San Juan

Photo from:
June 24th was San Juan, when we decided to head to Badalona beach, which was a lot less busy than expected! San Juan is the shortest night of the year and the beginning of summer for the Spanish (actually I think it's mostly celebrated in Calalunya and Valencia). Basically, a week before, people start throwing firecrackers around, which you can buy at every street corner (totally legal). On the actual night, people go to the beach and light campfires/bonfires. Apparently you're supposed to burn papers with awful things that happened during the year on them in the bonfire, and step into the sea at midnight.  Thus begins the summer - and also a new year of good luck. How beautiful!

Stay tuned for a post on Rishi and my trip to Valencia -a small, but lovely city a few hours south of Barcelona. 

*Remember: anyone who is using a mobile phone that doesn't support Flash (ie: Android) needs to go to  and choose the album to view slideshows I embed here. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Glimpse of Denmark: Linguists at New Sounds, Aarhus & Copenhagen Fun!

Copenhagen, Denmark

After six weeks of absolute insanity, analyzing speech data that I'd just finished collecting at the end of April, grueling with Python (thanks for the help, Robby!), making quite a bit of progress on my PhD, and creating a fairly easy to understand Prezi for my New Sounds, Aarhus 2016 presentation - I had a few days off! The collage below is courtesy of Angelica's Facebook post.  Izabela and I stayed in what was dubbed "The Brazilian House", an Airbnb that Izabel and I shared with 5 Brazilians. We loved them! What a great group!

From top left: Group photo 1: Izabela, Hanna, Anabela, Sapna, Angelica,
Group Photo 2:   Izabela,  Andreia, Denise, Ubirata, Angelica, Anabela, Sapna, Camilla, Diana
The New Sounds Aarhus 2016 conference itself, though much more stressful than I could ever imagine (presenting at my first linguistics conference - and a GIANT one at that!) was an incredible experience. I learned more about phonetics and second language acquisition than any course I'd taken before and got to see some great professors at work!  

After we had both done our presentations, and attended the conference dinner and final day, Izabela and I took the bus to Copenhagen and spent a couple days touring around and staying in a super cute Airbnb. Izabela fell in love with Denmark (and kept commenting on how tall people were ;) . The Danish people were SUPER nice, everyone was helpful (and spoke English perfectly), and everything WORKED. This is an important concept lacking in Spain. Efficiency. Effectiveness. Expensive products, but equally high salaries. It was so nice to be in a place like that again.  To be honest, it was a bit cold for me - we had a few sunny days, but June should really be warmer. I'm increasingly thinking of options to move within Europe in 2018 - or more likely, 2020, if I manage to stay in Spain for the 5 "employment" years required to get the Larga Duracion EU visa (3 of my PhD years count), which would let me have permanent residence in Spain and the same living and working in the EU rights that the Spanish have. Of course, the rules are clear as mud, so I'll be talking to a lawyer soon!

Denmark Highlights:  

I have never seen SO many bikes in my life!  They have their own traffic lanes, separated by meridians - and have everything from bikes with baby carriages to "daycare bikes" (which carry children with helmets in a "tub" like bucket attached to the front of the bike) to sporty racing bikes. They really use them for transport. Apprarently Holland is similar - so I will let you know!

Also - check out Cristiania (hippy/freetown area) while you're in town - but pictures aren't allowed past the gate!  You'll see Izabela and I at the colourful gate in the slideshow pics.
Thanks Izabela for being my travel buddy!

Check out the slideshow below for a glimpse of Copenhagen!

One of the best parts was my final evening in Copenhagen, when I met Anne V. for dinner. We hadn't seen each other since our time together in Singapore!  Remember when we first met, at a Fort Canning Park Valentine's Day party in 2007?!  Great to see you again, Anne and keep in touch!
Anne and Sapna - Singapore Reunion 9.5 years later!
Stay tuned for a couple posts on Rishi's recent visit, our San Juan weekend and time in Valencia.  Plus, I've decided I'm going to do the 8 week research stay in Holland with one of the best known researchers in my field- despite the lack of grants and funding for this *sigh* *Spain*. Kiara and I will be staying close to the university in a house with - prepare yourself for this - 2 sisters, their 2 female roommates, a 6 year old kid one of them has, three cats and a small dog.  In their Airbnb ad they only mentioned the cats, as they had just gotten the dog. They asked:
"Do you mind dogs? We have a small one and the neighbour's big one visits frequently."
"Actually...I'd like to bring a Labrador with me..."

Here's to adventure!