Tuesday, November 30, 2010

El Clásico

Last night was the one of the most important days in the Catalonian calendar: the FC Barcelona v. Real Madrid game, nicknamed “El Clásico.”  Let me explain why it’s so important:

To better understand the situation in Catalunya let me describe the following hypothetical situation.  The United States has been a free and independent country for 200+ years right?  Well imagine Mexico invading and conquering the US and imposing Spanish as the official language. Furthermore, if you spoke English in the streets you would be arrested on the spot.  What if they also banned our national anthem, our flag and holidays like Thanksgiving and the 4th of July.  If this happened, would you start to feel Mexican or would you still call yourself an American?

Now change Mexico to Spain and the United States to Catalunya because that’s pretty much exactly what happened over here.  For centuries, Catalunya was an independent nation with its own language, culture and customs.  Even when Spain was “unified” under the crown of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel in 1479, Catalunya was still able to be separate from the rest of Spain.  Catalunya first came to be suppressed by Spain following the Spanish War of Succession in the early 18th century.  Spain took control of Catalunya and built two fortresses overlooking Barcelona to keep the city under control (and of course Catalan was banned).  Catalunya enjoyed a little bit of freedom when it became an industrial powerhouse in the 19th and 20th centuries but once Franco won the Spanish Civil War it was all over for Catalunya.

Franco ruled Spain from 1939-1975 and he completely suppressed anything that was “deviant” from a unified Spanish culture, that’s to say anything that related to historically significant regions like Catalunya, Euskadi (the Basque County) and Galicia.  As a result, each of these regions saw their native languages banned and their traditional customs and traditions suppressed. 

So you may ask, how the hell does all of this relate to a fútbol game?  Well, under Franco the Catalans still felt like they were Catalans (and not Spaniards) but they had no way to express this pride without being thrown into jail; they couldn’t fly la senyera (the Catalan flag) nor speak their native language openly in the streets.  However, they could become a supporter of the largest fútbol club in Catalunya, FC Barcelona.  Anyone who was a die-hard Catalan was a fan of FC Barcelona and would wave their club’s flag as a way to “stick it to the man”; "we're still Catalans even though you try to keep us down."  The club's motto “més que un club” (Catalan for “more than a club”) comes directly from this point in the history.  This is why the game versus Real Madrid has become what it is today, a great display of the two best teams in Spain mixed with some political overtones.  It’s like the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, but throw in regional nationalism and years of suppression into the mix.

So I went to a bar last night near Plaça de Catalunya to watch the game with the rest of Barcelona.  Even before the game, there was more people out on the street than normal and it just felt like the entire city was alive with excitement and anticipation.  The bar (Cafè Catalunya, perfect for the occasion) wasn’t too packed but there was this big table of Catalan students that made the game very interesting.  I’ve been looking forward to this game ever since I knew I was going to be studying in Barcelona and it didn’t disappoint my expectations.  Barcelona absolutely DESTROYED Real Madrid with a score of 5-0.  Barcelona looked like the better team throughout the entire match and they deserved to win.

There was one interesting scuffle in the match.  Ronaldo, the cocky Real Madrid player, pushed Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona coach after Guardiola was holding onto the ball before a Real Madrid throw-in.  As soon as Ronalado pushes him the Barcelona players come to the defense of their coach, including Barcelona’s goalie (who was yellow carded for leaving the goal area).  Here’s video of the scuffle (I don’t agree with the commentary but this was the only one I could find in English).

The best part of the game was my favorite player, David Villa (striker #7), scored two goals in the second half; he scored the first one with 54 minutes of play gone and the second one 3 minutes later.  The game ended with a stunning 5-0 score in favor of Barcelona, which was a shock to me (I thought the game would be really close, like 2-1) but of course I was ecstatic. 

As is tradition in Barcelona, whenever Barça beats Real Madrid everyone gathers at the top of La Rambla at the font de Canalets.  Here’s a picture of the fountain without the masses of Barcelona fans:

I was there for a good hour, celebrating the win with the rest of Barcelona.  Everyone was in a good mood, jumping up and down while chanting some of Barça's cheers.  I have few favorite ones that I would like to share:
  • Madrid, cabrón, saluda al campeón”: Spanish for “Madrid, carbón (a very vulgar Spanish swear word, close to our motherf-er), salute the champion.  
  • "Villa, Villa, Villa....Villa maravilla": This one refers to David Villa.  They repeat his last name and add the Spanish word for "a wonder" b/c it rhymes :)
  • Ese portugués, hijo de puta és”: This one deals with that cabrón Ronaldo.  It means “this Portuguese (Ronaldo is from Portugal), son of a bitch he is." 
  • "Visca Barça i visca Catalunya!": Catalan for "long live FC Barcelona and long live Catalonia." (a personal favorite)
Here’s my video from the celebrations:

My Youtube Video (it's probably better to just click this link):

Last night is something I will never forget (despite having a liter of beer, haha.  I asked for a cerveza and the waiter came back with huge chilled glass filled with beer).  My FC Barcelona pictures have been updated so you can see all of what happened last night.

Visca Barça i visca Catalunya!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

General Update

Just a general update for all you dedicated readers out there.

Classes are still going ok.  My Spanish language class has really been helping me with the finer points of Spanish that prevent me from advancing to a high level (mostly picky little grammar stuff and some vocab).  I did really well on my Spanish politics take home exam, especially considering I wrote the whole thing the night before I left for London.  I’ve learned a lot in that class and I probably know as much about the Spanish political system as I do about our system (I’ll hold off my judgment as to which one I think is better).  As for my Barcelona history class I’m learning a lot about the history of Catalunya.  In my Spanish 3 class in high school we did talk a lot about the history of Spain, but it mainly focused on the history of Castilian Spain and not the history of the crown of Argon-Catalunya.  So basically I’m getting a different perspective of Spain as a whole, from the eyes of Catalunya, which I find really interesting.  Again, it definitely reiterates that Catalunya is not Spain…

Speaking of which, Catalan has actually turned out to be my least favorite class.  I love the language and I hope to be fluent in it some day but this class has been somewhat of a disappointment.  The teacher isn’t the greatest and she really doesn’t conduct the best learning environment.  However, I think between learning it on my own and getting help from my host mom I’ll have a solid foundation to continue on with my studies when I get back to the States (there’s a good website for teach yourself Catalan, sponsored by the Generalitat, the Catalonian gov’t).

Now, although I absolutely love Barcelona I’ve been battling a spell of homesickness this past week.  This is of course normal and to be expected but I think there are two reasons for this sudden spell:
  1. 3 months: Thursday (the 18th) was my three-month anniversary of being in Spain.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Barcelona and I would love to live here for the rest of my life but you eventually come to miss the people that made up your life back in the States; this is the longest I’ve ever been away from them.  Although I talk to my family over skype and my friends over facebook it still isn’t the same as talking to them face to face.  I miss my dog, I miss my pow-wows with Kristen, I miss lunches with Aunt Jean, I miss all my friends from Maumee 18/Fallen Timbers 14/Band, I miss joking around with Erica in A-band and above all I miss bantering with my sister.  I knew I would eventually come to miss all these things but I didn’t know that it would hit me that hard.
  2. Holidays: This week starts the holiday season.  While you all have Thanksgiving this week it's just an ordinary week for me.  Although I despise turkey (cold turkey being the worst offender) I wouldn’t mind having a big Thanksgiving feast with my family right now.
Whew, I’m glad that I got that out of the way.  So what do I have planned for my last month in Barcelona so that I can go out with a bang? Well…
  •  El Clásico: The football game between FC Barcelona and their bitter rivals, Real Madrid.  The game is next Monday and let's just say that it's WAY more intense than the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry (and this is coming from an OSU student).
  •  Barça game: I tickets for the FCB v. Real Sociedad game on December 12th.  It’ll be my third and last Barça game so it should be a lot of fun.
  • Ireland: I’m taking my last weekend trip to the Emerald Isle during the first weekend of December.  I’m really excited because I’ve heard nothing but great things about Ireland although I am going when it’s probably going to be very cold.  I’m going to spend 2 days in Dublin and one day in Cork, which is near the Blarney Castle.
  • Cataloging the city: This week, I’m going to be going around the city and take a million pictures, like I was a tourist.  This is so that when I feel nostalgic I can open iPhoto and go through all my pictures and so that I can show you guys how beautiful Barcelona is.  This is why I’m holding off on posting my “Neighborhoods of Barcelona” post b/c I think it would be much better with pictures, right?
As far as blog posts here's what you have to look forward to for the next month
  • Another Spanish slang post
  • El Clásico
  • Ireland trip
  • Advice for students coming over to Spain (pay attention Brooke!)
  • Thoughts about what I'm going to miss about Catalunya/Spain/Europe
  • My favorite memories, stories from my trip
  • Probably one about Reverse Culture shock when I get back to the States (I already know I'm going to have it, there's no doubt in my mind)
Pretty ambitious eh?  


Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Well last week I traveled back to Italy with my roommate to Venice.  There’s not really much to say except that it was as beautiful as they present it in movies.  I’m not going to do a day-by-day account of what I did because it was literally just walking around the city (which was fine by me); instead, I’m just going to give you some bullet points on what Venice was like.
  • Canal galore:  The city is composed of about 117 different islands divided by canals; literally every block was its own island.  Each canal was uniquely different from the one you saw five minutes ago so I was pretty much obligated to take a million pictures, haha.
  • Gondolas: As to be expected, they were everywhere in the city and they looked a lot more luxurious than I expected (lush carpet and comfy armchairs); no wonder why they cost 80€ for a half hour ride (obviously I didn’t go).  They all wear the traditional striped shirt, but I didn’t hear a single one sing loudly in Italian :(
  • Maze: Getting lost in Venice is incredibly easy to do as it is a city of numerous canals and narrow streets.  Besides this, the street signs are painted on the buildings so if one is faded then you’re shit out of luck trying to find out where you are.  Because of these three things, John and I got lost on the way back to the hostel on Friday night, somehow ending up in a residential area with a basketball court.  It was completely deserted, very dark and all we kept of hearing were the meows of some street cat.  It was very creepy to say the least.
  • Food: I don’t know why, but the food in Venice sucked.  The portions were small and expensive.  The best meal I had there was a 4€ toasted wrap with a coke for lunch.  This is going to sound bad but the food at the Olive Garden was better the food in Italy…
  • Masks and Glass: I didn’t know this before hand, but Venice is well known for their Carnival masks.  During Carnival, the people of Venice would wear them to hide their social status so that they could do whatever they wanted to do.  These shops were all over the city, literally there was like 5 of them on one street.  Another famous product of Venice is their Murano glass.  I don’t know what separates it from regular glass, but it’s very colorful and let’s just say that they make for good gifts…
I really liked Venice, and unfortunately for you guys it's really hard for me to describe it.  It's unlike any other city in the world and there's no way that you could compare it to anything.  So instead of me describing every detail of the city you should be looking at my pictures!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Touring the UK

As some of you already know, the past weekend I headed up north to the United Kingdom to spend some time in London and Edinburgh, Scotland.  I chose the weekend of November the 5th because V for Vendetta is my favorite movie of all time and I wanted to be there to experience Guy Fawkes Day (you know, the holiday they celebrate in honor of the bloke who tried to blow up Parliament in 1605). 

I left Barcelona on Thursday night right after my last class and got into London at around midnight.  I took a train from the Gatwick airport to Central London, getting a chance to see the London Eye and Parliament all lit up from the train. 

I got up early on Friday to take a walk around the famed River Thames.  My hostel was literally 5 minutes from the River and the first thing I saw was Parliament and Big Ben.  They were exactly how they seem in the movies but so much cooler in real life.  Besides all of Gaudí’s buildings in Barcelona, Parliament is probably my favorite monument over here in Europe.  I don’t really know how to describe it, but it’s just stunning and stoic.  I also got to see other various monuments on my River Thames walk, including the London Eye, Tower Bridge, London Bridge and the Tower of London.  To my displeasure, it started to rain when I was taking my walking tour and it rained off and on throughout the entire day.  Why does it have to rain every time I take a weekend trip, is it a sign that I’m meant to stay in Spain? (espero que sí)

After that I took a walk over to Buckingham Palace to be a tourist and see the Queen’s Guards.  Unfortunately, I arrived too late to see the changing of the guards but I did get to see the guards walking around.  I was surprised though that they weren’t wearing the red overcoat like they’re always depicted; instead they wore a gray overcoat.  Idk, perhaps it was their version of fall fashion?  Also, the palace didn’t seem as majestic as it’s always made out to be, but maybe that’s because I didn’t get to see the inside of it.  The outside of el Palacio Real in Madrid was definitely a lot more impressive.

Next on my list was St. James’ Park, which is right next to Buckingham Palace.  The park was absolutely beautiful as the trees were all changing colors; I made the right decision to come in the fall.  One thing that shock me there was the size of the geese and ducks; they were like on steroids or something because they were massive.  Also, they were completely fearless as I was walking and none of them would get out of the way, I had to go around them. 

At the park I met up with my friend Carson, who’s studying in London for the semester.  He took me around to some of the other sites including Piccadilly Circus (the Time’s Square of London) and Trafalgar Square (the most famous plaza in London).  After getting some food, we headed off to meet up with some of his friends to go to a Guy Fawkes celebration in the London suburbs. 

Though I’ve been extremely spoiled in Spain with local festivals (Aste Nagusia in Bilbao and La Mercè in Barcelona) the event was still pretty cool.  They had this massive bonfire in the middle of the park greens and off to the side they had this guy on a wooden wheel…and the wheel began to spin round and round…and then came sparklers.  After the wheel was done spinning (and after the guy was freed from the wheel) the fireworks started.  I didn’t realize that Guy Fawkes Day was big over in the UK, but I guess it is a popular holiday. 

Here’s a video of the guy spinning, and spinning and spinning….

Then we took a stroll over to see Parliament because after all it was the 5th of November.  Afterwards, in true English fashion, we headed off to a crowded pub to talk and drink till midnight (when all the pubs close).

I decided early on, before I even came to Europe, that I wanted to see Scotland, the land of my ancestors.  For this reason, I opted out for 3 full days in London for a day to spend in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.  I left the hostel fairly early to catch my flight and I touched down in Edinburgh at about 2pm.  I took a bus into the city center and was immediately struck by how beautiful Scotland is.  It’s truly just like they show it in the movies: everything is green, gentle rolling hills and beautiful stone buildings.  I was got off the bus around the Edinburgh Castle, the most famous castle in Scotland.  It’s perched up on a rocky hill, overlooking and protecting the entire city.  I walked around it on my way to the hostel in absolute awe of the castle.  As soon as I checked into the hostel I came back to the castle because I wanted to go inside but unfortunately I came to late.  I was extremely disappointed and to top it off it started to pour rain at that point (well I guess Scotland is green for a reason). 

Despite all the rain (it didn’t stop till morning) I still had a great time in Edinburgh.  The city was incredibly beautiful and it was just amazing to be in the land of my ancestors.  Besides BCN, Edinburgh is by far my favorite city I’ve visited in Europe, outranking London, Paris and Rome.  During my self-guided walk through of the city I saw Rose Street (a popular street populated by many pubs), Princes Street (the main shopping street) and the Elephant House (the café where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book on napkins).  The café has a great view of the Edinburgh Castle and I can imagine that it was a great source of inspiration for her.  I had the most delicious hot chocolate with a splash of Bailey’s Irish Cream, just enjoying being in the sight where part of my childhood was created. 

As it was raining all Saturday, I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures.  However, I was determined to show you guys how cool Edinburgh was so I got up at 7 in the morning to quickly go around the city snapping pictures before catching my 9am bus to the airport.  I think you’ll be happy with the results, and I’m sure you’ll agree that Edinburgh is a beautiful city.

When I arrived back in London, I did the same thing I did in Edinburgh; that is, go around taking pictures since I didn’t get a chance to do so in the rain.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to visit any museums, which really disappointed me because they are pretty much all free!  I did stop off at the British Library and got to lay my eyes upon the Magna Carta, Jane Austen’s writing desk, and selected writings from Da Vinci, Darwin and Freud.  The highlight of my day was seeing the Old Bailey, the central criminal court in London.  In V for Vendetta, it’s the first building that V destroys, the start of his master plan to overthrow the dictatorship.

Even though they speak English in the UK (what?!?!) I did notice a lot of cultural differences and here’s that list:
  1. Stereotypes: You know, stereotypes can sometimes be true. Point one, British food is bland (the national dish, fish and chips, was very bland).  Point two, a lot of their teeth are ewww (a guy smiled at a pub and all his teeth were black).  Point three, Scots swear like sailors (walking down the street all I here is f@cking, sh!t, ect: so that's where I get it from!)  Point four, Brits and Scots drink a lot (every pub is extremely crowded).  Point five, Brits are extremely polite (see below).
  2. Politeness:  The people I came into contact with in the UK were some of the most polite people I have met.  I had no trouble asking for directions in London, people would stop and even if they didn't know exactly where the place was they would try to help me anyway.  Everything is also written in a very polite, though wordy, manner.  For example, in the tube there's the famous phrase "mind the gap" when getting off the train.  It's not "watch out" or "caution: gap between the train and the platform" it's "mind the gap."  Add that with a a British accent and it was absolutely beautiful.  Also, I was walking in the park and I accidently cut off a runner.  She turned to me and said "sorry!" and continued on running like nothing happened and then there's me standing there completely dumbfounded (but I cut you off and you're apologizing?).
  3. Left side: Seeing people drive on the left side of the road is as weird as you think it would be.  I kept on wanting to look the other way as I was crossing the street only to find that I was yet again looking the wrong way.  The city must realize that this is very weird for tourists because at each cross there was a sign on the ground saying which way to look.
  4. Intelligence: The British seem extremely intelligent.  They all read on the tube, people hand out newspapers as you get on the tube and all the museums are free.  Brits don't have an excuse not to be educated and well informed, it's pretty much ingrained in their culture.
  5. Security: London is probably without a doubt one of the most watched cities in the entire world.  Literally everywhere I turned there was a CCTV camera with a sign saying that you were being watched (I wonder what Mr. George Orwell would think about that).  Also, airport security was very tight and there were posters everywhere in the city that said things like "report your neighbor's suspicious activities to the police.  If you speak up you can stop them."  Seriously, I thought we were paranoid in America about security but for me this took it to a whole new level.
  6. Pubs: There are literally hundreds of pubs in London and they all fill up at 6pm from people getting off of work.  As is tradition in London, most of them close at around midnight and everyone goes home (or to clubs if you're young and hip).  This was really surprising for me because in Spain things don't start happening till after midnight or even later and you'll still see people out at 4 or 5 in the morning.

Como siempre, here are the links to my pictures from London and Edinburgh.  Now I’m off to a Spanish/Catalan cooking class and then tomorrow I’m off to Venice for the weekend.  Come back next week to see more blog posts!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Host Families

As most of you know, I live with a host family here in Barcelona.  This was probably the best decision I’ve made so far regarding my study abroad experience, right behind choosing to go to Bilbao with Michelle and choosing to study in Barcelona.

I live with a 65-year old widow, Rafaela in her medium sized apartment (apartments are called “pisos” here in Spain).  She owns a clothes store in a near by market.  We have two pets here at home, a parrot (Dinu) and a Silky Terrier by the name of “Teri.”  The parrot can get quite obnoxious at times, expecially when it lets out 3 (or more) long screeches in succession. 

Now what can I say about Teri.  Well, Teri is a 12-year old dog, who would be every dog whisperer’s dream come true.  He has a problem with people leaving the house, because students come here for 3 months and then leave him forever. For this reason, he barks whenever someone leaves the house, but never when people come home.  One day I was leaving for school when he snuck out, plopping himself in front of the elevetor.  I tried my best to coax him to come back in the piso (“Teri, ¡tengo un palito!  Ven aquí”), but he wouldn’t have any of it.  I go over to try to pick him up and he growls at me bearing his teeth in the process.  As I was running late for school, I wanted to get this ordeal over with so I pick him up really quickly and (gently) toss him back in the piso.  He's a complete nervous wreck and when you add in some back problems you get one fragile dog.

The piso is a pretty good place to live.  It’s 3 bedrooms, one bathroom with a nice balcony.  However, the neighborhood we live in (Sants) isn’t the best for college age kids because it’s mostly a residential area with families and old people, plus it’s kind of far away from all the happening places.

That being said, I’m glad I live where I am because Rafaela is the best host mom anyone could ask for.  She’s a great cook and she’s very involved with our lives.  Everyday when she comes home from school she always asks how are day went and she loves it when we show her pictures when we come home from a weekend trip around Europe.  She also likes to talk a lot, which is really helpful for us because it helps us practice our Spanish.  She also helps me with my Catalan, by teaching me some words/phrases and helping me with my pronunciation (the double l’s are una puta!).

Rafaela also typically hosts exchange students all year round.  I didn't know this until I asked her about all the Paris decorations in her house (I was curious as to why she had them because she said that she's never been to Paris).  She's been hosting them for about 6 years now and she's told me plenty of stories about other students (two girls use to go out clubbing every night, another one got caught having her boyfriend spending the night).  Not to toot my horn or anything, but she did tell me that John and I are the best exchange students she's ever hosted because we're friendly, open/interested in learning about the culture and more family-like than the other students.

She lives alone, but her mom stayed with her for the first month I was there because she broke her leg falling down the stairs.  Since then, she's been spending a month at a time between her two daughter's piso; in fact, she just came back yesterday to spend November here.  Rafaela also has a friend, José, who comes over every evening.  Everyday, Rafaela, José and Teri go out for a walk near the little green space we have near our piso, then she always cooks our dinner so that John and I can eat around 9 (they hardly ever eat dinner) and we usually first watch a game show (Pasapalabra) followed by the news.  

Here’s some pictures from my home stay:
Oh Teri.  He spends most of his day in my room, either because he loves me or because he's worried about the next time I leave the apartment

My Room

The Living Room

The Kitchen

I’ve been very fortunate with my host families.  First, Arantza and Maren (the host family in the Basque Country) really made my transition to the Spanish way of life very easy (I don’t think I went through any culture shock what so ever) and now, I’m living with Rafaela; I couldn’t have asked for a better living situation over here in Spain.

I love living with host families for three main reasons:
  1. Food: Spanish food is soooo good.  Everything is cooked with olive oil, it's fresh and very healthy.  I have a salad for dinner everyday (with olive oil and vinegar for dressing, which is typical in Spain), some bread and either pasta, fish or meat.  She makes a mean tortilla española and in typical Spanish fashion, she always asks us if we want anymore of anything to eat (¿Algo más?  ¿Helado? ¿Fruta?).
  2. Culture: You get to experience the culture first hand when you live with a host family; you really submerge yourself in what it's actually like to live in Spain (as opposed to living in dorms with your fellow American students).  It's interesting because Arantza and Maren (the host family I stayed with in Bilbao) are Basque, Rafaela is Catalan, her mom is from Andalucía (Southern Spain) and José is from Galicia (Northwest corner of Spain), so I've kind gotten to know some of the major cultures that make up Spain as a whole.
  3. Spanish: You have to speak Spanish in your home stay.  My Spanish has improved so much in the last 2 and a half months partly because of my Spanish language class, but my host families have definitely made a bigger impact on my Spanish than any class ever could.  I'd say that I can speak Spanish on a conversational level, which is to say that even though I make mistakes from time to time with words choice/verb tenses I still can get my point across and continue the conversation.  Spanish kind of just flows out now and I don’t really think too much about it.
My advice to students who want to study abroad: choose to live with a host family.  Trust me, I know it’s going to be very tempting to live with your fellow study abroad compadres, but you will learn so much more if you step outside of your comfort zone and submerge yourself into the local culture.  You will learn more than you can ever hope to learn in your classes.

Monday, November 1, 2010

La Castanyada

Even though I wasn’t back in the States for Halloween, I did celebrate the Catalan equivalent with my host family.

Here in Catalunya, they celebrate “La Castanyada” on or near All Saint’s Day (Tots Sants in Catalan).  Like in the rest of Spain and other Hispanic countries people go to the cemetery to clean off the graves of their loved ones and place flowers on their final resting place.  However, unlike the rest of Spain there is a traditional meal that everyone in Catalunya eats around this time.

They feast on a meal of roasted chestnuts, sweet potatoes and panellets (the most delicious pastries made from a paste of sugar and almonds).  So, last night my host mom’s family (her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter) and her friend José came over to celebrate the holiday.  Rafaela made the chestnuts and sweet potatoes while José and her daughter each brought over two dozen panellets.  After first eating tortilla española (potato omelet) she then brought out the castanyas i moniatos and to drink we had cava (Catalunya’s champagne).  I liked everything even though it was some work trying to get the shell off of the chestnut (they literally just came out of the oven).

When we were finished with that Rafaela brought out the pièce de résistance: els panellets!  They were soooo good.  The traditional one is covered with pine nuts but there’s panellets of every shape, size, color, and taste.  I tried some chocolate, coffee and coconut ones in addition to the pine nuts.  They were all so delicious, I need to learn how to make them (maybe for Christmas back in the States?)

Here’s a picture of our Castanyada feast:

And here's another one of a bakery selling panellets:

After the feast, the granddaughter got into the Halloween spirit and painted the faces of Rafaela, José and her mom.  It was pretty funny because she would disappear with them for 15 minutes and then come back in the living, announcing in a loud voice: “os presento (presenting) _____.” She turned José into Frankenstein and the two women into brujas (witches).

This brought up an interesting point of conversation.  They were all telling me that 10 years ago there was no such thing as Halloween in Spain but ever since then it’s becoming more and more popular each year.  In fact, I had three girls dressed as princesses ring the apartment’s doorbell and say, “trick-or-treat!”  I was speechless and had to say, “sorry, I don’t have any candy” (en castellano, of course) and as I closed the door I could see the smiles being wiped off their faces.  I told Rafaela about it and she just laughed (“I don’t have candy!”).  She said it was probably just the family next door and to not worry about it.

I enjoyed the holiday, as it was another cool aspect of the Catalan culture.  I already know that next year I’m going to miss panellets :(