We have come away for Christmas!
It was no easy task but we were helped by the fact that the Resident Adolescent is working in Carrefour and only has two days free.
I have written before about my struggles with Catalan Christmas and the family rituals that are expected here so I won’t go into it again but I do need to say that when I write ‘we have come away for christmas’ it is written with a flourish.
By the way, I am coming to a far greater understanding of how incredibly difficult it is to create Christmas rituals with a new partner from a different culture. We have tried to include everything from both our worlds – beating the Tió, Christmas carols, Christmas tree, Christmas stockings, roast veggie dinner, Escudella i carn d’olla, Sant Esteve, Boxing Day, turrons, Christmas pudding, Christmas cards, and so on.
The result? Often it is just exhausting, frustrating and perplexing.
We came away early on Christmas morning and I hadn’t realised the important of opening presents on Christmas Eve so had gone to bed. I wanted to bring the presents with us but my partner didn’t realise the important of opening them on Christmas Day so said we should leave them at home to open when we get back. Just one of many misunderstandings.
But coming away helps a lot. We are in a new place with no expectations or obligations. We came to the Pyranees to a place called Font Romeu which is officially in France but if you ask any Catalan they will say it is in Catalunya Nord. We are staying in a small hotel called Hotel Le Romarin. It is simple, family run, friendly and comfortable. Clean with no frills. Lovely views. Good wifi in the lounge area.
Yesterday was Christmas Day and it was surprising how many other people had the same idea to get away and go skiing.
I don’t know how to ski – I have tried twice and enjoyed it but after an hour had enough of falling over and struggling to get up. As it was Christmas I went along yesterday to the ski station up high and I spent a few hours sitting in the warm cafeteria watching other people glide gracefully down the slopes. Ski resorts are funny places, not at all what I imagined in my dreams. A bit like camp sites they have a tendency to attract clutter and signs telling you what not to do. It must be wonderful to take the lift up to the top and be in the white clean snow-scene then to zig-zag competently downhill. But the lower part is where the snow is dirty, children are screaming and plastic cups and crisp packets line the edges of the forest.
Today I stayed in the village and had my Boxing Day walk up to visit the Hermitage of Font Romeu. It turns out to be on yet another of the ways that lead to Santiago de Compostella.
Romeu means pilgrim in Catalan so Font Romeu is the fountain of the pilgrim. They found a 12th Century statue carved in wood of the Black Virgin near here which is kept in the Hermitage until September 8th when it is carried in a parade down to the church at Odeillo. If I want to see it then I must go there.
Black virgins are an important feature of Catalan spiritual life. One of the most famous is the Black Virgin of Montserrat. Of course there are many stories of the black virgin being the mother goddess from a much earlier pre christian age. Here is an interesting site about the Black Madonna.
I have started my training for doing the Camino de Santiago in the spring but I need to get a bit more serious about it. Today’s walk was just over 6km and at that rate I’ll need a year to complete the pilgrimage.