Gegants in Borrassà

When I am in Sant Nicolau I usually go shopping in the Spar in Borrassà as they are so well stocked but especially as they are always friendly.  Last week I went there with one of my sisters who was visiting from the UK and was surprised to find the central square blocked off to traffic. What could be going on in this normally quiet and deserted village?
There was a meeting of giants from around the region!
These are called Gegants in Catalan and are a familiar feature of local festivals. The smaller figures with large heads are called Cap Grosses

 They are usually accompanied by little bands of musicians and large crowds come out to look at them

 I think some of the faces are based on real people from the villages but I don’t know if they ever make caricatures of famous people or politicians. Most of the ones I have seen are wearing medieval dress and there is always a king and queen

I have to admit that although it is interesting to see them there is something very alien about them to me. It always reminds me strongly that I am a stranger here.  I feel I must be missing something as I don’t understand what they mean to the people who are clearly passionate about them.  There are three very Catalan traditions which are very important to the local communities – Gegants, Human towers and dancing the Sardana.  Although I am watching from the outside I do get a thrill watching the towers, and although the sardana is a subtle and minimalist dance it also is quite moving to watch and to hear the music. But the gegants – I just don’t get it.
Would be good to have someone explain them to me.

Autumn Sun on the Costa Brava

I am spending a week at Sant Nicolau with some of my family from the UK
It is lovely to sing together in the church

The weather this October is warm and clear and although the nights are drawing in, it is still comfortable to swim in the warm clear water of the Costa Brava.

Estartit is a seaside town which was originally a traditional fishing village but now is lost within the usual sprawling developments of the 1960’s. However it  is saved by the presence of the Mides Islands which dominate the bay and the hilltop 13th century castle which overlooks the area.

On the way down to Estartit you pass through the beautiful Torroella de Montgri which makes a much better place to stop for lunch.

On Saturday we ate in a tapas restaurant in a quiet square – it’s easy to find

When we returned on Wednesday the kitchen was closed but the waitress recognised me from before and asked the cook if he would prepare us lunch anyway.  Which he did with a smile!
Lovely food and incredibly welcoming service in a very pleasant town

I could imagine living there.
But also, I can’t.
Strangely the longer I live here the more I understand the Catalan way of staying close to home. Granollers is not my home but for now it is the closest thing I have to that mythical place.

The Garden of Eden

Today was a lovely dreamy relaxing sunny easy day at Sant Nicolau

Bonnie and I went down to do some meditation at Blue’s resting place

I had noticed there were daisies but suddenly I SAW them – hundreds and thousands of daisies and it reminded me of being a child and making daisy chains

How many actual daisy chains have I made in my life?  Perhaps no more than 10 or so.
I decided to make one to leave for Blue

Then Bonnie for the first time went to actually lie on top of Blue’s grave

I am sure she remembers this is where we buried her old friend

It was very special down there today

Later I went into Figueres with Helen and we looked around the shops, searching for a suitable dress for me to wear to my niece’s wedding next weekend. All the other times I have been there I’ve found the town to be a bit sharp edged and unfriendly but today it was open-hearted and warm. There were musicians playing jazz in the centre and in one shop a woman was holding a small baby. “He’s my new grandson” she said  “Three months old”  I went over to admire him and he beamed at me. Usually I am the sort of person who babies turn away from or they start to cry when I speak to them. But this baby in Figueres seemed to like me and what a nice feeling that is!

Every single shopkeeper switched to speaking in Spanish with me even after I had greeted them in Catalan.  I carried on short conversations just to show it was unnecessary to change but it seemed they didn’t notice and doggedly carried on in Spanish. I know they are trying to be friendly but somehow along the way they have stopped listening and are only seeing what I look like – a guiri.

But I found the perfect dress and when I have the shoes to go with it – I’ll show you a photo.

There is still snow on Canigo and when you sit in the shade you can feel the chill of it in the breeze.
Bonnie is almost totally better now and when I got back from town she was overwhelmingly pleased to see me and what a nice feeling that is too!

Thanks for visiting me here – I hope you also had a sunny dreamy relaxing and easy day.

Back in Sant Nicolau

I am back in Sant Nicolau.
It’s a wonderful feeling to drive up the AP7 and see the mountains in the distance, getting closer, until at last you see Mare de Deu del Mont and seemingly beside it, but actually much farther away, the peaks of Canigo, covered in snow even though it is April.

Then the drive down the bumpy sandy lane, through the woods until the sanctuary of Sant Nicolau comes into view.  Getting out of the van there is a smell of pine and herbs and a cuckoo is calling.
Dogs come out to greet you first. Bob is a deeply satisfying mountain of a dog with gentle eyes and large strong paws which he folds one over the other when he is lying down. Lucy is steady and solid and calm. And at the moment there is another guardian of the house – Nero is waiting to be rehomed in Germany and is having the best time of his life so far, chasing balls in the garden here.
Bonnie made an instant friend. They have a shared love of chasing balls

We arrived and settled in and just as I felt myself start to relax completely, Bonnie got sick. She’d been off her food and slightly peaky for days but that first night she began vomiting and was getting very thirsty and troubled.
So off to the vet the next day who diagnosed gastroenteritis – an inflammation of the whole digestive system. We went to the Canis vets in Figueres who were wonderful and calming for my anxious nerves. I hate it when an animal is sick and with Bonnie I am especially good at worrying and catastrophising. It is almost a year since Blue died here and I want to believe that Bonnie is still  young and strong but she will be 11 in June!
Several injections and a few pills later she began to perk up and we drove to the sea to cook up some white rice and chicken for her invalid lunch in the van. She was very hungry – it had been three days since she had a proper meal.
We stopped at Roses, parked beside a little sandy beach and went for a walk along the rocks

It was lovely but oh dear, look at that hill covered in houses and flats. They are so tightly packed in together that you feel dizzy looking at them. However often I see the  coast-line developments here, I can’t stop myself asking “How could they do that to such a beautiful place?”  I actually feel it was criminal. Money and greed must have been the motivation and the extreme beauty of the beach and the sea only makes the ugliness of the buildings more painful.
However, it was a great day. The sun was shining and Bonnie got stronger and happier by the minute.
The sea was a little too cold even for me to swim in but the sun is shining and the birds are singing lustily at the Mas.   Cuckoo  cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo cuck!

Thank you to life

This felt like a week crammed full of different and lovely things

I woke up on Monday morning still in beautiful Sant Nicolau – the sun was streaming into the bedroom and the wind had dropped – but it was time for us to leave

Helen has lost two of her dogs and it felt hard going knowing they are still out there but we don’t know where. She has been incredible – there are posters of them at every corner in an area stretching from Bascara to Figueres and all around. I went out with her every day exploring new corners of the region, to speak with people and pin up posters and scan the fields

But apart from one possible sighting there has been a resounding silence

I drove back to Granollers and almost immediately caught the train down to Barcelona to go to my Swing class in Gracia.  I even stayed on afterwards to eat in a Syrian restaurant with two other beginners.

After the class we wanted to try out the late Jam session at Swing Maniacs as we need to practise as well as learn new steps. But there was time to eat inbetween and what a pleasure to have falafel and hummus and pitta bread – the sort of food that feels like a real treat here.

And then a quick dance before catching the last train home.

I met Tiffany for coffee one morning – but it wasn’t coffee – it was the Catalan chocolate drink that is rich and thick and warm like a pudding and comes with whipped cream and little sponge fingers for dunking. If you want to order it is called a Xocolata Desfeta and if you want the cream it is a Suìs
Don’t go to that link if you are on a diet!

On the way home the man with the accordion was out again beside the newspaper stand. He recognises me now (as one of the few people who throw money into his bag and stop to listen!)
So when he had to start another song he looked at me and said ‘Danny Boy?’  Of course I sat down on the bench to listen – and cried a little for the strangeness of it

What else?  We have just been to the CineClub which shows films in original version. Tonight this was a Catalan film called Fenix. A really amazing and good film about a young boy who, under the influence of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, wrote emails to supermarkets telling them to put their labels in Catalan and not just Spanish. I really must be careful what I write here because this is a true story and what happened to him was horrific. Armed police rushed his home and he was charged with crimes under the terrorism laws. Worth seeing this if it comes to your alternative film club!

And lastly we took our seed potatoes over to the farm where a new friend has offered us a space to plant them. I brought over Pentland Javelin and Charlotte and am looking forward to real potatoes this summer!

Bonnie loved being in the countryside again and I have promised  both her and me –  ‘Soon!’