Friday, March 28, 2014

On The Road with Friends: Besalú

Gracia and Miquel are Catalans but I met them in California before I moved here.  We’ve remained friends for the last 13 years since I’ve come to live in Catalunya and they continue to live in the Bay Area.  Although a relatively new friend, Gracia has been very supportive of my move to Catalunya and whatever project I've taken on.  When her mom was still alive, she would come to Catalunya often and we usually had the opportunity to meet up.  But it had been a while since our last visit, so it was with great pleasure that I went to pick up Gracia and Miquel at the AVE train station the other day and whisked them off for a visit to Besalú.

Besalú is a charming village that still retains much of its medieval architecture.  The most impressive of these buildings is the bridge that spans the Fluvià river, yet the feeling of stepping back in time embraces you everywhere.  But that is not to say that nothing modern has invaded.  American-style muffins – that is, very large muffins of various flavors – have become popular and Besalú has one bakery almost exclusively devoted to this delight.


But muffins aside, it’s the beautiful medieval bridge that keeps me coming back to visit.

See that white umbrella? That's where we had lunch.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Sometimes change is for the best.  Sometimes it isn’t.  And yet it is inevitable and is happening constantly, whether we like it or not.  Here are two examples where I like it.

First, my living room that I recently had painted.  Here you can see the old color and the new.  Going from wishy-washy to strong, I would say that the new is an improvement.  Well, of course I would. 


The second example concerns the cats more than it does me.  This change was not in their control.  Their old scratching post was great when I bought it, but after almost two years of scratching, the two cats had pretty much destroyed all four of the sisal-covered posts.  Not only had it provided many months of scratching joy, it also provided a nice perch to take in the view of the neighborhood, such as it is.   Both cats scratched their hearts out, but it was mainly Minnie who perched.

As successful as it was, it didn’t occur to me that I would have trouble replacing it.  But as it turned out, the manufacturer was no longer manufacturing it.  They had opted for other less effective and more expensive models.  In fact, everything in the shops I visited and the catalogues I looked at (here shopping is done mostly with catalogues), had either single posts (that tend to move or fall over when scratched with gusto), and perches that wouldn’t fit a standard grown cat.  Who designs these things?  I couldn’t find anything as good for any price.

So I resorted to Amazon UK and voila, found one a little different, but just about as good.  I’m happy that the living room now looks much better without the old eyesore.  Both cats started in scratching right away, but Felix won’t have anything to do with the perch which, in this configuration, is a hammock.  However, after a little coaxing, Minnie has taken to it heart and soul and will hardly sleep anywhere else.  Sometimes change is good, even if wasn't you who decided it.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Eternal Life in Girona

I recently saw a multiple-part BBC documentary on the art of ancient Egypt so with that fresh in my mind, I was interested to see the exhibit of ancient Egyptian funerary art, "The Secret of Eternal Life" currently on at the Caixa Forum in Girona.  Any excuse works since Girona is lovely and only a short train ride away, and a lovely train ride it is too.

The exhibit, from the Rijksmuseum Van Oudheden of Leiden, was good.  Not as grand as the King Tut exhibit of the 80s, of course, but I have my memories of that and, it is always interesting to see works of art in person.  And there’s something special about them when works are either (1) very famous and you’ve seen reproductions of them all your life or (2) the pieces are very very old.  The unfortunate thing is that all my photos of the exhibit were lousy, with some being only less blurry than others.   The good thing is that the ones I took from a moving train turned out decent.  Now I just have to figure how why that is. 


The Caixa Forum is owned by a
savings bank and run as a cultural
service to the public, free of charge



Friday, March 7, 2014


Olot is one of those towns I’ve heard of that I’d been wanting to visit but hadn’t.  I’d heard that the town is nice, that it is located in a very pretty area and is surrounded by volcanoes.  There are forests of deciduous trees making it a good place to go for fall color (next year!), and the area is quite green because it rains a lot.  There is a saying that if it isn’t raining in Olot, it isn’t raining anywhere (in Catalunya).  Besides a lot of rain, there are also a lot of volcanoes.

Forty volcanoes surround Olot.  Four of them are actually within the town.   Thankfully, they aren’t active, and there was no fire or brimstone the day I went.

That was last Sunday.  I met up with an English-speaking group in the Placa Major.  This was the same group I went with to Banyoles a few weeks ago.  This time there were two Brits, one Vietnamese, one South African, one Basque/Catalan, one Catalan, one Russian, and one other American besides me. 


Much of what I’ve heard about Olot I’ve heard from my mailman, Joan.  Joan recently moved to Olot from Figueres.  He says it’s much prettier there and closer to nature.  I think he’s right.  I was telling this to one of the people in our party when lo and behold, there was Joan, standing in the street.  We threw our arms around each other like long-lost friends and everyone in my party was duly impressed that I knew people everywhere.

We only walked up to the top of one of the four volcanoes in town, admired it and the view and then walked across town to have lunch in a pretty restaurant out in the countryside on the other side.  But clearly there is more for me to explore in Olot, and being only 40 minutes away, I’ll be back there soon.

Up the volcano

The Montsacopa Volcano crater

The Fluvia River

Crossing the fields