Friday, April 18, 2014

On The Road: La Bisbal d’Empordà

What better way to spend Divendres Sant (Good Friday) than at a ceramics and crafts fair?  La Bisbal d’Empordà is a small town about 40 minutes away.  It is the capital of Catalan ceramics and today was the first of its annual two-day ceramics fair. 

Ceramics has been the primary economic activity in La Bisbal since the 18th century.  Production is diversified and includes home furnishings such as sinks, building materials, housewares, and decorative items.  There isn’t a single producer; the area is full of workshops of all sizes and artisans who work in a wide variety of styles.  “Ceramica de La Bisbal” is an EU protected designation and is licensed only to those manufacturers and artisans who work in and around La Bisbal and who maintain the required standard of quality.  When I had my artisan shop in Tarragona, I carried ceramics from three of its workshops.

The ride there was pretty, the town is attractive, and the fair was enjoyable.  It has indeed been a good Friday.



Thursday, April 10, 2014

No Fear

There’s a difference between overcoming fear and not having it in the first place.  I’m working on getting past mine so I can explore and enjoy the things available to me in the area where I live.  Driving was second nature to me until I came to Spain where I find the roads dangerously chaotic.  But taking the train isn’t always convenient, and the train doesn’t go to all the places I want to see.  What was I afraid of?

Besides being killed on the road by some speeding nincompoop, there was the more mundane problem of being able to read the road signs.  True, I managed to obtain a Spanish driver’s license.  But somehow, the signs as you enter the toll stations on the motorways are still a mystery to me.  What do you do if you’re first up in a lane where you must have a season pass?  Or if you have cash but there is no cash machine?  There used to be lanes manned by real people, but they seem to have disappeared. 

I finally decided to resolve this problem by finding an explanation of the signs (in English!) on the internet and using the lanes that accept credit cards, as most of them do.  In my research I discovered that the symbols for the season pass and the multiple-option lanes are identical except that one is enclosed in a circle and the other in a square.  No wonder I was confused.

This week, credit card in hand on a glorious spring day, I headed off for Collioure for their weekly market.  Market days in France are simply more aesthecially pleasing than the ones in Spain, even though the market is Collioure is small.  Nevertheless, you can find some yummy small goat cheese rounds, or unpasteurized camembert, or macarons, or an enticing array of breads, or soft nougat, or scented soaps.  And even paella.  And anyway, the grass is greener on the other side.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Threatened by Peaceful Demonstrations

At last year's Human Chain for the Right to Vote, held on 11 September 2013, 1.6 million people stood side by side, holding hands.  The chain ran 400 kilometers (250 miles), and covered the length of Catalunya from the French to the Valencian border.

The organizing of this event that included so many participants and so much territory was an amazing feat and much of it wasn't obvious.  Participants were asked to arrive early and wear yellow shirts or the yellow t-shirts designed especially for the occasion.  The official time of the Chain was 17:14, which corresponds to an important year in the history of Catalunya -- the year when it lost its independence!  A little before 17:14 everyone joined hands and we stayed joined for a while.  During that time, helicopters flew overhead to film us, and photographers on the ground moved down the line to photograph us.

Participants wore yellow or draped themselves
in Catalan and Indpendence flags

Eight hundred photographers along the 400 kilometers took more than 107,000 photos.  Now, after more than six months of work, all those thousands of photos have been combined into the Gigafoto.  You can scroll through it and see each of the 1.6 million people who covered over 400 kilometers.  In fact, you can find someone familiar in the section below.

The Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) the grassroots organization that organized this event, has recently been accused by a far-right group of being terrorists.  This far-right group, that calls itself Manos Limpios (Clean Hands) has brought a complaint with the accusation to a Spanish court which is now investigating.  You can look at the Gigafoto for yourself and see if you think the demonstration looks in any way violent.  In fact, both this demonstration and the one organized the previoius year by the same ANC, when 1.5 million people gathered in Barcelona, had, in spite of the huge number of people who gathered, the peaceful spirit of celebration.

Here's a link to the Gigafoto.  If you have lots of time, you can scroll through the whole thing.  If you want to find me, click on Gigafoto, scroll down to the dropdown menu box and select section 674 (Figueres).  Scroll towards the left.  I'm near the Beep.