Friday, May 30, 2014

More Festivals: Sant Baldiri

This last weekend Figueres celebrated yet another festival.  The flyer said it was the 315th anniversary of Sant Baldiri.  When I asked one woman about Sant Baldiri, she told me that was the name of the hospital that once stood where the fountain is now.  Apparently the hospital is long gone but never to be forgotten.

The celebration of the ancient hospital was much more modest than Santa Creu, the festa major celebrated just a few weeks ago, but it was equally charming.  The only parade was a group of young drummers.  Mostly there were games to play for young and old, a tiny bit of arts and crafts for sale, some concerts that I didn't go to, another exposition of lacemaking (this time out in daylight where the poor women could actually see what they were doing), food, a whole area devoted to artisan beers, and, of course, sardanes.  Just give me some interesting food and let me dance a few sardanes, and I’m a happy camper.

This was the 14th annual Conrad Oliveda Memorial
Championship of Futboli.  These guys were serious.

It's cherry season.

Microbreweries are starting to become popular

Friday, May 16, 2014

Apartment Community

When I came to live in Spain in 2001, most people owned their homes and most of those were apartments.  Now, most people still live in apartments, but the number of owner-occupiers has fallen and many people now rent.   

Apartment buildings function much like condominiums in the US.  You own your apartment and you share the expenses of the maintenance of the common areas of the building as well as the fa├žade and roof and the fees of a management company that takes care of agreed-upon improvements (if any), necessary repairs, and manages the common finances.  The owners, not the tenants, are the ones responsible for paying the community fees. 

In buildings where apartments are of different dimensions, you pay the percentage commensurate with the square footage of your space.  In some buildings this can be a hefty sum, depending on what the common areas might include and how much upkeep the community agrees to carry out.  A building with a swimming pool and elevators and frequent cleaning service for the hallways and perhaps garden upkeep would understandably have higher fees than one with no swimming pool, no elevator, and no cleaning service.  This would describe my building.

All 16 apartments in my building are of equal size so each community member (apartment owner) pays the same amount, which is 40 euros every three months.  Since there is no contracted cleaning service, each apartment is responsible for cleaning the entry and stairs once every 16 weeks, according to a schedule that is posted in the entry.

My building holds community meetings about once a year.  At the first one that I attended, which took place last year, one of the items on the agenda was what to do about several apartments that were in arrears on their community fees – some to the tune of several hundred euros.  Some of these owners were absentee with or without tenants, some were owner-occupiers, and some were banks that had foreclosed.  It was agreed that our management company would initiate legal proceedings against the delinquent owners.

At this week’s meeting it was reported that some of the delinquent owners had either paid or had made arrangements to make monthly payments to pay off what they owed.  Some had done nothing and for those the next legal step will be taken.  But what amazed me was the owner of #4-D.  This person owes 1058 euros in community fees.  At 40 euros every three months, it’s been over eight years since he’s paid anything.  Why did the community wait so long to take action?  It’s a question I didn’t ask during the meeting and I imagine if I had, there would have been a general shrugging of the shoulders.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Festa Major: Food and Fun

To say that in Figueres they celebrated their festa major for ten days is to exaggerate.  There were a couple of days (work days) when there was only the odd institutional act.  But the ten days began on a Friday and in additional to the two weekends, it included a legal holiday (1st of May) so that the following day, a Friday, was a pont (bridge) and many people didn’t have to work that day either. 

A festa major -- especially one that runs for ten days -- is many things to many people.  Every city, town, and village has at least one important festival a year, usually celebrating the feast day of their patron saint.  Some towns have more than one patron saint.  Whatever religious significance these festivals might have had is somewhat diluted in the modern age.  Besides the special mass and floral tribute, for the most part the festes are about having fun and are designed so that everyone will find something to enjoy.

Although I hadn’t planned on going to see the children’s parade, it was so cute I ran home to get my camera and take some (disappointing) pictures that I posted last week.  What I was looking forward to was dancing sardanes, which I did on two different days.

People often place their bags and jackets in the
center of the circle.  But here someone put their cane
so they could dance unencumbered!

 There was a night parade that I didn’t attend, several concerts, some medieval shenanigans with horses that I didn’t go to see either.  Nor did I venture out to see the closing fireworks although I could hear them from home.  The cats were not amused.  In fact, I passed up most of the activities.  Nevertheless I enjoyed quite a few.

I saw the animal rescue people (and dogs) and the doggie audience, a motorcade of Seat 600s, a fun fair, the chess club, a meeting of lace-making clubs, an arts and crafts fair, a medieval fair (which was also an arts and crafts fair), two food fairs,.  I missed the castells (human towers) because I was busy watching the adoptable dogs do tricks (we all have our priorities).  I would say that a good time was had by all.

The Seat people loved that I was taking pictures
of them and were all waving

Artisan-made shoes

Some dish from Galicia

The famous Mediterranean diet


Octopus, my favorite.  That's what I
had for lunch

Friday, May 2, 2014

Festa Major -- Community Spirit

The ads started recently.  This year’s festa major (main festival) was going to be ten days long and have 200 activities.  And I thought to myself, “Geez, can’t these people think of anything else except partying?”

It was day one and I was walking towards the Rambla to do my errands.  I found the streets closed off to cars and the children’s parade underway.  It was cute as can be and there I was without my camera.  So I ran back home to get it and devoted the next hour to trying to capture how splendid it was that over 1000 children, from most, if not all the schools in Figueres, were costumed and parading through the streets, accompanied by homemade floats pulled by farmers driving their tractors.  Anyone not in the parade was standing on the sidewalks admiring and cheering and clapping along with the music that was blasting through loudspeakers placed all along the route.  My photos didn’t come close to doing them justice.  I need to practice the art of elbowing your way through a crowd to get to the front.  And probably other techniques too.

People here do like to party.  But they also like to take part in their community.  Festes include some professional entertainment, but they also benefit from a tremendous amount of citizen participation.  This is true at all the festes, from the smallest villages to Barcelona the capital.

Sardanes (the Catalan national dance) are scheduled three different times during the festa, danced in front of the city hall that has been decorated for the party.  I’ve already attended two of these and have danced both times.  While I’m dancing, I feel part of the community -- a feeling that unfortunately ends abruptly when the dancing does.