The week that was a year

This post is a week late because of a long weekend and a cold. Delivering something a bit later than planned is also an extremely Catalan experience (particularly when it comes to trains), so I think it’s sort of appropriate.

We have officially been here for a year now. Isn’t that crazy? It certainly doesn’t feel like a year to me, although looking back at the blog posts, photos and town maps that we have accumulated in the past 12 months the number of adventures we’ve had makes it easy to think that we have actually been here for longer.

Many of the things that seemed completely foreign to us when we arrived now seem common place. Of course you would not eat lunch before 2pm and all shops will be shut from 1:30pm until 5pm. Naturally you celebrate every religious, local or charity event with a parade through the streets featuring a marching band and some giants. And obviously you would not even consider eating any meal without bread, preferably bread that is rubbed with tomato.Read More »

The week of contrasts

This week has been somewhat of a come down after three jam-packed weeks of visitors and weekends away. We have been so lucky to have many friends and family visit from Australia, and our little apartment and day-to-day lives seem a bit quiet and dull now that they have gone.

Quiet is not always bad. It’s nice to focus on the minutiae of life for a bit: making sure there is edible food in the house, finally cleaning some clothes, and getting stuck into bigger tasks at work. But it makes a stark contrast to the last few weeks of travelling and saying salut every night. I think we will feel somewhat lonely in the weeks to come, as autumn and winter slowly descend on the Ebro Valley.

Tortosa, in its special way, also managed to provide a lovely display of contrast this weekend, in the form of two little festivals (it’s been more than two weeks, right?!)

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The week for a weekend in Barcelona

There’s something magical about Barca. The narrow streets of the old town, the wide avenues of the Eixample district, the sunshine, the palm trees, the curved buildings, the people. Perhaps we are simply Melbourne folk, starved for urbanisation here in Tortosa, but every time I visit Catalonia’s capital I fall in love with it a little more.

Our mini-breaks to the big smoke generally take the same shape (although you can mix and match of course):

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The week of Festes de la Cinta

“What?!”, I can hear you spluttering at your screen. “Another festival? Is she serious? Surely after Sant Jordi, Sant Joan, Benicàssim, the Three Kings and the Renaixement Festival that is enough, at least for a little while. Do some work for goodness sake!”

That’s what I thought too. And believe me, I am trying to work. But this week, this was a big one. Possibly the most important one for Tortosa, because it contained two important days: the celebration of their patron saint, and a Catalonia’s national day.Read More »

The week of Renaixement

The first sign was the flags. Blue and yellow, red and white, on street corners all around the old quarter. Next, they were on the bridge, and the main street. After that, deep red velvet banners were drawn along the balconies of our little Carrer. The following morning we awoke to sails draped across plazas. Then red and yellow flags and banners appeared, hung from one end of town to the other. And on Thurdsay 100 market stalls, bars, taverns, and tressle tables sprouted overnight, along with several discreet islands of portaloos. When the portaloos come out, you know something big is happening.

With such anticipation-building decorations, Tortosa prepared itself for its biggest party of the year, and we steadied ourselves to go from one festival to another, very different party. This week Tortosa is celebrating its 20th Festa del Renaixament, a four day extravaganza of all things 16th century. The town has completely been transformed. The air is full of the smell of BBQ and the sound of drums, people are dressed up in 1700s garb (from peasants to lords), and performance groups, giants, eagles and gargoyles are roaming the streets. It is amazing. The old fortifications at the back of town are also included: for the rest of the year the old walls are pretty much abandoned, but at the moment they are playing hosts to all night taverns and concerts. Incredible.

As we are living in the old part of town, we’re right in the thick of it. Sleeping before 2am is not really an option, giving us plenty of opportunities to explore. Here are just some of the sights we’ve seen!

The festival opened with a bang
Tortosa flags
The Tortosa Abanderados (flag throwning troup)
The smallest Abanderado
The lords and ladies in their finery
Tortosa’s giants parade past our house
One of the crowded plazas
One of the street performances
Human gargoyles on the Cathedral
A whirling dervish (he span for 30 minutes!)
The Falconer
One of the parrillas selling all sorts of BBQed treats
A plaza on Thursday afternoon
The same plaza on Friday night
The same plaza on Friday night