I have just returned from a fantastic weekend in Cubelles – dancing, eating, cooking, playing and watching.
I hadn’t planned on being in Spain for Carnival but I’m sure glad I was.
I have spent the last couple of weeks soaking up Spanish (trying to) and have asked the family I am staying with to only speak Spanish and English when we eat meals together, as they speak Catalan at home (of course they do – I am in Catalonia). Dinner on Thursday was fantastic as I understood most of the conversation. I can understand more than I can speak but I am slowly getting there.
I am learning new words every day and watching television in Spanish, reading (trying to read) in Spanish and listening to Spanish radio as I cook. I am messaging a few friends in Spanish and while I am using a translator and am sure I am sending spanglish they are all helping me. I have been watching Sponge Bob and Peppa Pig in Spanish following a suggestion from a friend and I picked up an Enid Blyton book from school. I have read all of her books when I was a child and figure I should be able to bumble my way through this teenagers book with a little help from my translator.
We will see.
School is going well. I have only forgotten to be in one class on time as I was busy eating in the staff room and was 20 minutes late, much to the amusement of the class. I have class three days a week. All the children have different levels of English so I have my phone and laptop to translate words for them if neither of us know the Spanish.
The English teachers I work with are great and I have a lot of laughs with them in the staff room. I am also chatting with other teachers who have about as much English as I have Spanish and we talk in a mix of languages managing to communicate.
The worse thing for me is not being able to express myself well in Spanish. I told Ana (ghostbuster) at Carnaval last night that while I am a little bit stupid in Spanish I am actually very intelligent in English – all this in my version of spanglish that I manage to communicate in.
I have taken over the kitchen a few times and have introduced my family to soy sauce (chicken stir fry), shepherds pie, and smoked paprika (mushroom and tomato pasta). I love cooking and just spent the weekend at my friend Ian’s house cooking. Friday night was a bit like a mystery box challenge when I looked to see what ingredients he had and decided what to cook.
With chicken and mushrooms, rice and lettuce, I decided on a san chow boy which he had never tried. I used the leftover mix the following morning for breakfast adding a couple of eggs and making delicious breakfast patties. Pasta prior to Carnival last night and scrambled eggs with mushrooms, tomatoes and goats cheese this morning.
I think I might be as happy in a kitchen as I am on a fairway.
I try to run every other day and I head in a different direction each time, exploring new parts of the village. I miss my crossfit gym in Canada and a proper workout but do burpees, pushups, sit-ups, squats, and tricep dips on any patch of grass I come across. I have started taking my phone with me as I always see something of interest like the graffiti I saw the other day.
I went running down a dirt road having no idea where it went stopped. It stopped at a farmers field with said farmer driving a tractor tilling his land. I watched him for a bit then waved and ran off through his fields – it was on a dirt track but I didn’t see anywhere else to go. I was listening for his shout but as I heard nothing continued on my merry way.
I checked with the family when I got home in case there were parts of town I shouldn’t run around but apparently you can run through any area unless they have a sign saying private road. I had run into the farm from a track beside the river so in fact if there was a sign I surely wouldn’t have seen it.
Last week I hired a car (one of the teachers thought I was crazy hiring a car to drive around Barcelona and told me I am the first volunteer to do that) but I had people to see and golf to play.
I had a plan in my head of the route to get to Cubelles but took a wrong exit and drove with my GPS on my lap working out where I was going as I drove.
There are so many road tolls here. I paid nearly as much in tolls as I did for the car hire itself. I believe there aren’t any tolls in other parts of Spain, which is a point of contention for the Catalonians I have discussed this with as they feel the Spanish government is unfairly taxing them. They believe if they separated from Spain they wouldn’t have the tolls and as I don’t have enough knowledge of local government nor the Spanish language I leave the debate alone.
I drove into a toll booth noting the coins above it then got to the toll and realized I was in the wrong lane. I hit the little buzzer then sat there looking at the cars behind me. They were quick to get impatient, reverse and move into another toll lane so I waited until all cars behind me did this, whacked it in reverse and did the same thing.
I never made that mistake again. Stupid tourist.
Besides the little hiccup with the toll, I arrived with no problem at Cubelles. Although I must say it took me about half an hour getting used to driving on the right side of the road and the left hand side of the car.
I had my first taste of Spanish golf and played at Club de Golf Barcelona with Michael. Following a pretty good round (I had a lot of good stuff come off my club) we went to eat calçots at Restaurant Can-Vidal Ramos. The restaurant is about thirty seconds drive from the course and they are well known for their delicious fare.
After finishing all my classes this week and borrowing a mermaid costume from Sylvia at work, I packed my stuff and headed into Barcelona.
My first stop was a hair salon in the gothic quarter and had an amazing hair experience with Cedric at La Hair Boutique. He has good hands – an artist when wielding the highlight brush, a concentrated master with the scissors, not to mention the head massage and shampoo.
I then spent hours walking around Barcelona. I love the buildings in the gothic quarter and after losing myself in the lanes and alleyways I picked up some bread, cheese, a couple of apples and a bottle of water and headed down the Ramblas seeking a spot to have lunch.
I have eaten more bread in the last three weeks in Spain than I think I have all last year. I usually eat sourdough once every two weeks but here I am eating some fresh crunchy baguette with most meals. I had to go to the shop this morning before breakfast so I could break the delicious crust with our meal.
I usually only have a smoothie for breakfast but couldn’t take my blender and all my ingredients on the bus and the train to Ian’s house. I only had one small bag, which was filled with costume.
I found a gorgeous spot in the sun at Port Vell for my lunch (which I didn’t share with the birds) and sat watching all the tourists. I then walked for another couple of hours meandering down the streets of Spain making my way to Sants train station.
I stopped in various streets, sitting watching the world go by and was loving that I had a smart phone with GPS I could refer to every once in a while ensuring I was still heading in the right direction. Gone are the days of pulling out a big map, although it seemed I was one of the few tourists using technology.
I went early to Cubelles as I wanted some beach therapy and to be barefoot in the sand. I fell asleep on the train and woke up asking the people beside me if we were at Cubulles. They nodded and smiled and when I got to the doors and looked out, it seemed like a big station – Cubulles wasn’t that big. Granted I had only been there once but I didn’t think it was right and checked with another person getting on the train.
I was right, it wasn’t my stop, so I sat back down and watched the ocean slide by as the train pulled into Cubelles. Cubelles is a gorgeous seaside town about an hour south of Barcelona, where I made another new friend at the beach on Friday.
It was wonderful being barefoot on the sand and sitting watching the sunset. I waved hello to a lady walking by and she thought I was her yoga partner as she wasn’t wearing her glasses. We chatted in Spanish for about ten minutes – she has no English and I did apologize for my terrible Spanish – I told her I was going to the cafe for a hot chocolate. She waved me away and directed me upstairs above the cafe to her summer apartment where she introduced me to her husband. We enjoyed a hot chocolate, watched cooking on television and talked all things food and travel.
I ended up being late meeting Ian as I was busy chatting with his neighbour. After cooking dinner for us we watched Die Hard in Spanish with Spanish subtitles. Surely if I surround myself with Spanish I will absorb it. I would love to just wake up and be fluent – at this stage I would love to have the vocabulary of George (Peppa Pig’s little brother).
We had our costumes ready for Carnival and after meeting with Lemmy Kilmister (Josep) we headed into the centre of Cubelles to watch the parade. I had fun dancing in the street as we watched the floats drive by. The majority were pulled by tractors and I kept asking if more were coming as I was worried it was going to end soon. There were nearly fifty and once the parade finished we headed off for some dinner.
Amongst us were a cow, a mermaid, a dark guy in a blonde afro, a ghostbuster, Lemmy Kilmister (lead singer of Motörhead), and a couple of pirates. We were served by a flapper and a cave man and were surrounded by a table of ukelele wielding Mexicans, Irish dancers, Mario and Luigi, a couple of princesses – and I loved it. I couldn’t stop smiling.
So much to see in every direction. After dinner it was time for more dancing, this time in the plaça to the DJ. We danced for a couple of hours and again I spent a lot of time turning my head checking out the fantastic costumes around me. A stormtrooper dancing with some pirates, a cluster of Elvis’ dancing beside a crew of powdered wigs who were surrounded by vikings, all with a spattering of nasty clowns (I am scared of clowns – there is no need for them to exist really) – I was in costume heaven .
Following breakfast this morning, we watched the football – Barcelona vs Levante, then the train to Barcelona and the bus back to Lliça d’Amunt.
Not a bad train ride when you have ocean views.
Looking out the bus window gave me pleasure as I was watching floats being set up, swarms of Pink Ladies, pirates, beetles and fairies, getting ready for their village parade tonight.
I think I might have spent the weekend in wonder, smiling with delight at everything.
Here I am in Barcelona, learning, volunteering, golfing, writing, exploring and eating.