So, yeah... I'm in Spain now. I decided I needed to continue this trip in reverse so I could get to warm weather now. I'm happy to report that it's about 60 degrees and sunny!
Do you remember when I met Jasmine and Hilda in Derry, Northern Ireland? Hilda is from Barcelona, so when I told her I was flying here, she offered to show me around and take me to one of her favorite restaurants. If this was any indication, I'm going to love the food and coffee around here.
Next she took me to see some incredible architecture by Antoni Gaudí. This is Casa Milà.
And the famous Casa Batlla.
This isn't a famous building, as far as I know, but something about it made me feel like the cold gray weather was behind me.
It felt like my first day in Dublin when everything was different and so automatically interesting.
Hilda stopped in a Christmas marketplace to show me this Catalan Christmas tradition, the Caga tió, or in English, the Shitting Log. On Christmas Day, kids beat the log with sticks while singing songs, to make the hollowed out log... well... shit presents.
Alright, this deserves more description... Prior to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th, parents buy a small Caga tió, which will make its first appearance at the feast. The kids will "feed" it then cover it with a blanket to keep it warm. Over time the log grows, i.e. mom and dad replace it with a larger and larger Caga tió.
On Christmas eve or Christmas day, the kids leave the room to pray that the Caga tió is extra backed up with presents this year. While they are away doing this, the parents put presents under the blanket just behind the log, traditionally treats and candies, like dried figs, turron, a type of nougat, or small toys. When the kids return, they beat the log with sticks while singing songs with lyrics like:
hazelnuts and mató cheese,
if you don't shit well,
I'll hit you with a stick,
The blanket is then pulled back to reveal all the shitty goodness. Similar to pinatas, what comes out of the Tió is shared by everyone present. When the log plops out a salt herring, onion, or head of garlic, that means it's done pooping for the year, but I'm still a little fuzzy on the details. Regardless, this is my new favorite Christmas tradition, which I'm immediately incorporating into all of my years I have left on this Earth.
Just beyond the Christmas market was the Catedral de Barcelona
The sight of a palm tree made me exceedingly happy.
I loved the Gothic district the most. It just felt like Spain to me.
Then I heard these men playing guitar just ahead, I told Hilda that I finally felt like I was in Spain, and then she pointed out that it wasn't Spanish music, but Argentinian. I noticed his scarf and immediately felt like an idiot tourist.
The city is all decorated for Christmas
Bon Nadal is Catalan for Merry Christmas
One way I know I'm not in England anymore: Color.
The street popular with tourists called La Rambla, was especially colorful.
Hilda insisted on buying me jamón, thinly sliced cured Spanish ham, a traditional meat found in Spanish markets and almost every bar and restaurant. I've been told that if there is a national dish in Spain, this is it.
Thank you for everything Hilda! As I've never been to a country whose primary language isn't English, I never felt so far from home, so I'm so glad I got to spend my first day in Spain with a friend.