Monthly Archives: January 2009


elizadee is the name of the beautiful new Etsy shop started by my sister. She is selling some stunning screenprints there, so go check it out. She also does wonderful and original custom embroidery work and makes custom screen print portraits. Here’s part of the portrait she did of my son — not for sale, but all she needs is a digital photo to make one for you of anyone you like:

Museu Frederic Mares

It’s not so much each individual statue; it is the volume of them all there together. (You can click the photos for more detail)

When they were first painted and carved in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, each parish church must have had one. They wouldn’t have ever seen then all massed together like we do, in this museum and at every episcopal museum in the country.

Some Marys have crowns, while others are simply veiled.

These weren’t the only objects Mares collected. The remaining floors of the museum are filled with rooms containing such random objects as pipes, fans and fan holders, holy water stoups, cigar bands, playing cards, images of Montserrat, scissors, bedpans, carved shells, candle snuffers, creche figures, and really anything else you could gather in mass between the Roman era and the early twentieth century.

Inauguration, as viewed from Barcelona

I watched the inauguration among a crowd of others at a party given by the American Society at the Meridien Hotel at Barcelona. It is really hard to get a good idea of how many people were there because we ended up split into so many places, from the main room, to the overflow room and then out to the bar and restaurant, but we must have numbered in the hundreds, and our presence was well covered by the Catalan media.
Anyway, here is how the moment looked to us.
I lost it early on, when Malia and Sasha came onto the screen for the first time and I realized, not for the first time, that these little girls who are going to live in the White House had ancestors who came to the States in chains.

I loved Aretha, Rev. Lowery’s benediction, the poem, Obama’s speech. And I adore Michelle’s gloves!

Souvenir of Girona

One of my favourite novels is Carol Shields’ The Republic of Love and it explains why I collect medieval mermaid carvings wherever I find them. This is a column capital from the cloister of Sant Pere de Galligants and you can see a merman, and around the corner, a mermaid.

Mercat de la Boqueria

I’ve promised a lot of people a food post and I’m sorry it has been delayed, but here it is now.  I’m a passionate food tourist — I can even spend an hour or so happily in a perfectly ordinary foreign supermarket — and one of my great griefs on earlier trips to Spain has been that I haven’t had anywhere to cook the wonderful food I see.  Well, this time around, I have a tiny kitchen and one of the best markets in Barcelona across the street from me so I am making up for lost time.  Check it out:

Can you believe that wonderful fish and shellfish?  One of the things that fascinates me is how all the vendors seem to follow rules about what they can sell.  Poultry sellers sell game, but not other meat.  Fresh pork sellers sell charcuterie (embotits) but not beef.  Beef and lamb can be sold together.  And offal is all sold at the same few shops.

Here are some raw materials about to be cooked by me:

These are tiny lamb chops and some “pimientos de padron.”  These peppers are blistered briefly in oil, salted and eaten.  I’d read about them many times, but never eaten them before.

This is a dish I made from a fish and some tomatoes I bought.  The fish was a “dorada,” a farmed fish, very cheap, and it was sold like all fish are in this market, not only whole but ungutted.  The guts will make a fish spoil faster, so their presene is a sign of freshness.  Thank goodness, the nice fish ladies with the big knives will gut and scale them for you.  

Els Reis Mags

Every year, on January 5th, the Three Wise Kings arrive in the port of Barcelona from the Netherlands on their ship, the Santa Eulalia. They then process through the city of Barcelona in a great cavalcade, with all their friends, throwing candy to the children — some fifteen tons of it.

  There’s Melchior.












  And Gaspar, accompanied by my favourite Bollywood soundtrack album.









  And then with much fanfare…










  …And one of Hannibal’s elephants, last but not least…












  …Comes Balthazar!












  He’s followed by a few camels.





  (Okay, the part about the Netherlands was a joke.)

  Happy Epiphany!






Santiago Matamoros

Santiago — Saint James — can be found in several different guises. There’s James at the Transfiguration; my favourite, James as a medieval pilgrim; and this version I found in Barcelona on what was probably a church belonging to the military Order of Santiago, Santiago Matamoros, Saint James the Moor-slayer.

James as a bloodthirsty slayer of Muslims, very medieval and crusade-y, no? Well, no, or at least, not as much as you might expect. While the ideas behind this image come from the time when Christians and Musims fought for contro of the peninsula, most of the actual images showing James on a horse, trampling a beleaguered Moor actually date from a time after 1492, the date when the Muslims lost control of Granada, their final stronghold in the peninsula. This one is dated 1580.

I guess it is easier to imagine yourself as a valiant slayer of infidels once they have already been soundly vanquished.


So here I am, in Barcelona for most of the rest of the month. Why yes, that is a palm tree in the background. So what was the temperature in Chicago today? Oh. Sorry. (hee hee hee)

To be honest, it isn’t all that warm here, and it is kind of grey and cloudy, which is why I haven’t taken more photos. Typical European winter. And actually I like the cold. (No, honestly, I do. Really.) But it is warm enough to go without a hat or gloves, or to sit outside in a cafe with a coat on, so I am content.

More, soon.