Posted by: Españamanda | September 24, 2009

La Mercè Festival…and stuff

Traditional Figures de La Mercè 2009

Traditional Figures de La Mercè

Ok, ok, i extend my sincerest apologies for leaving my 2 regular blog readers hangin’ on my Spanish adventures!  My visit to Barcelona has been great so far.  Mary Frances and i have spent lots of time exploring her *awesome* neighborhood, La Gracia, and the little cafes, bars, and squares that all seem to be open at alternating and unexpected times of day.  i have been working on some last changes to my thesis (before publication), and until recently, the lack of wifi in Mary Frances’s apartment relegated me to a sweet little cafe down the street called El Bistro.  Over the course of a week i made friends with Carlos and Ilena, the unlikely duo that run the place and are always there to greet the handful of customers who stream in for a bocadillo de tortilla and cerveza on their lunch breaks.

Last weekend we decided to venture out a little more and play tourist.  On Friday, Mary Frances played hooky and we visited La Sagrada Familia, the famed unfinished cathedral of Antoni Gaudi, and the next day, we hopped a train to Figueres, which is only 2 hours away, and is famed as the birthplace of Salvador Dali.  The Dali museum (the reason for our visit) did not disappoint.  A wonderland of the bizarre and an insight into the twisted psyche of Dali, we meandered through rooms with various series of sketches and paintings inspired by historical figures and events, giant objects forming the abstract face of Mae West, and looming, trenchcoated, hollow-eyed dolls that form my worst nightmares.  Outside, in addition to commemorative statues and large paintings, was a massive courtyard streaming classical music from an antique car with a large naked woman on the hood, driven by a creepy legless mannequin.  Totally wild.

In an effort to save money we’ve been preparing a bit more food at home, which involves shopping at one of the many incredible markets located on nearly every corner of the city.  The most famous of course is La Boqueria, in the heart of the city.  Last night we met there to buy some fish (a blog post in itself) and produce.  We started our shopping trip with a couple of cervezas and tapas in an adjoining cafe, and were finishing up just as we heard the approach of what sounded like a Scottish marching band (not kidding).  We paid up and hustled outside in time to see about 15 minutes of a short but impressive parade, kicking off the start of the Festival de Mercè, an end-of-summer tradition honoring Mare de Deu de la Merce, the Patron Saint of Barcelona.  It’s a 5 day festival that includes world-renowned pyrotechnic competitions, fire running, concerts, parades, and the famous castillos, nerve-rattling human towers that reach up to 9 levels.

Today we were invited out for some festival activities by Mary Frances’s boss Eva, and her mother, Marta.   Marta was introduced to us not as Eva’s mother, but as someone we were very fortunate to have along with us… one of the original founders/organizers of the festival!  Despite the panic-attack-inducing crowds, we were treated to a first hand tour and explanation of the origins of many of the festival traditions, and the feisty personality of Marta, who is a total pistol, and probably one of the coolest people i’ve ever met.  Seriously, i would totally hang out with her, like, anywhere, any time.  Also joining us were several of Mary Frances’s coworkers and her neighbor, Regina.  It was a great day getting to know everyone, and an introduction to the festival that we were quite lucky to have experienced.

This weekend there will be a fire running event where flame retardant clothes are encouraged.  Stay tuned for more stories and pictures.  For now, its bedtime. 

Oh, and check out the new albums to the right.  Night!


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