The Catalan flag.
Scene...My husband and kids had just finished watching the Barca vs Madrid futbol (soccer) game in our hotel in Sevilla (southern Spain) with a room full of Madrid fans. It wasn't necessarily that these people were from Madrid. Probably most of them weren't. However, they likely all identify much more with Madrid, which is definitively Spanish, than they do with Catalan Barca. It was ugly. Madrid won and my husband had to suffer an entire room full of loud cheering and chair banging. Even I - a non-fan of most all sports - am upset by Barca's loss. After the game my husband was visibly irritated and in a very foul mood. He has become a solid futbol fan since our move to Barcelona. Apparently he's been drinking lots of Barca koolaid and I'm pretty sure he now has the colors of the Catalan flag running through his blood. This was an actual conversation during our walk to dinner tonight (at 10 pm)...
Daughter: Dad, Madrid did play better. Madrid is a better team lately.
Husband: Whatever. Then you can just go ahead and move to Madrid, miss-Madrid-is-a-better-team. Hasta la vista. Why don't you just zip it?
(insert howling laughter from me and my daughter...)
Side note: Lunch after 2pm and dinner at 10 pm seems COMPLETELY normal to us now, another sign that we are successfully integrating into our host culture.
I travelled back, sans family, to my Arizona hometown this past week for work. I stayed awake during the entire 18 hour journey (flights and layover) which meant virtually no jet lag for the whole week. The huge traffic lanes and lack of driving chaos in my hometown actually made me nervous. I have grown used to driving in lanes that are approximately 1/3 the size, having a jillion scooters weaving all around me, and traffic "suggestions" rather than enforced laws. Work went well and I also managed to see some great friends, visit my grandmother and parents, and eat Mexican food and some other hometown favorites. If you ever visit Tucson, El Charro Mexican restaurants are worth the visit (http://www.elcharrocafe.com/). The picture above is an El Charro birria green chili chimichanga enchilada style, with Mexican rice and refried beans. This can only be ingested about once per year. I was blessed with the beautiful Arizona sunset shown above the evening before I headed back home to Barcelona. I had to buy a new large suitcase to accommodate all the stuff I bought in the US to bring back with me...food, and socks and underwear for my kids. The former consisted on things we can't get (or are very hard to find) in Barcelona...regular Cheerios, instant oatmeal, Goldfish crackers, Cheez-its, Kool-Aid, instant gravy mix, pancake syrup (about $3 for a big bottle in the US vs. about 13 euros/about $16 in the import aisle here for a small bottle), American candy and all things spicy...Cholula's Hot Sauce, Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce, Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, and Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce. The socks and underwear cost about 1/3 the price in the US. I maxed out the weight allowance on all of my checked bags, hoped for the best and was happy to find that everything survived the trip home. And it really did feel like home during the taxi ride from the airport. I arrived at 8:30 this morning and spent the day in downtown Barcelona with my husband and kids.
New Barcelona factoids and recommendations...
1) There is a great English language bookstore called Come In Libreria Anglesa at Balmes 129 Bis. http://www.libreriainglesa.com/catalog2/
2) There is a fantastic traditional Catalan chocolate shop called Bomboneria Mauri that has been in business since 1929. The address is Rambla de Cataluña, 102, 08008 Barcelona, Spain. The white "Bon Nadal" (Merry Christmas in Catalan. Bone Festes - pronounced sort of like Bo-neh Fest-ehs - and one other phrase I can't remember also have the same meaning) chocolate cups above were purchased there.
3) Alarcon is a cool, inexpensive home decorating store with 3 locations in Barcelona. See www.latiendadealarcon.com
4) You will often hear locals refer to, and see the bathroom labeled as, el Lavabo (pronounced la-bob-o, literally translates as "sink") rather than el baño (pronounced bon-yo, which literally translates as "bath"). Either will work, but I hear the former far more often than the latter.
5) The ratoncito (tooth mouse) is the Spanish equivalent of the tooth fairy. He also leaves money or presents.
6) Barcelona (affectionately known as Barca, pronounced Bar-sa) is playing futbol (soccer) against Real (pronounced ray-al, meaning royal) Madrid right at this very moment. Barcelona just scored and the requisite fireworks, which sound like gun shots, just rang through our neighborhood. One of our dogs always goes nuts.
Random Italy factoids:
1) a piadina is an Italian flatbread that looks almost just like a Mexican tortilla, but I am told tastes slightly different. I haven't tried one yet and haven't seen one in Spain so far.
2) Passito is a delicious, very sweet wine made from raisins. We had one that was bright yellow (not limoncello) as an after-dinner drink like a liqueur.
After breaking part of his hip in a fall recently, Ebro is confined to stall rest for a month. However, the vet has given the go-ahead to hand walk him daily to decrease the swelling in his left hind leg. He is no longer lame at the walk and is handling the stall rest and extra attention from German Lady very well. I bought a western-style rope halter with no breakable metal hardware while I was in the states for future use on Ebro as a lot of what I've read argues that it's better for the halter not to break with horses who have a habit of pulling back...so long as a quick release safety knot is used if they really get into trouble. Until Ebro is given a clean bill of health we will not tie him at all.