Sunday, February 24, 2013

Carnaval and the Santa Eulalia Festival

So many festivals in Barcelona!  We were particularly looking forward to the Carnaval festivities, since Billy has been to Mardi Gras several times in New Orleans.  There were banners and signs all over the streets that announced the week-long festivities and the locations of all of the parades.  In Catalan, Carnaval (Carnival in English) is called Carnestoltes.  It starts one week before Lent, on "Fat Thursday" and lasts until Ash Wednesday, where the tradition calls for the burning of sardines, which signifies the rebirth of society.

We looked up the parades for our area (El Barri Gotic) and made sure to be at the first stop for each of them.  We were dismayed because instead of the big parade with floats and revelry that we are used to and expected, there was a small parade that lasted all of 5 minutes.  Since it was the start of the Carnaval (Dijous Gras, Fat Thursday), we thought that there would be more goings on and bigger parades throughout the weekend.

Dijous Gras

Each neighborhood, barrio, has a Carnaval representative (ambassadors) and each neighborhood gets a certain color.  These are children from the neighborhood of Sants/Montjuic.

These are children representing Les Corts/Pedres-Albes.

I took video of the parade instead of photos, but this literally was it...a lot of kids walking through the town and then this guy, el Rei Carnestoltes (the Carnival King), rode up in a carriage, talking to everyone through a speaker phone.

I guess we should have followed him to the end point, which is called La Taronjada (The Orange).  Since we had no clue that this was going to happen, we turned around and went walking through El Born.  When we saw a bunch of kids walking around with big, fat, orange balloons, Des took notice and envy set in.  He wanted an orange balloon, too (balloons have been his favorite thing for the past year).  I ran up to a man and his daughter and asked him where they had received their balloons.  As I was breaking the distressing news to Des, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to find the same little girl handing me her balloon to give to Des.  I could have hugged her.  I said, "Gracias!" a million times to the father and daughter and gave Des the balloon, beaming.  I felt like Mom of the Year and I patted myself on the back on another day saved.

Until..."Mami, Des have other boon?"  He threw a tantrum as I crouched down, in the middle of the sidewalk as tons of other little kids with their big, orange balloons walked by, to explain to him that there were no more balloons to be had.  Thank God Desigual (a Spanish clothing store) was handing out red, heart-shaped balloons to promote a sale.

That weekend, we got ready for the "real" parade, the big parade showcasing the king and all of his ambassadors.  For Carnival, children (and adults) dress up in Costume.  It's like Halloween.  The morning of the parade, as we were getting ready, I showed Des a google images search of kids with their faces painted. Out of all the cool dragons and snakes and lions that children had painted on their faces, Des picked Spider Man (or, as they say here, el Hombre Arana).

I know what you're thinking.  I should be hired to work at events and JUST do kids' face painting.  I know.  Maybe in  a few years I'll consider a new career and showcase my artistic talents in face painting.

This is the ambassador from Sants/Montjuic.

Des and Bill watching the parade.  

The ambassador from Sarria/Sant Gervasi.

The obligatory "Des! Stand over there and let me take a picture of you!  Hurry!" shot.

The ambassador from Gracia.

The obligatory "Hurry, Bill!  Get Des and me in this shot!  Des, stop waving your arm!" said through gritted teeth.

Group of the Ambassador from Sant Andreu.

All of the colors of the barrios.

Aaaaand, that was the entire parade.  Des and Billy's face say it all.
 Festes de Sant Eulalia
Sant Eulalia is the co-patron saint of Barcelona.  She was a Roman living in Barcino who would not recant her Christianity.  Therefore, legend has it that she suffered 13 tortures and died at only 13 years of age.  She is much loved by the city and especially by the children of the city.  Around her feast day, February 12, Barcelona holds a festival in her honor.  During the festival, there are lots of music and dance performances throughout Barri Gotic, which culminate in a parade of "Giants" and fireworks.  Des loved the giants but wanted nothing to do with the fireworks.

Des doing his best dragon impression.  All of these "giants" are worn by people who parade down the narrow streets of Barri Gotic.  Some of the giants have little holes in them so that people could see where they were going.  I'm not sure how it's done with this particular dragon.

Des, doing horns with his fingers.

He was so excited to see this.  He has been on a dragon kick ever since he saw the dragon in Shrek.  

Both of us were unsure if this was meant to be a chicken or what.  Des kept calling it the "Big Gallina."

The colors of Catalunya and Spain: red and yellow.

This one he kept calling "Big Gallina," too, but it was actually the royal Eagle.

Giant people.

More giant people.

Parade in our neighborhood featuring different ethnicities that are represented in El Raval.  Here we have the Filipino group.

Native South Americans.

I'm not sure what the story is behind this tradition, but this group, especially the preschoolers up at the top with the helmets, were fun to watch.

The last night, they had what they call a "carrefoc," where people, including children!, in devil's costumes do a fireworks show.  We were so close to the fire and there were so many people, I wondered about the safety of it all.

Des didn't enjoy it as much as I did.  He had his ears covered and shook his head no the whole time.  The only time he enjoyed himself was when the dragon came out spewing fireworks from his mouth.

Llum BCN
During the Festes Sant Eulalia, the city puts on "Llum BCN."  Llum means "light" in Catalan.  At night, the city lights up the facades of buildings around the city and each night, does a light show on the facade of the Mayor's office building in Plaza Sant Jaume.

This building is a few blocks away from our house.  

The start of the light show.

This was by far the best event that the city put on.  The light show was incredibly well-done and we all enjoyed it immensely.  
So, not so much debauchery from the Thomases...but then again, there wasn't much to be had.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Trying to travel through the terrible twos

I loooove alliteration.

OK, so I'm a huge advocate for traveling just as much (at least!) now when you have children as you did PC (pre-children).  Traveling has always been one of the greatest loves of my life (in addition to delicious foods, sweets, feel-good movies, and Billy) and it would depress me when I would get advice while pregnant such as, "do as much as you can now because when baby comes, your life as you know it is all over."  I'd look up at Billy, with tears welling in my eyes, and would pout, "But I LIKE my life as it is."

Parents-to-be, yes!  Your life does change.  DRASTICALLY.  I suggest you find ways to cope with the "disturbance" because if you don't, you'll end up resenting parts of your new life and trust me...that's no way to start off your lifelong relationship with your little guy or girl.  So, Billy and I decided that as much as possible, we were going to continue doing the things that make us super happy: eating good food and traveling.  And although we now usually take lengthy (but fun!) road trips to get to where we are going (first, being able to stop wherever and whenever we want was important so that Des could stretch his little baby legs and second, once your kid turns two years old, you're screwed.  You have to start paying for him to have a seat on an airplane.  It sucks but it sure is nice once they have their own seat.), we still haven't stopped traveling simply because we have a toddler.

That said, knowing what we know now after having done transatlantic travel, we would never, EVER take a relatively short trip spanning more than 4 time zones with a toddler.  It took Desmond almost 2 weeks to adjust to the time difference.  We would have adjusted faster had we not had to stay up night after sleepless night with an energetic, rambunctious toddler.  I can't imagine trying to sightsee and play tourist in a foreign city under those conditions only to come straight back home after a few days and struggle with the change in time again.  However, ALL children are different and will react to the time change differently.  I don't know if I would take my own advice if an opportunity arose to travel to, say, Japan for a week, but as of today, I would firmly say no way.

The last few weeks (this month, he hit the 2.5 year mark) have been incredibly trying for us.  Des has been acting out (I mean growling at us, swiping and punching us, etc) nearly every single day.  The days where he doesn't nap are the worst.  I can understand and sympathize with parents now who want to restrict their children's access to certain movies and shows.  I used to think that those parents were really overreacting and that I grew up watching tons of cartoons and that didn't turn me into a (killer/rapist/terrorist/insert your own bad person noun).  However, after watching Shrek 3.5 million times, we noticed that he mimics stuff that Shrek does and mimics some of the fighting that occurs.  Since we made the obvious connection, it has only been Yo Gabba Gabba and Winnie the Pooh for Des, and we've even restricted that.

I tell you what...dealing with the tantrums and the behavioral issues RUINS entire days for me.  I'm trying to deal with it in a respectful and patient matter, but seriously.  How many times as adults are you faced with a person who is completely insubordinate to you all the time? Who questions your every judgment and always yells at you?  Who lashes out and hits you?  Would you like to calmly tell that person that they should not hit people, it isn't very nice?  I have to struggle to remember that this is a little boy who can't communicate very well and who needs to run a few laps around the playground every day to get rid of all his pent up energy.  But seriously, dealing with the terrible twos is EXHAUSTING and not conducive to traveling or touristing.

In light of that, we haven't been touristing as much as we would like.  We've stayed home and have done nothing for quite a few days, which was rather nice, but always regrettable the next day when you realize how cool it is in the city you live in and wonder how you could ever spend a day not exploring your surroundings.

We had walked by the Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona (CCCB) several times while strolling through our neighborhood.  We kept putting it off because it was so close and we felt that we could see it anytime we wanted.  This particular weekend, they had advertised a children's event.  We ended up walking in on the wrong day but decided to do the tour of the museum anyway.  The main exhibit was entitled "El Paralel," which is the name of one of the streets that forms the borders of El Raval, our neighborhood.  I felt ho-hum about the whole thing - who cares about a stupid street, right? - but was very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the exhibit.  It seriously was one of the best exhibits I have ever been to.  Too bad that the exhibit shuts down at the end of this month...

The exhibit focused on the impact El Raval had on the performing arts in Barcelona.  El Raval is and has always been a working-class neighborhood.  Earlier, it was known as a very seedy neighborhood where you went to escape the niceties and prim culture of the rest of Barcelona.  These dolls (creepy, right?) belonged to a local magician named Roca. He was also a ventriloquist and was a pretty big deal near the turn of the 20th century.

Posters of the Magician Roca.  The amount and quality of posters printed for the events that occurred at the turn of the 20th century was impressive and worth the small price of admission to the museum.

You have to click on this picture and make it bigger so that you can see what it says.  These are pamphlets called Guias Nocturnas (Nocturnal Guides).  As you might imagine, these were guides that told you names and addresses for all the prostitutes working in the area in addition to the amount that they charged.  Lawmakers in Barcelona felt that prostitution was a necessary evil and so had it regulated as much as possible.

These were documents/licenses for the prostitutes.  With them, they could show that they had been tested for disease and had complied with the local laws of prostitution.  Notice how happy the woman in the bottom left looks!  She looks like someone who I would hire as the perfect nanny for Des!

This cartoon sums up in a picture the difference in how the public would spend an afternoon at the Passeig de Gracia (where all of the rich people lived) and contrasted it with how the public would spend an afternoon in El Raval.
 That same day, there was to be a puppet demonstration at our favorite bookstore in the neighborhood, La Central del Raval.  Lucky for us, CCCB allowed readmission to the exhibit the same day along with an additional day in the next month (so we made sure to keep our ticket stubs just in case!)

Look at his feet!  They are getting so big...

I'm not sure what the history of puppetry is in Catalunya, but the Catalan love puppets!  There are several troupes here that do puppet shows and you can find a showing practically every day somewhere in Barcelona.  Since this one was a mini-demonstration and FREE, we thought we would test Des's paying-attention skills in order to gauge whether or not we would drop the big bucks on an actual show.

We will probably wait a few more months to take him.  As you can tell, he wasn't giving 100% attention and left shortly thereafter to look at the sticker books (which are of amazing quality here!).

We then stopped by our favorite pastry shop, La Mistral, and picked up a few croissants to eat as a snack before we headed back out to the museum.  We have noticed that Des unfortunately inherited my hanger gene and he could get quite irritable when hungry.  No brainer, I know, but sometimes, once the kids start talking and being even remotely reasonable, you forget that they still lack social skills and can be set off on a tantrum for any reason, including being hungry.  I can empathize.

We went back to the museum and spent most of the time in the prostitute section.  These are ads for condoms.  Nice looking ads, right?
So what ends up happening to these "ladies of the night" is that they start getting day jobs as singers and actresses.  A long time ago, I guess it was considered vulgar for a woman to be an actress, so the most "vulgar" of the women chose to take this path and it was these prostitutes who became the first "stars."

A poster denouncing the evils of Cocaine.  Parents, print this out and put it in your child's bedroom.  I guarantee he or she will be scared of that drug for the rest of his or her life.

I love these old revue posters, all done around the turn of the 20th century in the modernist style.  The focus of the rest of the exhibit was on the contributions that this area of Barcelona made to theatre in the form of song and dance (magic shows, vaudeville, mini-operas, burlesque etc)

I loved all of the old type!

If I could hire the exhibit designer to interior design my future house, I would.
This video link will give you a glimpse (and you get to hear a bit of the music from the era) of the exhibit.

I came out of the exhibit feeling more excited about choosing to live where we do in Barcelona and appreciating the "vulgar" history of this beautiful, eclectic neighborhood.

We also went to El Museu Blau, the Blue Museum.  I was so excited to visit this one since natural history museums are the best.  On Sundays, the museum is free and they also offer kids activities throughout the day.    The kids workshop was awesome.  It is open-ended (meaning, there wasn't a "teacher" type explaining was more about observation and using your five senses to describe what is in front of you). I could've stayed at each station for a while, but Des's attention span was of the 2 minute variety.

Trying to explain to Des how teeth can tell you what kind of food an animal eats.

Trying on different antlers and horns.

The outside of the Museu Blau.

Des was unsure about the motorized and metallic crab whose inner computer can follow you if you walk this way or that.
This is THE face he has been using with us lately when he is angry.  Sometimes, he'll even tilt his head down, furrow his brow, and glare at us like that.  And then he'll say, "Des, mean guy!"

This is the way I wish every day was like: Des paying rapt attention to every word I say...

And me, teaching him amazing, beautiful things.
When you can't make it home in time for a nap, sitting like this is the next best thing.  Until he falls out because the wheels of the stroller get caught in between two cobblestones and Des isn't wearing his seatbelt so flies out of the seat and lands on his face.  Happened twice and now he ASKS for his seatbelt to be put on.