Two weekends in a row I was in the downtown Barcelona. Here are ten pictures of the most touristy part of the city.
I had a chance to spend one hour at the school where my daughter goes. A month ago she told me that she saw two moms of her classmates eating at the school canteen. She learnt that parents can come to school to spend an hour eating the food the kids eat and evaluating the canteen services. It is called Rendez-vous á la cantine. It took me couple of weeks to set the date and prepare the visit together with the school administration. I have been given the rules to follow and a questionnaire to fill in after the visit. The rules were simple: not to disturb children’s routine, quietly observe the children and the school staff, not advise or help children or adults, and not to spend more than one hour on the school patio. The questionnaire was about the quality and quantity of the food, the attentiveness of the canteen staff, the presentation of the food, the state of the food facilities, and the daily habits of the children while eating.
The school where my children go accommodates 2,200 children. The catering service Serunion provides the food for all the children. Every day the children eat their lunch at school.
When I got to the canteen my daughter and her friends have just finished their lunch. She was happy jumping around me for 30 seconds, and then she told me to look for her in the patio after I am done with the food part. She also told me that I was lucky as today they had french fries and hamburger, which happens like once a month.
The canteen was large. One of the staff ladies showed me around and told me how I should proceed. The truth is that I have not been present to the school life since I finished high-school. We are talking about a 20 years gap. Things that are obvious to people working at schools appeared fresh and new to me. I took the tray as I have been told and got a fruit. Somehow the food line started with the dessert. The kids had to chose between an apple or a banana and between a greek yogurt or a cuajada (curdled milk). Then there were glasses for water, napkins, and silverware, including knifes. All kids got a fork, a spoon, and a knife. Next was the broccoli soup. The soup was served as the children arrived. Then there was hamburger (just the meat part, non the bread) and a choice of french fries or fried onions. I went for the oninios. All the kids took the french fries. The last was salad, which included lettuce, tomatoes, hardboiled egg, lentils, carrots, and something else. The bottles of olive oil and vinegar were placed next to the salads. The kids helped themselves to pour those on their plates. The last were two choices of bread: white and wholewheat.
I looked around and found a table with some empty chairs. Each table sits twelve kids and as I have been told each class has two tables assigned to it. There is one canteen lady watching after each class. I was free to chose where to sit. I sat at a table with three kids on my left and two boys on my right. The kids on my left were finishing their food and talking. The boy had bread crumbs around his mouth and he was laughing and talking to the girls next to him. All of them were about six or seven years old. The amazing thing is that all the kids were happy. They laughed, talked, ate, made jokes, asked for more ketchup, and smiled non stop. I did not realize before how happy the kids are. The adults working with the kids seemed happy too. You can’t keep a tough face when kids are laughing and playing around you.
I did not notice how I ate my food. I enjoyed looking at the kids around me. They talked all the time. They were talking in French and making jokes. Probably around lunch time is when kids learn how to become social, how to eat and enjoy a conversation. None of the kids was screaming. Actually they mostly talked in normal voices and I could not always hear what the kids in front of me were saying. But when they laughed I inevitably smiled.
When I finished my lunch I went to the patio to look for my daughter, I knew what patio her class plays in. However, I could not see her there. I met couple of her friends and they all were happy to see me, but they could not tell me where Lorena, my daughter, was. I went inside the building and asked somebody from the school staff if they knew where she could be. I have to tell that around patio there was a lot of school stuff. All of the school staff wore green vests and were easy to recognize. I was not aware that so many people were involved in playing with the kids during the patio time. As soon as I have asked a lady in the green vest about my daughter a group of girls came running to us.
“Who are you looking for?” one of the girls asked.
“I am looking for Lorena. She is the one with two pony tails,” I said. “Do you know her?”
“No,” said one of the girls.
“Lorena Salvado?” said the other. “Yes, I know her. She is a friend of Aitana, right?”
“Yes,” I said.
“And she is a friend of Margot and Leocadie?” the girl asked again.
“Yes,” I answered. “Do you know where she is?”
“She is in the librbary. It is her library time. Do you want me to take you there?” the girl asked.
“Yes, please, ” I said. “What class are you from?”
“I am from CP 3, and she is from CP 4, and she is from CP 1,” she pointed to the other girls. “And Lorena is from CP 6, isn’t she?”
I nodded. CP is the first grade. There are six first-grade classes in the school. The girls took me to the library and showed me where to find Lorena. Once inside I saw her sitting with Aitana and reading books. I told her “Hi” and she run to me, gave me a kiss, and told me, “You did not search for me, right?”. I could feel that she was feeling a little bit awkward seeing me in her world. Thus, I just looked at her for a second, touched her pony tails, smiled, and told her I was going home, and that I loved eating at her canteen and visiting her school. Later in the evening Lorena told me she was nervous seeing me, because she knew she did not want me to leave the school and her heart beat twice as fast the moment she saw me.
Walking back home I thought that I loved her school because the kids were so amazing. They were open, helpful, happy, trustful. They played, talked, smiled, and learnt a great deal of social skills. I did not feel like an intruder, I felt like a guest. And I kept on smiling long after I have crossed the school gate.
I did not take any pictures, the ones I’ve posted here are from LFB website.
El mundo al reves es:
La piscina al reves,
Los arboles al reves,
El mar al reves,
La casa al reves.
(The world in reverse is:
The swimming pool in reverse,
The trees in reverse,
The sea in reverse,
The house in reverse.)
My four-year-old son made this little verse while we were riding a bus to the downtown. We strolled through the touristy streets of Barcelona and ended up at the Liceu. We were sitting in the first row, on the floor, listening to the opera arias performed in the Liceu hall. My son with his eyes fixed on the singer and the pianist. His little body, so stout and strong, felt intense. After couple of arias I asked him, “Do you want to go or to listen more?”.
“I want to listen more,” he replied without looking at me. We sat and listened. I love live music and ballet very much. However, I am not that interested in listening to the same music on CDs or watching the same ballet on my ipad. We rarely have any music playing at home. Like my son, I am absorbed by the beauty and intensity of the sound when it is produced in front of me.
“Shall we go?”
“No. I want to listen more.”
I am actually glad that he wants to listen more. I want it too. It is not comfortable sitting on the floor, but we do not notice it. The deepness of the voice and the music occupies all the space in the hall. The beauty is born at the intersection of the passion with which he listens to the music and the uniqueness of the voice that produces it.
“Shall we go now?”
“Let’s listen more.”
Today we listened to the music and we understood it. It made us experience the sound in a way that left a long lasting impression on how we will live today, tomorrow, and the rest of the days. I know this because we were silent and did not talk. Because we do not like to listen to the same music on the radio. Because we both in order to experience something need to pay full attention to it and understand it.
“Let’s go,” my son stood up and we went towards the exit. He gave me his little hand and I held it tight. On the street he said, “Let’s go get some ice-cream.” And I agreed. Then he added, “Do you remember, mom, this is our world in reverse?”. And he laughed at what we said because he found it very funny.
So, the kids are into cromos. Before they started school I did not know what cromos were. Cromos are those stickers that kids exchange with other kids at school. And sometimes, if they have the special albums they stick those cromos into the right place. There is Peppa Pig albums, Barca albums, Monster High albums, National Geographic albums, Animals albums, Pitufos albums and many more.
You can buy cromos in small envelopes at 0.60 Euros each envelope. There are six cromos inside the envelope. And when you have them in repeat you take them to school and exchange. Similarly to how we exchanged stamps when I was a kid.
At last comes my daughter’s large collection of Monster High cromos. All the girls in her class collected and exchanged those. I refused to buy her the album as I found the images neither esthetic nor elegant. Finally she accumulated a lot of Monster High cromos and persuaded me to get her an album to have her collection organized. When we went to buy the album it was already out of print. Cromos collections are very time sensitive, there are about six to nine months to buy cromos for any specific album. Now her Monster High cromos are safely stored in a metallic box from cookies.
I want to share something really cool that we have just did. It is a lifestyle video, part of a branding campaign for MyrdaJ summer 2014 collection. I am passionate about it because it has a lot of “firsts” in it.
It was the first time I produced a lifestyle video. I asked my best friend and a very talented photographer Noelia to shot the video for me. It was the first video she ever did. As MyrdaJ is a very new fashion line, we did not have the budget to hire a professional model. Thus Noelia asked her friend to be the model for the video. And this was the first time Emma has ever modeled. And I think she is awesome in the video!
From my experience in working with fashion designers and fashion brands, this was the first time that I have been given the carte blanche. Myrda is amazing to work with.
These three women: Myrda, Noelia, and Emma inspire me to go ahead. This is why I am so passionate about what I do every day, and about this video that we have just released.
This is a great start!
Walking with the kids through the city is an adventure in itself. You get to discover buildings, shops, cafes, and plazas. You get to fall in love with the city over and over again. I like Barcelona for its streets, for its trees, for its cafes, and for its people. My mom used to tell all her friends that she loves Barcelona for its balconies. And she was right, those balconies make the streets look delicate.
One of our favorite routes with the children is from our house on Muntaner Street to Placa Catalunya. The route is 4.2 km long and it is mainly downhill (walking towards the sea). We do this route almost weekly with slight variations of the streets we walk on and cafes we stop at. Thanks to these walks the children have a very special relationship with the city, they know it like the palms of their little hands.
“Mi vida dulce,” said my six-year-old at the cafe today while tasting her ice-cream. And then she asked, “Can we walk like this EVERY day?”
The kids stop at every stop light and wait for me. They are used to biking in the city. Here is a small park that is empty right now. In fall and winter a man was selling roasted chestnuts in this park. The kids and me used to buy those at 3 Euros a dozen.
There is a small fruit and vegetable store that is open on Sundays. The kids take a bag and pick some apricots and loquats (nisperos). We get the fruits and they eat one of each right there while riding down the Muntaner Street. Those fruits feel like war trophies for them and they laugh with their mouths full.
We get to the Crusto cafe at the cross of Muntaner and Via Augusta. It has three tables outside and fake olive trees on one side of the tables. The coffee and bread are very good there. Kids share a croissant.
Here is a large house that has all kind of mystery stories around it. The house used to belong to a very rich textile dealer. The man also collected original paintings. In his will he donated his entire art collection to a state museum. However, his daughters decided that this was not fair and sneaked into the house this past winter and “stole” all the paintings. As newspapers said it was due to the high monetary value of the collection.
There is a new Pronovias store opening on the corner of La Rambla de Catalunya. Thirteen years ago I got my wedding dress at one of their stores. When I was twenty-one I remember passing a Pronovias store on Passeig de Gracia and falling in love with one of the dresses I saw in the window. I remember the dress perfectly well even now. Two years later I got married. It took ten months to get my dress done with them. My two roommates used to come with me to the monthly fittings. One of my roommates was Japanese. When I asked her how I looked she said, “Like a tomato”. This was the last thing I expected to hear then. She told me I blushed non-stop while trying the dress. And we all laughed a lot.
Many years have passed. My marriage did not proof to be as strong as it should have been. Still I got two children and I appreciate what I have learnt about myself and others. The friendship with my roommates survived the distance and improved with years. And I realized that I like the fact that Pronovias keeps opening its stores in the city.
We cross Arago Street. The terra-cotta building with wires on top is Tapies museum. I visited it once with my class when I was in the high-school. I remember it was very weird, I could not believe that people seriously thought that this was art.
When we get underground we hear a violin playing a familiar tango. The kids stop and listen. They both want to play violin. They listen and listen till the tango ends. I give them couple of euros and they put them into the violin case. Then they listen some more.
There are two moments of the day that I treasure. First is in the morning when I take my children to school. The second is in the afternoon when I pick them up.
At 7:50am I walk my daughter to the Bonanova church where the school bus picks her up at 8am. She goes to the Pedralbes campus. She is the last kid to enter the bus as we live not far away from the school. Marisol, the woman responsible for the children in the bus smiles cheerfully, calls Lorena “corazon”, and wishes me a great day. The bus driver salutes us and the bus takes off.
At 8:45am my son and me get out of our building and walk to school. Fifteen minutes of jumping, running, hiding, talking, and laughing. Closer to the school gate my son recognizes his friends and sometimes runs to them. The school director greets all the parents at the gate. Once inside the school patio we go to the classroom door, and Carole, my son’s teacher, says, “Bonjour Miro” and “Ça va?”. “Ça va bien,” replies my son.
As a grown-up I have an impression that time runs differently inside the school walls. Like if the care of the teachers, the love of the school personnel, the attention of the bus drivers, the lettuce and strawberry planted by the children, the running little feet, and the children’s smiles made it magical. Every minute has a different purpose. Every word weights differently. Every hand is helping, strong, and kind. Every interaction leaves an impression.
Sometimes when I walk out of the school gate in the morning I feel a little bit silly, like if I was about to cry. Because I see the children’s growth; Because I have the full trust that they are transforming into real people. And this experience, this touch of magic and future, is transforming me too.
I love picking up the kids from school. 4:25pm every day, 3:25pm on Fridays.
Yesterday reading a book to my children I was impressed by the beauty of the word “rien”. Translated from French it means “nothing”. I repeated it in my head many times. When you pronounce it the immenseness of space opens in front of you.
Rien à dire. Rien à faire. Rien à perdre. Rien des problèmes. C’est rien. Rien de rien.
Rien. Nowhere is where you start. Nothing is what you own. These are the most powerful words that exist. They hold the place where you can live, where you can dream, where you can begin.
I was walking down the street this morning amazed by this word and what it entails. Rien.
Poussière (dust) was the other word on my mind. There is a link between these two words. The heartbeat. Both words share the beauty of the space. Both words remind me of this song.
A place to start. A place to end. A place to be.
Our routine changes depending on the place we live in. As we have been moving a lot, our routine consequently changed every year. I remember I read a blog entry by my brother’s friend. She wrote about her routine as a tourist in a new place. The post was a great read. And it made me think that unless I write it down while I am living it, in couple of years from now I will not remember what our routine in Barcelona used to be.
Sunday morning in Barcelona:
9am – The kids wake up and play some noisy game. Today they are playing with their dolls and teddy bears. All the toys fight between them and make a lot of noise. My four-year-old says he is going to put the teddy bears into a prison for making all that noise. Then my six-year-old tries to figure out where he heard the word “prison”. “You have not heard it from me. How do you know it then?” she asks.
9:15am – I get dressed and start making our breakfast while the kids are trying to kill their pajamas, fighting them with their wooden swords. Then we have our breakfast, Russian “oladushki” (pancakes) and some bread with olive oil and tomato (my Catalan upbringing). And coffee.
9:45am – While I hang the freshly washed clothes on the back balcony the kids are getting ready for the bike ride. Every Saturday and Sunday I take them for an hour bike ride in the neighborhood. This is the part of our day I really enjoy.
10am – We are out of the door of our apartment building on the cross of Muntaner Street.
We reach Plaza Bonanova and turn onto Passeig Bonanova. I love this street to go cycling with the kids. On Sunday mornings it is peaceful and quiet. We pass in front of La Salle school where one of my son’s friends go. The school gate is closed.We get to a small ramp that my son uses to zip down to the sidewalk. He does it every day with his scooter when I pick him up from his school. His school is just around the corner.We reach the newspaper stand called Zurich. The kids get down from their bikes and cling to the ball machine. Each ball costs 1 Euro and this time I tell them “no”. Sometimes though they do get a ball each. They call them magic balls.10:20am – We continue our way to Plaza Sarria. We are more than half way there now. There is a gate in the white wall. My kids always stop there. The train (FFCC) line gets out of the tunnel there and if you stay long enough you get to see a train passing by. Today when the kids stopped at the gate, a nun that was next to them stopped too. She asked them if they were waiting for a train to pass by. My kids nodded. The nun smiled and waited a little bit with us.10:30am – We stop at the cafe 5 Pino. It is nice and shady there. There is a small kiddy park where the kids play. There are eight pine trees next to the cafe. I think those are the only pine trees in this area.Sometimes we get a kids’ magazine to read together, and some coffee and croissants.11am – We head to Plaza Sarria, which is just five minutes away. Actually the Sarria church is visible from the cafe. Today at 11:15am we heard the church bells ring for over three minutes. They were announcing the Sunday mass. We stop at the red light in front of Room Service cafe. This cafe has the weirdest opening hours ever. You never know if it is opened or closed. This is Plaza Sarria. Kids bike around it while we watch how the nearby restaurant, Santana, starts setting its tables outside.11:45 – We head back to Passeig Bonanova and towards Plaza Bonanova. The Sarria Church is in the background. We pass by an organic grocery store. Surprisingly it is opened on Sunday. It always has some wonderful basket with seasonal vegetables next to its door. We bike by the shade of the fence of the Mexican consulate. It is almost noon when we turn right on Mandri Street and go one block down. We pass Doctor Coffee (closed), Cafe Mandri (closed), and another bar that is open, but I do not remember its name. It has a large TV outside and people come there to watch football games each night.12 (noon) – We reach Plaza Bonanova and go to Fornet to get some fresh bread. We can hear the bells of the Bonanova church while we wait in line to buy the bread.12:05pm – We get the fresh bread and go home. Here it is looking back at the church from the corner of our apartment building. End of our morning trip 🙂
At the end of April we did something new and fun: we signed up for a Roman Gardening excursion. It took place in a Roman vila, La Vil.la Romana del Munts, not far away from Tarragona (Spain). The two hour activity is geared towards the kids and grown-ups. We went with our children ages 6 and 4. The six-year-old participated fully in all the activities. The four-year-old enjoyed the activities such as gardening and skin-lotion making with a Roman recipe. The rest of the time he tried to reconstruct the vila and climb the roman walls. And, no, he did not do much damage to the original Roman construction and I was grateful for the patience the guide had with us. He did not even notice how our son built a small fort in the middle of the hortus, how he hung on the olive tree, and how he tried to hit the 2000 y. o. aqueduct with 2000 y.o. stones (we stopped him on time). Spanish people have an amazing way with children.
I am going to post some images and notes about the excursion and the activities.
Here we are at the beginning of the activity talking about the structure of the Roman vila and where the baths and the housing were located. In its time this vila was very rich, it belonged to the high official of Tarraco (Tarragona). It even had a private aqueduct for watering the fields and the gardens.
Termes. The “baths” of the vila. The baths consisted of dressing area, hot therms, and then cold therms. There was a marble incrustation along all the therms, a sign of richness.
The plants that Romans planted in this region and how do we know about it.
The guest-rooms in the vila. Each guest-room consisted of two spaces, entrance room and bedroom. You can see floor mosaics and some frescos on the wall.
The part of the guest-space in the vila.
Kids following the gardening trolley back to the garden area.
Walking inside of the Roman baths.
The Roman garden (hortus) viewed from the therms.
Hortus was a flower and spice garden that Romans planted close to the therms. They used it for relaxation and pleasure.
The leaves of acant. Many columns’ capitals were decorated with this plant. Below I posted an image of a column with the capital decorated with the acant leaves.
Working with lavender in the Roman garden.
Tables set with ingredients for making skin lotion following a Roman recipe.
The skin lotion was made of lavender, honey, olive oil, and clay powder. I tried the lotion on my face and hands. It is really sticky. Romans probably washed themselves throughly after using those lotions :).
Kids enjoyed forming groups and making the skin lotion.
My son having a blast with powdered clay.
The Roman vila is located in a small Mediterranean town called Altafulla. The beach was beautiful and peaceful that morning.
At 10am everybody was still asleep in this small town. Coffee at the empty cafe on the beach.I was surprised at the amount of nowadays plants that Romans used to plant. At the end of the activity each of us was given a booklet with the names of all the plants that Romans planted in this region.
Here are some of the plants from this list: