Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Enter the bullring but please spare the bull.....

My lovelies, dear readers, beware... you might not like this I'm taking you to la Plaza de toros in Granada. Monchéri and I ended up there last week as I had a routine checkup in the Hospital San Cecilio which is next to the bullring. Although Monchéri is not an aficionado (bullfight lover) - the only one time, he went to the bullring was to attend a concert of Sting - that day, he shared my curiosity and we actually had lots of fun taking pictures there.
I visited la Plaza de Toros in Sevilla, a few years ago and I must say the bullring in Granada pales in comparison. Still, imagine what it might feel like to enter the arena
you choose your seat between shade or sun. Of course, as everybody wants to be in the shade, seats in the sun are cheaper. We thought the cement steps looked a bit decrepit and uncomfortable. You can actually rent a cushion to sit comfortably
this is the door through which the bull enters the arena

the door is opened by a mechanism of ropes tied to several grates like this

when I took flamenco classes in Paris, we once had the visit of a young torera who taught us a few pasos. Here I'm trying a media veronica (this paso consists of presenting the cape to the bull) but please note, the feet position is totally wrong

olé ! at least I have one supporter....
The surrounding buildings include a chapel, an emergency room and...a butcher's shop
As much as I enjoy the aesthetic aspect of the pasos (steps) and the gracefulness of the matador, I'm definitely against the killing of the bull and the pain inflicted on the animal. I heard some people declare that the bull feels no pain, which is such a stupid and ignorant thing to say. Monchéri explained to me that in very very few cases, when the toro fought bravely, the audience asks he be spared. As you can imagine, Spanish people are quite divided on the subject. Some Andalusian friends even asked me to write here on my blog, that in their mind la corrida is not at all representative of Spanish culture. In Cadix, the external wall of the bullring reads : Aqui se maltratan animales (here animals are injured). The message is constantly erased but reappears the next days.

so no...I don't think I'll ever watch a bullfight. Monchéri thinks I should experience it once. For now, let's enter the taberna and have a fresh cerveza
and meditate on these few lines written by Hemingway, perhaps the biggest non Spanish aficionado, in Death in afternoon (1932), about what he called the art of bullfighting : "He (the toreador) must have a spiritual enjoyment of the moment of killing.." we say in colloquial Spanish, este concept no va conmigo meaning I can't quite swallow the concept...
How about you ?

pics : me, Monchéri

Monday, April 27, 2009

This is no country for hard workers....

You know the saying, the grass is always greener somewhere else....In that case, I should say, the sea is always more blue under other skies. No, I'm not referring to my beloved Andalusia but to another little corner of the world not so far away : Oia in Santorini island, in the Aegan sea. A few days ago, I received a very nice email from a new blogger who settled on the island with his wife and kids, bought a cave and made a cosy nest for his family. Michael invited me to have a look at his blog which is a real "invitation au voyage". And it's my pleasure today to invite you to discover this tiny paradise, if you don't know it yet.
apparently, this is no country for hard workers and yet...
you see, when you build a house in a cave, there is a lot to dig and consequently lots of dirt, which piles up then has to be collected and transported by mules. So yes, here are some of the hard workers !
but then, when the hard work is finished, you can always relax in front of a glass of ouzo and a plate of grilled the sea, of course
or take a walk in the country side and visit the church
and admire the view from there might not be a country for hard workers but it is definitely inspiring to artists. Michael's wife creates ceramics, textiles, jewelry and handpainted cards. Here are some pics of her beautiful work...

all pics are Michael's

well....after visiting Michael's blog, Monchéri said we should forget about Formentera, Mallorca and that Oia was the next place to visit....we'll see !

My lovelies, I wish you a very good week...I hope to be back on wednesday, my computer is still a bit ill and needs more medication.

May I ask a bit of your time and visit a dear blogging friend, Julie from Tangobaby ? Julie lives in San Francisco and recently started a blog called i live here : SF, about the people who live there. A few days ago, as she was walking in the street, she met Kelaya and her kids. Kelaya is an abused woman who is now homeless with her kids. When Julie passed by her, she was holding a sign reading : Please help, we need 60$ for a motel room. At first Julie, just kept walking but then she had seen the tears in this woman's eyes and turned back and gave the woman 30$. The two women talked and because Julie has a very generous heart, and Kelaya's story moved her, she sought to organize some help for this woman and her little kids. She set up a paypal account on her blog, asked her blogging friends if perhaps we could help by spreading the story, giving a bit of money, and when I say a bit, it could be 1$ or 2$ or 5$. Of course, we cannot carry all the weight of the world but helping each other is certainly one of the most beautiful things in this world. Thank you for reading this....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Moorish tearoom which almost could

One day, I will have to count the number of Moorish tearooms which exist in Granada. We were quite happy to find this new one hidden in the labyrinth of narrow streets in the Albayzin district.
When we pushed the door open, the owner quickly set up to clean the tables and mop the floor. Well...obviously he wasn't expected anyone before 6pm maybe.

He made us choose a seat but then I discovered the lovely terrace and told him it would be nice to sit outside. He looked very sad and apologetically said lo siento tanto pero ya no podemos usar la terraza porque es una terraza comun entre vecinos y a ellos no le gusta la idea - I'm so sorry, we can't use the terrace anymore because we share it with the neighbors and they don't like the idea of having tables outside.
oh we stayed inside...I never tried one of these. I think they look quite decorative

pics : me
Teteria de los Baños Arabes
Albayzin- Granada

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Las horas inmobiles...the immobile hours

I didn’t have the use of my computer yesterday. The poor one needed to be taken to the emergency room for a quick operation. While nervously waiting for its recovery I stayed at home and revisited one of my favorite books Mon dernier soupir (My last sigh) by Spanish director Luis Buñuel written in collaboration with his long time scenarist Jean-Louis Carrière.

This semi biography is a collection of Buñuel's memories of his childhood spent in a village called Calenda, in the Aragon province, his stay at the Residencia in Madrid where he made friends with poet Federico Garcia Lorca and Salvador Dali along with many other Spanish intellectuals and artists. The reader follows his path to Paris, where his first movie Un chien andalou, made with Dali, met a total success with the French surrealist group which enthusiastically accepted him in their circle, then on to Hollywood, Madrid, Paris again...

I read this book many years ago before settling in Spain and at that time I didn't know I would one day, live in this country. It surely gave me an insight into Spain’s history. But more than anything, My Last Sigh is the captivating story of a man who loved his art, treasured his friendships, had political convictions, and preferred the power of imagination to rational thinking. Several times, I tried to find an explanation for a gesture, in This obscure object of desire, for instance or analyze The Phantom of Liberty but as Buñuel said, he didn't know himself why he had the sudden impulse to direct a scene this way. He just knew he had too.

I'm rather monomaniac in terms of books. There are always two or three books I need to read again and again from time to time. My Last Sigh is one of them, because I can open it at any page and feel drawn to such episode or thought. You will not find much detail about the shooting of his movies, the choices of actors but rather anecdotes and memories of his contemporaries. To put it simply, this book is more about the essence of a man.

Born in 1900, Luis Buñuel was the son of a rich landowner. His father left Spain and made a fortune in Cuba then came back to Spain where he established himself with his family in Saragossa. Buñuel depicts a very happy and sheltered childhood at a time when society was very strict about the delimitations of classes. According to Buñuel, his father didn't do much during the day. After breakfast, he would shave and dress, read the newspapers then would go out to check if his cigars had arrived from La Havana, do some errands, and buy some wine or caviar. He never carried his purchases (except the caviar), to comply with the etiquette. After lunch and the necessary siesta, a change of clothes was compulsory to go to the club where his father played bridge and tresillo with friends until dinner time.

Yesterday, while reading these anecdotes about Buñuel's childhood and his father's lifestyle, I remembered the very first years I spent in Spain on the coast with my ex boyfriend (a very amusing Polish/Scottish/French man). We lived practically on the beach in a very nice flat and our life was slow, filled with walks to the market, swimming and sunbathing. The only thing to deplore was the total lack of real Spanish connections.

And then one day, it changed totally. Someone told us of a very eccentric old aristocrat living near us in a former olive oil mill. We knocked at his door and this is a long story but my ex boyfriend and J. immediately liked each other and from then on, not a day was spent without receiving a call from our new found friend. Although he rejected the rigid code of his family and upbringing, and claimed himself de la izquierda (leftist), he was still maintaining su manera de ser (his way) as he used to say, which was more or less similar to Buñuel's father. J. was an antique dealer, except that he resented parting from his beautiful objects so if someone was interested in buying something he would give a ridiculously high price, so of course he never sold anything. J. got up around 10h30, then had a strong breakfast of toast with tomato and sardines. One hour later, he would call us, proposing we go to the market all together. We bought mainly fish and fruit. Then it was aperitivo time on the beach or in one of the little bars in the village. At the beginning, I found it quite pleasant to sip cold manzanilla while eating fresh grilled gambas with plenty of garlic and gradually I didn't see the point of buying food for lunch if obviously we were not going to have it for lunch as we usually ended the aperitivo around 2 o'clock. Well, we had lunch after that, at our flat or at J's mill. Naturally, we parted after lunch, to have a siesta. Around 6h30, the two men would play pool at the mill while I prepared some gin tonic. From time to time J. would invite some friends who had the same lifestyle. It was fun to watch and we sometimes had lively conversations about politics. One of my favorite things was to translate everyday a few pages of Buñuel's biography to J's friends. They enjoyed it but confessed having seen very few movies of the Spanish director. I was thankful to J. for introducing us to his world and his friends. I learned a bit about some aspects of Spanish society and its evolution. I couldn't believe my ears when one of the friends told me, on the day of his marriage, in the 50s, as he was entering the village where the religious ceremony was held, villagers were awaiting the bride and groom's families, kneeling down at the entrance of the village. This man is now happily divorced as he discovered he loved men instead of women and lives today with his former chauffeur.
We were invited a few times in his beautiful villa by the beach where he had an impressive collection of ancient books and some very nice gin too.

Unfortunately, I lost contact with J. when I moved near Granada. Of course after 3 months of farniente regime, I told my ex boyfriend, holiday is over ! Still, I keep a very good souvenir of these immobile hours spent in the mill or in some little bar by the beach, watching the sea, saying nothing, because there's no need to.

pic : portrait of Luis Buñuel by Man Ray

PS : my lovelies, I'm so sorry but I had to enable this comment moderation. I discovered a whole bunch of posts is plagued by some erotic Chinese comments. I have nothing against erotism but I thought they were just a little bit too insisting and not gracious enough.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fresh beans

Laziness struck us hard yesterday and at lunch time we headed to el bar de Miguel in Nigüelas for tapas and drinks but mainly sunshine. Once again Monchéri praised this little spot in the valley, blessed with mild weather and a very laid back lifesyle. As usual friends turned up and conversation rolled on food and special ways of preparing cod, and planning a future picnic on the beach. Monchéri suggested some horse riding in the countryside, un dia de estos, some day, meaning that it would surely take him a few weeks to organize the whole thing. As I was teasing him about that, someone at the table said : pues, ¡no olvides que aqui nos llaman los lentos! don't forget we're called the slow ones here ! so we'll see...!

The table next to ours was occupied by three couples with kids. Like us, they were a bit loud and cheerful. One of the men left the table for a while and came back with a bag full of habas broad beans. I quickly glanced at the content of the bag thinking, yummy.... habas con jamon serrano...broad beans with jamon serrano which is one the most common dish in spring here. The man joined his friends and put the bag on the table, then picked up a big bunch of green beans and gave them to me saying : me has lanzado una mirada tan cariñosa que sabia que querias algunas! y ademas son frescas, acaban de looked at me so tenderly I knew you wanted some beans ! and also, they've just been picked up...

I love those green beans. They have a slightly bitter taste and a very nice crunchiness when you eat them raw. I've been eating nearly the whole lot while writing this post

Have a very nice week end !
this is what the sky looked like in Granada two days ago.
seems likely to be the same today

pics : me

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

El Hospital Real en Granada and its library

After the mad effervescence of Semana Santa, the only thing I wanted yesterday was to retire in a peaceful place where I could enjoy beautiful premises in the company of old books. El Hospital Real is one of my favorite places in Granada. Initially built by King Ferdinand in the XVth century to cure ill people and take care of orphans, the Hospital Real is today a major venue for exhibitions and concerts.

I always dreamt of setting up a fashion show in one its four patios. Wouldn't it be a perfect place ?
next to it, the library, la Biblioteca universitaria is an ideal refuge to read and write but also consult old editions

this atlas by Joan Riczo Oliva (XVth cent.) makes me dream of caravans in the desert and undiscovered islands.

pics: me
the library is opened from monday to friday
8h30/9h to 20h30/21h
there is also a nice cafeteria in the patios

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter "hornazos" (bread with egg) in my village

Monchéri and I won't be hunting for Easter eggs this week end. In my village, the custom on Easter sunday and monday is to gather with friends and family in the countryside, eat and drink, play music until late evening. For this occasion, a special round bread is baked, in shape of a nest with an egg in its center. It is called "hornazo". Every family orders a few to the baker but not so long ago, women used to make this bread themselves and then bring it to the baker's oven to bake.

As the weather is quite chilly these last few days, I guess we'll stay snuggly at home instead of going down to el rio and get our feet soaked.

Easter is definitely one of my favorite time of the year. I was raised a protestant and do miss going to the temple with my family and singing psalms. I particularly enjoyed the sharing of the bread and the wine and saying to one another : "Le Christ est ressuscité en toi", Christ is resuscitated in you. It's been a very long time, I didn't attend a cult but every year, at Easter I ponder about these words and their meaning and feel some joy. I guess it's the joy of sharing one love, one faith, one hope, a fresh look at one's life and aspirations.

Happy Easter to you and lots of joy in your heart !!

pics : me

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Semana santa

The Semana Santa started in Granada last monday and every day until sunday processions will take place in the evening until late at night. As usual, I make the promise not to miss the Gypsies procession in el Sacromonte and in the end I always miss it....Alas, this year it seems I won't attend any procession as I'm much too busy working on a project. In the meantime, I leave you with pics I took last year of the procession of the cofradia (brotherhood) of Santa Maria church in the Alhambra.

pics : me
Granada, march 2008
procession of Iglesia Santa Maria del Alhambra
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