Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hospital Sant Pau

No, dad, I'm not IN the hospital. Everything's okay. I'm AT the hospital.

Growing up, I had my fair share of hospital visits. My parents lived in fear pretty much my entire teenage years anytime I was out on my bike, skateboarding, or just hanging "down the park".

I can remember two times I came home after falling off my bike looking a bit like something from the zombie apocalypse - once while jumping (bikes) in the park and the other while riding home on "the boulevard". Both involved trips to the local emergency room in Philadelphia to get pieces of not-me taken out and what remained sewn back together. So often, my mom, on one occasion, said to my dad it was his turn.

They used to tell people I had a wing of the hospital named for me. I'm not sure but chances are slim I'll ever have a hospital, or even just a wing named for me...but if I did, maybe it'd be nice if it were at the newly renovated Hospital Sant Pau here in Barcelona:

The Hospital Sant Pau is a series of modernist-style buildings located about three blocks or so from the Sagrada Familia. Designed by local should-be-more-famous-than-he-is architect Domenech i Montaner, construction started around 1900 when the city was in one of its boom times.

They've recently open their doors for free public tours after an extensive renovation. Diana and I rushed over to check it out especially after hearing they'll soon charge something like 15 euros ($20 U.S.) to get in!

A close-up photo to give you an idea of just how ornate these buildings are - this is just the front gate. Makes me want to get my face sewn up here!

The daily hospital's activities moved to a new nearby facility (nope, haven't been there...yet) a few years ago and they decided to renovate the now UNESCO-listed buildings. As with much of the modernist architecture in this area of Spain, such as those by Gaudi and his contemporaries, the level of detail and the variety of materials used is impressive. Check out this hallway:

The buildings have been re-purposed over the last couple of years into meeting and office space for various organizations including a part of the World Health Organization. They've done a great job renovating and adding in modern facilities without ruining the original spaces.

An example of some new offices inside one of the updated buildings:

The building below is in a cleaned-up, but-as-yet-unrestored building very similar to the one above. If you look towards the back of the room, there's a black-and-white photo that shows the hospital back in the day complete with some patients sitting on hospital beds.

A restored theater:

...and two-story hall:

Getting to visit the hospital while not having blood exiting my body was quite the pleasant experience. I think I'll try to do it again someday. I know it'd probably make my parents happy. Or relieved. Or both.

One final view of the central, straight-outta-ComptonDisney hospital courtyard:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Calçotada 2014

Every country in the world has its own traditions. Some involve keeping things very clean. Some related to fertility and egg worship. Some even involve giant bedding and drums! But my favorites are always those centered around food. How about a pointy-cabbage festival? Or maybe a wine-drinking one? Well, guess what, Barcelona and Catalunya are no slouches when it comes food-related traditions.

Right around the beginning of March every year, people all over Catalunya can be seen carrying bags full of what appear to be giant screen scallions. These onions are called calçots and they're generally cooked and eaten at barbecues called Calçotadas, which I've written about before. As luck would have it, Vladimir decided to invite the "familia Latina" (our group of friends - lots of whom are Latinos) to his apartment to do our very own caçotada!

Me and Marcos, who's not a Latino, washing the soil off the calçots (by the way, that funny letter-c-looking thing is pronounced like an "s"):

Marcos and Vladimir manning...and I mean MANNING...the grills:

At a traditional Calçotada, onions aren't the only thing served up. There's usually some regional sausages and other meat grilled as well. Marcos is our resident meat expert, and apparently grilling pro, so he did lots of the honors while David helped out by keeping the fires burning hot:

I've mentioned it in past stories but I don't like onions. For some reason, calçots are different. Maybe it's the tradition. Maybe it's the fun of being around friends. Or, maybe it's that mysterious, but delicious, Romescu sauce (the red sauce in the yellow bowl below) the calçots are coated with. Either way, calçots are always delicious and the parties are usually even better:

Yummy! Big onions dipped in sauce! What could be better? Leiris and Vladi doing it right:

Thanks to Vladimir for hosting us again and to the familia Latina for making it such a fun time. I'm already looking forward to next year's version!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

San Francisco - The Official Selfie Tour

Diana's work paid off again recently with a trip to the San Francisco area. Of course I had to tag along to be the supportive husband. It wasn't until we got back to Barcelona, though, that I realized more than half our photos were selfies so I decided to use exclusively selfie photos for this entire story.

Diana and I en route (note how empty the plane was - it was like this both ways, which made for some nice lay-down-on-four-seats sleeping going home!):

Our obsession with taking self portraits started on the first night we met when Diana asked me to take a photo of the two of us. We've kept at it ever since, including during our wedding. I really didn't appreciate them at first but they grew on me when I was looking through a bunch of old photos to use in our wedding album. Almost all of my favorite pictures were ones we had taken of ourselves over time. Chalk another one up to Diana's persistence.

Anyway, there were a few things I absolutely needed to do during our very brief visit to San Francisco. One was eating as much Mexican food as I could, which we managed to do the first night we were there and I did twice more while she was working. Another thing I wanted to do was go out to breakfast each morning. Well, here we were doing just that on our first full day in the Bay Area (breakfast selfie):

According to the never-wrong-and-always-to-be-trusted wikipedia, the first selfie was taken in 1839 but the first recorded use of the word itself was by a drunken Australian in 2002. Hmm...yeah. Sounds about right. Like I said, seflies have grown on us to the point where we prefer to take our own photos even if someone offers to take one for us. Just about to board a California Street cable car in the financial district:

...and about five minutes later as we passed by Chinatown:

Our trip lasted just three full days and four nights but we were only able to visit the city for one day because of Diana's commitments. The day we spent in SF was typical winter stuff - rainy and windy - well, actually, that could pretty much be any time there. When we got over to the Golden Gate, it was completely fogged in and raining pretty hard. But, there were a few minutes here and there when you could see the towers and even the other side. Golden-Gate selfie during one of the breaks in the weather:

We decided to walk out on the bridge in spite of the high winds and rain. If you've met me, you know that my hair is fairly course and doesn't move around a lot. Well, looking at this photo might give you an indicator of just how windy it was:

This next photo reminds me in some ways of the Beatles Please Please Me album my parents had when I was a kid, except that it's a selfie and it's damn cold, damn windy, and, of course, damn foggy!

Our "whistle-stop tour", as the folks in Dublin say, was as complete as it could be for having maybe eight hours or so to see all of San Francisco. We took a cable car, we walked on the Golden Gate, we ate chocolate at a very wet Ghirardelli square:

...and watched the cable cars be manually turned around at the end of Hyde street:

What visit to San Francisco would be complete without eating over-priced, under-flavored, and previously-frozen clam chowder out of a made-in-a-factory sourdough-bread bowl at Fisherman's Wharf? Not this one! Welcome to paradise!

One of the last times I was in San Francisco was a bunch of years ago when I met my mom and dad there for a quick weekend visit. My mom decided to buy a flight in a small sea plane for my dad and me. I remember that flight like it was yesterday because we flew over all of San Francisco, Alcatraz, and on our way back to where we started, the center of the Golden Gate.

One of the other things I remember vividly from that trip was hanging with my folks at Pier 39 watching the sea lions resting on the docks and even on some boats. The docks and a couple of the smaller boats were partially submerged with the weight of the sea lions. I guess they've removed the boats and made some special docks for them as it looks different now. One thing that hasn't changed though is the smell - yummy... Pier 39 sea lion selfie:

One of the other things I had planned was a trip to Trader Joe's to buy all kinds of TJ's snacks and a few bottles of California Pinot Noir to bring back to Spain. Yes, we brought empty suitcase with us to California exclusively to fill it with TJ's booty!

It was a great trip made even greater by the fact that most of it was paid for. What a treat! A few days in the Bay Area, some great Mexican and Chinese food, good California wines, and Trader Joe's. What's not to love? Oh, and it spelled the end of my eight-week beard experiment as well. Here were are at U.C. Berkeley on our last morning in town with my freshly cleaned up face (and, of course, with spring-like weather just in time for our last couple of hours):

Thanks for the memories and great selfie-taking opportunities San Francisco and Berkeley. Hope to see you in our lovely self portraits again soon...and definitely for more than a couple days!