So my last post left you on a cliffhanger…what happened in Barcelona and Perpignan during the break!? I have talked about Christmas already, but I know you are just dying to find out what happened on the rest of my break 😉 There is an interesting tradition, and honestly I never looked up the origins, but you’re supposed to eat 12 grapes as the bells chime for the New Year. If you don’t eat them exactly on the sound of the bell, it is bad luck for the rest of the year! Rumor has it, several years ago a famous woman (think Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve) who always hosts the New Year’s Eve show ate the grapes incorrectly, and then terrible things followed. Maybe unsurprisingly, it’s really difficult to eat 12 grapes one after the other. Right before midnight, most people are in the streets or a major plaza. In Barcelona, one of these major areas is called Plaça de Catalunya. Our whole group was there, counting down with all the other people. I’ve never been in an outdoor place for the countdown before, so I almost missed it! I’m used to there being a TV countdown or something else, but with all the chaos in the street, I wasn’t prepared to start eating the grapes! But I ate them all, and hopefully I ate them at the right time to have good luck in 2012.
The rest of my time in Barcelona was spent mainly revisiting places I had already been, because we had people with us who had never been to Barcelona before and they needed to see the highlights. But like always, it’s a really interesting city with interesting people and places. I always enjoy Barcelona. I even like listening to the people speak in Catalan instead of Spanish or Valencian. The accent is really different. Especially the older people you can hear in the streets or in a restaurant. They have an accent that is very different. I only understand like, 10% of Valencian, but in Barcelona I understand even less because of their strong accents. Supposedly the accent south of Barcelona (in the Valencian community) has been more “polluted” with Spanish and in Catalunya it has less Spanish influence. This has a lot to do with history and politics, of course. But this isn’t a history lesson, it’s a blog! If you’re interested, https://www.alsintl.com/resources/languages/Valencian/ has a good general overview of the two languages. The people of Catalunya are Catalan before they’re Spanish. And many Valencians feel the same. In America, we definitely have subcultures, depending on the regions, states, and even cities. But overall, we still have a sense of national identity. We are Americans. It’s not like that in these regions of Spain.
After New Year’s Eve, we took a short trip Figueres, Spain and to Perpignan, in the far southwestern corner of France. It’s so close to Spain that they still speak Catalan there! Figueres is the hometown of Salvador Dali and it is also the city he built his museum/homage to himself. I definitely appreciate all the things Dali did for art and his creation of Surrealism, but he sure was a nutty man! I read up about his life before we went, and watched part of a documentary about him. No doubt he was crazy. Most of his more well known paintings are in other museums, but this one was cool because he literally designed everything. Some of the exhibits were created especially for the museum. I really liked the idea that the artist organized (even though it’s Surrealism, so technically there’s no order) where he wanted everything to be.
Then, we popped over to France. Perpignan is a small city, but very lovely with a lot of history. Honestly, I don’t remember a lot of it, but it was interesting at the time! I was glad to see I didn’t forget all my French, I can still read it pretty well. Speaking is another story though. The last 4 months of trying to speak Spanish really hindered my ability to use only French words. Also, I had forgotten how much more expensive things are in France. It’s really crazy. I know they get paid more, but even the fast food restaurants are more. We got to drive through the Pyrenees at sunset though, and it was definitely worth it! Sadly I couldn’t take a really good picture when the car was in motion, but I will remember the view for a long time.
Those were the highlights of my break, with some parts left out, or else this would have been quite long! And like usual, I miss my family and friends back home. On top of the holidays, most of my family had birthdays! My brother, sister, mom, grandma, grandpa, uncles, cousins; almost all of us have birthdays between December and February. I miss being there to celebrate, but at least there’s Skype, Facebook, emails, and blogs to keep family close, even if they’re 5,000 miles away 🙂