30 April 2013

La Diada de San Jordi

That's St. George to all you non-Iberian folk. He's the patron saint of Catalonia and I was lucky enough to arrive back in Spain the day before the 23rd of April to see how they celebrate his day. El poble catalĂ  celebrate la diada de San Jordi a lot more than we English do, which is basically not at all, but if we were to celebrate it as much as we celebrate St. Patrick's Day, I doubt it would be in any way similar to how the Catalan do it.

They take the opportunity to use la diada de San Jordi as a sort of second Valentine's Day of the year, which I guess is good for most singletons out there who are sick of their microwave tapas for one. It's a really nice day where couples meet up and exchange gifts, traditionally being a rose for the girl and a book for the boy - but come on, we live in the 21st century and there are plenty of female bookworms and male florists around nowadays so I say pages and pollen for all genders! Ahem...

 Many organisations from all over Tarragona also take this day as an opportunity to self-promote their causes and products on the Rambla Nova, a lot of them having to do with promoting Catalan classes and Catalonian independence. They're really passionate about that here, it's really inspiring and I wish us Jordis (geordies, get it, Jordis, see what I did there?) took more of an active role in promoting our Northern-most corner of English heritage as much as these guys do with their Northern-most corner of Spain! Of course we're no less passionate about where we come from and the history behind it, but we're also all too busy drinking a bottle of Newcastle Broon and trying to live down Gazza's "I'll save the day" radio debut during the Raoul Moat crisis and Cheryl Cole's new hair adverts to get our voices heard as much as the Catalan do across the whole of Spain.

 But anyway, here's some snaps of what we did on the day (spot me looking like a complete doofus. Also spot our friend Alice who was here to stay for a few days!)

After a brief break at home after all of the pizza, ice cream and lounging about in the sun in the Roman amphitheatre, we made our way down onto the Rambla Nova for a second time to see the castells. I had been so excited to see these even before coming to Spain, but I thought that I'd missed them since they usually take place around the time of Santa Tecla in September, so I was extremely happy to be able to witness this.

The castells, meaning castles (see, Catalan isn't all that hard!), originated in the town of Valls near my town of Tarragona and later spread across the rest of Catalonia and even on to the Balearic Islands (Majorca and Menorca). A base for the castell is formed by members of the pinya (or castell team) holding their arms out and interlocking their fingers, which for me created the most striking image and overwhelming feeling of what teamwork and community mean to the Catalonian people. There are also a few people constantly walking around the outside of the base to ensure that all sides are equally supported and if they're not, members of the public or other pinyas can be selected to help with the castell. Adults and teenagers make up the majority of the castell itself and the smallest of the team, called the enxaneta, climbs to the top to complete the human structure. The tower is not complete until the enxaneta has held up his or her four fingers, which is said to represent the four red stripes of the Catalan flag. I'll let the photographs speak for themselves:

To round St. George's Day off, after about an hour of staring at these people in sheer amazement (and almost seeing a child fall to the ground from the second-highest person in her tower!) we went to celebrate our friend Molly's birthday in an Italian restaurant called Tagliatelle. It's actually a chain restaurant across the whole of Spain, but, unlike most chains, the food quality never differs and it always serves top notch Italian grub for a really reasonable price.

I ordered a new combination I'd never tried which was courgette and three-cheese ravioli with Iberian bacon and mushroom sauce. It was delicious.

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