Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Program of the Festa Major - in English

Within Catalonia, Vilanova i la Geltrú has a good reputation for preserving its traditional festivals. Coming Friday, July 27, is the first day of our Festa Major 2007. Colour booklets of the program are readily available at a number of local bookstores. They contain pictures, descriptions of the activities to come and even a word list explaining all the oddities and details related to this annual event- that is if you are a Catalan-speaking insider of the culture.

For non-Catalan speaking outsiders, be they tourists or resident foreigners like me, I here below present the full Festa Major program translated into English. Enjoy Vilanova i la Geltrú while we show you our craziests side.

Special thanks go to Vilanova native Ramon Canyelles i Ricart. Without his help I would not have been able to decipher that Campionat de Botifarra does not refer to a sausage eating competition, but to a card game. Quite a difference, is it not?

Official Program of the Festa Major 2007

Friday July 27

7 p.m.: Opening of the exhibition:
Una mirada a la festa (A Look at the Party); by Enric C. Ricart
Place: The library of the Balaguer Musueum. From Jul 27 to Sep 2.

7.30 p.m.: Rehearsal by the Folk-Dance Association
plaça de Sant Antoni

Beach Handball Tournament
Place: on the beach
platja del Far
(the Festa Major program does not indicate the time of the event)

9 p.m.: Presentation of the new Festa Major fans for the Procession of Vilanova Legends (Cercavila de l’imaginari)
Place: Where
avinguda de Francesc Macià intersects with C/ Vapor
Artists: Roser Amela, Idoya Archilla, Anselm Cabús, Xavier Duran, Albert Lleó, Carolina Raventós, Sebastià Serra and Martí Valero

10.30 p.m.: The Correfoc of Vilanova i la Geltrú (a dance procession of fire and crackers)
With the participation of
Ball de Diables (devils dance) groups from here as well as guests from other towns. The dragons of Vilanova and la Geltrú, respectively, also take part.
Route through the town:
Plaça de les Neus, C/ la Bomba, plaça de Sant Antoni, C/ l'Església, plaça Llarga, C/ Mercaders, plaça de les Cols, C/ Sant Gregori, rambla Principal, C/ Cristòfol Colom, C/ Sant Felip Neri, C/ Fruita and plaça de la Vila.

10.30 p.m.: The doors open to the concert: La Excepción

midnight: Concert: Muchachito Bombo Infierno; Place: The Athletic Stadion

midnight: Festa Major Dancing with the group Travelin Band; Place: plaça de les Cols

Saturday July 28

Beach Handball Tournament
Place: on the beach
platja del Far
(the Festa Major program does not indicate the time of the event)

noon.: The 25th anniversary of the Flower Garland Dancers of Vilanova i la Geltrú (
With the participation of dance groups from here and from other towns
Route through the town:
rambla Principal, avinguda de Francesc Macià and plaça de la Vila

Followed by a performance to take place in plaça de la Vila

6 p.m.: Opening of the exhibition: Goigs de la mare de déu de les neus – A poetic elegy to the patron saint of Vilanova i la Geltrú; Place: The club premises of Penya Filatèlica. From Jul 28 to Aug 4.

7 p.m.: Opening of the photography exhibition: The Festa Major 50 years ago
Place: the exhibition hall
sala Toc. From Jul 28 to Aug 6.

7 p.m.: Performance by
Castellers (Human Towers) With the Castellers group Bordagassos from here and groups invited from other towns; Place: plaça de la Vila

9 p.m.: Fishing competition
Place: the beach
platja de Ribes Roges; For more information or to sign up, contact SEPC La Gavina

10.30 p.m.: Jazz Concert with the Sílvia Orrico Trio; Place: Foment Vilanoví (plaça de les Cols)

Followed by a Jam Session of Blues and Jazz; Place: Dick's Jazz Bar (C/ Unió)

11 p.m.: Festa Major Dancing: A Latin Night.
plaça de la Vila

Sunday July 29

10 a.m.: A bike tour through the streets of Vilanova, guided by
Francesc Carnicer; Starting point: The tower Torre Blava at the beach Ribes Roges

7 p.m.: Opeing of the art exhibition: Esclat de Festa Major (The Sparkle of Festa Major) by Rosa Pastó i Figueres; Place: Foment Vilanoví (Plaça de les Cols), From Jul 29 to Aug 15

7 p.m.: The procession of the
Falcons (acrobatic human towers); Route through the town: plaça de les Neus, rambla Principal, avinguda de Francesc Macià and plaça de la Vila

Directly followed by: An exhibition of the Falcons (acrobatic human towers); Place: plaça de la Vila

8.30 p.m.: Flying of the Catalan Flag at the Bell Tower (Pengem la Senyera del Campanar)Place: the bell tower of the church Sant Antoni Abat (located at the top of the Rambla; the bell tower is located at the northern end of the church)

10 p.m.: A Night of Dance
With the participation of:
Dansa de Vilanova, Ministrers de la Vila-Nova and l'Esbart Dansaire from Andorra la Vella.
plaça de la Vila

Monday July 30

7 p.m.: Childrens tales related to
Festa Major
Narrator: local artist Eva Bolaño; An activity for Catalan speaking children; Place: Foment Vilanoví (Plaça de les Cols)

9 p.m.: A night walk up to the peak of the hill Talaia in the light of the full moon; Starting point: plaça de Sant Antoni

10.30 p.m.: Dances to the local wind-instrument Gralla
Place: plaça dels Lledoners

11 p.m.: A Country Night. Festa Major Dancing With the group The Country Revival Farmers Place: plaça del Mercat

11 p.m.: VNG GRUPS; Performance by the groups: Gentle Music Men, Suî Te MoMo; Place: plaça de la Vila

Tuesday July 31

5.30 p.m.: Competition of Simultaneos Chess; Place:
rambla Principal in front of the premises of La Gran Penya

6 p.m.: A public discussion in Catalan on the topic "La Sala i La Festa"; Place: La Sala

7 p.m.: A Workshop in Fan Decorations; An activity for children; Place: plaça de les Cols

10 p.m.: The Festa Major Cinema: Ice Age 2 (dubbed into Catalan); Place: plaça del Mercat

11 p.m.: Festa Major Dancing
With the group:
Rauxa Rumbeta - folk and other rhythms
plaça de la Vila

Wednesday August 1

7 p.m.:
La Jordina s’ho imagina
An activity for Catalan speaking children; A game based on the book Un estiu diferent... narrator: Jordina Biosca; Place: Plaça de les Cols

7 p.m.: Championships in the local card game Botifarra
Place: plaça de les Neus; For more information and to sign up, contact Can Pistraus at C/ Santa Madrona, 33

9.30 p.m.: The Festa Major Dinner With entertainment by Travelin Band and the magician Ferran; Place: plaça del Mercat; Tickets can be bought at the Festa Major booth in plaça de la Vila and in the restaurant Ca la Maria

10.30 p.m.: Singing of Havaneres by the group Port Vell; Place: plaça de les Cols

11 p.m.: A Night of Folk Music - Dancing to the group Marcel Casellas i la Principal de la Nit Place: plaça de la Vila

Thursday August 2

11 a.m: Workshop: Let’s play with
Festa Major pictures (Juguem amb l’auca de la Festa Major)
An activity most likely best suited for Catalan speaking children; Place: The library of the Balaguer Museum

7 p.m.: Peter and the wolf
A puppet theatre performance in Catalan for children
plaça de les Cols

7.30 p.m.: Lecture on the topic Imatges Festives de Ricart
Lecturer: Francesc X. Puig Rovira; Place: The library of the Balaguer Museum

11 p.m.: The Variety Show of Festa Major with Merche Mar and El Molino; Place: plaça del Mercat

11 p.m.: A Night of Soul and Dance
With the group Soul Bandits; Place: plaça de la Vila

11 p.m.: The Concert of Festa Major
with Pedro Javier Hermosilla / Antonio Orozco; Place: The Athletic Stadion

Friday August 3

10 a.m.: A Spectacular Painting in Three Dimensions
Toni Ortiz makes a big format 3D picture throughout the whole day
plaça de les Cols

11 a.m.: A Festa Major Workshop. Based on the Fishermen’s Dance (in the Procession of Vilanova Legends)
A Childrens activity: Make your own fancy boat dress
Place: The library
Armand Cardona Torrandell (refer to this library for more information and to sign up)

6 p.m.: Concert by the La Rondalla La Família; Place: the gardens of the hospital Sant Antoni Abat

7 p.m.: Concert with the group Macedònia
One of the first performances by the new generation of Macedònia; Place: plaça Mediterrània

8.30 p.m.: Tour of the Giants of Vilanova
Place: the church
dels Josepets; Route through the town: C/ Sant Magí, C/ horts, C/ Major, C/ Josep Anton Marquès, C/ la Bomba, plaça de les Neus, rambla Principal, avinguda de Francesc Macià and plaça de la Vila.

10 p.m.: A Concert from Two Sides
By the band from the Music School of Maestro
Montserrat and the music band Maestro Lupi de Benavente (Zamora); Place: plaça de la Vila

10 p.m.: Theatre in Catalan: L'autèntic amic de Carlo Goldoni; By the theatre group Rossegall Place: Círcol Catòlic (C/ Sant Gervasi)

11.30 p.m.: Rock concert MANANI ROCK FM'07; With the groups:
Kon-Ira (Vilanova i la Geltrú), Boikot (Madrid) and Olive Tree (Portugal); Place: plaça dels Pescadors (the Fish Market)

Midnight: Festa Major Dancing with the group The Big Jamboree; Place: plaça del Mercat

Followed by a performance by the DJ LUCKY BASTARDS

Saturday August 4

11 a.m.: The Arrival of Councillors and Festa Major Representatives
Accompanied by the
grallers (wind-instrument blowers) Havana Xica; Place: plaça de la Vila

11.30 a.m.: The Invitation to Festa Major
By writer and philosopher Rafael Argullol i Murgadas; Place: The Meeting Hall of the Ajuntament (Plaça de la Vila)

Noon: The firing of 12 Small Mortars; By Pirotècnia Igual; Place: plaça de la Vila

Bell ringing at all the churches of the town.

Followed by: Gathering for the Open Procession
plaça de la Vila

5 p.m.: A Café Concert
With the musicians
Jordi Inglada and Cristina Boixadera, Marcets de Sitges and Clau de Mar; Place: C/ Major (in front of the premises of the Folk Dance Association)

6 p.m.: Concert with La Rondalla La Família; Place: The premises of Casa d' Empara

7 p.m.: Miniature Train Rides; Place: The park at the beach Ribes Roges

7 p.m.: Procession of the evening before (Cercavila de la Vigília); Place: plaça de l' Assumpció Route through the town: plaça Font i Gumà, C/ Pont, plaça del Pou, C/ Palmerar de Baix, plaça Llarga, C/ Mercaders, plaça de les Cols, C/ Sant Gregori, plaça de les Neus, rambla Principal, C/ l'Almirall Colom, plaça dels Carros, C/ Sant Sebastià, C/ Col·legi and C/ Escolapis.

8 p.m.: Dance Performances, Performances by Castellers (Human Towers) etc.; Place: plaça de la Vila

11 p.m.: The Spectacular Fireworks of the Festa Major
By Pirotècnia Igual; Place: platja de Ribes Roges (at the bull Pasífae)

Midnight: Listen to Sardana Music
Cobla Ciutat de Cornellà; Place: rambla Principal

Midnight: The Gala Dance
By the Orquestra Magnum; Place:
plaça de la Vila

Midnight: Dancing for 7 hours (Ball de les 7 hores); Performance by the Catalan rock group Els Pets (Forming part of their 2007 tour Com anar al cel i tornar); Place: the beach promendade at Ribes Roges; Sponsored by the real estate agencies LLARS.NET and VORAMAR

Followed by the orchestra Privada; Place: the beach promendade at Ribes Roges

Midnight: The Rock Concert Manani Rock FM'07; Performances by: Raggatunning (Vilanova i la Geltrú),
Fundación Tony Manero (Barcelona), Strombers (Catalunya) and DJ Petit (Vilanova i la Geltrú)
Place: plaça dels Pescadors (the Fish Market)

Sunday August 5

7.30 a.m.: The happy and drink-inviting morning music of the Festa Major (
Alegres i Traguejades Matinades de Festa Major); By the Festa Major gralla (a wind-instrument) blowers
Place: Different starting points but all heading for
plaça de la Vila

9 a.m.: The Go-To-Service Procession (Cercavila d’Anada a Ofici); Route through the town: plaça de la Vila, C/ Caputxins, plaça de les Cols, C/ Comerç, C/ l'Església and plaça de Sant Antoni

10.30 a.m.: The Festa Major Art Fair; Place: rambla Principal

10.30 a.m.: The Solemn Festa Major Service; A solemn mass by reverend Jaume Berdoy, parson of the Sant Antoni Abat parish
Place: The church of
Sant Antoni Abat

After the service The Leaving-The-Service Procession (Cercavila de Sortida d’Ofici)
Route through the town:
plaça de les Neus, rambla Principal, avinguda de Francesc Macià and plaça de la Vila

12.30 p.m.: Dance Performances, Performances by Castellers (Human Towers) etc.; Place: plaça de la Vila

1.30 p.m.: A Greeting to Les Neus
Place: In the patio of the Ajuntament (Plaça de la Vila)

6 p.m.: Concert of Catalan Music By the Cobla-Orquestra Costa Brava; Place: plaça del Mercat

6 p.m.: Folk Dance Performance; Place: plaça de la Vila

Followed by the Dance of the Giants etc.
plaça de la Vila

7 p.m.: The Festa Major Football Game
CF Vilanova and CE Sabadell FC; Place: The Municipal Stadion dels Alumnes Obrers

8 p.m.: Listen to
Sardana Music By the Cobla-Orquestra Costa Brava; Place: avinguda de Francesc Macià (in front of the main gate of the market hall)

9 p.m.: The Procession related to the Town’s Vow to its Patron Saint (Cercavila del vot del poble); Route through the town: plaça de la Vila, C/ Escolapis, C/ l'Almirall Colom, plaça dels Carros, C/ Llibertat, C/ Tetuan, rambla Principal and plaça de les Neus

Followed by the Renovation of the Town’s Vow to its Patron Saint
Speaches by reverend
Jaume Berdoy, parson of the parish Sant Antoni Abat, and Lord Mayor Joan Ignasi Elena
Place: plaça de les Neus

To be followed by the Fireworks of the Town’s Vow
Pirotècnia Igual; Place: plaça de les Neus

Midnight: Festa Major Dancing
l'Orquestra Costa Brava; Place: plaça del Mercat

Midnight: The Night of DJ:s
By Walkie Talkie, The
Trol·lys and Molecular Man; Place: plaça de la Vila

Monday August 6

6 p.m.: Procession of Vilanova Legends (
Cercavila de l’Imaginari)
Route through the town:
plaça de la Peixateria Vella, C/ Pàdua, C/ Mercaders, plaça de les Cols, C/ Sant Gregori, rambla Principal, C/ l'Almirall Colom, C/ Escolapis and plaça de la Vila

Followed by the Dance Procession related to Vilanova Legends (Passada de Balls de l’Imaginari)

7 p.m.: Lyrical Concert of Opera and
Sarsuela (Spanish Light Operas)
By the company of maestro
Damunt; Place: Teatre Círcol Catòlic

9 p.m.: Nomination of the 2008 Festa Major Representatives and Farewell Party for the 2007 Representatives; Place: The session hall of the Ajuntament

Followed by
Sardana Music from Vilanova, by the Cobla Sant Jordi-Ciutat de Barcelona; Place: plaça de la Vila

00.07 a.m.: The Dance of the Festa Major Representatives
By the
Cocodrilo Club (DJ Revival Albert Malla); Place: plaça del Mercat


Una Mirada a la Festa (A Look at the Party); by Enric C. Ricart
Place: The library of the Balaguer Museum; From Jul 27 to Sep 2; Morning opening hours: from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., from Tuesday to Sunday; Afternoon opening hours: from 4.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m., from Tuesday to Saturday (with the exception of Thursday); Thursday evening opening hours: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Mondays closed

Goigs de la Mare de Déu de les Neus (An exhibitions of poetic elegies to Vilanova i la Geltrú’s patron saint)
Place: The premises of the club
Penya Filatèlica; From Jul 28 to Aug 4.
Opening hours: from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

La Festa Major de fa cinquanta anys - 1950-1960 (The Festa Major 50 years ago); A photography exhibition by Ramir Horro and Jordi Mas (The Garraf Regional Archives); Place: Exhibition hall sala Toc; From Jul 28 to Aug 6.
Opening hours: from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Esclat de Festa Major (The sparkle of Festa Major)
Rosa Pastó i Figueres; Theme: Pictures of correfoc (processions with fire and crackers), Vilanova’s procession of legends etc.
Foment Vilanoví (Plaça de les Cols); From Jul 29 to Aug 15.
Opening hours: from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Orígens. Cinc fites en l’evolució humana (Origins. The Five Milestones of Human Evolution)Place: plaça del Port; From July 23 to Aug 30
Opening hours: from Tuesday to Friday 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays: from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays closed

Monday, 16 July 2007

La Sala – Cause or Effect?

The opening of La Sala – Vilanova’s centre of modern art - will add a new interesting stop to my family’s weekend walks. So, why do I ask myself whether the investment was justified? Maybe the reason is that I am mistaking an effect for being the cause.

Economist Florida teaches that those cities shall flourish which manage to attract the creative class. I first believed that our governing tripartit had been inspired by him when they approved the investment of € 1.470.000 in La Sala (C/Joaquim Mir, 12). Politically, I consider myself a liberal but still do not disagree with the idea that governments, at times, get involved in supporting and financing culture. However, being a realist, I am aware that resources are scarce, so I could not help asking myself the question: Why on earth would Vilanova need a centre of modern art?

I will try to explain the background of my doubts. Based on the number of inhabitants as well as average income and education levels, I guess that the amount of vilanovíns who really care about art is limited. Except for that, the town already has a few museums and neighbourhood centres (centre cívic) which include art exhibitions in their programs. Finally, Barcelona is less an hour’s drive from here and that metropolis in not only internationally recognized for its abundance of art museums but also has the financial strength to house temporary exhibitions of world famous artists. Based on this, I came to the conclusion that a centre of modern art located in Vilanova will not have any chance to attract a major audience. As if to confirm my suspicion, last Saturday when I went to La Sala with my family, we were the only visitors there and this when local media were still commenting on its opening.

I could not help feeling that the creation of an art centre was a very strange use of public funds. However, when I mentioned this to one of my Catalan friends, he suggested that I have let myself be fooled by how La Sala is now being presented and therefore misunderstand the whole situation. As he sees it, there existed a just cause for renovating a unique building since, apparently, this is the oldest still standing theatre house in Catalonia. Then, as an effect, somebody decided to make use of renovated space by creating a art centre.

If my friend is right, it is likely that a majority of Vilanova’s inhabitants consider it correct for the town to have invested in this project. They might not be particularly interested in modern art, but did want to see the La Sala renovated. Partly because the town has already let too much of its patrimony be destroyed, and partly since it brings back memories to them from the times when the building of the old theatre had been converted into a popular dance hall. The latter closed down as recently as in the 80-ies, so it is easy to imagine that quite a few of today’s decision makers had their first dance with their spouses-to-be under its vaults.

In the end, even I am prepared to stop questioning whether the investment was justified, as long as we start to capitalize on it. Summer is here and Vilanova is full of tourist, but I doubt that many of them know anything about the art centre. Today, La Sala is easy to find only if you are on your way to the hospital, but that is not exactly where visitors to our town desire to go. Attention creating information boards in the Rambla and clear sign posts in the alleys are inexpensive means to remedy this situation.

Maybe Vilanova can not hope to attract too much of the so called creative class, but we should be able to increase our importance in the market of quality tourism, especially if we focus on our nearest source of potential visitors - Barcelona. A small town like ours can hardly afford to build a centre of modern art attractive enough to encourage people from other towns to go here. However, for those who do come, the existence of such an institution will add value to their stay. The nice beaches and the sea, many an excellent restaurant as well as a Rambla with attractive shopping opportunities are already there. Now, to round off an imaginary itinerary, we can also offer a bit of modern art before people go home again. No matter whether La Sala was a cause or an effect, we will all benefit from it, by making it a part of the Vilanova experience.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

By the way: 08800 La Revista de VNG

To keep people’s acceptance to pay taxes, politicians must be careful to make sure that the money is spent in a correct way. Like elsewhere in the world, this is not always the case in Vilanova and the latest copy of the official information magazine ”08800 la revista de VNG” is a sad example of it.

My family and our neighbours received the July copy in the mailboxes only yesterday. I do not mind to receive a summary of how the local goverment will look for the coming four years, although the local press informed us of this already weeks ago. Neither am I too concerned about the fact that tax payers' money is spent to make a benevolent interview with Joan Ignasi Elena, our re-elected mayor. But it does irritate me to on July 10 receive an event calender which covers the dates from the 1st to the 31st of July. A fast check gives at hand that 35% of the listed activities have already taken place. As if to underline that the this issue was late, there is an article encouraging visits to the exhibition gràcies which was, as you are in fact informed already in the magazine, taken down on July 7.

If we are to continue to spend money on a printed information magazine, let us at least improve the planning and have it issued on time.

August 5, we will celebrate our Festa Major here and many vilanovins will appreciate to, in advance, have a program of the event . I cannot help wondering what will reach us first – the next issue of “08800 la revista de VNG” or the sound of “ball de diables” from a town where the party has already begun.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Restaurants in Vilanova: Peixerot – living up to its name

Some restaurants are emblematic of their towns. El Peixerot has a strong, solid reputation and many regular guest who are prepared to come here all the way from Barcelona. Just imagine if Vilanova as a town would have the same attraction.

Among the connaisseurs of the Barcelona restaurant market whom I have met, nobody has failed to mention Peixerot (address: Passeig Marítim, 56; phone: 93 815 06 25), when I have told them that I live in Vilanova i la Geltrú. This restaurant, specialized in fish, has existed since the year 1918 and, by far, exceeds the quality levels which we are used to find elsewhere in this town. What better occasion could I possibly have to take my wife here than our 5th wedding anniversary. True, she would have preferred a surprise journey around the world in a hot air balloon, but after all these years together she has got used to my boring predictability.

Now in the summer, Peixerot offers the possibility to eat outdoors at tables overlooking the marina. Personally, however, I think that it is indoors where this establishment come into its rights. The first thing that a visitor meets when entering into the restaurant is big display of fresh fish on ice. Tables dressed in starched linen and shining white textile napkins with the Peixerot logotype embroidered on them, add to the expectations about the meal to come.

When seated at your table, on the one side you will be able to observe people passing by on the Rambla outisde, but with a nice feeling of privacy since the lower part of the windows has been frosted. On the other side of the room, you will find original paintings of Vilanova artist Martí Torrents (1887-1977), who, apparently, in his days used to be a Peixerot regular. I really liked the artist’s style, and except for that I must admit being childishly fond of art lit up through spotlights, so I would have loved to walk around and have a closer look at them. Since I did not feel confortable to do so when there were other guests sitting eating right below, I would be very happy if Peixerot would one day develop a web-page with a full presentation of the works.

I cannot say that the waitors of Peixerot felt especially warm or personal, but they are just as professional and attentive as you would expect in a place of this category. It is a special idea to hand your guests a menu card printed for the day, but for the touch and print quality I must admit that I would have preferred a more classic one. The selection of food turned out to be more extensive and varied than we had expected and we were surprised to find out that there were starters for € 11 and main courses around € 20, prices which must be considered as moderate in the Spanish world of fine dining.

Since we were celebrating our special day, we decided to splurge out a bit more than that and had the Peixerot house sallad and steamed mussels for starters, upon which monkfish followed for my wife while I tried the arroz marinera con bogavante. The food was excellent, but I must admit that to me it is the total dining experience which makes this place stand out. If the perspective is limited to food quality and preparation, then I dare to say that there are a number of other Vilanova restaurants which can give them a match. To enhance the unique strength of Peixerot – the stylish, spacious atmosphere - I think that the management of the place should consider adding music. To me, the image would grow further with a background of classic music, albeit recorded.

Peixerot happens to have a branch in the city of Barcelona as well (address: C/ Tarragona, 177). That clearly cannot compare with its prime location here in Vilanova – where the Rambla meets the Passeig Marítim. And remember that the fresh fish comes from here. Visca Vilanova!

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Restaurants in Vilanova: Celler del Ton – A home away from home

One of the trends in the restaurant world is to welcome people to a 'home away from home'. El Celler del Ton really feels like a home, but that does not mean that the place is trendy. Or if it is, well then my mother-in-law's dining room is trendy as well. To draw the comparision further, my mother-in-law does serve good traditional food, just like this restaurant .

El Celler del Ton (C/ Cuba, 49; phone: 93 815 39 33) is hardly possible to find without a map or a road description. Thanks to our local newspaper, we came across it when we wanted to discover a new place for tapes a couple of weeks ago. However, we were discouraged many times before we finally sat down at a table. First of all, carrer de Cuba is not exactly one of Vilanova’s more typical restaurant streets, although it is in the city center. Secondly, when we looked in through the door we met with the backs of a thick group of people, all standing around the bar. Our feeling was that we had crashed some private party so we were just about to excuse ourselves and leave again, when the owner looked out from behind all the guests and invited us in.

I dare to guess that this place has been decorated according to personal taste and with a total disregard to design books. The wooden walls set a warm, non-Spanish tone and are so full of framed art prints that they would need to remove some paintings, should they decide to buy new ones. Combined with smart black placemats and linen look-alike napkins with a sparklingly bright design, the interior is totally different from what I have seen before.

For the spirit of the restaurant, we started with a glass of cava while making our selection of food. I assume that most local people see this as a place for finger food per picar, since they do not have proper main courses. We were thinking in terms of a dinner, as we accept it to be, and I must say that with some plates of iberic, cheese and pa amb tomaquet, a rich sallad and some ovenbaked bacallà, we had more than we could eat. All this was accompanied by the good red wine of the house.

El Celler del Ton has managed to create its own distinct niche although it has only existed for two years. There are less than ten tables and, apparently, the clientele might be small but is very faithful. For that reason, advance reservations are an absolute necessity for anyone who wants to make sure to be able to sit down.

The owner himself is the main explanation to the welcoming atmosphere and it did not take long before he and I found out that we had been working for the same company. To make the story even better, after having mapped the old colleagues we had in common, it became clear to my wife and me that this was in fact the very first restaurant we learnt about in Vilanova. The only problem was that we got the recommendation one whole month before we moved here and almost one year before the restaurant opened up its doors to the public. How nice that we found our way there now, albeit by coincidence. Tapes is the perfect solution if you do not want a full three-course dinner but still want to go out for a snack. We will soon be back.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

The railway museum – Vilanova on the right track

I like to lose myself in museums with a lot of text and explanations. My wife, and certainly my children, prefer museums with a bigger share of entertainment. A few museums have both qualities and the railway museum of Vilanova belongs to that group.

Our four-year-old loves trains. Not as much as he loves airplanes, that is true, but thanks to a school project, I am confident that he knows a lot more about trains. Vilanova is a good place for anyone interested in this subject since there is a cluster of things to explore – a beautiful classic station building, a miniature steam engine track close to the Platja de Ribes Roges and, above all, the railway museum.

A number of towns of the Barcelona province have specialized museums, and Vilanova has been selected to house the one related to railway history. Because of the mountains which separate us from the city of Barcelona, the construction of the railway tunnels was the starting point for the town’s industrial development. Later on, RENFE opened up a train repair and service area here, and it is a part of those premises which has been converted into a museum which, apparently, now holds Europe’s largest collection of steam engines. Unfortunately, it seems that the museum is a bit under-financed. The exterior of all the old engines is more or less well preserved, but it is a shame that some of them have interiors which are falling apart.

My first visit to this museum was for Vilanova’s annual Xatonada – a competition in making the best Xatò, a sallad with cod, tuna, sardines and a special dressing. Since there are always very many people there on that day, it was difficult to feel any presence of history. Now, when I went there a for second time and with the purpose to take a closer look at the exhibits, I had a much richer experience.

We decided to go when we had some friends visiting so in total we were two grown-ups and three small boys. At first we almost got stuck at the model railway in the play area of the museum, but when we finally managed to drag the boys out in the open-air part, I was glad that I did not take them there by myself. The older boys’ presence encouraged my son to repeatedly run out of sight, and I usually found him crying, half-way up a staircase which he had not yet managed to climb, while the older boys had already ran off the next one.

It becomes scaringly clear from the exhibition what a hard and dangerous job it must have been to be a steam engine driver, at least in the early days of the technology. Most objects are full with evily pointed sticks and metal doors just waiting to catch a finger, so I am grateful for not having had to be up on them when they were moving and literally at full steam.

Personally, I found the few old carriages more interesting than the engines, since they made it possible to picture what traveling might have been like in different era. There was an old carriage where I could easily explain the difference between first, second and third class to my son, since this was more obvious in history than it is today. The highlight, however, was to have the opportunity to step into a classic Talgo train, with its unique curved desing, and learn what luxury train traveling was like in the years of the Second World War.

I am confident that most children will love this museum just as much as our oldest son does. Our friends' children certainly did and wanted to go back another day. However, there is charcoal on display on some of the engines and rests of it on others, so for children who like to climb on things this is a place where they easily get dirty. So, if you decide to go, dress your children in dark, insensitive clothes - otherwise you will not enjoy the visit.