Friday, 27 July 2012

What to do in Penedès this weekend?

Below you find a few comments on what you might want to do if you visit Garraf (Vilanova i la Geltrú, Sitges), Baix Penedès (El Vendrell, Calafell), Alt Penedès (Vilafranca del Penedès, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia) or Anoia (Igualada) during the weekend 27-29 July.

Like most people who love Penedès, I have one town which ranks higher than the others. In my case that is Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf) and since we now see the start of our annual town festival - Festa Major - I have difficulties being neutral in my recommendations this time, but I will do my best… ;)

Since many followers of this blog have a special interest in human towers, let us start with the obvious: the most important challenge between castellers in Catalonia this weekend, is the one which takes place on Saturday, July 28, in Vilanova i la Geltrú. Already last weekend did Castellers de Vilafranca complete their first gamma extra construction in 2012 (a 4d9a). They now want to beat that result and as a consequence we can expect human towers of the absolutely most advanced category in Vilanova as well. Apart from this, Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona wants for this diada to be as important as it was for them last year, and the local team, Bordegassos de Vilanova, have every reason to hope for a Saturday when they jump up one category among the teams in Catalonia.

Now the other events: Staying in Vilanova i la Geltrú and Garraf, the Festa Major program also includes a huge fire-run (correfoc) and Penedès style acrobatic human towers, falcons. In Sitges, you will be able to see another exhibition in building human towers and in Cubelles they celebrate their “little town festival” – Festa Major petita.

Moving over the Baix Penedès, there are still a few highly interesting events related to the Festa Major in El Vendrell: Today, Friday, there will be parades (cercaviles) with performances by all Catalan dances and on Saturday those who understand Catalan can enjoy the satirical “dances” called ball de malcasats.

In Alt Penedès, this weekend offers the second and last concert of the
Music Festival in the Vineyards of Subirats – “Swing Appeal” – and in Vilafranca del Penedès you can watch and dance the Catalan national dance sardana.

Anoia, finally, stands out as a great alternative for those who are not interested in folk culture. Those who like modern Catalan music ought to check out the program of “Anòlia Estrella”, with concerts in Igualada by Love of Lesbian, Mishima and others. Also in Igualada, fans of sports, for their part, will be happy to see that the town is filled up with competitions of the World Bike Trial Championship.

Welcome to Penedès!

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By Erik Wirdheim – your guide in English and Swedish to the wine region Penedès (Catalonia, Spain).

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Photo by Bordegassos de Vilanova - Maite Gomà

Festa Major in Vilanova i la Geltrú – Full program in English

Today is the first day of the town festival (Festa Major) in Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf, Barcelona). Find here my version in English, including all events and also recommendations on things of interest to those of us who want to learn more about the wine region Penedès, the rest of Catalonia and the local culture here.

Some of the most exciting events take place already this weekend, notably the Fire-Run (Correfoc), the big exhibition of human towers (with Bordegassos de Vilanova, Castellers de Vilafranca and Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona) and the exhibition of Falcons (acrobatic human towers).

Having said this, the most traditional part of the celebration in next weekend, August 4-5. That is when the street of the town fills up with festival parades and performances of all our group of Catalan dances.

Welcome to Vilanova i la Geltrú and its Festa Major 2012!

Friday, 20 July 2012

What to do in Penedès this weekend?

Here you find a few recommendations on what to do if you visit Garraf (Sitges, Vilanova i la Geltrú), Alt Penedès (Vilafranca del Penedès, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia), Baix Penedès (El Vendrell, Calafell) or Anoia (Igualada) during the weekend 20-22 July.

For all of us who see Penedès as a totality, the coming weekend represents an absolute overload of events. However, if you plan your days a bit (above all the late afternoons) you will have a unique opportunity to see a lot in a short time. The links below take you to agendas in English which can be of help.

In Garraf, Sitges hosts a broad range of concerts, opera and tango performances, but also a chess tournament. Vilanova i la Geltrú, for its part, offers human towers (castells) on both Saturday (combined with the acrobatic version, falcons) and Sunday but also a beach korfball tournament and modern Catalan music at the concert Faraday Major. In the small town of Canyelles they celebrate Festa Major.

In Baix Penedès, the small town of Sant Jaume dels Domenys celebrates Festa Major with a correfoc (fire-run), human towers (castells) and a parade with Catalan folkdances. However, apart from that, you have several concerts in El Vendrell related to the Pau Casals International Music Festival, plus tournaments in beach tennis and beach handball in Calafell.

Alt Penedès offers a correfoc (fire-run) in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, a flamenco and jazz concert during the Music Festival in the Vineyards of Subirats plus human towers (castells), sardana dancing and havaneres in Vilafranca del Penedès.

In Anoia, finally, you can listen to modern Catalan music during the music festival Anòlia or at the music festival in Piera.

Welcome to Penedès!

Who thinks about the public when a human tower collapses?

Last weekend, the historic centre of Calafell celebrated its Festa Major and I went there to take part in the traditional human tower exhibition. The atmosphere was full of expectation since all three teams – the “home team” Nens del Vendrell, the team from my town, Bordegassos de Vilanova, and Xicots de Vilafranca – planned to build human towers of eight levels.
Looking only at the results of the day, we all have reason to be quite content.

Nens del Vendrell managed to crown, but not complete, a 4 of 8 and completed 2 of 7, 5 of 7 and a pillar of 5.

Xicots de Vilafranca had to dismantle their attempt to build a 3 of 8 before it was crowned, but completed their first 2 by 7 during this season and followed up with a 5 of 7, a very light 4 of 7 and a pillar of 5.

Bordegassos de Vilanova, for our part, opened with our seventh (!) 2 of 7 this year, but only managed to crown, not complete, our big challenge of the day, the 4 of 8. After this we rounded off with a 3 of 7 and a pillar of 5.

Having pointed out that the results were satisfying, this day gave me many reasons to reflect over how tourists might perceive Catalan human towers. We experienced a number of dramatic falls and since the ambulance staff had to intervene and even take one casteller to the hospital, the exhibition had some almost unbearably long breaks.

What is worse, there was not anyone - neither among the Festa Major organizers, nor among the participating teams -, who seemed to think about the public when the activity stopped. That irritates me since I know that most participants like to have a lot of people watching and, on top of that, Catalan authorities on all levels love to use castells in tourism promotions.

We must not let the public leave the squares with a feeling that this cultural activity is highly dangerous and that might very well have happened in Calafell – a coastal town full of foreign tourists at this time of the year.

The solution to this is very simple: Like at many days of human towers organized in the towns north of Barcelona, we in Penedès ought to have a speaker during our exhibitions. It is enough if they only speak Catalan and Spanish – the important thing is to signal that there is one person who, if needed, can answer questions and help you digest what you see.

We want for tourists to return to their countries with nice memories of Penedès and Catalonia and its human towers, so let us all take responsibility and improve where we can.