Friday, 28 September 2012

How to spend a weekend in Penedès (Catalonia) in the rain?

One of the things I appreciate the most with living in Penedès is our climate and weather. We have sun almost all the time which is, in fact, one of the reasons why so many cultural expressions here take place out in the squares and streets and thereby contribute to the fascinating atmosphere which I – a native Swede – associate with the Mediterranean.

Now, while summer rains in Penedès can be intense, they are always rare and do not last for many minutes. But now autumn has started and all of a sudden we can face weather forecasts like the one for this weekend, September 28-30; rain all the time and throughout our territory!

So, let us plan for the worst and start by checking out what you can do out here in spite of the rain.

Fortunately, one of the main events – the September Fair of Igualada (Anoia)– is located indoors and presents a program including cultural activities. On top of that, in case you come from the coast of Penedès or Barcelona, the exhibition halls can be reached without driving through the town centre.

In Sitges (Garraf), most local museums hold and Open Day on Sunday, so take the opportunity indulge yourself in art and local history when - for a change - you are not seduced by the beaches.

Among the other indoor activities we find music concerts in Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès) and Sitges plus dance and clown performances in Igualada

Having said this, if the weather allows, there will a lot more interesting activities:

The town festival Festa Major de Sant Miquel in Segur de Calafell (Baix Penedès) with a Friday evening correfoc and big Saturday afternoon giant parade.

Human tower (castells) exhibitions in Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf) and Sitges on Saturday and in Vilafranca del Penedès and Bisbal del Penedès (Baix Penedès) on Sunday.

Sardana dancing in Sitges and Calafell.

A market with ecological produce and products in Sant Cugat Sesgarrigues (Alt Penedès) on Sunday.

Wine related guided tours in Piera (Anoia) and Vilafranca del Penedès.

Guided tours to the local architectural or historial heritgage in Sant Pere de Ribes (Garraf), Gelida, Olèrdola and Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (all three towns in Alt Penedès).

So, let us hope for sun but, as you see, Penedès has things to offer also when it rains!

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Find here detailed Penedès events calendars in English.

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By Erik Wirdheim – your guide to Catalan society and culture with a special focus on the cava and wine region Penedès.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Wine Harvest and Snail Eating Festival in Anoia and more…

This weekend, September 21-23, highlights quite a few of the traditions we have out here in Penedès. Complete agendas in English can be found here.
Canon 550d - Snail on Fork

Wine tourists exploring D.O. Penedès should head for Els Hostalets de Pierola (Anoia) where they celebrate a traditional wine harvest festival (Festa de la Verema) on Sunday, September 23.

Tourists interested in culinary specialties might want to add a visit to Òdena (Anoia) on the same day, since they have a snail fair and market.

If Catalan folkculture is what you are looking for, then Sitges (Garraf) and the Festa Major Petita de Santa Tecla has a lot to offer throughout the weekend. Find here the complete program (in Catalan).

Human towers (castells) will be built in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès) on Saturday and in Sitges (Garraf) on Sunday.

Music lovers can, among other things, select between a jazz concert in Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès) and organ and choir music in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès).

Sports fans should take a closer look at the Triathlon of Calafell (Baix Penedès), the Half Marathon and fun-run (cursa popular) in Sant Cugat Sesgarrigues (Alt Penedès) or the mountain bike competition in Capellades (Anoia).

If you live out here and are looking for activities for your family, you might want to know that this weekend there are several bicycle and walking tours organized in order to promote sustainable and safe transport, for example in Cunit and El Vendrell (Baix Penedès), Vilanova del Camí and Piera (Anoia) and Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès).

And the weather will better than acceptable so: Discover Penedès!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Discover Penedès (Catalonia) this weekend!

The sun is shining in Penedès but temperatures are markedly lower now than only a week ago. That our summer peak season is over can easily be seen in the local events calendars as well – we are returning to a slower rhythm.

Still, there are many things to do in Sitges, Vilanova i la Geltrú, Vilafranca del Penedès, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, El Vendrell, Calafell, Igualada and our other towns during this weekend, September 14-16. Below you find a few examples - alternatively you can find the full agenda for each of the four comarques here.

Sitges (Garraf) is warming up for the Minor Town Festival (Festa Major Petita) next weekend, but it kicks off with a children’s day on Sunday September 16.

In case you want to see human towers (castells), this time we can offer the acrobatic version, Falcons, in a Sunday exhibition in Capellades (Anoia).

Music lovers have the most to chose from in Sitges where there is a two-day singing and chamber music competition plus an open air opera show. Apart from this there is are jazz concerts in Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès) and spirituals in the castle of La Pobla de Claramunt (Anoia).

Finally, those of you who want to have a sausage dinner with our local population might be interested in the Saturday botifarrada popular in Calafell (Baix Penedès.

On top of this, there are several guided tours – above in Alt Penedès and Garraf.

Out here we are getting prepared for yet another sunny weekend: Discover Penedès!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

My Impressions of the September 11 Independence March in Barcelona (Catalonia)

Every year on September 11 – the National Day of Catalonia – people take to the streets of Barcelona to demand independence from Spain, but this year the demonstration was bigger than ever. The organizers claim that there were as many as 2 million participants, but while the Spanish police reduce that number to 600.000, reputable news services as BBC find reason to quote the Catalan police and talk about 1,5 million people.

Today, some commentators have underlined that not everyone who joined the manifestation do in fact demand full sovereignty from Spain. That might be true, but on the other hand the main slogan was absolutely clear this time – “Catalonia – a new European state” – and the estelades – the battle flag for Catalan independentistes – and people shouting independència totally dominated the scene.

What is also clear is that the main street, passeig de Gràcia, was so crowded that the march could start to move only after a few hours, when enough people had left for the many side streets. That is also where I personally, in the self-imposed role as an “international” observer, spent most of the time, fascinated by the festive and absolutely peaceful atmosphere. Through El Mundo I have learnt that one group of demonstrators burnt Spanish and French flags, but I did not see anything similar. No hostilities, no violence but - on the contrary – loads of families with smiling children, among whom I recognized many friends and acquaintances from my Catalan town, Vilanova i la Geltrú.

Whether Catalonia will one day be independent remains to see, so I feel privileged to live here and be able to follow the development as it happens. Yesterday’s demonstration will, without doubt, force politicians of all colours to be more specific about their future visions for the Catalan society. And the argument which representatives from the political parties PP and Ciudadanos love to repeat – that there is a silent majority against independence – sounds more and more hollow.

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Here are my photos of la Diada Nacional de Catalunya, starting at the train station of Vilanova i la Geltrú, reaching the Pau Claris exit of the station passeig de Gràcia, followed by stops at passeig de Gràcia, Urquinaona, Via Laietana, Ciutadella and Estació de França.

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Before the demonstration officially started at 18:00, I had the pleasure of taking the position as primer lateral in a human pillar of four levels, which members of Falcons de Barcelona and Falcons de Vilanova improvised in passseig de Gràcia. In all honesty we managed only on the second attempt, but I will not say anything: I – if anyone – know what if feels like when you fail with one of these constructions…

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The morning of September 11, I had spent building human towers with Bordegassos de Vilanova in our small neighbour town Cubelles. Even there the hoisting of the Catalan flag – la Senyera – on the church bell tower resulted in shouts for independence.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Penedès this weekend: Phylloxera Festival in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (Barcelona) and more important things…

If you - as I am -, are committed to exploring the popular culture of Catalonia, you cannot allow yourself to have “blank spots” close to where you live. But that is what I have and – come Monday – that is what I will continue to have if we talk about the main event in Penedès this weekend: the Phylloxera Festival in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (Alt Penedès), September 7-8.

But my excuse this time is quite legitimate. The reason why I cannot go is the very same Catalan popular culture. I mean, after having been an active member of the human tower builders Bordegassos de Vilanova for three years by now, I of course cannot miss one of our most high profile exhibitions this year (Saturday, September 8 at 19:00; in front of the Cathedral of Barcelona). And since I will go, I of course cannot skip the Friday rehearsal…

Next year in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia! Next year I will dress up in yellow, dance under the fire of the phylloxera monsters and drink cava all night

So, what else can you do out here Friday-Sunday, September 7-8, except for relaxing our beaches?

Garraf (find here the full agenda) is the comarca to go to if you are a cava and wine tourist, since there you find wine harvest festivals (festa de la verema) in Sitges and Cubelles. And if you like to watch people peforming beach sports, Vilanova i la Geltrú hosts a tambeach tournament.

Baix Penedès (find here the full agenda) and, more precisely, Calafell is your place if you like music from the 50-ies, since they hold a major Rock-A-Billy festival. In sharp contrast, in El Vendrell they organize a literary guided tour through the town.

Anoia (find here the full agenda) has a on-going town festivalFesta Major de Vilanova del Camí – which is also the only town in Penedès to offer a human tower exhibition this weekend; local Moixiganguers d’Igualada challenge their guests Castellers de Terrassa and Xicots de Vilafranca.

Alt Penedès (find here the full agenda), finally, does not only offer the Phylloxera Festival, but also jazz and havaneres concerts in Vilafranca del Penedès and guided tours in many of  the towns.

As you see – Penedès is a lot more than cava and wine!

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Attention: Next week, Tuesday September 11, is a public holiday when we celebrate the National Day of Catalonia. For that reason, there will be human tower exhibitions in Cubelles (Garraf), Els Hostalets de Pierola (Anoia) and Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès).

In the evening of September 10, many towns out here will see torch marches for an independent Catalonia.

In the late afternoon September 11, however, we can expect the streets of Penedès to be unusually calm, since at 18:00 there will be a big demonstration around the street passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona. You will see different slogans, but I guess that “Catalonia – the next state in Europe” (“Catalunya, proper estat d’Europa”) will be the one to attract most international attention.