Friday, 26 October 2012

Penedès is Cava, Wine, Human Towers, Sardana and… Faraday Independent Music Festival

When I write this, it is raining heavily in Vilanova i la Geltrú, in the coastal parts of Penedès, but according to the forecast, we will have a quite nice weather this weekend, October 26-28. True, it seems it will be better here along the coast than in the inland and, true, temperatures are expected to drop quite dramatically from Saturday to Sunday. But still, it is autumn so what did we expect, after all?

Below are a few tips on things to do while full events calendars in English can be found here.

In case you come here as cava and wine tourists, then the wine harvest festival in Sant Pere de Riudebitlles (Alt Penedès) is the main event, but – in case you are interested in the Catalan language – you might also want to go to the presentation of wine related drinking songs in Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès). As a contrast, in L’Espelt (Òdena, Anoia) there will be a craft beer fair.

For those who want to explore typical Catalan cultural expressions there will be human tower exhibitions (castells) in Sitges (Garraf) and L’Arboç (Baix Penedès), both visited by some of the best teams in Catalonia. In Piera (Anoia) you will be able to see a typical festival parade (cercavila) with giants, monsters spitting fire and devils dancing under it. The Catalan national dance – sardana – will be performed in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès) as well as in Sitges.

For those of you who prefer contemporary culture, the autumn edition (taking place indoors) of the independent music festival Faraday in Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf) will be a warmly recommended alternative.

Fans of sports, finally, can find a roller hockey derby in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (Alt Penedès) – that is, if you prefer to watch – and – in case you want to sweat a bit - a mountain running race in the areas around Capellades (Anoia), where the Neanderthals used to live some 55.000 years ago.

The summer is gone – but Garraf, Alt Penedès, Baix Penedès and Anoia still havea lot to offer. Discover Penedès!

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Attention: Thursday, November 1, next week is a public holidayTots Sants.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Bacardí, Slot Cars or Autumn Food for Rainy Weekend in Wine Region Penedès (Catalonia)

After yet another sunny and warm autumn week in the cava and wine region Penedès, unfortunately we are expecting rain for the weekend October 19-21 when most cultural activities and festivals take place.

So, if worse comes to worst, let us be happy that there are a few indoor activities in the events calendars for this part of Catalonia.

In Canyelles (Garraf) you will be able to enjoy typical autumn food and music at the so called Dixiland-Tast and in Sitges (Garraf) there are guided tours in the museum dedicated to the founders of the liquor brand Bacardí. For those with a general interest in sports, there is a roller hockey derby between two teams from Penedès in Calafell (Baix Penedès).

If you happen to be interested in slot cars then you are especially fortunate since there will be races in an exhibition hall in Igualada (Anoia).

On top of this you can find a classic music concert in Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès), a dance performance in Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf), theatre in English in Sitges and a concert with Catholic religious music in Igualada.

Having said this, if the weather allows for it you can look forward to a lot more typically “Mediterranean” outdoor events.

There will be D.O. Penedès Wine Harvest Festivals in Avinyonet del Penedès, Castellví de la Marca and Sant Cugat Sesgarrigues (all three in Alt Penedès) and a running race through the rural landscapes of the “country of cava” – starting in Vilafranca del Penedès and finishing in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (Alt Penedès).

Those of you interested in Catalan culture will – as I do – cross your fingers for a pause in the (expected) rain during the exhibitions of human towers (castells) in Sant Pere de Ribes (Garraf) and the gymnastic formations (falcons) in Vilanova i la Geltrú.

As a contrast, in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès) there will be a performance of dances – including flamenco - from the Spanish autonomous community of Extremadura.

The Harley Davidson meeting in Segur de Calafell, finally, will most likely attract a few participants even if it rains, but let us be honest: Penedès is better during our, on average, 300 annual days of sunshine!

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And if you despair in the rain: Remember that the city centre of Barcelona – with all its fascinating museums, shopping and exhibition halls – is within reach. From most parts of Penedès it takes less than 45 minutes to reach the capital of Catalonia by car!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Zombies in Sitges, Special Olympics Barcelona-Vilanova and a lot more going on in Penedès!

October 12 is the National Day of Spain el día de la Hispanidad – but out in Penedès you will not see much other effects than shops and businesses being closed, since this is a public holiday. In some companies and institutions people might even work, in order to stress that they do not consider Catalonia a part of Spain.

If you come here during this long weekend - pont (bridge) in Catalan -, October 12-14, you might want to check out the following events and festivals.

In Sitges (Garraf) the International Film Festival of Catalonia has been going on for a week and will reach its end only coming Sunday. Friday night, the traditional Zombie Walk will take place in the town centre.

In Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf), Barcelona celebrates that 20 years have passed since the city hosted the official Paralympic Games 1992. For that reason, over a thousand sportsmen and women from Spain and beyond will compete in the disciplines selected for Special Olympics Barcelona-Vilanova i la Geltrú 2012.

Cava and wine tourists might want to visit Sant Cugat de Sesgarrigues, Font-Rubí and Castellví de la Marca (all three located in Alt Penedès) where they hold wine harvest festivals (festes del most) this weekend.

Shopping minded people might prefer to check out the multi-sectorial trade fair Fira de Santa Teresa in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès) or the Medieveal Markt in Olesa de Bonesvalls (Alt Penedès).

Those of you who are interested in Catalan culture ought to go to El Vendrell or Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès) in case you want to see human towers (castells). The Catalan national dance sardana, on the other hand, will be performed in Calafell and Cunit (the two in Baix Penedès), Igualada (Anoia), and in El Vendrell and Vilafranca del Penedès. In Coma-Ruga (El Vendrell, Baix Penedès), finally, there will be a concert by people playing the wind instrument gralla.

Full event calendars for the wine region Penedès (Catalonia) can be found here. Welcome to Penedès!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Great Bordegassos at Catalan Human Tower Competition in Tarragona 2012

Bordegassos de Vilanova took the 12 place in the 2012 Concurs de Castells by completing the human towers 4d8, 3d8 and 2d8f.” Honestly, how many of us here in Vilanova i la Geltrú would have believed in such a headline only a year ago? I dare to answer nobody. Many of us who are active in the team would have answered that this would be our dream and that we would not rule it out, but the fantastic result we now have at hand would simply have seemed out of reach. 

Not only because, back then, we had just recuperated a certain stability with 2d7 and just completed our first 4d8 for many years. No, among us there was also a conviction that a big part of the team was still against participating in the bi-annual Concurs de Castells, with the argument that building human towers is a social activity in which you must not compete.

2d8f by Bordegassos de Vilanova: photo by Maite Gomà

Looking back I will admit that, to me, that always looked like an excuse from a bad loser. Those who used to say it were just as sad and obsessed with our lack of good results as those of us who admitted having a more competitive mindset. And that is not strange – we all wanted to for Bordegassos to a be a major ingredient in our pride of Vilanova i la Geltrú, but what was there to be proud of when we did not deliver?

Now this has all changed, thanks to our head coach (cap de collaEdgar Granados and the rest of his team. At the Festa Major in Vilanova last year, they challenged our confidence in ourselves by deciding that we were to build a 2d7 – which we at that point did not master – and surprised us by proving our own capability. That was the starting point of a positive spiral which only seem to be spinning faster and faster. The annual objectives we had set up for this year were  surpassed several weeks ago.

3d8 by Bordegassos de Vilanova: photo by Maite Gomà

Last weekend, for our day of the human tower competition, we managed to mobilize 300 people to join us in a performance away from home. By completing the human towers 4d8, 3d8 and our first 2d8f since 2002 we ended up as prelimary winners of the first day and took the 12th place in total! Amazing!

To our coaches, to those of my fellow team members who always come to our rehearsals and to all new friends who will hopefully continue to help us, I want to extend my warmest thanks for making all this possible.

Visca els Bordegassos de Vilanova!

4d8 by Bordegassos de Vilanova: photo by Maite Gomà

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Do you want to know more about Bordegassos de Vilanova? You find us in our club house in plaça de les Casernes, 2, where we practise on Mondays (20:00-21:00), Wednesdays (19:30-21:00) and Fridays (22:00-24:00). To watch or joins us building human towers is free of charge. Please, feel free to pass by to check if this something for you or for your children!

photo by Maite Gomà

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My strongest personal memories from the long Saturday I spent at Concurs de Castells?

… The silence in the base (pinya) when the second support ring (folre) climbed up on us for the 2d8f.  Compared to other teams, Bordegassos are exaggeratedly talkative human tower builders and when we have rehearsed the pinya amb folre the noise level of all unnecessary complaints have always been so high, that you have not been able to hear our coaches’ instructions. Not so during the competition – for a change we understood the importance of the situation and kept our mouths shut!

… The great support we received from fellow Penedès team Nens del Vendrell, who joined our pinyes, which we reciprocated by doing the same for them. (Personally, I made to loops to their part of in Tarraco Arena Plaça, most importantly for their splendid 2d8f.) This sportsmanship felt so absolutely natural there and then, but was observed and appreciated beyond the circles of our two teams. Just like my love for our neighbour town Vilafranca del Penedès has its origin in a deep admiration of Castellers de Vilafranca, thanks to Nens del Vendrell I am starting to warm up to the town of El Vendrell.

… And, of course, my own children who endured the five hours in the arena without complaining. They looked so cute dressed up as-if Bordegassos, although neither of them shows the slightest interest in trying to climb up on a human tower.

photo by Maite Gomà

Penedès Teams Dominate First Day of Human Tower Competition in Tarragona 2012

2d8f by Nens del Vendrell; photo by Maite Gomà

Castellers de Vilafranca, who won the 2012 edition of the human tower competition Concurs de Castells in Tarragona, was the only team representing Penedès on the main day, the Sunday. However, on the day before, the other teams from Penedès proved great strength.

Bordegassos de Vilanova (Vilanova i la Geltrú, Garraf) won the Saturday competition with 1.512 points and reached the 12th place in total. That, of course, merits a separate blog post.

2d8f (c) by Xicots de Vilafranca; photo by Maite Gomà

Xicots de Vilafranca (Vilafranca del Penedes, Alt Penedès) had been the favourites for the first day, but had to accept a third first day position and a 14th place in total. They reached 1.389 points based on 4d8, 3d8 and – most importantly - 2d8f which they (on two occasions!) managed to crown but not complete. (Read more in Catalan: Xicots de Vilafranca)

Nens del Vendrell (El Vendrell, Baix Penedès) achieved 1.233 points and a 17th place in total. However, the constructions they made – 7d7, 3d8 and – above all – 2d8f -, made this day their best performance since 1976. (Read more in Catalan: Nens del Vendrell)

Moixiganguers d’Igualada (Igualada, Anoia) made the best performance ever in history. They took the 18th place by reaching 1.080 points with 2d7, 9d7 and 4d8. (Read more in Catalan: Moixiganguers d'Igualada)

2d7 by Colla Jove Castellers de Sitges; photo by Maite Gomà

Colla Jove dels Castellers de Sitges (Sitges, Garraf) started the day with an unnecessary, partial fall of a 7d7 but got back on track and made their best total performance ever outside their home town. With 849 points, they took the 22 place based on 3d7ps, 7d7 and 2d7. (Read more in Catalan and find photo and video documentation: Colla Jove Castellers de Sitges)

Minyons de l’Arboç (L’Arboç, Baix Penedès), finally, reached 623 points with 5d7, 4d7a and 7d7. They ended up in the 28th place, but let us remember that they come from a small town with just over 5.000 inhabitants.

7d7 by Colla Jove Castellers de Sitges; photo by Maite Gomà

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Castellers de Vilafranca Win 2012 Human Tower Competition in Tarragona

Saturday and Sunday October 6-7, the bi-annual human tower competiton Concurs de Castells took place at Tarraco Arena Plaça in Tarragona, Catalonia. I will not be able to do full justice to the Sunday competition, since I could not go to the top fight this time. At the same time I want to comment on some of the many strong emotions I lived during the Saturday, when I was there with Bordegassos de Vilanova and feel that I cannot do so without first mentioning the overall winners. So here we go:

For the sixth time in a row, Castellers de Vilafranca from our neighbour town Vilafranca del Penedès won Concurs de Castells, this time with 15.197 points and after having built four constructions of the most difficult category, gamma extra: 4d9fa (c), 3d9fa (c), 2d8net and 4d9net. Only the latter three resulted in points (since only the best three castells count) and of these the last one caused the biggest celebration since it has never been completed by the green team before and, as I understand it, has not been completed by any team in the modern era of Catalan human towers.

In a shared second place we surprisingly saw Colla dels Joves Xiquets de Valls equaling the score of Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls. The two teams from Valls – the birthplace of the casteller culture – both reached 7.284 points with the same human towers, albeit not in the same order: 3d9f plus the two gamma extra constructions 9d8 and 5d9f.

In the fourth place with 5,178 points we found Colla Jove dels Castellers de Tarragona which completed 4d9f, 3d9f and one gamma extra construction, 9d8. The fifth place went to Capgrossos de Mataró who reached 4.913 points by completing 4d9f, 3d9f and crowned (but did not complete) the gamma extra construction 2d9fm.

To round off, I would like to highlight that the total score for Castellers de Vilafranca this time was the highest ever achieved in this competition and more than doubled those of the teams in the second place. On top of this, each and every one of the four green constructions was worth more points than the most advanced human tower performed by any other team on this day. That illustrates how completely this team dominates the world of Catalan human towers!

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British Mail Online wrote an article about Concurs de Castells where they used one of my videos of Bordegassos de Vilanova for a close up picture.

Friday, 5 October 2012

CavaTast, Sitges Film Festival, FIMPT or an Iberian Weekend?

A fast look at the events calendars for Penedès for this weekend, October 5-7, confirm that our local decision makers do not coordinate their event planning at all. For a short moment I considered being evil and ranking the events (that would certainly have made me loved by a few cava producers up in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, but hated by most of my neighbours…) but then I realized that I do not need to. Possibly, I am one of the few who want to go to all the four festivals we will have here now – most other people might have more specific preferences.

Cava and wine tourists in the D.O. Penedès simply have to pass by CavaTast, the cava week and market in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (Alt Penedès) – a unique opportunity to sample and buy this “sparkling happiness”!

Fans of fantasy of horror movies will already be in Sitges (Garraf) where the International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia has already begun and will continue throughout next week and weekend.

Music lovers – especially those interested in traditional Catalan music – will want to go to FIMPT – the world music festival of Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf) – from this year celebrated in the autumn, and not in the summer as earlier.

People interested in history, finally, will want to combine visits to the Citadel of Calafell (Baix Penedès) and the old fortress of Olèrdola (Alt Penedès) where they organize an Iberian Weekend.

So, these were the four big theme activities this weekend, but there is a lot more going on.

Those of you who are interested in sports should, above all, consider the roller hockey Penedès super-derby between C.P. Calafell Tot l’Any and Moritz C.E. Vendrell taking place in Calafell, but also the half marathon in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès) or the scenic swimming competition Marnaton along the coast of the nature reserve Garraf, starting in Sitges.

This time Penedès has too much to offer – please, interpret it as an invitation to come here now, and then come back again… and again... and again!

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You might wonder why there are not any human tower exhibitions this weekend. The answer is simple – precisely this weekend Tarragona (less than 45 minutes away from here) will see the biggest competition there is a Catalonia, the bi-annual Concurs de Castells in Tarraco Arena Plaça.

Among the 20 teams on the Saturday, Penedès is represented by Bordegassos de Vilanova, Colla Jove de Castellers de Sitges, Minyons de l’Arboç, Moixiganguers d’Igualada, Nens del Vendrell and Xicots de Vilafranca.

And on the Sunday, Castellers de Vilafranca are alone among 11 other teams from outside Penedès. In my heart, I will be there with them – in all honesty I was a fan of the green team (“els Verds”) long before I put on Bordegassos’ yellow shirt for the first time!

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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.