12/02/2017

Coffee, correfocs, and gegants: Santa Eulàlia weekend in Barcelona

It's been a busy weekend here in Barcelona: Mrs P (my wonderful mother) has been over here, visiting me for a few days. She certainly picked the right weekend to come; Barcelona has been in festive spirits, as it has been celebrating the festival of its co-patron saint, Santa Eulàlia of Barcelona.

According to Christian legend, Eulàlia was a 13-year-old Roman Catholic virgin who was martyred in Barcelona during the persecution of Christians; a dove is alleged to have flown from her neck following her decapitation by the Romans in c. 303 A. D.. How certain anyone can be about this is, of course, doubtful to say the least, but my contemporary citizens of Barcelona certainly enjoy the festival.

All weekend, there have been numerous cultural events around the city (especially its old town), including correfocs, capgrossos, and castellers, all of which I'll be writing about below.

#CoffeeBarna: SlowMov and Black Remedy

Of course, this is me you're talking about: no weekend could be without a good dosage of my poison of choice, specialty coffee.

My Saturday morning involved a trip to two of my preferred specialty coffee establishments: Gràcia's SlowMov and the Barri Gòtic's Black Remedy. More detailed reviews will be coming soon on both of these great spaces, but, for now, let me summarize them briefly below.

SlowMov is an ecological grocery store, coffee shop, and roastery in the idyllic Barcelona neighbourhood of Gràcia, located on the relatively tranquil Carrer de Luis Antúnez (number 18, just after the Placeta de Sant Miquel). The beans that Carmen and François roast are from a variety of origins and are supplied by the excellent Coutume in Paris. 

If you're passionate about well-made coffee or locally-produced goods, then these guys are the people to visit: they're incredibly knowlegable individuals and will often take time out to explain the nuances of roasting and making great coffees through your preferred method. If you're lucky, you might spot me in there making a v60 or a Kalita, which I always love to share.
    
Me brewing up some beans the other week at SlowMov
Black Remedy are the new kids on the block: they only opened in November last year and have become something of a hipster mecca already, serving great beans from a variety of roasters including Tusell Tostadores (house roaster for espresso), Hidden Cafè BCN, Puchero Coffee, and Right Side Coffee.

Enjoying a Kalita in Black Remedy
Ideally situated in the Barri Gòtic, just behind the Plaça Sant Jaume and next to Ajuntament (town hall), Black Remedy (C/ Ciutat, 5) has amazing food and that was (mainly) why we were there on Saturday. I had the delectable roasted vegetable and feta cheese salad, whilst Mrs P enjoyed her highly-rated pulled pork sandwich. 

BR is extremely accessible with a flat entrance and several level tables - surprisingly rare in Barcelona's specialty coffee shops - (although there's a slight step up to the toilet). The ambiance there is fantastic and the staff are incredibly friendly too. 

Onto to the big event: Santa Eulàlia

As we were walking out of Black Remedy, Mrs P grabbed a wee pocketbook (in Catalan, of course) that was being handed out outside the Ajuntament, detailing the events that were taking place across the city for Santa Eulàlia. 

Attracted to the Plaça Sant Jaume by the noise of the marching bands playing, we paused for a few minutes to survey the guide we had just been handed. There were correfocs - see explanation below - taking place there within the hour. Mrs P was initially rather lukewarm to the idea,  however having been captivated by the correfocs at the 2014 Mercè, I insisted that we stayed: we weren't to be disappointed as it was correfocing awesome. 

So, just what are correfocs? Simply put, they are public events where groups of individuals dress as devils, light fireworks fixed on pitchforks, and set off their fireworks among crowds of spectators. What was extremely exceptional was that, in this case, those letting off fireworks and running across the Plaça with them were small children - many of whom can't have been older than 7 or 8. 

Catalan health and safety was non-existent (a fireman appeared at one point briefly to tell people to inch ever so slightly further backwards), as firework sparkles indiscriminately hit those that were standing some distance away. Check out our video below to see what it was like:  



This was an extraordinary spectacle and I'd highly recommend watching one of these spectacles if you find yourself in the Catalan Countries (there are lots of them at festivals in Catalunya and in the Valencian Community).

As we hadn't had enough excitement for a Saturday night with the correfocs, we were to then discover that there was a free open day being at the Ajuntament de Barcelona (Town Hall) and we could go in for a look around. 

As there was a massive queue snaking around the side of the building leading to an inaccessible entrance, I sneakily asked if I could go through the front gate to find a lift and they were only too happy to oblige. There was some stunning architecture and art on show, although the highlight for me was being able to go into Ada Colau's office and the City Council Chamber.
Being a politics geek in the City Council Chamber

Sunday was a more leisurely day. We departed from Les Corts, my neighbourhood in the early afternoon, walked around the Rambles area (not my favourite part of town, it must be said), before meandering to the Barri Gòtic.

 Our main cultural highlight was watching the gegants and capgrossos dancing their way through the old town, before resting for photos with the public in the peaceful Plaça Sant Josep Oriol and then back through the old town.
The gegants in the Plaça Sant Josep Oriol in Barcelona's old town
The Gegants are basically giants papier-maché figures. They are are carried by geganters/es (giant-carriers); in this case, they were adolescents from various community groups across the city. In essence, the giants are papier-maché figures that are usually three or four metres in height. They show the upper part of the figure and have a skirt covering the lower part, where the geganter/a stands whilst they twirl their figures through the streets.