Girona: What’s on in August

Although many locals abandon Girona in August to the scorching sun, there is plenty to do.  Check my top picks out below:

Music under the stars

In the evening, head to the gardens behind the cathedral.  One of the most atmospheric night-time venues of the city, the gardens will host a food market from 19 – 23hr and concerts from 21hr onwards.

Guided tour

Book on to a guided tour of the Jewish Quarter.  The tour will explore the history of the Jewish Quarter – one of the most historic and beautiful areas of the city.  You will also get the chance to visit the Museum of Jewish History.

  • Every Sunday in August, 12.30hr
  • Meeting venue: Museu d’Història dels Jueus (Jewish Museum)
  • 6€ (and 3€ for children under 14)
  • For more info and to book: callgirona@ajgirona.cat or (+34) 972 216 761

Experience Game of Thrones

Girona takes centre stage in many of the key scenes of the sixth season.  Tour the scene locations and find out more.  For Game of Throne geeks this will be worth it, but for the less obsessed, beware the price (see below).

  • Every Tuesday and Friday in August , 18.30hr
  • Meeting venue: Sant Lluc Church
  • 20€ (Children under 12 go free)
  • Catalan, Spanish, English and French

Girona: What’s on in July

This month, Girona continues to live up to its reputation of being Spain’s ‘City of Festivals’.  Check out the music and theatre festivals below:

Theatre Festival

Throughout July, Girona hosts a range of theatre performers in multiple venues.  If you struggle with Spanish or Catalan, check out the comedic acrobats, Circo Los, at their outdoor performance on 24th July.

 Notes al parc

At the weekends, Girona’s parks and gardens come to life with a series of small concerts.

Guitar Festival

The performances vary from rock to flamenco feature but in the spotlight at the centre of them all is the guitar.

I’m a migrant

Living as a Brit in Spain, many people ask me about my views on BREXIT.  This has always seemed a silly question. I am a British migrant living in Europe: clearly, I support European migrants living in Britain and the European Union.

However, this is not obvious to all of the 300,000 other Brits who have migrated to Spain: many Brits abroad don’t recognise themselves as migrants.  A British “expat” in Spain explained that he had voted for BREXIT because the UK needs ‘control of its own borders’.    I was baffled: he was completely unaware that he was an exact mirror of the very migrants he wished to stop entering the UK.

Expat interview.png
Eddie, a British “expat”, expresses his views on migration in Guardian footage.

But perhaps I was wrong to be shocked.  This same hypocrisy is built into British media and politics.  We hear again and again about Latvian migrants, Asian migrants and Polish migrants – but never British migrants.

The Oxford Dictionary describes a migrant as a ‘person who moves from one place to another, often to find work.’   That’s me: I am a teacher who moved to Spain for work.  Yet, no one has ever referred to me as a migrant, immigrant or emigrant.  Instead, I am more likely to be called a teacher, expat or gap student.

Why?  Because, in reality, the dictionary’s definition of ‘migrant’ no longer exists.  After years of the media trampling the term into the mud, the meaning has changed.  An Oxford University study found that the most common newspaper descriptor for ‘immigrant’ was ‘illegal’.  Illegal immigrant, illegal immigrant, illegal immigrant.  If you hear it enough times, all immigrants become illegal. In fact, a study found that 30% of primary school children believe that ‘all immigrants are illegal’.

In the same way, newspapers have narrowed the meaning of ‘migrant’.  Now ‘migrant’ connotes people of a different race: people who are non-British, not-rich and not-welcome.  ‘Migrant’ is no longer an inclusive, open term.  It’s an exclusive term and not in a members-get-a-VIP-welcome and free-drinks kind of way.  This limited picture of a migrant completely ignores a huge proportion of migrants, such as myself.

This is even more ridiculous when you consider just how many white British migrants there are and have been throughout history.

Looking at my family alone, my mother, Granny and great grandparents all migrated from Scotland to England.  Long before that, my Northern Irish ancestors but their hopes into boats and migrated across the sea to Scotland.   Really as Winder, an immigration expert says, “We are all immigrants … it simply depends how far back you go.”

On top of that, with globalisation, migration continues in my generation more than ever.  In fact, the World Bank estimates that currently about 8% of Brits live abroad.  My sister migrated to France to au pair, my school friend to Thailand to teach and my flatmate to Amsterdam to design.  All British, all migrants.

The word ‘migrant’ and other language surrounding migration has been misused for decades.  The rise in both racist incidents and terrorist attacks hasn’t been caused by immigration.  Migration is not the problem.  Migration is as old and natural as time itself. What is the problem is the lack of tolerance and understanding bred by misleading media representations and language.

In a time where the UK rapidly needs to develop integration, it is vital that the language we use is applied to reality.  The term ‘migrant’ should include all: whether they’re leaving or entering the UK, good or bad, Asian or white, tractor-driving or blog-writing.

 

10 things you didn’t know about Castellers

When I said I was moving to Catalonia, a friend said I should join the human pyramid teams. I laughed at the idea.  But here I am nine months later, a weedy, British casteller, embedded in the mass of bodies above.  So here are some insights from within the castellers:

 

Castellers de Vilafranca form a human tower called "castell" during a biannual competition in Tarragona city

1.They’re not human pyramids: English descriptions of the castell tradition normally describe the formations as human pyramids – but they’re not: they’re human castles.  The word ‘castell’ literally means ‘castle’ in Catalan.


Catalan

2. Castells are Catalan: Human tower building is very Catalan; it is considered a proud symbol of Catalonia’s culture, independent of Spain. In my group of 100+ castellers, I am told I am the first international member.  Having said that, it is a little known secret that the idea actually originated in the folk dances of southern Spain.

Pinya Diagram

3. It starts with a pineapple: 90% of castellers are positioned in the ‘pinya’, or ‘pineapple’, at the base of the tower. People in the pinya have two purposes: 1). To be stood on and support castellers above and 2). To be fell on if the tower collapses.  Glamourous, I know!  But what’s great is that it genuinely feels like everyone is valued equally – whether you’re down in the pinya or sky high.  Until recently, the pinya was formed by leaders shouting instructions but now apps and diagrams are used to create this kaleidoscope of human bodies.

pinya 3

4. What is it like to be in the pinya?  Sweaty.  Very sweaty.  Remember that these castells are being performed in thirty degree heat and you’re effectively spooning with about 70 other people.  Being in the pinya can make it hard to remember why becoming a casteller seemed a logical life choice.

music 2

5. The music is key. The performances are accompanied by stirring casteller music.  The different stages of the song coordinate with the different stages in the performance.  This means that technically even if your head is wedged between an armpit and an ankle, you should be able to figure out what is going on above you.  To be honest, I rarely know what’s happening but the music heightens the drama and radiates out through the pinya and crowd beyond.

close together

6. It’s all about the social side. When I first went along to a castellers training session, I wore leggings, trainers and a sports top, expecting weights and exercises.  But it’s really not about the sport and you don’t do exercises.  Both training and performances are more like chat, chat, tower,  chat, chat, chat, tower and so on…  And this is the great thing about it: it’s a welcoming community of people brought close together (literally) by a common goal.

competition

7. It’s a competition – and yet it’s not. At performances, normally 3 colles meet to “compete”.  Each team scores points for the height, complexity, construction and deconstruction of the castell.  But normally, as a fellow casteller explained, it’s more about competing against your own team’s past performances than against other teams.  Hence, you’ll see that members of the blue team might help in the pinya of a green team.

Falling

8. It’s risky. Castellers make it seem easy – but trust me, it’s not.  Castells are made of gritted teeth, quaking muscles and dripping sweat.  There is a reason that the people at the top wear helmets; when the teeth, muscles and sweat fail, it’s a long way down.  Not to mention the injuries which come with being crushed by the weight of those above.  As one teenage girl explained, “Some people think I’m crazy to continue.”

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9. The clothes. Castellers typically wear a black band (faixa), a shirt, a bandana, bare feet and white trousers.  Why?  Hard to say really!  To be fair, there is some logic behind the pirate-inspired costumes.  The black band acts as both a back support and a ladder rung for the climbers.  The shirts are different colours for different colles (teams).  The bare feet allow better grip – just like it did for pirates.  The white trousers … There is no valid reason for white trousers. I don’t have any; I have to wear white pyjama bottoms instead.

exaneta

10. The exaneta: The child who climbs to the top is called the exaneta.  They often start as young as six and their role is crucial.  The moment they cross the top of the tower and raise their hand signals that the construction is complete.  If you look carefully, you’ll see that their hand is raised with four fingers, signifying the four stripes of the Catalan flag.  They rarely seem nervous – but their parents always make up for their lack of nerves.

10 things that make an English girl say sorry:

I have a very English apology to make: it seems I say ‘sorry’ too much.  So much so that a friend has recently started hitting me every time I say ‘sorry’ without just cause.

In my defence, it seems it isn’t just me; according to the research, the English really are polite.  One study found that the average English person says sorry at least 8 times a day.  Another found that the average Brit says ‘sorry’ 1.9 million times in their life.  And to top it off, google (the most academic form of research), shows that the most common auto-fill question is ‘Why are the English so polite?’

However, it seems my aggressive friend does not see this English background as ‘just cause’ for saying sorry.  And as I see this friend daily, unless I want to end up black and blue I’ve got some work to do.  With this in mind, I have some confessions to make before I embark on the road to Sorryless-dom.

Here are 10 things I say sorry for (without just cause):

1. Not knowing the direction or the time when a stranger asks.

2. Walking into another person.

3. Being walked into by another person. (I’m not alone: research shows that 80% of English people will apologise if another person barges into them).

4. Almost being walked into by another person.

5. Walking into a table – or any inanimate object for that matter.

6. Sneezing.

7. Playing a bad shot in tennis therefore meaning that my competitor wins a point.

8. Doing badly in an assignment.

9. Doing well in an assignment.

10. Rainy weather (– because clearly this is my fault).

And, of course, I have found myself saying sorry when my friend hits me for saying sorry.

Sorry.

Girona: What’s on in June

If you’ve got post-Temps-de-Flors blues, do not fear; Girona has got yet more cultural titbits lined up for you in June …

Sant Joan

The tradition of celebrating the shortest night of the year is taken seriously here.  And as with all originally religious celebrations in Catalonia, what better way to celebrate than with a party?  The day of Sant Joan (St. John) is celebrated with bonfires, fireworks and fiestas.  Head to Barcelona or the beach or simply enjoy the festivities here, in Girona.

  • All towns and cities
  • Night-time, 23rd June

Beer Festival

If you went to the wine festival, you’ll know that this is definitely worth going to!  Soak up the atmosphere along with beer and tapas.

  • At the junction next to Correos by Placa Independencia
  • Thurs. 8th and Fri. 9th June: 18hr – 24hr
  • Sat. 10th June: 12hr – 24hr
  • Concerts: 20.30hr every day

Guided tour of medieval Girona

When friends come and visit you in Girona, are you embarrassed by your lack of historical knowledge?  Problem-solved: go on one of the weekly guided tours of the old town … or send your friend on it!

Tapa & Tapa

A selection of bars and restaurants across the city are offering specially created tapas menus throughout the middle of June.  And not only that, you will also get a special offer on a beer to go with it.  See the website and map below to find out where to go.

A dramatic experience of monastery life

Enjoy a free tour of Sant Pere de Galligants Monastery in central Girona.  The creative tour aims to quite literally bring the lives of people in 12th century to life through drama.

Temps de Flors Agenda (in English)

I’ve translated the best bits of the agenda for the festival this weekend.  So if English is easier than Catalan for you, check this out because on top of the flower exhibitions, there is tonnes going on.  Concerts, fire performances, museums…  (My top picks are highlighted).

Friday 19th May:

18 hr Concert at the Jewish History Museum (Located in the centre of the Old Town, in an atmospheric courtyard of the museum)

19 hr A Capella Concert at Placa de la Independencia

Saturday 20th May:

11 hr – 13 hr Choir performances at the Jewish History Museum

12 hr + 13 hr Concert at Jardins del Alemanys (Gardens nestled behind the Cathedral)

17 hr Concert at Jardins del Alemanys

16 hr – 20 hr Secret Concert at the rooftop bar (On top of Hotel Ultonia)

16.30 hr – 19.30 hr Choir performances at the Jewish History Museum

18.30 hr Concert at Jardins del Alemanys

18 hr  Traditional Sardanes performance at Placa del Vi (Behind the Ramblas)

22 – 24 hr The Musical Fire Kult performance at Placa de Sant Feliu (Visual and musical performance of fire instruments.  Not entirely sure what this is but it sounds great!)

21 hr Guided night walk of Temps de Flors.  12 euros.  More information and how to book at http://www.hotelsgirona.net

10 – 24 hr All museums are open until midnight.  (Free entry).

Sunday 21st May:

18 hr A Cappella performance by Black Voices at Placa de la Independencia