Encore…Barcelona

Our trip to Barcelona was relatively short; five days, four nights. Could we have stayed longer? Definitely. Would we go back? Of course!

We researched quite carefully in which area of the city we wanted to stay. We booked last minute so our choices were limited. Initially, we had wanted to stay in an AirBnB but, as it turned out, we ended up in a hotel. The location was important to us and so we decided to choose Gracia.

Until the 1800s Gracia was actually a separate town until it was subsumed by Barcelona and it definitely has the atmosphere of a village. There are plenty of local people, of all types and ages, and we loved wandering through the narrow streets and leafy squares.

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Vila de Gràcia

It feels safe and there are a wide range of cafés and restaurants to try. There are lots of interesting, individual shops and I would be more than happy to stay there again.

As well as Gaudí, another famous son of Barcelona is the artist Joan Miró. We decided to visit his foundation which is located in Montjuïc Park. We took the funicular which is the fast way up! What struck me most, as we wandered around the exhibits, was the variety. There were paintings, collages, tapestries, ceramics and more. I was so intrigued by Joan Miró’s work, I didn’t take any photos.

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Exterior of the Foundation


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On the roof terrace


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With stunning views across to Barcelona

We very briefly visited the beach when we hopped off the sightseeing bus but it was mainly so get a snack! We only managed to catch a glimpse of Port Vell  and the yachts that were moored there. It looked as if it would be worth further investigation when we return to Barcelona.

The one thing I haven’t mentioned is food and drink in Barcelona. We did have tapas, of course, and my particular favourites: patas bravas, tortilla, bombas.

Pan con tomate is a ‘must-have’, Catalan speciality, el pa amb tomàquet!” (bread rubbed with tomato). It is exactly what it says; toasted bread rubbed with garlic, tomato and a drizzle of oil. Tasty!

I can also recommend white sangria! This was another new experience for me and I found it delicious. There are many variations and ‘recipes’ that can be found on the internet. I had intended to take a photo of our jug of white sangria but I was so busy enjoying the flavour that I got distracted!

One final and very random thought after my visit; how people love their dogs in Barcelona! The two most popular breeds appeared to be greyhounds and golden retrievers. But the greatest surprise was the lack of dog poop on the streets. In fact, I didn’t see any. A vast difference to France.

After my first post on Barcelona, many readers commented on their own visits to this exciting city. Others have Barcelona on their bucket list. Either way, I’d love to read your thoughts!

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Red squirrels and Hoopoes

There are many things I love about our garden in France. I like the informality, the trees, the light, the birds and the wildlife.

I particularly love the red squirrels. I still get overly excited every time I see one. I have seen red squirrels before, both in France and on Brownsea Island, in the UK. However, this just doesn’t compare with having them in your own garden. They are delightful. It’s  so entertaining watching them chase each either round the tree trunks or stood stock still holding a nut in their paws.

My attempts at capturing them in a photo have failed, so far. This one is from pixabay.com

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In the UK we have many grey squirrels, or ‘tree rats’ as one friend likes to call them. She is not a fan! They seem like giants compared to the ones I see here in France which are so much more delicate. Luckily, the red squirrel is protected in France, although there is a fear that the greys may head this way, via Switzerland. They were brought to Italy  in the sixties from the States, as a novelty. Let’s hope they don’t!

We are in Aude but in nearby Hérault, two squirrel bridges have been constructed from rope. These are known as ‘ecuroducs’ and enable red squirrels to cross two major roads in safety.

As a child, I can remember reading ‘Squirrel Nutkin’ by Beatrix Potter. Later I read it to my siblings and later still to my sons. I wonder if that has anything to do with my affection for red squirrels…

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I am equally thrilled when I see a Hoopoe bird (huppe in French). The hoopoe is a very striking bird to look at.  It has a beautiful and unusual crest on its head. It makes me think of it as the punk of the bird world! It is about the size of a Thrush, with a long, pointed bill.

Again, I have attempted several photos but none of them do justice to this gorgeous bird . Here is another one via pixabay.com:

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Previously, I have seen hoopoes in other parts of France and also in Gran Canaria. However, nothing compares with seeing them foraging around our garden. One extremely stormy day, we even had a thoroughly soaked Hoopoe chick sheltering on our kitchen window sill. We were delighted when its parent continued to feed it until the storm had abated and the chick had dried out and was able to fly away.

In the UK, I get a thrill from other wildlife and birds that appear in our garden; woodpeckers, a buzzard, bats and goldfinches, for example. Wherever you live, what do enjoy seeing most in your garden?

 

 

Gendarmes in our garden!

             Why you might be wondering? What had happened? An accident? A robbery?

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Actually, none of these! I have recently discovered an unfamiliar creature in our garden in S.W. France. From a distance, I thought these little bugs were a type of ladybird – must have been the colours! After much research (wasting time reading all sorts of ‘stuff’ on the internet!) I discovered that these striking looking insects are often called ‘les gendarmes’ by the locals.

Apparently, (more research!) this is because red and black were the colours of the original gendarme uniforms when they were soldiers and part of the army. Are you following?!

However, for English speakers, these fascinating insects are known as ‘firebugs’. I must admit I had never seen nor heard of them before coming out here.

I have usually seem them in large groups and they appear to love the sun. They eat the seeds of lime trees and mallow but are generally not viewed as pests.

This is a close up of a firebug on the outside wall of our house. They move surprisingly quickly!

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And another one on a garden chair!

Here are some random facts about firebugs: they hibernate, their diet includes dead insects  and they have been accused of cannibalism…

Have any of my lovely readers seen firebugs? Can you add any facts to my somewhat limited knowledge?

I am linking this post with the very brilliant: #AnimalTales

I need to talk about…dog poo

 

Or poop, as our friends across the pond might say.

I apologise for raising this unsavoury topic but it has been on my mind for some time.

Here in France, I am very impressed by the amount of free doggie poo bags that are available to dog walkers.

In the UK, we have to provide our own. As a conscientious dog walker, I don’t mind that at all and have always cleared up after my dogs.

So why, in France, don’t people USE them? I don’t get it. I have spared you from any photos of the copious amounts of dog poo(p) that decorate the streets and pavements here. Instead, I have photographed the free bags and also the signs asking people to clear up after their dogs.

I am not alone in my opinion. In a brilliant article entitled:

‘Mind the merde: why can’t French cities clean up after their dogs?’ Phil Hoad
of the Guardian echoes my feelings.

http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/apr/12/why-cant-french-cities-clean-up-after-their-dogs

Rant over…

I am linking this post to the very interesting #AnimalTales

 

 

Naming dogs–French style!

What’s in a name?! 

Well, if you buy a pedigree dog, in France, there are certain conventions surrounding the name you select.

It all started, in 1926, when the government decided that all dogs born in the same year would have a name beginning with the same letter.

The letter “Z” was excluded due to the lack of names beginning with that letter. In the seventies, the letters K, Q, W, X and Y, were omitted for the same reason.

Therefore, if you want to register your dog with the S.C.C. (Société Centrale Canine) you need to follow the rule. However, if you’re not bothered about your dog being listed as a chien de race (purebred or pedigree dog), then this rule does not concern you!

The letter for 2018 is ‘O’.  I did some ‘sleuthing’ and found this list of suggestions, courtesy of Plum Creek Kennels:  http://french-brittany.com/plumcreek.htm  

This is an American Kennels where they breed Brittany Spaniels. They have very kindly provided a list of possible names beginning with O!

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Some of my readers might find this rather a random post but my friends know that, alongside France, I also love dogs! I grew up with dogs and my boys have inherited my love for – usually – big dogs.

One of our last family dogs was the most beautiful Flatcoated Retriever, called Cassie. She was named  after ‘cassis’; a blackcurrant liqueur….!

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A rescue dog called Brillo then joined us. He had already been named when we got him and we thought it was a brilliant name for him, so we kept it!

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How and why have you named your pets? I’d love to know!

This post has been updated to link with the very varied and interesting #AnimalTales