Today being the Feast of St. Stephen, just about everything in Catalonia is closed, since this part of Spain has historically held a particular devotion for the first Christian martyr. Although it is not a Holy Day of Obligation, I went to mass this morning at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, a few blocks from our apartment, and which I consider “my” parish in Barcelona. Of course, this is also the feast day of the patron saint of my parish back in Washington, so I would probably have tried to go to mass today in any case.
The mass was very beautiful and I had a nod of acknowledgement during the entrance procession from Luciano, the thurifer – who is also the sacristan of the parish, and whom I had a brief chance to chat with the other day. I hope to get to chat with him and the pastor, Monsignor Corts, later this week. Apparently they are already aware of my project CatholicBarcelona.com so I look forward to getting their feedback about it. I am not at all sure that I will have enough time during this trip to gather the information I need for some new entries. We shall see how things go.
During the homily Monsignor Corts pointed out that there was evidence of the Feast of St. Stephen being popularly celebrated on the Catalan-speaking island of Minorca very early in their history, and devotion to the saint spread to the mainland and throughout Catalonia later on. I was pleased that despite the sermon being in Catalan, I was able to pick up most of what he said, particularly since I do not get to practice or hear Catalan very often in the U.S. If I take away anything concrete from this trip, it is that I definitely need to make more of an effort with the language software I have back home to improve my Catalan so I can interact more easily with people here, rather than always using Castilian (Spanish), which I am basically fluent in.
Because so many places are closed for today’s holiday, we ended up having lunch at a restaurant around the corner from our flat which happened to be open. And out of all the many items available on the menu, I spotted several types of hamburgers made out of veal, rather than ground beef. This sounded appealing, and I ordered one covered in provolone, carmelized onions, and ali-oil (garlic mayonnaise), which was absolutely superb, as were the accompanying french fries cooked in olive oil and cut into a broad but thin shape:
It made me think of the scene in Whit Stillman’s “Barcelona”, my favorite film of his, where there is some discussion about how Barcelona girls don’t really know what good hamburgers taste like because they have only been to McDonald’s, rather than having a big, fat American burger like one would make on the grill or order in a tavern. This burger would certainly have changed the minds of the girls in the film as well, had it been available in Barcelona a decade or so ago. To wash it down I ordered a San Miguel, one of the popular beers here but which tastes very different from the San Miguel beer brewed in The Philippines with which some of my readers might be familiar:
After this I took a long walk down to the area around the Cathedral, since tomorrow morning I am giving some tweeps – i.e. Twitter friends – who just happen to be arriving in Barcelona from New York at the start of their honeymoon, a tour of the old Jewish Quarter. I had to make sure I could find the ancient Major Synagogue, or rather what is left of it, as the Old City where the former Jewish ghetto is located is a maze of tiny, tangled streets where it is very easy to get lost. Fortunately my memory was as good as I had hoped and did not need the little map I had drawn for myself just in case, and made my way there easily.
Tonight most Catalans will be visiting with family and friends, and so will we. This will mean even more eating, drinking, eating, of course, but hopefully it will not be too much of a good thing. With only four days left, I want to enjoy every last moment – and meal – that I can!