Thursday, July 25, 2013


Lying near the top of a mountain, Puigcerdà's old city centre overlooks a vast valley in Catalonia. The air is fresh, the temperature perfect. The inner city is a mix of old and new; the narrow streets carve themselves out from the mass of edifices so tightly knit that one gets the feeling as they walk through the town that they will soon turn the corner and find themselves on Diagon alley. The new parts of the city spill out down into the valley to the east and west. The division is met by elevators to help those who wish to avoid the sharp incline up to the shops.

The city has a number of rather ancient buildings which are in various states of (dis)repair. The church we will be performing in tonight is that of Sant Domènec in Passeig 10 D'Abril. Though we haven't had a look inside it yet, the facade is a mix of stone, mortar, and some sort of concrete now holding on to the building for dear life. A single bell and cross top the church in iron. The building has a beautiful stain glass window on the east wall strikes me to be of late 19th/early 20th century design. Picasso's women in barcelona*** meets neo-gothic, Victorian cathedral glass.

After spending some time here I can't help but wonder what it would have been like here during Wellington's Spanish campaign near the tail end of the Peninsular War. Though most of the real activity was in the west, there must have been plenty of bustle in the eastern Pyrenees as well. I seem to have a rather romanticised view of the whole thing. Maybe I've watched too much Sharpe.

Children roam free in the squares, bobbing and weaving through crowds and occasionally taking a tumble on the stone floor. Families, sitting on the wings, are quite happy to talk to those who pass by or sit down next to them. As one of the gang mentioned at dinner, if one were to close their eyes the sounds of the square would remind them of a city swimming pool. In many respects the air of Puigcerdà is unique to a big city dweller. These days, at least where I've lived, it's very infrequent to see children playing on the street with whomever happens to be there, nor to see this approachability in the general population. 

It's a window back in time. No one, apart from the orchestra members, has any sort of technology out;  you're more likely to see someone with a ball. Only after two days here have I begun to wonder what the average urban Canadian family might be missing.

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