This fantastic new exhibition at the Fontana d'Or in Girona shows how Miró the artist and sculptor collaborated with a young filmmaker, Portabella to illustrate the creation of some of the most emblematic pieces of art of the 20th century.
Miró was a creative genius in several formats and here we see him working on painting windows for a temporary exhibition, other creations made into massive wall hangings or cast into 1,000 kilo bronze sculptures.
His work is a pleasure to view as there is always something unexpected to be discovered. As an aside, one of his largest wall hangings was on display in the foyer of the twin towers on fateful sep 11,2001 and he refused to make another.
Portabella captures these creative sessions perfectly, usually letting the craftsmen themselves express the process or just standing back for us to enjoy what could be a wonderful theatrical set.
Impressive in scale and ambitious in intent this exhibition is a treat, filmmaking as visual art, literally.
This exhibition of art and film by Rodney Graham is on at tha MACBA (Museu d'art Contemporani de Barcelona) until May 18th. It shows his evolution from photography to film, music and painting and this is the perfect space to display his works.
Graham is from Vancouver, Canada and uses the forests around there to capture the process which transforms objects (mainly natural objects like trees) from mere representations to autonomous images using flash illumination at night.
Another transformation is an old typewriter which is filmed being covered with snow, symbolising how words have been silenced and also that both the typewriter and the old projector displaying the scene are both obsolete technologies.
It is an interesting and thought provoking exhibition and in addition there are works by John Baldessari, another contemporary artist on display in the same building.
Yes, we are talking about the corks that are normally found in a bottle of wine or sparkling wine. This is an industry which has been important for Girona province for 150 years. It is centred on the towns of Palafrugell and Cassa de la Selva, either side of the Gavarres hills where most of the cork oaks are found.
Cork is an amazing natural product which was discovered by the Greeks over 2,500 years ago to seal the amphoras of wine and olive oil they transported around the Mediterranean basin.
As well as being lightweight, it is waterproof and fireproof which means the cork oaks are some of the very few trees that survive the regular fires which sweep through most forests. The trees take about 30 years to mature sufficiently to produce a layer of cork (its bark) but another 15 is needed before it is thick enough to be used for commercial purposes.
So, this is no short term industry, the trees take about 14 years to re-grow its bark for the next harvest which is all done by hand up in the hills. This area is the second largest exporter of corks in the world after Portugal and some 1,500 people are still employed in some way by the industry locally.
Unfortunately, like all mature industries, there is severe competition from other methods of closing bottles which are more economic and the market for corks is sliding steadily. Their niche is still relatively secure in the more upmarket sectors of the wine and champagne sectors but the cheaper end is moving to plastic corks or screw-caps.
Make sure you come and take a tour of a cork making factory (ask at the local tourist information offices) or visit the cork museum in Palafrugell before this fascinating industry disappears forever!
Many people visit the Dali/Gala castle at Púbol but do not realise that only a couple kilometres off the road there is a charming church hamlet to visit without any tourists, SantAndreudePedrinyà.
Set off a country road which turns into a gravel path shortly after, but in a peaceful and beautiful location next to a stream with plantain trees which offer a cool place to rest and contemplate the small church.
Currently part of La Pera diocese there are some 20 inhabitants in the few houses surrounding the church.
The village goes back to the year 971 and the present church is documented from the 11th century and is a good example of Romanesque features revealed during the restoration in 1975.
The interior is simple stone with fragments of the original murals having been transferred to the museum of Girona for safekeeping.
The gardens are well kept and it is a nice spot to picnic if you are walking or biking in the area.
Girona was home to a large and flourishing religious, cultural and economic community of Jews from the 9th to the 15th century when they were forced to choose between converting to Catholicism or leaving the country.
For many centuries before this sad ending the Jews built up an important position in trades like leather work, tailoring, baking, trading goods, building and of course money lending. The "call" or ghetto was separated from the rest of town by gates, they had their own ruling council and made their own laws, all possible because they paid their taxes direct to the Spanish Kings.
The museum is set in what was the last of at least three synagogues found in Girona, with its own "micvah" for ceremonial baths attached. The daily life during the middle ages is explained and how Girona established an important reputation for religious enquiry. Along with other Jewish communities in Barcelona, Besalu, Perpignan and Tortosa they established trading routes and the foundations of banking and commercial networks which helped these communities flourish.
Eventually clashes with the catholics increased, taxes were progressively raised, the local interference increased including forcing Jews to wear identifying badges and in 1391 there were several important riots where many died. In Girona after one of these attacks the remaining Jews were put in the Gironalla tower, supposedly for their protection, in terrible conditions and left for 17 weeks while their houses and businesses were looted and burned.
By 1492 when Queen Isabella issued the order requiring Jews to convert or leave within 3 months, many converted only to be hunted down in subsequent years by the Spanish Inquisition and, of the ones that fled, many went to Perpignan due to proximity but the French king expelled them a year later so the respite was brief.
Most Jewish exiles ended up in Rome, Constantinople or Salonika where the Turks welcomed their capital and skills with open arms.
Despite their persecution in Spain many families managed to convert and have integrated to such an extent that the Catalans are sometimes referred to as the Jews of Spain, referring to their work ethic and business acumen.
From Amer (211m), which has an interesting church and old town, it is a short run to the river Ter below where it emerges from the Susqueda dam, a major hydroelectric plant. It also means that the bulk of the downhill is over and from here on it is flat with hazelnut and walnut plantations or sunflowers and corn fields on either side of the path which meanders through the fertile river valley.
El Pasteral (179m) with its old station building still intact and along to La Cellera de Ter and finally to the outskirts of Angles.
Angles has an interesting old town (a few minutes detour) and was famous for the textile factories which were established at the end of the 19th century but have almost all been closed in the last few years as the competition from China destroyed their business.
Now the path follows the river Ter or the parallel canal which was established to serve the small sub- hydroelectric stations and factories that needed water and electricity along the route.
There is an interesting restored ice-house around km 10 which explains how ice was preserved in the era before electricity. We now take ice and refrigeration for granted but it used to be a luxury item.
Girona looms large and there is no way to avoid crossing it from the Devesa park (tallest trees in a public park) and then follow the other river, the Onyar out of town to the south-east towards Quart. You pass the new Science Park of the University of Girona with some impressive modern buildings.
The next part takes you to Cassa de la Selva and Llagostera which are both famous for the cork processing factories which have been there for over a century, using the cork collected in the Gavarres hills nearby.
From Llagostera the path drops fairly sharply to the coastal plain around Castell d'Aro and it is a short haul into S'Agaro and then finally Sant Feliu de Guixols where all the dust from the path can be washed off with a cool dip in the Mediterranean!
Only the foolish or very strong should consider cycling back to Girona (36 kms) as there are a good 8kms of climbing, much easier to have lunch on a terrace and then put the bike on a bus which leave every hour from the bus station and arrive in Girona fresh and happy!
The Sant Feliu to Girona and on to Olot bike path or “carril bici” or just “carrilet” is an old railway line which has been converted into a great bike path. More suitable for mountain bikes or hybrids than road bikes because it is made mostly of compacted gravel and sand.
From Girona it is 58km but starting in Sant Feliu on the Costa Brava adds another 36kms to the trip. One crucial point to remember is that going from the coast toGirona only involves climbing about 50m from sea level but from Amer for the next 20kms it is a solid climb to nearly 700m before the descent to the valley of Olot.
So it is recommended to actually start from Olot as this way there is only some 5-7 kms of hard climbing before enjoying a long, steady downhill. The best way to get toOlot from Girona is by bus from the bus station (in front of the train station) and they take up to 5 bikes in the hold for a cost of 7.25? per person one way. Just as easy is to get a bus from Girona to Sant Feliu de Guixols or to catch one from there if you want to cycle to the coast and end up with a cool swim which is highly recommended in the hot summer months.
Bikes can be rented in Girona, ask at the tourist information offices or send me an email to arrange it: email@example.com
This guide will give you the main sights and places to visit along the way.
As mentioned in part 1 it makes sense to start in Olot (445m) if you want to take advantage of the natural drop in altitude from a peak of nearly 700m to sea level.
Olot- the bus station is modern and in the centre of town. It's worth cycling through the Old Town with an impressive church and a few modernist buildings. Callis is a famous pastry shop and cafe next to the church, a reward for those that have battled uphill and finish in Olot! The Volcano Museum is also worth visiting on your way out of town.
Once you find the bike path you are taken along a riverside park and past the athletics track and then you come to the Parc de la Pedra Tosca.. This exhibition won a European prize in 2006 for outdoor parks and is a creation highlighting the volcanic nature of the area with paths made from steel plates and is fun to wander around.
By this time you are cycling through the rich volcanic valley of the Vall d'en Bas with fields of corn, maize and wheat and cows and pigs being raised.
Once you reach the village of Bas all the way to the Coll d'en Bas is a steep 5 km climb to over 650m altitude partly on the old paved road. From here down to Sant Miquel de Pineda which is a beautiful small Romanesque church next to the path and then Sant Feliu de Pallerols which has a square and a famous statue of a boy "fishing for the moon" referring to people who spend their life dreaming.
The path goes through forests with views of the volcanic mountains all around and descends steadily through Les Planes d'Hostoles all the way to Amer, on theoutskirts is a good place to fill up your water-bottle at the Fonter natural mineral water spring.
Pals is a town set on a hill some 6 kms from the Costa Brava and has been well restored in all its medieval splendour. The steep narrow streets winding up to the church and tower are full of interesting balconies, doors, courtyards with many colourful plants like hibiscus and bougainvillea growing everywhere.
Like all medieval towns the important characteristics are here, the hill and walls for extra fortification, the church and lords house and the tower which was a lookout as well as providing water storage in some cases. Pals was on the coast 500 years ago before the surrounding land silted up and watching for pirates was important as this was a wealthy town from trading agricultural commodities.
Rice from Pals is famous for its quality and flavour and they built an irrigation system to sustain the industry which dates back a thousand years.
Now the town mainly lives off tourism with many art galleries, shops selling local produce (chocolates and rice) and ceramics from the nearby La Bisbal pottery centre. There are many terraces to sit and eat and drink in the shade before admiring the views from the top of the village over the Islas Medes and the MediterraneanSea.