Monday, 28 May 2012

Of Sheep and Ice Cream

Finally. After weeks of up and down weather, it seems that summer has decided to grace us with its mosquitoes and mojitos. Beach and ice creams all round! And after slurping away (too rapidly, according to my Catalan friend) a mojito, we decided to trot off in search of a cooling gelat.

Once at the corner stand, with its bright, attractive (and no doubt additive-riddled) colours, I made an observation: no longer are the masses content with such dull flavourless flavours such as strawberry, lemon, vanilla, or chocolate. It appears we are much more demanding in our quest for variety, and so strawberry transforms into strawberry cheesecake, chocolate metamorphoses into Oreo biscuit, the crown of vanilla is usurped by crema catalana, and lemon callously thrown to the pitiless ‘Smurf’ flavour ice cream. I know not what a Smurf tastes like but the colour reminds me somewhat of mouthwash or that vile WKD stuff that has the gumption to call itself a drink. Thus I immediately jumped on the cookie-wheeled bandwagon and decided to try the strawberry cheesecake and bread and chocolate flavours. I came, I chose, I ate... I was mildly disappointed.

So that was ice cream at the beach; now for the city equivalent.

There stands a new ice cream parlour in Girona, which offers delicious chocolate cardiac arrest in a bucket sprinkled with mini chocolate strokes and cubes of chocolate aneurysms; all that’s needed is a spade and you can construct your very own chateau de chocolat, or dig your own grave, courtesy of the brothers Joan, Jordi, and Josep Roca. Their surname is incorporated into the name of the parlour Rocambolesc, which translates as 'crazy' or 'outrageous' in a lovable, cute, and cuddly way that makes one think of kittens and rainbows and smiley potato waffles. 
Until we reach the climax of lewd culinary experimentation: sheep's milk ice cream with candyfloss. This is what dissatisfaction amongst the masses has led to, this is the fruit of the tri-headed Frankenstein: the invention of a hideous monstrous frozen dessert that terrifies people in a seemingly innocent cloud of wispy sugar and ovine cream. What perverted mind could even dream of such a combination? What manner of beast could entertain such a ghastly notion? These are dark times indeed.... 

I rather fancy you think I'm being melodramatic. 'After all,' you're probably thinking, 'if Chagall can paint a goat with a violin, perhaps sheep’s milk ice cream with a bouffant of glucose isn’t so terribly bizarre. Just more edible. And there was a place in Covent Garden that started selling human breast milk ice cream in 2011.' And perhaps I'll concede the point and everyone will be happy and live life as though they´d not read this ultimately pointless tirade against creative frozen dairy products. But, if I might just quote Matt O'Connor - founder of said Covent Garden ice cream parlour - as saying that nobody has 'done anything interesting with ice cream in the last 100 years', I put it to you: Do you really want guano flavoured ice cream? Do you?? Remember Mary Shelley's novel; stay away from electricity and dead people; and stick to vanilla ice cream.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Temps de Flors

Steps with lanterns; Barri Vell
I adore Girona. There's always something going on, and this weekend was no different. It was the beginning of the internationally renowned Temps de Flors Festival. With Girona's Medieval structures and Gothic architecture, suddenly festooning steps, churches, balconies, and gardens with imaginative floral creations make the city even more beautiful than ever. Secret rooms and hidden domiciles normally so carefully guarded from the light of day and human interference are, for one week only, thrust into the public eye to be scrutinised by slavering flower-fiends, eager for a glimpse of what is usually beyond their reach. The natives are divided: some brave the surge of tourists to visit what is denied to them also, others grumble about the sudden influx disrupting their daily routine.

Each year, the exhibitions change, daring participants to come up with something more creative than the previous year. This is the 57th year of the Festival and my 2nd of enjoying it. Last year I remember it rained the day I went. I wandered idly about munching on some quiche from a bakery, quite oblivious to the xim-xim that slowly but mercilessly sneaked its way to the skin through layers of cotton. Everbody else had anoraks zipped up to their noses, faces masked as if in a nuclear suit, or umbrellas that threatened to poke eyes, nostrils, cheeks, and other facial necessaries.

This time, the first day was absolutely scorching. Which was just fine by me, considering the shoddy May we've been suffering from so far. Honestly, I know you think Spain never gets cold or rainy but the past few weeks have been like Goldilocks and the Unpredictable Barometer.

Much as I'd like to write that we wended our way through the shaded cobbled streets, it's rather difficult to wend one's way when they are heaving with tourists and photographers trying to get that perfect shot that'll win them money for the Festival's photo competition. Rather, we shuffled impatiently behind old ladies and gracelessly dodged kids on scooters like stiff contortionists, and we desperately tried not to squish babies in backpacks amidst the multitude. (When I say the babies were in the backpacks I don't actually mean they were shoved down at the bottom along with broken biscuits and a flask of iced tea; they were proper baby backpack things.)

My favourite exhibition were helium balloons on the steps of a church overlooking the Cathedral of Girona.
This was taken on the Sunday when the weather was not so hot but nevertheless it was a very impressive piece of work: flower petals cocooned inside helium balloons, gently bobbing in the slight warm zephyr. There was something so serene about them, like wishes in ethereal globule form. The only fear is that if, after only a day, the helium has started to escape, by next weekend they may look bedraggled deflated wishes. And we did have a thunderstorm yesterday with torrential rain; I hope they survived, poor little things....

There were also some globular lanterns made from plastic cups. These were protected from the elements in a cool stone space in the Old Quarter. It was like entering a fairyland with moons pitted with craters and the occasional flower.

There were many many other creative projects: metal snails with flowers for eyes; a water feature (rendered fairly useless by the rain); an interior water tank full of leaves; giant crayons; the Twitter birds; and a net of dandelions to name but a few.
Of course, I would have put more photos up but for the fact I rather stupidly forgot to take my camera with me, thus having to commandeer my friend's. I know: I am a moron.