Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Night Boat to Barcelona

night boat to BarcelonaChapter 33

As Helen's wedding preparations were under way, it became necessary for her to make a trip to Barcelona in order to finalize the guest list and other details of this important event with José and his family who lived near Barcelona's city centre in a residential apartment or piso.

Since it wasn't considered proper for Helen to travel alone she was to have a chaperone. I was elected. And of course I was delighted to be offered a paid trip to Barcelona when my only task would be to accompany Helen and her fiancé around the city and visit his parents.

We would travel on the overnight ferry of the Trasmediterránea Line from Palma and stay in a hotel.

logo Trasmediterranea
As I didn't have a small overnight bag, I prepared my pink and green striped plastic suitcase that had served for my trip from Vancouver to Spain. Not much to put in there except the black and white flowered cotton dress I'd made before leaving Canada, one pair of shoes, nightdress, housecoat and slippers.

I made sure to bring my camera, an old German Voigtländer 35mm film camera that my father had given me on my 21st birthday. As I didn't have enough money to pay for colour film, I used black and white or slide film for which, in later years, I was thankful, since the photo quality lasted fairly well over the years, certainly better than could be expected of coloured prints of that time.

We also brought what was the standard snack food to take on picnics or journeys: the famous Inca biscuits of Mallorca. No picnic or venture away from home could be undertaken without a bag of these galletas de Inca which were first elaborated in the 19th century at the request of shipping companies which needed a sturdy biscuit suitable for taking on long voyages. The name comes from the original factory in the town of Inca, Mallorca.

Inca biscuits
Hard, oval, thick crackers, with a slight centre indentation, packaged in a transparent plastic bag and which, when squeezed a certain way on the sides with both hands would split perfectly in half horizontally, making them easy to top with a drop of olive oil, a small piece of cheese or ham. When you pressed too hard, or the wrong way they would crumble and you'd have to eat the little dry pieces from your lap.

Another indispensable snack for travelling was a bag of Galletas Maria.

Galletas Maria
Thin, flat and round, these were slightly sweet biscuits which would hardly have been popular in Canada I thought, as they were so plain. However in Spain at that time when there was little else available, one became accustomed to them, even learning to enjoy dipping them in coffee for breakfast.
flag of trasmedThe boat was to leave the Palma dock late at night and would arrive early the next morning in Barcelona. The sleeping accomodation at that time was in segregated (women or men only) windowless four-berth cabins, consisting of two sets of bunk beds with a wash basin in between and a bathroom down the corridor. This photo from shows a cabin similar to ours on a different ship, except that we were in a four-berth room with no window. But ours was as basic as the one in this photo.

two berth cabinAs we didn’t as yet have cabin companions, we left our cases in the room, closed the door and went up on deck to the bow of the ship. There was a full moon and the air was warm. As we stood in the evening breeze in our summer dresses, the boat began to move away from the dock and I marvelled at the mild Mediterranean air. Even as the ship picked up speed, the breeze was balmy.

I recalled such evening boat trips from Vancouver to Vancouver Island, where out on deck on an early summer evening we would be warmly wrapped in pullovers or jackets. When the lights of Palma harbour were far in the distance we went back downstairs to our cabin. We had company.

Gypsy MotherGypsy Mother - Painting by Robert Henri 1906

There was a middle aged Spanish lady arranging her belongings in the opposite top berth and a young gypsy mother with a baby sitting on the bottom berth.
The young mother looked like a child herself. Her baby was cranky and whining and I wondered if they had eaten that day. After we exchanged greetings, Helen and I prepared for bed. I took the upper bunk.
As there were no lockers in the room, we had to sleep with our suitcases and handbags at the end of the berth, by our feet. I wondered if I would get any rest that night, since I was so excited over this venture. But the motion of the boat soon put me into a sound sleep.

Unfortunately the gypsy mother was seasick and spent the night vomiting into the washbasin. We weren’t aware of it until early morning when we woke and discovered her plight. The baby was crying out ‘pa…pa…pa’ which I couldn’t understand but was told by Helen that he was saying ‘pan’ - bread.

The child was hungry and they didn’t have anything to eat. So we gave them the Galletas Maria which would have to do until they reunited with the male members of their family who were sleeping in another part of the ship.

After Helen and I had each taken a breakfast of cafe con leche and a hard breakfast bocadillo (small baguette sandwich) with cheese in the cafeteria we went out on deck to watch the arrival in Barcelona as the sun was rising.
It was a beautiful beginning to our day.

Photo credit Barcelona Sunrise to Louise Huot on Webshots

escudo trasned
Next: Gaudi and the Gothic Quarter
Go back to Chapter 32 The Bride's Hand

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Bride's Hand

The Marriage Proposal The Marriage Proposal
Frederic Soulacroix 1858 - 1933

Chapter 32

In Spain it is customary for the families of a future bride and groom ...los meet for a friendly luncheon, tea or dinner in the prenuptial event called "the asking of the hand" petición de mano.

Whereas in former days the groom may have made a formal request to the bride's father for her hand in marriage, the custom was gradually disappearing. The bride and groom had by this time decided to marry and the petición de mano became more of an engagement party where the two families would have the opportunity to meet, perhaps for the first time.

At this time the engagement ring is presented to the bride by her future husband, while she customarily presents him with a watch or engraved cuff links.

Since Helen's future inlaws lived in Barcelona, they took a hotel room in Palma for their short visit to the island. Helen and her father would be hosting the casual coffee afternoon in the apartment in which I was a guest. Vases were filled with flowers. Coffee and light refreshments were prepared.

Finally the three arrived...the handsome groom, José, dressed in a dark suit, his mother, dressed in black and his father also dressed in a dark suit. It was customary at that time for Spanish women to wear black for most important occasions, whether or not they were in mourning (de luto) for a deceased family member, which under Catholic Church customs kept them wearing black for most of their senior years.

However on this occasion the dark clothing was for the significance of the event. Mr. G. also wore a dark suit and tie, while Helen and I wore printed summer dresses. I was not long in Spain, having recently arrived from Canada, so I found all this to be most unusual and interesting.

After the coffee, the pleasantries and exchange of gifts, we all went out for dinner to a lovely restaurant. Here in this photo below, you see from left to right, the groom's parents, Helen (pseudonym) the bride, José the groom, and George Bowden...Mr. G.

peticion de mano family

Here below are some more transparency photos I made in El Pueblo Español, the Spanish Village, located in Palma de Mallorca during this time, shortly after my arrival in 1968.

La Guitarreria - the entrance to Mr. G's guitar factory:
La Guitarreria The Basket Maker:
the basket maker In Pueblo Español:
pueblo español Reproduction of La Alhambra:
la alhambra Vancouver Chuck with José Ferrer - guitar maker:
Chuck with José Ferrer Pueblo Español:
Pueblo Español
Continue on to Chapter 33 Night Boat to Barcelona
Go back to Chapter 31 Living in Palma

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Living in Palma

kitchenBack from Santa Catalina Market in Palma

Chapter 31
(click to enlarge photos)

In the late 1960s I was staying in Palma de Mallorca at the apartment of Mr. G and his daughter Helen (not her real name) until I could establish myself in my new job teaching music and find my own accommodation. Helen and I shopped weekly at the Santa Catalina market where we bought the vegetable and meat supplies for the next days. All was carried in one or two mesh shopping bags or my big straw basket which we took with us.

I was happy to find this above photo, taken as a slide with my old film camera. It shows part of the apartment's tiny kitchen. Here is another one:

palma kitchen The water heater was suspended from the ceiling, the double sink was low and small and there was little counter space. What you see in both photos is the total work space for preparing meals.

Downtown we would walk along the Paseo del Borne and around to the Via Roma, which I believe has since been renamed. This was the avenue of the flower sellers where the central paved boulevard housed the many stalls where flowers were sold. When one wanted to buy a bouquet for a special occasion or just a few flowers for the house, the Via Roma was the place to go.

flower stalls 1

flower stalls 2
On our Sunday outings in the Citroen deux chevaux we would often drive to the picturesque terraced slopes of Banyalbufar on Mallorca's west coast:

banyalbufar 1

As Helen was engaged to be married to her Spanish novio, her fiancé José, she was preparing her trousseau as was customary with young women then. She was concerned that her future mother-in-law might feel that since her son was going to marry an estranjera (a foreigner) rather than a Spanish girl, she might not have the premarriage custom of hand embroidering their linen, such as bed sheets and pillow cases with the initials of the couple.

Since young women then spent hours sewing linens in preparation for a future marriage, Helen wanted to make sure that she did her part by embroidering and adding lace edging to sheets and pillowcases. I remember being so amazed at this detail that I asked Helen's permission to lay out some of her work for a photograph, which now unfortunately seems to have deteriorated more than some of the other photos.

embroidered sheets
Two big events were coming up. The petición de mano, or the asking of the hand by the novio José, and the trip to Barcelona, where I was to go with Helen as her chaperone, or carabina.

The asking of the hand is often the first time that the future in-laws meet. The occasion is a friendly reunion of the two families, where in fact the future husband does not actually have to make a formal request to the bride's father for her hand. Rather they meet for a luncheon or afternoon tea, the engaged couple exchanges gifts, usually the engagement ring for her and a watch, cufflinks or other sentimental piece of jewellery for him. Photos are taken and some wedding plans may at that time be discussed. The groom's parents would be travelling to Palma for this event.

And the trip to Barcelona was going to be an exciting time. Helen and I would go by overnight boat to Barcelona where we would meet again with his family to finalize wedding plans, see the city and stay in a hotel, all the time while I was to chaperone the engaged couple! That was a trip to which I was looking forward with excitement.

Continue on to Chapter 32 The Bride's Hand
Go back to Chapter 30 Dina Moore Bowden
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