Espadrilles

I probably bought my first pair of espadrilles when I was a student in France. This was partly because I thought they would make me look more French and also because they were cheap! I have been wearing them ever since. Not the same pair!!

My latest espadrilles were purchased very recently. They have a wedge heel and they are very comfortable. There was a time when I wore ‘Killer heels’ but those days are long gone. I liked this style so much that I bought two pairs, one navy and one black!

79C043DD-7AA2-4725-81EA-63DD6D8FB94CEspadrilles have been around for centuries. They can be traced back to the 13th century to the Occitane and Catalan areas of France and Spain. Apparently, the name of the shoe is derived from the word ‘esperato’. This is the type of plant that was used to make the very recognisable espadrille sole.

Known for their practicality, espadrilles were worn by soldiers, workers and priests, amongst others.

When we were in Perpignan recently, we visited an exhibition which focused on the Sardana, the Catalan national dance. We saw photos of the dancers wearing espadrilles with ribbon ties.

Espadrilles did not stray far from their place of origin, in the Basque country, until the 19th Century when they started to be sold, in much larger quantities, in the French city of Mauléon. At this time, the shoes were hand-made by inhabitants of local villages and collected door-to-door.

Between 1850 and 1880 the method of production progressed from traditional to pre-industrial. From 1880 onwards espadrilles were manufactured in factories using machinery that was adapted over time.

Even today Mauléon is a hub of the espadrille industry, although not as big as it once was. If you are ever in Mauléon you can always visit their factory and shop if you want to buy some authentic espadrilles. If you have a look at the clip at the end of this post, you can find out more.

Another famous producer of espadrilles is the Spanish manufacturer Castañer. This company was founded in 1927. But it was a meeting with Yves Saint Laurent in the 1970s, at a Parisian trade show, that lead to the creation of the first wedge espadrille. The pair below are from the current Castañer range and are in the sale at 156 euros. Bit out of my price range but they are fun!
021182-4145-1Espadrilles are worn by women, men and children. Salvador Dali often worn a pair of black ones with laces. He isn’t the only ‘celebrity’ to wear them, of course. Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall, Don Johnson (star of the original Miami Vice) are just a few of the stars who have sported espadrilles across the years.

Are you a fan of espadrilles? Or perhaps you don’t find them comfortable or stylish? I’d love to know!

 

Encore…Barcelona

Our trip to Barcelona was relatively short; five days, four nights. Could we have stayed longer? Definitely. Would we go back? Of course!

We researched quite carefully in which area of the city we wanted to stay. We booked last minute so our choices were limited. Initially, we had wanted to stay in an AirBnB but, as it turned out, we ended up in a hotel. The location was important to us and so we decided to choose Gracia.

Until the 1800s Gracia was actually a separate town until it was subsumed by Barcelona and it definitely has the atmosphere of a village. There are plenty of local people, of all types and ages, and we loved wandering through the narrow streets and leafy squares.

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Vila de Gràcia

It feels safe and there are a wide range of cafés and restaurants to try. There are lots of interesting, individual shops and I would be more than happy to stay there again.

As well as Gaudí, another famous son of Barcelona is the artist Joan Miró. We decided to visit his foundation which is located in Montjuïc Park. We took the funicular which is the fast way up! What struck me most, as we wandered around the exhibits, was the variety. There were paintings, collages, tapestries, ceramics and more. I was so intrigued by Joan Miró’s work, I didn’t take any photos.

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Exterior of the Foundation


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On the roof terrace


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With stunning views across to Barcelona

We very briefly visited the beach when we hopped off the sightseeing bus but it was mainly so get a snack! We only managed to catch a glimpse of Port Vell  and the yachts that were moored there. It looked as if it would be worth further investigation when we return to Barcelona.

The one thing I haven’t mentioned is food and drink in Barcelona. We did have tapas, of course, and my particular favourites: patas bravas, tortilla, bombas.

Pan con tomate is a ‘must-have’, Catalan speciality, el pa amb tomàquet!” (bread rubbed with tomato). It is exactly what it says; toasted bread rubbed with garlic, tomato and a drizzle of oil. Tasty!

I can also recommend white sangria! This was another new experience for me and I found it delicious. There are many variations and ‘recipes’ that can be found on the internet. I had intended to take a photo of our jug of white sangria but I was so busy enjoying the flavour that I got distracted!

One final and very random thought after my visit; how people love their dogs in Barcelona! The two most popular breeds appeared to be greyhounds and golden retrievers. But the greatest surprise was the lack of dog poop on the streets. In fact, I didn’t see any. A vast difference to France.

After my first post on Barcelona, many readers commented on their own visits to this exciting city. Others have Barcelona on their bucket list. Either way, I’d love to read your thoughts!

Barcelona

What a city!

I’ve just got back from a short trip to Barcelona with Mr.FancyingFrance. We let the train take the strain and set off from Carcassonne, arriving in Barcelona in under two and a half hours. It was a double-decker train; the first time I had been on one. We were on the upper deck and it was ideal for admiring some of the beautiful scenery as we headed south.

This was my first visit to Barcelona and I hope it won’t be my last. From the minute we stepped out of the station, I was hit by the heat, vibrant atmosphere and excitement of the city.

We decided to start with a hop-on hop-off bus tour. I’m a huge fan of these open top bus trips. They are a great introduction to a city if you want an overview of the main areas. We used this tour as a starting point to plan our visits over the next few days which was just as well as there is so much to see.

One of the things that struck me about Barcelona, apart from Gaudí’s influence, was the sheer beauty and surprises around every corner: statues, squares, parks, fountains and trees.

Antonio Gaudí spent most of his life in Barcelona and the style and impact of his architecture cannot be underestimated. Out of the ten most visited attractions, in Barcelona, four of them are Gaudí buildings.

We managed to see the Sagrada Familia , only from the outside, on this occasion.

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This stunning building was begun in 1882 and is still under construction to this day. The anticipated date for completion is 2026. Gaudí worked on this project until his death in 1926, knowing that he would die before its completion.

We also walked up to Parc Güell, a park designed by Gaudí. From here there are stunning views over Barcelona.

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This rose coloured building is now the Gaudi Museum and was Gaudi’s  home from 1906 until 1926. It was designed by another architect, surprisingly. There is a fee to get into the museum, but no charge to enter the park. There is so much to see within the park but we decided just to wander through and bookmark it for a return visit!

However, we did make an in-depth visit to Casa Batlló and it was definitely worth it! I’m not sure my photos do the building justice. There are virtually no straight lines within the house and the use of stained glass, oak and mosaics is fascinating. As you climb to the top of the house, the glazed tiles change from light blue to dark until you reach the incredible roof terrace.

I think I could have taken many more photos but I was so overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and originality of the building that I was more focused on what I was seeing at that moment than actually recording anything.

Unusually, for us, we did succumb to having this photo taken. Even more surprisingly, it turned out to be relatively reasonable of both of us!

tourCasaBatllo_69486929497107As this has turned out to be quite a long post, I will continue with a part two….