The Feast of Sant Jordi, April 23rd

Written by El Casal de Barcelona on . Posted in Blog


Besides being perhaps the foremost writers in their respective languages, William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, have something else in common: they both died on April 23, 1616. That’s as good a reason as any to celebrate National Book Day in Spain! Booksellers move their wares out into streets and avenues crowded with people looking for copies of current bestsellers, timeless classics, children’s books and comics.

April 23rd is also St. George’s Day, or SantJordi, in Catalán. George or Jordi is the patron saint of Catalonia and England, among other countries. He is usually portrayed as a handsome young knight who has just slain a dragon and saved a damsel in distress. According to legend, the dragon’s blood is converted into roses.

Barcelona combines the books and the roses into one of the most lively and colorful days of the year, simply known as SantJordi. The tradition is to buy a rose for your girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband or lover and to buy a book or two as well. The streets are alive with bookstalls alternating with stands of roses (about 4€ a pop in the morning, dropping to 1€ each at dusk)! The roses and the stalls are usually adorned with the senyera, the redand yellow-striped flag of Catalonia.

Yesterday’s SantJordi fell on a brisk spring day under a cloudless sky. For pictures, click on


Radio Interview

Written by El Casal de Barcelona on . Posted in Blog


Not everything about a gap year is programmed---thank goodness! Part of the excitement of living abroad is “seizing the day”, taking advantage of the unique or unexpected opportunities that arise for developing cross-cultural understanding.

Last fall, El Casal participants Pauline and Alex went on a national radio program to talk about their impressions of Spanish people their age, the similarities and differences in the Spanish and US educational systems and other topics. This lively and unscripted interview was arranged by Pauline’s host mother, Begoña, a widely respected broadcast journalist, whom we thank for permission to post it here .Listen…and marvel at Pauline and Alex’ Spanish skills!

Eating "calçots" in Tarragona

Written by El Casal de Barcelona on . Posted in Blog


Zoe tries a calçot. Good thing she’s got a bib!

February and March can be cold and drizzly in Barcelona, but it’s also calçot season and the thought of wolfing down a dozen or so of these tender onion shoots, grilled outdoors over an open fire, is enough to brighten even the grayest of Catalonian days

The calçots are harvested only at this time of year, making them a seasonal treat that few of Barcelona’s millions of annual visitors can enjoy. The calçots are the first course in the traditional calçotada; the onions--which are eaten with the fingers and dipped in romescu sauce—are followed by grilled lamb chops, botifarra sausages and other traditional dishes. Everything is washed down with red wine and topped off by crema catalana, the local version of crème brûlée. The really fun part, though, is eating the calçots. Not for the fastidious, eating them is a messy affair (bibs highly recommended) and one’s fingers become completely blackened after stripping off the charred outer layers of the shoots in order to get to the tender and sweet insides. Drink enough wine and you won’t care.

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