El Jardinet dels Gats

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Wandering around the Raval, especially when coming from the famous Boqueria Market, we passed this half open patio, that belongs to a huge house with no entrances, like a million times. It’s surrounded by a high and protecting fence – protecting something on the inside: a cat colony! There’s cats stretching on carpets, holding their noses and whiskers up into the warm sun of spring, playing with their mates and dozing away peacefully.

Sundrunk

I don’t know how often I was wondering who takes care of all those beautiful, rather rough looking felines – seeing all the blankets, the cat houses and cushions, the food and water bowls, and some wooden sheds in the back. But I never saw anyone inside. So I investigated a bit more and came upon their website and their Facebook page.

The project ‘El Jardinet dels Gats’ (The Cats’ Garden) founded by Mari Borràs and Paco Salvador in the end of 2004, officially became a nonprofit organisation back in 2008 – being run solely by volunteers. The ‘garden’ that you can see by peeking through the fence is the place where once various abandoned cats lived under very poor circumstances. Today the Jardinet dels Gats rescues, neuters, microchips, tests, deworms and vaccinates abandoned cats in the Ciutat Vella (the old historic part of Barcelona) and finds them foster and adoptive homes. The more unfortunate ones that are unable to live with humans, mostly due to horrendous encounters with those cruel ‘persons’ that tortured them, or the ones that need a lot of special attention (medication, special care) and which makes it harder – but not impossible – to find them a forever home, are permanently living in the Jardinet and its volunteers take care of them on a daily basis by feeding them, keeping their litter and their whole space clean, checking up on them (and helping them if they need medical attention) and playing with them – giving them the love they deserve so much and never experienced, before living in the cat colony. Furthermore the city of Barcelona currently funds 60 sterilisations per year.

Tigre

Mari and Paco sadly passed away in 2013 and the volunteers keep up their amazing work as a homage to them and their love for Barcelona’s feral street cats. Àlex – their daughter – says that it is due to them that she’s learned and experienced the love for life, and the respect this deserves, and that whatever you can do to help another creature – be it a dog, a cat, another human being, be it whatever it is in need – you shouldn’t hesitate and just help – even if it requires some effort. Her goal and the one of all the Jardinet’s volunteers is to get the feral cats of Barcelona off the streets and into a safe environment – preferably a forever home.

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Cris (left) and Àlex, the daughter of the founders of El Jardinet dels Gats: Mari Borràs & Paco Salvador

All volunteers of the Jardinet have their normal, all day life works and routines, and they usually have cats, of course. Àlex, as a matter of fact has 5 at home. I myself signed up as a volunteer (foster home) last year. I’m already sharing my life with one beautiful cat (Bisou), that was found on the motorway when she was a kitten: she rolled herself up into a ball and the cars passed over her until people stopped and risked their lives to get her out of there. And then this beautiful soul came into our life and became our baby. She’s the most amazing creature and the most loving soul, I’ve ever had the luck to meet and I am so deeply grateful to have her in my life. So we decided to foster and are currently fostering our second cat from the Jardinet – Daisy. Daisy is a street cat. She’s had horrible experiences with humans and hates us dearly – but we want to give her all the time she needs in order to find peace and harmony, and rehabilitate. She made some very big steps – she’s not hissing at us anymore, demands her food when it’s time for food, lets me touch her head, plays with Bisou, even decided to stay in the same room at night. That’s a big reward and personally I can only recommend working with traumatised animals – it’s so satisfying when they finally come around and you feel how happy they are that they were able to experience other things from humans than bad ones.

Slow Approach

Making friends

So there’s always urgent cases: young, abandoned baby kitten being found constantly, abandoned cats that are not used to living outside on the streets, injured cats being brought in, old and / ill cats that need urgent, continuous attention and medical care, etc. The list is long and so is the list of beautiful felines that are waiting for someone to give them a chance and the love they so much deserve – be it in form of a temporary foster home (if you can’t make the longterm commitment) or their forever home. The Jardinet is always in need of foster and adoptive homes, and even if you know, that due to a cat allergy or the fact that you’re not allowed to have pets (by your landlord), or simply don’t have time for pets / don’t want to have pets, you can still help by becoming a teamer donating 1€/ month or sponsoring and donating money or cat food, etc. (see the Jardinet’s link for more info). Or you can become a volunteer and help them rescuing cats (if you like adventures during nighttime especially), you can help them feed the cats and clean their litters, donate blankets, cat food, your cat’s abandoned old cat toys – anything that makes a cat life worth living! All donations are directly destined to the rescued cats. And the volunteers are struggling everyday to keep this nonprofit organisation, that made and still makes so many differences in a lot of cats’ lives, alive and running. And if you consider having a pet, please, consider adopting a feral cat. There’s the right cat for everyone – if you need a cuddly one, or a distant one, one that makes you feel that there’s someone else around and you’re not alone – there’s a cat for every need. And there’s a million positive effects about having a cat and it makes you an even better human if you responsibly adopt a street cat. Don’t hesitate to make a difference – be the difference!

Craving attention

I need you & will love you unconditionally – don’t hesitate to adopt a street cat!

cat toys

Donations in all forms and shapes are highly appreciated!

Finally I want to say that I am writing this blog post in English because there are so many English speakers living in Barcelona – and I know from my own experience that sometimes it is hard to get involved in community work because you doubt your Spanish or Catalan skills. But don’t let this come between you and the good you could be doing. Plus there’s volunteers working in the Jardinet dels Gats that speak a lot of different languages, apart from Spanish and Catalan: English, French, Italian & German! So what are you waiting for? Get up and help the ones that can’t defend and help themselves!

A Forever Home

Become a feral cat’s forever home!

ON the way up

On the way up to Blau’s Kingdom

Blau's Kingdom

Blau’s Kingdom – the Rooftop

chök: Where dreams of Chocoholics (and Homer S.) come true

Since we moved to Barcelona’s city centre, and especially the Raval district, we have always enjoyed roaming the streets and discovering new curiosities and special cafés, restaurants, shops, etc. whenever possible. One of those discoveries was made a long time ago – around their first opening actually – and we have been going back for more ever since.

chök shop

Step into another century combined with an exclusive modern design while visiting chök located just off La Rambla

‘chök the chocolate kitchen’ (http://www.chokbarcelona.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/ChokBcn) is located just off La Rambla at the beginning of Calle del Carme, and therefore super easy to find & reach (Green L3 Metro Line stop is Liceu) when in need of a delicious chocolate fix for a 2nd breakfast or the Spanish merienda (afternoon tea time), or whenever really. ‘chök’ is what makes the heart of every chocoholic jump with infinite joy: choose between the grand variety of their always changing chöks (a gourmet doughnut with less sugar, less fat & fried for less time), krönuts (the love story between the classical croissant & the well-known doughnut), chocolate glazed marshmallows, chocolate truffles, chocolate muffins, cookies, etc. and have your chocolate fix inside the beautiful old shop that used to be an antique bonbonería (candy and chocolate shop, that also roasted & sold coffee), dating back to 1850, or get your chök & coffee to go while strolling down La Rambla towards the port.

chök selection

A current special is the Apfelstrudel chök (on the left side)

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My fave chök: the dark chocolate glazed, Fleur-de-Sel chök

Marvel at the wooden shelfs and ceiling and it’s beautiful carved ornaments typical of Barcelona’s Modernisme movement, while discovering other chocolate products such as chocolate pasta or chocolate porter.

chök pasta

chök porter

Most important: take your time and enjoy the friendly atmosphere and beautiful space that owner Débora & staff created. They will do their very best to make your visit a delicious experience, and their expertise and loving attention towards customers, products and detail won’t fail your expectations. All their products are being prepared on a daily basis in the visible chocolate kitchen in the back of the shop. Watch how Débora and Marcia fill their berliners or create such delicacies as chocolate chili truffles with the utmost respect for the product, emphasing on quality, detail and supreme ingredients.

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Crema Catalana Krönut in the making

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Pick your chök from a great variety

One thing that startled me from the beginning was the rather untypical & creative name ‘chök’. It is actually derived from the Norwegian word ‘kök’ which stands for ‘kitchen’ and combined with ‘chocolate’ it became ‘chök the chocolate kitchen’. Débora & her staff also offer chocolate cooking classes, combining chocolate with typically savoury dishes (see website). You can also challenge your chocolate cooking skills at home with the help of their cookbook ‘Gourmet Chocolate – Reinventing sweet and savoury’, which also makes for a great Barcelona souvenir or gift for the cook/ gourmet in your life.

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One thing is for sure: if you are a chocoholic, an American cop or Homer Simpson, you will definitely love chök and will always come back for more – and honestly, who could resist such a sweet paradise:

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Owner Débora presenting the daily mouth-watering, beautiful selection of chöks & krönuts

A Tu Bola

A Tu Bola (https://www.facebook.com/Atubolabcn?fref=ts) – let’s freely translate this into English as ‘The Way You Want It’: This little gem refers to a cosy and beautiful street food restaurant in the Raval and its idea wraps itself around the ‘Bola’ – the ball – which originally got its inspiration from the well-established Falafel.

You will be able to order from a wide range of different bolas – whether you like fish, meat or vegetarian, you won’t be disappointed! – that are prepared just in front of you from fresh & healthy ingedients that have been chosen carefully by chef and owner Shira. Whether you are looking for a new menú del día option while on your lunchbreak, you stumble upon this cute restaurant while roaming the streets of the Raval as a tourist or you are meeting friends before a big night out and want to start the evening healthy, Shira’s creativity, love for good gourmet street food and high standards will ensure a perfectly healthy and delicious meal for you.

Have your bolas inside the restaurant and enjoy some craft beer with them while happily munching away to good tunes or take your bolas with you down La Rambla del Raval, sit in the sunshine and marvel at the Raval’s diversity.

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Watch chef Shira prepare the freshest & yummiest Bolas just in front of you

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Sweet Potato Balls in Pita Bread with Apple Coleslaw

The Caravelle & my French Toast Addiction

So living in Barcelona and its barrio Raval definitely made me appreciate good quality and slow food cooked with love, passion and locally available, seasonal & organic, healthy ingredients even more than before and this is why I want to dedicate my first blog post in this category to my favourite Café/ Restaurant Caravelle in Calle Pintor Fortuny, 31 (https://www.facebook.com/CaravelleBCN/timeline – check their Facebook updates for current opening times and events).

We’ve been going there since their opening back in 2012 and it’s our favourite place for Café con Leche and brunch in Barcelona. I’m putting the word ‘brunch’ first since I clearly am a breakfast person – I just love having a good long breakfast/ brunch! But Caravelle’s lunch/ dinner options are more than worth mentioning, too!

Caravelle Café con Leche

Enjoy your Café con Leche while watching locals as well as tourists walking by on their way to the nearby MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona – http://www.macba.cat/en/index).

Australian owner and chef Zim plus his staff never fail to surprise us with new creations on a regular basis and that we are more than happy to sample.

Their menu variety includes both – a lot of internationally influenced dishes as well as the incorporation of local and typically Spanish ingredients – always keeping it fresh, healthy, seasonal and cooked to order. Good things take their time, so be patient and let them work their magic – you won’t be disappointed! Also a definite plus in Barcelona is to be welcomed and looked after by super nice and professional people and Caravelle’s staff is just amazing!

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French Toast with Mango Sauce & White Chocolate Cream, topped off with Oven Roasted Plums & Almonds

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Oven Baked Eggs with Smoked Chorizo, Roasted Tomato, Beans & Lime Coriander Sour Cream

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Caravelle featured their Fried Fish Taco with homemade Pickles, Tomatillo Alioli, Guacamole at the fourth Eat Sreet Barcelona Food Festival Edition (https://www.facebook.com/eatstreetbarcelona) on Oct. 11th.

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Non-alcoholic, homemade Ginger Beer

The Story of ‘Le Cül’ – A Wedding Raffle Prize

Once upon a time, in sunny June, on a bright Saturday afternoon (actually the one that should latter also be referred to as the bachelorette party day of Stephanie), I, Le Cül, was born. I emerged from the fantasy of my previous owner and creator Lydia while she was talking about such deep matters as the universe, life and love with Jamie, the master of mosaics.

After gaining the skill of cutting tiles, piles of blue, wine red and black little shiny stones were covering the table. Jamie, still being sceptical about the colour choice, advised Lydia various times not to use that type of darker blue stones and tried to convince her to consider lighter blue ones but I, being a very cunning and clever kind of creature, had already infiltrated her creative consciousness and made very clear to her that I wanted to be born! And that’s how a long and hour consuming process of selecting the right little stones in the right, precise way in order to stick them to a wooden template, began.

The template, well, that was my choice all along! It was the one, as you will see or already have seen, because you are the impatient kind of person that opens the presents before reading the card / letter attached, of a cat. Not just any cat, no! It was the template of ‘El gat del Raval’ (for those who are not acquainted with the Catalan language and Barcelona, it means ‘The Cat of the Raval’ which is the symbol for the Raval district and its local artisan market).

Hours passed and ‘El Gat’, later named ‘Le Cül’ (I am not sure yet if I like that sort of internationalisation of my name!), took form and shape. Sharp, cunning eyes, shiny dark blue and wine red stripes began colouring one by one my shiny, precious fur.

It was a slow birth and we all took our time, because I had to be perfect for you, my new owner. You probably (or maybe not, because you’re either the sporty or the couch potato type of person) ask yourself why it had to be that colouring. In the end they ain’t the most brightest colours which, on the other hand, you expect to see in a mosaic, that should always reflect the sunlight in many colourful ways. No, I wanted to be something typical from Barcelona for you – and not only from Barcelona – I wanted to be something special, representing not only Stephanie’s and Lydia’s district and on a larger scale, Barcelona, but also my name (for the Catalan and French speaking easy to divert and translate from ‘cul’ meaning, well, bum) stands for a special and historically formed expression for the fans of the F. C. Barcelona, which is very important for the city and its inhabitants. Its players are known worldwide. What is not known is why the Catalan term ‘Culés’ describes its fans. So here I will quote some history for you.

In earlier times, the F. C. Barcelona stadium was very small. Before 1909, Barcelona played in various stadiums, none of which were owned by the club. On 14th of March 1909, the club moved to the Camp de la Indústria which had a capacity of 6,000, and was the first ground owned by the club. The supporters sitting on the top-row of what was observed by passers-by from behind as a row of men sitting on the top of a wall while walking through Calle Indústria, was the origin of the nickname ‘cules’ as literally the only thing they could see was a row of bums.

Cules

So for me, Le Cül, this is nothing to be ashamed of – even if you might try to hide your telling smile now! In the end I am not your typical Barcelona souvenir. I am not the Gaudi Dragon or a set of coasters with the image of the Sagrada Familia or other famous places of interest in Barcelona. I am something that comes with a story – a personal souvenir that chose you to be its rightful owner (and believe me, I have my own will power!) – I am something from here. Something that wandered the streets without being discovered, something that lingered in the dark corners or doors in form of street art paintings or posters, something well-known in its Barrio and beyond its borders. Yet I am nothing to be afraid of: I represent the beauty and the diversity of the Raval and Barcelona! And in order to show you that we all mean well, I come with something special from my district: some instant chocolate from the Granja Viader, which since 1910 is located in Calle Xùcla 6 and quite an important landmark to my previous owners Stephanie and Lydia. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as they do and if you have time to visit the Granja, they’d highly recommend you having a ‘Suís petit amb Xurros’ or (as it is probably very hot for you outside) a Lemon or Coffee Granissat.

So as I am most likely leaving my habitat with you, the only thing I ask from you in return, is to cherish me as what I am: ‘Le Cül’ – ‘El Gat del Raval’!

Le Cül

Visit the local Mercat Raval BCN (https://www.facebook.com/MercatRavalBcn) in order to create your own mosaic