About Grace @ Cultural Life

Hello, I'm Grace. I blog about things that I love at https://culturallife.wordpress.com. Academia, language and linguistics, books, music, movies, food and travel....

Mystery and thrills in Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Barcelona

Continuing with the Spanish theme of the last three posts on my blog, The Shadow of the Wind is a novel set in mid-twentieth century Barcelona. In the middle of the old city of Barcelona is a ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’, a library with winding passages and corridors so hard to find again that you must leave a trail as though journeying into the heart of the Minotaur’s den.

The Shadow of the Wind book

When Daniel is ten years old, his father takes him to choose one book from this mysterious labyrinth of a library. He picks an obscure title, La Sombra del Viento (The Shadow of the Wind) by Julián Carax. As Daniel grows up, he tries to find more titles by Carax, but he cannot find a single one. There are reports of a strange man who calls himself Lain Coubert — the name of the devil in Carax’s novel — who is going around the city asking for Carax’s books to burn.

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Travels in Madrid: Part 3 – art galleries, Egyptian temples and more

After the busy sight-seeing in Toledo on the second day of my trip to Spain, my friend had to work on the third day, so I ventured out into Madrid on my own. I decided to go to El Museo Nacional del Prado — one of the most magnificent art galleries in the world.

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Before you can enter the museum, you have to go through a more basic version of airport-style security: bags through the scanner as you walk through a metal detector. As I only had a small backpack, I was allowed to carry it with me but people with any larger bags had to leave them in a room behind the security desk. Continue reading

Travels in Spain: Part 2 – Adventures in Toledo

If you read my previous post, you’ll know that at the beginning of June I flew to Madrid for a four-day mini vacation. Four days isn’t a long time, but it’s surprising just how much you can see, do and experience in that time. I spent three days in Madrid and one day in Toledo, a nearby city.

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A view of Toledo, looking back across El Puente de San Martin (Bridge of St. Martin)

 

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Travels in Madrid – Part 1

At the beginning of June, I spent four days in Madrid, visiting a Spanish friend who is living there and studying for her Master’s degree. I am already longing to go back. The city is beautiful, filled with gorgeous architecture, elegant parks and expansive boulevards.

On the first day of my visit, we went on a three-hour walking tour around the city. I chose to go on the Spanish-language tour, but it is available in English too. We began in Plaza Mayor. Like many Spanish cities, Madrid is a city filled with plazas (squares), but Plaza Mayor is the main square — popular with locals (madrileños) and tourists alike.

Plaza Mayor Madrid

The largest and most central square in Madrid, Plaza Mayor is lined with tapas bars and restaurants.

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Still A European

European Parliament

The European Parliament, Strasbourg. Public domain photo by hpgruesen.

On Friday morning, I woke up to the news that I didn’t want to hear. I had gone to bed quietly confident that the Stronger Together campaign would prevail, but the result shocked the world.

This vote could easily have gone the other way — out of a 72% turnout at the polls, 51.9% voted Brexit while 48.1% voted to stay. I believe that if we had another referendum tomorrow, we would not be facing the uncertain prospect of a future outside the EU.

And I am sad. I feel bereft, as though part of my identity has been stripped away. Oh wait, it has. As it stands, within the next two years, I will lose my European citizenship.

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“Never, dear. Men don’t say that”

London Underground subway

The London Underground. Public domain photo by Maria Molinero.

A few days ago, I was on the Tube — the London Underground subway. Somewhere between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square on the Piccadilly line, I apologized to a fellow passenger for being in front of the doors when she wanted to get off at her stop: “sorry, I’m in the way.”

I wasn’t expecting her response. She put her hand on my arm and, in a North American accent, said emphatically: “Never, dear. Men don’t say that.”

It made me smile because it was one of those brief interactions with strangers that you don’t expect, and also because her words rang true. I tend to apologize a lot and I probably say “sorry” too much. But I’m not sure that it’s entirely a result of being a woman. Continue reading

What Does Your Bookshelf Say About You?

If you didn’t know me, you could tell a lot about me by looking at the bookshelf in my room. I read lots of books, averaging one every 10 days or so, and many of the ones I’ve read aren’t on my bookshelf. This particular bookshelf is a space for books that I want to keep and books that have childhood memories attached to them.

Looking at my bookshelf, you’d be able to tell that I grew up in the Harry Potter generation. Much of my childhood and early teen years were spent eagerly awaiting the publication of the next installment in the series. My copies of those seven great books have been much-read and are showing signs of wear, with some covers a little creased.

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It’s been a while…

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Flowers by the lake

It’s been a while since I last blogged. I’ve been busy with…oh, you know…life and things. I think sometimes we use busy as a synonym for stressed.

“How are you?” “Oh, I’m busy,” you say, implying your frenetic, feet-hardly-ever-touch-the-ground life.

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When hobbies fall to the wayside

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By kkmarais (Flickr: Streicher 1869 Grand Piano) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons 

Until I was in my mid-teens, I had regular piano lessons. I practiced almost daily, running through scales and arpeggios and my favourite pieces of music. But one day, I started drifting away from the piano, probably in part because I was busy with exams and focusing on getting the grades I needed for university.

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