Friday, July 14, 2006


I am writing this in Barcelona Spain! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to Senator Herbert Kohl's office who arranged for an appointment at the Chicago passport office on the Monday morning after our passport fiasco!! By 4:00 p.m. Maddie had her new passport in hand. On Wednesday we were on an airplane to Barcelona! Thank you from the bottom of our pocketbooks to the airlines which put us on a later flight--with no additional charge!!
Maddie and I arrived in BCN tired but grateful! Ready to speak Spanish and ready to drink coffee in our favorite spots.

Being in another country always makes me feel as if I am in a suspended state of being. I don't recall any dates, I don't know what day of the week it is and I tend to treat the money as if it is a type of play, Monopoly-like money. Of course, reality keeps on trucking and I am the one who is lost in space, so to speak. Forgive me if I no longer remember what dates we arrived or did something exciting.

Barcelona hasn't changed much since our year here (2004-05). We stepped back into the routines, into knowing which subways to catch and remembering that everything closes from 2-5 p.m.

One great change is that the knitting group for which I was a founding member (one of two members!!) has grown rapidly. There are about 20 or more people who come on a rotating basis, depending on availability, to a Starbucks on Monday evenings. My good friend, Betty at continues to be the energetic leader of this group. My friend Jennifer has opened a new yarn shop called Personnes Llanas (it's Catalan and I'm not sure of the spelling)! And the group has expanded in both numbers and languages--including Catalan, Spanish, French and English speakers. And one man!! (Jennifer's husband).

Unfortunately, I can't seem to load photos into this post, because I am using an Apple computer I think. So, I can't show you the wonderful photos I've taken of my progress on the new Violets by the River Shawl I've been making here in Barcelona. Take my word for it, I have lovingly recreated nearly 2/3 of the shawl in many cafes of the city, on the airplane to Paris and back and in Paris cafe's as well. I have not seen any other person knit in public and I have received a number of stares, particularly when I hold the shawl up to photograph it in some interesting setting. Now I know how the Yarn Harlot feels when she photographs her socks. Maybe American and Canadians have come to grips with the knitting fever, but the Europeans seem to think that knitting is a very private activity, one that is done in public by only the most crass and low-class women. Now, I walked aroung the Pigalle area of Montmartre and I saw some pretty crass and low-class women "selling their wares", and I don't think I looked quite so crass with my knitting in my lap, but some of the stares I received implied otherwise!

Several bloggers have commented on La Droguerie in Paris as a marvelous yarn shop. But, no one told me that the air in the shop is charged with addictive substances and breathing it makes you want to spend inordinate amounts of money--NO SELF-CONTROL POSSIBLE!!!! Did any of you every read the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem in high school, about the land of the Kubla Khan, that is a wonder palace of delights, written while high on opium??. Coleridge must have been a yarn-a-holic who stepped into La Droguerie!! Unfortunately, my pleas to the management to permit me to take photos were met with a polite but firm, "That is impossible." I even asked twice. I even asked after spending more than 200 Euros!! No, that was impossible!! Let me just tempt you by saying that the place is stacked from floor to ceiling, on hooks, in drawers, in glass jars and under glass topped antique display cases with yarns, buttons, ribbons, beads and every delight that an addicted knitter, beader, button hound or ribbon stasher could imagine--and then more. Hundreds, nay thousands, of spools of embroidered, plain, velvet, beaded, crinoline, imported and imagined ribbon from around the world. Millions upon millions of beads in glass jars--untouchable glass jars--on narrow and tall shelves and under display glass. If you like a bead, they have it in every color and size. Buttons--buttons to die for. Every color and every size in every model. Buttons created from stacks of buttons. Buttons of every substance. And yarn--hanging in loose skeins--to touch and admire--in colors and in natural states--in wool, bamboo, silk, linen, cotton and combinations. NO acrylic!!

And knitted items hanging from the ceiling, from the walls and every other cevice not filled with the above mentioned opiates. Each knitted item cuter, more stylish, more awe inspiring than the next.

Are you still brreathing??? Well, the shopping is quite an experience for an American. Someone will help you, someone who can guide your selection. Someone who will tell you that the patterns for their displayed items are not for sale. That is, you have to buy the yarn, to get the pattern. So, you don't know how many meters, kilometers or grams of yarn you need for the item you want to knit. You just tell the nice lady that you want to make that cardigan, the one up there on the right, in this color in your size. She goes and gets the yarn and the pattern. And comes back with the skeins in a bag with the pattern. Then you find out how much yarn you have. She gives you a little slip of paper with some french heiroglyphics on it. You take the paper to the man in the little wood cage in the middle of the store. He is the only person who handles money--or credit cards.

Oh wait, you forgot the buttons. Each model has about 20-30 dollars of buttons on it, it seems. The clerks will bring out the drawer of little tiny compartments with alll the varieties and colors of the model you desire. You sort through the hundreds of buttons of each type, size and color to find the ones you want. Perfection counts!!

I left the shop with yarn for four sweaters--bamboo, linen, cotton and silk--as I recall. I had no more time to go to Le Bon Marche to find less expensive yarn, nor to visit any other yarn shop. I also had no money left.....

We escaped Paris just in time to miss the crush of Bastille Day celebrations and to keep me out of more yarn shops.

More later.....


betty said...

hahaa, good entry Gail! i couldn't stop myself from laughing, imagining you in the middle of La Droguerie, ready to faint! ;)

HPNY Knits said...

I can relate to your experience in La Droguerie! yippie! feel better to know that at Le Bon Marche you can't find less expensive yarn; you find other yarn, French brands, rowan etc but all still expensive.
other yarn shops in paris are less interesting

HPNY Knits said...

to upload with a mac, you need to use the Firefox browser

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