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I’ve been remiss is keeping up this journal. We spent a very busy week with Caroline, cramming in a lot of Barcelona and Gaudi buildings, and then took an overnight trip to see Salvador Dali’s house, hike in a natural park with volcanoes and stroll through Girona. Now, Liz is here!

I’ll spare everyone a boring travelogue (at least for now). But here’s an observation I’ll share.

On Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, we (and that was me, Rich and Caroline) went to Sitges for its infamous Carnival Parade. Sitges is a beach town south of Barcelona. Yes it was colorful, loud and gay (in every sense of the word) – but what struck me was the prevalence of cigarettes. And liquor, too, but that was more amusing than disturbing.

The parade has 30 floats. Each has a theme, not that we could figure most of them out. There was an Avatar one, a pirate one. Mostly it was scantily clad women in bright colors with lots of spandex and feathers and tulle, outrageous headgear included. Sitges is known as a heavily gay community, and the outrageous floats are supposed to be emblematic of that. There were some men prancing and dancing – some in drag, some not – but mostly it was women with lots of skin showing.

First, there would be a phalanx of women doing a dance number as they paraded down the street. A float blasting music was right behind them.

On many of the floats, there was a bartender who was preparing drinks and handing them out to the performers. We were at the beginning of the parade route. Considering the amount of drinking going on, it’s hard to imagine how these dancers stayed upright by the time they got to the end.

This heavy drinking was not too surprising, and watching the bartenders was amusing. What was more surprising was the number of women who were holding cigarettes and smoking as they danced down the street. It was incongruous to me to watch women as they danced and kicked to the music to stop to take a drag every minute or so.

Vermont has a low smoking rate – I know very few people who smoke, and of those who do, many actually do it in private so that often their friends and family don’t know (think President Obama). Of all the July 4th parades I’ve been to, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the participants smoking. (Never been to Mardi Gras, so I can’t comment on what happens in New Orleans.)

Unquestionably, more people smoke here than in the US. Walking down the street, at restaurants, shopping, even riding bikes – people are smoking. I decided to do some googling on it. I don’t know how accurate any of my hits are, and I don’t really care enough to verify them, but here are some interesting stats:

Number of cigarettes smoked per person per year
Spain, 2,225; US, 1,196 .

Daily smokers
Spain 28.1 percent; US 17.5 percent

The incidence of lung cancer and lung cancer death rate is actually lower in Spain than rest of Europe, but its rate is increasing while decreasing in the rest of Europe.

And most interesting:
Fewer than 5 percent of Spanish women aged 45-74 smoke compared to nearly 40 percent of young (25-44) women in Spain.

Why would that be? No quick googling came up with explanations. Rich thinks it’s a change in Spanish culture, that traditional Spanish women stayed home while women in the younger generation are more social. The difference in those percentages is mind blowing. 

From a tourist point of view, the smoking makes outdoor events and outdoor cafes less enjoyable.

Anyway, enjoying Barcelona, still buying shoes and enjoying the fabulous weather. 

Some pictures of the Sitges Carnival Parade:

Bartender busy at work

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March 2012

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