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The Fragrances of Sant Ponç
The Raval's big day is May 11, when Carrer Hospital celebrates the Fira de Sant Ponç, a beloved Barcelona holiday. The feast day of Sant Ponç, patron saint of herbalists and beekeepers, brings Catalonia's pagesos (country folk) to Barcelona laden with every natural product they can haul. Everything from bees in glass cases working at their honeycombs to chamomile, rosemary, thyme, lavender, basil, pollens, mint, honeys of every kind, candied fruits, snake oil, headache remedies, and aphrodisiacs, and every imaginable condiment and savory from fennel to saffron to coriander to tarragon, takes over the city's streets and, more important, the air. The mere mention of Sant Ponç to any barcelonin is guaranteed to elicit a backward inclination of the head, closing (even fluttering) of the eyelids, and a deep and luxuriant inhalation.
Everyone seems to find time, especially if the weather is good, to take a walk from the Rambla out to Carrer Hospital to the Rambla del Raval to browse through artisanal sausage, goat cheese, wild mushrooms, cakes, jams, herbal olive oils, homemade wines, pies, cheesecakes, fig bread, hand-carved wooden spoons, knives and forks, teas, coffees, and a thousand medicinal herbal potions and lotions. In medieval times, as farmers cleared their larders for the harvest to come, medicinal herbalists and the sorceress fringe promptly hijacked this tradition and set up stalls along the walls of the 15th-century hospital (where, presumably, there was a heightened interest in their products). Today Sant Ponç is the official start of the Catalonian summer, and one of Barcelona's sweetest days.
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