Monday, January 13, 2014

Amazing 360º Views of Barcelona

Happy belated new year everyone, I hope you had a great time with your loved ones, ate too much, have already returned your gym membership, have spent all your wages in the sales, but still have a few sweets left from the cabalgata.

Really quick post today, just saw something amazing and wanted to share. The extremely clever people at have firstly got a pretty damn amazing website, but have included the city of Barcelona on there as well - of course. It's a little difficult for me to explain just how cool this thing is, and frankly I don't need to, just click on this link and enjoy exploring the city from a unique viewpoint, over various locations.

I think you'll agree it looks bloody amazing!! Can you spot your apartment building?!

Fancy a trip to the Catalan Capital this year? Check out BCN Rentals for some great deals on apartment rentals.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Barça might not be moving stadiums after all

It was announced lat November that FC Barcelona were going to be looking for a new home, leaving their current home of Les Corts and moving to a new stadium somewhere between Hospitalet and Barcelona itself. The idea was to increase the capacity from the current 99,354 to 105,000, which to me, doesn't seem like that much of a difference to warrant building a whole new stadium, especially after the fairly recent announcement that Norman Foster would be taking over plans to redevelop the current stadium.

However, the business heads running the club clearly know more about those kind of things than your average Joe (i.e. Me), especially after recently signing a new 25 million dollar deal with Intel (they'll be showing off the new logo this weekend, assuming they score - I onder if the "intel inside" jingle will accompany ?!) and raking it in with the Nike replica kit shirts.

There just seems to be one little hiccup. Apparently the desired land belongs to the university of Barcelona, who have come out and denied any contacts about the beginning of negotiations and categorically deny any interest in selling any of its assets. Now, we all know that in property, that is never a resounding no - everyone has their price, and Barça have revealed that they will leave the decision until early 2014.

What do you reckon? Should they move, or move ahead with the re-modelling of the current Camp Nou ? I can agree with those who will disagree with any move as it's a tradition grain into the city and their fans, but then progression often means moving to a new place. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Festa d'oli - Olive Oil Party!!

First of all, happy December everyone, and apologies for not dropping by for the whole of November - other projects kept me really busy (yeah, like you've really missed me). Anyway, the cold's kind of arrived, Christmas is almost upon us and it'll be time to say goodbye to 2013 and hello to a new year soon.

I was lucky enough recently to be invited to a "Festa d'oli"  - occurrences that happen each year at the harvest of olives around Catalunya, and is basically a visit to a factory/plant where olive oil is made from scratch. Along with some friends, we went to La Serra d'Alamos which is in the middle of fecking nowhere Tarragona.

We were greeted by a very small queue of people and duly grabbed our plate and headed for the barbecue - apparently common in this type of do. 

*puts on Homer voice* Mmmmmmm.....baaaarbecuuuuuue. Sorry. Ahem. 

It was a bit nippy in the shade but great in the sunshine. So the plant that we went to makes oil only from 1st November until the end of December, and in other periods of the year also makes wine. So, the wine was free on the tables, along with a salad - all good to get things started. 
 List of the different olives from the area which are made into oils, and an informative poster from the Generalitat, explaining the origins and processes of extraction of the oils. Good stuff.

There was plenty of information around along with artisan workers making baskets, soaps, cheeses, etc., and we simply chose a time to have a guided tour around the installations. First up they showed us how the olives arrive and are put on a kind of wire rack/mesh, which vibrates. All the olives fall through the holes, and the branches and leaves are raked away (sorry no pic of that., as it just looked like a metal grid  - and apologies in advance about the quality of these pics, I wasn't expecting to blog this, but as it was so interesting, thought I'd share). 

So Olives make their way up a conveyor belt and into vats. Like this one. 

You can see they're mixed. Next they're washed and pushed through to the next stage. Each part is processed by weight, so when the machine becomes empty/has done its particular job, automatically the next feed comes through (pardon the pun). They then move through a kind of centrifuge which mashes them up - stones and all - into a kind of mushy paste. I was surprised about the stone, as assumed this would be removed, like in tins/jars of bought olives. But "for each stone of an olive, you get a drop of oil" was the way it was explained to me. 

 Above, being washed, and below, the result of the mashing up:

Now, here's an interesting part. This much is then pushed through a kind of sieve, and a "crude" oil comes out (my wording not theirs). The resulting sludge/waste is then separated and SENT TO OTHER FACTORIES TO MAKE NORMAL OLIVE OIL!! It's mixed with many other things and is the usual stuff the majority of us will buy (i.e. the cheapest one). 

Oil goes into another room where it is stored in large vats, and then bottled by hand. So, you can buy the cloudy, crude oil which is full of flavour and basically 100% pure, or if you prefer, you can have it filtered, so it becomes the golden nectar stuff you're used to seeing on the supermarket shelves. Below is the filter:

The different sections in the middle, are filled with cardboard filters (we were shown them , but it wasn't that interesting to photograph). So, you can see in the forefront of the image, the unfiltered oil as it goes in, and the filtered oil going out. I took close ups, to show the difference. Here's no filter/raw:

And here's coming through filtered:

See? Cool, eh?! Production can reach around 80,000 kilos of olives in just that little plant, depending on the harvest. We were shown around the wine area, and although empty, was a great insight - all done by hand the corking, labeling, etc. and the tour finished in the shop. We had already gone with the intention (through the advice of friends who had been previous years) of stocking up for the year, and that's what we did. We got some cloudy oil (has to be used up quicker, as can gather sediment) and then normal for the rest of the year! 

It was a great experience (made better by being with friends, clearly) and there were typical dancing and singing as you would find at a normal Catalan traditional do:

There was a small gathering in the aftermath of a soup tasting kind of thing, but that was nothing to write home about, really, just an added bonus from the villagers. By all accounts there are many such "festivals" throughout November and December, so if you get the chance next year, I'd highly recommend! 

Coming to Barcelona this winter ? Check out BCN Rentals for some great deals on short-term apartment rentals!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cool Halloween Window Display at La Bolsera

Maybe it's the influence of classic 80's movie Mannequin or the way my Dad always used to take us to see Jessops window in Newcastle at Christmas, but I'm a big sucker for really well done window displays in shops. One such place in Barcelona with a pretty big window (for central Barcelona sizes) and always making an effort is La Bolsera. This is a great stationary/paper/party/fancy-dress place and has a few locations around the city.

The shop in Carrer Xuclà (just behind Carrefour on Las Ramblas) never disappoints and themes their window display around the seasons and the various traditions Barcelona has.
This year, they've done a great Halloween display, closing one of the shutters and making a small "cave" of freights. It's got a chilling soundtrack of creepy screams and wails and groans, and cobwebs all the way through.
 A creepy moving Jason greets you inside, and specially positioned spotlights light up the faces of some of the gruesome masks on display that you can likely buy inside.

Hello, gorgeous. My camera phone seriously doesn't do this justice. It's mutant Hills Have Eyes kind of scary.

They even have Predator in the window for God's sake!!

This little lady's waiting for you on the way out.

 Clowns are always scary. Check out the Google maps of their shop, by the way, where they've taken advantage of the street view option and you can "go in" the shop and have a look around. Very cool feature.

If you in town, go and check it out, it's really cool. Hats off to the guys and gals at La Bolsera!!

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Las Ramblas Florists in Danger of Fines

I blogged about 3 years ago about the proposed changes to Las Ramblas and the animal stalls - "ocellaires"which used to occupy the top part of the most-walked street in the city, and sure enough, they have almost disappeared, with just a few remaining. I have to be honest, though, whilst I wasn't in 100% agreement or disagreement with the tiny sizes of the stalls, I think their replacement is a real let down. 

Those stupid ice cream stalls and bright yellow aprons with cheap industrial cakes and rubbish at high prices are exactly what Las Ramblas didn't need. There are enough of them on the actual sides of Ramblas (and of much better quality). So, whilst walking the other day through the city centre, I began to notice that all of the flower sellers have now, too, added a notice to their stalls:

Now, I don't care if the prices of the florists are more expensive than a normal florists elsewhere in the city, or if they've kind of had to adapt to the "crisis" by adding those material joke flowers and such like, can you imagine St Jordi without flowers on Las Ramblas? And their replacement to be what ?! More bloody waffle stalls and chatty necklaces?!

The photo above says "Keep the Florists of Las Ramblas in your prayers. Who will soon die for the hard line taken by The Town Council of Barcelona and for the incomprehension of Converència I Unio after a massive indigestion of tourism. The funerals will take place as soon as the first fines imposed by the Town Council of Barcelona will be administrated to Florists. We would appreciate your support by signing the Book of Condolences".

OK, so the translation leaves a lot to be desired, but you get the picture. The lady in the photograph was accompanied by an elderly gentleman (I assume her husband) who have been working the flower stalls in Las Ramblas ALL OF THEIR LIVES!!! I asked the man what they had in mind (me meaning the council) to replace the stalls and he cut me off and said they would begin a hunger strike, so they're clearly taking it all very seriously. It has to be said too, that up and down each side, the stalls were dotted with people signing and shaking their heads and generally being supportive of the stalls and their proprietors, and I have to say I agree, too. It would be a real shame for those people to lose their livlihood and Las Ramblas would lose yet another piece of its identity. What do you think? Agree ? Disagree? Let me know in the comments!

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Great Things to do in Barcelona for FREE - CosmoCaixa Science Museum

It's been yonks since I got a free museum up on the blog, so no time like the present. Continuing on from my little series of great things to do for free in the city, the Cosmo Caixa is a worthy and late addition.

It's basically the city science museum, and is free for everyone on the first Sunday of each month (and when it's not, it's a measly 4 € for adults and kids up to 16 are free which is a bargain). It's located up in the hills at the back of the city, at the foot of Tibidabo, which is a bit out of the way, but there are excellent links via public transport. We went in the car, and found a parking space no problem outside for free. You know this place means business, when you have these two guys waiting for you at the information desk!

Newton's laws, fossils, evolution, a temporary exhibition about Micro-life - basically looking at things through microscopes and there were fun interactive things to play with for the kids. This temporary space changes throughout the year, so you can always go back and see something new. There's clearly far too many things for me to explain about the contents of the museum, so I took a few snaps on my phone to share. They kind of speak for themselves:

Jack and Chewy showing off the spider collection (there are some real ones in the museum, too).

A massive tree is the main feature as you wind down the stairs to level -5, and all along the way are fossils and explanations of evolution, nature's shapes, etc.
Apparently, this good looking specimen was laughing, as she was re-tracing the steps of a bigger animal or something. Scary.
Look what I caught?!

Ah, now this one needs a bit of explaining. The image below is unmistakable, right? Even my 6 year old got it. Cool, but the image is actually made up of a load of plastic flies all stuck together like so. When you walk past it up close it just looks like a load of flies.

Always wanted one of these when I was a kid.

The super cool "flooded forest" is a big attraction, and is at one end of the museum. It's really well done, with tanks on the outside as you can see, and all sorts of sizes of fish inside. Like this huge guy.

 We didn't even see a 1/4 of the things in the museum.

One of the main things to say about the CosmoCaixa is that it's bloody huge. There's tons of things to do and explore, planetariums, touching sessions with reptiles, guided tours, and the very cool "bosque inundado"  - like a life-like model of a rain forest with loads of trees, animals, creepie crawlies and it even rains every 15 minutes, like a real rain forest! On normal paying days, you have to buy tickets for the "extra" things, and they apparently sell out fairly fast, so if you do go, make sure you know to get in there early - although there's so much to see even if you miss out on that. Below is a picture of the sprinklers, making it "rain".

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