Sunday, November 30, 2008

7 Deadly Sins on the Same Night Out ?

Many of us living here in Barcelona are accustomed to wandering the streets of the old town late at night, trying to remember where that cool bar was that someone showed us a couple of weeks ago. The labyrinth of alleyways and dead ends, dimly lit by the street lamps, is confusing enough at any time and it's easy to forget just how much history you're soaking in, treading the paths of the old Roman town of Barcino.

Well if you fancy an alternative night out round the old town, I suggest you get in touch with Edu Garcia, and follow him on his 7 deadly sins tour of Barcelona. This is an ingenious idea, and combines the fantastic Historic knowledge of Edu (English and Spanish) with streets you've walked down a million times! There are several routes, including the upper and lower Raval (think Shadow of the Wind, guys!), Barceloneta, and of course 2 routes through the Gothic Quarter.

Barcelona sights - Gargoyles in the Gothic Quarter

The tours take in some of the old town's famous sites, such King Michael's palace (now the Ajuntamiento/Town Hall). Here we have Sloth - King Michael was said to be so lazy he even had windows installed in the palace walls so he could watch the festivals and processions from the comfort of the palace. Garcia swiftly points out that it was in fact that he had a foot impediment meaning it was difficult for him to move about. There are many buildings in the Gothic Quarter built using gravestones from Montjüic cemetery that will be pointed out.
Barcelona sights - Boadas BarThere are the holes bore into the marble steps at the old brothels on Las ramblas from the click of prostitutes' high heels, the sheild of the Spanish inquisition and it's tourture methods to extract confessions and of course the Plaça Padro in the Raval - where Poor Santa Eulalia was crucified (I'm going to do a seperate post on her soon). No trip around the old town at night would be complete without a stop in some of the famous bars, and Edu doesn't disappoint, with the Umbrella bar and Boadas cocktail bar on Calle Tallers being just a few.

The tours really do make for a fantastic evening - although Edu goes with no microphone, so be sure to stick close by him to hear the gems of wisdom. The best way to make a booking is through Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Catalan Cuisine Gone Mad?!

Barcelona Sights - Ferran Adria
Ferran Adria is the owner and head chef of El Bulli restaurant north of Barcelona, not far from Girona, and there are not many people who haven't heard of him or the restaurant. El Bulli was voted the world's best restaurant for the 4th time this year, and receives over two million requests for just 8000 places per year. Spectacular creations and amazing techniques are now re-created in Adria's new book "A day at elBulli", and the man himself is currently touring to promote the book - on Monday 24th November he is guest (and even answering questions) at Queen Elizabth Hall in the UK, and needless to say they are expecting a great turnout. Adria has also branched into fast food in Barcelona itself with his Fast Good restaurant.
Barcelona sights - ElBulli Food
From what I have been told, the whole experience of eating at elBulli is a tirade against the senses, and something like 32 courses are served throughout the course of the evening, all with accompanying wines and an excellent waiting staff. Barcelona itself has spawned some "creative" kitchens such as Comerç 24 and the like, with chefs working under Adria also looking to cash in on the concept. So why the title of this post?

My question is this - if you were one of the lucky 8000 people of 2 million that managed to actually get a place on a table - and you can't choose the date, by the way, it's pot luck, and also is around 2 years from now, such is the waiting list - then given the wait, the hype and the price tag, do you not think that you would force yourself to be pleased and convince yourself that it had been such a wonderful experience, even if it wasn't?

I have never been to el Bulli, and won't be applying to be one of the hopefuls (if I did get a place, I'd buy the Christmas lottery too) and at the same time I'm not belittling the achievements of the man and his empire. However, there is just a small part of me that thinks that surely 8000 people can't walk away completely and utterly satisfied ? That wouldn't be human, right? So as I say, if you managed to get in, paid your money but had that niggling thought that it was going to be a lot better than it was, would you say anything?! Go on, be honest!

For more information on Barcelona, see this Barcelona Eixample Guide. And for your next trip to Barcelona, consider these Barcelona apartments for groups as a great alternative to your normal hotel booking.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Googlemaps goes interactive on Barcelona!

Recently I've noticed that Google Maps have increased their usability of their already incredible maps service, offering real street images for the majority of the streets in Barcelona. This feature is shared with other cities in Spain such as Valencia, Seville and Madrid.
Barcelona sights - Google interactive streetmap
As well as the hybrid or aerial views from the normal maps, the new feature allows you to pin point a little yellow man, and then literally "view" the street from this perspective, and actually move around. The images are very up to date (see below, the scaffolding on Las Ramblas is still up). Considering that many people are using mobile telephones or devices that can display fairly large images on screen, this makes for an even better companion that a simple GPS, as you can even see the horizontal viewpoint of where you are going, and mark landmarks along the way, in case you get lost, or miss a turning!

For more information on the Barcelona image above, see this Las Ramblas Barcelona Guide.

Also see Cheap Barcelona Apartments for your stay in the city next time you're here!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Barcelona Graffiti in Danger?

I have recently posted about how much I love some of the Barcelona Graffiti in and around the city, and I don't mean the scrawls and tags you tend to see around almost all of the old town that are continually being re-painted by the BCNeta teams. I also don't mean some of the great art work you can see at the bottom end of Paralello next to the Plaça Carbon, or some of the stunning images in the 3 Chimney's park, close by. No, I mean I love the shop shutters that are often decorated to depict graffiti style artwork related to the commerce.
Barcelona Sights - Grafitti Door
Well, this could now be in danger, according to the circular from the Barcelona council received by me this morning. The council has plans to erradicate definitely all graffiti in the old town. Later in the year, an open invitation will be given for various companies to put forward their proposals and costs for the scheme, and a winner will be announced. This company will be in charge of cleaning/re-painting the shutters and walls of the shops, bars and warehouses located in the old town as well as the doors to apartment block buildings. The council has offered to pay 25% of the cost of this, and will include a maintenance of 2 years. In the case of the living community of an apartment block, this 25% donation is subject to the community also taking on a further 2 years service of maintenance.

I think this means big bucks for the company involved. As I move around the old town most of the time, I always see the current BCNeta vans spraying away on walls with those high pressure hoses, or painting over scrawls and other useless graffiti. In the same article, there were comments from local citizens and although most welcomed the move, one guy commented that he thought it was useless, as the graffiti will always come back as soon as it's been cleaned. I'm inclided to agree, and even 9 years ago when I first moved here, I noticed almost immediately that Barcelona had a problem with "useless graffiti". What was not clear about the article was if they would allow those with "art" on the shutters to remain so, or if this was a real wipe-out of the whole genre. Let's hope not.

What do you think? Do you think it will work? Comments welcome as always guys...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Portaferrissa - the Old Iron Gate of the City

Most people nowadays pass through what was once the Old Iron Gate to the Roman City of "Barcino" without even thinking about it, and straight into Carrer Portaferrissa with one thing in mind - Shopping. This is one of the best streets to start your shopping visit to Barcelona with a plethora of shops squashed into this famous street of the Gothic Quarter.
Barcelona sights - Portaferrissa Fountain
Portaferrissa roughly translates to Puerta fierro/hierro which means "Iron door". At the entrance to the street there is a fountain, one would imagine from Roman times for the horses with carts to drink on their arrival. The fountain or trough has been decorated with coloured tiles, explaining the history of the fountain. I myself have passed by many times, but had never stopped to read the text. I have taken photos and joined the image below, which you can view for yourselves.

"The "Porta Ferriça" was one of the entrances to the second wall of Barcelona, built in the 13th Century. The Iron bar - one of the longitudinal measurements used in the city - gave it's name to (the gate) as well as the street that lead to the gate from the centre of the old town. In Calle Portaferrissa at the beginning of the 16th Century, the Casa Gralla was built; a beautiful Plateresque building which disappeared with the opening of Calle del Duque de la Victoria (Duke of the Vicotry) and the Casa Pinos (Pine House) belonging to the Marquis of Barbera was demolished in the middle of the 19th Century. The construction of the "Moya" Palace (today "Comillas") in 1774, finally proved motive to demolish the old gate."

Barcelona Sights - Portaferrissa fountain detail

For more information on Barcelona, see this Barcelona Guide.

Cheap Barcelona Apartments

Monday, November 10, 2008

Barcelona Scams - 3 cups.

This one is not really a Barcelona Scam and is practiced all over the world - I once saw it on the back of a bus in New Orleans with 3 draughts pieces, a draughts board and a pea.
The one in Barcelona had disappeared for a while and the local council even went as far to hang notices up on the lamp posts on Las Ramblas with "It's a trick!" and an image of 3 cups and a ball. However, walking recently through town and I saw the unmistakeable crowd with the usual suspects. This scam invloves various people, although it's not necessarily apparent at the time.
Barcelona Scams - 3 cups on las ramblas
One guy is on the floor with the usual follow the ball/pea, and there are a few others who step on the box and appear to be winning. These are the ones in on the scam, and they usually convince the "mark" to have a go - it's easy! Once the mark falls for the trick, they usually offer them a double or quits option, which again is more often than not taken and the game ends. However, recently I've seen a variation on this move, and foreign bank notes are used to make the mark "win". I have seen the guys with a 50 Soles from Peru held in such a way that it looks exactly like a 50 Euros note. There are a few look outs above and below where the scam is happening, in case the police arrive and they are also easy to spot. Next time you're near to the group, just take a step back and observe for a few minutes, it's really easy to see the ones in on it, and the look outs. I sometimes want to interrupt and tell people "Don't do it!" but some of the guys are huge!

The lamp post warnings came down and the scammers came back. The annoying thing is that according to the civil code, if they have less than 300 Euros on them it's only considered a minor occurance by the police and they are given a warning! If they have 400 Euros (almost all of them), they receive a fine. Easy, they pay the fine and continue when the Police have gone.

For more information on Barcelona, see this Barcelona Guide.

Cheap Barcelona Apartments

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Old Town Districts

So you thought the Barcelona Old Town had 4, maybe 5 districts, right? Raval, Gotico, Borne, Ribera and Barceloneta (or maybe include San Pere). Well that's what I thought too, until I saw this signpost recently in a street in the Raval.
Barcelona Old Town
I love the old image of the man leading the horse to show the direction of the street. No arrows here my friend.
It's located very close to Calle Carretas - a name which also suggests that the once cobbled streets would have been used by horse and carts delivering and collecting merchandise from the local factories (Raval has loads) and other bars, restaurants, etc.

So according to the plaque, the old town, or maybe it refers to the city as a whole at that time, has at least 8 neighbourhoods in at least 4 districts. I've seen old maps and city plans of Barcelona at various times, but I love the fact that these old plaques still exist, as it gives it all much more character. OK, so many of the buildings need a facelift (!), but I like the old and new together. Feel free to comment on places that have caught your attention, or if you can expand on the old districts and barrios and manzanas, etc. then I'd also love to hear!

For more information on Barcelona, see this Barcelona Guide.

Cheap Barcelona Apartments
Follow Me on Twitter