Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year Traditions in Barcelona

It's almost time for 2009 to come to a close. I personally can't believe we're almost in 2010 - although it's been a tough year for everyone in Spain (and probably the world over), it still seems to have gone quickly, I don't know about you? And one thing that has had me wondering (very silly) stems from when I used to be a teacher. My students always used to be perplexed with how we English say the date - especially in years. For example, 1982 is read "nineteen eighty-two" and not "one thousand nine hundered and eighty two" which is how the Spanish/Catalan say it. I remember many students couldn't get their head around this and asked me what would you say in the year 2010; "two thousand and ten" or "twenty ten". I've heard both on news reports on the TV, for example, and personally I think I'm leaning towards "two thousand and ten" probably because I've been saying it that way for the last 9 years, and "twenty ten" sounds a bit funny. Anyway, silly aside there. Apologies.

Barcelona Sights Blog - 2010
So, one of the great things about the welcoming of the new year are the funny traditions. The Catalans have some great traditions regarding the replenishing of the earth after a year of farming, for example, and although the poo theme for me can go a bit too far, it's all good fun. So, being a sucker for everything festive, I'm always keen to hear about different traditions when it comes to Christmas and New Year.

Here in Spain, there's a tradition that many people know about which is to eat twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve - precisely in time with the twelve gongs of midnight. Grapes are festive fruits, and used in wine making and champagne, cava, etc. so it's an understandable fruit to use. It's supposed to signify that you will have a prosperous year to come, and is a tradition going as far back as 1895, although there is some confusion as to where the tradition was started, according to the wikipedia article - Alicante, Catalonia or Madrid.
New Year Grapes  - Barcelona Sights Blog
However, it's interesting to read that the whole idea came about as a bit of a jokey protest. Apparently in 1882 the mayor of Madrid, Jose Abascal y Carredano, decided to charge 5 pesetas (known as "un duro" - never knew why, I was here when the peseta was still the currency) to those people who wanted to go out and meet the 3 Kings on the eve of the Epiphany. This led to a group of locals to then make theor way on New Year's eve to the Puerta del Sol, and mock the bourgoise custom of celebrating with champagne and wine, by eating the grapes with each peal of the bell. Nowadays, this is the location for the televised coverage of new year.

If you've never tried it before, it's actually pretty damn tough to do - a lot harder than it sounds, especially if you start being picky and taking pips out of your mouth. Fortuntaely, there are many ready-made solutions in many supermarkets in the form of little tins of peeled, seedless/seeded grapes - just don't cut yourself on the can as you open it! I'd love to hear some of your own traditions of New Year in the comments, guys. I know that in Argentina for example, they do a similar thing but with raisins, not grapes, and in Peru there's a tradition of running around your block with an empty suitcase so that you'll travel in the coming year. My wife and I exchange wedding rings and drop that into the first glass of cava to toast in the new year. Not sure where that one came from, but we always do it. Any others to add? Let me know! I love this kind of thing!! I'd also like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Very Happy New Year - thanks for reading, and for voting me the bestblogger in Europe for 2009 through the bloggersguide. I hope you all have a happy and successful TWENTY TEN....sorry TWO THOUSAND AND TEN.

If you're coming to Barcelona in the new year, then don't go for a hotel - try apartments for rent in Barcelona instead. And for a quick look at the un-missable attractions, then see this great Barcelona Guide.

2010 image by freeimageslive.co.uk - christmashat

Monday, December 28, 2009

English Masses in Barcelona

So the festive season is well and truly in swing! Although strictly the Catalans don't celebrate Christmas as much as the Epiphany, it's still a public holiday, and many tourists descend on the "Cuidad Condal" for their Christmas break. One thing important to many is to celebrtate a Christmas mass whilst they are here in the city, and I've been asked this question before and never known how to answer. I had originally planned to get this post out before Christmas (would have been handy, I know), but didn't get the chance.

Barcelona Sights blog - Church Candle

I apologise if the heading of this post was misleading anyone into thinking this would be about a huge invasion of English tourists arriving to Barcelona! It is in fact a short list of places to find an English Mass in Barcelona. I thought that the city's main Cathedral offered an English mass (especially at this festive time) but have drawn a blank so far with details, so if anyone has more information about that, please let me know in the comments.

There is a website dedicated to Catholic Mass in Barcelona here which explains the location of the church - Avinguda Esplugues 103, 08034 Barcelona.

Coming to Barcelona in the New Year? Check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great money saver. Also for a heads up on the rest of the city's attractions, see this great barcelona guide.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What's the Best Way to Paint Your Shop Front?

Shark Graffiti - Barcelona Sights blog Around this time last year, I found out about a new initiative from the council to clean up the store front shutters of the old town by offering a clean up and maintenance sevice through authorised companies/partners. At the time, I remember thinking that it looked to be a money spinner for the companies involved but also agreed that it was a good initiative by the council to "clean up" some of the streets.

Well, it appears that since the invitiation to the 32,000 vendors in the old town has gone out, the council has increased the help offering now a 50% payment towards the initial cost and another 50% for the maintenance, instead of the 25% originally offered. This works out at 36 Euros per square metre, or a minimum of 200 Euros with a cost of 250 Euros per year for maintenance. So that's 450 Euros for the first two years only. And you have a choice of different shades of grey by all accounts.

Graffiti Art on Shutters - Barcelona Sights blog Now, it's just a thought, but given some of the fantastic graffiti in and around the old town, which I've blogged about a few times before, which do you think makes a potential customer remember your shop more? A drab grey shutter, or a fantastic, modern artwork that makes your shop stick out from the rest? I know what I'd do - for 450 Euros, I'd get those geniuses at axecolours to pass by my shop and give me a few ideas!! There's already an unsaid rule between artists who graffiti not to ruin another artists work with scrawls or tags, and not to paint over (the Michael Jackson one in the link above is still there and has not been touched in 6 months). It's a clever piece of marketing if you ask me, and I know I always remember those shutters and shops with the graffiti when walking around the old town on a Sunday, for example. The one in today's photos is for a scuba diving shop close to me, and to be perfectly honest, I can't even remember what the shutters were like before the current graffiti was added and I walk past it about 3 or 4 times a day - so it just goes to show the impact it can have. What do you think? I'd be interested to hear in the comments if this kind of thing is a positive change or if people would prefer uniformity around the streets? Let me know.

Coming to Barcelona this winter? Check out some late deals on Barcelona apartments here. And for more details on the city itself, see this Barcelona Guide.

Friday, December 18, 2009

FC Barcelona Face Stuttgart in Champions League

Noon today saw the Champions League draw for the last 16. Obviously not quite as nerve racking than the recent World Cup draw in Cape Town, but nevertheless an important date in the football calendar taking place in a city which has nothing to do with football, really (sorry Zurich fans there!). There are some tasty ties, with David Beckham probably rubbing his hands together in glee as he'll be returning to Old Trafford with AC Milan in March, and Jose "el traductor" Mourinho returning to Chelsea with Inter Milan - who current boss Carlo Ancelotti used to manage. I doubt whether either manager will be sending Christmas cards this year, given recent comments shared between the two.

Barcelona Sights blog - Champions League Trophy

FC Barcelona have drawn FC Stuttgart of Germany. First tie is to be away in Germany, and then March will see another set of German supporters descend on the Catalan Capital much like last year. Watching the draw live on TV3 today, the commentators seemed to be very happy with the draw, and commented on Txixi Begiristain's "poker face" as he looked a little concerned/disappointed with the team drawn. Well, although I do fear for Stuttgart against the current champions of europe, I don't think it'll be a walk over. Stuttgart have recently changed managers, and will prove a tough test in my opinion. We'll see.

In the meantime, Barça have the small matter of the World Club Cup final to attend to in Abu Dhabi tomorrow. Barça will play Estudiantes of Argentina and will want to add to their great season of cups and trophies so far. Good Luck Barça!

What do you think about the draw? Let me know if the comments! And if you fancy making the trip over in March, then check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona and for a great idea of what to visit while you're here, see this Barcelona Guide.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Market in Barcelona

OK, so maybe I'm leaving it late to blog about the Christmas fair in Barcelona as it's already been going since just after advent started (28th November) but I'm just starting to feel Christmasy and wanted to do a bit of research instead of the usual comment with a terrible photo from my phone!

Santa Llúcia Christmas Fair in 1945 - Photo Credit Official Website/Artesania Bertran

Tha Catalans certainly have some strange Christmas Traditions. From the Cagatio to the Caganers, it's great fun at Christmas - and even more fun for the kids. There are also the typical things associated with Christmas such as trees, decorations, Nativity Scenes and lights and if there's anything you might be missing for your home, then like many cities around the world this month, Barcelona has it's Christmas fair. The Fair is right in front of the Cathedral, in the heart of the gothic quarter.

The fair is called the "Fira de Santa Llúcia" and is the oldest themed fair in the world, dating as far back as 1786!! So this year marks the 223rd edition of the fair and is a must-see for anyone visiting the city this winter. Expect to see the usual christmas plants such as poinsettias and misteltoe, Christmas Trees of different sizes, and wreaths galore. The fair also has musical stalls with traditional instruments, jewellery, hand made goods, etc. but perhaps the most interesting artefacts are those ornaments for the Nativity scene.

The official website (link above) has some great little tidbits of history, such as the wave of yellow fever sweeping through the city in 1860 not halting the fair, and that the fair was known as a "girls" fair, where young girls would go along to the fair in their best dresses accompanied by their mothers looking for suiters!

The fair has over 270 stands and is well worth a trip down to see it. Make sure you get some chocolate and churros for the browse around, and choose your favourite caganer!! FC Barcelona striker Pedro might be a surprise addition if they don't already have one, with him scoring last night he's become the first player in history to score in all football competitions in one season. Congrats Pedro!

Have you been to the Christmas market yet? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and what you think of the funny traditions over here! And if you're coming to Barcelona this month, be sure to check out apartments for rent in Barcelona for any last minute deals.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Barcelona Urban Playground

This month has seen the opening of the new Barcelona Urban Forest which is a kind of adults playground on what appears to be a building site. Part of an initiative of the council, the urban forest bills itself as the first adventure park within the city centre - obviously regarding Tibidabo's amusement park as "outside" the city centre!

BarcelonaSight Blog - Urban Forest. Image from official site

The Urban park looks to be a kind of climbing, abseiling, hanging from concrete type experience, and from the images on the website, looks like good fun. There are three different circuits; Orange, Blue and Red. Orange is for kids from 4 to 10 years old, or people below 130cm in height, and consists of 14 platforms joined together in different ways, at a height of 150cm. The Blue circuit is 4 metres high and is designed for over 8 year olds, families, and adults. Finally the red circuit is the most difficult, aimed at adults, and looks like a good old fashioned Krypton Factor-style assault course, complete with skateboards fixed to ropes and heights of up to 30 metres.

Prices range from individual and group prices, but are around the 20 Euros region (you can buy combination tickets, too). The Urban park is located close to the beach in the Forum Park complex, and is served well enough by public transport, too. I think it would be a great thing to do with a group of friends, and I'm sure it'll catch on quickly. Let me know if you've been yet, and if it's any good?!

Coming to Barcelona soon? Try apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative to a hotel and for a decent look at the city's sights, check out this Barcelona guide.

Monday, December 7, 2009

More Virtual Barcelona - Google & UNESCO

There seems to be an emerging trend on the internet of creating virtual ways of visiting places you've never been before, and Barcelona is also getting it's fair share. It's even got a video game to boot.

I've blooged before about these kind of things, and now it seems that Google has joind in on the party.

Google Earth UNESCO Sites - BarcelonaSights Blog

Released this week is an extension to the already fantastic Google Earth (if only for playing with and wasting time on) showing the UNESCO Heritage sites around the world. Barcelona is the proud owner of 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the new tool for Google Earth highlights the different sites, making it easier for you to find them. Unfortunately the feature doesn't let you stroll around like the promo video has (or at least not at the moment) for the places on the list, but it's still a pretty cool feature anyway. You can download the UNESCO extension here.

If you're planning on visiting Barcelona soon, I can reccommend you check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona, instead of plugging for the usual hotel room, too.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stuck for a Tuesday Night? Muse over Milan.

Tonight sees a very important gamer in the Eufa Champions League with FC Barcelona facing Inter Milan in the Camp Nou. There are various reasons why the press are lapping up this tie - the return of "el traductor" Jose Mourinho to Barcelona, who was Bobby Robson's assistant during his time here. Mourinho of course has been back before with Chelsea, and was jeered by the fans as a simple "translator" to Bobby Robson - all this at the height of his "special one" comments.

Barca Celebrating - Barcelona sights Blog

It's also a return to the Camp Nou for Samuel Eto'o - a former Barcelona star. He has said this week in the press he will "never celebrate a goal in Camp Nou" -respect for the African who when he first came to Spain claimed he would "earn like a white man to run like a black man". Add to this a bout of swine flu, a couple of your typical injury problems and the fact that nothing short of a win will do for the current holders Barcelona, and it's shaping up to be a very tasty tie.

Inter sit top of group F, and look certain to progress, whereas Barcelona have won only one game so far in qualifying and if results elsewhere go against them, they could be the first ever team who are the current champions not to progress from the group stages.

On the opposite side of the city, English rockers Muse play the Palau Sant Jordi - on a date which they had to move. Muse were due to play this weekend on Friday the 27th, and were forced into a date change due to the Spanish National Tennis team training for the Final of the Davis Cup this weekend - also to be hosted in the Palau Sant Jordi. Muse have a fairly serious Spanish following - Palau Sant Jordi is the biggest music venue for Live Groups and is expected to be full. You can bet, though, that those with smart phones will have one eye on the concert and one eye on the game!

Are you going to either event this evening? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. And if you're coming to Barcelona this coming winter, check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona, as a great money saver. For a heads up on the rest of the city, see this great Barcelona Guide.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Skipping the Road Works Just Got Easier

I don't think there's much of a cultural difference in Barcelona or anywhere else in the world for that matter when it comes to road works. August is usually the big month for road works playing havoc with the city's traffic, as most of the residents are not in the city, leaving the tourists to go blue in the face/be towed away/fined (delete as appropriate). Sometimes no amount of google-mapping, Sat-Naving (is that a word?) or good old fashioned AA fold away maps can prepare you for the chaos that is August driving. Add to that fact that the majority of the "road workers" seem to be strangely absent/eating bocadillos/smoking fags while propping up a rake (delete as appropriate).

Barcelona Roadworks site - funnily enough, under construction - BarcelonaSights

Well, it seems that not only August is the month for road works and diversions. There are apparently over 380 individual jobs taking place on a street near you, and if you haven't been woken at some ungodly hour, then you're sure to run straight into a road block soon. So, those kind and conscientious people at the council office have decided to give you a hand. Cue Barcelona Road Works Website (No that's obviously not what it's really called, but I'm linking to it that way). Due to go live today (so don't blame me if the link isn't working), the site plans to detail all the sites with details of how long the job is supposed to last (so multiply that by, say, 3) and other routes to avoid the particular areas. Let's hope it saves us drivers some time, as those yellow notices obscured by trees on the side of pavements really aren't' doing it for me. Any thoughts? Feel free to comment below.

Coming to Barcelona soon? Why not rent a Barcelona Apartment as a great money-saver? And for a quick look at the sights, see this Barcelona Guide.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How Much is Barcelona Worth?

This week, a report published by the Plan Estrategico del Turismo has been widely publicised in the press. Sections of the press were given access to huge amounts of documentation relating to the government's "strategic plan of tourism" which starts in 2010 and aims to be set in stone by 2015. Some fascinating statistics have come out of the report - which is obviously relying on last year's data, but nevertheless gives some jaw-dropping details.

Tourists in Barcelona, leave a staggering 20 million Euros per day in the city, creating with that an estimated 80-100,000 jobs with it. 18,4 million tourists visit the city each year, although this figure also includes those on day-trips, excursions and the like - not necessarily those sleeping in the city (that figure drops to almost 11 million).

The report and its findings were due to be presented today in the commission of economical promotion, with a view to cement the ideas and decisions which need making ahead of next year's deadline.

tourists on las ramblas - BarcelonaSights

Despite the study's findings being encouraging on the face of things, the report also draws attention to a possible self-destruct button on the city's tourism sector, claiming a "risk of dying from its own success". There is a fair bit of detail about the overcrowding of certain tourist hot spots such as Park Güell, Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas and indeed Cuitat Vella as a whole. Poor behaviour of tourists in these areas, prostitution, the petty crime which the tourists attract and locals having to share their already-confined space with huge amounts of tourists have been high on any list of complaints for a number of years now, and perhaps reached a peak in summer when El Pais published photos of tourists "employing the services" of prostitutes on the side alleys of La Boqueria. A swift and heavy police presence soon rid the papers of any more photos, but the problem was simply swept to other areas, and is not the solution to a greater problem - one which the plan aims to tackle.

So how much is Barcelona worth? Well, despite TripAdvisor labelling Barcelona the pickpocket capital of the world, there are many other plaudits the city can be proud of. This Study labels Barcelona as the 5th best city in the world. This highly respected survey saw Barcelona leapfrog Brussels to be 4th most important Business capital in Europe, and the same report hailed Barcelona as number 1 destination with regards quality of life over all other European cities.

Now, I know we're in a crisis, but 20 million Euros per day is a heck of a lot of money, if you ask me. So what's 365 multiplied by 20 million ?....back in a minute, just going to get a calculator.

What do you think of the findings and situation? I'd love to hear your comments.

Thinking of visiting the 5th best city in the world soon? Check out these great apartments for rent in Barcelona which can offer some great savings over a hotel.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Christmas Lights - Pasta on the Streets

Galets Illuminated for Christmas 2009 - Barcelona Sights This month sees the start of the Christmas campaign around the city, with the city lights due to be turned on on the 28th November. With retail world-wide expecting a decent Christmas, it's important to draw in the crowds with a decent illumination display this year - something that many complained about last year.

High on the Barcelona residents' naughty list, was the lack of lights on major avenues such as Paseig de Gracia and Diagonal, and the incredible price of 214,000 Euros for 4 solar/bicing-powered "Christmas Trees" that looked straight out of a "todo a cien" shop.

Well, it looks like the mayor's office has sat up and taken notice. So as well as the aforementioned Passeig de Gracia/Diagonal commerce splashing out on 90,000 Euros to line the streets with close to 300 lamps, we'll have some festive inventions dotted around the city, too! The above image is one of those inventions and, yes, it is a huge piece of pasta, not a sea shell.

Paseig de Gracia Christmas Lights - Image from La Vanguardia

Catalan Traditional Christmas lunch is a thoroughly delicious broth-type soup called Escudella de Galets - the Galets being the pasta. It's a great soup with a load of ingredients (although I must admit will never convert me from my traditional Turkey Roast and Stuffing!). I think they look really cool, and can't wait to get out and see the creations. Apparently there are other such sculptures such as turkeys, chickens, bottles of cava and roscones (traditional biscuits) which will be distributed around the city, and hopefully get everyone in the mood to spend their Christmas cash. And according to this article citing a survey from Deliotte, the average family will be spending around 735 Euros on the festivities this year, which although is a 19% decrease in last year, I think sounds a lot?! Or am I totally out of touch?! Feel free to leave comments and let me know!

Thinking of coming to Barcelona this festive season? Try these apartments for rent in Barcelona, for an alternative to a hotel. And for a quick look at the best sights, see this Barcelona Guide.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Belly Laughs in Barcelona

Barcelona Sights Blog - Barcelona International Comedy Festival
November is a bit of a boring month in Barcelona - after the celebrations of Halloween and la Castanyada comes cold weather, coughs and colds, and although the Christmas lights have started to appear in the streets, it seems ages before another excuse for a party comes along. Not to worry, though, help is at hand from the Barcelona International Comedy Festival.

I've mentioned before that there's a great English Comedy scene in Barcelona, and this second year of the International comedy festival kicks off on the 22nd November, and lasts all week! The festival kicks off in Maremagnum with mainly Spanish artists, clowns and monologues, before moving to various locations around the city for the evening gigs.

Adam & Jason Show - Barcelona Sights BlogHighly anticipated acts include sell-out "Made in Barcelona" comics "Que Four Comics Juan Vision" who are returning home after 15 back to back performances at the Edinburgh Festival. And top of the bill is the "Adam and Jason Show" - featuring Irishman Jason Byrne and Aussie Adam Hills. Byrne comes with the comfortable tag of being officially the biggest selling comic in the history of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and both he and Hills have been given free reigns on the night, so expectations are high - and rightly so.

Logan Murray is also giving a Stand Up comedy Workshop in Gracia, which has limited places, as well as a co-incidental Spanish monologue comedy on the weekend of the Barcelona vs Real Madrid game - all about both teams! Toni Moog, Toni Cano and Jorge Segura are performing "Barça vs Madrid; Derby de Comedia". Given the rivalry between the two teams never mind the cities, I'm sure there'll be plenty to chuckle about.

I think it's fantastic that there's an International Comedy Scene in Barcelona (there are also Dutch and Swedish performers amongst the other acts), and invite you to embrace the idea, too. Ticket prices are cheaper in advance than on the door and cost from 8 euros to around 20, which is a bargain considering the potential quality on offer. If you're planning on going, leave a comment, and let us know what you're looking forward to, of if you read this after you've been, give us your critique, and look forward to December - loooads of public holidays!! Woo-Hoo!

Coming to Barcelona this winter? There are some great last minute deals for Barcelona apartments to be had. And for a head start on what to visit while you're here, check out this Barcelona Guide.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Snow This Weekend in Barcelona - No Kidding

I've been here for ten years, and it's snowed about three times that I can remember. Last time was in about 2006 (?) and it reached the old town, too (usually just saved for Tibidabo). It never lays, I guess the salt in the sea air must play its part, and partly because it's never actually THAT cold. Obviously it's cold enough to snow, but only just.

Barcelona Sights - Barcelona Snow show

So this weekend there's going to be some snow. Only it's artificial. and up on Montjüic this time. Yes, the Barcelona snow Show starts tomorrow! The web boasts some of the most advanced technology for making artificial snow, and will showcase freestyle skiers, snowboarders jumping around on Europe's largest man-made ramp - a whopping 35 metres. And it's not all just for fun - the points gained in the freestyle competition will count towards the International Ski Federation's World Cup, too.

The event has a "village" down on the pitch around the ramp, which will have shops, merchandise and other free stuff to give away, too. Things kick off at midday and go on until 10pm, with various qualifying rounds before two finals. Sunday also has more activities planned for all in attendance and the village remains open. At 15 Euros for the Saturday or 18 for Saturday and Sunday, it looks like it'll be a good turnout. Let's hope the recent windy conditions don't affect the plans (no refund if the event is cancelled due to the weather!). Are you going to the show? Let me know in the comments, if you read this afterwards, tell us how it went!

Coming to Barcelona this winter? Check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative to a hotel room.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Barcelona Day Trips: Sitges and Casteldefels

One question I often get asked is about the best beaches around Barcelona. For me, and for a city beach, both Barceloneta and the Olympic Village beaches are absolutely fine - but then again, I'm lazy and want everything on my doorstep! For those looking for an out-of-town beach, maybe a little quieter, then there are many choices - up towards the Costa Brava there are nudist beaches such as Sant Pol (they have a non-nudist section, too) which involves jumping the train lines to access. Little coves like Begur are wonderful sleepy fisherman's towns which are great places too, but as I've mentioned before in this series, I'm mainly writing these posts for people visiting the city with no transport of their own, and places easily accessible via public transport.

Barcelona Sights - Sitges Beach

So for me, two of the best beaches you can access easily from Barcelona are Sitges and Casteldefels. The best way to get to either beach is to take the train from the main train station, Sants. The trains going in the direction of the airport usually always stop at Casteldefels and Sitges.

Sitges is a really nice little town, and is famous for it's gay community which light up the streets during Carnaval in February. It also has a great Cinema festival which leans towards horror movies, and is a beautiful little resort. Housing here is very expensive and many footballers and "famous" people live or have lived in and around Sitges. The beach itself is actually quite small, and it's almost like a cove - the church at the top of the town, overlooking the arched beach below. The beach itself is actually quite shallow - i.e. there's not a huge amount of room before you get to the waves, so sometimes it can get a little fight-for-your-towel-space, but it's immaculately kept with grass verges along the boardwalk, and some great little seafood restaurants, too. Sitges for me, also seems to have it's own macro climate, and many a time I've visited with friends and as we've left Barcelona it's been cloudy, and we plan to just have a look around the cobbled streets of the town, but on arrival it's clear skies and glorious sunshine!

Casteldefels actually has two train stops, and depending on how busy you want the beach to be, then you can choose. The stop marked Casteldefels actually drops you in the centre of town. From here, you can walk under the bridge around 10 minutes to the bottom and reach the sea (head towards the petrol station). This beach is huge in comparison to Sitges, with loads of room to lay down or play beach sports. There's only 1 bar, though, so if you plan on having lunch there, or want a little more variety, then maybe the next stop is for you. Casteldefels Platja (beach in Catalan) is the next stop along, and is a lot busier in terms of shops and bars, restaurants, etc. Although you're only around 15 minutes outside Barcelona, it can seem like another kind of holiday altogether, and a real escape from the city.

Coming to Barcelona soon? Check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona and for a quick look at the top sights, see this Barcelona guide.

Flickr Credit

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Barcelona Live Music Venues

I was considering making this post a series with a bit more detail about each venue, but reckon it's probably more useful all mixed into one. Feel free to chip in with the comments if you feel I've missed anything worth a mention.

Barcelona is a great place for live music. As well as smaller venues across the city playing live music every weekend, and endless musical festivals from Jazz to electronic, if you want to get your rocks off in Barcelona, there are plenty of places.

Palau Sant Jordi - Barcelona Sights Blog

Let's start with the big guns - Palau Sant Jordi. Part of the 1992 Olympic Games, Palau is a very versatile arena, and is the place most of the big artists choose when touring here, as it has a capacity of 20,000. Elton John recently finished his Red Piano tour here and artists as diverse as Green Day, Red Hot Chili pappers, Beyonce, Madonna, Phil Collins and and George Michael (who started his 25 Live Tour here) have had no problem filling the seats. Palau Sant Jordi is located up on Montjüic, meaning there's plenty of space for revellers to queue up before hand and public transport links are excellent.

Another popular place for the alternative crowd is Razzmatazz. This is actually a huge club with various different areas catering for all people's tastes and is located over in Poble Nou. This is a great venue to see bands who have not quite stamped their mark on the Spanish pop map just yet, and often bands play here before returning to the larger venues once their fame has took off. I've seen some great bands here; Coldplay in 2003 who later returned the same year to fill Palau Sant Jordi, Travis, Keane, NOFX, to name but a few. An excellent and intimate venue which is here to stay.

Razzmatazz on Barcelona Sights blog

One of those intermediate venues is the Pavello Olympic in Badalona. This is an ideal venue for those bands who have a fairly large following, but can't quite fill Palau Sant Jordi (sting played a couple of years ago and should have gone here!). with a capacity of 12,500, the likes of Take That and the Backstreet Boys are happy to get bums on seats here and it's a decent size sports arena with great acoustics.

FC Barcelona's Camp Nou is reserved for only special guests, and obviously plays off season. The most notable acts over previous years have been Irish rockers U2, who played here in 2006 and started their recent 360º World Tour here with a double bill on 30th June and 2nd July this year. Camp Nou is an amazing concert venue, saved for über-stars, and was packed to the rafters on both occasions (I was lucky enough to go on both tours). The recent Go Crazy video was shot in Camp Nou (although they played the more upbeat version!).

Sala Bikini - Barcelona Sights

Sala Bikini is a really small venue up near Diagonal, and again, is a great place to see some famous bands who have not necessarily made the grade over here yet. One of the best concerts I saw here was years ago when Supergrass played here - such a small venue and there was no barriers between the band and the crowd, it was amazing. Another place which I haven't seen many return, but is still a decent sized venue is Pavello de la Valle d'Hebron, in the north east of the city. Oasis famously cancelled a gig here in 2000 which was the slippery slope to where they are now, as they then returned without Noel and played the fastest concert I've seen (all the songs played at twice the speed up to finish earlier). When they finished, there was no encore, and Liam Gallagher said "Right we've been here now, f#*k off" - as if it was a simple contractual agreement! Never mind!

There are then some equally cool but more sporadic venues around town, where live music can almost always be found. This is where I'll need your help in the comments guys! I'm talking about the classic places like London Bar, Harlem Jazz Club, Jamboree, Pipas Bar, etc. These are institutions in Barcelona, and many a night we've stumbled across a live band jamming away and spent a great, un-planned night in one of these places.

Coming to see a band in Barcelona soon? Check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona and for a heads up on the rest of the city, see this great Barcelona Guide.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Barcelona in the Year 2159 ?

This year sees the 150 year anniversary of Ildefons Cerdà's plans for Eixample being approved. Who? Well Mr Cerdà was the brain behind the biggest neighbourhood in Barcelona, the extension between the old town and the little villages such as Sarria, Gracia and Poble Nou. Eixample now houses some of Barcelona's biggest attractions, including 5 of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Despite the current acceptance of Eixample as the city's biggest neighbourhood and it's relatively few problems coping with traffic and the like, apparently the plans were not universally accepted at the time. Either way, this year marks 150 euros since the plans were approved by the council, and there are various activities to celebrate this fact.

2159 - yes, that's my oven clock. Barcelona Sights Blog

So, in a clever move by the council, it's up to us residents to think about what Barcelona will be like in another 150 years - in 2159. Not only that, but a web has been built and everyone is encouraged to leave their message or time capsule right there on the web for others to see. AND these time capsules will be sealed and opened again in Barcelona in the year 2159!! Sounds cool, right? Well, check out the link for some funny videos and predictions from the residents of the city so far. There are some cool ideas....and some odd ones, too. Unfortunately the website is all flash, so I can't link to individual entries. Go and check it out yourself.

So, it has left me thinking. 150 Euros is a long time, and with the technological advances we have made only in the last 50 years, it's scary/impossible to predict what life will be like. Obviously (without trying to be too down about it all!) we'd have to sort out major issues with fuel sources and energy to power ever increasing computer servers and the like (robots?!). Just too hard to think about, really!
What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments and ideas. Feel free to comment below.

Coming to Barcelona soon? Try these apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great choice instead of a hotel room.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Let's Petanca !

With Barcelona enjoying sunshine for many months of the year, it's common to see people practicing sports within the high rises of the building blocks that surround. There are many table tennis tables dotted around the city, which are permanently open and often in parks or green areas. You can take your bats and ping pong balls and play at any time.

Petanca - Barcelona Sights Blog

Another such outdoor game which is a little more popular with adults and the older generation is "Petanca". Petanca is a kind of bowls game which is played on flat, often sandy pitches. The players can play alone, but usually play in teams. The game involves throwing a small wooden/plastic ball or "boliche" and then each team has to get the closest to that boliche with their metal balls, which are around 8cm in diameter and weigh around 700g. The technique of throwing the ball is to release the ball with your hand/fingers facing the direction you are going to throw, shielding the ball - so you gain backspin and it stops quicker. The one closest to the wooden ball gets a point, and the first to three is the winner.

It's great to see groups of mixed ages getting together for a quick game - you can be surprised at any time of day with a petanca game going on, and there are plenty of areas designated for the game, with perches to hang jackets and bags. Sagrada Familia has a fair few courts/playing surfaces in front of the Nativity facade inside the park, and there are numerous other locations in the city too. If you get the chance, stop and watch a game for a few minutes, it's great fun. For a full list of the rules, the Federation of Petanca in Spain has a website (in Spanish).

A great way to visit the city is also using the Barcelona Tourist Bus system, which takes in all the main sights. And for accommodation in the city, try apartments for rent in Barcelona as an alternative to a hotel room.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Second Hand Clothing Heaven

If second hand clothing or alternative items is your thing - instead of some of the mainstream high street brands - then you're in luck. Tucked away in a side street of the Raval is a haven for those who like second hand clothing, original print items and new designer stuff with thank funky feel. The street is Riera Baxia - click the link for a map.

Second Hand clothing Shops on Riera Baixa - Baercelona sights Blog
There are of course many shops of this ilk in and around the town, but this is a particularly high concentration of shops all in the same street, so you're really spoilt for choice.

Riera Baixa Street - Barcelona Sights Blog

This can also be combined on a weekend with the funky market on the Rambla del Raval - just a short stroll away. The market is the main photo at the top of this blog. Again, the market showcases local designers who are only allowed to sell their own wares - no labels or brands here. There are some great items of jewellery, original bags, prints and graffiti clothing as well as fridge magnets, and other pictures to adorn your home with a lasting memory of the city. The market is on Saturdays and Sundays and also has a Moroccan tea tent with different snacks such as olives, sweet cakes and the like. It's well worth a wander around.

Do you know any other great places for second hand clothing? Share them in the comments. And if you're coming to Barcelona soon, then try apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great money saver between friends. For a digestible read-up on the city's sights, also see this Barcelona Guide.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fly Over Barcelona - From Your Armchair!

Now I don't know about you, but when I was younger, those complicated flight simulation computer games never quite did it for me. Unless it was the arcade version of After Burner complete with moving chair and joystick for the complete Tom-Cruise-in-Top-Gun experience, then it was all a bit dull for me. Maybe that's why I never became a pilot, and I'm not raking it in...

View of Placa Catalunya from the air - Barcelonasights blog

Anyway. I decided to make the effort and download Barcelona council's 4D Virtual Flight over Barcelona, and after fiddling around for about half an hour, I'd say it's a little bit of distraction for half an hour! I'm sure the council has put a lot of money and effort into the project, just like this one, and it is pretty cool, even for a flight simulator rookie like me.

The concept is extremely simple, using either your keyboard or mouse over the screen controls, you can "fly" over Barcelona at various heights and see the sights (true to my blog's name, there, guys and gals). There are various landmarks mentioned on your screen, and you can also click on bigger landmarks, and be "flown" there, too.

Barcelona Virtual Flight - Barcelona Sights

The 4D flight doesn't stop at there, though, and also offers a flight through time. There are virtual maps of the city from 1940, 1950 & 1960, 1970,80 and 90, too! So if you wondered what your street looked like before the Olympics (or at least what it looked like from above) then you can have a gander! It's amazing to see how places like Montjuic have changed so much and of course the Coastline at the Olympic Village, too. A bit of distraction for a lazy afternoon at work!

Coming to Barcelona soon? Check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great money-saving technique - and fly over your street to get an idea of the area!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Barcelona Day Trips: Montserrat

Continuing the series of Barcelona day trips, this is another great one. Montserrat literally means "the serrated mountain" and makes reference to it's jagged form against the surrounding landscape which is completely flat. There is a Monastery on top of the mountain, and various walks can be enjoyed to view the fantastic views.

Montserrat, the Serrated Mountain - Barcelonasights

This is one day trip I can recommend using the great public transport services.
From Plaça Espanya, you can take a train around 40 minutes to Olessa de Montserrat which is a beautiful train ride inland. You will see after leaving Barcelona that the surrounding land is particularly flat and then all of a sudden a huge collection of rocks seem to just shoot out of the ground creating peaks - this is Montserrat. The train leaves Plaça Espanya from around 8:30am onwards each hour and drop you at the bottom of the mountain with two options of getting up to the top.

First is the zip train, or cremellera - so called as the train tracks have teeth and the train's wheels are like cogs which sit in the teeth, like a zip. The alternative is the cable car which leaves right outside the train station. Both of these methods will take you right up to the top where the monastery is. Those travelling in a car often have to park along the long winding road which takes you to the top, and then walk the rest of the way, which on busy days can be quite a hike.

One of the highlights of the Montserrat trip is the close-up viewing of the Black Madonna with infant Jesus seated above the church altar, and almost everyone makes the climb through the back altars to worship or admire the Virgin Mary so rarely seen in this manner. There are many theories as to why the Virgin Mary is portrayed in this way; due to fire damage, natural wood, or the ageing process. I've heard different stories on each occasion I've been there (and there have also been various fires, although not in the church itself). According to the wikipedia page, "la moreneta" was unable to be moved by the monks, who built their monastery around her, and that the statue is a Romanesque sculpture dating from the late 12th Century - some believe to have been carved in Jerusalem in the early days of the church.

Also worth a mention are the side trips such as the Angel trail, which can be enjoyed from the peak of Montserrat. Funicular trains take you to the highest points above the Monastery itself, and other routes - varying in length and time - can be taken at a leisurely pace, giving magnificent views of the surrounding countryside for those who are not only visiting for the Christian side of things.

Have you been to Montserrat recently? Please leave a comment and let us know your thoughts. For nearby accommodation to Montserrat, try apartments for rent in Barcelona, which can offer considerable savings for groups. Also, see this great Barcelona guide for other tips and ideas whilst visiting the city.

Flickr Credit (all my photos of Montserrat have family or friends in front of the best views!!)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sitges Film Festival 2009

Sitges Film Festival 2009 -  Barcelona Sights BlogThe sleepy town of Sitges, just 20 minutes from Barcelona is a great day trip from the Catalan Capital and, set in a cove, the seaside resort is a welcome break from the busy streets of Barcelona. Famous for it's gay community and Carnaval, it also plays host to one of the coolest Film Festivals in Europe - Cannes this ain't.

Starting on the 1st October and running until the 12th, the 42nd Sitges Film Festival showcases the best of the horror genre in various locations in the town. The festival has been growing from strength to strength, with last year's festival showcasing over 320 movies, with over 100,000 spectators jumping with their popcorn. This year's festival looks to be another great 11 days!

As well as screening some of the classic movies (The Pit and the Pendulum, A Clockwork Orange, Alien, Nightmare on Elm Street and even Ghostbusters), the festival is also screening the premiere of eagerly-awaited sequel "Rec2". Shot in an abandoned Barcelona building, Rec shot to fame in 2007 as the spoof documentary female reporter Angela follows the city's firefighters on a "normal" night. What follows was a Blair witch style mockumentary that was so good, Hollywood decided to make a carbon copy.

The festival also pays homage to some of the horror world's most esteemed players and creators, with this year being no exception. Clive Barker of Hellraiser fame is honoured, and another Brit, Malcolm McDowell is also honoured. If the name rings a bell, cast your mind back to Stanley Kubrick's banned film around when I was born - clue, I've mentioned the film already. These gentlemen will grace the stages where many other huge stars have been before - Quentin Tarantino, Ralph Fiennes, Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster to name but a few.

The great thing about the Sitges Film Festival in my opinion, is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. So while the festival will be closing with John Hillcoat's The Road starring Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smith-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce - you also have time mid-week to check out "Best Worst Movie", "The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon", "Lesbian Vampire Killers", "Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl"....need I go on?!

Fancy coming to the Festival? Nearby Barcelona will be a great option for accommodation, as Sitges is a little pricey during the Film Festival Week. Try these apartments for rent in Barcelona, for a lsst minute deal. And if you can squeeze in some free time for your stay between screenings, then check out this great Barcelona Guide.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Random Merce Photos 2009

Every year I try and see as much of La Merce as possible, and many times I've never taken a camera (I didn't blog in those days!). So this weekend, although I was fairly busy with work, I tried to get out and about and see some of the things I thought were new this year, and that the kids would like! If you want to see some great Barcelona photos, then check out Carlos Lorenzo's photoblog and in the meantime, here's a few from this weekend!

Barcelona Sights - Giants at La Merce

First ones are the Barcelona Giants. Ceremony dictates that the giants come out and dance in the Plaça Sant Jamue, and the weekend of La Merçe is a great weekend to see this (if you can squeeze through the crowds!).

Gegants in Plaça Sant Jaume - Barcelona Sights Blog

For the rest of the weekend, the giants went back to Las Ramblas number 99, in the Institute of Culture building. This time however, there were some additions to the usual giants, and they were out of the glass cases on display for all to see.

Gegants on display during La Merce - Barcelona Sights Blog

There were some smaller horse models, dragons, lions, and a beast which apparently is the animal which is least known about in the history of the gegants. I thought that would merit a photo!

The little-known Beast in the Gegants parade - Barcelona Sights Blog

And the horses..
Horse models on display in the Institute of Culture on Las Ramblas - BarcelonaSights

Barcelona Port also got in on the act with concerts on the stage near the markets opposite Columbus monument, and there were activities for children, old-style board games and a huge Jenga (which I think nobody knew what it was - I was dying to start the game!).

Fun and Games at Barcelona Port during La Merçe - Barcelona Sights Blog

And probably the coolest thing I saw all weekend was parked outside the Maritime Museum. I think it was called the soundbox and is way cooler than the name suggests. If you look at the image, you can see metal meshing/sheeting underneath the blue frame. Inside the box, there were some speakers, probably a computer and some high-tech sensors. Everybody was just walking past it, but I sensed it must do something, so went for a closer look. The way it worked was if you touched any two of the metal parts (windows?) the box emitted a sound. And the sound was different if you used your whole hand, or just the tips of your fingers, or a combination of both. Sounds a bit daft, right? Well it was bloody cool, and as soon as I worked it out, loads of people came over as well and the box made loads of different funny noises !!

Soundbox outside the Maritime Museum - BarcelonaSights

Did you see anything at this year's Merce? Let me know what you liked in the comments. And if you're coming to Barcelona soon, try these apartments for rent in Barcelona, which are right in the heart of the city.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Barcelona Day Trips: Dali Museum

Here's another Barcelona day trip, and perhaps the most popular for those wishing to make a side trip to somewhere interesting - The Salvador Dali Museum in Figueras. The Wacky Spanish painter has some fantastic works on display here, and even the building itself stands out - labelled the "largest surrealistic object in the world".

The museum is actually one of three dedicated to Dali's works, the other two in nearby Cadaques and Púbol. This museum, an old theatre, houses over 4000 works of sketchings, paintings, jewelery, holograms, and other such artistry many dedicated to his muse and wife, Gala. Dali worked for over a decade transforming the municipal theatre, and it is a magnificent building and fully helps appreciate the genius and surreal nature of the man. Of building the museum here, Dali said;

Where, if not in my own town, should the most extravagant and solid of my work endure, where if not here? The Municipal Theatre, or what remained of it, struck me as very appropriate, and for three reasons: first, because I am an eminently theatrical painter; second, because the theatre stands right opposite the church where I was baptised; and third, because it was precisely in the hall of the vestibule of the theatre where I gave my first exhibition of painting.”

Access to the museum is a little more difficult that some of the other day trips from Barcelona, but the official website offers various options. As this post is catered mainly towards those people who will not have their own mode of transportation, I have excluded the directions of coming by car.

Train: RENFE train line from Barcelona to Portbou. Stop in Figueres. The Dalí Theatre-Museum is 12 minutes walking.
Bus: SARFA regular line, station in Figueres. The Dalí Theatre-Museum is 12 minutes walking.

Fairly easy, right? Have you been to the Dali Museum ? I'd love to hear your comments and reflections. Was it worth making the trip from Barcelona, and how did you do it ? Any preferred means? Please let me know.

If you're looking for accommodation coming to the museum, I can recommend apartments for rent in Barcelona instead of a hotel room. And if there are more than just a couple, then try apartments for groups in Barcelona, too for considerable savings!

Flickr credit for image.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

La Merce 2009 - Barcelona's Festival Week

La Merce 2009 - Barcelona Sights
September is a great month in Barcelona. The Patron Saint (or one of them) Our Lady of Mercy has her feast day on the 24th September, and this is a great excuse to dust down some Catalan traditions and festival celebrations in a week-long party which involves the whole of the city.

According to the city website, this year celebrates 150 years since Ildefons Cerdà's plans for Eixample were approved, so expect some big goings on in Barcelona's biggest neighbourhood. Plaças and streets are filled with stages and open air concerts, and like other years, the festival embraces other cultures and countries, too. From the official site, it states that

"the Mercè likes to travel without leaving home. That is why this year it has invited Istanbul, which will be Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2010, to offer the people of Barcelona a taste of Turkish culture. And not only the most traditional elements, best represented perhaps by the whirling dance of the dervish Akin Çakmut (Maritime Museum), but also by the newest. Among other events, we will see an exhibition of contemporary artists from Barcelona and Istanbul (La Capella), we will hear the Eastern dub of the Baba Zula, a group that combines the purest oriental tradition with electronic sounds, and we will see the shadow theatre of Gengiz Ozek (Maritime Museum), a renovator of the tradition of what is called karagöz."

Expect the other fireworks displays, fire-runs (said to be under threat due to new EU regulations on the handling of fireworks for minors), dances and castellers, there's a circus up on Montjüic from the 24th to 27th, the Party in the Sky, as well as plenty of live events at the Greek Theatre, and music events all around the city centre. It's impossible to detail all of the events and highlights, especially as there may be some things I would prefer than other readers (like the Hives playing at the old Damm factory, or the magicians for my kids at the circus!) so you can read a full programme here. Unfortunately, like other years, the programme is only in Catalan - and I would pretty much bet that it stays that way. This is a very "local" festival, and whilst everyone is welcome to the celebrations, it's not greatly advertised around and translated into other languages, as other events are. Things kick off this weekend with the Marathon around the city centre, with many streets cut off temporarily during the morning and lunch hour, so if you're thinking of coming in the car, don't!

Coming to Barcelona for La Merçe? Leave a comment and tell us whet you'll be looking forward to seeing! I'd love to hear from you. And if you're still stuck for a place to stay, try these apartments for rent in Barcelona.

Palau Robert - The Art of Trickery

Pan's Labyrinth in Palau Robert - Barcelona Sights
This coming week is your last chance to see the cool exhibition at Palau Robert in central Barcelona called "El Arte del Engaño" - another cool thing to do in Barcelona for free.

Palau Robert is a nice little place just on the corner of Diagonal and Passeig de Gracia, with a great little garden at the back, somewhere often overlooked. The Palace often has free exhibitions and galleries so it's always worth a look if you're passing by.

Special Effects at Palau Robert - Barcelona Sights

This exhibition is all about special effects in the film industry, and celebrates the 2007 Oscar for the special effects in Guillermo del Toro's wacky Pan's Labyrinth. It also features a bit of history about the beginnings of special effects and how slow motion animation began with things like King Kong models, the classic Japanese-style fighting dinosaurs, bringing you right up to date with Terminator 2, HellBoy and many other odds and ends (like chucky from Child's play!). It's a fairly short exhibition, but as it's free to get in, it's well worth a look.

El Arte del Engaño - Barcelona Sights

I apologies for the poor quality of the photos here, but they were taken on my phone very quickly, as I don't really think you were allowed to take photos!!

Barcelona sights Blog - T2 Head in Barcelona Palau Robert

Barcelona Sights - Palau Robert Exhibition Space

The Art of Trickery - Barcelona Sights

Get yourselves down to Palau Robert before the 27th September, as the exposition ends. Coming to Barcelona soon? Try apartments for rent in Barcelona and for a short but thorough Guide to Barcelona, click the link.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Great Bars with Terraces - Part 3

Never one to let the arrival of September influence my decision on sitting out on a terrace for a drink, I will keep going with a few more recommendations for great terraces in the city for having a coffee of a drink as and when I can remember!

Miramar Bar View - Barcelona Sights

Today's post is a great little place to combine with the cable car which leaves Barceloneta. If you've been down by the beach area, then head on down to the cable car tower close to the beach. Take the cable car ride over the sea and cruise ships to Miramar which is the opposite side, and perched on the edge of Montjüic. apart from a great cable car ride over there, you can walk up the steps and have a sit down at the adjoining cafe/bar which offers some of the best views of the port and the nearby old town.

Barcelona Sights - View from Miramar cafe

Coming to Barcelona soon? Try these Barcelona apartments for families - you can save some money having your own kitchen and living areas. Also try the Barcelona Tourist bus - much easier for families travelling.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Barcelona Day Trips: Cava Tours

Not that there are infinite ways to entertain yourself in Barcelona, but some people who visit the city like to combine a side-trip with the city visits, so I thought about writing a series of posts this month about the most popular day trips from Barcelona. We'll start with the Cava Tours - there are half a dozen, but I'll choose an easily accessible one, bearing in mind that everyone may not be travelling in the luxury of their own vehicle.

Cava Vineyards of the Penedes - Barcelona Sights

One of the first things to note is that the Penedes region which produces most of Catalan Cava is a beautiful area, and at around 45-50 minutes from Barcelona city centre, is a wonderful day trip for those people who like to get into the hills and nature. Without a doubt this trip is easier in your own car (or perhaps an organised coach trip, of you don't have a "designated driver" and all want to do a bit of tasting.

Otherwise, you can use public transport. Trains leaving the city centre head for Sant Sadurndi d'Anoia which is the little town right around the main vineyards. Directly outside the RENFE train station for Sant Sadurni is the Freixenet Cava Winery, and it's also one of the prettiest from the outside, too.

If you do have a car, then you can continue from Freixenet (the first one as you turn off the main motorway) and head towards the tiny village of Sant Pere de Ruitdebitlles (try saying that after a few glasses of cava) - easy as it's the only road, so just follow your nose. Here you'll pass more of the same, with Codorniu, Seguras Vuidas, etc. Seguras Viudas is the one pictured below, and is a magnificent place with immaculately kept hedges along the entrance. It's worth clicking on the picture below to see Montserrat in the background (another popular day trip).

Seguras Viudas - Barcelona Sights

All of the cava tours are generally free, and they just have a convenient stop in the shop at the end of a tour (which by then you fancy buying a couple of bottles anyway). Also, many of the vineyards have picnic facilities which (upon the purchase of a bottle or two) you can use as a lunch stop, too. If you fancy getting in touch with nature and away from the busy city, I can well reccomend the trip.

Looking for accommodation for your trip? Try Apartments for rent in Barcelona for considerable savings on hotels. Also, for a heads up on the rest of the sights to see in the city, see this Barcelona Guide.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Wheelchair Users in Barcelona

After being in contact with 2 wheelchair users these last two weeks, I found some interesting reflections from our conversations, and felt it merited a mention on the blog. I'm also (as always) open to comments and contributions from other wheelchair users who may have visited the city and have anything to add.

Barcelona Sights - International Wheelchair SymbolThe general takeaway from both users was that Barcelona is a fairly easy city to visit and the wheelchair users didn't miss out on the majority of sights the city has to offer. Anyone who's been here knows that Barcelona is slightly on a gradient - flanked by Montjüic mountain to the left, Tibidabo at the back, and the Mediterranean sea at the bottom. It's a haven for skateboarders (although perhaps more due to the Police tolerance in comparison to countries such as the USA!) and the many bike lanes and success of the city's Bicing venture, means that getting around on two wheels is not that much of a headache.

Public transport is a huge influence on any persons visit to a new destination, especially a city - none more so than those with a wheelchair. Well, both my contacts were staying very central and were extremely happy to see the newly installed lifts on the metro at Liceu on Las Ramblas, as well as the Purple Line (Line 2) being the only line at the moment with lifts from street level to the platforms. On the occasions where there was not a lift, the accompanying people were able to help up escalators or steps - although they mentioned that staff also seemed keen to help on one occasion. One group also used the buses in town, and although they had to wait for the next bus, when it arrived it had lowered suspension and was perfect for the wheelchair user to board.

Wheelchair Access Funicular Montjüic - Barcelona Sights

Obviously, some of the bigger attractions were a gamble in not knowing if things would work, but as one family were travelling with children, they wanted to make the most of the trip, so opted for the Cable Cars up on Montjüic. The good news is that the Funicular at Parallel metro station is perfectly adaptable for those in a wheelchair. I would have guessed as much, as I have used the Funicular with a pushchair on various occasions. However, one point worth mentioning is that in order to be at the front with little or no steps when you arrive to the top, you need to ensure you board the very end carriage down in Parallel - this way you save steps when the funicular train arrives at the top. In the image above, you would go right to the end where the publicity board is - meaning at the top you'd have maybe one step to the lift.

View from Miramar Cable Car towards Barceloneta - Barcelona Sights Another bonus was that the Montjüic Cable Car was also wheelchair accessible, and I'm such a big fan of the cable car, so I was very pleased. I had suspected as much, after seeing how you can have a picnic in the sky there - if they can get a table in there, a wheelchair should be no problem, right?!

Steps to Miramar Cable car - Barcelona sightsA shame that the same couldn't be said for the Cable Car at Miramar which goes over the water and cruise ships towards Barceloneta beach. Whilst there is a lift at the Barceloneta end, meaning it's possible to get up and down from street level to the elevated platform at the destination at Miramar, there is no lift and a fairly steep starcase back up to street level.

Barcelona's beaches are easily accessible for those in a wheelchair, with ramps along the Olympic Village beaches and the wooden boardwalks (there is one just near the spider's web climbing frame which reaches right down to the shore) and Barceloneta again having a very slight gradient down to the beach area - both very pleasing, especially given the heat the past couple of weeks!

Barceloneta Beach - Barcelona sights

One of the groups wanted to visit the Camp Nou for a football game and despite furious googling and contact through various re-selling websites, no-one was able to find wheelchair accessible tickets for the first game of the season again Sporting last Monday. Two of our ventured trekkers made their way up to the stadium and were told that there WERE tickets available for wheelchair access, but decided against going to the match due to the lateness of the game and the possible nightmare of getting home afterwards. This to me was a shame, as it's a great stadium to visit, and had tickets been booked in advance, a more strategic plan could have been organised with perhaps a taxi pick up after the game to avoid the crowds, etc. I think there should be easier information available on the website (there was a telephone number, but only Spanish-speaking operators).

Park Güell Plaça  - Barcelona SightsThe only possible gripe, and I've saved this till last purely because it didn't take a shine off either holiday was Park Güell. On my recommendation, one group took a taxi up to Park Güell, and whilst they were (at a push - no pun intended) able to visit the walkways and paths in and around the entrance to the park, there was no direct way to access the main plaça with the tiled benches. I was fairly surprised at this and backtracked in my head the various routes you could access the plaça from but also came up with a blank.

Overall, though, both groups had a fantastic time, and I thank them for the input in helping me write this post!

Looking for accommodation this Autumn? Try apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative to a hotel.
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