Thursday, January 29, 2009

Barcelona Bargains - Maremagnum Luckies

Barcelona Sights - Maremagnum
Everyone knows that Barcelona is great for shopping. The city has a huge shopping area, which is even handily indicated as a shaded red area on the city's tourist maps. There's even a free bus called the "Shopping line" which runs up and down Paseo de Gracia, Diagonal and up to Plaça Fransesc Macia and back all day - for free. Many windows have the tax free shopping notices in the window for those outside the EU to claim tax back at the airport. And let's not forget that there are some big Spanish brands out there - Zara is the clothing chain store with branches in more countries than any other in the world, Custo is the only Spanish designer with a store on New York's 5th Avenue, and other newbies like Agatha Ruiz de la Prada and Desigual are also taking to the retail market like a fish to water.
Barcelona Sights - Maremagnum second floor
So where's the best place for a bargain in Barcelona? Well, there are a number of outlet shops around Gran Via with Bruc and Girona (for new readers, those are street intersections), but to be honest it's all a bit hit and miss. To be fair, Lefties is a great option, which is the previously mentioned Zara's outlet chains, in the city centre. There's one at Plaça Universitat, and another at the Meremagnum complex pictured here - which is a great shopping mall, fairly recently done out with real shops (it used to be terrible). You can find loads of the street quality brands; Desigual, Pull and Bear, Jack Jones, and high street giants like H & M, too. There's even a Ben & Jerries/Häagen Dazs for those of you with a sweet tooth, or a Starbucks for those of you missing your double-shot-cinnamon-caffee-latte-light-sweetex or whatever the hell they sell in there.

However, there are some much better bargains to be had before you get to Maremagnum. As you cross over Rambla del Mar bridge (almost a continuation of Las Ramblas) then if you're lucky you might come across the luckies (pun intended there).

These are basically your guys who sell the false Gucci and Prada bags and belts, and people with whom I have absolutely no problem with at all. In fact, I love them!
Maremagnum luckies on Barcelona Sights

You'll have seen them around the whole of Spain - they are usually sub-Saharians, who have sacrificed a whole lot to make it to the Iberian peninsula looking for a better life. On the rare occasions that my wife and I have approached them with a view of getting a present for someone, for example, we haven't even bargained with them as I applaud the fact that they've often been pushed into a corner but want to work their way out of that corner instead of turning to petty crime as do so many others. I'm not saying what they're not doing isn't criminal, but I just don't see the harm (...ok, don't point out the sweatshop in China to me cos we both know that's where the real ones are made, too!!).

The Spanish media complain that "top manta" takes away millions from the music and film industry each year, and I'd be inclined to agree - but don't punish the distributor, who makes a couple of cents on each CD. Look for the real gangsters in the equation.
Barcelona Sights - Street Vendors packing up
In fact, it really riles me when you see the pathetic Port Police with nothing more to do with their time than cross the bridge and make the guys pack up (see the string on all 4 corners of their blanket?), walk around their corner, and set up stall somewhere else. Long Live the Luckies!

For a hassle-free way of visiting the city, why not try the Barcelona Tourist Bus. Also see some great apartments for rent in Barcelona for the hotel alternative.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Barcelona Nightclubs - what you need to know.

I'm not going to detail a list of the best clubs in Barcelona in this post, just a few tips and pieces of information that you might need to know or that will be helpful when you go out to sample the nightlife in Barcelona.

First of all, you should know that while in English, it's normal to say "clubs" and "clubbing", in Spanish you say "discoteca". If you hop in a cab and ask the driver to take you to a "club" they'll take you to a strip joint (where the majority have those...ahem...extra services on offer, too). So, although it might remind you of when you were at high school or college, "disco" is the word.
Barcelona Sights - Club in Barcelona

Discos in Barcelona don't open until late, and it's often 1am before the doors open. However, most places don't start to fill up until around 2 or 3am, which is when most of the bars and pubs start to empty too.

It's also important to remember that spirits are not measured in Spain, so if you come from somewhere where optics or measuring cups are the common practice, beware, as drinks are fairly strong over here. If you usually have 3 vodka red bulls a night, you might only need 1. Clubs usually close at around 5 or 6am, and if you're still up for the party, then the "afters" will be outside with flyers, announcing the next place to continue the party.

Another big mistake people make is screwing up your entrance ticket and putting it in your back pocket for example.
Barcelona Sights - una consumicion
Almost all entrance fees to a disco will include a drink in the price of the ticket - "una consumicion". You often either get in for free, or pay a fee (above it was 15 Euros for a recent trip to Razzmataz) with a drink included. So don't make the mistake of throwing away your ticket!

A great way to enjoy the nightlife is to rent Apartments for groups Barcelona and come along with all of your friends. For more information about Barcelona in general, and how to save money in the current crisis, check out this Budget Barcelona city guide.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Last time out for Bread and Butter Barcelona

Barcelona Sights - Bread and Butter 2009 Poster
You may well be wondering what on earth the title of this post is all about. The Catalans have pan tomaquet right? not "pan con mantequilla"??!

Well, today ends the 4th year of the Fashion show or "tradeshow for selected brands" as the site describes it. There is also the same show in Berlin in the summer, but the Barcelona show still brings in the crowds. The show is split up into different sections and covers a huge amount of floor space at the Fira de Barcelona, at the foot of Montjüic. Denim base, Fashion now, Sport and Street, Urban superior, and even a discoteque style fashion base for expositions, catwalks and the general young feeling that current fashion has, especially in such a cosmopolitan city such as the Catalan Capital, Barcelona. The website boasts the fair as being "the leading international trade fair for Street and Urban Wear".
Bread & Butter Barcelona 2009 - Barcelona Sightsblog
It's a shame that the Fira has lost out to Bread and Butter Barcelona(BBB), and I have the feeling that the upcoming 3GSM mobile phone conference will suffer the same fate - I can't put my finger on why, but suspect that it might have something to do with the hotels and other accomodation services hiking up their prices so much, due to the fact that they expect the huge multi-national companies such as Vodafone, Movistar, Samsung, etc. to pay - and indeed they have done for the past 4 years - it always comes out in the press on the days before the conference. Not sure in BBB has suffered the same fate (I doubt it), but let's hope it will be back soon!

The area of Montjüic is a popular place to relax, with some of Barcelona's nicest parks and gardens and some fantastic views of the city, too. Avoid the stuffy hotelrooms, and go for a Barcelona apartment,next time you visit.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Great Barcelona Bars Part 4 - London Bar

Time for another post on Barcelona Bars. It's been a while, so thought I'd update with a decent addition, which used to be one of my haunts, on a great pub crawl that I might end up putting on here one of these days.

London Bar is a Barcelona institution. It's been around for yonks, and has the fantastic floor plaque to prove it - looking particulary shabby, which I think is well fitting for the outside of a pub!
Barcelona Sights - London Bar Floor Plaque

London Bar is a great place for Live music, and I've been in there many times without knowing a group would come on, and have seen some really coll acts - a couple of jazz groups, punk rockers, and some funky blues groups all squeezed on the "stage" at the back. To be honest, weused to go as it was one of the only decent places we found that didn't charge an entrance fee once all the other pubs had kicked out. Oh, and they've got becks on tap.

Barcelona Sights - London Bar

They've recently started showing Live Football on a big screen (something new as it used to be a locals place) which I suppose might be to draw the crowds from the newer English/Australian/Irish bars (just along from London Bar on the same street you have The Queen Vic and then on Ramblas itself there are Hogans, Sports bar, etc.) but I'd bet it would be a great place to settle down for the late kick-off and start the night there. It wouldn't surprise me if you ended up staying all night!

A great way to stay in Barcelona's old town is to rent a Barcelona apartment and feel like a local with your own placeYou can then explore the best Barcelona nightlife for yourself!

Comments welcome here guys, have you even been to London Bar? Anywhere else you'd like to see featured? Or have you been anywhere but can't remember the name/location?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Iron in the Old Town

Wandering through the old town today, in the Raval, I came accross a great public show of ironmongers at work.
Barcelona Sights - Old Town Ironmongers
There is a new iron workshop or taller which has opened just off Carrer Nou de la Rambla (where you can see Gaudi's Palau Güell) on nearby Carrer Sant Ramon, number 25. As part of the opening, the association of Forja Viva organised a street exposition of ironmongers working and making things for the public. As I wasn't expecting this, it was a great little distraction, so I thought I'd blog it.
Barcelona Sights - Iron workshop
As mentioned, the nearby Palau Güell - a UNESCO World Heritage site designed by Antonin Gaudi - is just along the street, and Gaudi himself was the son of an ironmonger. This influence is apparent is many of his works, such as La Pedrera on the balconies, and the gates and windows at Palau Güell. It's fair to say then, that some of the ironmongers on display had been influenced in turn by the great Reus-born architect, and that would be no surprise, but there were still a few gems in there.
Barcelona Sights - Iron gates
According to the leaflets and website, it's the first time that anything like this has been done in the city and it aimed to "recognise the work of artesanal hands of the forge and (gain) respect that deserves, relevant in our history and culture"

Ironmongers on Barcelona Sights
Unfortunately, I was stopped at taking photos at the small exhibition space along on Nou de la Rambla,with the simple reply that you can't take photos "porque no"! so my apologies if the post seems a bit limp - I would have liked to have added a few more photos, but I'm sure you get the drift.

One of the little gems was this funky Spider bottle holder thingy, which I thought was very original.
Wine Spider on Barcelona Sights

It's one of the reasons I love living in the old town - unexpected exhibitions (it may well have been publicised, but I didn't see it) and one you can enjoy in a local Barcelona apartment for rent, too.

For more information about the city, too, try this local Barcelona guide.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lost in Translation? Surely yes!

I've always been drawn to the theatre, and living in Barcelona there are loads of theatres with often some cracking plays and musicals on, but I've only even been once (Stomp, the percussion with bin lids, about 5 years ago!).

Avenguda Paral·lel has the most concentrated amount of theatres in the city with some classics such as Cuitat Condal, Teatro Victoria, Apolo, Teatre Tivoli, and the Moulin Rouge style "El Molino" (the windmill) which is currently undergoing a full makeover (well overdue) and perhaps something that I'll post about soon. These are some of the most famous theatres in Barcelona, and often have full houses for many varied productions.

The problem for me, of course is that they're all in Catalan (very few are in Spanish). I'm not saying that I wouldn't be able to follow the plot or understand the lines, but many productions up and down Paral·lel are the broadway classics, and I just can't bring myself to listen to "Grease" or something similar in Spanish or Catalan?! Surely the songs translated don't even rhyme?!
Barcelona sights - Monty Python's Spamalot at the Teatre Victoria
I don't doubt that I'm missing out on possibly a great night, and some friends testify to have had a great night watching the cast of Mamma Mia (which was prolonged due to huge success) strut their stuff on the boards. Fame has also just left the city after record breaking ticket sales.

Cuitat Condal, for example, has the permanent fixture of Joan Pera, who is a right unto himself - if only because he is the voice double for Woody Allen in all his films (he even makes a cameo in Vicky Cristina Barcelona), amongst others. And Paral·lel metro station at Nou de la Rambla is neighbour co-incidentally to Bagdad "theatre" the city's live porn show.

So what I really find amusing, (and makes me feel like I'm not missing out on too much) is when I see something like Monty Python's Spamalot coming up - and having rave reviews!! The Catalans think that their humour is very satyrical and sarcastic, kind of like the English - TV3 for example shows repeats of the Young Ones and Blackadder at prime time (ask any Catalan if they know the series, you'll be surprised at the answer!). So I guess it's no surprise to me that Spamalot has done so well, even if we are all in "crisis". I suppose it's just as important to be able to laugh about life than get depressed about the crisis, right?! Good on them,I say, and maybe I'll sneak into a matinee this month and let you know how it goes....if not,I can always pop down to the nearby Llantiol Theatre in the Raval for some English comedy nights!

For more details about Apartments for rent in Barcelona check out BCN Rentals and for a good Barcelona Guide follow the link.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Old Town Oddeties - Artwork? Graffiti?

I was debating on whether on not to add this post, as it's not really a "sight" of Barcelona, but it's something which has had me wondering for a couple of months now, and each time I pass the places in the photos here, I think "Hmmm, I must add this to the blog, and see what people reckon?!"
Barcelona sights - Street art

The above photo was taken on Carrer Hospital in the old town of Barcelona just before the old hospital which is now the Catalonian Library - above one of the smallest bar in Barcelona (I'll do this on another post!). Check out the paintwork. And I'm not talking about the chunky tag - I'm talking about the coloured splats. Here's a closer image.
Barcelona Sights - street art close up

Now,I know you're thinking "what the...?" as it looks like someone has just splodged paint on a wall with no plan. Although you do need to consider the height. Maybe it was paint balloons in the style of water balloons, to be able to get to that height and drip, too? Well, I agree that it's all very boring and a waste of a wall if you ask me...........until I came accross the below wall:
Barcelona Sights - Street art

This one I saw the day after it had been done - on Ronda Sant Pau, which is around 10-15 minutes from Carrer Hospital (no idea of the time between the two "wall splodges" as I saw this one before and only came accross the one on Carrer Hospital a couple of weeks later, sorry)but it clearly looks like someone has been doing this on purpose. I would not be surprised to see another couple of these around the city - and would love to hear if you guys have any info ???!! Leave your comments below as always.

See Self Catering Apartments for rent in Barcelona and this great Barcelona Guide for more information.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Funky Old Town Art Gallery

Barcelona sights - La Xina ART
I was walking through the old town today (as usual), and stumbled upon this cool art gallery in Carrer Doctor Dou, number 4, which I think is a bit of a piss-take on the modern art world. It asks the question "Can you make a piece without it being 'Art'?"
· ¿Se pueden hacer obras que no sean de arte?

The result is a pretty work? by 9 local artists which is titled "Art Converters. El Basar del xino 4º edicó". The idea was to acquire materials purely from the Chinese shops/warehouses around the city and then create the plastic sculpture which runs all the way around the gallery space.
Barcelona Sights - Old Town Art
View from inside, looking out.
Barcelona Sights - View inside La Xina ART
It opened in December, and I only found out after returning home that today was supposed to be "open doors" to actually dismantle the piece. Maybe I could have taken home a couple of souvenirs?! There were 3 guys in there chatting and one photographer who I assume were documenting the last few hours maybe? I congratulated them on the piece, and my little boy, Jack, told them that he thought it was a Christmas tree (he's 3) and they loved that!
Barcelona Sights - floor detail of Art converters
I thought it was really cool, and such a funny thing to come across without even meaning to. You can see here below the traditional caganers and even a "pissingner"?!
Barcelona sights - window detail
Back wall centrepiece.
Barcelona Sights - art centrepiece
Barcelona Sights - Gallery wall
Barcelona Sights - column detail Xina ART

I'll keep my eyes out for what might crop up here shortly, and post again if it's anything of interest! Comments welcome as always guys!

For more information on Barcelona, see this Barcelona Guide about the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And for Apartments for rent in Barcelona, look no further than BCN Rentals.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Everything set for a Night of Magic!

I was walking with my family the other day along Las Ramblas, and we saw a couple of model Camels and people entering the Gallery Space around half way down Las Ramblas, and I remembered of the tradition so we stepped in to take a look.
Barcelona Sights - Camels on Las Ramblas
Similar to the way kids around the world write a wish list to Father Christmas, kids in Spain write to "their Majesties the Magic Kings" and instead of visiting a Santa's grotto, often just leave the letter to be posted. However, bigger cities often organise a similar kind of thing to the grotto, with the Kings collecting children's letters, and ensuring they have been good little boys and girls.

Barcelona Sights - Child sitting on King's kneeThe weather was threatening to put a literal dampener on celebrations for the night tonight, but so far the rain has held off, and I hope it does! It's not supposed to be great tomorrow, the last thing the majority of kids' parents want is their kids getting a cold 2 days before school term is about to re-start!
It was great to see the innocence in the young kids faces as they observed the throned king from the small queue of kids in front of them, unable to believe their luck! My 2 kids were too young to really know what was going on, although Jack wanted to join the queue of kids just to get a sweet that one of the other Kings appeared top be giving out! When I explained that he'd then have to sit on the King's knee and drop off a letter, he suddenly changed his opinion and we made a sharp exit!

For more information on Barcelona, check out this great Barcelona Guide and apartments for rent Barcelona with BCN Rentals.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Barcelona Scams. The School Questionnaire.

This is a fairly recent addition, and I have to confess that I've never seen it happen or heard of anyone falling victim, but I've read about it on Barcelona forums and thought it might be worth adding.

On the occasions that the scam has unfolded, it's been a Sunday morning, fairly early (so that's like 10am for those of you yet to get to grips with Barcelona lifestyle) and involves children and a supposed questionnaire.
Barcelona Sights - Questionniare
It seems that those targeted were usually couples, although I suppose the scam could work for a small group, too. This scam relies on Innocence. The children were alleged to be around 12-13 years old, which is smart enough to scam but also innocent enough to be believable. Here's how the scam unfolds...

Lazy Sunday morning, and a couple deciding what to do for the day are mobbed at the bottom of Las Ramblas/Christopher Columbus monument/streets around Carrer Ample but a group of young teenagers, asking them to fill in a school questionnaire complete with clipboard and pen. They speak a foreign language (some reported that they didn't seem Spanish), and are very in-your-face.

It's all very confusing for the holiday couple who try and explain that they don't understand, while the circling youths seem to insist and even look offended that they willingly want to damage this terms grades. The couple lose sigh of each other, and then the children run off, in the easy access of the Gothic Quarter nooks and crannies. Tourist couple dust themselves down, annoyed, and realise that their backpack is open/wallet has gone, etc. Clever little pickpockets.

Now this is not your usual distraction technique, partly because it's the LAST thing you expect from young kids, and I think this is all part of the success of the technique. As a consequence it's a little damning to offer advice "to stay away from little kids in the Gothic Quarter" as this will be virtually impossible and also may ruin your holidays and turn you into a paranoid maniac! I suppose the tell-tale sign to sit up and take notice would be the clip boards, and if you see them, to try and shoo the kids away without looking like 100% unfriendly tourists by the onlookers!

For planning your trip against any possible mishaps, see this detailed Barcelona Guide and check out my other recent posts on Barcelona Scams:

The Reverse Parking Scam
3 Cups Scam
The Map Readers Scam
The Football Dance Scam
The Flat Tyre Scam
The Ketchup Squirt Scam
The Dancing Dollies Scam
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