Thursday, January 29, 2009
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.
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!
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.
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.