Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Modern Art? Don't Ask Me!

Regular readers will know how much I like Barcelona Graffiti, and that I consider it a great way to spruce up some of the terribly drab alleys and shutters around Barcelona's old town and the other neighbourhoods, too. For me, those talented guys and gals are the real modern artists. Check out this really cool no parking sign at Calle Angels I spotted the other day.

Barcelona Sights - Ghostbusters Graffiti

It's the old Ghostbusters logo, which has been adapted for the no parking sign. Classic, and always something to make me smile.

Sculpture Garden on Barcelona Sights

Now let's compare that to a recent trip of mine up to Montjüic and the sculpture garden next to the Miró Foundation. It's the first time I'd been in the garden and it's just behind the Greek Theatre, a little walk along from the Funicular. It has to be said that there's not a great deal in there, and if I didn't know that it was supposedly the sculpture garden, I would have had no idea this is supposedly "modern art" - ok, maybe the metal plaques with the artists' name and title of the work could have been a giveaway.

Tiled roof in sculpture Garden - Barcelona Sights
Montjüic Sculpture Garden on Barcelona Sights
Just to whet your appetite, there is a tiled roof on the floor, a trolley with some glass being transported somewhere and a rather large concrete triangle with some blue paint splashed down it (yes, that's my little boy running around in the picture). I have a cringing suspicion that these all probably cost a fortune and were unveiled in some fantastic ceremony a couple of years back - please tell me I'm wrong if anyone knows!! Now I don't pretend to understand anything about art, and more so if it's "modern" like this, but I'll tell you one thing - give me the ghostbusters no parking sign anytime!!

Like what you're reading? Please leave me a comment and let me know!

For more information on Barcelona, see this cool Barcelona guide and for accommodation in Barcelona look no further than BCN Rentals.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Coolest 7 square metres in Barcelona

Barcelona's old town surprises me all the time. I've touched before on some funky old town art galleries and wanted to share another one, which is perhaps a little more famous than the last one I wrote about.
Barcelona Sights - 7metros art space
7metros is a great space offering some cool expositions, and is located on Carrer Riera Alta, 60-62 This is the space at the front of buildings often used by some of the more innovative residents, who have macro-shops selling jewellery, bags, or other small necessities.

The idea behind 7metros, is that the space is a mere seven square metres, and if you check the web link above, you'll see some of the previous entries.

This week being Carnival accross the world, it was no surprise to see a festive filling to the 7 square metres. The window had a display with "María Escoté" and a coaster for "Le Swing". Cool.

Barcelona sights - 7metros

Anyone else seen some cool fillings of 7metros? Please share below, I'd love to hear about it.

For more information on Barcelona, check out the Top 10 Barcelona Museums and don't forget apartments for families in Barcelona.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Great things to do in Barcelona for FREE - Part 2

Following on from my previous post about great things to do in Barcelona without spending any money, today's post is all about the Magic Fountains at Montjüic.
Barcelona sights - Montjüic Fountains

The fountain was build as part of the Universal Exposition, held in 1929, and is a water fountain which "dances" to music. There are various "shows" which last around 20 minutes, and have different music (sometimes strange choices - the Barcelona song made famous by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé and Celine Dion's my heart will go on?!). It's a great way to spend an evening in the summer, for example, and there are often fire jugglers between performances and things like this. I always feel like a little kid when I go and see them!

For times and other information, see the city's official website here.

Comments welcome as always guys, and for more information on Barcelona, see this great Barcelona Guide. Also, for your accomodation needs, I reccomend trying apartments for groups in Barcelona as a great alternative to hostal bunk beds.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

English Hair Salon in Barcelona

So, let's go back about 9 & 1/2 years. I picked up an English magazine in a pub (might have been "Metropolitan", can't remember if it was around then?!) and saw an ad for an English hair salon - "Don't let your Spanish come between you and your hair!" by Anthony Llobet's hair salon. This was a God-send for expats like myself, and I of course made the call. I went up to Gracia, off Fontana Metro station, down a street and up a couple of flights of stairs into Anthony's apartment, which was well kitted-out with certificates from London and Germany, as well as some cool paraphernalia of Barber's shops around the world.
Barcelona Sights - Anthony Llobet Hair Salon

Things have moved on a lot since then, and Anthony now has a great salon - still in in Gracia - which has become something of an institution, as well as a cool salon in the old town Raval quarters, an Eixample Salon, and a new place in El Borne.
Barcelona sights - Anthony Llobet Hair Salon

As far as I know, Anthony's the only guy in Barcelona who specialises in a "foreign" hair salon (his stylists are from Scandinavia, Germany, England, Spain, Barcelona itself, etc.) so is offering a great service for the thousands of foreigners living and indeed visiting Barcelona. I can highly recommend the salons (and no, I'm not getting paid to write this!) and have been using Anthony's Raval salon since it opened - even since my Spanish has been good enough to go to any old Salon anywhere. They're great professionals, and the salon itself is very cool (see images here!).

Anthony has salons in:

GRÀCIA - C/ Ros de Olano, 19 - Tel: 932 180 449 Mobile: 639 931 555

RAVAL - C/ San Pau, 122 - Tel: 934 413 177 Mobile: 645 257 506

EIXAMPLE - C/ Corcega, 364 - Tel: 934 574 211 Mobile: 691 330 188

BORN - C/ Carders, 34 - Tel: 932 954 871 Mobile: 645 257 628

Like what you're reading? Please comment below, and let me know your opinion if you've used Anthony's salons.

For accomodation, why not try apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative to a hotel room. For more information about the city on a whole, see this great Barcelona Guide,

Monday, February 16, 2009

Barcelona Scams. The Postcard Cover Up.

I'm ashamed to admit that this is the only scam that I've fallen for in my time in Barcelona (hence the image below of Homer). However, for my 9 years here, and considering the only thing the thief got away with was 500 pesetas and a cheque in my name (which was cancelled within the same 5 minutes it happened) then I think that's not bad going. Like most scams it's opportunism which caught me out.
Barcelona Sights - Do'h
I had just been paid from my old teaching job, and sat outside a cafe on Rambla Catalunya for a coffee with a friend on a terrace. As is commonplace with the terraces, you pay when the waiter brings you the drinks. This sounds like such an easy scam to fall for, but as we were deep in conversation it was difficult to realise it was happening. As I paid for the coffees, I left my wallet on the table, between our coffees. After a minute or so, an old tramp came over to our table with one of those free photo flip albums, but with postcards inside. He asked us (in Spanish) if we wanted to buy a postcard. Being able to speak a little Spanish, we shooed him away, rather uncomfortable with his presence. Obviously, he flashed the postcards over the table and lifted my wallet from under my nose, but as we were so deep in conversation, and eager for him to leave, this was the perfect distraction technique.

It was literally only seconds before I realised what had happened, and I didn't even comment to my friend, but leaped out of my seat and at a crossroads, took the busiest street - figuring that at least the thief would need an easy getaway. There are a few open shopping malls and a few shop entrances to hide in, but this savvy trickster was long gone. As I mentioned, I was fortunately able to cancel the cheque and get a replacement, but I felt (as I'm sure many do) so stupid at being duped so easily. Let this be a lesson to you all! Keep all valuables in sight - NOT on the chair next to you or on the floor in between your legs, but on your lap, or at least in full view. It's difficult to be vigilant at all times, but if you have any unsolicited help, or anyone offering anything for you to buy or charitable donations (I'm aware of a similar scam exploiting the real deaf aid workers offering key chains), then be alert!

For more information on Barcelona, see this Barcelona Guide.

I'd also like to mention Barcelona apartments for groups as a great alternative for hotels for group bookings, too.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mobile World Congress Arrives in Town.

Barcelona Sights - Mobile World Congress
The hospitality industry breathes a sigh of releief this week, as the Mobile World Congress (formerly the 3GSM) arrives in town - from the 16th to 19th February at the Fira de Barcelona at the foot of Montjüic. This is one of the biggest events in Barcelona, and past years have seen 100% occupation of hotels and tourist apartments for rent in Barcelona.

Press releases today have stated that, depsite the current economic downturn, and the fact that the recent fashion show Bread and Butter is returning to Berlin and leaving Barcelona, there is still a high attendance for the world's mobile phone conference. It's estimated that 55,000 people will attend the event, which although official stats say that's 5000 people down from last year, is still leaving the hospitality industry smiling.

Fira de Barcelona on Barcelona sights

Hotels have registered 95% occupancy and the self-catering apartments have an estimated 85% occupancy, compared with 100% from previous years.

This year sees the emergance of the android phones, as an attempt to break into the massive market share that Apple has gained with it's iPhone. Google (in conjunction with HTC) have their own android phone, which looks clunky, but may make people think again about opting for a Blackberry or Palm (both of which are also set to launch a new model).

I've noticed that this year there's not as much publicity for the big players. Ads have been confined to buses and taxis, where in previous years full buildings have been covered with billboard style announcments of a company's presence at the fair. Please comment if you're thinking of heading down to the Congress, I'd love to have some feedback.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Roman Wall in Your Car Park, Sir?"

It's common for any kind of building work in the old town of Barcelona to begin with an approximate time scale, and then go way over on the completion time. OK, I know you're thinking that it happens with any building project, but in the old town, it takes a lot longer. Why? Well, because you have to go underground, and that's when you start to uncover the remnants of the ancestors.
Barcelona Sights - Scanning the ground
Public Parking in Barcelona is a bit of a nightmare. There are not enough street parking spaces for the number of cars in Barcelona, and despite the council introducing the "Zona Verde" or "green zone" 3 years ago, it's still a major problem. The green zone parking is an initiative where only residents of the postal code can park in their own streets - thus eliminating the workers from outside of Barcelona from taking up the parking spaces, and also encouraging the use of public transport - it's well documented that Barcelona wants to be more "green" after worrying levels of pollution were publicised. Perhaps the name for the "Green" zone was not chosen by chance...

So the reason for the title of the post is that when new buildings are constructed in the old town - like the new buildings out of town - almost all have underground parking lots. And here lies the problem.
Archeaologists in the old town - Barcelona sights
Barcelona was founded as a Roman Citadel caled Barcino. It's amazing to see such history, in the City's History Museum, for example (an upcoming post, guys, be sure to subscribe) and this is also evident in other parts of the old town. My own car park in Carrer de Les Flors, for example, has the remains of the Roman Wall within it. I remember also around 5 years ago, in the Gothic quarter, plans were made for a new underground car park, only to be scuppered, upon discovering Roman Ruins, which is now the rather unimpressive Plaça Vila de Madrid (not for me, but the residents would have much preferred another car park, rather than some roman ruins frequented by stray cats).

The above photos were taken at the site of the old public swimming pools in the Raval, which were demolished to make way for new apartment blocks for elderly residents (many of which were turfed out of their homes when the new Barceló Raval Hotel was built). As usual, the demolished site sat completely untouched, collecting rubbish for around a year before the current work started. It's also the scene of old addidas ad filmed just before the World Cup 2006 in Germany.

So now, it's a painstaking wait to see if there's anything of value/historical significance with small paintbrushes dusting over old stones. Don't misinterpret this post - I think I've got one of the coolest car parks in Barcelona - how many can say they have a roman wall as part of their car park? I just wonder why this couldn't have started immediately after demolition, lasted a year or whatever (which was as long as it sat untouched) and then started the building work?
Mercado San Antonio - Barcelona Sights

It doesn't surprise me that the market traders at the nearby Sant Antoni market are bracing themselves for a very long "temporary" move. The 150-odd year old market is actually Barcelona's biggest and is also to undergo a severe makeover - also involving underground car parks. Fishmongers, butchers and grocers are to be turfed out to the neighbouring streets in the meantime (work has already begun) and are worried at hom much excavation might delay the works, leaving them in temporary conditions for perhaps 2 or 3 years!

Comments welcome guys, and for more information on Barcelona, see this great Barcelona Guide. Also, for your accomodation needs, I reccomend trying apartments for groups in Barcelona as a great alternative to hostal bunk beds.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Great things to do for FREE in Barcelona - Part 1

Given the current financial stress everyone is under, it's nice to find a couple of ways to occupy your days which cost little or no money. So that's a principle I thought is worth blogging about and something I think people might appreciate, too. So I'm going to begin a mini series of blogs to let everyone know what cool things you can do in Barcelona for free.
Maritime Museum on Barcelona Sights
First up, is the Maritime Museum. On the first Saturday of each month (as long as it's not a public holiday) from 3pm onwards, you can get in the Maritime Museum for free. OK, it might not be high on your list of Museums you'd love to see if you were paying for the entrance, but if it's free, then it's worth having a look - especially as it's really central and somewhere you're very likely to pass on a Saturday afternoon anyway! It's located at the bottom of Las Ramblas, to the right in the old Shipyards themselves. The first thing to note is that it's an extremely impressive building and just goes to show the importance that the Port of Barcelona has had throughout its history.
Fishing History at the Maritime Museum - Barcelona Sights
The museum is very thorough and literally gives you the history of all things maritime, but from the Catalan point of view. If you spent time reading all the information and viewed all the glass-encased exhibitions, you would be in there for hours. There's also a free audio guide in various languages you can take if you like. I could post a hundred photos on here, as there were some great things in there, and we only really whizzed round, not paying much attention to the information texts, ect.
Barcelona Sights - Models at the Maritime Museum
Some of the most impressive parts are the real-life scale model of a galleon in the middle of the museum, and a re-creation of what it was like to live on a boat, too. I went with the kids and they loved it.
Galleon at Maritime Museum - Barcelona Sights
Scale model of Galleon.
Barcelona Sights - Maritime Museum

As part of the entrance ticket, you also gain entrance to a second guest exhibition which is next to the Maritime exhibits, and changes every couple of months. Past examples have been the fantastic Human Bodies exhibitions, Tin Tin, and at the moment, there's a Chinese Maritime History one, complete with actors in costume and the lot.
Jack in awe of the 'funny man' at the Maritime Museum - Barcelona Sights
The Maritime Museum is one of the many museumsin Barcelona with FREE entrance which I'll be blogging about here (although it's not all goung to be museums, guys, don't worry!!) so follow me or subscribe to my feeds at to the right of your page to make sure you don't miss out on anything!

For your next visit to the city, try renting apartments for groups in Barcelona

Friday, February 6, 2009

Barcelona Sights - Sagrada Familia

Well, the blog is called Barcelona Sights, so I should post regularly about the city's main attractions, right? I started on the right track but have since veered off a little with other things I hope you're interested in, but here goes back to the big guns. And you don't get any bigger than Sagrada Familia.

Sagrada Familia - Barcelona Sights Blog
Almost everyone who visits Barcelona takes a trip across town to visit Europe's wackiest church which also boasts 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites (the Nativity facade and the Crucifixion Facade). If you want to get close to Gaudi, you can do no better than coming here - literally - as he's buried in the crypt.

Official visitor stats testify that over 2.5 million visitors pay the entrance fee to the Sagrada Familia, but I'd guess that the same amount of people probably go and just have a look around outside, or those who arrive in coaches and don't have time to go inside will also contribute to the huge numbers. I'm not going to turn this into a history lesson, as that's not what the blog's about. Just give you a few anecdotes from my experience here over the years.
Barcelona Sights - Sagrada Familia Crucifixion Facade
It's a very cool place, and I've been privileged enough to see it over a period of 9 years - although it has to be said that progress has been fairly slow! Gaudi himself said that

"The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is made by the people and is mirrored in them. It is a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people".

So basically it's funded entirely by donations and the profits from the entrance fees of all the other Gaudi attractions the city has. I have heard rumors that many different corporations have offered to step in and speed up the process, but with the condition that the place is re-named "The Sony Sagrada Familia" (not really Sony but you get the picture). Obviously, these advances have been refused - Gaudi was a Catholic and wanted the church to be the people's church, not owned by anyone but the people.

It's funny to see how plans are going to have to be changed, in order to finish the entrance to Sagrada Familia (the two current facades pictured here are actually the sides). The entrance would now eliminate a huge portion of Carrer Mallorca, and discussions even went as far as talking about moving the street underground, so as to accommodate the entrance, which would sit right in the middle of the road. I think that they settled on a bridge and that there will be steps up to the entrance instead of a street level entrance.
Barcelona Sights - Crucifixion Facade Detail
One thing I was quite surprised about was that the Sagrada Familia is held dear in local hearts. Obviously, it's had a turbulent history - original plans were burned during the civil war, and the place was even bombed. When I was an English teacher, a question on a first day of class for an intermediate group (to get them talking) would often be "If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?" I was VERY surprised to hear (not always in perfect English) "to see the Sagrada Familia finished in my lifetime".
Jesus died at 33 - Barcelona Sights
There really is a wealth of information at the cathedral, and if you read up a little beforehand or have a good guide, then you'll be amazed. There is a plaque on the crucifixion facade for example, which looks like a sudoko puzzle with many numbers in squares on a grid. Well if you add all of the numbers together in any direction, they all reach 33 - the age of Christ when he dies. This is positioned right next to Judas' betrayal kiss. All statues inside and outside the cathedral look towards either Jesus or Mary. Going back to the bomber, Gaudi made a model of the bomber, refusing a bomb from a demon, and looking towards the Virgin Mary.

I always say that you can appreciate the Sagrada Familia more after visiting the Attic in La Pedrera - another of Gaudi's buildings on Paseo de Gracia - and at night, when it's illuminated by bright footlinghts and literally does take your breath away. Gaudi was a crazy guy who challenged the ideas and principles of modern architecture (La Pedrera is a building with no straight lines, for example). There is a model of how Gaudi envisaged the Sagrada Familia - he basically took an iron wheel (his father was an ironmonger), and began to tie small bags of sand to the wheel in the form that he wanted the cathedral to take shape - when he reached the peak, he suggested that if gravity can pull it down in this form, then gravity will also hold it up. So if you look in the mirror on the floor, you see the Sagrada Familia. Amazing.
Barcelona Sights - La Pedrera Mirror
It has to be said that the existing facades of the Nativity (looks like a melting candle, and is 100% Gaudi's work) and the Crucifixion facade are completelty different. Gaudi died before work could continue - tragically run down by a tram in front of the Sagrada Familia - and other architects took over the work. I have heard that an architect will never work as possionately on a job if it is not his own, and as some of the worlds best architects were invited to participate on the Crucifixion facade, it was inevitable for them to change it. They claim that the Star Wars-like figures pay homage to the hugely famous chimneys on La Pedrera (mentioned above), but the truth is that the majority of people prefer the Nativity facade. There are even opposition groups to the advances of other city projects which may affect the structure of the sagrada Familia, and another group of influential artists, architects and culture moguls have also spearheadeed a campaign to stick more rigourously to Gaudi's original plans, in fear that the Sagrada Familia is losing its identity. One thing is certain, and that is that depsite the quarrelling and discussion about the Sagrada Familia - an unfinished masterpiece - the masses will still flock to see the amazing edefice. And you don't want to miss out on that, right?

Like what you're reading? Please comment below, and let me know your opinion if you've seen the Sagrada Familia.

For accomodation, why not try apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative to a hotel room. For more information about the Sagrada Familia including more historical detail, see the link.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Barcelona Giants

Don't be fooled by the title of the post, this has nothing to do with sports or a new football team that you haven't heard about. It's about history.

Loads of you will have passed by Barcelona council's Institue of Culture building on Las Ramblas, and probably not even realised. It's located on Las Ramblas, number 99, and is set slightly back from its neighbouring buildings. They always have a gallery exposition announced on the balconies. Know which one I mean? Well, the building is an old Palace, Palau de la Virreina, and although it's not very well publicised you can enter for free into the courtyard and see some of the most famous characters Barcelona has....els gegants.
Barcelona Sights - Gegants
The Barcelona giants are ceremonial mannequins used in the corpus Christi parade, amongst others. According to the history displays, which are completely free to visit, but not well publicised, the giants were commissioned in 1859 by the “Societat del Born” to take part in the Carnival celebrations, held each year in February and of which the nearby seaside town of Sitges has become renowned.
Barcelona Giants on Barcelona Sights blog
The Giants comprise of a male and female figure, rather like a King and Queen, a little girl, an eagle, two masked younger figures and a headless tribute to Gaudi – the famous Catalan artist responsible for 7 of Barcelona’s 9 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Quoting directly from the information within the Institute of Culture, “In 1891 the giants were transferred to the Casa de Caritat, a dependency of the Deputation of Barcelona. They were used for the entertainment of orphans, formed a special feature in the Corpus Christi processions of this charitable institution and also took part in many festivals. They were restored in 1986 by Domenec Umbert. The Old Carnival Giants of the Casa de Caritat face the 21st century as the most symbolic figures in the celebrations of Carnival and Corpus Christi in Barcelona.” The giants are also paraded with pride during the week of the 24th September, when the “La Merce” festivals commence – the patron saint of Barcelona is Our Lady of Mercy.

Perhaps a puzzling figure within the giants is the crowned golden Eagle. Again, quoting from the official information, “The Barcelona Eagle is mentioned in documents as far back as 1399. As it was part of the municipal cortège, it was subject to strict protocol and was indispensable at all solemn city celebrations and on the aldermen’s journeys.

The Eagle lived its golden age in the 17th century when it was the subject of a number of dances and tunes. It disappeared in the first third of the last century and was recovered in 1989. The Eagle is part of the historic bestiary of Barcelona, together with the Lion, the Big Mule, the Bull, the Viper, the Dragon, the Monster and the little horses”.

Also of note is the “little giant – or gegantona” – who represents the figure of a girl from the 4th Century, when Saint Eulalia, one of Barcelona’s co-patron saints after the aforementioned Our Lady of Mercy, is said to have lived. Santa Eulalia was a young girl who suffered torture and ultimately crucifixion from the then Governor of Barcelona, Dacian, for her criticism of his treatment against the Christians. The figure of “Laia”, as she was more affectionately known, “represents the brave, caring spirit of the citizens of Barcelona. The giantess first appeared in 1998 for the celebration of Santa Eulalia’s day and is the newest member of the great family of figures which appear in the Barcelona festivals”.
Sant Antoni Gegants - Barcelona Sights blog
It appears that the tradition caught on, and there are other neighbourhoods in the city who have their own giants, which are used in each neighbourhood party/festival. For example, my son's school in the neighbourhood of Sant Antoni, has 2 giants and 2 "little giants" in the entrance to the school that were used at the end of January.
Barcelona Sights - giants at Sant Antoni

Coming to Barcelona soon? Try a self-catering apartment in Barcelona as a great alrternative to a hotel room. Or if you're in a group, look at apartments for groups in Barcelona.

Like what you're reading? Please leave me a comment if you're interested, or would like me to blog about anything in particular.
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