Saturday, April 25, 2009

Interview with Barcelonaphotoblog - Carlos Lorenzo

Today's post is an interview with Carlos Lorenzo about his fantastic Barcelona Photoblog. Carlos captures images in Barcelona like no-one else on the web, and if you're not already subscribing to his feeds I highly recommend you do so - even if you have no interest in photography. I'd like to thank Carlos greatly for agreeing to this interview and giving up his free time to answer my questions.

1. How long have you been interested in photography?

The interest was with me since I was young. Not that I had the camera but I do remember feeling curiosity about photographs, about the result. I remember I felt in love with photography when I first saw Blowup by Antonioni. A classic movie where a fashion photographer accidentally captures a murder scene in the park but he is only aware of that when enlarging pictures in his darkroom. It was a magical experience. Yes, I guess I was aware of photographers and cameras right then. Later on I had a Pentax which still works smoothly. And I also have an old Voigtlander as a family keepsake.

Barcelonaphotoblog - Barcelona Sights blog

2. What camera do you use?

At the moment I use Nikon. The D70s model which is very similar to D80. I would change it for another Nikon of course. D700 would be great although it is expensive. D3 is too much for my pocket.

3. Why did you start the blog?

Back in 2005 I noticed there was this buzz about creating your own blog, that it was free and fun. I went to Blogger and started thinking about a name and a topic for the new thing. I remember creating about 5 new blogs which I still keep somewhere in limbo.
One of them though was called Barcelona Photoblog. It was a simple title and I had the chance to grab it. It was a stupid thing to do then. There was no rivalry. No one would care about me grabbing that name. The blog had just one post and so it stayed for a year. In 2006 I resumed the activities encouraged by a group of bloggers representing their cities around the world who apparently got the idea from a guy named Eric in Paris. He was the alma mater of the group. I saw what they were doing and wanted to do the same. I had finally found a real purpose, a topic for the blog. I had a problem my small compact camera then was a crap. In spite of that, I set out to explore the city with a lot of energy and completely elated by the nice comments I was receiving and for being a member of such great community. In a way, I felt I could express myself thanks to the camera. It felt good inside doing such a thing. It was like painting or composing. The fact that I had studied English philology made Barcelona Photoblog possible too. I hate maths, I am not good at them but I am not an absolute ignorant when it comes to writing, at least when it comes to small texts. So I could kill two birds with a single shot, writing and shooting. It was fantastic and still is. Later on the blog acquired this touristic connotation which is rather inevitable in Barcelona and it is not a bad thing after all.

Kid feeding Pigeons at Plaça Catalunya - Carlos Lorenzo on Barcelona sights

4. Are there any places in Barcelona that you think anyone can always get a great picture? (like Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, etc.?)

A great picture is something subjective. The image, the place, the situation is there for you to capture but it depends on you, on your creativity, your intuition, your art, your skill. A good place makes it easier for you to come up with a good picture of course. Las Ramblas is a wonderful place to find interesting spontaneous situations, specially if you like street photography. If you prefer landscapes you have to go to Montjuic castle, the Mirador del Alcalde to have a panoramic view of the city or even better Tibidabo in the afternoon. Everything Gaudi is highly recommended if you like art, colors, whimsical shapes, furniture, architecture. Barcelona's Art Nouveau or Catalan modernisme is unique and a must-see. Gaudi's crypt in Colonia Güell is beautiful and so is Park Güell, but there are hundreds of catalogued buildings in the city which will make a photographer's day. Of course you can take the elevator inside Sagrada Familia's spires and take a picture from up there. That is beautiful but if you have time, go for those nooks and crannies in the city. Take a tripod, go late in the afternoon, watch every angle, innovate, preview the image in your mind before shooting and wish for a little luck. Only then you will have a wonderful photograph. It is an endless learning process. I still have a lot to learn along the way.

5. What would you say is your favourite thing to capture? and the most difficult?

I prefer people, not portraits, but passersby on the street. That's an incredible source of inspiration. Stalking for a snap is thrilling, it is full of art. I feel much more satisfied with randomness, with natural gestures, life as is. Finding a good shot in such chaos is like going hunting with a brush. I mean is not boring, static, studio shooting. That does not mean I stick to street photography. If you check my work you will notice I am rather eclectic. It is the combination of all my images what really makes sense to me. That's when I feel proud about my modest work. As to the most difficult. Hmm, night shots. Oh, am I bad at that!!!

6. You recently moved from blogspot to your own domain. Why?

Oh, that's true. If you have been a blogger, in the sense that you have a blog hosted by, you will agree that the blogspot domain has been and still is a real pain in the arse. Everyone would get rid of that if given an easy choice to do so. To own your domain is essential for good SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Although in my case this is not owning a domain with full power. Well, you know how this works. Google gives you the possibility to pay Godaddy for a domain then they do all the "paperwork" for you. I chose another way, I paid Dreamhost for my new domain, which is better than Godaddy for me but not the best, and pointed it to Google. After that Blogger does the rest and the blog is moved from Blogger to Google. Well, it is a complex process. It is worth doing since it will help you getting better SERPs (Search Engine Page Results). Of course much more needs to be done to be in the top positions of your niche.

6. Is there anything you have not captured in your blog so far that you'd really like to?
Let me think, after three years of daily posting it is difficult to say. I guess, I would like to wake up early in the morning and take a sightseeing boat and capture Barcelona skyline when the sun breaks out.

7. Finally, what is your "top tip" for visitors to Barcelona with photography in mind?
Get out of the touristic route. Meet the real Barcelonians. They will give you better leads that will save you time and money. Avoid high season. May, June, September, October are better months. And something very stupid, you will need a plug adapter for your camera!!!

Image kindly reproduced with permission from Carlos at flickr.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sant Jordi Photos

Roses on Las Ramblas for Sant Jordi - Barcelona Sights Although I'm no photographer, I wanted to add a couple of photos to show you what Sant Jordi is all about. The patron Saint of Catalonia is Sant George and it's tradition for a rose to be presented to a woman and a book for a man (if you're curious as to why, check out my last post clicking on the link above!)

This year was really sunny, and a great day for walking around the city centre admiring the bookstalls and florists, especially those on Las Ramblas - which is closed to traffic for the day, too. Some of the flowers on sale were stunning, and multi-coloured, as I tried to show in the first couple of images here.
Barcelona Sights - Sant Jordi flower stalls on Las Ramblas

Multi-cultural Sant Jordi on Barcelona sights BlogEveryone participates in the celebration, and there is a real festival feel to the city - kids of all ages from schools and abroad with paintings and pictures, and it's also a multi cultural event embraced by the locals and immigrants alike in the old town Raval for example - the next photo here to your left.

The book stalls on Las Ramblas and all around the city centre were as busy as ever:
Book Stalls on Las Ramblas
The trees on Las Ramblas gave a welcome sahde from the sunshine beating down on the crowds.

Book Stalls on Las Ramblas

Hope you like them!

Cheap Barcelona Apartments

FC Barcelona All Set to Clinch League Title

Last night FC Barcelona - Barça to the fans - made easy work of Sevilla in the fantastic Camp Nou stadium to extend their lead at the top of the Spanish Primera division to move 6 points clear of nearest rivals Real Madrid. Despite resting goal-machine Leo Messi, Pep Guardiola's team eased past Seville beating them 4-0 in front of a packed Camp Nou.

Barcelona Celebrate victory in Camp Nou - Barcelona Sights

Fierce rivals Madrid are the nearest team challenging for the title, and the pressure seems to be getting to the players, after recent 5 goal thriller against Getafe saw Real's Pepe see red, for giving away a late penalty and then take a swing out with his boot at the Getafe player. Spanish FA have suggested they may make an example of Pepe and ban him for the rest of the season.

All this is leading up to "El Classico" of Real Madrid vs Barça on Sunday 3rd May by which is shaping up to be a fantastic game with all to play for. Previous encounters between the two teams have also seen fans boil over with the incredible image of a pig's head being thrown at Luis Figo during one match - one player who left Barcelona to move to Madrid.

Barcelona are also on course to reach the final of the UEFA Champions League - with only English millionaires Chelsea standing in their way. Barcelona play host to the London club on the 28th April in what is sure to be a classy, but tense affair. Barcelona are favourites to win, but Chealsea can't be dismissed lightly given their recent victory over Premier League rivals Liverpool in the quarter finals, and manager Gus Hiddink's massive experience at European level. It's all shaping up to be an exciting end to the season for Barça fans!

For more information about the city of Barcelona, see this comprehensive Barcelona guide. And for your accommodation needs, try checking out these self-catering apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative to your hotel choices.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Best Bookshops in Barcelona

This week is the feast day of Saint George, and in Barcelona it's a big deal. "San Jordi" is celebrated in style with the exchange of Roses and books being the tradition. The rose represents the blood of the dragon and the books commemorate the anniversary of Cervantes' death. So I thought it might be apt to blog about some great places in Barcelona to find books.

A great place to start is FNAC, which is located at the top of Las Ramblas, inside “El Triangle” at Plaça Catalunya. The French chain store is along the lines of a HMV, or a Virgin Megastore, and stocks DVDs, CDs’ and a fairly impressive bookstore, including a great travel section and a fair amount of English books, too.

Book Sculpture on Gran Via/Passeig de Gracia - Barcelona sights
Just a short walk away and another great stop for books is “Portal del Angel” street – real fans of Barcelona literature could even take a shortcut through Carrer Santa Ana, which was the home of leading character “Daniel” in Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s bestseller “The Shadow of the Wind”. Here you can find another of Spanish Giant “El Corte Inglés” stores whose book collection also has an impressive English collection of reference and non-fiction. Continue down towards the inner winding walkways of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona and “Happy Books” speaks for itself and has a few shops within the city itself.

Away from the old town into Poble Sec neighbourhood also houses a real gem – Elephant, a second hand English bookstore where you can come and exchange old novels and pick up some great new ones, too.

Moving on to some of the rest of the bookstores in Barcelona (not necessarily English, or with a good English collection), then BCN Books also has a good collection of books over 3 stores in downtown Barcelona, and “Casa del Libro” also dates as far back as 1923. Finally, if it’s travel books you’re looking for, then look no further than Altair on Gran Via, number 616. This extremely central bookstore has everything you can think of with regards to world travel, anthropology, geography and is a great place to compare.

If you want some more information on the bookstores mentioned here and much more, then I suggest you check out Ivan and Sonja's fantastic Bookstore Guide who are tireless in their pursuit of finding the best bookshops around the world, and have a great section in Barcelona, too. Thanks guys!

Also, if you're looking for accommodation in the city, don't forget to check out apartments for rent in Barcelona for some great savings.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sant Jordi, Books and Roses in Barcelona

This month sees a couple of public holidays in Catalonia, don't you just love April (and September) in Barcelona?! Apart from the Easter break we've just had, there's another perhaps more famous one to come.
Rooftop of Casa Battló - Barcelona Sights
The Patron Saint of Catalonia is Saint George, and on the 23rd April falls "Sant Jordi" - Saint George's Day - which is a real festival and celebration in Catalonia, with the capital Barcelona really going to town. Flags are hung out on balconies, hardly anybody goes to work, the bakers fill with "cocas" and it is tradition for boys to present a rose to the girls, representing the blood of the dragon slain by Saint George.

Gaudi himself even paid homage to Saint George on various occasions, with the rooftop of Casa Mila having it's central chimney as a George's cross, and nearby Casa Battló's rooftop having an uncanny resemblance to a dragon's scaly back.
Sant Jordi Rose on Barcelona Sights
So after the presentation of the rose, the boys receive in return perhaps a strange comparison - a book -until you realise that the 23rd April is also the anniversary of Spain's most famous Author, Miguel Cervantes - Spain's Shakespeare if you like. The days around San Jordi see the streets of Passeig de Gracia and many other open spaces such as Portal del Angel and the Cathedral fill with mobile bookstores, and needless to say Las Ramblas itself is a sea of people with different coloured roses. It's a fantastic spectacle to see, and the local TV stations such as TV3 and 33 often have cameras around the city, or even despite the weather last year in Plaça Catalunya for bird's eye coverage of the celebrations.

Sant Jordi is a great time to visit Barcelona, and if you happen to be visiting the city at this time, I'm sure you'll be overwhelmed by the sheer presence of the locals in the streets - it's a real celebration of culture. Why not look into apartments for rent in Barcelona if you're thinking of coming to the city ? If you're lucky enough to get an apartment located withing the old town, near to Las Ramblas, you'll be able to see all the fun from your own apartment balcony or window!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Barcelona Pollution

Today has seen the various press sources cite the very James Bond-sounding "Barcelona Supercomputing Centre" and it's new findings that the traffic in Barcelona contributes to 80% of the levels of Pollution in the city. It's important to point out that this is human-created pollution, and not industry - of which Barcelona's Port is also a big contributor (no surprise there).

Car Pollution - Barcelona sights

Pollution in the city is a bit of a sore topic for Barcelona mayor, Jordi Hereu, after it was revelead that Barcelona is one of the worst polluted cities in Europe. Hereu has authorised many "Green" initiatives such as the Zona Verde which is zonal parking within the city centre but only for residents. The eco-friendly Tramvia was also completed and runs along such main avenues as Diagonal. There is also a no-car day (I think it was September last year? anyone please correct me if I'm wrong) in many of the central avenues of the city, too. Perhaps the most important measure of Herue's Green tactics against car users, was the reduction in 2007 of the speed limit in and around Barcelona to 80kph (much to the annoyance of commuters). This was actually opposed to by the RACC of Catalunya, stating that it would NOT reduce the amount of pollution in the city. It's a tough one, with the same newspapers today announcing the news of reductions for public transport for families of 5 or more (why not everyone?!) - what do you think? I'd love to hear your opinions on the topic. Have you noticed the pollution in the city? Do you think more should be done about it?

For more information on the city, see this great Barcelona Eixample Guide and for your accommodation needs, don't forget Apartments for rent in Barcelona offer great discounts at this time of year, too.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Great Barcelona Bars with Terraces

This is a bit of a twist on the last few posts I've written about Great Barcelona Bars, and has been heavily influenced the sunshine finally making an appearance this Easter week! It was great to see the terraces fill up today, and as I strolled through Barcelona's Old Town with my family, we took a short cut through the Catalonian Library on Carrer Hospital, which has a great indoor patio, with a very unknown bar with a terrace called "El Jardi" (the Garden).
Barcelona Sights - El Jardi

Mandarin Trees and fountain - Barcelona sightsEl Jardi is a great little place tucked away from the crowds, but still very close to the main sights, such as Las Ramblas. El Jardi offers some Tapas style snacks, and a nice, sunny terrace to enjoy a cold beer or a coffee.
The actual "patio" of the Catalonian Library (an old Hospital to the sick, giving it's name to Carrer Hosptial) is a beautiful extensive open space with a great little fountain, surrounded by mandarin trees, which crosses the patio. At least I think they're mandarins!

Barcelona Sights - Terrace at Catalonian LibraryOn the opposite corner to El Jardi, another little terrace has popped up, which I haven't noticed before. This gives you another option for a quiet drink away from the crowds (and high prices) on the nearby Ramblas terraces. Both are a great place to start the night or for an early afternoon drink. I recommend you visit one (or both) next time you're passing by.

Coming to Barcelona soon? Have a look at these apartments for rent Barcelona for a great alternative to a hotel room.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Easter in Barcelona

Easter in Spain is a big deal. Thousands flock to the south of Spain, to cities such as Seville and Granada to watch the midnight processions and even the locals park their chairs outside the route 24 hours before the procession is due to catch a glimpse of the various icons paraded through the town.

Death Dance in Vergas - Barcelona Sights
Catalunya is not really that into the religious side of things (from my own experience), but still celebrates the feast. In the northern town of Verges close to Girona, on Maundy Thursday there is a Medieval "Dance of Death" which dates back to the 18th Century, and is as highly regarded as a spectacle as much as the processions in Seville, for example. The tradition apparently dates back to when the Bubonic plague wiped out the village. The skeletons carry the ever-symbolic scythe, another a clock with no hands, another a banner, and the last 2 plates of ash. They are followed by hooded skeletons with torches and roam the streets at midnight with their dance.

Things in Barcelona are not quite as dramatic. Friday and Monday are public holidays, as in the rest of Spain, and there are certainly the church goers, but nothing in comparison to the rest of Spain. The previous Palm Sunday is a bigger event, with elaborate palms being bought and paraded around town after the cathedral mass, and then resting on balconies to warn off evil. On Good Friday there is usually a small procession from Sant Agusti church to the Cathedral, but perhaps the most important or visible aspect of Easter in Barcelona is the giving of "mones" or "Monas" on Easter Sunday.

Barcelona Sights - Escriba Window

The "Mones" are the equivalent of Easter Eggs, and indeed originally the mones were cakes decorated with marzipan and boiled eggs. Pocoyo inEscriba Window - Barcelona SightsHowever, these traditions have now taken a twist, with almost any creation being made possible at the best chocolatiers in the city, and patisseries. People book the Mones weeks in advance, and I've seen entire castles made from chocolate (many of these creations can be seen at the Chocolate Museum in Barcelona), to FC Barcelona footballers, or kids favourite animated characters.

The photos taken here this week are of Escriba on Las Ramblas which is one of the busiest places at this time of year (they have a bigger shop on Gran Via, where truly exceptional Mones are on display). If you're visiting the city this week, be sure to pass by the window, but early in the week, as these things fly off the shelves!

Escriba on Las Ramblas - Barcelona Sights

Unfortunately the weather doesn't look like it's going to be great for the Easter week, so you can get some extra calories in with a "Mona" to keep the energy levels up and not feel guilty!! Comments welcome as always guys, if you have any hints, tips or experiences, I'd love to hear!

For you accommodation needs in the city, try apartments for rent Barcelona as a great alternative to your usual hotel room, and for a more detailed look at the city, see this great Barcelona Guide

Monday, April 6, 2009

Great things to do in Barcelona for FREE - Part 5

Barcelona is really old. That might sound like a stupid comment to start off a blog post, but it is. The Romans founded Barcelona on Mons Taber hill, and called it "Barcino". There are remnants of the old Roman town of Barcino still in the city today, but unlike places like Rome, where many of the ruins can be seen in broad daylight, Barcino's old town is underground, and located in the now Gothic Quarter of Barcelona inside the City History Museum.

Outside the City History Museum - Barcelona Sights Blog

This offers a fantastic insight to the history of the city, and as you take an elevator down into the air-conditioned basement, a digital clock counts down the years, literally taking you back in time. No photographs are allowed inside, so I don't have any to add here, but the ruins are very detailed in their descriptions, and show old wine-making facilities, dye factories for clothing, as well as houses, etc. and there are some great scale models and artwork of what the Roman Town of Barcino would have looked like. If you know Barcelona well enough from maps, it's easy to pick out the places you would recognise today, such as Las Ramblas and Sant Pau del Camp church - literally in the middle of nowhere.

So why is this post under the current series of "Great Things to do for Free in Barcelona"? Well, on the first Saturday of each month the City History Museum opens it's doors for free! My cousin was visiting last month and I took him along to see what he thought, too. He was very impressed, and also surprised at the free entrance! If you happen to be in town on the first Saturday of the month, then it's a great place to visit, even just for a quick walk around (you could spend hours in there), and especially fun as you have a really quiet, cold history lesson right below the busy streets of a Saturday in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona!

Comments welcome as always guys, or let me know if you've been and your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Barcelona Scams. "¿Que hora es?"

This one is not really a scam as such, but more the initiation of a possible scam. It actually happened to me the other day, which is why it's jogged my memory. I've also read reports on other websites (there is unfortunately a wealth of information about Barcelona scams and other such upsets) which confirms this as an easy tactic to employ.
Blank Watch Face - Barcelona Sights blog
I was waiting in a central location for a friend just the other day, and on the opposite side of the road a seedy looking character was walking in my direction. As he clocked me, he then walked into the middle of the road (without looking) and made a beeline directly for me. This obviously caught my attention, but for all I know he was looking at someone behind me , or taking the next street, just to my right. As he approached within earshot, he asked me for the time, in Spanish (he wasn't Spanish) "¿Que hora es?". Without evening thinking, I replied that I didn't know as I wasn't wearing a watch (and couldn't be arsed to look at my phone). So he veered back onto the opposite side of the road again and continued his rumble where he met up with another seedy looking character, and this second man obviously told the first guy that I'd followed his with my eyes, as he spun around to have another look. That's when I remembered that it's usually used as a trick to see if you're a local or a tourist - i.e. the majority of tourists might be able to understand the phrase but probably not answer the question, so would mumble something in their own language, thus giving away the fact that they're a tourist.

This all happened in a very busy location, in broad daylight and I have no idea what the guy/s would have tried if I'd replied in English that I didn't understand for example, but it just goes to show that some people will try anything at any time of the day!

What to do if this happens to you? My advice would be to look the other way, as if they aren't talking to you, and not bother replying. They will probably assume that you're a local and are wise to the scam-opener. There may be variations on this question, so keep your eyes and ears open. I must also point out that this is the first time it's happened to me in almost 10 years in Barcelona, so don't be alarmed!

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

The Restaurant Overcharge
The School Questionnaire
The Postcard cover up
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

For accommodation in the city, think about apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative to hotel rooms.

Sonar is Back - and for Kids!

The second week of June is a great time. The weather is usually great (not too hot yet, not too humid, but reliable enough to forget jackets and coats), the city is buzzing with full terraces and newly-found bars with happy hours and great tapas, and exams have just finished in universities around Europe, so that can mean only 1 thing - time to party.

Sonar 2009 - Barcelona sights Blog

For years in Barcelona, the Sonar Music Festival has been providing the escape to hedonism for the weekend, attracting visitors and artists from around the world. The festival is usually split up into 2 parts - Day and Night. Sonar by Day is located in Barcelona's Old Town Raval quarters, in and around the CCCB and the Night is usually at Gran Via 2 - an exhibition space slightly outside the city centre, where people can make as much noise as they want without the neighbours complaining. Well, this year, they've gone one better - they're involving the kids!

Sonar Kids on Barcelona Sights
Sonar Kids is a great new idea to involve the musicians of the future in Sonar. The idea is that the kids can come along and experiment in various workshops which are completely geared towards the kids. So you can attend the Hip Hop workshop and learn how to dance a face-off like Run DMC Jason Nevins cool vid, or you can attend the DJ workshop and get the basics about spinning the wheels or scratching. There's a cool beatbox workshop, Illustration workshop (no graffiti one surprisingly!), as well as felt masks, Finger skating, Medieval armour and much more.

DJ Kids at Sonar 2009 - Barcelona Sights Blog
Everything will be kicking off on the Sunday 21st June (with a few heavy heads from the parents, no doubt) and the website is quick to point out that they will be taking children's tolerance to raised levels of noise into consideration, too. Sensible.

As for the festival itself, it looks like being another stellar year, and I'm a little early in commenting on the line up this year, and usually leave it till later in the year, but I saw the Kids angle and loved it. Headliners this year include Orbital, Grace Jones, Mujava, Joker, Crookers, Fever Ray and many others already lined up. Things might change from now until June, so I'll keep you posted.

If you're coming to Barcelona for the festival, I can highly reccomend renting Barcelona apartments for the stay. In fact, looking for apartments for Sonar 2009 is a great way to save money and be close to all the action, too.
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