Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bastoneras in the Old Town

Bastoneras in the Raval - BarcelonaSights Blog This weekend (Saturday) saw the Bastoneras of Catalunya celebrate their annual festival in Barcelona's Old Town. The "Bastoneras" are traditional groups who dance with wooden sticks, and traditional attire with flutes and drums performing in and around the streets of the city centre.
A meal was celebrated in the Rambla del Raval, and previously, the groups from all around Catalunya paraded around the old town, las ramblas and Plaça Sant Jaume, performing dances and animating the streets and the spectators. All walks of life were represented, and the whole parade brought life into the city with tourists and locals alike transfixed by the well-rehearsed routines.

The participants wore costumes in bright colours, similar to those of the castellers but with flag bearers following, and some had bells around their ankles, too.

Barcelona Sights-  Bastoneras in the Old Town

With over 70 groups participating, it was a flurry of colour and noise to compliment the fine weather, and a great spectacle for those watching. Did you see the Bastoneras this weekend? Comments welcome as always guys!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Primavera Sound Festival

The good weather brings along some great festivals in Barcelona during the early part of the summer. First on the list is Primavera Sound from the 28th to 30th May - which is actually "spring sound" but it feels like summer, with the nice weather we've been having this last week! Some big names have lined up again for this year's festival, which takes place in the Parc del Forum - despite organisers claiming they would look for an alternative venue after such high levels of neighbour complaints last year.

Primavera sound - Barcelona sights blog

There are some pre-festival events this coming week as everyone jumps on the band wagon (no pun intended) in side-car (inside plaça Reial in the old town) and Apolo which includes the screening of the Champions League Final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United.

Some of the big names include Neil Young, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Aphex Twin, Bloc Party, Jarvis Cocker, Yo La Tengo, The Jayhawks, Spiritualized, Michael Nyman, Throwing Muses, Saint Etienne, The Jesus Lizard and Ghostface Killah but there are hundreds of acts, and tickets are still on sale through the website.

If you're looking for accommodation for the festival, try apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great base to chill out a couple of days before or after. Also, for information on the city as a whole, see this great Barcelona Guide.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Extra Income During the Crisis ? Get Married!

I saw this yesterday in a shop window and loved it. It's an ad for a proposal for marriage for any illegal immigrant (woman) with an email address, and a promise that it's "economical". The actual text reads:

"Foreign Woman and need papers? I'll marry you. Economical. Write to me and we'll talk." Followed by an email address (which I've blurred out intentionally).
Wedding Proposal in Shop Window - Barcelona Sights

Now, I know that this is a quick way for illegal immigrants to "become legal" and there are work contracts that go on for sale in South America for around 3000 Euros (I know a fair few people who have paid that), and I'm not making a joke about the situation of immigrants at all. What I loved about the ad, is that these kind of things that I've mentioned usually are done "behind closed doors" or "I know someone who might be able to help you out..." - this ad is in a fairly big shop in the middle of Barcelona's Old Town brazenly displayed in the shop window for everyone and anyone to see. Classic.

Coming to Barcelona soon? Consider apartments for rent in Barcelona instead of a hotel room, and for a heads up on the city and its neighbourhoods, see this Barcelona Guide.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Vegan Restaurants in Barcelona

Barcelona is a great place to find food - the eclectic mix of kitchens from around the world invite you to try anything from Cebiche to Kow Neow, as well as the fantastic local specialties. The Spanish have an obsession with meat, and Pork in particular (they sell the brains in the supermarket, right alongside the trotters, ears and tails for God's sake!) and most restaurants will offer you cured hams, or have a very meat orientated menu - which is not much fun if you're a Vegetarian or a Vegan.

This post was a request, so I'm going to give you the lowdown on Vegetarian and (mainly) Vegan options if you're visiting Barcelona. I've also added a googlemap at the bottom if you've got no idea what I'm talking about!

Juicy Jones Vegan Restaurant - Barcelona Sights
It's of co-incidence that these restaurants are all fairly close together, considering the size of Barcelona, and the scope it has for restaurants. First up is Juicy Jones. Juicy Jones has a couple of establishments - both in the old town. The one just off Las Ramblas, behind the PC City computer store is more of a Juice Bar, whereas the one pictured above, on Carrer Hospital is a little bigger.

Organic Restaurant on Barcelona Sights Blog

Just two streets up from Carrer Hospital is Carrer Pintor Fortuny, and this is the location for two of the restaurants on the list. First is Organic, which is on the corner of Xuclá and as the name suggests, serves all organic produce and is very central, just a minute's walk from Las Ramblas.

Biocenter restaurant - Barcelona Sights Blog

Walk a little further into the Raval following Pintor Fortuny, and on the opposite side of the road is BioCenter - another great spot for Vegan and Vegetarian munchies. The shop bearing the same name on the opposite side of the road I think must have closed down (at least temporarily) as I haven't seen it open for a long time.
Sesamo Restaurant on Barcelonasights Blog
Finally we have Sesamo, which is located on Carrer Sant Antoni Abat, at the end, right next to Sant Antoni Market. This is a small, but popular place and serves "comida sin bestias" or "food without beasts"! Again, the location from the previous few places is just a couple of minutes walk - I've added a map below to show all of the locations.

One last place worth a mention. "Fresco" is an all you can eat buffet with various locations around the city centre, and although it's not strictly Vegetarian/Vegan, there's a huge salad bar for starters (go back as many times as you like), and there is almost always some vegetarian alternatives, such as pasta with pesto and cheese sauces, etc. I thought it's worth a mention as it's very good value for money - and healthy to boot. I'd be happy to hear any additions form you guys in the comments, too - let's make the lost longer!

You might need to zoom in a bit for the map, just click the plus sign. Hope it works ok.

For apartments for rent in Barcelona look no further than BCN Rentals - 9 years of experience in the city centre. Also, for more information on the city itself - check out this great Barcelona Guide

Friday, May 15, 2009

Barcelona Football Riots

Spanish press and in particular the Barcelona news reporters (both printed and Televsion) are quick to point the finger at foreign football fans as the cause of the biggest problems. However, recent events in the city have caused a great deal of problems, too. Those of which the root is much closer to home.

Last weekend FC Barcelona had a home game against Villareal, a game which had Barcelona won would have seen them clinch the Spanish league title against near rivals and arch enemies Real Madrid in second place. This was also the Sunday of the Formula 1 Grand Prix and an expectant city had giant screens in Plaça Catalunya - the city's main square. In an enthralling match, with another red card (as in the Chelsea match), Barcelona threw away the lead to draw 3-3. Title celebrations would have to wait.

This did nothing however, to stop what has been seen to be a typical celebration in the city since the 2006 Champions League victory in Paris, and an onslaught in the city centre ensued with violence, damage to public property and public bins burned, etc. The city's subsidised bike hire - Bicing - suffered damage to the value of a massive 400,000 Euros. Local Police - the Mossos de Esquadra - have vowed to ensure that Bicing stations will be emptied for further possible disturbances during sporting events.

Disturbances at Plaça Catalunaya - Image rights rtve España

And so arrives last Wednesday night, Final of the Copa del Rey - FC Barcelona vs Atletic de Bilbao in Valencia's Mestalla stadium. Barcelona are victorious, beating the Basuqe rivals 4-1, and again the city sees disturbances until the early hours of the morning, including 50 arrests, and 1 man falling into a river and dying (outside of Barcelona in nearby Girona). Again, bottles were thrown, public property destroyed and bins were burned. Rubber bullets were used, and 33 Police officers needed treatment.

This weekend Barcelona play Mallorca away from home on Sunday, but victory could be theirs on Saturday if Real Madrid lose to Villereal - a possibility given the current form of both teams. Even if Barcelona don't win tomorrow, there are still some games left, too, making the league title almost a foregone conclusion. If this is the case, the city will again brace itself for some inevitable damage, with the worst yet to come.

On the 27th May in Rome, Barcelona and Manchester Utd will contest the final of this year's Champion's league final - assuming Barcelona win the league and after winning the Copa del Rey, they would be on course for an unprecedented triple - something no Spanish team has ever done before.

Comments welcome as always guys - Were you around this week during the disturbances? Anthing to report? Please feel free to leave a comment.

Apartments for rent Barcelona - Barcelona Guide

Great Bars with Terraces - Part 3

OK, the sun is shining, you're in the centre of Barcelona's old town and fancy a nice drink outside but not on the crowded streets of Las Ramblas - or maybe something else as well, like some food. Step in Rita Rouge.

Rita Rouge Terrace - Barcelona Sights
Tucked away behind the famous Boqueria Market, just next to a car park doesn't sound like a great location for your early afternoon cervesa, right? Wrong! Rita Rouge is a great place to sit out with the locals, and nibble on some nachos or even treat yourself to a Menu del dia.

Rita Rouge - Barcelona SightsIt's privileged location means it enjoys a whole load of sunshine almost all day, as it's facing the sea and has no buildings in front of it (just the car park) so nothing blocking out the sunlight. It's also extremely central, and close to two of my other favourite places for an outdoor drink in the city, Mendizabal and Bar Lobo. (If I keep going at this rate, I'll be inventing my own Barcelona Pub Crawl !) Rita also has a ...ahem...sister not far away (her words) in Rita Blue, which is a great place for an evening drink too.

A quick mention of the nearby Boqueria market, too - you can pick up many of the Top 10 Barcelona food and drink items in here, such as the great Iberian hams. Prefer to eat in? Renting your own Barcelona apartment also offers you the chance to cook in the kitchen or prepare some tapas-style snacks, too.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Great things to do in Barcelona for FREE - Part 6

Time for another money-saver, and another free museum. I know I mentioned that the free things weren't all going to be "boring" things but trust me on this one! This is the Chocolate Museum!

The first Monday of each month, the Chocolate Museum opens its doors for free. The museum is located on Calle Comercio, in the Borne district and is easy to spot. It's actually part of the pastry school and perhaps the best part of the museum is the workshop which has the chocolatiers making their creations.

Chocolate sculptures at the Museu Xocolata - Barcelona Sights Blog

And it's these creations that make the most impression. Sure, there's a fair bit of audio-visual stuff which tells you about the history of chocolate, cocoa and stuff like that, but the workshop takes the plaudits. See, in Spain at Easter, it's tradition to give "monas" instead of eggs/as well as eggs! These "monas" are basically creations or sculptures made out of chocolate. These can include houses, Barça shields, cars, etc. and are often made to order in the famous bakers of the sity such as Escriba.

The chocolate museum has an exposition of some of these "monas" or chocolate creations, and it's mind-blowing what they can do with chocolate! There are some great sculptures of the Sagrada Familia, Pinocchio, and even Michelangelo's Madonna and Jesus. It's well worth a visit to kill a few hours, and even better as it's free!

Coming to Barcelona soon? Try self-catering apartments for rent in Barcelona instead of your typical hotel booking. And for more details on the city, see this great Barcelona guide.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Save Money in Barcelona with a "Menu del Dia"

Eating in Spain is a big deal, and Barcelona is no exception to that rule. I always say that for the majority of foreigners visiting the city that everything starts and finishes a lot later here - that goes for opening times for shops, nightlife and of course, eating out.

Lunch is a far cry from a sandwich on the run or a quick Tupperware full of salad in 30 minutes or an hour. No, no, the Spanish like a good 2 hours for lunchtime, and a real sit down meal. Not surprising, as the working day goes on until 8 or maybe 9pm, and you need to keep your energy levels up! This can often be a real challenge for tourists on a mission to squeeze in all the Barcelona Sights as possible, because if you're not used to having such a big meal at lunchtime (often accompanied by a decent bottle of house wine) then you can be left feeling very sleepy, and chalking off that hike up to Park Güell for a laze on a terrace instead - Spain is the land of siestas, right?!

However, a Spanish lunch is also a great way to save money, as all restaurants by law are obliged to offer a Mid-day Menu at a cut price, known as a Menú del Dia. This almost always consists of a choice of 2 or 3 starters, 2 or 4 main courses, dessert, bread and a drink, which can be anything you like. Coffee or Tea is not usually included in a menu, but occasionally can be. VAT at 7% is sometimes included but more often than not it's charged on top of the displayed price, although restaurants have an obligation to print this, too.

Menus del Dia can range from as little as 6 Euros and up to around 15 Euros, depending on the place you go. Often the Menus have seasonal ingredients, and other dishes which are also featured on the normal menu (called "La Carta" in Spanish). As I say, if you're not used to eating a lot at lunchtime, and have a busy day planned for sightseeing, maybe this isn't a good option for you, and the city is also full of healthy alternatives like bagel shops, sandwich shops and take away salads and the link in places like Carrefour and El Corte Inglés for example. However, if you're here simply to relax and visit the city, you can do no better at lunchtime than find a decent menu and sit down and enjoy some delightful Catalan cuisine.

I'd love to hear your comments guys, as always, and I'll be doing another post this week about food too, so sign up for posts via RSS on the top right.

Also, if you're looking for apartments for rent in Barcelona, you can also save money by making your own breakfast on a morning, and making some tapas or a snack for your evening meal after your menu del dia!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Grand Prix Comes to Town

Tomorrow is the Formula 1 Grand Prix in nearby Montmelo. Fans will remember the racial abuse targetted at Lewis Hamiltion last year.

Well, this year Hamilton was honoured by circuit director Ramon Praderas who said "We are pleased to have the opportunity to show you that you are a driver who is always welcome to Catalunya. Passion means Formula One and you are a part of this passion for motor sport. Keep like this for us. We need people like you."
Barcelona Sights - Forumala 1 at Montmelo
Oranisers of the event this year have also invested in 24 giant screens including one huge 200m2 screen which have been strategically placed around the track. Earlier this week, pit lanes were open to the public with the opportunity to get right up close to the cars and mechanics workshops.

As of this mornings trails, the Ferrari team is still in the lead, and Hamilton only managed a 7th place finish - nothing compared to last year. Nick Heidfeld also crashed, leaving the BMW hardly any time to prepare for thisafternoon's qualifiers! As ever, lots of darama in the Catalonia Grand Prix!

If you're looking for things to do around the city, or only here on a whistle stop visit, why not try the Barcelona tourist bus, which is a quick and overground way of visiting the main sights? There are 3 routes, but only the red and blue take in the main sights such as Gaudi's Casa Battló, the nearby Casa Mila and the unfinished masterpiece that is Gaudi's Sagrada Familia Cathedral.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Barcelona Movie Walking Tours

The very first time I visited New York City, I was amazed at how much of the buildings and streets I "recognised". Countless films and sit-coms have brought the Big Apple to the big and small screen, and it was amazing to visit a city and find instantly recognisable places.

Barcelona in recent years has seen an influx of film crews and movie makers, with the council lowering the costs and taxes for film-makers in an attempt to draw them in and give the city a bigger global presence. Many of the filming sessions are for small TV adverts, and not all are shown in Barcelona (last week, then new Renault ad was shot in front of "La Confiteria" Bar, which has also been used for other TV ads.

Woody Allen Walk - Barcelonasights Blog
There have also been some Big Screen Productions in the city - most notably the recent Woody Allen film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, filmed in 2007. Other Big Screen hits have been "Salvador", Pedro Almodovar's "Todo Sobre mi Madre" (the 4th highest grossing European film of all time), and the two French productions of "Perfume" and the very funny "L’Auberge Espagnole" amongst others.

So it's come as no surprise that, just as cities such as Rome and Paris have their Da Vinci Code and angels and Demons tours, Barcelona has jumped on board. The tourist board of the city have organised Barcelona Movie Walks, taking you to the same locations that are featured in the film (which it has to be said are many of the sights you would visit anyway), and offer anecdotal facts about the filming and story along the way. If you like any of the movies on the tour, or want to see the Barcelona of recent times, go and see the movies and take the tours!

Image rights Barcelonatourisme.

Many apartments for rent in Barcelona are also in prime locations near to the filming in Barcelona's old town, close to Sagrada Familia, Park Güell and other attractions. Why not stay in one of these apartments for a really close-up view of the city?!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

International Day of Museums.

Sunday 17th May is the International Day of Museums, and to celebrate the day, 24 of Barcelona's museums open their doors for free to the general public. As well as some of the museums that also have Free entrance on the first few days of the month, there are some great museums that you might want to fit into your schedule, and take advantage of visiting to save some money.

The Picasso Museum - Barcelona sights blog

The full list of participating museums can be seen here:

CaixaForum, CCCB, CosmoCaixa, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Fundació Joan Miró, Jardí Botànic de Barcelona, La Pedrera Caixa Catalunya, MACBA, MNAC, Museu Barbier-Mueller d’Art Precolombí, Capella Exposicions, Fundació Suñol, Museu Olímpic i de l’Esport, Museu d’Història de Catalunya, Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya, Museu de les Ciències Naturals, Museu de la Música, Museu d’Història de la Ciutat, Museu Etnològic, Museu Frederic Marès, Museu Marítim de Barcelona, Museu Picasso, Disseny Hub Barcelona y Centro de exposiciones La Virreina.

Looking for accommodation for that weekend? Try apartments for rent in Barcelona with BCN Rentals. And for a heads up on what else to visit, see this Barcelona guide.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Free Paella at Barcelona's Port Vell

1st May in Spain is usually always a puiblic holiday, and many other European countires have similar dates as public holidays, too (May Day bank holiday in the UK is on Monday, for example). It's also the "day of the worker" or the "dia del trabajador" - this is also a day for protests, and manifestations for union groups, possible mass redundancies. Yesterday was no exception, with the current crisis seeing the masses take to the streets and make their voice be heard.
Big Paella - Barcelona Sights Blog
What better way to keep the hungry masses satified? Well, with a Giant Paella and Fideua!! (For those of you who don't know, Fideua, is very similar to Paella, but made with fine pasta instead of rice). The Union General de Trabajadores (UGT) or Workers Union organised a big free Paella and Fideua for ecveryone with huge tables and chairs, some music to entertain and of course the spectacle of the huge Paella.

Paella for the Masses in Barcelona

A mention must go to Chef Papitus and his sons of nearby Cornella, who braved the sunshine to cook the huge Paellas (no idea whet time they started, and indeed that the free paella thing was going on, my family and I literally walked straight into it! the photos are from my mobile, apologies for the poor quality!) who were absolute experts at the whole shebang - accoding to the side of their van they hold 8Guinness World Records, so I'm sure we couldn't have been in better hands!

For more information about the city and fun things to do, see this great guide to Barcelona and for your family, why not try out apartments for rent in Barcelona and reap the benefits of self catering accommodation - you have your own kitchen and living area, and are often very close to local shops and markets, too.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Great Bars with Terraces - Part 2

With the un predictable weather Barcelona is having recently, it's important to have a few options for when the sunshine does finally break out, especially if you're only here for a short break and it's been raining for most of the time! So sparked on from my post a couple of weeks ago, here's another great bar with a terrace.
Bar Lobo on Barcelona Sights blog
Just just off Las Ramblas on the corner of Pintor Fortuny and Xuclà(and not very far from my previous reccomendation of El Jardi) is Bar Lobo.

Terrace outside Bar Lobo - Barcelona Sights

Bar Lobo is part of the Hotel 1898 on Las Ramblas, and also combines "El Japones" restaurant which runs the length of the corner from Las Ramblas to the corner of Xuclà. The cool thing about El Lobo is that it can be any place you want it to be - morning coffee spot, lunchtime place for sun and a book, afternoon tea/beer break, and cocktail spot on an evening (and while you're downstairs, why not check out the excellent La Isabela rooftop bar, inside the hotel too!). Despite being leterally 10 seconds walk from the busy Ramblas, the terrace of El Lobo is usually fairly easy to get a table, or you don't have to wait as long. And there's no goldfish bowls of flat coke here, like on Las Ramblas terraces!

Like what you're reading? Have any other places you'd like to share? Please feel free to leave a comment and anywhere else you may have stumbled upon on your travels through the city.

For your accomodation needs in the city, try self catering apartments for rent in Barcelona - many of which have terraces too.
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