Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Barcelona Scams. The Nightclub Flyer Scam.

I suppose it's because it's August, and the typical scams in Barcelona are aimed at tourists, that I'm back again with another Barcelona Scam. The blog is called Barcelona sights, so I'll try and steer back to the sights and not the scams soon, guys, honest!

The reason I'm adding this one, is that like my previous post on the Metro Push scam, this happened to someone I know - a mate who was visiting the city and who used to live here. It was a Saturday night, just off Las Ramblas walking home at around 1am, and he had a beer in hand. He's English and won't mind me pointing out that he looks very English and so perhaps was an easy mark for the scammers.

Las Ramblas at night - photo credit webshots

This seems to be a variation on the Football Dance scam, in that young scamsters try and entice you into close contact, in the same way as the football dance. This is the first time I've heard of this version (although I haven't been out at 1am alone on a Saturday for a while) and involves nightclub flyers. My friend told me that around 3 young northern Africans approached him each from a slightly different angle waving flyers in the air. He thinks that maybe the bait is that you would reach high to accept one of these flyers, and that gives them a chance to quickly skim your pockets or at least have a feel around. These tricksters didn't get half a chance as my friend told them where to go, in Spanish, which was probably something they were not expecting, and they scarpered. Sharpish.

How to avoid this happening to you ? I don't want you to take this the wrong way - there are many people giving out flyers around the city, and you can get some great discounts/happy hours/free entrances to places from picking up these. I also recognise that it's a pretty thankless task. What i would like to point out is that if you think about it, the majority of flyer guys/gals tend to stay in the same place and hand out their flyers. They don't wander streets and then come up to you in a gang, waving them in your face. This is a classic distraction technique, and if you're reading this and it's happened to you, don't feel bad - it's easy to fall for, as it's something you're not expecting. The best thing to do is just look away, uninterested, and keep a hand on your phone/wallet if you took one out. If it looks like you're putting up a fight, they'll move on to easier pickings.

For accommodation in the city, try apartments for rent Barcelona and check out this great Barcelona Guide.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Barcelona Scams. The Metro Push.

Just as I've been writing that it's been a while since I've posted about scams, then 3 come along all at once. This particular scam unfortunately happened to my Auntie and my two cousins whilst visiting this week. As well prepared as they were, there was nothing they could really do to avoid this, as the scam is very well prepared.

Barcelona Metro - Barcelona sights Blog

First hand (or in my case, second) experience always brings more details, so I'm in a privileged position to explain this one. The scam unfolded on a busy Sunday night on Plaça Espanya metro - Green Line, Line 3. My Auntie and cousins had just spent the evening watching the fountains at Montjüic, and hopped on the metro to come back to my place. Time was around 22:40. As you might imagine, the metro was jam packed and as my family got onto the metro, a man pushed in front of them and a woman pushed behind them. My Auntie had a zipped bag over her shoulder, on the front, but also had a camera which she was clutching - already wary of anyone coming close to her.

The couple (who she later realised were in on the act together) were in their 40s and were white - the guy was ginger haired with freckles and had a backpack, worn on the front, like a typical savvy tourist. The woman pushed constantly into the back on them. The man was shielding his backpack in such a way that he was pressing against my Auntie's chest (shorter than he was). As the doors to the metro closed, the man began asking if he was going in the right direction for Sants (the main train station) which is on the opposite side of the platform - he was going the wrong way. He gestured towards the flashing lights of the metro stops above the door of the metro carriage, and my Auntie, thinking she was helping, suggested that she thought he was going the wrong way, and sure enough at the next stop both the man and the woman got off.

What had happened in the course of the conversation was that one of the two, probably the woman, had unzipped the shoulder bag of my Auntie, then taken out a plastic bag with postcards and pen, unzipped a SECOND compartment of the bag, lifted the noted and then managed to ZIP BACK UP the inner pocket, REPLACE the plastic bag with postcards and pen and HALF ZIP the full outside zip back up before getting off. Bear in mind that the distance between Plaça Espanya and Poble Sec (the next metro station) is around 40 seconds.

It was only when the could got off that my auntie had realised her error, and fortunately the thieves only got away with some cash - they had not taken cards or purses/wallets out with them on any day. However, she felt very duped and guilty at having fallen for such a lame distraction technique and kicked herself the minute she realised her zip was open a fraction.

How to avoid this happening to you? Difficult given the circumstances, as a packed metro is easy pickings for these scamsters, and the added distraction of asking directions, coupled with the fact that the guy looked "foreign" made no suspicion whatsoever. The best advice I can give here is to be cold-hearted and not offer to help anyone asking for directions! Sorry, I know that sounds terrible, as we all get lost in foreign cities, and I myself have been helped in Munich and Amsterdam by extremely friendly locals who (what do I know) may have seen me as easy pickings on my travels, but it's the truth. If you have more than one thing to look out for (i.e. my auntie had her camera and the bag) then just ignore any advances and maybe try and get out of their way/reach.

It's particularly frustrating when things like this happen to close family or friends (on perhaps the only time I wasn't with them), but this is a very well rehearsed scam, and as a comment the other day on this post illustrates, peak times at certain places in the city can be considered "hot spots" for these kind of scams. I hope this unfortunate experience can serve as a warning to others, and that I can be back soon with more Barcelona sights, not Barcelona Scams.

Looking for accommodation in the city this month? check out the Last minute bookings in Barcelona for apartments for rent in Barcelona. And for a great head start to the city, see this Barcelona Guide.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Open Air Drinking in Barcelona - Part 3

OK, I'll be honest. I made a list of a couple of cool places I thought not everyone would have thought about going this summer when it comes to Open air drinking - apart from one big obvious one. This list was made in early June, and I've had this next place pencilled in to go and check out and take a few photos to add to the blog, etc. and it's half way though August and I still haven't been!! So I thought I'd better just get the bloody thing down, so you lot can all go and check it and and let me know if it's as good as it looks!!

La Caseta del Migdia on Montjüic - Barcelona sights Blog

So what am I talking about?! Well, despite featuring in the local and national press over here, I'd still say that la caseta del migdia is a pretty well-kept secret. It's a groovy looking little house up on Montjüic with a fair bit of woodland around it, and it's like an outdoor pub overlooking the working port and the Mediterranean. Sounds cool? Well, it' certainly looks it!

Open on Thursday and Friday nights from 8pm till 2am, Saturday from 11am till 2am and Sunday from 11am till 1am. There is food on offer from chef Marc Ros, and different DJ's spinning the decks on an evening - check out the website for full details and programme. You have until late September to check it out - if you get there before I do, let me know how it goes!!!

Looking for accommodation whilst you're in the city ? Groups of friends should definitely consider apartments for rent, Barcelona as considerable savings can be made. And for a digestible introduction to the city, see this Barcelona Guide.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Picnic in the Sky - Montjüic Cable Cars

This is a very cool idea. The local beer scene in Barcelona has been monopolised for years by Damm breweries and primarily "Estrella" - it's what the beer sellers will give you on the streets or on the beach. However, another local brew, Moritz, has been slowly breaking in on the scene over the last couple of years - a central brewery on Ronda Sant Antoni, and many new bars been offered a better deal in terms of branding. So it comes as no surprise that they have come up with a fantastic piece of marketing for their beers and also what looks like a bloody good night out.

Picnic al Cel - Barcelona Sights blog - image thanks

For the second year running, Moritz are organizing "Picnic al Cel" which literally means picnic in the sky. This involves the new cable car ride, up on Montjüic and is a candle lit dinner inside the cable car ride with the spectacular views of Barcelona below. The new cable cars can seat 6 people comfortably, with a table in between for an albeit short menu, but it's the novelty factor here that counts, surely?! Or the romantic factor if there are only two of you trying it!

The Picnic al Cel has been running since late July and continues every Tuesday night until the 22nd September. Prices are 40 Euros per person, or 80 per person, if you're going in a couple. There are 3 courses served and the waiting staff top up the cold Moritz on each stop (shame it's the no alcohol version). So if you fancy something completely different to do mid-week, and can afford the 40 Euros in a group of friends, I think it would be a great laugh. Anyone been? Like to share your experience? I'd love to hear about it, so please let me know in the comments.

Coming to Barcelona this summer? check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona instead of the usual hotel room. And for getting your grips with the rest of the city sights, see this great guide to Barcelona

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Barcelona Scams. Motorway Flat Tyre - Update.

Unfortunately, I'm back so soon with yet another Barcelona Scam, or rather an update. It seems a shame that just recently I've posted a few in quick succession, and any new readers, please don't be alarmed, Barcelona is a great place to visit!

I've posted previously about the Flat tyre scam and how there are different variations. Well, it seems that a keen eye caught on camera some theives on the AP-7 motorway coming into Barcelona, and then uploaded the video to YouTube.

It seems that the victim is travelling alone, and is probably from the UK, as the drivers side is on the right, and this means his registration plates will also have been a giveaway. I also imagine that the theif crouching to distract the victim at the back of the car is feigning a flat tyre or problems with the wheels. They look organised - possibly Eastern European, and have a very smart getaway car, too. I'm sure the victim would have kicked himself when he realised what had happened, but the distraction techniques used are just so quick it's easy to fall for something like this. How to avoid it happening? My advice from the first post still rings true:

"One way to protect against this scam is to be wary agaianst any kind of alert or unsolicited help. If you feel that the suggestion is genuine and that you may have a flat tyre, find a safe place to stop in your own time, preferably away from the people who have told you about the supposed flat. Of course, the best way to protect against this scam is to not leave any valuables on show in your car. It's also essential that you drive with all the doors locked while you are inside the car, and only open them if you can clearly see around you and have everything inside the car accounted for."

Coming to Barcelona soon? Check out this Barcelona Guide for more details on the city.

Apartments for rent Barcelona

Friday, August 7, 2009

Public Toilet Map for Barcelona City Centre

This might seem like an odd post, and it's definitely one for the tourists reading, but I think it's a pretty valuable addition to a guide book/photocopy to have in the back of your guide/map. Basically, it's a map I picked up for the local council office the other day (it's actually from 2006) and shows the location of all of the public toilets in Cuitat Vella - the 4 neighbourhoods of El Raval, the Gothic Quarter, Borne/Rivera and La Barceloneta. (Apologies for the por quality of the image but if you click, it's a bit clearer).

WC location in Cuitat Vella - Barcelona Sights

It's obviously a sore point for some bar owners in the city, who often have hand-written notes reminding people who stumble into their bar that "the toilets are for customers only" and the like. Pretty common around the old town, I think you'll agree. So the above map is actually something I'd love to be given if I was visiting a new city - OK, my kids can use a tree stump or a drain (they're both under 4) but it's not quite the same for me! So I hope this serves a purpose for someone out there, and saves you buying a coke somewhere when the last thing you want is to drink some more!

Coming to Barcelona soon? Try Apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative to hotel rooms. And for a heads up on the main city sights, check out this Barcelona Guide.

Monday, August 3, 2009

30 Minutes of Magic at La Pedrera

La Pedrera Mas i Mas Festival - Barcelona Sights
Siting out of a rooftop terrace on a summer's evening in Barcelona is unbeatable. The buzz of the downtown streets as you gaze from above with a gentle breeze, or watch the sunset in Barceloneta is something everyone should try and experience whilst staying in the city. And how about stepping that up a grade or two? Like the most famous rooftop terrace in the city - Casa Mila on Passeig de Gracia, one of Antonin Gaudi's UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Barcelona. Couple that with 30 minutes of chamber music from some of the worlds best composers, performed by some of the best contemporary pianists and classical musicians, and at 7 Euros, it's a snip.

This is the third year that Caixa Catalunya - the bank/buidling society whose offices are in the ground floor of Casa Mila - are offering these sessions of 3 x 30 minute concerts every day in August, after enjoying success in the previous two years. The official blurb for the concerts is "to bring the public closer to chamber music and make them aware of the impressive group of musicians and creators in Spain, enjoying the architectural beauty of one of Gaudí's most emblematic creations at the same time". Performances are generally held in the Mezzanine floor of the building and tickets tend to sell out fairly quickly, so if you fancy the sound of the concerts, check out the tickets here.

For your accommodation needs whilst in the city, try apartments for rent in Barcelona for your very own apartment in the city!
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