Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sitges Film Festival 2009

Sitges Film Festival 2009 -  Barcelona Sights BlogThe sleepy town of Sitges, just 20 minutes from Barcelona is a great day trip from the Catalan Capital and, set in a cove, the seaside resort is a welcome break from the busy streets of Barcelona. Famous for it's gay community and Carnaval, it also plays host to one of the coolest Film Festivals in Europe - Cannes this ain't.

Starting on the 1st October and running until the 12th, the 42nd Sitges Film Festival showcases the best of the horror genre in various locations in the town. The festival has been growing from strength to strength, with last year's festival showcasing over 320 movies, with over 100,000 spectators jumping with their popcorn. This year's festival looks to be another great 11 days!

As well as screening some of the classic movies (The Pit and the Pendulum, A Clockwork Orange, Alien, Nightmare on Elm Street and even Ghostbusters), the festival is also screening the premiere of eagerly-awaited sequel "Rec2". Shot in an abandoned Barcelona building, Rec shot to fame in 2007 as the spoof documentary female reporter Angela follows the city's firefighters on a "normal" night. What follows was a Blair witch style mockumentary that was so good, Hollywood decided to make a carbon copy.

The festival also pays homage to some of the horror world's most esteemed players and creators, with this year being no exception. Clive Barker of Hellraiser fame is honoured, and another Brit, Malcolm McDowell is also honoured. If the name rings a bell, cast your mind back to Stanley Kubrick's banned film around when I was born - clue, I've mentioned the film already. These gentlemen will grace the stages where many other huge stars have been before - Quentin Tarantino, Ralph Fiennes, Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster to name but a few.

The great thing about the Sitges Film Festival in my opinion, is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. So while the festival will be closing with John Hillcoat's The Road starring Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smith-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce - you also have time mid-week to check out "Best Worst Movie", "The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon", "Lesbian Vampire Killers", "Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl"....need I go on?!

Fancy coming to the Festival? Nearby Barcelona will be a great option for accommodation, as Sitges is a little pricey during the Film Festival Week. Try these apartments for rent in Barcelona, for a lsst minute deal. And if you can squeeze in some free time for your stay between screenings, then check out this great Barcelona Guide.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Random Merce Photos 2009

Every year I try and see as much of La Merce as possible, and many times I've never taken a camera (I didn't blog in those days!). So this weekend, although I was fairly busy with work, I tried to get out and about and see some of the things I thought were new this year, and that the kids would like! If you want to see some great Barcelona photos, then check out Carlos Lorenzo's photoblog and in the meantime, here's a few from this weekend!

Barcelona Sights - Giants at La Merce

First ones are the Barcelona Giants. Ceremony dictates that the giants come out and dance in the Plaça Sant Jamue, and the weekend of La Merçe is a great weekend to see this (if you can squeeze through the crowds!).

Gegants in Plaça Sant Jaume - Barcelona Sights Blog

For the rest of the weekend, the giants went back to Las Ramblas number 99, in the Institute of Culture building. This time however, there were some additions to the usual giants, and they were out of the glass cases on display for all to see.

Gegants on display during La Merce - Barcelona Sights Blog

There were some smaller horse models, dragons, lions, and a beast which apparently is the animal which is least known about in the history of the gegants. I thought that would merit a photo!

The little-known Beast in the Gegants parade - Barcelona Sights Blog

And the horses..
Horse models on display in the Institute of Culture on Las Ramblas - BarcelonaSights

Barcelona Port also got in on the act with concerts on the stage near the markets opposite Columbus monument, and there were activities for children, old-style board games and a huge Jenga (which I think nobody knew what it was - I was dying to start the game!).

Fun and Games at Barcelona Port during La Merçe - Barcelona Sights Blog

And probably the coolest thing I saw all weekend was parked outside the Maritime Museum. I think it was called the soundbox and is way cooler than the name suggests. If you look at the image, you can see metal meshing/sheeting underneath the blue frame. Inside the box, there were some speakers, probably a computer and some high-tech sensors. Everybody was just walking past it, but I sensed it must do something, so went for a closer look. The way it worked was if you touched any two of the metal parts (windows?) the box emitted a sound. And the sound was different if you used your whole hand, or just the tips of your fingers, or a combination of both. Sounds a bit daft, right? Well it was bloody cool, and as soon as I worked it out, loads of people came over as well and the box made loads of different funny noises !!

Soundbox outside the Maritime Museum - BarcelonaSights

Did you see anything at this year's Merce? Let me know what you liked in the comments. And if you're coming to Barcelona soon, try these apartments for rent in Barcelona, which are right in the heart of the city.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Barcelona Day Trips: Dali Museum

Here's another Barcelona day trip, and perhaps the most popular for those wishing to make a side trip to somewhere interesting - The Salvador Dali Museum in Figueras. The Wacky Spanish painter has some fantastic works on display here, and even the building itself stands out - labelled the "largest surrealistic object in the world".

The museum is actually one of three dedicated to Dali's works, the other two in nearby Cadaques and Púbol. This museum, an old theatre, houses over 4000 works of sketchings, paintings, jewelery, holograms, and other such artistry many dedicated to his muse and wife, Gala. Dali worked for over a decade transforming the municipal theatre, and it is a magnificent building and fully helps appreciate the genius and surreal nature of the man. Of building the museum here, Dali said;

Where, if not in my own town, should the most extravagant and solid of my work endure, where if not here? The Municipal Theatre, or what remained of it, struck me as very appropriate, and for three reasons: first, because I am an eminently theatrical painter; second, because the theatre stands right opposite the church where I was baptised; and third, because it was precisely in the hall of the vestibule of the theatre where I gave my first exhibition of painting.”

Access to the museum is a little more difficult that some of the other day trips from Barcelona, but the official website offers various options. As this post is catered mainly towards those people who will not have their own mode of transportation, I have excluded the directions of coming by car.

Train: RENFE train line from Barcelona to Portbou. Stop in Figueres. The Dalí Theatre-Museum is 12 minutes walking.
Bus: SARFA regular line, station in Figueres. The Dalí Theatre-Museum is 12 minutes walking.

Fairly easy, right? Have you been to the Dali Museum ? I'd love to hear your comments and reflections. Was it worth making the trip from Barcelona, and how did you do it ? Any preferred means? Please let me know.

If you're looking for accommodation coming to the museum, I can recommend apartments for rent in Barcelona instead of a hotel room. And if there are more than just a couple, then try apartments for groups in Barcelona, too for considerable savings!

Flickr credit for image.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

La Merce 2009 - Barcelona's Festival Week

La Merce 2009 - Barcelona Sights
September is a great month in Barcelona. The Patron Saint (or one of them) Our Lady of Mercy has her feast day on the 24th September, and this is a great excuse to dust down some Catalan traditions and festival celebrations in a week-long party which involves the whole of the city.

According to the city website, this year celebrates 150 years since Ildefons Cerdà's plans for Eixample were approved, so expect some big goings on in Barcelona's biggest neighbourhood. Plaças and streets are filled with stages and open air concerts, and like other years, the festival embraces other cultures and countries, too. From the official site, it states that

"the Mercè likes to travel without leaving home. That is why this year it has invited Istanbul, which will be Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2010, to offer the people of Barcelona a taste of Turkish culture. And not only the most traditional elements, best represented perhaps by the whirling dance of the dervish Akin Çakmut (Maritime Museum), but also by the newest. Among other events, we will see an exhibition of contemporary artists from Barcelona and Istanbul (La Capella), we will hear the Eastern dub of the Baba Zula, a group that combines the purest oriental tradition with electronic sounds, and we will see the shadow theatre of Gengiz Ozek (Maritime Museum), a renovator of the tradition of what is called karagöz."

Expect the other fireworks displays, fire-runs (said to be under threat due to new EU regulations on the handling of fireworks for minors), dances and castellers, there's a circus up on Montjüic from the 24th to 27th, the Party in the Sky, as well as plenty of live events at the Greek Theatre, and music events all around the city centre. It's impossible to detail all of the events and highlights, especially as there may be some things I would prefer than other readers (like the Hives playing at the old Damm factory, or the magicians for my kids at the circus!) so you can read a full programme here. Unfortunately, like other years, the programme is only in Catalan - and I would pretty much bet that it stays that way. This is a very "local" festival, and whilst everyone is welcome to the celebrations, it's not greatly advertised around and translated into other languages, as other events are. Things kick off this weekend with the Marathon around the city centre, with many streets cut off temporarily during the morning and lunch hour, so if you're thinking of coming in the car, don't!

Coming to Barcelona for La Merçe? Leave a comment and tell us whet you'll be looking forward to seeing! I'd love to hear from you. And if you're still stuck for a place to stay, try these apartments for rent in Barcelona.

Palau Robert - The Art of Trickery

Pan's Labyrinth in Palau Robert - Barcelona Sights
This coming week is your last chance to see the cool exhibition at Palau Robert in central Barcelona called "El Arte del Engaño" - another cool thing to do in Barcelona for free.

Palau Robert is a nice little place just on the corner of Diagonal and Passeig de Gracia, with a great little garden at the back, somewhere often overlooked. The Palace often has free exhibitions and galleries so it's always worth a look if you're passing by.

Special Effects at Palau Robert - Barcelona Sights

This exhibition is all about special effects in the film industry, and celebrates the 2007 Oscar for the special effects in Guillermo del Toro's wacky Pan's Labyrinth. It also features a bit of history about the beginnings of special effects and how slow motion animation began with things like King Kong models, the classic Japanese-style fighting dinosaurs, bringing you right up to date with Terminator 2, HellBoy and many other odds and ends (like chucky from Child's play!). It's a fairly short exhibition, but as it's free to get in, it's well worth a look.

El Arte del Engaño - Barcelona Sights

I apologies for the poor quality of the photos here, but they were taken on my phone very quickly, as I don't really think you were allowed to take photos!!

Barcelona sights Blog - T2 Head in Barcelona Palau Robert

Barcelona Sights - Palau Robert Exhibition Space

The Art of Trickery - Barcelona Sights

Get yourselves down to Palau Robert before the 27th September, as the exposition ends. Coming to Barcelona soon? Try apartments for rent in Barcelona and for a short but thorough Guide to Barcelona, click the link.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Great Bars with Terraces - Part 3

Never one to let the arrival of September influence my decision on sitting out on a terrace for a drink, I will keep going with a few more recommendations for great terraces in the city for having a coffee of a drink as and when I can remember!

Miramar Bar View - Barcelona Sights

Today's post is a great little place to combine with the cable car which leaves Barceloneta. If you've been down by the beach area, then head on down to the cable car tower close to the beach. Take the cable car ride over the sea and cruise ships to Miramar which is the opposite side, and perched on the edge of Montjüic. apart from a great cable car ride over there, you can walk up the steps and have a sit down at the adjoining cafe/bar which offers some of the best views of the port and the nearby old town.

Barcelona Sights - View from Miramar cafe

Coming to Barcelona soon? Try these Barcelona apartments for families - you can save some money having your own kitchen and living areas. Also try the Barcelona Tourist bus - much easier for families travelling.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Barcelona Day Trips: Cava Tours

Not that there are infinite ways to entertain yourself in Barcelona, but some people who visit the city like to combine a side-trip with the city visits, so I thought about writing a series of posts this month about the most popular day trips from Barcelona. We'll start with the Cava Tours - there are half a dozen, but I'll choose an easily accessible one, bearing in mind that everyone may not be travelling in the luxury of their own vehicle.

Cava Vineyards of the Penedes - Barcelona Sights

One of the first things to note is that the Penedes region which produces most of Catalan Cava is a beautiful area, and at around 45-50 minutes from Barcelona city centre, is a wonderful day trip for those people who like to get into the hills and nature. Without a doubt this trip is easier in your own car (or perhaps an organised coach trip, of you don't have a "designated driver" and all want to do a bit of tasting.

Otherwise, you can use public transport. Trains leaving the city centre head for Sant Sadurndi d'Anoia which is the little town right around the main vineyards. Directly outside the RENFE train station for Sant Sadurni is the Freixenet Cava Winery, and it's also one of the prettiest from the outside, too.

If you do have a car, then you can continue from Freixenet (the first one as you turn off the main motorway) and head towards the tiny village of Sant Pere de Ruitdebitlles (try saying that after a few glasses of cava) - easy as it's the only road, so just follow your nose. Here you'll pass more of the same, with Codorniu, Seguras Vuidas, etc. Seguras Viudas is the one pictured below, and is a magnificent place with immaculately kept hedges along the entrance. It's worth clicking on the picture below to see Montserrat in the background (another popular day trip).

Seguras Viudas - Barcelona Sights

All of the cava tours are generally free, and they just have a convenient stop in the shop at the end of a tour (which by then you fancy buying a couple of bottles anyway). Also, many of the vineyards have picnic facilities which (upon the purchase of a bottle or two) you can use as a lunch stop, too. If you fancy getting in touch with nature and away from the busy city, I can well reccomend the trip.

Looking for accommodation for your trip? Try Apartments for rent in Barcelona for considerable savings on hotels. Also, for a heads up on the rest of the sights to see in the city, see this Barcelona Guide.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Wheelchair Users in Barcelona

After being in contact with 2 wheelchair users these last two weeks, I found some interesting reflections from our conversations, and felt it merited a mention on the blog. I'm also (as always) open to comments and contributions from other wheelchair users who may have visited the city and have anything to add.

Barcelona Sights - International Wheelchair SymbolThe general takeaway from both users was that Barcelona is a fairly easy city to visit and the wheelchair users didn't miss out on the majority of sights the city has to offer. Anyone who's been here knows that Barcelona is slightly on a gradient - flanked by Montjüic mountain to the left, Tibidabo at the back, and the Mediterranean sea at the bottom. It's a haven for skateboarders (although perhaps more due to the Police tolerance in comparison to countries such as the USA!) and the many bike lanes and success of the city's Bicing venture, means that getting around on two wheels is not that much of a headache.

Public transport is a huge influence on any persons visit to a new destination, especially a city - none more so than those with a wheelchair. Well, both my contacts were staying very central and were extremely happy to see the newly installed lifts on the metro at Liceu on Las Ramblas, as well as the Purple Line (Line 2) being the only line at the moment with lifts from street level to the platforms. On the occasions where there was not a lift, the accompanying people were able to help up escalators or steps - although they mentioned that staff also seemed keen to help on one occasion. One group also used the buses in town, and although they had to wait for the next bus, when it arrived it had lowered suspension and was perfect for the wheelchair user to board.

Wheelchair Access Funicular Montjüic - Barcelona Sights

Obviously, some of the bigger attractions were a gamble in not knowing if things would work, but as one family were travelling with children, they wanted to make the most of the trip, so opted for the Cable Cars up on Montjüic. The good news is that the Funicular at Parallel metro station is perfectly adaptable for those in a wheelchair. I would have guessed as much, as I have used the Funicular with a pushchair on various occasions. However, one point worth mentioning is that in order to be at the front with little or no steps when you arrive to the top, you need to ensure you board the very end carriage down in Parallel - this way you save steps when the funicular train arrives at the top. In the image above, you would go right to the end where the publicity board is - meaning at the top you'd have maybe one step to the lift.

View from Miramar Cable Car towards Barceloneta - Barcelona Sights Another bonus was that the Montjüic Cable Car was also wheelchair accessible, and I'm such a big fan of the cable car, so I was very pleased. I had suspected as much, after seeing how you can have a picnic in the sky there - if they can get a table in there, a wheelchair should be no problem, right?!

Steps to Miramar Cable car - Barcelona sightsA shame that the same couldn't be said for the Cable Car at Miramar which goes over the water and cruise ships towards Barceloneta beach. Whilst there is a lift at the Barceloneta end, meaning it's possible to get up and down from street level to the elevated platform at the destination at Miramar, there is no lift and a fairly steep starcase back up to street level.

Barcelona's beaches are easily accessible for those in a wheelchair, with ramps along the Olympic Village beaches and the wooden boardwalks (there is one just near the spider's web climbing frame which reaches right down to the shore) and Barceloneta again having a very slight gradient down to the beach area - both very pleasing, especially given the heat the past couple of weeks!

Barceloneta Beach - Barcelona sights

One of the groups wanted to visit the Camp Nou for a football game and despite furious googling and contact through various re-selling websites, no-one was able to find wheelchair accessible tickets for the first game of the season again Sporting last Monday. Two of our ventured trekkers made their way up to the stadium and were told that there WERE tickets available for wheelchair access, but decided against going to the match due to the lateness of the game and the possible nightmare of getting home afterwards. This to me was a shame, as it's a great stadium to visit, and had tickets been booked in advance, a more strategic plan could have been organised with perhaps a taxi pick up after the game to avoid the crowds, etc. I think there should be easier information available on the website (there was a telephone number, but only Spanish-speaking operators).

Park Güell Plaça  - Barcelona SightsThe only possible gripe, and I've saved this till last purely because it didn't take a shine off either holiday was Park Güell. On my recommendation, one group took a taxi up to Park Güell, and whilst they were (at a push - no pun intended) able to visit the walkways and paths in and around the entrance to the park, there was no direct way to access the main plaça with the tiled benches. I was fairly surprised at this and backtracked in my head the various routes you could access the plaça from but also came up with a blank.

Overall, though, both groups had a fantastic time, and I thank them for the input in helping me write this post!

Looking for accommodation this Autumn? Try apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative to a hotel.
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