Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stuck for a Tuesday Night? Muse over Milan.

Tonight sees a very important gamer in the Eufa Champions League with FC Barcelona facing Inter Milan in the Camp Nou. There are various reasons why the press are lapping up this tie - the return of "el traductor" Jose Mourinho to Barcelona, who was Bobby Robson's assistant during his time here. Mourinho of course has been back before with Chelsea, and was jeered by the fans as a simple "translator" to Bobby Robson - all this at the height of his "special one" comments.

Barca Celebrating - Barcelona sights Blog

It's also a return to the Camp Nou for Samuel Eto'o - a former Barcelona star. He has said this week in the press he will "never celebrate a goal in Camp Nou" -respect for the African who when he first came to Spain claimed he would "earn like a white man to run like a black man". Add to this a bout of swine flu, a couple of your typical injury problems and the fact that nothing short of a win will do for the current holders Barcelona, and it's shaping up to be a very tasty tie.

Inter sit top of group F, and look certain to progress, whereas Barcelona have won only one game so far in qualifying and if results elsewhere go against them, they could be the first ever team who are the current champions not to progress from the group stages.

On the opposite side of the city, English rockers Muse play the Palau Sant Jordi - on a date which they had to move. Muse were due to play this weekend on Friday the 27th, and were forced into a date change due to the Spanish National Tennis team training for the Final of the Davis Cup this weekend - also to be hosted in the Palau Sant Jordi. Muse have a fairly serious Spanish following - Palau Sant Jordi is the biggest music venue for Live Groups and is expected to be full. You can bet, though, that those with smart phones will have one eye on the concert and one eye on the game!

Are you going to either event this evening? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. And if you're coming to Barcelona this coming winter, check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona, as a great money saver. For a heads up on the rest of the city, see this great Barcelona Guide.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Skipping the Road Works Just Got Easier

I don't think there's much of a cultural difference in Barcelona or anywhere else in the world for that matter when it comes to road works. August is usually the big month for road works playing havoc with the city's traffic, as most of the residents are not in the city, leaving the tourists to go blue in the face/be towed away/fined (delete as appropriate). Sometimes no amount of google-mapping, Sat-Naving (is that a word?) or good old fashioned AA fold away maps can prepare you for the chaos that is August driving. Add to that fact that the majority of the "road workers" seem to be strangely absent/eating bocadillos/smoking fags while propping up a rake (delete as appropriate).

Barcelona Roadworks site - funnily enough, under construction - BarcelonaSights

Well, it seems that not only August is the month for road works and diversions. There are apparently over 380 individual jobs taking place on a street near you, and if you haven't been woken at some ungodly hour, then you're sure to run straight into a road block soon. So, those kind and conscientious people at the council office have decided to give you a hand. Cue Barcelona Road Works Website (No that's obviously not what it's really called, but I'm linking to it that way). Due to go live today (so don't blame me if the link isn't working), the site plans to detail all the sites with details of how long the job is supposed to last (so multiply that by, say, 3) and other routes to avoid the particular areas. Let's hope it saves us drivers some time, as those yellow notices obscured by trees on the side of pavements really aren't' doing it for me. Any thoughts? Feel free to comment below.

Coming to Barcelona soon? Why not rent a Barcelona Apartment as a great money-saver? And for a quick look at the sights, see this Barcelona Guide.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How Much is Barcelona Worth?

This week, a report published by the Plan Estrategico del Turismo has been widely publicised in the press. Sections of the press were given access to huge amounts of documentation relating to the government's "strategic plan of tourism" which starts in 2010 and aims to be set in stone by 2015. Some fascinating statistics have come out of the report - which is obviously relying on last year's data, but nevertheless gives some jaw-dropping details.

Tourists in Barcelona, leave a staggering 20 million Euros per day in the city, creating with that an estimated 80-100,000 jobs with it. 18,4 million tourists visit the city each year, although this figure also includes those on day-trips, excursions and the like - not necessarily those sleeping in the city (that figure drops to almost 11 million).

The report and its findings were due to be presented today in the commission of economical promotion, with a view to cement the ideas and decisions which need making ahead of next year's deadline.

tourists on las ramblas - BarcelonaSights

Despite the study's findings being encouraging on the face of things, the report also draws attention to a possible self-destruct button on the city's tourism sector, claiming a "risk of dying from its own success". There is a fair bit of detail about the overcrowding of certain tourist hot spots such as Park Güell, Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas and indeed Cuitat Vella as a whole. Poor behaviour of tourists in these areas, prostitution, the petty crime which the tourists attract and locals having to share their already-confined space with huge amounts of tourists have been high on any list of complaints for a number of years now, and perhaps reached a peak in summer when El Pais published photos of tourists "employing the services" of prostitutes on the side alleys of La Boqueria. A swift and heavy police presence soon rid the papers of any more photos, but the problem was simply swept to other areas, and is not the solution to a greater problem - one which the plan aims to tackle.

So how much is Barcelona worth? Well, despite TripAdvisor labelling Barcelona the pickpocket capital of the world, there are many other plaudits the city can be proud of. This Study labels Barcelona as the 5th best city in the world. This highly respected survey saw Barcelona leapfrog Brussels to be 4th most important Business capital in Europe, and the same report hailed Barcelona as number 1 destination with regards quality of life over all other European cities.

Now, I know we're in a crisis, but 20 million Euros per day is a heck of a lot of money, if you ask me. So what's 365 multiplied by 20 million ?....back in a minute, just going to get a calculator.

What do you think of the findings and situation? I'd love to hear your comments.

Thinking of visiting the 5th best city in the world soon? Check out these great apartments for rent in Barcelona which can offer some great savings over a hotel.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Christmas Lights - Pasta on the Streets

Galets Illuminated for Christmas 2009 - Barcelona Sights This month sees the start of the Christmas campaign around the city, with the city lights due to be turned on on the 28th November. With retail world-wide expecting a decent Christmas, it's important to draw in the crowds with a decent illumination display this year - something that many complained about last year.

High on the Barcelona residents' naughty list, was the lack of lights on major avenues such as Paseig de Gracia and Diagonal, and the incredible price of 214,000 Euros for 4 solar/bicing-powered "Christmas Trees" that looked straight out of a "todo a cien" shop.

Well, it looks like the mayor's office has sat up and taken notice. So as well as the aforementioned Passeig de Gracia/Diagonal commerce splashing out on 90,000 Euros to line the streets with close to 300 lamps, we'll have some festive inventions dotted around the city, too! The above image is one of those inventions and, yes, it is a huge piece of pasta, not a sea shell.

Paseig de Gracia Christmas Lights - Image from La Vanguardia

Catalan Traditional Christmas lunch is a thoroughly delicious broth-type soup called Escudella de Galets - the Galets being the pasta. It's a great soup with a load of ingredients (although I must admit will never convert me from my traditional Turkey Roast and Stuffing!). I think they look really cool, and can't wait to get out and see the creations. Apparently there are other such sculptures such as turkeys, chickens, bottles of cava and roscones (traditional biscuits) which will be distributed around the city, and hopefully get everyone in the mood to spend their Christmas cash. And according to this article citing a survey from Deliotte, the average family will be spending around 735 Euros on the festivities this year, which although is a 19% decrease in last year, I think sounds a lot?! Or am I totally out of touch?! Feel free to leave comments and let me know!

Thinking of coming to Barcelona this festive season? Try these apartments for rent in Barcelona, for an alternative to a hotel. And for a quick look at the best sights, see this Barcelona Guide.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Belly Laughs in Barcelona

Barcelona Sights Blog - Barcelona International Comedy Festival
November is a bit of a boring month in Barcelona - after the celebrations of Halloween and la Castanyada comes cold weather, coughs and colds, and although the Christmas lights have started to appear in the streets, it seems ages before another excuse for a party comes along. Not to worry, though, help is at hand from the Barcelona International Comedy Festival.

I've mentioned before that there's a great English Comedy scene in Barcelona, and this second year of the International comedy festival kicks off on the 22nd November, and lasts all week! The festival kicks off in Maremagnum with mainly Spanish artists, clowns and monologues, before moving to various locations around the city for the evening gigs.

Adam & Jason Show - Barcelona Sights BlogHighly anticipated acts include sell-out "Made in Barcelona" comics "Que Four Comics Juan Vision" who are returning home after 15 back to back performances at the Edinburgh Festival. And top of the bill is the "Adam and Jason Show" - featuring Irishman Jason Byrne and Aussie Adam Hills. Byrne comes with the comfortable tag of being officially the biggest selling comic in the history of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and both he and Hills have been given free reigns on the night, so expectations are high - and rightly so.

Logan Murray is also giving a Stand Up comedy Workshop in Gracia, which has limited places, as well as a co-incidental Spanish monologue comedy on the weekend of the Barcelona vs Real Madrid game - all about both teams! Toni Moog, Toni Cano and Jorge Segura are performing "Barça vs Madrid; Derby de Comedia". Given the rivalry between the two teams never mind the cities, I'm sure there'll be plenty to chuckle about.

I think it's fantastic that there's an International Comedy Scene in Barcelona (there are also Dutch and Swedish performers amongst the other acts), and invite you to embrace the idea, too. Ticket prices are cheaper in advance than on the door and cost from 8 euros to around 20, which is a bargain considering the potential quality on offer. If you're planning on going, leave a comment, and let us know what you're looking forward to, of if you read this after you've been, give us your critique, and look forward to December - loooads of public holidays!! Woo-Hoo!

Coming to Barcelona this winter? There are some great last minute deals for Barcelona apartments to be had. And for a head start on what to visit while you're here, check out this Barcelona Guide.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Snow This Weekend in Barcelona - No Kidding

I've been here for ten years, and it's snowed about three times that I can remember. Last time was in about 2006 (?) and it reached the old town, too (usually just saved for Tibidabo). It never lays, I guess the salt in the sea air must play its part, and partly because it's never actually THAT cold. Obviously it's cold enough to snow, but only just.

Barcelona Sights - Barcelona Snow show

So this weekend there's going to be some snow. Only it's artificial. and up on Montjüic this time. Yes, the Barcelona snow Show starts tomorrow! The web boasts some of the most advanced technology for making artificial snow, and will showcase freestyle skiers, snowboarders jumping around on Europe's largest man-made ramp - a whopping 35 metres. And it's not all just for fun - the points gained in the freestyle competition will count towards the International Ski Federation's World Cup, too.

The event has a "village" down on the pitch around the ramp, which will have shops, merchandise and other free stuff to give away, too. Things kick off at midday and go on until 10pm, with various qualifying rounds before two finals. Sunday also has more activities planned for all in attendance and the village remains open. At 15 Euros for the Saturday or 18 for Saturday and Sunday, it looks like it'll be a good turnout. Let's hope the recent windy conditions don't affect the plans (no refund if the event is cancelled due to the weather!). Are you going to the show? Let me know in the comments, if you read this afterwards, tell us how it went!

Coming to Barcelona this winter? Check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative to a hotel room.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Barcelona Day Trips: Sitges and Casteldefels

One question I often get asked is about the best beaches around Barcelona. For me, and for a city beach, both Barceloneta and the Olympic Village beaches are absolutely fine - but then again, I'm lazy and want everything on my doorstep! For those looking for an out-of-town beach, maybe a little quieter, then there are many choices - up towards the Costa Brava there are nudist beaches such as Sant Pol (they have a non-nudist section, too) which involves jumping the train lines to access. Little coves like Begur are wonderful sleepy fisherman's towns which are great places too, but as I've mentioned before in this series, I'm mainly writing these posts for people visiting the city with no transport of their own, and places easily accessible via public transport.

Barcelona Sights - Sitges Beach

So for me, two of the best beaches you can access easily from Barcelona are Sitges and Casteldefels. The best way to get to either beach is to take the train from the main train station, Sants. The trains going in the direction of the airport usually always stop at Casteldefels and Sitges.

Sitges is a really nice little town, and is famous for it's gay community which light up the streets during Carnaval in February. It also has a great Cinema festival which leans towards horror movies, and is a beautiful little resort. Housing here is very expensive and many footballers and "famous" people live or have lived in and around Sitges. The beach itself is actually quite small, and it's almost like a cove - the church at the top of the town, overlooking the arched beach below. The beach itself is actually quite shallow - i.e. there's not a huge amount of room before you get to the waves, so sometimes it can get a little fight-for-your-towel-space, but it's immaculately kept with grass verges along the boardwalk, and some great little seafood restaurants, too. Sitges for me, also seems to have it's own macro climate, and many a time I've visited with friends and as we've left Barcelona it's been cloudy, and we plan to just have a look around the cobbled streets of the town, but on arrival it's clear skies and glorious sunshine!

Casteldefels actually has two train stops, and depending on how busy you want the beach to be, then you can choose. The stop marked Casteldefels actually drops you in the centre of town. From here, you can walk under the bridge around 10 minutes to the bottom and reach the sea (head towards the petrol station). This beach is huge in comparison to Sitges, with loads of room to lay down or play beach sports. There's only 1 bar, though, so if you plan on having lunch there, or want a little more variety, then maybe the next stop is for you. Casteldefels Platja (beach in Catalan) is the next stop along, and is a lot busier in terms of shops and bars, restaurants, etc. Although you're only around 15 minutes outside Barcelona, it can seem like another kind of holiday altogether, and a real escape from the city.

Coming to Barcelona soon? Check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona and for a quick look at the top sights, see this Barcelona guide.

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