Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year Traditions in Barcelona

It's almost time for 2009 to come to a close. I personally can't believe we're almost in 2010 - although it's been a tough year for everyone in Spain (and probably the world over), it still seems to have gone quickly, I don't know about you? And one thing that has had me wondering (very silly) stems from when I used to be a teacher. My students always used to be perplexed with how we English say the date - especially in years. For example, 1982 is read "nineteen eighty-two" and not "one thousand nine hundered and eighty two" which is how the Spanish/Catalan say it. I remember many students couldn't get their head around this and asked me what would you say in the year 2010; "two thousand and ten" or "twenty ten". I've heard both on news reports on the TV, for example, and personally I think I'm leaning towards "two thousand and ten" probably because I've been saying it that way for the last 9 years, and "twenty ten" sounds a bit funny. Anyway, silly aside there. Apologies.

Barcelona Sights Blog - 2010
So, one of the great things about the welcoming of the new year are the funny traditions. The Catalans have some great traditions regarding the replenishing of the earth after a year of farming, for example, and although the poo theme for me can go a bit too far, it's all good fun. So, being a sucker for everything festive, I'm always keen to hear about different traditions when it comes to Christmas and New Year.

Here in Spain, there's a tradition that many people know about which is to eat twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve - precisely in time with the twelve gongs of midnight. Grapes are festive fruits, and used in wine making and champagne, cava, etc. so it's an understandable fruit to use. It's supposed to signify that you will have a prosperous year to come, and is a tradition going as far back as 1895, although there is some confusion as to where the tradition was started, according to the wikipedia article - Alicante, Catalonia or Madrid.
New Year Grapes  - Barcelona Sights Blog
However, it's interesting to read that the whole idea came about as a bit of a jokey protest. Apparently in 1882 the mayor of Madrid, Jose Abascal y Carredano, decided to charge 5 pesetas (known as "un duro" - never knew why, I was here when the peseta was still the currency) to those people who wanted to go out and meet the 3 Kings on the eve of the Epiphany. This led to a group of locals to then make theor way on New Year's eve to the Puerta del Sol, and mock the bourgoise custom of celebrating with champagne and wine, by eating the grapes with each peal of the bell. Nowadays, this is the location for the televised coverage of new year.

If you've never tried it before, it's actually pretty damn tough to do - a lot harder than it sounds, especially if you start being picky and taking pips out of your mouth. Fortuntaely, there are many ready-made solutions in many supermarkets in the form of little tins of peeled, seedless/seeded grapes - just don't cut yourself on the can as you open it! I'd love to hear some of your own traditions of New Year in the comments, guys. I know that in Argentina for example, they do a similar thing but with raisins, not grapes, and in Peru there's a tradition of running around your block with an empty suitcase so that you'll travel in the coming year. My wife and I exchange wedding rings and drop that into the first glass of cava to toast in the new year. Not sure where that one came from, but we always do it. Any others to add? Let me know! I love this kind of thing!! I'd also like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Very Happy New Year - thanks for reading, and for voting me the bestblogger in Europe for 2009 through the bloggersguide. I hope you all have a happy and successful TWENTY TEN....sorry TWO THOUSAND AND TEN.

If you're coming to Barcelona in the new year, then don't go for a hotel - try apartments for rent in Barcelona instead. And for a quick look at the un-missable attractions, then see this great Barcelona Guide.

2010 image by freeimageslive.co.uk - christmashat

Monday, December 28, 2009

English Masses in Barcelona

So the festive season is well and truly in swing! Although strictly the Catalans don't celebrate Christmas as much as the Epiphany, it's still a public holiday, and many tourists descend on the "Cuidad Condal" for their Christmas break. One thing important to many is to celebrtate a Christmas mass whilst they are here in the city, and I've been asked this question before and never known how to answer. I had originally planned to get this post out before Christmas (would have been handy, I know), but didn't get the chance.

Barcelona Sights blog - Church Candle

I apologise if the heading of this post was misleading anyone into thinking this would be about a huge invasion of English tourists arriving to Barcelona! It is in fact a short list of places to find an English Mass in Barcelona. I thought that the city's main Cathedral offered an English mass (especially at this festive time) but have drawn a blank so far with details, so if anyone has more information about that, please let me know in the comments.

There is a website dedicated to Catholic Mass in Barcelona here which explains the location of the church - Avinguda Esplugues 103, 08034 Barcelona.

Coming to Barcelona in the New Year? Check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great money saver. Also for a heads up on the rest of the city's attractions, see this great barcelona guide.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What's the Best Way to Paint Your Shop Front?

Shark Graffiti - Barcelona Sights blog Around this time last year, I found out about a new initiative from the council to clean up the store front shutters of the old town by offering a clean up and maintenance sevice through authorised companies/partners. At the time, I remember thinking that it looked to be a money spinner for the companies involved but also agreed that it was a good initiative by the council to "clean up" some of the streets.

Well, it appears that since the invitiation to the 32,000 vendors in the old town has gone out, the council has increased the help offering now a 50% payment towards the initial cost and another 50% for the maintenance, instead of the 25% originally offered. This works out at 36 Euros per square metre, or a minimum of 200 Euros with a cost of 250 Euros per year for maintenance. So that's 450 Euros for the first two years only. And you have a choice of different shades of grey by all accounts.

Graffiti Art on Shutters - Barcelona Sights blog Now, it's just a thought, but given some of the fantastic graffiti in and around the old town, which I've blogged about a few times before, which do you think makes a potential customer remember your shop more? A drab grey shutter, or a fantastic, modern artwork that makes your shop stick out from the rest? I know what I'd do - for 450 Euros, I'd get those geniuses at axecolours to pass by my shop and give me a few ideas!! There's already an unsaid rule between artists who graffiti not to ruin another artists work with scrawls or tags, and not to paint over (the Michael Jackson one in the link above is still there and has not been touched in 6 months). It's a clever piece of marketing if you ask me, and I know I always remember those shutters and shops with the graffiti when walking around the old town on a Sunday, for example. The one in today's photos is for a scuba diving shop close to me, and to be perfectly honest, I can't even remember what the shutters were like before the current graffiti was added and I walk past it about 3 or 4 times a day - so it just goes to show the impact it can have. What do you think? I'd be interested to hear in the comments if this kind of thing is a positive change or if people would prefer uniformity around the streets? Let me know.

Coming to Barcelona this winter? Check out some late deals on Barcelona apartments here. And for more details on the city itself, see this Barcelona Guide.

Friday, December 18, 2009

FC Barcelona Face Stuttgart in Champions League

Noon today saw the Champions League draw for the last 16. Obviously not quite as nerve racking than the recent World Cup draw in Cape Town, but nevertheless an important date in the football calendar taking place in a city which has nothing to do with football, really (sorry Zurich fans there!). There are some tasty ties, with David Beckham probably rubbing his hands together in glee as he'll be returning to Old Trafford with AC Milan in March, and Jose "el traductor" Mourinho returning to Chelsea with Inter Milan - who current boss Carlo Ancelotti used to manage. I doubt whether either manager will be sending Christmas cards this year, given recent comments shared between the two.

Barcelona Sights blog - Champions League Trophy

FC Barcelona have drawn FC Stuttgart of Germany. First tie is to be away in Germany, and then March will see another set of German supporters descend on the Catalan Capital much like last year. Watching the draw live on TV3 today, the commentators seemed to be very happy with the draw, and commented on Txixi Begiristain's "poker face" as he looked a little concerned/disappointed with the team drawn. Well, although I do fear for Stuttgart against the current champions of europe, I don't think it'll be a walk over. Stuttgart have recently changed managers, and will prove a tough test in my opinion. We'll see.

In the meantime, Barça have the small matter of the World Club Cup final to attend to in Abu Dhabi tomorrow. Barça will play Estudiantes of Argentina and will want to add to their great season of cups and trophies so far. Good Luck Barça!

What do you think about the draw? Let me know if the comments! And if you fancy making the trip over in March, then check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona and for a great idea of what to visit while you're here, see this Barcelona Guide.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Market in Barcelona

OK, so maybe I'm leaving it late to blog about the Christmas fair in Barcelona as it's already been going since just after advent started (28th November) but I'm just starting to feel Christmasy and wanted to do a bit of research instead of the usual comment with a terrible photo from my phone!

Santa Llúcia Christmas Fair in 1945 - Photo Credit Official Website/Artesania Bertran

Tha Catalans certainly have some strange Christmas Traditions. From the Cagatio to the Caganers, it's great fun at Christmas - and even more fun for the kids. There are also the typical things associated with Christmas such as trees, decorations, Nativity Scenes and lights and if there's anything you might be missing for your home, then like many cities around the world this month, Barcelona has it's Christmas fair. The Fair is right in front of the Cathedral, in the heart of the gothic quarter.

The fair is called the "Fira de Santa Llúcia" and is the oldest themed fair in the world, dating as far back as 1786!! So this year marks the 223rd edition of the fair and is a must-see for anyone visiting the city this winter. Expect to see the usual christmas plants such as poinsettias and misteltoe, Christmas Trees of different sizes, and wreaths galore. The fair also has musical stalls with traditional instruments, jewellery, hand made goods, etc. but perhaps the most interesting artefacts are those ornaments for the Nativity scene.

The official website (link above) has some great little tidbits of history, such as the wave of yellow fever sweeping through the city in 1860 not halting the fair, and that the fair was known as a "girls" fair, where young girls would go along to the fair in their best dresses accompanied by their mothers looking for suiters!

The fair has over 270 stands and is well worth a trip down to see it. Make sure you get some chocolate and churros for the browse around, and choose your favourite caganer!! FC Barcelona striker Pedro might be a surprise addition if they don't already have one, with him scoring last night he's become the first player in history to score in all football competitions in one season. Congrats Pedro!

Have you been to the Christmas market yet? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and what you think of the funny traditions over here! And if you're coming to Barcelona this month, be sure to check out apartments for rent in Barcelona for any last minute deals.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Barcelona Urban Playground

This month has seen the opening of the new Barcelona Urban Forest which is a kind of adults playground on what appears to be a building site. Part of an initiative of the council, the urban forest bills itself as the first adventure park within the city centre - obviously regarding Tibidabo's amusement park as "outside" the city centre!

BarcelonaSight Blog - Urban Forest. Image from official site

The Urban park looks to be a kind of climbing, abseiling, hanging from concrete type experience, and from the images on the website, looks like good fun. There are three different circuits; Orange, Blue and Red. Orange is for kids from 4 to 10 years old, or people below 130cm in height, and consists of 14 platforms joined together in different ways, at a height of 150cm. The Blue circuit is 4 metres high and is designed for over 8 year olds, families, and adults. Finally the red circuit is the most difficult, aimed at adults, and looks like a good old fashioned Krypton Factor-style assault course, complete with skateboards fixed to ropes and heights of up to 30 metres.

Prices range from individual and group prices, but are around the 20 Euros region (you can buy combination tickets, too). The Urban park is located close to the beach in the Forum Park complex, and is served well enough by public transport, too. I think it would be a great thing to do with a group of friends, and I'm sure it'll catch on quickly. Let me know if you've been yet, and if it's any good?!

Coming to Barcelona soon? Try apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative to a hotel and for a decent look at the city's sights, check out this Barcelona guide.

Monday, December 7, 2009

More Virtual Barcelona - Google & UNESCO

There seems to be an emerging trend on the internet of creating virtual ways of visiting places you've never been before, and Barcelona is also getting it's fair share. It's even got a video game to boot.

I've blooged before about these kind of things, and now it seems that Google has joind in on the party.

Google Earth UNESCO Sites - BarcelonaSights Blog

Released this week is an extension to the already fantastic Google Earth (if only for playing with and wasting time on) showing the UNESCO Heritage sites around the world. Barcelona is the proud owner of 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the new tool for Google Earth highlights the different sites, making it easier for you to find them. Unfortunately the feature doesn't let you stroll around like the promo video has (or at least not at the moment) for the places on the list, but it's still a pretty cool feature anyway. You can download the UNESCO extension here.

If you're planning on visiting Barcelona soon, I can reccommend you check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona, instead of plugging for the usual hotel room, too.
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