Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Spanish Christmas Lottery

One of the many thnings I love about spending Christmas in Spain is the Christmas Lottery draw also known as "El Gordo" - or "The Fat One". And for pure entertainment value. The very first year I came to Barcelona, I remember turning on the TV in the morning and almost every single channel (no TDT, guys) was broadcasting the draw. And I had absolutely NO IDEA what was going on. I was absolutely baffled.

Spanish Lottery Ticket - Barcelona Sights blog

I was 16 when the National lottery first started in the UK, so obviously went along and bought my ticket. Simple process, you fill in one of those sheets with the 6 numbers you'd like to choose and then get your ticket. So you choose all 6 numbers. And it's highly unlikely that there are more than, say, another person who has chosen those same numbers as you. So the expectations and dreams you might have of becoming a multi-millionare (and probably not having to share it with anyone) made part of the, part of the draw.

Now, I still don't think I fully understand how the bloody hell the Spanish Christmas lottery works, but it most certainly grips the nation like nothing I've ever seen before. Tickets go on sale in JULY, and there used to be a pretty famous bald bloke who would adorn your bus shelters around the cities with catchphrases such as "Could it fall here this year?" and the like. Wacky stuff in the heat of summer, seeing snow, Christmas trees and that bloke blowing angel dust towards you.

Tickets are known as "decimos" or "tens" as there are at least ten of each number and cost a whopping 20 Euros each. There are seemingly hundreds of prizes ranging from the refund of your ticket (usually goes straight back into the New Year Draw known as "El Niño"), and then varying amounts up to the big one of 3 million Euros. No, that wasn't a typo. The "fat one" is only 3 million Euros. OK, OK, I know "only" is perhaps the wrong word, but I mean none of your 110 Million EuroMillion malarkeys. Given the sheer amount of prizes, there's a 15% chance of winning some kind of prize, so maybe the "great" odds are what so many people play.

Part of the reason I (now I understand it) love the day, is the whole performance. Big old Bingo cages are rolled out and loads of little wooden balls are tipped into them, so no complaints about technology here. Starting from early morning, two balls are dropped out at a time with one being the ticket number and the other being the prize. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, the funny bit is that kids from (I'm guessing a posh school called Sant Ildefons) SING the numbers out. Loudly. For about 4 hours.

Obviously, Spain now has the Euro as their national currency, but it used to be the Peseta - so numbers were huge (although not as huge as the Lira, to be fair, which was just silly). So 1 million pesetas was only 6000 Euros. Given that the Spanish lottery ticket number is a 5 digit number, the whole singing thing is an absolute tounge-twister for a recently-arrived foreigner (see first paragraph)!!

I could write a whole other post about improving your chances of winning by buying your ticket from the Catalan Town of "Sort" - where a huge majority of the tickets are printed. They have their own witch (Sort means "luck" in Catalan) too, and people flock from literally miles and miles around to buy directly from Sort. And you can still "choose your numbers" - apparently favourites this year have been the date that Spain won the World Cup, or the minute that Iniesta scored, etc. So if you're in front of a TV (or Radio, for that matter) then be sure to tune in on Wednesday 22nd December.

Coming to Barcelona this winter? Check out these Barcelona apartments for rent and if you need a quick look at what not to miss, then see this Barcelona Guide.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Any Excuse for the Party to Go On...

I don't know about you, but it's been a while since I went "out" on New Years Eve. I've always spent it with the most important people close to me, but we have usually opted for a house party, or dinner at a friends or invite people round. Previous years of so much planning for one night which always seems to be the biggest disappointment of them all seem to have taken their toll, and whilst I've had some cracking New Years over the ten years I've been here, they hardly rank as the best nights I've had as you might expect.

Matinee Winter Festival 2011 - Barcelona Sights Blog

So who else is more in the know to exploit that new-year-blues feeling than the kings and queens of Barcelona night life, Matinee group? Instead of organising a massive New Year Party this year, they're presenting thier annual Matinee Winter Festival at the end of the Purple Line metro (don't even get me started on THAT one) in the Pavello Olympic Badalona. On the 1st January. That's right. You can go out AGAIN after that blur that is the week between Christmas Day and New Years Eve, just to make sure you're done welcoming in 2011!!

Given the fact that pretty much everything that Matinee Group touches turns to gold, it'd be a safe bet saving your 35 Euros to pay the entrance fee (with 2 free drinks to limited time) here, than 2 cubatas the night before in a place you can't quite remember the name of!

So what do you reckon? Like the sound of it? Planning on going? Let me know in the comments!

If you're coming to Barcelona this end of year, check out these Barcelona Apartments for a great alternative to a hotel room. and for a qucik look at the city sights, check out their Barcelona Guide.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nativity Scenes in the Old Town

Well, it's less than 2 weeks to Christmas. Nearly the end of 2010. I don't know about you, but for me, the year seems to have flown by. Let's hope 2011 is a hell of a lot better for the whole country.

Nothing gets me more in the mood for the Christmas time than the traditions. I love the Christmas songs on loop in the supermarkets - Frank singing "Let it Snow" and it's 19ºC outside - the fake snow in the windows, the lights being turned on, etc. I even had a special delivery of Christmas crackers for my tree delivered in November (gotta have crackers, people, with really bad jokes) - thanks Uncle Tony!! So, whilst I'm also one for embracing the wacky traditions that other cultures may have, I'm also happy to queue up to look at other "normal" stuff, like the Christmas market, and the Nativity scene currently in place in front of the town hall.

Nativity Scene at the Town Hall - Barcelona Sights

The back drop of the scene has projections - like a giant Advent calendar - of the typical Catalan traditions and there's a great meal laid on of the traditional escudella amb galets. You'll have to forgive the quality of the pics, guys - wife's iphone as we hadn't planned on heading there - but I thought they were worth sharing.

Model Table at Christmas - Barcelona Sights Blog

Coming to Barcelona soon? Check out BCN Rentals for a good selection of apartments to rent. And for a good look at what's hot and what's not, read up this Barcelona Guide.

Friday, December 10, 2010

BarcelonaSights Interview - Blogger Martin Brown

Happy December everyone, and after a slow start back from those dangerous 3-day-bank-holidays, I thought I'd give first post of the month as another interview. This time it's Englishman Martin Brown, who has the photoblog An English Eye on Spain.

Martin's keen eye at work - Barcelona Sights

What's your name and where are you from?

Martin Brown from London, England.

How long have you lived in Barcelona? Why did you come here?

I have lived in Barcelona for 6 years. I came here from Mexico and wanted to get back to Europe and Barcelona seemed like a good choice, combining art, design, history and culture.

Where else have you lived and how does Barcelona compare?

London , Mexico City and Barcelona. I guess the difference as much as a anything is size - both London and Mexico are vast cities, while Barcelona is fairly small and had a more laid back atmosphere instead of a heavy urban one.

What are the things you miss from home/the other places you have mentioned?

Theatre and friends.

Why did you start the blog?

I have been taking photos of the city and other places for a few years now and wanted a more public platform for these images.

What makes you think you can offer something different to the other Barcelona photoblogs out there?

I hope to take the viewer to some places that perhaps aren't shown by other blogs, small everyday details, visual things that I see as well as the more famous tourist attractions.

Is there anything you've not included in your blog yet that you'd like to?

Still a lot of pictures to upload, so keep on checking for updates. I also want to start photographing people as its something I would like to try.

Is there anything you try to avoid?

The obvious.

I'd like to thank Martin for taking the time to answer the questions, and for agreeing to the interview. If you haven't already, I suggest you check out his blog and subscribe for his unique view of the city.

Coming to Barcelona this winter? Check out these great apartments for rent in Barcelona city centre. And for a quick look at the top city sights, see this Barcelona guide.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Shopping til late 2nd December

If the recent chilly weather hasn't been getting you ready for the upcoming Christmas festivities, then this coming week also sees the Christmas lights being turned on and a good excuse for you to stay around to admire them with The Shopping Night Barcelona on the same night. The elegant (read expensive) shops along Passeig de Gracia are opening from 8pm till midnight for the event. Shoppers can join in the fun with a "passport" which is stamped from shops participate in the scheme and then the passports are entered into a prize draw for 5 pretty decent prizes - just for doing a bit of Christmas shopping!

Christmas Market Poster 2010 - Barcelona Sights BlogAs mentioned, this also co-incides with the Christmas lights being turned on, and I'm sure the Christmas Street Pasta from last year. And if that's still not enough to get you in the mood, then you can check out the giant Caganer at Maremagnum, or head down to the Christmas market in front of the Cathedral for the essentials to decorate your home and nativity scene.

Are you coming to Barcelona this Christmas? Think about renting Barcelona apartments instead of a typical hotel room, and have a family Christmas away from home! Also, for a quick look at the must-see attractions, see this Barcelona Guide.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

El Molino & Ferran Adria re-inventing Paral·lel

2010 is the Any Cerdà celebrating the 150 years of the approval of Ildefons Cerdà's plans of the extension and expansion of Barcelona. One of the aims of the mayor's office has also been to try and reignite the sparks along Parallelo Avenue, and make it a more desired route for tourists to ease a little pressure from Las Ramblas. The idea is that Parallel could become a kind of New York Broadway - it has the most Theatres in the city, and is a natural connection between the touristic Port Vell with all the cruise ships arriving, and the hub of business that is the Fira de Barcelona with the conference and congress goers. Cerdà's quirkiness in his design named the avenue this way as it is exactly parallel with the equator at 42º.

Parallel aspires to become like other big city rivals - Barcelona Sights

Well, plans have been in place for quite some time, and while I can't see the tourists flocking to Parallel instead of Las Ramblas just yet, at least they're making strides. After June's Street Party, last month saw the re-opening of El Molino - and pretty spectacular it looks too. I have been meaning to do a post about the re-opening, but haven't managed to get a decent photo of the new facade just yet (despite several attempts), so if you're nearby, it's well worth a look, and if I get one, I'll update the post. Or if anyone else has got one, then let me know!

And if you needed a big name to create a bit of buzz around a new project and restaurant in town, then look no further than Ferran Adria. And instead of choosing the typical over-rated haunts of El Borne to look for a place, Adria and team have chosen none other than Parallelo for their new restaurant,

Tickets Bar Parallel - Barcelona Sights

Let's hope the ahem "tickets" are a little easier to get a hold of than those for El Bulli...and don't all rush down there yet, it's not open just yet.

Coming to Barcelona soon? Check out these apartments for rent as a change for a hotel room. And for a heads up on the best sights, see this Barcelona Guide.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Christmas Shits - Big Time!

Now I know this sounds like bad timing...less than a month to go for Christmas, and I'm already ploughing in with the negativity like a proper modern day Ebenezer Scrooge. Or for those of you more savvy readers, you might have an inclination as to my intentions from the rather large image just below.

Giant Caganer at Maremagnum - Barcelona Sights Blog

Yes readers, I think the Catalans win hands down for hilarious Christmas traditions compared to any of their European neighbours (although I'd happily welcome this into a competition per say, so feel free to leave comments informing me otherwise). Now, after my first faux pas with the describing of Christmas traditions in Catalunya and Marta very graciously correcting me, I won't even attempt to translate what is known as the "Caganer" - you can read my original post here. It's basically a fun way of representing the giving of Christmas, but in a more natural way - giving back to mother earth and all that. Good stuff.

So, the cheeky Maremagnum marketers have thought of a great way to get the tourists talking this early winter, with the installation of a huge Caganer right in the centre of the mall itself. Genius. Cue stage left, right and centre bemused tourists, giggling teenage girls, lots of mobile phone cameras and the elder generation walking all the way around to see if it really has got an enormous pile of...yes, indeed it has. Only it's not steaming. Now THAT would be Genius!! Hahaha!!

Not only has the installation at Maremagnum got the people muttering but you can also make your own caganer on the 11th, 12th, 18th and 19th December too!! And if that's not enough, you can download a cut-out caganer from that link above to have a practice!! Marvellous! Every Nativity Scene should have one! Definitely worth a look if you're in town.

Coming to Barcelona this Christmas? Check out the option of Barcelona apartments as a great change to stale hotel rooms. And for a heads up on the city sights, see this great Barcelona guide.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

La Casa del los Pinxos

Some of you might be familiar with "pinxos" as a type of tapas, whereby each dish has a cocktail stick or two in the top which are counted at the end of your meal as method of payment in some restaurants. Well, alas, this is not a post about a restaurant of that name (may be tackled on another occasion!).

Casa de los Pinxos - Barcelona Sights blogNo, this is me thinking that there are so many cool buildings in Barcelona that often get overlooked due to the usual suspects taking all the glory. So it occurred to me that I could start a kind of mini-series of posts about buildings that are very distinctive and cool in their very own way, but don't necessarily merit a visit if you were on a whistle-stop tour of the city over some of the UNESCO masterpieces Gaudi's master hand penned.

So resisting the temptation of heading straight to wikipedia, I'll try and give you my opinion on a few places, the first of which is Casa Bartomeu Terrades i Brutau, more commonly known as the House of Spikes.

Barcelona Sights - Pinxos Towers

I've passed this building loads of times when my wife was pregnant with our two nippers as her doc was on that route, and I'd always found it very cool Like a downtown Disney castle with all the turrets and towers. I also don't mind admitting that I wouldn't have been surprised to learn it was a Gaudi design - given the brickwork similar to Park Güell and Palau Güell, too.

Facade of Casa de los Pinxos - Barcelona Sights Blog

It's the design of another popular guy, though, Josep Piug i Cadafalch, and is actually three houses in one, built for Terrades' three daughters. As seems to be the norm with many of the Modernista buildings (and this is the only bit I'm quoting from an outside source) in 1905 a pamphleteer described the house as "a crime against the nation". If it looks wacky in 2010, I'm sure it must have raised a few eyebrows in 1905, but crime? me thinks not.

Brickwork at the House of Spikes - Barcelona Sights Blog

You could probably combine seeing this building on a sort of Modernista walk as it's visible from Diagonal/Rosello and not too far from Paseig de Gracia and also Casa Viçens, for example.

Ornate Entrance at Casa Pinxos - Barcelona Sights

Are you coming to Barcelona soon? Check out these apartments in Barcelona as a great alternative to a hotel room. And if you're looking for a quick Barcelona guide, click the link.

UPDATE: Thanks for te comments correcting me on my terrible's the right spelling and photo!

Casa de Les Punxes - Correct this time! Barcelona Sights

Friday, November 12, 2010

El Clasico - on a Monday?!

Well, November in the football calendar usually throws up one of the best fixtures in the Spanish Primera Liga - FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid. 2010 is no exception with an end-of-the-month lock of horns between the two best teams in Spanish football history. Pigs heads are not an uncommon appearance, and there really is a searing rivalry between the two teams. As if you didn't already know.

Barcelona Boys - OK, I know it's an old photo - Barcelona Sights

Much can be made of this year's paper talk - No Ibrahimovic (scorer of last year's winning and only goal), Messi vs Ronaldo, the return of "El Traductor" (again), etc. etc. However, one of the stories occupying the column inches this morning is the actual date of the tie. Yes, 29th November is the exact same date as last year's fixture, which is of no co-incidence, apart from that fact that we're in the Gregorian calendar, so that means it's a Monday.

Monday Night Football? No, thanks - Barcelona Sights Blog

No, TV deals made no impact on this decision, it's all down to the Government elections scheduled for the same day as the planned game, Sunday 28th. Apparently, all of those people working at the ballot boxes might not get to the ground in time (read: we don't have enough Police for the two events) and obviously Mourinho has already started his mind games. Now any other European readers might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Monday night football has become a bit of a tradition in many parts, and is an excuse for a cheeky pint on a Monday in England ("it's the Football, love"), but not in Spain. Oh, no, as you can see from the poll above, 42% of fans say Monday night is sacred for something other than football. Even Enrique Cerezo, president of Atletico Madrid says the same (not sure why he was asked his opinion on a Barça - Madrid match, but there you go). Personally, I couldn't give two hoots as to when they want to play the match as long as it's a good game, but I bet there's more than one rushing to change plane tickets and accommodation having banked on it being the Sunday night, and then having to work out excuses for a sicky on Monday and probably Tuesday now...I can feel a cold coming on, can you shut that window?

Any thoughts on the change? Does it really matter? Let me know in the comments. I'd love to hear. Also, if you're thinking of coming for the match weekend, check out BCN Rentals for some central apartments and their Barcelona Guide for a quick look at the city sights.

Funny Street Signs

Truth be told, I don't get the chance to blog as often as I'd like to/used to. Sometimes ideas occur to me in the strangest of places/circumstances and I can draft an idea, but never get round to actually writing the post. Well, this is one of them. Apologies if it seems a bit disjointed, I had to hunt out a few links and pics, and this was started a while back...

Obviously being a foreigner in a country makes you look a whole lot more at certain things, and especially with two different languages, for example. I remember after first getting here, looking at certain signs or notices (and not even knowing if it was Spanish or Catalan, for example) and chuckling to myself or being thoroughly puzzled.

Like how potential terrorists have their own deposit box outside buildings to leave their dynamite.

Bombs here please - Barcelona Sights Blog

Or how some buildings have signs for eggy brandy Christmas drinks, but no mulled wines, for example...

Snowball anyone? Barcelona Sights Blog

This is something I think I'm not alone in experiencing, or maybe we just share the same sense of humour?!

Then part of me adding to the post was the ongoing debate of one shop owner who refuses to change his shop sign to Catalan (as required by law) and other such cases that have sprung up. So this also used to make me smile when walking around the city centre and spotting new shops or even older ones, but with signs that made me laugh. Take for example, the image below:

Spinesh Tapas - Barcelona Sights

Now, I've had to lift that image from Google Maps, as the real restaurant has now changed to a Catalan sign (see what I mean about me not having time?!). Good job I've been able to rely on google maps! This is no disrespect or racial implications in any way shape or form, but I think that's hilarious. "Spinesh Tapas" is surely supposed to be "Spanish Tapas" right ?! So how on earth could the sign be made?! Surely even the makers of these signs could check and say, "Er, sorry mate, shouldn't that be "Spanish" not "Spinesh" ? Maybe they were hoping for the owners to come back and order a new one. Well, it was up there for about 3 years I can tell you, so there you go.

Another one is the classic confusion of "Mobile phones" and "Movil". Apart from the fact that "B" and "V" sound the same in Spanish, so that's confusing enough, then you also have to deal with getting it wrong as well.

I've probably seen loads more as well on my walks around town, which is whay I thought it might merit a blog post, but probably didn't have my phone/camera at the time. So, I'll encourage all of you to let me know about any places you guys know. Doesn't have to be mis-spellings, but just some funny stuff or things that have tickled your fancy. Feel free to leave a comment below!

Coming to Barcelona soon? Check out these Barcelona apartments as a great alternative to a hotel room, and if you're looking for a quick digestible what's what of the city, see this Barcelona guide.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Faith Moves Mountains...of Cash

Unless you've been hiding under a rock (why would you do that with such fantastic November weather we're having?!) you will know that this weekend sees the visit of the Pope to Barcelona, specifically to consecrate the Sagrada Familia Cathedral and perform the first mass there. Huge screens are being erected outside the surrounding streets, much of the area will be closed off to the public without a ticket, and the metro will not be stopping at Sagrada Familia station for the whole of the Sunday.

Sagrada Familia entrance - Barcelona Sights Blog

With such a massive amount of organisation and public funding, it's normal that the protesters are out with the balconies adorned with the "Jo no t'espero" campaign against Aids and the suggestion of a massive Gay kiss-a-thon (something like this) on Sunday as well. It's also been widely reported that people have been renting access to their balconies in and around the Sagrada Familia for the big day at some pretty impressive prices. I think I saw a report of a TV station paying a whopping amount to a community who are going to use the cash to put a lift in their building! Good on them!

Big Screens at Sagrada Familia - Barcelona Sights Blog

All this as well, with the expectation that Gaudi might even turn out to be a saint!! Now, I'm not belittling what the guy did, and think he was a genius but absolutely crackers as well, but surely this is clutching at straws a bit? What do you think?!

Well, fear not people, as it's estimated that the Pope's visit will be leaving around 30 Million Euros in the fine city of Barcelona. Not sure how much everyday Joes like you and I will see of it, but it definitely shows that faith can move mountains. Mountains of cash!!

Are you thinking of coming to Barcelona this November? Check out these apartments in Barcelona for a great way to relax with family or friends.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

BCN To Hold World Architecture Festival

If you're not too overwhelmed with the Pope's visit to Barcelona and the Sagrada Familia next month, then you might be interested to hear that Barcelona has been chosen to host this year's World Architectural Festival. With a host of impressive building's itself and proud of it's 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Barcelona would be an obvious choice.

New Camp Nou - Barcelona Sights blogOver 1000 architects from 80 countries will be attending to crown what the average Joe would call the coolest building of the year award, I suppose! A massive judging panel will decide on the best building over many different categories (it's not as simple as I'm making out), meaning essentially many winners. The panel is comprised of most of the top names in architectural offices around the world including Sir Norman Foster, responsible for the communications tower in Barcelona, and also the planned transformation of FC Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium, too.

And what better backdrop than the sprawling Metropolis that is Barcelona? The city is an amazing example of gentrification and transformation of urban planning. So much so, in fact, that The Royal Institute of British Architects awarded its Gold Medal to the entire city of Barcelona instead of an individual in 1999. Sir Richard Rogers is also heading an “Urban Task Force” which is said to provide “Barcelonization” of 10 British cities, including Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, amongst others. To this note, one of the keynote speeches of the festival is Josep Acebillo's "Transformation of Barcelona".

The Festival is to be held from the 5th to 9th November, and tickets are still available. If you're looking for accommodation in Barcelona during the conference, then check out BCN Rentals website.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Guest Post - My Favourite 3 English Pubs in Barcelona

English and Irish pubs are popular all over the world with traditional ales and stout on sale, and it is no different in Barcelona. With a large ex-pat population, the city has a host of 'traditional' English pubs that are popular with locals and tourists alike. Below are three of the best in the city:

Cold Brews in Barcelona  - Barcelona Sights blogThe George and the Dragon - When it opened in 1998, The George and the Dragon was one of the first English pubs in the city. Bringing together the best of England and Catalonia (of which Sir George is also patron saint), the pub sells traditional English cuisine such as fish and chips, as well as lager and ales. It is also a sports bar with two large TVs showing the latest football games and results. Extremely popular with locals due to its location in the heart of the city, this is a great pub for expats.

The Queen Vic - Situated just off Las Ramblas, The Queen Vic is a traditional English pub that has everything you'd expect – popular lagers such as Heineken, Strongbow and Stella and large TVs for the footie! The Queen Vic describes itself as the only pub in the city to have access to every single Premiership game and thus is extremely popular with visiting Brits and the ex-pat population. The bar also caters for stag and hen parties and, should you need it, has free Wi-Fi.

The Black Horse English Pub - Found in the Ribera district of Barcelona, The Black Horse English Pub is distinctive due to its exterior – a traditional 16th century building. As such, the pub exudes a form of authenticity that many British pubs do, making many visiting tourists feel immediately at home. As it is quite close to the Picasso Museum, you can often find the pub packed with tourists enjoying a pint after viewing the local culture.

Guest blog by Paul Symonds - Paul is involved with Barcelona Travel and Car rentals in Spain.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Star Wars at El Corte Inglés - Photo Update!

The best

As I mentioned the other day, Plaça Catalunya's El Corte Ingles Department store has dedicated part of their 8th floor to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Original Star Wars Trilogy. I actually went last weekend but ill health has prevented me from updating (first the kids then mine!). Obviously I wasn't sure what it was going to be like, so the pics here are from phone cameras and therefore not of the highest quality, and most of the stuff on exhibition is in perspex cases with spotlights, which doesn't really favour a decent photo, either...but it's just a taste, too!

Inside the Falcon - Barcelona Sights blog

There is some really good stuff on display apart from the collecter-style scale models in fighting poses, etc. - signed posters, an amazing set of the complete original Hasbro action figures (which must be worth a fortune), many toys in their original boxes, and a couple of life-size storm troopers on a speed bike with yoda to keep the kids happy. Some interesting chunks of history as well such as the unbelievable demand for toys that the manufacturers in the 70s and 80s were not prepared for and their ways around this, and how the genre has even crossed over into other fantasy worlds (like Mickey Mouse!) for example.

Mickey Kenobi and Minnie Leia ? Barcelona Sights Blog

The various films are on a loop around the store and of course there's plenty of merchandise, lego, t-shirts and models to buy.

Speed Bike Model - There's also a life-size one - Barcelona Sights

If you're in the centre of town, it's well worth a 10-minute trip if you're with kids (mine loved it), or if you were born in the 70s ;o) like me!

Ever wondered what's under the mask??

Vader Unmasked - Barcelona Sights Blog

Finishing touches for one of the best baddies of all time...

Vader Helmet - Barcelona Sights

Newer Baddie Robots just don't have the same effect, right?!

Star Wars Bust - Barcelona Sights blog

Every kid's dream - Red leader anyone?!

X-Wing Model - Barcelona Sights Blog

I took loads of photos, but you should really head on down yourselves for a look, it's free, central and on until the 6th November.

Coming to Barcelona soon? BCN Rentals has some great deals on accommodation and also a very digestible Barcelona Guide.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fancy Partying this Weekend?

Well, it's looking like the rain is coming this weekend, guys, like it or not. It's held out so far all week, but looks like there's no stopping it this weekend - I hope I'm wrong of course! So with the "official end" of the great weather and the official end of the great parties we're left to ponder the Autumn and wait for "La Castanyera". Well guys, it's not all doom and gloom! This weekend sees the return of one of the best club nights in Barcelona (it's moved around a bit and changed names once) - Discotheque.

Discotheque Barcelona - Barcelona Sights Blog

The locals and holiday party-goers have been wowed by the Discotheque crowd since 1997, and it was one of the best clubs in the city when it was located in Poble Espanyol up on Montjuic. Sister club La Terrazzza entertains the crowds in summer (when the neighbours don't complain), but Discotheque moved downtown and is currently housed in Calle Tarragona, 141 - the old Space venue. Confused yet? Don't be. Just know that if you're looking for a great night out, get your glad rags on and head down to Discotheque. There's a great VIP section, but for the rest of us mid-crisis, we can just do with the normal bar at the top of your picture, thanks!

Coming to Barcelona soon? Check out apartments in Barcelona for groups to save some money on booking a couple of hotel rooms.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Star Wars Extravaganza at Corte Ingles.

Now, forgive me for a bit of indulgance. I was born in 1977, so clearly have had a Star Wars childhood. Yes, I've gone through marathon box sets at university and even tried to convince myself that Episode I was good when it first came out by seeing it in New York City before it had reached UK (obviously not the sole purpose of my visit, just a happy co-incidence).

My little boy is also into Star Wars. Obviously me sitting him in front of the TV every Christmas from the ages of 0 to 4 (he's 4) telling him "Watch this bit son, it's class" has nothing to do with it, but there you go. I even took him to see a small collection of dressed up storm troopers and darth vader at the Sagrada Familia when he was 2 to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Star Wars.

Star Wars Parade in 2007 - Barcelona Sights

It was allegedly "for the kids" but was nigh on impossible to get my lad near, and at best I got a few photos out (see above). People as old as me (and older) pushing their way through the young-uns to get a good view!

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that El Corte Ingles has dedicated almost all of the 8th floor to a Star Wars exhibition!! It's open at the moment at running until the 6th November, so I shall certainly be heading down with the kids (great excuse) shortly and will report back!! Hahahaha!!

Barcelona Rentals offer a great solution to your accommodation needs. And for a quick look at the city sights, check out their Barcelona Guide.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sitges Film Festival 2010

Sitges Film Festival 2010 - Barcelona Sights For those lovers of horror flicks, this time of year brings a wry smile with the 43rd 2010 Sitges Film Festival just around the corner. Yes, the sleepy town of Sitges - a 20 minute train ride from Barcelona - transforms itself once again from Thursday 7th to Sunday the 17th October in an authentic Zombie Fest. Literally! Once again, this Saturday sees the "Zombie Walk" parading through the town streets and even a free make up session from 14:00 onwards - not sure what you'll be doing from then until the start at 20:30, but there you go! My brother in law had some pretty impressive photos on his Facebook page last year, so if you're up for it I can recommend!

The festival always screens some classic movies with this year not disappointing, and there are some local films in Catalan and Spanish as well as many other languages and genres from hammer to gore, from zombie to faux-reality. There's a pretty damn fine line-up and no way I could start catering for all tastes, so if you want the full list of screenings, check out here. This year also co-incides with the 30th anniversary of The Shining, and the clever trailer for this year's festival uses Stanley Kubrick's classic image of the tricycle boy haunting a night nurse with the theme "The cinema you see in Sitges stays with you forever". Clever stuff.

And there's no worries about getting there and back with RENFE putting on special trains coming back into Barcelona at 1:30am, as well as Night buses. So no excuse! Are you thinking of heading down to the town of terror this year? Let me know in the comments! And if you're looking for accommodation this Autumn, check out BCN Rentals for a selection of apartments. Stuck for ways to fill your day? Check out this Barcelona guide for some tips!

Friday, October 1, 2010

New Club in Town - Sunlife BCN

Sunlife Coming Your Way - Barcelona Sights Blog
Is it just me, or have you also noticed a fair few pink posters out and about for the "new era" of clubbing which is "comming" to Barcelona tomorrow night? (no, that's not my typo, check the poster). Yes, Sunlife BCN is coming to town at The One Club. Don't bother clicking either link, as both websites are in the early stages of development and have zero information at the moment (OK, sorry, contact details, VIP, etc.).

Well judging by the location up in Poble Español on Montjüic, it's far enough away to be able to be loud enough to be a good club (just read that again if it sounded gobbldygook), and judging by past clubbing ventures there (ok, not tres torres, the other ones) it should be a great night. I'm pretty sure I know which "local" they're using, as I had a Christmas Party there about ten years ago as a teacher (we then went to Discotheque).

So it's all very hush-hush, and I also say, unlike Matinee group, I have never heard of Bsideworld the organisers (but that doesn't mean to say they don't know what they're doing by any stretch of the imagination). Entrance is free until 1:30am and there are VIP numbers you can call. However, I'd be interested to know the hype or security on this place - we attended the opening night of a club down on Parallel years ago (sorry, can't remember the name) and really had to battle with the door guys to get in - my wife worked for the company who supplied the beer, so we all got in only to be the only people in there almost the whole night...???!! (why bother, right?!)

Sooooooooooo.....anyone heard the buzz about this place, or thinking of heading on down ? Let me know!! Or if this turns up in your internet browser and it's been and gone, then let me know how things went!! And of course if the organisers get a whiff of this, you can always save me a VIP table for myself and a few friends...?! ;o)

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Barcelona Air Show - Festa del Cel

It seems like we're just getting over the festivities of another great Merçe show, and then there's another excuse to get out and about and enjoy the fresh air. One such reason is the Festa Major of Las Ramblas, taking place from the 1st to 10th October with even more giant parades and human castles so if you missed them, head on down this weekend. With Las Ramblas trying its best to gain UNESCO World heritage status, they're sure to put on a great show.Full details of the programme here (pdf).

Festa del Cel - Barcelona Sights

Another great reason to head outside is to nip down to the Barcelona beach front and hope for some clear skies. No, I'm not suggesting you go for a dip in the Med, but look to the sky as this weekend celebrates the jaw-dropping "Festa del Cel". Air shows have always wowed me, and despite craning my neck for hours on end as a lad, Who didn't want to be a pilot of the Red Arrows, or Tom Cruise in Top Gun (even if half of us almost puke with a slight bit of turbulence on an EasyJet flight!) ?!

Well, this year's show doesn't look like it will disappoint. With over 31 different performers from around Europe and the world, there's even going to be an appearance by a Lufthansa Airbus 380 (currently the biggest passenger jet) on Saturday at 2pm. Parachute jumpers, and Wacky Races Style planes painting a canvas of smoke streams across the canvas of the Barcelona Sky. Obviously the best places to see certain attractions are close to the Olympic Village beaches, but I remember last year being over at Maremagnum when the Red Bull Air show was on, and seeing many of the planes coming in from El Prat Airport or returning to Sabadell and apart from maybe the angle of whatever some planes were supposedly writing, it was still great to see.

If you're looking for accommodation for this coming autumn, then check out these rental apartments in Barcelona from BCN Rentals as a great way to save some cash between friends.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

La Merçe Festival with Kids

Having two kids during the Merçe festivities has been great this year. I'm sure it's actually great every year, but mine have been maybe too small to appreciate. There are plenty of activities each year geared specifically for children, and in particular the area around Montjüic castle was full of puppet shows, trapeze artists and projections, face painting and circus acts. Whilst the ones we co-incided with were is Catalan, there were also some international acts (a couple of puppet shows from France we saw were funny, too).

Giants Parada at Las Ramblas - Barcelona Sights Blog

One of the highlights was the giants parade on the Friday evening. Las Ramblas was closed off for traffic and the parade started from Carrer Pelai, all the way down Las Ramblas, preceeded by bands from the Guardia Urbana on horses.

Ceremonial Eagle - Barcelona Sights

Each neighbourhood has their "gegants" and it was great fun to watch the different neighbourhoods go past with their costumes, bands and giants.

Traditional Animals  - Barcelona Sights

All of the children lining the streets would touch the giants and try and shake hands or call their attention.

Pipers on Las Ramblas - Barcelona Sights

One of the lesser known animals called the beast sprayed water on the crowds as it went past, too.

Water-Spraying Beast - Barcelona Sights

And there was one who for me was the spitting image of Andy Garcia (admittedly with a fair bit of make-up) or is that just me?!

Andy Garcia Gegant - Barcelona Sights

His and hers dragons, traditional animals and many many more that I didn't snap with my camera phone as the kids took over a bit!

His and Hers Dragons - Barcelona Sights Blog

Did you attend the parade? any impressions or comments? Let me know. BCN Rentals has a great selection of apartments for rent, too, if you're thinking of visiting the city this autumn.

La Merçe 2010 - Castellers at Plaça Sant Jaume

OK, so like every year, I try to take in as much of La Merçe as possible, and with so much choice, it's difficult to squeeze in everything while working, being full time parent, etc. It worked out as being a long weekend however, as Friday was a public holiday and meant that we could go out as a family and see some things that maybe weren't possible when the kids were so small.

Obviously it's difficult to resist the draw of the traditional elements of the festival and perhaps the most spectacular - so whilst I did go and check out the "Rices of the World" at the Rambla del Raval, it was almost finished at 13:30 (and advertised from 11am till 15h!!) so made our way to the Plaça Sant Jaume. So whilst last year I was there for the giants, this year was the human castles or castellers.

Castellers at La Merce 2010 - Barcelona Sights Blog

Despite making things look incredibly easy, there is a particular technique involved and it was interesting to see the big black "scarves" which were wrapped tightly around people's waist/lower back for support, and how the guys and girls bite their collars on their shirts when they join the tower, so the people who are standing on their shoulders don't slip on the fabric.

Top of Human Tower - Barcelona Sights Blog

The youngsters have to wear protective helmets due to some unfortunate incidents in years gone by, but for me it doesn't spoil anything. Once the smallest child gets to the top, they have to raise their hand before beginning their descent. This is often literally a split second, so quite difficult to capture on camera, but I did ok!!

Human Towers at Plaça Sant Jaume - Barcelona Sights Blog

Did you see the castellers this year? Any impressions or take aways? Let me know in the comments! Are you thinking of visiting the city this Autumn ? Barcelona apartments are a great way to save money in groups, for example. And for a quick look at the city sights, see this Barcelona Guide.

Monday, September 20, 2010

BAM, Thank You Ma'am

If there wasn't already a lot to look forward to this month, there is another parallel event going on at the same time as La Merçe celebrations - BAM. BAM is the Barcelona Acciò Musical and is a short festival in it's 18th year happening from the 23rd to 25th September. And best of all, it's all free!

Taking place in various locations across the city, including the Old Damm Brewery on Calle Rossello, the Forum and a few other places (line up is not completely confirmed as to where people will be playing). And they have a pretty damn cool promotion video as well!

While the concerts mainly showcase local talent (and some decent stuff at that), there are also some international stars nipping in to do their stint. New York hip-hoppers Anti-Pop Consortium, Glaswegian due Belle & Sebastian and UK dance outfit Goldfrapp will all be pulling in the crowds. There's also Welsh rockers Ash (remember them?! Class!) and über-cool Hip-Hop DJ Alexander Nut. So if you're looking for that last-gasp festival to keep the summer you alive for a little bit longer, then get your dancing shoes on (not sandals, in case it rains) and check out the line ups!

Coming to Barcelona soon? Apartments in Barcelona are a great money-saver for many groups and families. And for a quick look at the must-see sights, check out this Barcelona Guide.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hipnotik Hip Hop

There's no denying Hip Hop has an influence on the urban landscape of Barcelona. Some of the best graffiti can be seen in the city at every turn, and although I don't mean to associate every graffiti artist with a Hip Hop culture, it's always there or there abouts. Then there's the skater's paradise that is Barcelona. Lax laws (or enforcement), kilometres of land on a slight gradient and plenty of wide open downtown plaças and spaces with benches and rails right out of a Jason Hernandez video. There are plenty of Hip Hop shops, and admittedly although many have closed down due to the "crisis" you can still find what you're looking for. So it's only natural that the people of the city would want their platform to express and enjoy themselves. Hell, why not make a festival out of it?!

Hipnotik Festival - Barcelona Sights

Well, rolling into its 7th year this Saturday is the Barcelona Hipnotik Festival down at the CCCB in Barcelona's old town. Already home for those "rap-offs" of the youthful poets of today's society, this promises a great line up of local and international talent for the day's events billed as "Hip Hop without boundries". Four different sections of the area are dedicated to Mixing on the decks, graffiti art, DJ sessions and microphone controller battles (that's MC's to you and me). It all kicks off on Saturday at 12 noon, and goes on till the wee hours. Fancy going? Tickets still available. Let me know in the comments!

Coming to Barcelona this Autum. Check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona for a great alternative to hotel rooms.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Festival La Merce 2010

Merce 2010 - Barcelona Sights Blog September brings with it the back to work, back to school, and this time round a pretty big drop in the temperatures. But fear not, as it's also time for some festivals and one of the best that the city has to offer - La Merçe.

Barcelona actually has a fair few patron Saints, one of them being Our Lady of Mercy, who celebrates her feast day on the 24th September. So in homage to their patron (and for any excuse for a bit of a shindig of course) Barcelona comes alive from the 18th to 26th September with open air concerts, workshops, circus, dances, markets, etc. etc. etc. You name it, La Merçe's got it. The whole city is involved and there are activities for young and old, dotted all the way around the city.

After living here for more than ten years, I've noticed (and have also mentioned before) that it really is the people of Barcelona's festival. Now, I know that might sound daft, but I mean that the difference between some of the city's other festivals like Sonar, Primavera Sound, Grec, and many others is that they have an international appeal and advertise themselves much more to the foreign (tourist) crowd. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that La Merçe doesn't offer just as much talent - not at all. What I mean is that the festival is hardly promoted outside of the city itself (not even in other parts of Catalonia) and for all the years I've been here, I've never once found a program in English (or Spanish for that matter). Full details need to be taken directly from here. Obviously being the modern age of mobiles and smart phones, you can sign up for free mobile updates, too.

Highlights include open days at Montjüic castle and the Frederic Mares museum (which will soon close for restoration work) as well as almost all your other museums on the 24th. There are also the ceremonial beasts on display which is worth a look if you're in the centre, as well as the always-hyped correfoc (fire run) which despite changes in European laws just seems to go out and do the same as always anyway! There also looks to be a tasty little show on the Friday at the Rambla del Raval, with "rices of the world" - different dishes from around the world will be prepared using rice and tasting from 13h to 15h! Mmmmmmm!!!

Crazy Percussion from Ntapkeu de Bafia - Barcelona Sights

Guest city this year is Dakar, the Senegalese capital, and first sub-Saharian city to gain the honour of pairing for the week's activities. Expect dance, music, culture and traditions to bring a bit of African magic to this year's affairs. And especially some of the crazy African beats, from the likes of Ntapkeu de Bafia

So, looking forward to this year's Merçe? anything in particular caught your eye? Let me know in the comments! And if you're looking for accommodation in the city, apartments in Barcelona are a great money saver for families and friends!
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