Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Fertility Method Discovered in Barcelona - Watch Football

A funny story in the press this week made me smile. Apparently this week has seen a particularly large amount of births in Barcelona - larger than normal. According to Mercedes Rodriguez, supervising nurse in the Hospital Quiron of Barcelona, they are used to welcoming around 8 or 9 little people into the world on a daily basis, but this week has seen up to 14 or 15 daily births. And the reason for this baby boom? Football, of course.

Andres Iniesta with a dummy - BarcelonaSights Blog
Exactly 9 months ago, Andres Iniesta fired FC Barcelona into the finals of the Champions League final with a last-minute goal against Chelsea in Stamford Bridge. Who can forget Didier Drogba's insulting launch at the cameras? Barcelona went on to win the final of course, and then pretty much everything else that was thrown at them, leaving last season as the most successful for any team with an amazing five cups in one season - an unbelievable feat. Local radio ComRadio, even went as far to suggest that that the birth rate had increased a massive 50%!!

Not surprisingly, names such as "Andres" (Iniesta) and the rest of the Barcelona squad will be heavily registered this week. Not sure about the girls, although I suppose "YaYa" (Toure) could be a bit unisex ? No offence there to YaYa Toure, just thinking of possibilities here. Any suggestions? Leave me a comment below please!

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Catalan Cinemas to Close in Protest - of Catalan?

Various news sources have reported today that the majority of Cinemas in Catalonia will be closing on the 1st February in protest for a recently approved law regarding Catalan in cinemas. The date significantly coincides with the presnetation of the Gaudi Awards - the Acadamy Awards for Catalan Cinema.

Barcelona Sights - Cinema Seats

The law was passed on the 12th of this month, but today the announcement was made to the press of the protest and planned closure of the 74 cinemas offering over 528 screens, which is the majority of screens (total being 795 sreens in all Catalonia).

So what's all the fuss about, I hear you cry? It's not long ago that the Catalan Government ruffled a few feathers over its proposed plans to insist on an equal amount of Translated copies in Catalan and Spanish for films distributed throughout Catalonia. Well, a study released today by Josep Maria Gay, and using information of profits and benefits in Catalan Cinemas from 2001 to 2008 predicts that this new law will not only lessen the income of the cinema industry but even force the closure of many cinemas - hence the closure on the 1st February to symbolise the effect this new law may have.

Bill Murray in Lost in Translation - Barcelona Sights Blog

Last year, 97,1% of movies broadcast in Catalan Cinemas were doubled or subtitled in Spanish with only 2,9% in Catalan. It appears, however, that there may be good reason for this - that even the Catalans don't like going to see films dubbed or subtitled in Catalan. The study by Gay released today made a prediction that if the law may see the beginning of the end for many cinemas, as there is no demand. The new law obliges distributers to produce an equal amount of doubled/subtitled copies as original version copies, UNLESS there are to be less than 16 copies of European-produced movies over the whole of Catalonia. So that means if you have an American movie with less that 16 copies, half must be in Catalan.

It appears to be a solution to a problem which never existed. I know personally I have Catalan friends who have told me that they never watch DVDs or attend cinema screenings in Catalan - rather Spanish - and at the same time I remember fierce publicity a couple of years ago, demanding Harry Potter be dubbed in Catalan so that people (or maybe youngsters) could enjoy it in their native language and not have to read subtitles, or listen to Spanish.

There seems to be more confusing details in the mix, when we talk about recent movies such as Map of the sounds of Tokyo, Agora and Planet 51 which were all funded and made through Spain and Catalonia, but are shot entirely in English. What if there were to be less than 15 copies? Odd, right?

What do you think? I'd love to hear your opinion on this one! As a foreigner, I can only comment on how I would feel watching a Catalan movie, dubbed in English, and I think I'd probably prefer to watch it subtitled. I've seen many films since I've been living here in various languages (German, Swedish, Polish, Russian) and have always watched in Version Original with subtitles in Spanish.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Barcelona Scams - The Foot Step

Every time I think about writing one of the Scams blog posts, I always want to say "well, it's been a while since I've posted about scams..." and to be fair, I think maybe some of the levels of petty crime at least close to me and my knowledge have dropped a bit - but that could also be due to the drop in tourism and visitors to the city, too, right? Either way, I'm not trying to spread doom and gloom within the first month of 2010, but wanted to fill you all in on another technique being used to scam people out of their belongings.

Before I start, I'd also like to give a shout to the mossos (local police) who in late December dismantled a well organised group of 17 Romanian Theives who used the fake Police trick to steal belongings from tourists. I've never blogged about this before as a scam, although I had heard about it. Some of the details the Police divulged were unbelievable, and it confirms my belief that approaching those tourists who are culturally more polite or have a greater respect for authority are easy pickings in the theives' eyes. I could write another post on the incredible things these false Police were able to get out of some of the tourists, but at least something has been done to stop one organised group.

Stepping on shoes, well, kind of - Barcelona Sights Blog

So, the scam I'm going to write about today (I was going to type "new scam" but it's hardly likely to be new) took place at Sagrada Familia, but could take place at any crowded area in the city, and indeed probably does. The only seemingly necessity is for pedestrian traffic to funnel into a fairly tight space - think of any roadworks that force tourists into a smaller section of the pavement/sidewalk, for example.

I was told this story first hand (like the majority of my posts) by some Italians, and while they made a huge error (in my opinion, but I'm sure you'll agree), it could still happen just as easily without the careless nature of these guys.

So, around Sagrada Familia (not inside) pedestrians were passing through a fairly narrow stretch of the surroundings, when the guy was stepped on - a woman walking in the opposite direction to him stepped on his shoe. Naturally in these situations, depsite the fault laying elsewhere, he apologised, and as he turned to face the woman, a guy lifted his wallet from the side pocket of his combat pants (there's the error). They didn't realise this had happened until they reached the tunstyles to pay the entrance fee, as again is completely normal. So the scam works with two people and must be very hit and miss - simply because the thieves cannot guarantee that each time they open someone's pocket or bag, they will find something worth stealing. Although, saying that, it's likely a good days work for them at the hot spots around the city.

How to avoid this happening to you? Well, first off, don't leave your wallet/camera/purse in a pocket which you cannot feel close to your skin - like a side pocket. It's much more difficult to lift a wallet from a front jeans pocket then a back pocket for example. Also, try and be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially when you are forced into a situation where personal space is scarce. Metro stations are a perfect example of this. Having said that, it is extremely difficult to be aware and alert at all times, and the thrives exploit this kind of situation exactly because they know the difficulties involved in staying alert, so don't feel stupid if it does happen to you.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

All Change for Las Ramblas Animal Stalls

This month's city magazine had a back cover story about the bird sellers on Las Ramblas, who appear to have bowed to the pressure from the protest groups. Or perhaps the council has decided for them. Known locally as "ocellaires", many of the stalls are passed down through generations, as Monica Trias asserts in the story in the city magazine.

I remember when I first arrived that many an evening I passed the closed stalls on Las Ramblas, and didn't even realise that they were the same animal stalls. They are kind of tardis-like, folding in on themselves and no-one would imagine what they are while viewing them on an evening. During the day, they open up fairly wide if you consider the size of the closed cabin, and sell various animals, from tortoises and rabbits to birds and fish. They are a constant attraction to tourists who stop to look at the animals (although rarely buy, for obvious reasons).

They have also raised a great amount of protest over the years, especially since 2003, as this website explains. There are also a couple of Facebook pages dedicated to the protest. I remember on a couple of occasions seeing the caged humans in protest over the years, but after seeing the pratice continue, I assumed it was a futile attempt at a demonstration.

In all the years that I've been in Barcelona, I'd never seen any retaliation or attempt at defending their trade from the animal sellers. Apart from one time. I rue not taking a photo of the card which was hung on the cage of one of the animals, but fortunately found the image after a search online. I can't remember exactly when the card was put up, but I do remember returning a couple of days later with the idea of taking a photo and the card had gone. Credit here.

Protest Card from Barcelona Animal Sellers - Barcelona sights Blog

In case you don't want to click on the photo to enlarge, this is what it says:

"Dear Visitors,

This is a city where people work and live, not a theme park.

Stores in "La Rambla" have a 150 year history

Before you arrive, we were very happy

Please show some respect for the city and its inhabitants

What do you think? I was very surprised, and have seen other examples since which also leave me baffled.

So, the animal stalls are to be changed to stalls selling locally-produced artisan goods. All but one, which will remain an animal stall. Apparently negotiations with the council and the Association of Ocellaires were lengthy and tough. With 150 years of history, I can understand why, but part of me is happy about the outcome. I'm no animal rights activist, and have to say that I've stopped to look at the stalls on many occasions with friends and family over the years, but something tells me this is for the best. What do you think? Is leaving one animal stall a cheeky move from the council? Should they have rid Las Ramblas from the stalls completely? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts, as always, so please feel free to comment.

Coming to Barcelona soon? Check out these short term apartments for rent in Barcelona which can offer considerable savings over a hotel. And for a quick look at the not to miss sights, see this Barcelona guide.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Spruce Up your Home & Wardrobe This Month in Barcelona

Yes, the sales have started. If you've got any money left from the Christmas and New Year Celebrations, then there are surely some great bargains to be had (no idea, I've got no money left from the celebrations!!). However, if you're looking for some real ideas for a makeover at the start of this new decade, then head no further than the Fira de Barcelona.

ExpoHogar - BarcelonaSights Blog - image from expohogar website
First up is home improvements with ExpoHogar. The Home exhibition takes place this month from the 22nd to 25th at the Fira de Barcelona at the foot of Montjüic. In it's 42nd edition, you can forget your flat-pack wardrobes and the like, and expect to see the cutting edge in everything new and cool for your home. Everything from cutlery to curtains, funky lamps and prints to wallpaper and nick-knacks for your home, this event is held twice a year and despite the "crisis" is expecting a good show. Those wishing to show off their wares come from far and wide, not just Barcelona itself, with the South of France and Valencia joining in on the party.

Stright after the ExpoHogar, from the 26th to 28th January (inclusive) it's the fashion world's turn to take the stage. Despite the hotel sector lamenting the disappearance of Bread and Butter, which was replaced by Brandery and 080 Fashion, 080 is doing its best to keep the spirits high.

080 Fashion - BarcelonaSights BlogThe unique thing about 080 is that it showcases local talent, and promotes the unknowns, or rather not-so-well-knowns and their new styles. It receives the full backing of the local council, who are coming to a close of a campaign to promote fashion in the city which started in 2007. The idea is to become a rival to other European cities which are renowned for fashion - not just Milan, for example. I think it's great to see the conferences and fairs putting on a brave face, and doing their best to pull the rest of us out of the crisis (even if I think the majority of the fashion industry is a joke that I don't quite get!! haha! but you know what I mean).

Are you coming to Barcelona this month for either trade fair? Let me know your thoughts for the prospects this year in the comments below. And if you're stuck for accommodation still, then check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative. They have many properties with easy access to the Fira making it a lot easier than travelling to and from a hotel.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Best Park in Barcelona

OK, so you might be expecting me to churn out a post about the magnificent Park Güell? Or maybe how much I love La Cuitadella (you wouldn't be wrong)? And no, it's not about the botanical gardens up on Montjüic, either. This is a real gem inside Barcelona, and one which is not often visited. I'm talking about the Parc del Laberint, up in Horta.

aerial view of horta's Labyrinth - Barcelona Sights blog

The northern neighbourhood of Horta literally translates into "market garden" and indeed used to be farmers fields by all accounts. Well, despite being notoriously difficult to reach by public transport (Line 3, Mundet on the metro, guys, then a bit of a walk) it is my favourite park in the city. Maybe cos it's because I'm a sucker for Jim Henson movies or that I'm really just a big kid at heart, but give me a maze any time!

The park actually looks a bit like a forest from the outside and it's only from the inside can you see the amazing labryinth, which dates back to 1791!! Originally owned by the Desvalls Family, Italian architect Domenico Begutti was hired to design gardens around a cypress maze complete with stream and waterfall. There are even picnic tables outside for you to relax with a spot of lunch. There's a similar attempt at training cypress trees up on Montjuic in the Font del Gat Park, too, which I've pictured below.

shaded fountain in El Font del Gat Park - BarcelonaSights Blog
The park charges a measly 2,17€ to get in, which is well worth the price if you ask me, but is also free on Sundays and is open all year round (different opening times). So why on earth post about parks and gardens in January, I hear you ask? Well, given the pretty baltic temeperatures that have been sweeping around Spain and the rest of Europe, it seems that Barcelona has escaped with just a bit of a chill. No snow (boo!) and just a sharp drop in temeperatures, nothing out of the ordinary. However, imagine for a moment that Barcelona was covered in a blanket of snow, and you ended up getting lost in the maze.......sorry, any excuse to get this photo in the post!!! I've been waiting for ages to do that.

Frozen Jack - BarcelonaSights Blog

So what do you reckon? Have you been to the maze? Somewhere you'd like to visit, or do you think I'm completely wrong? Leave a comment guys and let me know. Oh, and if you're coming to Barcelona soon, check out these great Barcelona apartments for rent instead of a hotel!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Squatters and Graffiti at "La Otra Carboneria"

I doubted about the title of this post, as I'm not sure how to categorise the artwork on display in central Barcelona, Calle Floridablanca, 122 on the corner of Calle Urgell, 30, which covers the whole facade of the building. Graffiti? I think the term is extending and breaching borders with such work by the guys at axe colours for example.

la Otra Carbonería - Barcelonasights blog

What you're looking at, ladies and gents, is La Otra Carbonería (old link to wordpress blog, but the new link on top blog post doesn't work). This is a building in the centre of Barcelona which has been occupied by squatters for over a year. The fantastic artwork has not been up there as long, and sufaced around October last year.

The "Other Coal-house" describes itself as "A self-managed social centre, an open space for the neighbourhood and the city, occupied in civil disobedience to laws that perpetuate injust situations; from which to generate social activities such as debates, lectures, information points, artistic practices, workshops, knowledge exchange, etc."

There are many buildings in Barcelona which are occupied by squatters, and some are more open and political than others. For many, squatting is a big problem. I know from my own experience living in the old town and witnessing various evictions over my ten years here, that the "problem" very often returns. It's not that there are so many abandoned buildings in Barcelona, rather that the law seems to favour the squatters. In November last year, this story hit all the news channels after a normal apartment (not an entire building) was "occupied" by a young family who changed locks, etc. and the owners have not been able to access their own apartment for over 16 months. The Judge presiding over the case decided to leave the family in the occupied apartment - which the real owner is paying for in full - as they had no way of finding alternative accommodation. The real owners were forced to live with their daughter, and rightly complained that if they did not have family to fall back on, they would have to pay for their occupied apartment, and a hotel, too.

However, entire buildings such as La Otra Carboneria are there to serve as a constant reminder of how difficult it is for the young people in Barcelona to own their own apartment. The average size of a Barcelona apartment is 60m2, with an average cost of 4000 Euros per square metre, giving a total of 240,000 Euros for an average apartment. Given the fact that 99% of banks will refuse first time buyers who do not have a guarantee of (for example) a parent's property, or around 40% of the total amount as a down payment (who the hell has 96,000€ kicking around?!), you can understand the existance of social opposition such as "no vas a tener casa en la puta vida" - "You'll never have a home in your fucking life". I'm going to touch on this theme again this month, so subscribe if this is something that interests you, and please leave comments if you'd like to contribute anything.

Coming to Barcelona this month? Try apartments for rent in Barcelona for your own home away from home. And for a quick detail of the best sights to see, check out this Barcelona Guide.
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