Thursday, April 22, 2010

Virtual Roses for Sant Jordi 2010

Whether or not the council was worried that the Volcanic ash cloud would scupper plans of the importing of 6 million roses to be sold tomorrow or not, it looks like there'll be plenty to go around. And even if you can't buy a rose for your loved one, the city's website has got an even eco-friendlier (and cheaper) version to help you out!

Virtual Rose for Sant Jordi - Barcelona Sights Blog

That's right, through the wonders of modern internet connections, citizens can send their girlfriends, wives and lovers a virtual rose for Sant Jordi! Not only that, but you can choose the colour of the rose you'd like to send, too!! And it's so easy, even your grandmother could manage it (assuming she has an email account).

For those of you wondering what I'm jabbering on about, it's that tomorrow is Saint George's Day - patron saint of Catalonia. For more details and history, see my post last year or the photos I took on the same day.

Let's hope the weather holds out, as last year was a great sunshine day, but the forecast is not too great for tomorrow!! Happy Sant Jordi day everyone!!

Coming to Barcelona this month? Why not rent a barcelona apartment and have your own home away from home! And for other sights to see in the city, check out this short Barcelona guide.

New Facebook Page - A Better Barcelona?

Social media is becoming more and more a platform for people to vent their anger and protest for some very good causes. Like the story in La Vanguardia last week which highlighted the Facebook group "I was robbed in Barcelona", it appears that there might be more than just one group of annoyed locals using the site to gain momentum.

Facebook BetterBarcelona - Barcelona Sights Blog

A better Barcelona is possible is another Facebook page with over 500 fans which aspires for...well, a better Barcelona! The site touches some wide topics regaring the city, from the shambles that was the 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures to the new traffic lights and shiny bins that the city has installed throughout the city - pointing out that the citizens of Barcelona will be paying a cool 285 million Euros each year until 2017.

It asserts to be a platform or forum of discussion and debate about how to find a better Barcelona. Some of the messages left of the wall are great, and others seem rants, but I think it's great for people to embrace this kind of momentum and see what can be done.

So is it any good, making these platforms and groups? Well, it appears it is. Last Friday, the local council reluctantly accepted the resignation of the councillor in charge of the whole of Cuitat Vella, Itziar González. And this week there was a change in the penal law code regarding persistant pickpockets and the silly rule that less than 400 Euros is not considered a crime. Now, persistant offenders can and will be brought to trial and can be forced to go to jail (but only on weekends or public holidays, and at the centre closest to where they live - no really!). Why not send them a taxi while you're at it? They have all week to pickpocket (surely tourists are out and about mid-week, right?!). Good intentions, I suppose, but there's a long way to go if Barcelona wants to shake off that image of being the worst place for pickpocketers.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

FC Barcelona Continues defence of Champions

Tonight is the first leg of the semi-final of the Champions League between Inter Milan and FC Barcelona. Jose Mourinho, manager of Inter, worked with Bobby Robson in his time at Barcelona, so the fans call him "el traductor" (his Spanish was much better than Bobby's!). The match also sees Samuel Etoo face his old team mates of Barcelona and in fine form.

Champions League trophy - Barcelona Sights blog

The FC Barcelona players were forced to take a coach trip from Barcelona all the way to Milan due to the volcanic dust cloud which is still hanging over many parts of Europe. Whilst many might think this is an excuse for tiredness and the like, Guardiola has stated that he'd much rather travel 14 hours on a bus to play in the semi finals of the Champions League than stay at home on the sofa. Very true.

I think this will prove a very tough test for the Catalan team, as Inter are playing some good football and certainly know how to mark people out of the game. I expect Messi, for example, to have a pretty quiet game in comparison to his incredible performance against Arsenal.

The return leg of the match in Barcelona is to be played on the 28th April. If you fancy coming to Barcelona to watch the match, check out these Barcelona Apartments for a comfortable stay. And for a quick look at the main city sights, check out this guide to Barcelona.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Barcelona Scams - The Drunken Hug

This morning's Vanguardia newspaper draws attention to a variation on a well-established scam in Barcelona. As with most of the scams I've written about, this one relies on distraction and usually the mark is someone who has been, or is out on a night out and had a few. It's basically a variation on the Barcelona Dance scam, dubbed the Ronaldinho dance. As my post describes, this is nothing new (it was the Rivaldo dance when I first got here, and in Madrid just a few years ago it was known as the Beckham dance - you can see a pattern emerging) and just uses a different approach. I've seen variations with the nightclub flyer scam last summer, and this has likely been around for a lot longer than today's news article.

Drunken Hug images from Vanguardia Website - credit Vanguardia - Barcelona Sights Blog

The article highlights different nationalities being targeted, even Spanish visiting from Madrid with one thing in common - everyone had been drinking. I hesitate to say "had too much to drink" as while this may be true in the majority of cases, after just one or two drinks you can let your inhibitions fall away and not suspect of people. I've seen first hand people been robbed and walk away thinking "those people were really friendly".

The scam usually involves two "actors" and then another couple of accomplices who receive the pass-off. There are variations - spot some stumbling tourists, pretend to be drunk and "hug" them whilst lifting their wallets, offer drugs and then congratulate them (with a hug) even if they don't want any, celebrate the victory of FC Barcelona and marvel at Messi (obviously very easy at this current period of the season!). The lifts are easy, the pass-off lightening quick, and the scamsters even offer to be searched - obviously producing nothing but an innocent smile - then offering to tell one guy where his wallet will have been thrown for 20 Euros. It makes your blood boil, right?

Facebbok I got robbed in Barcelona - Barcelona Sights

Well, it certainly does for a fair few people - at least 500 people, in fact, who've joined this Facebook page I know someone who got robbed in Barcelona, complete with photos, stories and the lot. I say good on whoever had the thought to begin the page, and I dare say after today's exposure in La Vanguardia (and last months, too), the fan pages will rocket.

So, what's my beef with just re-reporting news that's already available elsewhere? Well, as some of the cheeky comments in the article can attest, the law is a joke. Even if the police catch these thieves red-handed (extremely difficult, given the speed of the pass-off), if their loot is LESS THAN 400 EUROS, then it is not considered a crime, rather a minor fault. They will likely be taken to the station for a few hours and then later released. Straight back to "work". So whilst it perfectly acceptable for the police to fine tourists or locals for spitting, urinating or letting their dog do its business on the streets, those who rob are not even given a slap on the wrists, just a cell to rest their legs for a few hours.

Comment on today's article - Barcelona Sights Blog

For those of you who don't speak Spanish, the comment above says:

"You're the ones who need to leave. This neighbourhood is now ours, so now you have nothing to do, I laugh in the face of the police and the judges. Long Live Barcelona and it's laws. Ala uakbar"

Let me ask you, who would carry more than 400 Euros around with them on an evening (without bodyguards)? What a ridiculous law. I have also heard (although am no expert in the codigo penal de España) that many delinquents who are due to be prosecuted after some hard evidence, cannot be deported if they have a pending case, so many simply commit some smaller crimes or faults often in front of the police, so that the loop just keeps going.

Something is seriously wrong with the current situation, and whilst the mayor's office releases figures and statistics that crime rates are down in the city, this is because the poor tourists cannot be bothered to report their crimes at the never-ending queues which form in the police stations. There used to be a 902 number to report the crime from the comfort of your hotel - or hell even a loquotorio - and then collect the report with your crime number, but guess what? That was taken away for the Barcelona area a couple of years ago. Make things harder to report, and things seem rosier, right? This is not my rant at the local cops - they need to be out catching these scumbags, not taking down notes.

What do you think? any suggestions or comments, I'd be glad to hear. Please leave a comment below.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wall People in Raval

Social Media nowadays is capable of some pretty amazing things. Think UK Christmas number One single having a shift from the usual X-Factor winner last year, to angst anthem (which incidentally I love from first time round!) Killing in the Name from RATM. All thanks to a Facebook page. Then there was the recent Twestival held in Barcelona, too. So it's no surprise that social media plays a big role in this weekend's gathering of minds.

WallPeople - BarcelonaSights Blog

Facebook is the main player for this weekend's Barcelona WallPeople gig, which is a very cool idea - basically making the biggest photo murial in the city and all by volunteers (near to 500 now, so should be great!). The idea is simple: fill the wall behind the CCCB basketball court (Calle Valdonzella number 20) with photos, portraits, whatever, and stand back and admire. Starting on Saturday at 5pm, the idea is to fill the wall, and then from 5:30 to 7pm present the wall as an exposition. You can take away someone else's photos or collect your own, and if you'd like the person who takes your photo to contact you, you can leave details on the back (email, number, etc.). Hopefully that part won't be abused by some, and it's all just a great laugh for society and joining in. Being hosted in my favourite neighbourhood in the city (Raval) then I'm sure it'll make for a fusion of cultures, colours and fun.

Are you planning on attending? Let me know your ideas about the project and it's implications for you - feel free to leave a comment.

Coming to Barcelona this month? Check out these apartments in the old town on Barcelona for a real experience away from hotel rooms. And for a heads up on the rest of the city, see this quick Barcelona overview.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Nail-Biting time for Football Fans

This Tuesday sees the return leg of the Champions League Quarter Final between FC Barcelona and Arsenal. Tipped to be favourites to retain the title this year, Barcelona looked well on the way to cruisuing into the semis after two relatively easy goals from the gunners point of view put the Catalans ahead. The statistics from the game made grim reading for the Londoners with Arsenal only mustering up 30% posession over the 90 minutes and 6 shots on goal, compared to Barcelona's 17 shots and almost 70% posession.

Cesc Fabregas  - Image rights SkySports

However, a spirited second half display and some inspirational substitutes in the form of Theo Walcott saw Arsenal draw level for a magnificent 2-2 game of football. It was a real spectacle and I watched the game on TV3 (local channel here) where the commentaters were literally drooling over the first half performance (Pep Guardiola later claimed it was the best his team has performed).

Local lad Cesc Fabregas - who was a doubt before the game after bruising in the Premiership match against Birmingham (which they drew) won a last-gasp penalty, and as a result Carles Puyol was given his marching orders. Cesc slammed in the penalty to draw level, but it was bitter sweet, as he is now out for the rest of the season after breaking his fibula (not sure at this stage if it was already broken, and the match has further aggravated the injury). It matters little, as Fabregas had earlier received a yellow card in the match, meaning he would have missed the return trip to Camp Nou anyway, through suspension. Arsenal also have another few injury worries, with Arshavin limping off with a calf strain, and William Gallas also strechered off.

So it all makes for a thrilling night this coming Tuesday. While Barça have the home advantage and still look favourites, you can't help but think them taking their foot off the gas a little on Wednesday made them a little complacent, and anything can happen in football, right? What do you think? Are Barça untsoppable or can Arsenal cause an upset? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

And if you're looking for accommodation for the Barcelona Arsenal match ? BCN Rentals still has some central properties available for the dates, and can offer some great last-minute deals.

Easter Processions in Barcelona

Well, it's Good Friday (never really understood why it's called "Good" when possibly the worst event in the Christian calendar occurs?), and we're well into the Easter programme. Despite Spain being a catholic country, my experience tells me that in Catalunya the celebrations around this time are not as heavily attended and participated as in the likes of Andalusia, places such as Sevilla, where the locals practically camp out the night before to view the processions. Those chopsen to participate in the processions are literally thrilled and it's often the proudest moment of some people's lives (even if they're covered from head to toe). In a way, I appreciate the respect and reverence for the holy day and especially the tradition, but sometimes I can't help thinking they go a little over the top! Apologoies if that offends anyone (I'm Catholic, by the way).

Easter Procession on Las Ramblas - Barcelona Sights

So, what about Barcelona? Well, last Sunday was Palm Sunday, and many churches celebrate mass with the extravagant palms you see over here in Spain. Today there are tow places you can catch up with the processions. The first is Plaça Sant Agusti, which is centrally located, here and starts at 17h today.

At the same time, another procession leaves Plaça Sant Jaume - on the opposite side of Las Ramblas. These are the traditional processions each year, and I haven't actually checked the details and times this year (been very busy) so don't blame me if they're cancelled! At least the weather this year is better than last year!

The other big deal in Barcelona, is the giving of the "monas" - traditionally cakes made with the eggs that were saved from fasting through lent, but more often than not, chocolate sculptures are created and seems a shame to actually eat them in some cases (I saw an amazing full chocolate Leo Messi of about 3 mertes on the news this week). For details and photos, please check my post from Easter 2009.

Coming to Barcelona this month? Check out these apartments for rent, as a great alternative to a hotel room. And for a quick look at the main sights in the city, have a look at this city guide.

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