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!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Gluten Free Barcelona - Very Shortly....

Eating in Barcelona is nothing more than a pleasure. With almost every possible combination of foods and produce available, it's so much fun to experiment and try different dishes or cuisines (and not all have to be from the boqueria!). Eating out is also a real treat for most of us. There are only two groups I feel a bit sorry for - Vegans and Celiacs (those who can't eat gluten). I already tried to assist the first group with my list of Vegan and Vegetarian restaurants in Barcelona - comments and updates welcome as always). My mother used to be really bad with her gluten allergy and my Auntie still is very bad sufferer so for almost ten years they've been packing soda loaves and soya products into their suitcases at the expense of my English chocolate. (Yes, I know Cadburys has a factory here, but it's the milk, guys, the milk. English cows, and English grass....I digress).

Gluten Free Book Coming Soon - Barcelona Sights BlogOften a rejoicing sound would be heard if we found a small corner of El Corte Ingles or Carrefour that had a shelf of gluten-free products - even at a hugely inflated price. And eating out was a really tricky one if I wasn't present. I had to prepare them little bits of paper for waiters "Por favor, soy alergica al gluten. Aconsejeme con mis elecciones del menu" and the like...and we're talking about over ten years ago, when the majority of people didn't even know what gluten was, or if you could be allergic to it.

Well, finally, help is at hand. Or nearly. I had heard on the grapevine about this guidebook, and actually had this post prepared last month, but then saw that the book had been whipped off the shelves at the request of the President of the Catalan Association of Celiacs due to an error in the opening text.

The book contains a list of 42 restaurants where those diners will have absolutely no problems or worries choosing from the menu - and hopefully their fellow diners won't be disappointed, either. I have to say that I know a few and would maybe not have even known I was eating gluten free food on the occasions I've been so all good.

If anyone has any more tips about a Gluten Free Barcelona, then please let me/us all know in the comments!!

Coming to Barcelona this month? There are some great reasons to visit the city, with the good weather doing its best to hang on, and one of the best festivals of the year to check out. If you're still looking for accommodation, or some last-minute deals then check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative to a hotel room. And for a quick look at what's what in the city, see this great Barcelona guide.
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