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.
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