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.
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