Friday, December 16, 2011

Last 16 Champions League Just Announced

With both Manchester clubs crashing out of the groups stages of the Champions League fairly surprisingly this month, and neither Arsenal or Chelsea exactly running away with it as far as English football is concerned, one would think that those in the Barcelona camp would be pretty confident of defending the glory of being current champs - despite David Villa's cringe-worthy leg break yesterday in Yokahama. OK, there have been some pretty fantastic results in the qualifyers (Lyon anyone?), but you just can't help thinking that if they can avoid a...ahem.... "top" team bnefore the winter break, then they have all the more chance of progressing with time for people to come back from injury, etc.

So, we've just had the draw for the last 16 for the Champions as well as the Europa, and it's looking as follows:

Lyon v APOEL 
Napoli v Chelsea 
AC Milan v Arsenal 
Basel v Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona
CSKA Moscow v Real Madrid
Zenit St Petersburg v Benfica
Marseille v Inter Milan

So, looking at that, it could have been worse, right? As always, my opnions here are just that - another football bloke giving his 2 pence against coming results and although I've been accused of having a crystal ball in the past, I'm thinking...

No probs for Lyon. Chelsea will scrape through in a dramatic fashion. Arsenal go through but VanPersie injured and their season then goes down pan. Bayern no worries. Barcelona few nerves, but too much for Leyverkusen. Mou to complain about plastic pitch no end but Real go through. Zenit go through cos Benfica players have never felt so cold they just curl up inside themselves. Which leaves Marseille and Inter. Possibly the most entertaining of matches on paper (although you watch now it'll be dull as dishwater!) but I'll got Inter. 
These are the Valentine's weekend fixtures, remember, to be repeated in March in the away legs, so those Leverkusen fans might get a bit of spring sunshine in the fan parks, too!
Anyone else like to chip in with predections?! Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong below!! 
Any any Leverkusen fans looking to get some spring sunshine, then check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great alternative to a hotel. And for a short guide to Barcelona, click the link. 

Nativity Scene at Plaça Sant Jaume

As is becoming customary with me, I'll take the kids to see the Christmas lights, Christmas Fair, often the Three Kings, and always the Nativity Scenes in the centre of the old town, too. The Plaça Sant Jaume is the usual place for the scene to be installed and each year takes a different form. Last year's scene was like a scale model Bethlehem with lights being projected onto the Town Hall in the background.

Well, this year's scene is perhaps a little more traditional  - as in old fashioned - and seems to echo the style of the abandoned frescos painted on the cielings of churches around Catalunya in the day - many of which can be seen at the MNAC over at Plaça Espanya. The paintings of Jospeh, Mary & the Kings are almost icon-ic and for me the whole faux-stone church is trying to evoke that.

For my ignorance, there may well be a very informative piece all about the designer and painter somewhere around the Plaça Sant Jamue, so I apologise if that's totally wrong!! haha!!! Well, anyway, I like it this year a bit more than last year - although there's no place for the classy dinner table with the caldo de galets like last year...shame!

And just as you're admiring the scenes and taking a few photos, there's your caganer out the back, looking like a mix between Edvard Munch's The Scream and a cardboard Muppet. Hang on a minute.....

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below about this year's decorations, and if anyone else has anything to suggest, please leave a comment, too!

Barcelona Apartments with BCN Rentals.

BarGelona - Skating at Plaça Catalunya

As I mentioned last month, Plaça Catalunya has been converted into a Giant Ice Rink, called BarGelona (Gel is "ice" in Catalan), and although I took these photos the day before it was due to open, I haven't had time to actually get down there yet - so didn't want to wait much longer for the post. Obviously it's a great place to go with the kids, and that has been my intention, but as winter comes, so do coughs and colds, and we've been putting it off - I'll try and update this post with some pics when we manage to get.

Anyway, the rink is open until the 8th January, so plenty of time to go and enjoy the experience. It's open pretty much all day from 10am till 9pm, and weekends until 11pm (full timetable here) and the price is 8 Euros for 1 hour or 6 Euros for 30 minutes. This includes skate hire and you have to wear gloves. However, many of the local shops in and around the city centre have 2 x 1 tickets which makes it a great price at 4 Euros for the hour. I got some from a local shop in Sant Antoni, for example, if you want to have a shop around - don't be afraid to ask either - the shops get a wad of tickets to give out for those kids of things.

Anyone been yet?! Let me know in the comments - I think it's a great idea, and as I say, I haven't been yet, but will report back when I get the chance!!

If you're coming to Barcelona this Christmas, check out these last minute deals for Barcelona apartments  - some real bargains ! And for a quick look at what's hot and what's not, see this Barcelona Guide.

Christmas Market in Barcelona - Giant Cagatio!!

Every year the Feria de Santa Lucia brings a bit of Christmas Cheer to the city - it's a very long running tradition, and what started as a small market now takes up pretty much the whole of the Plaça in front of the city cathedral in the gothic quarter. Christmas tunes are playing from speakers just enough to keep things merry and not annoying (unless you work there, I imagine!) and it's great to just have a wander around and experience the different traditions and customs which Catalunya has embraced for Christmas.

As well as real Christmas trees (very overpriced, sorry) and decorations there are nativity scenes, ornaments, caganers, cagatios, and lots of plants and floral decorations. Into it's 224th edition, it's a must-visit for anyone visiting the city and even the residents here - especially those with children.

 And this year, there's yet another reason to get yourselves down there. Yes, it's a giant Cagatio!! The Barcelona council and getting good at making giant Christmas characters (see my linki for last year's enormous Caganer in Maremagnum!).

I happened to be there last weekend and it was just about to re-open for the afternoon "show" and there was a huuuuuuuggggge queue of people up towards the bridge of sighs - so we gave it a miss, but for those in fine voice for the song (oh, yes, people, he's got his own song!!). Also, this Saturday and Sunday you can see the traditional Sortidas de la Carassa - like the Christmas beast - from 12:30 onwards. The Fair is on until the 22nd December, so get yourselves down there to pick up a gift or those last minute decorations for your place!

Coming to Barcelona this winter? Check out BCN rentals apartments for rent as a great alternative to a hotel room.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Barcelona Shopping Night Kicks Off Christmas

I wasn't sure I'd be writing practcally the same as I wrote last year regarding the expectations of the nation (practically) on two upcoming events - the Christmas shopping campaign and the Christmas Lottery - but it appears that not a lot has changed in 12 months (save a president). Press releases all week have been praising the sales of the lottery tickets as per usual, and despite the cyber Monday plodding along yesterday and the fact that the 23rd December is the best day for retail in Spain, the initiative to get people digging deep early starts tomorrow night in downtown Barcelona.

Yes, for those fortunate few with rather deep pockets, many of the city's most exclusive (read expensive) shops open from 20h till "the early hours" of the morning to participate in the shopping night. Don't be fooled by the link, people, the site is in Catalan or Spanish, not English. There are also many of the chain stores dotted along the same streets (this year Caspe and Rossello join in, too) to pick up some late night bargains, too, don't worry ;o)

Heavily concentrated around the city's most chic street, Paseig de Gracia, almost all of the shops and hotels have activities going on to entice the locals into the shops. Bands, cooking, Tapas, etc. all co-inciding with the turning on of the Christmas lights, too. Similar to last year, you can get a Passport to travel around the shops - only this time you can download one from their facebook page, and tying in nicely with my recent post on Android apps for visiting Barcelona, the shopping night even have their own andriod app too.

If you're coming to Barcelona this winter, check out BCN Rentals for their selection of last minute barcelona deals. And for a quick llok into the neighbourhood where the event is happening, see this guide to Eixample.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Smartphone Android Apps for Barcelona

This is a post I've been thinking of doing for ages. It's by no means a definitive list and the only reason why I've titled the post Android Apps, is because my phone is android - many of these will work on an iphone and there may be equivalent apps out there. Also, many items of the following list could really be tailored to any city you visit - I just sometimes think that they're very under-used. So, let's dive in. Make sure your battery is charged.

Google maps (street view)

It goes without saying that one of your best friends visiting any new city would be google maps. Apart from pinpointing your location and then being able to see map/satellite version to see just how far/close you are to major points, you can use Navigation to find directions to any street/monument/metro station, etc. The routes can re-calculate if there are streets closed/roadworks/you don't fancy the frst route suggested and you can even zoom in to street view with the pegman and actually follow the route as if you're following your camera.

Street View Navigating to Palau Güell

If there are a few of you in your group, you can also each turn on latitude, which will follow you around and if you decide to split up, you can "spy" on your friends to find out where they are - so girls go shopping and get lost from the boys, it's easy to find them again instead of wasting a call. Maps also lets you "check in" to places, similar to Foursquare and Facebook and similar sites, and then there are many apps to find useful places near to your location - the default one in Android is just as good as some of the others I've used, and will show you cashpoints/ATMs, Restaurants, pubs, petrol stations, etc.
Fancy some food at the Boqueria, but don't have a guide book ?

It also goes without saying that services like Viber, whatsapp and the like are also great for keeping in touch (but roaming applies, so it depends if your mobile plan works out cheaper/more expensive as many have bundle packets of sms thrown in). There are a couple of decent Wi-Fi Finder apps out there, too, to scan your surroundings and find free wifi hotspots to connect to and send messages to each other in these situations.

Google Goggles Capturing Casa Batllò
Google Goggles.

I really love this app. Apart from the possibility of taking a photo of (for example) a menu and having goggles directly translate the text for you, one of the best uses is pointing your camera at a random building and then Goggles will tell you what it is. It's surprisingly accurate and the photo here is even me in the car taken through the windscreen (as a passenger, don't fret) and the app recognised Casa Batllò in about 2 seconds. So instead of just wondering what that cool building is, flick out your googles. It is really really clever. Goggles also works perfectly as a QR reader, so those posters you'll see in and around the city for the upcoming nights in the cool Barcelona clubs can be a "Wonder if that's any good/wonder where that is?" thing of the past. I used it recently to find out more about the Cat Garden that I've passed by a million times and always wondered just who the cats belonged to and how they were taken care of, etc. For those of you not quite sure what those QR codes are, they're those black and white squares with lots of dots that work a little like a barcode.


Conversation mode in Translate
Translation apps are often a bit hit and miss, but if you're really shy or need something very urgently like a trip to a chemist, you can use Google translate. I know that most chemists will speak English (!) but you get the idea. All android phones have voice input, so once you've played around for a bit with it (usually before you arrive/when you first get your phone!) you can forget typing on a mini keybopard and just say what you want. Translate on a mobile will offer not only a text-based answer but a spoken version of the phrase in many languages. Specifically for Spanish, you can also enter in conversation mode - where you can hold your phone/mic to the other person to reply to your query (in Spanish, not Catalan, sorry) and then the app translates it back to you - like a real conversation.

Twitter is an awesome social tool to have at your disposal. Before you go, make sure to do a bit of research and start to follow people who might be able to help. The social community on Twitter is mainly there to help and as long as you don't bombard people with usesless tweets you could easily find online, then most people are really willing to help. Hashtag searching can help, too, to see what's happening in #barcelona at any time, and some great people to follow are obviously Barcelona Yellow, Barcelona Guided Tours and Barcelona Unlike for up to date stuff and a keen eye on the city.

Obvously I've found a few other apps in the market, such as metro maps, etc. mostly free, as well as loads to do with FCBarcelona of course, but didn't include here as not everyone would use them on a daily basis. I'd love to hear any comments on apps or things on your mobile that you've used to help enjoy your stay or you think I should have included. Leave me a comment below!

If you're looking for accommodation during your stay, then check out BCN Rentals late deals for some bargain prices.

Disclaimer. I purposely haven't linked to the apps themselves, as this is not a promotional post or anything, just a helpful idea. You can find them easily in the android market.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christmas Ice Rink at Plaça Catalunya ?

A recent post in La Vanguardia has reported that Barcelona council has given the green light to "considering" turning Plaça Catalunya into an ice skating rink, similar to the famous New York rink in front of Rockerfeller Plaza. The idea would need a pretty quick implimentation as the plan would be to co-incide with the traditional turning on of the Christmas lights and the annual late night shopping event this coming 30th November. It also reports that it would be a good incentive for those looking to vote for Barcelona for the Winter Olympic Games of 2022 as well.

The idea is to create a rink of around 800m2 with an artificial tree in the middle which would be paid for by the private sector - some companies such as Damm breweries (who else?!) have come forward in support of the idea. I think it would be really cool, and despite the usual criticisms in the comments on the vanguardia site, I'm all for it. I'm still very traditional when it comes to Christmas and love the lights and the festivities, and to be honest I think for the space that Plaça Catalunya occupies, it's a bit of a white elephant and could be put to much better use.

Of course, there's another reason why the rink has been proposed - to stop another occupancy of the Plaça Catalunya like in May from those in the 15-M movement. Christmas is always a time that the shops and city as a whole like to enjoy a bit of a peak again after the summer slump, so anything that could potentially disturb that  (i.e. a manifestation) is something the authorities will want to avoid.

What are your thoughts? Do you think it's a good idea, or it might look a bit limp compared to other cities ? I remember being in Brussels close to Christmas one time and there was a rink there that was pretty small, but really popular. Let me know in the comments.

Coming to Barcelona this winter? Rent a Barcelona apartment instead of a hotel room. And for a quick look at the best sights to see, check out this Barcelona guide.

Image credit

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Woo-Hoo! It's the Raval(s) Cultural Festival 2011!!

As I've said before, I love my neighbourhood. Everyone chats to each other and there's no air of superiority like I've found in many other barris that I've lived in. I often wish I could speak so many other languages to be able to really chat to the various people I have come to know in their own language. I remember feeling frustrated in my first few years here, learning Spanish at that just-getting-by stage, as I couldn't really have proper conversations. Pleasantries were a breeze but if I was annoyed about something, then I could rarely make my point.

Anyway, enough about me. Starting tomorrow is the 9th edition of Raval(s) - a culture festival involving loads of different social groups, and celebrating the great variety of walks of life we have in the neighbourhood. According to the Fundacio Tot Raval, this year's participation is the highest yet, and if you live here, too, you'll have seen the funky posters haning up and around everywhere.

There's a really varied selection of events with Theate, poetry, dance, concerts and many guided visits to the main museums and historical buildings of the city, such as the newly re-opened Palau Güell, MACBA, CCCB, Liceu, and Sant Pau del Camp amongst others.

The festival kicks off tomorrow evening with an open concert at the Rambla Raval, and everyone is encouraged to come along and participate at 8pm. Organised by Taller de Musica in the upper Raval, it's an excuse to get those vocal chords a-warbling!

Plenty of daytime activities with painting and Henna for the kids and games of the world like cricket (!) and other stuff.

There are great deal of plays and theatre performances in the avried spaces around 08001 and for a full program of events, download the pdf here.

In recent years, I've been disappointed by the absence of live music in the raval during La Merçe festivities. When I first moved here, there was always a huge stage at the top end of the Rambla del Ravaln and it was great. During the summer, in the Festival del Barri del Raval, every little square and plaça had a concert going on with such variety - some really cool Bollywood at Nou de la Rambla, Rock in Hort de la Bomba and open mic rapping on the Rambla Raval. I made it up to MACBA late as it was raining and had just missed the concert! But you get the idea.

So I was pleased to see this year has some (early-ish) concerts each night, with Jazz on the menu as well as Cuban music, and the ever popular Raval's band. Go on, you know you want to....;o) See you there!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Salon Erotico Barcelona

I tell you what. I've been here for 11 years now, and I'm still amazed at the attitude towards sex and the sex industry over here. Maybe I'm a stuffy Brit, but I'm still a firm believer in the 9pm watershed, for example, and things of this nature. I distinctly remember waking up one Saturday morning when we had Canal+ and it was very early, like 8:30am, and they had Hannibal on the Movie channel. Like for you to just send your kids to watch TV whilst you stay in bed for a lie in and then traumatise them for life as Anthony Hopkins eats brains from Ray Liotta's skull. I know that example is not sex-related but I still found myself shaking my head and tutting.

I still find it incredible that you have so many sex shops and ahem "puti clubs" alongside normal blocks of flats in the city centre with no particular regard of where exactly. And I KNOW there's absolutely nothing wrong with it and that it goes on everywhere and would happen anyway so I'm not saying hide it, BUT this coming weekend does have me a little puzzled.

Yes, this Thursday sees the return of the Barcelona Erotic Show in nearby Cornella. You may have spotted those descreet bright pink posters with a woman's nipple around the town? The Salon Erotic is exactly what it says on the tin - a whole shebang of everything you can possibly imagine under one roof: porn stars, live shows, workshops, sex shops, galleries, massages, gay sections, S&M, you name it, it'll be there with bells on. Literally.

So here's my confusion. Who actually goes to these events ?! Ok, I can envisage a lot of geeky hormonal males and dirty old men going, but apart from that??? I keep thinking that it could be interesting but imagine if you bumped into someone you know...or just as you're thoughts could go on...!! My guess is that you'll probably get some very "open" couples going too - given that there's a swingers area...anyone reading going?! Drop me a comment below!

Fancy a trip to Barcelona this Autumn? Why not rent a Barcelona apartment instead of a stuffy hotel room ? And for a quick look at the best sights, check out this guide to Barcelona.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sitges Film Festival 2011

It's that time of the year again. It completely doesn't feel like it, with the "hottest October since 1940-whatever" cos we're normally used to a bit more of a chill nowadays (pun intended) but it is indeed time for the 44th Annual Festival de Cine de Sitges. What started as a small festival back in 1968 has gone from strength to strength and is a must-visit for any fantasy/horror fan - there simply is too much to choose from with Asia heavily represented, of course, local cinema, classic horror legends and new screenings to choose from and compete for the awards. Don't just take my word for it, the press page speaks for itself. 300 screenings to over 100,000 people attracting 430 different media outlets from around the globe. And that's not even mentioning the über fun Zombie Walk - this year on the 14th October.

It's normal for the festival to honour a figure in the world of fantasy cinema be it an actor, director or whoever, and this year it's a younger man - Bryan Singer - who is honoured for his fantasy/comic direction with such films as X-Men and Superman under his belt and another X-Men in pre-production. He's also the man responsible for bringing Battlestar Galactica back to the big screen and the man who produced the House series and (one of my favourite films) The Usual suspects. That man deserves a pat on the back.

With the 10th anniversary of Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence Movie here, the festival also takes a look at the way AI has been portrayed in movies from Spielberg to Kubrik, and indeed the official posters are at first glance a man and a woman but are in fact robots from Japan. The idea is to provoke and arouse ambiguity and interest to take a further look. What do you think? Planning on attending this year, or hobbling along to the zombie walk? Let me know in the comments.

And if you're looking to take advantage of all this good weather for a last gasp beach trip, check out BCN Rentals apartments for a great deal on accommodation. And for some information about other Barcelona Day trips aside from Sitges, check the link.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Monumental Curtains

It's widely accepted that the Catalans don't like bullfighting. That's something very Spanish - Osborne's monstrous black silhouettes around the country's highways and festivals such as San Isidrio in Andalucia are huge events for local people, and it has to be said that as an imagery to foreigners most people recognise Flamenco, Paella & Sangria and Bull fighting as a typical weekend in any Spaniard's diary. Not so in Catalunya. They mock the bull.

While the city has been the home of two bull rings over the years - Las Arenas and Monumental - it will be the proud owner of none come this Sunday. Saturday sees the very last appearance of bulls within Monumental, at least in  front of Matadores for the viewing public that is. Across town, Las Arenas has been converted (albeit very slowly) into a rather snazzy shopping mall with gyms, Rock Museum and endless shops and restaurants.

You can't say it hasn't been coming. From locals recording disgusted tourists on camera and then uploading the videos to youtube, to official protests and demonstrations, the whole thing went to court and the new law will be introduced and enforced as of 2012 - No bullfighting in Catalunya. I think if you ask the majority of locals what they think about, they'll agree that it doesn't bother them one bit. In fact, it's true to say that the majority of the seats at Monumental over the past few years have been filled by tourists, so it's hardly going to be missed.

So what will happen to Monumental? I have no idea, so welcome any comments of people who may be in the know. Of course it can stay as a concert venue, or sports venue of sorts, I don't think there's a need for another Mall of sorts, but surely the structure will be kept - as much as the locals don't like what goes on in there, it's become part of the urban landscape of the city and is extremely distinctive. Feel free to comment if you do know what's planned!

Thinking of visiting the city this Autumn ? Check out these apartments for rent via BCN Rentals for a great deal on accommodation. And for a quick heads up of what to see and what not to miss, check out their Barcelona Guide.

Monday, September 19, 2011

La Merçe 2011

Well, it's that time of the year again. It just seems like a little while back we were enjoying the summer festivals of Gracia, and squeezing the very last drops of summer out before the routine starts again, when the big one sneaks up on you without you quite realising it. Yep, it's nearly time for La Merçe.

This year looks to be fairly short in terms of the actual days that the festival runs, as the 24th is actually the Saturday. For those of you not in the know, the 24th is the actual feast day of Our Lady of Mercy - one of the patron saints of Barcelona, and the whole reason for La Merçe festival. Other years the festival has been spread over 4 or 5 days (and more) but this year it's squeezed into the 22nd - 25th September.

I've blogged before about the several activities to do with kids in La Merçe and some of those are equally as fun for adults, too. The weather looks like it's going to stay fine so download your programme here and get planning!! Like every year, there are over 500 different activities going on all over the city, as well as the Mas i Mas Music festival and BAM, too. Street performers, traditional ceremonies, fire attractions and the festa del cel on the 2nd October again tie it all in before the autumn arrives.

As usual, there'll be a circus big top up in the gardens of Montjuic, with plenty to see looking at the promotional video on the site, with special guests from St. Petersburg this year.

The evening events are mainly musical apart from the typcial correfoc (fire-run) and are a great showcase for newer bands to get an audience through Barcelona Accio Musical (BAM mentioned above) as well as the Mas i Mas pulling in the big guns like Mando Diao at the Old Damm factory on Rossello. Over the years I've just wandered around the old town mainly from Plaça Reial to Plaça Catalunya or Plaça Angels just seeing who seems decent depending on my mood! Never been let down yet!!

So, are you planning to go to La Merce this year? Anything in particular you're looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!! And if you're coming to Barcelona this autumn, check out these barcelona apartments as a great alternative to a hotel.

Friday, September 16, 2011

When Will It Change?!

A fairly small news short this morning caught my attention, re-affirming the incredible stupidity of the laws regarding petty crime here. I know I've complained about this in the past so forgive me for going over old ground, but it really annoys me.

The news story reports nothing new - that one of the hot spots for pickpockets in the city is around the Magic Fountains of Montjuic. I've blogged before about my aunt being robbed on the metro just after going to the fountains. This morning's news bulletin details an operation by the Mossos to round up some of the theives targeting tourists while they watch the show. Funny that they've waited until a Thursday evening in September to try this rather than the height of summer when you generally have busloads ( or coach loads literally) of tourists happily distracted by the jets and flumes of the fountain.

So undercover agents are deployed amongst the public to catch the scumbags en fraganti and inevitably find a fair few. These are then taken to a less crowded place, searched and if anything stolen has been found, then rounded up in yet another more secluded location until the fountains have finished. In this particular evening, FIFTY ONE  people were detained - mostly Eastern Europeans including women (quel surprise) - and (here's the best bit) of those 51 people detained, the police arrested ONE person. For drug trafficking. Yes, that's right. And what happened to the other 50 ? Well, they were let on their merry way, of course, once the fountains had finished. This is Spain, you fools!

Yes, unless any thief is caught red-handed (like these were) with MORE THAN 400 EUROS ON THEM, then they are simply given a stern talking to by the police. It's no wonder they laugh in their faces. Of course, they'll be back tomorrow night and will likely recognise the undercover cops now, so it's just become even easier! I mean, who carries 400 Euros around with them?! And even if it's accumulative over various robberies, I've seen footage of thieves immediately dropping any booty in plant pots and the like, for another person to come along and collect, ensuring they never have anything on them other than loose change.

It's the system that's to blame, and what gets Barcelona such a terrible reputation online - something that I think is greatly over exaggerated. There are even metro vigilantes taking things into their own hands (hat tip to robbed in barcelona for that one), however, until there's a radical shake-up in the laws, it's just going to keep happening. Don't worry, this is not me gettng political on the blog or wanting to start petitions and the like cos I don't even think it would do any good. Just me venting a bit of public frustration...comments welcome as always guys...

Barcelona is a great city to visit, and I don't want people to be put off by my posts like these. If you're thinking of visitinjg soon, check out BCN Rentals for some accommodation tips.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Strange BBC Short Documentary ?

Last week I came across a strange BBC News clip that left me thinking a lot. Whilst celebrating the triumph of Barcelona as a tourist destination, marvelling at the architecture and art in both Gaudi and Picasso and revealing startling statistics such as the fact that 80,000 tourists arrive in the Catalan Capital per day, the main mini-documentary wasn't congratulating a city whose mother country is firmly established as one of the PIIGS - oh, no, it's that Barcelona as a tourist destination is becoming crowded. In fact, the tourists are "spoiling" Barcelona.

BBC News Documentary - Barcelona Sights Blog

If you've got 9 minutes to spare, go and watch the video on that link above. you might see where I'm coming from (Auntie doesn't let you embed their videos). Go on, I'll wait.

One in ten residents works in tourism-related job and in 2011 Barcelona hosted more conferences than any other city in Europe (and has been granted the World mobile Congress again until 2018). However, it's the locals who complain about the abundance of ice cream stalls after the council closed down the bird sellers and allowed them to open up the ice cream stalls right on las ramblas.

I tire of reading polls in the paper of the citizen's main concerns over safety in the city (after unemployment, usually) or stories of robberies and pickpockets but whilst the law remains the same, the problem will not go away. Surely the politicians should be addressing this kind of problem before building new marinas for luxury yachts.

The video has so many talking points, from losing identity -despite having the most ethnic and diverse neighbourhood in the whole of Catalonia to the simple opinion of "if you don't like the heat, get out of the kitchen...but it's my kitchen" kind of attitude.

What do you think? I'm not completely opposed to everything the video has to offer, and I think this is a platform for discussion, so would love to hear your comments.

Thinking of joining the crowds this summer? why not rent your own Barcelona apartment instead of opting for a hotel room ?

Gracia Festival Photo Review

OK, OK, I know I'm a bit late to be posting about a been-and-gone festival, but hey, Gracia Festival is one of the best in the city. When I first moved to Barcelona, I lived in Gracia for a few weeks whilst flat-hunting, and it's a great neighbourhood which stil retains the small-town feel. The festival is unlike many of the city's other offerings as lots of streets are permanently closed off to traffic and they are decorated, like caves from entrance to exit with different themes. Prizes are given each year to the best-decorated streets, and whilst it would be impossible to give you a full run-down of the amazing designs and efforts that go into the preparations, I thought it'd be fun to show you a few snaps.

I went down with my family (you'll spot them in a few pics) and purposely chose a day which would be fairly quiet to try and show the decorations, rather than the hundreds of people that gather both day and night. Each street has it's own typical meals - huge paellas, sardines on the bbq, and many meats and other typical catalan dishes.

This year, some of the best streets were the Peter Pan tribute (deserved winner), Magic Street, Coffee theme, kids themes such as Spongebob and Jungle Book, sea theme with pirates and mermaids, and even a tribute to the Beatles' Yellow Submarine. Many streets had kids paddling pools out for the heat, and the Alien/space street had great water features like valcanoes and a fountain.

Ingenious inventions with plastic bottles into laterns...

Recycled Lights - Barcelona Sights Blog

Alegria Stage - Barcelona Sights

Light Balloons on Barcelona Sights

Check out the steam!!

Coffee pot with Steam coming out! Barcelona Sights

He lives in a Pineapple under the sea - Barcelona Sights Blog

Ornate Entrances and exits in the streets - Barcelona Sights

Under the Sea - Barcelona Sights

Many decorations use recyclable materials...

Plastic Fish and weeds - Barcelona Sights

Grilled Sardines on the barbeque...mmmmmmmmmm

Grilled Sardines - Barcelona Sights Blog

Little Mermaids ? Barcelona Sights

The Jungle Book Tribute Street...

The Family Outside Jungle Book - Barcelona Sights blog

Jungle Calle - Barcelona Sights

My kids trying to steal King Louie's banana...

King of the Swingers - Barcelona Sights blog

Worthy Winners - Barcelona Sights

great silhouettes of Peter Pan, Wendy & Michael flying through the streets

Barcelona sights - Peter Pan tribute

...with Tinkerbell in the tree!!

who's that hiding in the tree? Barcelona Sights

London Bus Front in Carrer Tordera...

Gracia Festival - Barcelona Sights Blog

The Yellow Submarine!!

We all live in a yellow submarine - Barcelona sights Blog

Did you go the the festival this year? Let me know your comments!! For a quick look at the other city sights, check out this Barcelona Guide. And for some great options on accommodation, check out BCN Rentals apartments.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Calls of a Fix for Last Night at Sala Montjuic

As regular readers will know, tomorrow night is the last night for Sala Montjuïc which is the fantastic cinema under the stars up at the castle. It's a great way to see some fantastic films (after a quick short film) and as tradition, the last night - tomorrow night - is always left open to a vote.

So this year's options were The Dark Knight, Inception and Insomnia. Two great films and one of Al Pacino's to forget, to be fair. Now, according to the website there has been a prety clear winner with 42% of the votes with Christopher Nolan's Batman sequel the Dark Knight the winner. However, I'm hearing rumors of a bit of rigging going on with the votes as you can see from the following video (give it a few seconds):

If Partridge is having trouble, how the hell are the rest of us supposed to vote properly as well ?! I mean, please?!

Circuit Comes to Town

I'm a big fan of Matinee group. They organise some of the best parties in and around the city of Barcelona, and although maybe some of the best ones have been and gone, they're still a sure bet for a great time.

So, once again it's time for the biggest Gay and Lesbian Festival to hit town (and round about) - Circuit. The pre-party kicks off tonight and there are events which run right up until 14th August which is next Sunday. There are many spaces and locations used all around Barcelona and Sitges, including Razzmatazz, and beach parties at Atlantida as well as the hugely popular Illa Fantasia for the Water Park party and the beach at San Adria.

It looks like this year won't be featuring the bear party from last year and strictly the girls and the boys. The girls have chosen Atic for their main event, but will also be joining many of the joint events. The great thing about Circuit is that they also organise day events from art exhibitions, Aids awareness, cinema and fashion to raise funds for needy causes - this year it's "Protect" which helps prtect children against sexual exploitation. It's all to be applauded in my opinion and very well organised. Are you planning on attending this year? Let me know in the comments!

And if you're looking for a last minute august break to the city, check out BCN Rentals for your accommodation needs. And for a quick look at the city spots, check this Barcelona Guide.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Festa Major Raval 2011

We're 2 days into the Festa Major of my own neighbourhood, 08001, el Raval. I've lived ion many different places in my 11 years here, and now I'm in the Raval, I doubt I'll ever leave - I love it. I hate the reputation it has on certain places on the net and different guide books, and while I'll be the first to admit it still is a bit rough in parts, it's the best place to live for me.

So what more excuse to come and ravalejar this weekend than to join in the fun with the local festival. Dance, chocolatadas, open air cinema, exotic foods with dinner on the streets, and of course, typical traditional customs like castellers, gegants and drummers round the streets.

It might sound exactly the same as some of the other local festivals that occur year round in each little neighbourhood but for me, it's the whole multi-cultural aspect of the place that you just can't get anywhere else. Every age is catered for, and activities go on all day with literally something for everyone. Some of the evening concerts worth a look in: tonight there's an Elvis tribute band playing in Nou de la Rambla/Ramblas which I can only imagine to be hilarious, and an Intercultural Folklore dance night on Saturday with South American groups showing their national colours and moves followed by a dance until the wee hours. I went to the Parallel festival at carnaval last year, and those guys were awesome!

If you're looking for accommodation for your trip to Barcelona, be sure to check out Barcelona apartments instead of a stuffy hotel room.

Sala Montjuïc Returns

For those of you who've been following a while, you'll know I always like to plug the annual events that I think are well worth the mention. Many people find my blog from many different sources, and the very way a blog is set up (chronologically) means that it's good to refresh the evergreen content. So here goes with another one...

Sala Montjuïc has been running for a couple of weeks now, and is a great way to spend a summer evening watching some quality cinema under the stars. Movies are projected onto the walls of Montjuïc castle and spectators sit in the gardens to watch. Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 22:00 there is a short film first (15 minutes) and then a mix of classic cinema and relatively new releases. For a full review of the programme, check the official link above, and then as usual, there is a vote for the final film - this year between Inception, The Dark Knight and Insomnia.

Entrance is only 5 Euros, and you can hire a deck chair for 3 Euros, or take along your blanket and picnic basket instead. In times of crisis, this is a cheap night out!

Looking for Barcelona accommodation this summer? Check out BCN Rentals for some great little apartments instead of just a hotel.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Grec Festival Kicks Off This Weekend

This weekend sees the start of a different kind of festival to the music ones happening already and is focussed around the Greek Theatre up on Montjüic. And this one goes on a lot longer, too - from 17th June to the 31st July you can enjoy a variety of shows at the Festival Grec. The festival actually spans many different forms of entertainment including dance, theatre music and art and uses various spaces around the city, but there's something special about the Greek Theatre.

Barcelona's Greek Theatre - Barcelona sights Blog

I studied Greek Theatre at University and also many of the classic Greek plays, so maybe the affinity lies there, but for me there's a draw to that hidden corner of Montjüic in the open air which was built for the Open Exhibition of 1929 just like its neighbour Poble Espanyol.

The festival is celebrating its 35th year in 2011, and showcases both local and International acts (also partners with other companies from abroad and tends to have a theme each year from each "guest"). This year sees such diversity as Jazz orchestras, breakdancing nights, Tango beats and tragedy plays all on that same stage. It's impossible for me to gloss over the entire programme so for full listings, please see the official site here.

For accommodation during the summer, check out BCN Rentals who have a great selection of apartments at reasonable prices.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sonar 2011

What can you say about Sonar that hasn't already been said before ? quite simply it's one of the best festivals in Europe, and something that despite being slap bang in the middle of a city rather than a huge field, gathers momentum every single year. It's something people look forward to each year more or less as soon as the official posters come out early in the year.

Sonar is as local as it is International. Many people repeat year on year, loads are first timers, and a high percentage of the assistants are locals, too (I have friends who take a week off every year and go to the whole thing, day night, non-stop).

Chilling at Sonar - Barcelona Sights blog

As usual, the line up doesn't look to disappoint (although I must admit I was secretly hoping for the Beasties to come back after their very cool new release, but never mind - just have to do with the very cool Fight for your right revisited at Sonar Cinema), with heavyweights Underworld sure to remind everyone just how good Trainspotting was. Aphex Twin are another from years gone by (with some of the coolest videos ever made!), as well as Human League, Dizzie Rascal, and many more to mention. Full line up here. As usual, the BBC has their live lounge over the full 3 days and there's also Sonar Radio for those of you who can't make the whole lot. The whole city kind of embraces Sonar and there's pretty much stuff going on which can be related to sonar all week, although the "actual" stuff is only 16th, 17th and 18th June.

And lets not forget the kids!! Sonar by Kids comes into its third year ready to entertain and form those little creative brains of our offspring. Again, far too much going on for me to detail here without repeating a list, but such variety from paper puppets to beatboxing, dj classes and workshops and breakdancing - on all day Sunday 19th.

Are you nipping to Sonar this year ? Anyone in particular you're looking forward to seeing? Let me know in the comments...

and if you're looking for accommodation in Barcelona close to Sonar there's a good link. If you need to familiarise yourself with the local area, too, then see this guide to Barcelona's old town.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gay Pride in June

The Catalans are a proud nation, and the Gay and Lesbian Community is also proud and perhaps more welcomely received than in other areas around Europe. And for that reason, Pride Barcelona is running into its third year and ready to shout from the rooftops. The main events actually run at the end of this month, but there are more events starting as early as the weekend of the 18th - co-inciding with the Sonar Festival.

Gay Pride 2011 - Barcelona Sights Blog

Heavily supported by both the council and many local businesses and charities, there is a lot of fun planned. From taking over tibidabo theme park, to the march from Plaça Universitat back to Plaça Espanya, foam parties and endless events around the city, there is something for everyone. Make up for kids, drag queen parades, even pets are getting involved this year, which looks fantastic!

One of the main areas to be used is the Fira de Barcelona outdoor space on Av Maria Cristina (between the two pencils, right?) - with basketball courts, circus acts, face painting, acrobats and dancers, and plenty of serious education material about STDs, HIV, etc. etc. And there are many other spots around the city and GaiEixample to embrace the movement so keep your eyes and ears open for those impromptu events. Full details and programme can be seen on the web.

Are you planning on attending any of the events or even offering yourself as a volunteer? Let me know in the comments...

And if you're stuck for accommodation in the city, check out these Barcelona apartments from BCN Rentals.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

May the Festivals Commence!

Now before you all start correcting me about festival time, and reminding me that we've already had Primavera Sound to kick off the season, it's only my way of saying that once we hit the second weekend of June, things just seem to come thick and fast and there's something about the sun that (usually) accompanies these kind of shindigs that doesn't mean rain, wellies and tents, rather sunshine, flip flops and Barcelona apartments.

So, with baited breath, it comes that time of the year again for those craaaazzy guys at Matinee group to commence the proceedings with their Summer Party. The site appears to have crashed today, so I'll point you in the direction of their Facebook page instead.

Matinee Summer Festival 2011 - Barcelona Sights blog

For those of you not in the know, the unique thing about the Matinee Summer festival is that it takes place in a huge water park just outside the city of Barcelona called Illa Fantasia. That's right, it's like one almighty pool party but it starts at 10am!! there is after parties of course from 22 onwards if you've managed to get your skin to resemble anything other than a shrivelled prune after all that dancing in the water...

The whole thing is very well organised with free buses to take you there every 15 minutes, and they have a decent line up to keep you amused all day - let's hope the weather obliges, too?!

Are you off to the party this year? Let me know in the comments...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lovely Rita

Altar of Santa Rita - Barcelona Sights Blog The Barcelonans certainly love their saints, or at least the traditions. By now you should know about Santa Eulalia and how the locals like to celebrate her life and memory. Another less well known saint is revered this month, too, in a little corner of Raval.

22nd May is the feast day of Santa Rita, who is the patron Saint of lost causes. Her altar in Sant Agusti church is consistantly the most visited and decorated. However on the morning of the 22nd, it is traditional for locals to go to her altar and have their roses blessed on this day. Queues of people form all around the plaça outside to much confusion of the tourists passing by. It's a nice tradition and shows the faith of the few who still believe in the power of prayer.

Saint Rita's Prayer - Barcelona Sights Blog

The church is very central, just off Calle Hospital and is the starting point for many of the processions during the year, such as the Easter parades, so if you're close by, pop along and have a look.

Barcelona apartments are are great way to stay in the city.
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