Saturday, January 22, 2011

Watch UK TV on Your Computer

One thing that many ex pats miss about home is the TV. Spanish TV is notoriously bad, and even after the introduction of digital channels a few years back, the rubbish just seems to have multiplied. Being from the UK, I have SKY in my home as the satellite signal can reach Spain here (not the same for US channels for example). However, even then there are certain things that are broadcast or repeated online on such sites like BBC iplayer. Being in Spain, the site detects your computer's IP address, and the content is blocked. Which has been very annoying, until now.

Expat Shield - making brits abroad happy. Barcelona Sights Blog

Step up Expat Shield. I've been using this for a few months and was going to blog about it, but just never seemed to get around to it. It's a simple program which you install on your computer and it assigns a UK IP address to your browsing. You have to put up with a few banner ads, but it's definitely worth it.

Another great use it has is for watching movies online. There are many good blogs with cinema released movies which are streamed online. Some of the video hosting sites such as Megavideo and videobb annoyingly only allow you to watch 72 minutes of a movie, and then you have to wait for 30 minutes before you can re-start. There are various ways around this trick (opening various browser tabs and starting the movie at 20 minute intervals, etc.) but with expat shield, it's even easier - you can just "turn it on" and then watch the rest of the movie as the video host registers a new IP address (and you'll see all the ads turn from Spanish to English, too!). Go ahead and give it a try, I'm sure you'll be pleased!

Coming to Barcelona this month? Check out BCN Rentals apartments for a great saving on hotel rooms. And their Barcelona guide is a quick flick through the best sights, too.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hidden Barcelona Tunnels - Refugio 307

Now Barcelona has had a turbulent history. From Roman times, Spanish Armadas, civil wars and the like it's no surprise that there are many stories hidden beneath the city streets of today. A wander in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona's Old Town will take you to the City History Museum, where you can literally be transported thousands of years to the past with a Roman village beneath the streets.

Refugio 307 - Barcelona sights Blog

Montjuic Mountain also has many stories hidden in its rock. During the civil war the castle was used as a prison, and locals will tell you how many people were imprisoned simply for speaking the Catalan language. The elder generation have more vivid memories of these times and for many, a simple thing like taking the subway can bring back terrible memories. Underground tunnels with the alien sounds of oncoming trains and clackety-clack of rail-lines are too close to the fear that these children felt so many years ago when they huddled in underground tunnels and sewers, taking shelter from the danger overhead. There were many such shelters built during the civil war, some say as many as one thousand, but one has remained in excellent condition. Welcome to Refugio 307.

Cut deep into the city's bowels in between the old town and Montjüic, in the neighbohood known as Poble Sec lies a myriad of tunnels over 200 metres which included children's area, a medical station and many individual rooms. The indiscriminate bombings the city suffered at the time are brought sharply back to focus with this excellent example of the fight for survival that the local people must have had to confront at the time.

Refugio 307 can be visited for a guided tour (only Spanish and Catalan) daily at the cost of 3 Euros and is located very centrally on Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 169. Metro stop Parallel (exit funicular exit).

This is a guest post from Paul Jones who writes about Barcelona Raval apartments and Budget Barcelona apartments.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Visit La Sagrada Familia for FREE!!

Good News people. If the 3 Kings didn't bring you everything you lost in 2010, you can at least brighten up your January with the news that it's going to be free to visit the Sagrada Familia on each Saturday morning in January.

Sagrada Familia Altar - Barcelona Sights Blog

After the Pope's visit and consecration of the Temple, Europe's wackiest - and unfinished - cathedral has been drawing the crowds even more than when it was just a building site with lots of men in hard hats smoking fags inside. My mam visited in November and made the effort to go in and have a nosey around, and needless to say came back with the usual glowing reports, "Oh, the photos don't do it justice" etc. which I fully believe. Having been inside various times since I've been living here, I did want to see the finished inside, but kind of didn't want to pay that much, as I've seen all the rest of it about 5-6 times, so this comes as good news to me!! hahah! Does that make me sound tight?!

Pillars and Beams inside Sagrada Familia - Barcelona Sights

Well, it's only opening from 9-14h, according to the news link and that may be subject to change (going by the story) so don't take my word for it, and double check if you're reading this at the latter end of the month, just in case.

Sagrada Familia Stained Glass Windows - Barcelona Sights

The whole experience of going is well worth a visit, even from the intricacies of the two facades (both on Barcelona's list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites) so to be given full access for nothing is a no-brainer (I think it's about 12/13 Euros normally).

Since it's completion, the inside boasts the information "Now that the architectural work on the interior of the great church of the Sagrada Familia is complete, its Dedication is an offering to God for all time. For its scale and its artistic merit, it is now also a Basilica". I'm not completely sure what the difference between Temple, Cathedral, Basilica, etc. all means but quite frankly you can give the place all the words under the sun that mean church cos it deserves them in my book.

If you're coming to Barcelona this year, then be sure to check out apartments for rent in the city as a great alternative to a hotel room.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New Year!!

OK, so I'm a few days late, but hey, it's still worth saying. While the majority of Europe has got slowly back into the swing of things starting yesterday, for some Spanish kids tonight is what they've been waiting for since school broke up. Yes, the 3 Kings of Orient arrive tonight - on a boat, of course - all the way from Bethlehem and parade around the town on floats throwing sweets to children and bringing their presents like Santa Claus.

Camel & Kings at Palau Virreina 2011 - Barcelona Sights Blog

As regular readers will know, I have two children and we'll be doing our best to stifle the yawns and cries to keep them up tonight to go and see the "cabalgata". I'm all for embracing the local culture, and despite the Epiphany going largely unnoticed in my homeland of England, it's a big deal here (if my memory serves me correctly, most English households actually take all their decorations down today). My only qualm is that it starts so bloody late!! OK, maybe my family don't follow exactly the same routine as other kids in Barcelona, going to bed at 21h onwards, but they're 5 and 3!! They flat out refuse to do "siestas" (don't blame them, never been a siesta man, even when I've wanted to!) and end up being knackered at about 19:30!! So today is the first time we'll be venturing out to the parade, wish me luck!!

Coming to Barcelona this year? You can certainly get some bargains for Barcelona Apartments in the low season for the first couple of months, so feel free to check out. Also, if you need information about the city in general, see this Barcelona guide.
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