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.
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