Thursday, September 27, 2012

Re-Visiting My Favourite Park

I've written about this park before, and it's my favourite of the city's many parks and gardens. My last post wasn't as detailed as this one as all the photos I used to take in the past were with my parents or family members and you could hardly see the park and its installations. 

Entrace of Palace in Labyrinth Park

And that's a shame cos it's a bloody cool park. I've since learned when returning to places I haven't visited before to take a few snaps with no-one in the foreground for posting here! So bear in mind these are just pics from my phone with none of your instagram filters or whatever but I think you'll get the gist!
Barcelona Sights Blog - Hedges at entrance
 One of the first things you'll realise is that the actual Park is much bigger than just the Labyrinth and is housed in some luxurious leafy gardens with shady corners and plenty of romantic hideaways to slip into. We actually went on a Sunday afternoon in summer, so got in for free, and despite the heat we were sufficiently cool in the shade to stay a good while.

Gardens in Horta Barcelona

Considering the age of the actual residence and the whole story behind the Labyrinth and it's creation, it's still in remarkably good shape. The history of the Marquis Desvalls and his family dates as far back as 1791, and it's their palace/residence that still greets you at the entrance. In a similar way to parts of Montjuic, there's moments of absolute silence despite being in the city itself - one thing I love about the park.
WaterFall feature in Park GardensShady gardens - Laberynth Park on Barcelona Sights Blog

There are a few water features which have been added to the park over the years and restauration works, so streams running along the lower parks and waterfalls are all a prelude to the maze itself. Greek Icons dot the park and in days gone by the Pavillion was used for open air performances.

statue of woman/angel - Barcelona Sights Blog

So when you reach the actual maze itself, it's pretty impressive from the top. Despite what you might think, it is actually a proper Labyrinth and there's only one way to the centre (no clues from me) and it's loads of fun bumping into the same people on the way round with a puzzled look on their faces! My kids loved it. 
Cypress Hedge Maze in Barcelona

The place is immaculately kept, and they only let a maximum of 750 people in the whole park, not just the maze itself, so it never gets "busy" busy, if you know what I mean.

Barcelona Sights - View of Centre of Maze

Can you spot my family?!
Right View of Laberint Parc Barcelona

 And by the miracle of modern technology, here's a mash-up of those three photos to give you a more panoramic view. Granted, my summer photos make it look really cool, but I've been in different times of the year and they've also been just as entertaining, so don't be put off now, just because Autumn is round the corner, OK?!

Panoramic View of Labyrinth

Parc del Laberint is located in Horta neighbourhood, and you can take public transport, or if you happen to go in a car, there's plenty of free parking spaces alongside the park and near to the private university residences. Get yourself there and get lost!!

Coming to Barcelona this Autum ? Check out these late deals from BCN Rentals Apartment agency and for some of the other Barcelona Parks and Gardens, see the link.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A few Tips for Enjoying La Merçe with Kids.

So as most of you know, I have 2 kids. 5 and 6. Barcelona is a pretty good city to explore and live in with 2 kids, considering it's a big city. Fortunately we live fairly close to the Port and the beach and also the green oasis of Montjüic, so it's not like pure cement high rises. So I'm always keen for them to join in any activities that the city celebrates  - or indeed each festa del barri - work and schedule permitting. Personally, I've often found that things geared towards kids seem to start far too late (!) but now mine are older, we get out and about a lot more.

So this weekend is La Merçe Festival - only a 4 day affair this year as the crisis looms large, but there's no reason to skimp of fun, which is free!! There are plenty of events for kids over the next few days and with Monday being a public holiday, then let's hope the weather stays fine the whole weekend!!

I wanted to offer a few hints and tips for people either visiting the city with kids, or parents with wee-uns who are venturing out this weekend in search of fun. First off is the Gegants presentation in Plaça Sant Jaume. In a word, don't bother. The Plaça gets rammed with people and tourists and it's almost impossible for children to see anything - I've swapped my kids from ground to shoulders many a time to no avail - much easier to wait for the parade which goes all the way down Las Ramblas, as children can get much closer and shout and chat to the people as they go past (like the photo above). And if they want a really close look, some of the best ones are on permanent display outside the festival.

Another area almost exclusively dedicated to the kids, is up on Montjüic. There is a circus each year in the amazing gardens of the castle, and then various puppet shows and marionettes and clowns from different countries all speaking the universal language of laughter. This year sess French, Catalan and Czec Republic back to wow the crowds. Access is easy via the funicular at Paral·lel station or buses up there, too. Full details can be seen here.

I've been up there two years running, and my big tip is go early. Take a packed lunch and plenty of water and try and get in the queues for the shows. We made the mistake last year of having an early lunch and going up after that. It had rained the previos 2 days, so I think everyone did the same as us, and we ended up (well, I ended up) queuing up for 2 shows, both of which we missed, and then the third one started at around 20h after that, so a total wash out!! There were some small theatrical performances outside while we were waiting, any maybe the weather played a part, but my tip is to go early to avoid disappointment.

Anyone else have any specific tips ? Anything not to miss ? The kids correfoc ? Free entrance to Sagrada Familia ? Please let me know in the comments below!

Coming to Barcelona this Autumn ? Check out BCN Rentals for some great late deals on accommodation with their central apartments.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Barcelona Folding Bike - Take your bike everywhere!

It's a well known fact that Barcelona is an easy city to move around in with non-motorised wheels. Bikes, rollerskates and blades, skateboarders, they all know what they're doing. The city is on a very slight gradient towards the sea, so if you can get it just right, you can get some pretty awesome routes going on. It's often I'm asked about how to rent "one of those red bikes that are parked everywhere" but Bicing is only for residents, leaving a few of the local rental companies, all of which vary in quality and reliability.

Step into the ring Barcelona Folding Bike with a fresh new concept. Located in the Raval, the shop has a very cycle-friendly-history, and use to belong to a fairly famous Spanish cyclist Jordi Nicolas - see trophy cabinet and black and white pics on the wall here below. The shop doubles up as a workshop, where David and Juan spot check each and every bike before and after rentals to ensure they are in tip-top condition. Also, the great amjority of their bikes are literally brand spanking new, and look more than equipped to tackle the streets of Barcelona. The prices are very competative considering the amount of care and attention these lads are putting into their jobs.
Barcelona Folding Bike on Barcelona Sights Blog

Apart from this, the guys are also offering tours with an English/Spanish guide and a free drink to boot! Their classic tour guide (pdf link there) takes in almost all of the classic Roman monuments from Barcino as well as a quick look at the more modern touches of the city with Torre Agbar and 22@. Tours leave every Wednesday at 9:45am.

To rent any of the bikes, all you need a valid form of ID and a fresh pair of legs!!

Barcelona Folding Bike on Barcelona Sights Blog

Disclosure: A friend of mine owns this business, but I'm not being paid for this post, rather think that it's a pretty cool business idea and I'm just helping put with publicity. ;o)
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