Monday, December 17, 2012

BarGelona 2012-13 Christmas Ice Rink

This Christmas, the same as last year, Plaça Catalunya has been converted into a festive Ice Rink called BarGelona - the play on words there in Catalan, "gel" is "ice". Unconfirmed reports last year suggested that the installation of the rink was to stop another camp-in of the 15-M indignados who had spent so much time there in the spring, and not just an impulse to encourage Christmas shopping and spending to boost the economy. Either way, it must have been a success, as it's back.

Skating Rink at Plaça Catalunya

 The rink is sponsored by local companies and banks, and is a little different to last year in the layout and organization. In a similar way to last year, there are plenty of vouchers flying around the shops and bars easy to pick up but this year seems like a better deal. Last year, you got 2 x 1 for 30 minutes skating and this year it's 50% off instead, so for 4,50 € you get an hour's skating time (but I'll get to that later).

bargelona ice rink on barcelonasights blog
I went with my kids and some other from their school last Friday, and there was very little wait to get your skates and get on the rink. You must take gloves - otherwise you have to buy some - and kids have the option of helmets (all free) and there are free lockers to drop off bags, coats, etc. as you can get quite hot skating around. I assumed before we arrived, that time would be regulated every hour -i.e. they blow a whistle on the hour and swap those who have been on with those waiting, in a similar way to last year. So, we got booted up with our skates and were patiently waiting for it to come around to the hour. Then we noticed that other people behind us just got their skates, and went straight on the rink, so we thought as there was only 20 minutes to go before the hour mark, they're probably just turning a blind eye to the time - you can see from the photos, it wasn't heaving. 
skating rink with view of bar

Well, we skated for 2 hours, and could have gone on for longer, I reckon, as no-one asked us for our tickets  or seemed to be controlling the time, and we only left as my daughter was really tired. So great value for money too! AND on the back of the tickets we were given to skate, there was a voucher for a free snoog-scarf from Banc Sabadell which I picked up this morning, too!

Child skating with help of plastic penguin - Barcelona Sights
There is a refreshment area at the back with a bar, waffles, hot chocolate, etc. and plenty of room to sit down and take photos for those who aren't skating. There's also a smaller rink for the little ones who can practice with the big heavy plastic penguins - apologies for the photo being so blurry, I was trying to catch the action!

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Els Sortidors del Parlament - New Bodega in Town

To be honest, anyone brave enough to open a new business in today's Spain is either a few gambas short of a paella or has found a niche. Today's post is about the latter. Some friends of mine have opened a new Bodega in the Sant Antoni neighbourhood, called Els Sortidors del Parlament.

Entrance to Els Sortidors de Parlament - BarcelonaSights

These guys have years of experience in the import/export of beers and the general hospitality industry, and have created and sold on some quality establishments in the past - some pretty cool bars in El Borne and the Gothic Quarter, so trust me when I tell you they know what they're doing.
Barrels inside Els Sortidors de Parlament

The place itself is decked out very very cool, with plenty of rustic furniture and artwork by one of the owners, Kim, as well as a fantastic selection of continental beers, wines, and other drinks.
Barrels of Wine for sale  - Barcelona Sights Blog

The wines are at a particularly good price, with a de-corking price as you usually get in these kind of places, meaning you can enjoy some bloody lovely wines at a very good price (like half what you'd be paying for the same plonk in a restaurant). They also have wine in barrels for tasting or just by the glass, beers on tap and in bottles, and they are developing a Gin and Tonic menu to rival some of the best bars in the city - I'll confirm when I've tried them all ;o)
Fridge of food and snacks - Els Sortidors de Parlament on BarcelonaSights Blog

If that's not enough, they've got some delicious finger food to accompany your drink of choice, typical Catalan specialties and conserves and preserves of the highest quality from all over Europe.
Wine bottles shelved at Els Sortidors de Parlament

At the time of writing, the guys don't have a website yet for me to link to, but they can be found on Carrer Parlament, 53 (almost touching Ronda Sant Pau). Their opening hours are Tuesday from 17h-23h, Wed to Sat 11h - 23h and then Sundays from 11h - 16h. Sundays closed. Go and check them out !!

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas Tree Shopping in Barcelona

Christmas is my favourite time of the year. Even more than the summer. I'm just a big kid at heart, and my memories of Christmas as a boy in England are all very very happy ones, so I love to get my kids in the mood as well. We've had the tree up since the 1st December, and we've been making mince pies this week whilst listening to Christmas music non-stop (in English, obviously). The kids have got various Christmas concerts and plays next week and I've written before about how cool it is to be a kid at Christmas in Barcelona.

Barcelona Sights - Entrance to Catalunya Plants
So one of the things that's always presented a problem is buying a tree. It's not Christmas without a proper tree. Carrefour (the big one near IKEA, not the one on Las Ramblas) used to sell them  - not very good quality but did the job - but stopped, so you're left with the option of florists around the city, or the Christmas market. And here begins one of the problems - it's like 80-odd Euros for a bloody tree!! They may have even gone up since the last time I looked, AND they're already cut, so no root, no pot. Bah, humbug.

Barcelona Sights - Christmas Pines
So I began doing a bit of research online and asking around, and nobody seemed to be able to suggest anything. And then I came across Catalunya Plants. We bought our tree there last year (but I used my phone as a GPS to get there, and ran out of battery so couldn't take any photos) and it was great - when I took it down after the Epiphany, it hardly shed any needles, and I reckon I could have planted it somewhere and it would have been fine again for this year. It's a 20-minute drive from Barcelona located in Sant Vicenç del Horts.

Potted Plants at Catalunya Plants
So they have two kinds of trees - ones that have been cut and potted, and ones that are specifically grown to be re-planted in your garden or whatever and ones that are just to be used for the Christmas period and then recycled. I go for the latter, and it's a bargain at 35€.

One of the best things about going to this place is that they also have a great kids play area with bouncy castle, swings and slides, picnic area, and a kind of mini farm, where you can go and have a look at the animals. It really is lots of fun, and all free as you walk around. My kids loved it and there were plenty of other young families around just passing the time and not necessarily buying plants or anything. They have a small pet shop with gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, fish, etc.  near towards the back too and a really good Christmas section (I took a pic, but it came out all blurry) so it's a really great place to go and stock up on stuff if you're just starting out too.

Barcelona Sights - Ostrich!

Here's the funny Ostrich - not at all shy, and good job the fence is high!

Barcelona Sights - Buck and Deer

Very cool Buck and there are a few Deer dotted around too - this is in the middle of the farm part.
Goats at Catalunya Plants
Goats just next to the Ostrich.
photo of bouncy castle
My son Jack doing Vitaly the Tiger from Madagascar 3. If you haven't seen it, go!
Pretty cool slides in the entrance of the kids play area.
Well Hello Mr Turkey!! Or is it a Mrs ?! hehehe!!

As you can see, it's a lot of fun and a great place to go and enjoy the animals.

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