Friday, December 13, 2013

Barça might not be moving stadiums after all

It was announced lat November that FC Barcelona were going to be looking for a new home, leaving their current home of Les Corts and moving to a new stadium somewhere between Hospitalet and Barcelona itself. The idea was to increase the capacity from the current 99,354 to 105,000, which to me, doesn't seem like that much of a difference to warrant building a whole new stadium, especially after the fairly recent announcement that Norman Foster would be taking over plans to redevelop the current stadium.

However, the business heads running the club clearly know more about those kind of things than your average Joe (i.e. Me), especially after recently signing a new 25 million dollar deal with Intel (they'll be showing off the new logo this weekend, assuming they score - I onder if the "intel inside" jingle will accompany ?!) and raking it in with the Nike replica kit shirts.

There just seems to be one little hiccup. Apparently the desired land belongs to the university of Barcelona, who have come out and denied any contacts about the beginning of negotiations and categorically deny any interest in selling any of its assets. Now, we all know that in property, that is never a resounding no - everyone has their price, and Barça have revealed that they will leave the decision until early 2014.

What do you reckon? Should they move, or move ahead with the re-modelling of the current Camp Nou ? I can agree with those who will disagree with any move as it's a tradition grain into the city and their fans, but then progression often means moving to a new place. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Festa d'oli - Olive Oil Party!!

First of all, happy December everyone, and apologies for not dropping by for the whole of November - other projects kept me really busy (yeah, like you've really missed me). Anyway, the cold's kind of arrived, Christmas is almost upon us and it'll be time to say goodbye to 2013 and hello to a new year soon.

I was lucky enough recently to be invited to a "Festa d'oli"  - occurrences that happen each year at the harvest of olives around Catalunya, and is basically a visit to a factory/plant where olive oil is made from scratch. Along with some friends, we went to La Serra d'Alamos which is in the middle of fecking nowhere Tarragona.

We were greeted by a very small queue of people and duly grabbed our plate and headed for the barbecue - apparently common in this type of do. 

*puts on Homer voice* Mmmmmmm.....baaaarbecuuuuuue. Sorry. Ahem. 

It was a bit nippy in the shade but great in the sunshine. So the plant that we went to makes oil only from 1st November until the end of December, and in other periods of the year also makes wine. So, the wine was free on the tables, along with a salad - all good to get things started. 
 List of the different olives from the area which are made into oils, and an informative poster from the Generalitat, explaining the origins and processes of extraction of the oils. Good stuff.

There was plenty of information around along with artisan workers making baskets, soaps, cheeses, etc., and we simply chose a time to have a guided tour around the installations. First up they showed us how the olives arrive and are put on a kind of wire rack/mesh, which vibrates. All the olives fall through the holes, and the branches and leaves are raked away (sorry no pic of that., as it just looked like a metal grid  - and apologies in advance about the quality of these pics, I wasn't expecting to blog this, but as it was so interesting, thought I'd share). 

So Olives make their way up a conveyor belt and into vats. Like this one. 

You can see they're mixed. Next they're washed and pushed through to the next stage. Each part is processed by weight, so when the machine becomes empty/has done its particular job, automatically the next feed comes through (pardon the pun). They then move through a kind of centrifuge which mashes them up - stones and all - into a kind of mushy paste. I was surprised about the stone, as assumed this would be removed, like in tins/jars of bought olives. But "for each stone of an olive, you get a drop of oil" was the way it was explained to me. 

 Above, being washed, and below, the result of the mashing up:

Now, here's an interesting part. This much is then pushed through a kind of sieve, and a "crude" oil comes out (my wording not theirs). The resulting sludge/waste is then separated and SENT TO OTHER FACTORIES TO MAKE NORMAL OLIVE OIL!! It's mixed with many other things and is the usual stuff the majority of us will buy (i.e. the cheapest one). 

Oil goes into another room where it is stored in large vats, and then bottled by hand. So, you can buy the cloudy, crude oil which is full of flavour and basically 100% pure, or if you prefer, you can have it filtered, so it becomes the golden nectar stuff you're used to seeing on the supermarket shelves. Below is the filter:

The different sections in the middle, are filled with cardboard filters (we were shown them , but it wasn't that interesting to photograph). So, you can see in the forefront of the image, the unfiltered oil as it goes in, and the filtered oil going out. I took close ups, to show the difference. Here's no filter/raw:

And here's coming through filtered:

See? Cool, eh?! Production can reach around 80,000 kilos of olives in just that little plant, depending on the harvest. We were shown around the wine area, and although empty, was a great insight - all done by hand the corking, labeling, etc. and the tour finished in the shop. We had already gone with the intention (through the advice of friends who had been previous years) of stocking up for the year, and that's what we did. We got some cloudy oil (has to be used up quicker, as can gather sediment) and then normal for the rest of the year! 

It was a great experience (made better by being with friends, clearly) and there were typical dancing and singing as you would find at a normal Catalan traditional do:

There was a small gathering in the aftermath of a soup tasting kind of thing, but that was nothing to write home about, really, just an added bonus from the villagers. By all accounts there are many such "festivals" throughout November and December, so if you get the chance next year, I'd highly recommend! 

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cool Halloween Window Display at La Bolsera

Maybe it's the influence of classic 80's movie Mannequin or the way my Dad always used to take us to see Jessops window in Newcastle at Christmas, but I'm a big sucker for really well done window displays in shops. One such place in Barcelona with a pretty big window (for central Barcelona sizes) and always making an effort is La Bolsera. This is a great stationary/paper/party/fancy-dress place and has a few locations around the city.

The shop in Carrer Xuclà (just behind Carrefour on Las Ramblas) never disappoints and themes their window display around the seasons and the various traditions Barcelona has.
This year, they've done a great Halloween display, closing one of the shutters and making a small "cave" of freights. It's got a chilling soundtrack of creepy screams and wails and groans, and cobwebs all the way through.
 A creepy moving Jason greets you inside, and specially positioned spotlights light up the faces of some of the gruesome masks on display that you can likely buy inside.

Hello, gorgeous. My camera phone seriously doesn't do this justice. It's mutant Hills Have Eyes kind of scary.

They even have Predator in the window for God's sake!!

This little lady's waiting for you on the way out.

 Clowns are always scary. Check out the Google maps of their shop, by the way, where they've taken advantage of the street view option and you can "go in" the shop and have a look around. Very cool feature.

If you in town, go and check it out, it's really cool. Hats off to the guys and gals at La Bolsera!!

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Las Ramblas Florists in Danger of Fines

I blogged about 3 years ago about the proposed changes to Las Ramblas and the animal stalls - "ocellaires"which used to occupy the top part of the most-walked street in the city, and sure enough, they have almost disappeared, with just a few remaining. I have to be honest, though, whilst I wasn't in 100% agreement or disagreement with the tiny sizes of the stalls, I think their replacement is a real let down. 

Those stupid ice cream stalls and bright yellow aprons with cheap industrial cakes and rubbish at high prices are exactly what Las Ramblas didn't need. There are enough of them on the actual sides of Ramblas (and of much better quality). So, whilst walking the other day through the city centre, I began to notice that all of the flower sellers have now, too, added a notice to their stalls:

Now, I don't care if the prices of the florists are more expensive than a normal florists elsewhere in the city, or if they've kind of had to adapt to the "crisis" by adding those material joke flowers and such like, can you imagine St Jordi without flowers on Las Ramblas? And their replacement to be what ?! More bloody waffle stalls and chatty necklaces?!

The photo above says "Keep the Florists of Las Ramblas in your prayers. Who will soon die for the hard line taken by The Town Council of Barcelona and for the incomprehension of Converència I Unio after a massive indigestion of tourism. The funerals will take place as soon as the first fines imposed by the Town Council of Barcelona will be administrated to Florists. We would appreciate your support by signing the Book of Condolences".

OK, so the translation leaves a lot to be desired, but you get the picture. The lady in the photograph was accompanied by an elderly gentleman (I assume her husband) who have been working the flower stalls in Las Ramblas ALL OF THEIR LIVES!!! I asked the man what they had in mind (me meaning the council) to replace the stalls and he cut me off and said they would begin a hunger strike, so they're clearly taking it all very seriously. It has to be said too, that up and down each side, the stalls were dotted with people signing and shaking their heads and generally being supportive of the stalls and their proprietors, and I have to say I agree, too. It would be a real shame for those people to lose their livlihood and Las Ramblas would lose yet another piece of its identity. What do you think? Agree ? Disagree? Let me know in the comments!

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Great Things to do in Barcelona for FREE - CosmoCaixa Science Museum

It's been yonks since I got a free museum up on the blog, so no time like the present. Continuing on from my little series of great things to do for free in the city, the Cosmo Caixa is a worthy and late addition.

It's basically the city science museum, and is free for everyone on the first Sunday of each month (and when it's not, it's a measly 4 € for adults and kids up to 16 are free which is a bargain). It's located up in the hills at the back of the city, at the foot of Tibidabo, which is a bit out of the way, but there are excellent links via public transport. We went in the car, and found a parking space no problem outside for free. You know this place means business, when you have these two guys waiting for you at the information desk!

Newton's laws, fossils, evolution, a temporary exhibition about Micro-life - basically looking at things through microscopes and there were fun interactive things to play with for the kids. This temporary space changes throughout the year, so you can always go back and see something new. There's clearly far too many things for me to explain about the contents of the museum, so I took a few snaps on my phone to share. They kind of speak for themselves:

Jack and Chewy showing off the spider collection (there are some real ones in the museum, too).

A massive tree is the main feature as you wind down the stairs to level -5, and all along the way are fossils and explanations of evolution, nature's shapes, etc.
Apparently, this good looking specimen was laughing, as she was re-tracing the steps of a bigger animal or something. Scary.
Look what I caught?!

Ah, now this one needs a bit of explaining. The image below is unmistakable, right? Even my 6 year old got it. Cool, but the image is actually made up of a load of plastic flies all stuck together like so. When you walk past it up close it just looks like a load of flies.

Always wanted one of these when I was a kid.

The super cool "flooded forest" is a big attraction, and is at one end of the museum. It's really well done, with tanks on the outside as you can see, and all sorts of sizes of fish inside. Like this huge guy.

 We didn't even see a 1/4 of the things in the museum.

One of the main things to say about the CosmoCaixa is that it's bloody huge. There's tons of things to do and explore, planetariums, touching sessions with reptiles, guided tours, and the very cool "bosque inundado"  - like a life-like model of a rain forest with loads of trees, animals, creepie crawlies and it even rains every 15 minutes, like a real rain forest! On normal paying days, you have to buy tickets for the "extra" things, and they apparently sell out fairly fast, so if you do go, make sure you know to get in there early - although there's so much to see even if you miss out on that. Below is a picture of the sprinklers, making it "rain".

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Secrets of the Pickpockets - Barcelona Version

I've been looking for this for a while. UK TV station Channel 4 has been running a series about the secrets of pickpockets, with some fascinating insights into the differences in the law in the UK and Spain (although this is not the intention of the show, clearly). I watched one episode where 3 Bulgarian men were jailed, yes JAILED,  for ATTEMPTING to steal a wallet from a man during the run up to the London Olympic games last year.

Contrast that against the incredible, unbelievable, ridiculous (I'm running out of superlatives) law in Spain which states very clearly that if a thief steals LESS THAN 400 EUROS,  it is not considered a crime. It's no other wonder that organised gangs from the East are having a field day in the Catalan Capital. I remember watching on the news not long ago that a judge in Madrid had to revoke a ban of the Bosnian Clan of girls in the Madrid metro, and allow them back in. These girls have over 300 arrests between them over TEN years of robbing on the metro. So, what did they do on the weekend they weren't allowed in Madrid? Came to Barcelona of course.

Anyway, for me there's nothing new in the programme, but I still wanted to share it, and had been trying to find a reliable source - youtube doesn't have it. So here's a link to Channel 4 site (UK only). Let me know if it works ok in the comments, and any thoughts you have.

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How much is a Barça shirt worth ?

I saw an interesting article this week in the newspapers, which stated that the store at Camp Nou generates more income for Nike than their flagship store in New York City - 35 Million Euros against 31 Million in the Big Apple. So Nike have already made back their investment of the reported 30 Million per year deal - not to mention the amazing amount of branding with all the Neymar Jr and Messi t-shirts. That's not to mention the sales elsewhere of all the Barça shirts - there's a Nike store on Las Ramblas, which I'd bet does a fair trade, as well as so many others around the world.

It makes me wonder just how much they'd be making if they could stem the influx of all the copy t-shirts in the souvenir shops in and around Las Ramblas area. I've been amazed at the quality of the copies over recent years, with real looking tickets with Nike holograms and everything. There are sometimes very subtle differences such as the disappearance of the catalan flag on a sleeve detail for example, of the badge at the bottom of the strip a couple of years ago, but they are generally so good. People are easily confused too. With Barça being one of those teams that changes strips every season, many tourists come in the summer, and buy the "old" strip from either the previous year, or the league season that has just finished. Those store owners aren't daft either - if they can shift some old stock for today's price, they're laughing.

Another fact from the same article relates to the runaway success of the away "senyera" strip this year - for every three shirts sold, two are the away strip, and the buyers "know it's a representation of the Catalan Flag". At least they seem to have taken notice after ditching last year's hugely unpopular orange and yellow tie-die combo. What do you reckon? One of the best shirts this year? Better than the original home? Let me know in the comments!

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Amazing Video of Sagrada Familia Completion

As I mentioned the other day, 2026 is the date that has been set for completion of Barcelona's most famous, most visited attraction, the Sagrada Familia, or Holy Family Basilica. In celebration of the announcement, the architects have made a pretty amazing video showing what is still to come with regards the missing bits, and stages. Enjoy.

Now that's pretty damn cool, right?!

One thing I'm not so sure about is the possible demolition of one of the adjacent buildings in order for the construction to be finished in accordance with the original plans. I think it's Calle Mallorca, basically in front of the steps, or where they will be, and I'm sure I saw a few years ago that plans had been made to tunnel traffic under the steps, or make them higher and effectively a bridge over the traffic, but can't remember - if anyone has any up-to-date information about that, please do share, and contribute in the comments!!

Considering that Notre Dame in Paris took about 400 years to complete, then it's not bad going for the Sagrada Familia, but then again, 2016 is a long way off, so who knows!

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

2026 ? Sagrada Familia will be finished.

OK, it's been a while, and I really should have been back earlier, but to be fair, I've been researching a few posts and ended up with stuff which I couldn't publish, as links wouldn't work in Spain etc. (looking for a workaround), but what better way to return than a bit of news to the ultimate question around Eixample Dreta for the last 50-odd years?

Outside of Barc4elona Sagrada Familia on Barcelonasights blogJust when will they finish the Sagrada Familia? I've heard different stories over the years of living here about the process and completion of the most famous monument and most visited attraction the city has. One is that the reason process is so slow is that Gaudi wanted the cathedral to be "the people's cathedral" so therefore is being funded by alms/donations from the public. Another is that once all the overheads have been paid on every other attraction in the city by Gaudi, then any profit is then destined to the completion. I doubt this includes private homes that recently have been opened up to the public.

Other rumors surfaced that Japanese corporations would guarantee the work to be completed in 10 years if they could call it "The Sony Sagrada Familia" (obviously not Sony, but you get my meaning) - a no-no for the foundation, as it wouldn't be the people's, right? I also heard that because of the damage to Gaudi's original plans in the civil war (he created a statue of the bomber refusing a bomb from Satan inside the cathedral) plans were delayed as some of the world's best architects were brought in to complete the details. Something which goes in contrast to another reason that the delays were so prominent - an architect will never work as passionately on work which is not their own. So, you never really know who to believe, do you.

So, according to reports this week in various media, the likely date of completion if all goes to plan will be 2026. 3D printers, scale models and all sorts of stuff is being used to re-create the majority of the works laid down by the man himself which were destroyed. I think that seems a pretty plausible date. I've been here for over 13 years, and have seen loads been done since then - hell, it's open inside now for God's sake (no pun intented) !! So, 13 years from now I reckon stands them in good steed, right?! What do you think? Let me know in the comments as usual!!

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Monday, July 15, 2013

More Urban Graffiti - Or is it?

Any regular readers will know I love the Graffiti in Barcelona and it seems to have taken a shift in recent years to more planned style of graffiti with transfers ala Banksy, or pre-prepared copies that are pasted around the city like posters on the metro air vents.

So it's still fun for me when I find the cool ones that combine a piece of existing urban architecture - like a road sign - and transforming it into something completely different like this kind of thing. How cool is that? Ghostbusters on a no entry sign?!

So it's been awhile, but I saw another cool one  - perhaps more politically-laden in its message this time - just the other day. Et voila:

Same kind of thing, I know, but rings true with the oppression and impotence many sections of society are feeling at the moment with so much corruption and injustice on every single news bulletin all day every day. I assumed it was a one-off, and have qactually had this post ready for over 2 weeks. Then I saw this:

And this...
 And this...

And finally this...(quite probably my favourite)

So here's me thinking this is a fair bit of effort for some individual/s to go to and made me think it might be something else. A reliable guy I know who saw me taking photos, told me that it was "the guys with the reflective jackets on from the council" who put them up there. ?! Why on earth would the council be doing this ? Surely they might have dressed like that to "look" official and nobody asks them questions right? Or am I missing some kind of initiative from the council and road signs?! Please enlighten me if anyone does happen to know what it's all about - leave me a comment below! 

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Barcelona Harley Days

This weekend sees the return of Barcelona Harley Days, on the 5th, 6th and 7th July, in what's becoming a welcome annual event at the Fira de Barcelona. It's a coming together of the different walks of life that own and are passionate about those mean machines, and it's a whole lot of fun, too. 

 I took my kids last year (advance warning, you will see a lot of my kids in these pics!) as the stuff that's on during the day is great fun, and all free to walk around. We started the day with a live rock concert - they were really good, and very into it, considering it was the early afternoon!!

 My son at his first rock concert, head-banging with a hat on. There are hundreds of bikes of varying different styles, some super-tuned (there's a Gaudi bike. I kid you not. With a stuffed panther on the back). Some of the models you can get close enough to but those at the entrance are owned by the festival goers, so be respectful of their babies.
 Inside the day-park if I can call it that, there's loads to be entertained by apart from the rock concert, with bikes to try out, simulators on rudders (to have the experience of really "riding", a thorough history lesson, merchandising and care products, etc.
 There are activities specifically designed for the little ones (and the "big" little ones, with fairground rides just after the main bike bit) such as the moving surfboard thing - think a bucking bronco, but a surfboard instead. No, I don't know what that has to do with Harley Davidson either, but it was fun for my lad!

 Go on son!
...balance of a gazelle...

 And you can guess what happened next.
 So back inside for loads of pics with loads of bikes. These ones are exhibition bikes, so you're very welcome to hop on and have a little fantasy drive.

 More of the same. Sorry, I did warn you.

 Some cool backdrops.

 So my daughter obviously was doing the "brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr" thing with her mouth like a REAL HARLEY ENGINE. Loudly.

So this one is cool. The screen on the background has various different videos, and you get your photo taken by the Harley girls and then your photo gets put up on their website later in the day!! Cool or what?!
 You can't see that very well, but you get the idea...

 So if you look carefully, you'll see me there, taking an "arty" pic!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand then my son joined in with the "brrrrrrrr..." inevitable really, hell, I wanted to do it!!! hahaha!!!! All in all, great fun, really well organised, and thoroughly friendly people. The thing goes on day and night, and there were a few party goes in full leathers that had had a fair few beers, and they were dancing around with my kids, all fun and games. So if you can spare a few hours this weekend, head on down!! Plaça España metro station.

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