Monday, February 18, 2013

Council to start charging entrance to Park Güell

Well, it looks like the crisis is getting to everyone and everything. So after threatening to do it for a while now, the council announced that it will be charging an entrance fee to Park Güell. The Park is one of the most visited attractions that the city has, holding UNESCO World Heritage status and has been for such a long time one of the best things to do in Barcelona for free.
Gaudi's Park Güell - barcelonasights blog

However, needs must, and starting from October this year, the council will be charging between 7 and 8 Euros for an entrance fee for the thousands of tourists who make the trip up to the park. Locals who live there will be able to use the park and its facilities free of charge, and there's also another type of entrance ticket for some kind of reserved list which I didn't fully understand, but the long and short of it is that it'll be another paid attraction that the city has to offer.

So, despite the move creating around 50 jobs according to the press reports, it does come at quite a cost - it'll take an investment of 2,2 million Euros to implement. I can see why the council has moved to do this - I remember reading a while back some staggering figures about just how much it costs the council to keep the place litter and graffiti free (which is shocking when you think about it - if anyone has a link to that, please share in the comments), but at the same time, a part of me feels sad as it was always a great place to go for free - heck, it's a park for God's sake! Charge to go in the pink house and the museums and that, but...well...

One thing that makes me now wonder is that of the "top manta" ambulant salesmen and women around the park. Will they pay money to get in, banking on making their money back? I can't see it, personally, and if that's the order of things, then I'd like to hope that it would mean an end to the many scams and robberies that happen in and around the park on a daily basis. Although, I guess they'd then have to go some place else, right?!

What do you guys think about the payment idea? Any ideas of how it could have been avoided? Are you a neighbour in the area who is in favour or can see some of the consequences down the line being negative? Let me know in the comments!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sonar Swaps Locations

Well, it's been confirmed. Sonar is changing locations for the Day events. For 19 years the Sonar by Day has entertained the crowds in the Raval at the CCCB and its surrounding area, but now, as we approach the 20th edition of the mega music show, things are hopping across town to the Fira de Barcelona and the extensive outdoor space. It's not a massive distance but it seems like the pressure from the authorities and the neighbours has finally got its way and this way, there's no worry about breaking the permitted sound levels and the like.

The site has dressed up the move as "helping the flow of people" and bringing the Night venue closer (true) but I personally think it's a shame that it's moved. Yes, the new space is bigger (I've been there for the Harley Davidson shows, for example) but there was something special about Sonar by day being in the heart of the Raval for me, and the expanse of the new location will take something intimate away (for me). I don't mean to sound negative and obviously, I'd love to be proven wrong  - What do you guys and gals  think ? Let me know in the comments!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Carnaval Parade Parallelo 2013

Carnaval Week is well upon us, with today being (pancake!) Fat Tuesday or "Mardi Gras" and as I've written about here there are some great activities going on all week for Laia's festival as well as the carnaval celebrations.
Stage for Rua Carnaval 2013 Paral·lel - barcelona sights blog

Last weekend, there were various parades all around the city in almost each and every neighbourhood of Barcelona, and as has become customary, many of the South American communities represented in Barcelona and the surrounding area descended on Parallel to dance along and celebrate their own traditions on this pagan date. 

Tradional Costumes at Carnaval Parade 2013 barcelona sights blog
 Although it was  a bit more low-key this year in comparison to other years, the various countries represented  still gave a great show and the vibrant colours and music on display didn't disappoint.

dancing girls at carnaval festival - barcelonasights blog
 Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia, Paraguay, Honduras, Ecuador and probably a few more I missed all paraded down the avenue with traditional costumes and hats banging on the floor, bells on boots and elaborate costumes (the photos are hopeless, really and don't do it much justice at all).

Dances on Parallel - barcelonasights blog

Each group was represented by varied age groups  - toddlers up to retired ladies and everyone gave it their all. Despite the cold temperatures, there were a fair few people sweating and each dance was really energetic and infectious for the spectators!!
dancing men at parallel carnaval 2013
 These guys were particularly energetic, jumping up and down and banging their hats on the ground.

Traditional attire at carnaval 2013 - barcelona sights blog
 Some of the dances were so fast-moving, it was difficult to take pictures - I actually took way more then those I've added here, and the majority came out blurry!! Occasionally groups would stop and perform something a little more rehearsed in front of the stage pictured above and the "compare" would explain a little about each group (not only in Catalan, as he'd be reading some prepared text). For the part we were there, everyone applauded and cheered and it was all great fun.

barcelona sights blog - girls dancing
 For me, it was a perfect example of the things I love about Barcelona - the multicultural aspects being celebrated and given an opportunity to shine and educate us all about their own rich traditions and history in a small way - Aztecs, Incas and the like - and appreciate and value the addition to the culture we have today in the city. We should rejoice in the variety we're lucky enough to live with and be humbled by each group and their offering to the party.

dressed up bear dancing in Barcelona streets

Check out this guy in the middle - like the old copito de nieve albino ape at Barcelona Zoo! There were others dressed up as wolves and all sorts - great fun and my kids loved them!

Did you go to any of the activities over the weekend? Let me know in the comments! Fancy coming to Barcelona this spring? Check out BCN Rentals group accommodation choices for some fantastic deals on apartment prices!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rollerblading in Barcelona - Forum Park

Following on from my last post about Rollerblading in Barcelona at Palau Sant Jordi, it's time to visit another great location on the opposite side of town. The stretch of coastline from the Olympic Village all the way down to the (white elephant that is) The Forum Park is a great place for many sports - jogging, cycling, skating on skateboards, rollerskates or rollerblades. 

clear asphalt at Olympic Village - Barcelona Sights Blog

By all accounts, before the Olympic Games in 1992, Barcelona used to have "its back to the sea". The area known now as Poble Nou and the Olympic Village was basically a dumping ground for the many factories housed in the area and drainage into the Mediterranean Sea. The awarding of the games started a massive regeneration of the whole city (awarded with prizes such as the Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects) and one of those areas to benefit was the "Oylmpic Village" and beyond. The beach was created from sand at the bottom of the sea, and Icaria, Mar Nova Bella, etc. were born.
Barcelona Sights - youngsters playing and skating
The area is popular with families and teenagers as well as foreigners soaking up the great temperatures and sea breeze - there's a pretty cool half pipe kind of structure and plenty of low benches and the like for the tricksters and there's a baby one a little further back (which I didn't photograph). Again, you can park for free right in front of the beach - we had no trouble finding a spot to park, or the metro to Forum is yellow line.
kids skating on half pipe. Barcelona Sights Blog
 Fast forward about 12 years, and the massive investment in the (failed) Forum of cultures in 2004 literally "paved" the way for even more space down by the waterfront, leaving literally acres of space - some on a gradient but mostly flat.
barcelonasights - boy skating
Remnants of the Forum buildings were scooped up and dressed to be something they're not - a bit like the "urban playgound" I've talked about here before and you can see on this panoramic photo here. Go on, have a look, I even got the German shepherd dog twice! 
panoramic photo taken at Forum Barcelona
 Whilst we were there over last weekend, there was a group of kids on an organised "run" all with their yellow vests and various people helping them along. This is just along the way from where the official Barcelona Skating Association meets up each week (bit late for me!), so you know you're in the right place!
group of children skating together - barcelona sights blog

There really is a load of space to just keep going and going, and I also spotted a kiddy mini park with slaloms and the like on the top of the Decathlon store (click for a bigger picture).
children's skate piste - barcelonasights blog

 My own conclusion is that it's a little bit more difficult than Palau Sant Jordi area. That's basically just going around in circles, and you're more often than not shielded from any wind. With this being such a long horizontal stretch, there are parts which are more exposed than others, and there are also a few inclines which, while not particularly steep, are quite long, so my 5 year old girl, for example, struggled a bit and then similarly on the way back down there are many places to really gain momentum and unless you're really comfortable with braking and changing directions quickly, can get a bit hairy.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Laia Festival and Carnival 2013!

Well, January has sped by (at least for me) and the weather seems to be holding up as far as the cold is concerned, although it's very windy! The new year's resolutions have gone down the pan, the gym subscriptions have gone back to the drawing board and it's time to put off everything for another year, right?! So the second weekend of February in the Catalan Capital usually always conjures up two people: Carnastoltes and Laia.

Official Poster for festivities of Sant Eulalia on barcelonasights blog

If you have no idea what I'm talking about then, you should at least have realised that it's Carnival weekend all over the world, and that the best place if you're in Barcelona to celebrate is Sitges. As usual, my kids have been given their orders from Sa Majestat Carnestoltes and have been going to school this week in pyjamas, slippers and dressing gowns and the like.

Santa Eulalia, or Laia, as she's more affectionately known, is the children's saint and over the coming week, there are plenty of activities celebrating her - Tuesday 12th, for example, loads of Museums are free to visit and on the 16th and 17th, most others organise something special. Although many of the activities are created with children in mind (workshops, processions, puppet shows, expositions, etc.) there are also activities for adults, too - a great example is the audiovisual mapping of buildings as part of the Llumbcn festival with amazing shows from 19h to 2230h at Plaça Sant Jaume, revisiting some of the best shows of the past few years. There is literally far too much for me to explain in just one blog post, so click the lñinks I've left or download the programme here (pdf). Events occur all over the city, but principally around the old town - the cathedral (where she's buried), Plaça Padro (newly refurbished and the place she died), Las Ramblas, etc. See you there!!

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