Category Archives: Barcelona

Barcelona

The people of Barcelona are in turmoil in more ways than one.  Leaving aside the independence issue which remains unresolved, the permanent residents of the city have had enough of the huge numbers of visitors. The city is awash with foreign workers and tourists. You can’t blame people for wanting to experience this unique city – wacky buildings, art galleries, nightlife – it even boasts a beach, which over the last twenty years has improved beyond recognition  with new bars and restaurants, volley ball nets, outdoor gyms, tai chi and yoga sessions enjoyed by locals and visitors alike – but there is a limit !

June, July and August are murder! You can hardly walk along the pavements, there are that many people. Best to leave it till earlier or later in the year when the temperature is kinder and the bars and shops are not brimming to capacity.

A lot of people think Barcelona is quite a dangerous city – muggings and attacks are common, although you have to question the common sense of some tourists! Bars, clubs, restaurants and taxi drivers have no qualms about over charging you but  I suspect this is true of any large city anywhere in the world.  We tourists are like lambs to the slaughter!

All that said, I go there a lot and have never had a problem. I also go to other parts of Spain, but no other Spanish city has Barcelona’s architecture and atmosphere  – it’s a real culture vulture’s paradise.  Also, its balmy sub tropical climate means it never gets really cold, unlike the Pyrenees or Madrid, and when you want some ‘me time’  there are parks like  Montjuic, other beaches a short train ride away  and some lovely gardens – we visited the Marimurtra Jardín Botánico in Blanes last Spring – probably a tad early in the season, but still worth the trip and just a short train ride along the coast.

 

Of course, the city’s architecture draws many people to Barcelona – along almost every street you will see beautiful balconies and façades or wobbly reflections of the buildings opposite.  You can see why artists (and there are hordes of street artists along Las Ramblas, vying for your custom)  find inspiration here – the light is magical.

Music is also an important part of the experience: – there is the incredible Modernist concert venue – el Palau de la Música – the building itself is a work of art and whatever time of day you go past there are people photographing it, but inside is where the real magic happens! There are street musicians plying their trade in lots of the squares around town, even classical musicians and opera singers.  The Opera House just off the main Rambla is also worth a visit for the building alone; Spaniards are known for their tardiness but the opera is one thing that starts on time!! Also on the main Rambla is the famous Boquería food market.

Visit one of myriad art galleries, celebrating the works of well known artists such as Picasso, Joan Miró and the wackiest catalán of them all, Salvador Dalí, although a better place to see his work is in the town of his birth, Figueres – just up the coast.

There are many temporary exhibitions to enjoy too.

    

I’ll leave you with a picture of the interior of a recently refurbished restaurant – guess what their speciality is!

Maybe Freddy Mercury said it best. In this duet he is performing with fabulous world renowned soprano, Montserrat Caballé, who was born in Barcelona and died only recently, on October 6, 2018,  at the age of 85.

Water Works in Barcelona

My recent trip to Barcelona featured ‘water‘ in a variety of forms:

Nemo3 tiburoneelFirst of all I went to the aquarium to see its weird and wonderful residents, for whom water is, of course, their natural environment.

flora1
seahorse
Then a stroll round the marina (not quite as easy to enjoy as it used to be due to the sturdy metal security fence that was put round it a while ago).marina
Next a walk along the city beach front in La Barceloneta, looking a lot smarter these days to keep pace with the Hotel W, rising – seemingly – out of the sea, sleek and shiny and majestic – and expensive! – hotelW,  and costing around 220 euros a night. But us ordinary mortals can still enjoy the simple pleasures – paddling in the sea – it’s certainly a good way to cool off from the heat wave that has swept through most of Spain this summer, with sweltering temperatures of 40º plus from Madrid down to Sevilla.
paddling

thermoThis is the giant thermometer in Portal de l’ Angel, just down the road from Plaza de Cataluña in the centre of Barcelona, marking 29 º – positively chilly in comparison, you might think – but this was taken at 10 o’clock at night – so not much respite even after sundown!
Next it was time for a turn round Ciutadella Park , which this year has attracted a bunch of Bob Marley lookalikes, lounging on the grass and occasionally getting to their feet, wreathed in clouds of smoke (no idea what that is!)  to sing a bit of reggae  (other years it’s been bongo drummers or fitness instructors bellowing at their charges – prefer the reggae myself.) The park is a great place for locals and tourists alike to ‘tomar el fresco’ – take the cooler evening air –  and get a bit of exercise, if you must! It’s only a small park but it has everything you’d expect – benches, flowers, shade, ice cream stalls, a few oddballs, but best of all a lake with some very  exuberant fountains, shooting sprays of cooling water up into the air.
baby fountain2   fountain3
runners
Continuing with the water theme, one day we took up an online offer to loll by the pool at the plush Catalonia Barcelona Plaza hotel, near Montjuic. They were offering non residents access to the swimming pool on their  fantastic, panoramic roof terrace (four poster sunbeds, no less!) and some great photo opportunities from a vantage point high in the sky. fromhotel2towerfromHotel1though I don’t suppose they are too keen on the neighbour who provided the view belowshanty   – if you look carefully, you will notice quite a lot of buildings in Barcelona with shanties like this one on the flat roof  – of course, you’re not usually high enough to see them but they’re there, and unfortunately for the powers that be, once they’ve been there long enough they acquire squatters’ rights and are very difficult to shift. This one’s definitely got an air of defiance about it – maybe the occupier is another victim of the ‘crisis’ – or maybe he’s an ex-bank manager!
I stayed with the water theme for the middle weekend of my stay but spent it ‘down country’ in Deltebre – a village in the Ebro Delta, about 2 hours train  ride south of the capital, in an area which produces a lot of the rice grown in Spain – Valencia is the other main rice growing area.
The Ebro delta is a refuge for many species of  water fowl and, as it turns out, THOUSANDS of dragonflies!  I was hoping to see more birds but we would have needed to stay longer and plan better – I realised that it takes a determined and knowledgeable guide  to track down the more spectacular breeds  – so next time I’ll go prepared.
Nonetheless, it is a beautiful area away from the madding crowds.
boats

caseria

paddy   dragonfly
bird

Countdown to 2026 and the completion of La Sagrada Familia

The basilica of the Sagrada Familia was one of the first places I visited in Spain way back in 1969. It was and still is, a ‘must see’ on any excursion to Barcelona. It’s easily the most unusual church you’ll  ever see and, despite the fact that it’s STILL unfinished, whether you love it or hate it, it’s an unforgettable sight.
Rumour has it that it’s due for completion in 2026 to coincide with the centenary of Gaudí’s death – a more realistic estimation, according to some, is 2028.
Most people know at least two facts about Antoni Gaudí, the catalán architect  – 1) that the Sagrada Familia is his magnum opus and 2) that he was killed by a tram. He was, of course, responsible for many other great constructions, most of them in  Barcelona – like the Casa Batlló in the beautiful thoroughfare of El Paseo de Gracia, or Parc Güell, inspired, as are all his works, by his love of natural forms.
León boasts two of his creations – the Casa Botines and the Palacio Episcopal de Astorga and in Comillas, Cantabria, stands El Capricho. a summer house of oriental design, commissioned by Máximo Díaz de Quijano and just as wacky and beautiful as all Gaudí’s other designs.
At the time of Gaudí’s death the construction of the Sagrada Familia had really only just got underway. His plans were complicated, inspired and ambitious, but it seems his disciples were more than willing to continue his work, although controversy has always surrounded their interpretation of his designs. Vociferous critics claim that what we now see deviates greatly  from his  ideas and, as the original plans seem to have been lost or destroyed, it’s difficult to know if that’s right.
Personally, I prefer the original  art nouveau, free, organic  style, with its naturalistic forms to the stark and angular style of, say, the Passion Façade.
section8     section7
section6 section1
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself staring up at this magnificent building take a few minutes to study it – the more you look the more you see:  figures, animals, plants all interwoven to create a masterpiece of such incredible detail and workmanship.
550px-Sagrada_Familia_nave_roof_detail 135px-Sagrada_Família_interior_north_east
Some of the colours used in the interior are more gaudy than Gaudí  – but whatever you think of it you won’t forget it!
wholeview
In 2010 the nave of the church, which had been open to the elements,  was covered and a magnificent organ installed. This allowed it’s consecration by Pope Benedict XV1 at a ceremony on November 7th, attended by thousands. Religious ceremonies could now be conducted. Ignoring the ever present cranes and scaffolding,  the most striking thing about the church are the many spires – they dominate the skyline and from inside afford an unrivalled view across the city.  Gaudí wanted 18 spires – 12 to represent the Apostles, 1 for the Virgin Mary, 4 for the Evangelists and the tallest for Jesus Christ.  The spires are also bell towers and Gaudí had done some very specific studies of the acoustics to get the sound of the bells just right – he thought of everything, didn’t he?
He didn’t think of the AVE, though. Around 2009, much to the consternation of those responsible for the Sagrada Familia, it was revealed that the engineers developing the expansion of the AVE network (Spain’s high speed train) planned to construct an underground tunnel  at the Barcelona end of the line between Madrid and Barcelona, very close to the Sagrada Familia, or even right underneath it! Now, wouldn’t that be ironic? After spending more than a century trying to finish the building, that it should be undermined – quite literally –  by a machine not unlike the one that had finished poor old Gaudí off all those years ago! ! Would the Sagrada Familia disappear in a cloud of dust – reduced to a pile of rubble by the AVE as it  whistled by at 350 kilometres an hour on it’s way to France!!
Let’s hope that doesn’t happen! To see how the church will eventually look go to :