Barcelona365

Barcelona Private Tour Guide

How Barcelona is designed?

When we travel to a new place, one of the first things that we should do is to understand how the city is designed; it will help us to orientate in this place and to understand the history of this place.
So, How Barcelona is designed?

Lets see the map of Barcelona to understand it better.
Map of Barcelona

Limits / borders of Barcelona:
First at all, you will see that Barcelona is like a big rectangle with 4 sides: at the bottom we have the sea; parallel to it, at the back of the city, you will see a green area: it’s a mountain in line call Collcerola with the pic call Tibidabo; at the right side of the rectangle we have a river call Besos (you will recognize it in the map with a green curve; and at the left side we have another river call Llobregat (this river is out of the printed map because really there is another town between the city and the left river call Hospitalet.
But please to understand Barcelona imagine Barcelona and Hospitalet as a unique area: so sea, mountain, and two rivers.
By the way, beyond the left river (the Llobregat) the Airport of Barcelona is located.

Now let’s identify the parts of the city:

  • Old Town: You will see that there is a part, close to the sea, surrounding an Avenue call “La Rambla”. The streets of this area are like a maze (please find this small area in the map). Well, that was exactly Barcelona until 170 years ago (the half of the nineteen century). This is the Old Town.
    The city was founded by romans the year 12 BC but until 170 years ago the city was only this. At the limit of this maze, even you will recognize were we had the Medieval Walls.
  • New Town: Out of this maze, surrounding it, you will see that the design of the streets is a grid (I like to say like a big chess game board). This is the New city. The city built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth Century (in special the part that surround an Avenue that you will find in the map with the name: Pg Gracia (Passeig de Gràcia)).
    When finally it was possible to knock down the walls (it was a punishment of the King), the council organized a contest to choose the best way to design the new extension of the city; the lands that separated the Old Town from other villages. After long discussions, it was chosen the plane of the engineer Idelfons Cerda, he, very rationalist, design an utopic city with parallel and vertical streets to the sea: a big grid.
    We call it “L’Eixample”, the enlargement in catalane language. It’s the biggest neighborhood of Barcelona!
  • At the Upper side of Barcelona you will recognize that the city become a maze again. This part is the result of these old villages that weren’t Barcelona until the end of the eighteenth Century, when they were integrated to the city.
    One of the most popular of these neighborhoods is Gracia, right at the upper side of Passeig de Gràcia, but there are others: Sants, Sarrià, etc.
  • The Montjuic Hill: to complete the map we should identify another big green area in front of the sea. This is the Montjuic Hill, a big park in town.
    Fortunately Idelfons Cerdà, who designs l’Eixample, thought to leave the hill as a big garden for the city. We can imagine that this hill with great panoramic views over the sea and the city would be very requested for healthy families to live, but fortunately it finishes to be a big garden for every Barcelonese, there we have the Olympic facilities, museums, a castle, etc., but no once is leaving there.
    By the way, in front of the hill, the Cruise Ship Terminal is located.

There are thousand of smalls details to discover once you put your foot in Barcelona but this description will help you to keep an easy map in your mind about the city.

Please, if you have any doubt about the map, ask it directly here, because frequently it is the same doubt that others will have when they check the map.

 

Credits:
(mapa de Desconegut – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44039847)

A Tapas Tour

Yesterday I did a tapas tour with a short group. I have done it with families, group of friends and yesterday they where colleagues of an international company who decided to visit the city in this way.
It’s quite frequent to do this tour the same day that travellers arrive, when they want to see something of the city but not to have deeply explanations in special if they have had a long trip. We will have time to understand the culture and anecdotes the next days.

We visited the Old Town while we stop in 3 bars of tapas. We passed in front of some monument (The Cathedral, La Rambla, the King Palace, etc), as I said my explanations were very soft but I told them some details of what they were seeing.

The tapas is not a dish, it is a way to eat. It started with a law in the XVIII century, when we had a big production of grape and in consequence prices of the wine fall down. A lot of people get drank and the king ordered to cover the glass of clients with a dish when they ordered some drink (usually wine or bier). On the dish, the law said to put something to eat, whatever the barman wanted but free. Note: to cover, in Spanish, is “tapar”. That’s why the name “Tapas”.
In this way started this tradition, now very popular in the whole Spain. Although that today you have to pay for what you are eating (actually there are some places in the south of Spain where you can still eat a free tapas, but definitely this is not in Barcelona).

We share the tapas and it is something quickly to eat. So, in some places we eat the tapas stand up, others we sit down. Every bar/restaurant have their own tapas, not always are the same.

Besides exists a variety of the tapas: the pintxos. The pintxos (bite) is a variation of the tapas in the Basque Country (at the North of Spain) and it consists in a slide of bread with something to it on it. In this case, it’s a small bite, you don’t share it. But the particularity is that on each pintxo there is a toothpick, you get so many pintxos as you want, but you will pay for the toothpick and always the same quantity, no for what you have chosen.

Yesterday, in the Old Town, we visited Santa Maria del Mar Church, the Cathedral, the King’s square, the Rambla and Loyal Square and we visited 2 places of tapas where we ate blood sausage, chorizo, oxtail, “Padron” peppers, meatballs, omelet and 3 pintxos. We mixed it with bear, red and white wine (for tapas I always recommend the Xacolí, a special white wine from the Basque Country).

There are thousand of places. I leave some picture of these.

Why Pentecost or Corpus day are not always celebrated the same day of the year?

There are a lot of festivities while the year, and usually all of them are the same day each year (which makes it easier to be remembered) but there are some of them that change every year. Why?

One of them is Carnival, but not only, even Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Ascension and Corpus day are celebrated different days every year.

To understand why, we have to know that all these festivities are Catholic.
Maybe you like or not the Catholic religion or maybe you don’t like any kind of religion, but I have learnt that to know why things are done in some way, we have to understand the local traditions and the religion is maybe the most important one. So, when we travel, it’s important we learn basic thinks of the local religion, whatever is the religion that they follow or have followed. In my country we have a deeply Catholic tradition, but it’s the same when we travel to a country where they follow Buddhist; Muslim; Jewish or other kind of religion.

So we were saying that Carnival, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Ascension and Corpus day are related. All of them turn around Holy Sunday, when Christians remember the Resurrection of Jesus. I would say, this and Nativity are the most important days for a Catholic.
Well, to choose which of the 52 / 53 Sundays of the year will be Holy Sunday, it’s always the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. As you know spring starts on March 20th or 21st and is the season where everything revive.
Once we know which one is Holly Sunday, it’s easy. As we said the rest of the dates turn around Holly Sunday. So:

  • Easter is the week before that Sunday.
  • Lent is the 40 days before Easter, which is the time that Christians remember that Jesus spent 40 days in the dessert before to arrive to Jerusalem.
  • And before the 40 days of Lent we have Carnival, which is the week of excess, when everything is allowed (to eat, parties…) considering that after it there are 40 days of sacrifice. The week of Carnival starts on Thursday and finishes on Wednesday.
  • Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Holy Sunday
  • finally Corpus day is 10 days after Pentecost, so 60 days after Holy Sunday.

So, next time, when you complain about the dates of Easter to prepare your trip, blame to the moon!

What does it mean “Vale”?

When you arrive to Spain one of the frequent words that you will listen is “vale“.

A lot of people that don’t speak Spanish are surprise to listen constantly this word. It’s a frequently question of my travellers.

It’s nothing else that: “OK”, “All right”, “Sure” or “Fine”

People, who have learnt Spanish in USA, maybe have learnt Spanish with Mexican accent. In this case, it’s easy that they don’t recognize “Vale” because Mexicans use “Si” or “Bueno” as Argentines use “Dale“.

But, there are bad news. The word “vale” has other meanings and uses: “voucher or coupon” as luncheon voucher; “enough” (some pour milk… and we will say “vale!” to say “That’s enough!”); or when you ask “How much is it?” – “¿Cuanto Vale?”; or for the common expression when we travel “it’s worth it!” and we say: “Vale la pena!”

The best part to travel is to discover and use for few days new cultures.

Poblenou & Poblenou Urban District

Poblenou was the biggest industrial area of Spain at beginnings of the 20th Century.IMG_5880 In the last years it has been reconverted in a kind of district that offers unusual options: we have the biggest flea market of the city; the HUB museum (a big museum dedicated to design) but maybe what have make this district more special is that alternative artists have found in the district the proper old warehouse or old industry where to train or to develop their talent: for instance an Aerial Dance School.

This weekend it’s an opportunity to visit places that usually are closed to the public: Art galleries, artists’ studios, advertising agencies, audio visual producers, creation centers, showrooms, gastronomic spaces. Besides all-day long there will be events and performances related with art, cuisine and music and all they free.

Tio Che - Poblenou

Now Poblenou is a district where new buildings coexist with old reconverted industries, but at the same time they found the way to keep the essence of the village that it was. You will realize of that when you walk in the Rambla de Poblenou… I was born here and I recommend you to walk a long the Rambla and to stop at Tio Che, these kind of places that make you go back to your childhood.

Open Day! Poblenou Urban District opens the doors this Saturday May 7th from 12h to 20h

Do you want we visit Poblenou together? Poblenou tour

Where can I see dance la Sardana?

As maybe you have heard, in Spain there are different folkloric dances. The Flamenco is not the dance of the whole Spain. Although, that you can see great shows of Flamenco in Barcelona, Madrid or in other cities in Spain, the Flamenco is the folkloric dance of the Andalusia, one of the 17 autonomies or regions of Spain. Almost every autonomy have his folkloric dance linked with their history.

If you go to Madrid you will discover that their folkloric dance is El Chotis, in Aragon they dance la Jota Aragonesa, La Muneira is danced in Galicia and so on.

Well in Catalonia we dance La Sardana, although I have to confess that I don’t know to dance it (it’s one of my unresolved matters) but a lot of people dance it, as my mum.

To dance La Sardana it’s necessary an orchestra of 12 instruments and 11 musicians. It’s danced in circle and it can be so big as you want, even you will see a circle inside of another one. The distribution of people usually is to alternate a man and a woman. And people just join the circle separating the hands of two dancers. People, who know, count the steps and in some moment of the dance you will see that they raise their hands or they move them down. If you want to join the dance, it’s easy and you will be welcome.

The origins resemble us the Greece dances and the dances of Sardinia. The origens are no so clear, maybe it arrived in the XIV century or before.

Please check my comments below to know where you can see or dance la Sardana and the Castellers in Barcelona. (See the mail if you want to contact them: info@sardanista.cat).

Sardanes 1


Sardanes 4Sardanes 5

 

 

 

Saint Medir Festivity – March 3rd

March 3rd, is Saint Medir, the patron saint of the neighbourhood of Gracia in Barcelona. A big festivity!
But when it started? Why they celebrate it and what they do.Sant-Medir

The legend of Saint Medir is linked with another saint: Saint Sever. From 303 to 313 the big Christians persecutions in the whole Roman Empire took place. The persecutions were ordinated by the Emperor Diocletian. But with the new emperor Constantine, not only the persecutions were stopped but also the Christian religion was allowed in the Roman Empire. As only few years were passed, citizens still remembered where these martyrs were died, buried and his story. From these moments we have a big number of Saints in Europe.

So, what happen with Saint Sever and Saint Medir in this period?
Saint Sever was the bishop of Barcelona while the Christian religion wasn’t allowed and when romans soldiers persecuted him, he escaped toward Saint Cugat. In his way he met Saint Medir. He was a farmer and in this moment he was just planting broad beans. At the afternoon the broad beans have unusually grown up two meters. When the romans soldiers arrived ask him if he had seen Saint Sever. He didn’t wanted to lie, and said “when I saw him I was planting these broad beans”. Romans soldiers thought he was playing with them and they kill him. Later they found Saint Sever and kill him as well.Saint Medir and Saint Sever - Barcelona Tourist Guide

And why every March 3rd they go in procession to the hermitage of Saint Medir?
In 1828, a master backer who lived in Gran de Gracia, 111 was very ill and promise to Saint Medir that if he was recovered of his illness, next year he would walk to his hermitage accompanied of someone. He recovered and he accomplished his promise. First year with two friends, next year with more people. And when he saw how the moment was expected and how many people jpin them, he, as a baker, carried candies and while the procession, he presented them to children.
The tradition was just started, because they repeated it every year and now every March 3rd people from Gracia do this procession to Saint Medir hermitage and thousand of candies are thrown to children. The association of Saint Medir is the biggest one of Gracia.

Saint Medir - Barcelona tourist guideSaint Medir hermitage - Barcelona Tourist Guide

 

 

 

 

Live Nativity at Catalonia

At Christmas one of the well know Spanish traditions is to represent at home the crib of Bethlehem: the manger. These representations can be huge and very elaborated. There are different places where you can admirer these works.

But besides, recently it has become very popular to represent the “Live Nativity”, where you can walk trough the streets of several villages in Catalonia to watch how actors represent different scenes of the Nativity.
Although that it’s said that Saint Francesc d’Assisi represented the first Live Nativity in the XIII century, in Catalonia it’s represented from 1959. The first time in Castell d’Aro. Nowadays there are several places.

It’s the perfect activity to enjoy in family and children. But before to organize your visit, check the dates and timetable.

Here you have two examples: at Poble Espanyol (in Barcelona), at Corbera (different reasons have made to consider these one as the best one in Catalonia: you can walk inside the performance; there are more than 200 actors; and every year it’s different).

Live Nativity

Phantom Stations of the Underground of Barcelona

The first tunnel of the underground of Barcelona, call “Gran Metro” (Big Underground) was built at Via Laietana AV. An Avenue opened in the middle of the old Barcelona between 1908 and 1913. Try to imagine, in this moment disappeared houses, palaces and convents with more than 500 years of history. They took advantage of such construction, to build the first tunnel of the underground, although the first line to be in service of the “Gran Metro” was between Lesseps Station and Plaça Catalunya (the new center of the city).

The underground of Barcelona is the second oldest of Europe, only six month after the underground of London in 1924. It tells us how the economy and industry of Barcelona at beginnings of the XX century was developed. Not all the cities could afford this cost. It would be later that with the economic politician of autarky used by Franco, it submerged the economy of Catalunya and Spain.

In this construction of the first tunnel at Via Laietana, they built a station call “Banc” where now we have the Banc “Caixa Catalunya” and before the Banc of Spain. The idea reminds us the “Money Train”, but the station never was connected with the bank. Therefore, there, we have a unused station and stairs that lead to nowhere. Not so far, in the same line IV, we can appreciate another phantom station: “Correos” (post office), that was in service until 1972.