Travel Tips

How Barcelona is designed?

150 150 B365_user

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

150 150 B365_user

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.

What does it mean “Vale”?

150 150 B365_user

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

150 150 B365_user

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

Barcelona with children: “Barcelona through Lissy’s eyes”

150 150 B365_user

When I’m guiding a family, if they have children, I realize it’s difficult for them to pay attention to me for a long time. That’s why when I’m in front of something especial that I think it can surprise them I try to emphasize it for them, but really, one never knows what they will remember of this.
But Lissy, a five-year-old girl, exceeded all my expectations.
We visited the Gaudi’s masterpieces: Casa Batllò, Casa Milà, Sagrada Familia. We spend together 5 hours and now, at school, she painted this drawing. Her teacher has written her comments.
Take a look: here we can recognize the Saint George legend on the Batllò House; the Sagrada Familia, which is incomplete; all her family: Grandmother, grandfather, mother, she in the stroller and me. That’s gorgeous!!! Isn’t it?
Thank you Lissy.

Fake Tour Guides

150 150 B365_user

Yesterday I was in front of the Cathedral of Barcelona with a group. When I finished my explanation two girls approached me and asked me about the “Castellers” (a human tower which is a Catalan tradition). They had gone there because the previous day a supposed tour guide told them that it was possible to see the Castellers every Sunday at 7 pm in front of the Cathedral. I told them that it is possible to see the “Sardana on Sunday morning but not the Castellers unless it were an special festivity.

I recommended them to choose the next time an official tour guide with the accreditation of the Generalitat (the local government). I have recently seen that there are foreign people who come here to spend some time or their holidays and they decide to work in the meantime as tour guides. They offer their services through the Internet. Some companies contract their services because they are much cheaper than the official guides.

It’s a shame that after deciding to contract a guided tour you only receive a lot of misinformation. In order to be an official tour guide we have to pass a hard exam to prove that we have the right knowledge and the qualification to transmit it.

If you spend a lot of money to travel, please don’t waste it with illegal professionals.

Here you have a picture of the official accreditation and here you can check the list of the official tour guides of Catalonia.

Enjoy your holidays!!!