viernes, 6 de septiembre de 2013

Miró mural at the airport

After the inauguration of T1 terminal at El Prat airport, the activity of the old terminal has been reduced basically to low cost companies and airlines that are not members of any alliance. Thus, most of the passengers arriving to Barcelona by air see the modern, white, photogenic new terminal, but they will not be able to enjoy a piece of art that has been greeting us for ages when we came home: the Miró mural.

In 1968 one of our world-renowned artists decided to devote and donate four works to the city where he was born: the sculpture "Woman and Bird", at the Parc de l'Escorxador, the mosaic at Pla de l'Os on the Rambla, the Miró Foundation and this ceramic mural, that was installed on the facade of what today is the T2 terminal building.

Miró mural has always been associated to something special: a welcome, a farewell, a trip, a gathering, a homecoming...if the wall could talk, it would certainly explain thousands of stories of all kinds!

lunes, 26 de agosto de 2013

The Ring Roads - Las Rondes

Those who, as I did, started driving in the 90s can not imagine Barcelona without the Rondes, the ringway that goes around the city. These two ring roads were built, like so many other things, for the 1992 Olympic Games. They are over 35 kilometers long and the two big junctions at both ends help distribute the traffic moving through Barcelona and its metropolitan area.

As a regular user of the Ronda del Litoral I know perfectly its limitations. I know they have been criticized for the number of accidents in it and because they don't contribute to promote sustainable transport. I also know that there are many miles without a shoulder, that entrance ramps are often short and dangerous and traffic jams are very common in some sections. By the way, those traffic jams can be really exasperating when there a vehicle breaks down and stops occupying a whole lane.

I do not even want to imagine the city traffic if all this amount of vehicles that circulate now along the Rondes had to drive through the center of Barcelona!

viernes, 12 de julio de 2013

The Bicing

When the Bicing service system opened in 2007 I hurried up to sign up. By that time, my bike had been stolen several times on the streets of the city, so I really thought it was the best idea that the municipality could have in order to promote healthy, clean and non-expensive transportation. The Bicing was close to collapse shortly after it opened, when the many bikes were broken and not all anchors seemed to work properly, but I have always been a regular user.

It has only (or already, depending on your perspective) been six years and I can't deny that the Bicing has become an image of Barcelona. Leaving aside complaints from pedestrians because of the incivility of some cyclists and complaints of Bicing users about the lack of good bike paths, one must admit that the public bike system has become a "thing of Barcelona", as those that I try to highlight in this blog.

viernes, 5 de julio de 2013

Circus tents

Have you ever been to the circus in Barcelona? I have, but just to one of those big and "modern" circuses focused more to attract adult audiences. The truth is that I would have liked to go to a circus as a child, one of those traditional ones, those who assemble and remove their tents in the few open spaces left in the city.

Those circus in which artists arrive in trucks and vans, the ones that exercise a fascination among those of us who do not live on the road, the ones that make us wonder what it is like to live in a special community, a nomadic family.

The truth is that circuses have changed a lot since I was little. Luckily, they still visit us. For the record, I like that they are adapting to changing times. And by the way, there is a circus school working in the Parc del Forum. It is called La Central del Circ, and is meant to be a space for developing circus activities that the City Council prompted, and where training courses are held, in case if anyone is thinking about it!

miércoles, 22 de mayo de 2013

Sant Felip Neri

Sant Felip Neri is one of our best kept secrets, although it is increasingly visited by tourists, that are usually surprised when they find this little oasis in the middle of the Old Town.
Sant Felip Neri is one of those places where you can actually breathe the history of Barcelona. The baroque church, the Renaissance house...and the shrapnel marks on the facade of the church.
Do not be fooled: these are not the testimony of executions of priests during the Civil War, as some have tried to make us believe. These scars were caused by the bombs that Franco's National Aviation, with the help of the Italian fascist army launched over Barcelona 75 years ago now. The bombing, which was done in two shifts with the intention of making it more deadly, was one of the first to be made ​​over the civilian population instead of attacking military targets, and caused hundreds of deaths throughout Barcelona. Only in Sant Felip Neri 42 people were killed, many of whom were children who were trying to shelter from the bombing in the basement of the church.
All buildings in the area were destroyed, leaving only the facade of the church standing, and the area was later rebuilt, creating the little square, adapting two Renaissance facades to create two new entrances, bringing parts of buildings that had been sacrificed when the Via Laietana and the Pla de la Catedral was opened.
It is very important that the Sant Felip Neri remains as the oasis it is now, as it also is that we do not forget our history and pay respect to the victims by explaining the true facts of what happened here.

jueves, 25 de abril de 2013

Added floors in the Eixample

I often say that this blog not only talks about the things I like from Barcelona, but also those other things that may seem ugly, uncomfortable or even disgusting.

And a good example of something really Barcelonian and really ugly are the added floors that have been built on many buildings of the Eixample. I know we have not been particularly careful to Cerdà's plan as it was conceived, and that for a time many people tried to take full advantage of a ground that was considered wasted. So, taking advantage of the improving building techniques and of their cheaper costs, and with the necessary collaboration of political powers, many homeowners and builders decided to gain two, three, four and even five floors, as the building showed on the picture above.

It is virtually impossible to restore the building as it was originally, because the people living on this floors do it in a completely legal way, so we must get used to the added floors. If at least they were made with good taste!

martes, 16 de abril de 2013

Encants Vells market

It had been a while since I had last been around the market of Fira de Bellcaire, also known as the Encants Vells market, and I have to admit I was surprised by its vitality, especially considering it was a weekday morning. The market was full of visitors, buyers, onlookers and vendors. I have to say, though, that the idea I had in my mind was slightly more romantic than  what I found there.
Anyway, the point is that the market of Encants Vells is still as alive as ever, and the idea is to continue this way when the new Encants Nous is open during this year. This new market will have doubled the area of ​​the fair and will facilitate the access to traders and visitors, and the loading and unloading of goods.
Anyway, the Fira de Bellcaire, which is held since the fourteenth century, is one of the oldest markets in Europe, so there are few things that can be considered more "Barcelonian". 
And by the way...who does not have or had any object from Encants Vells? I remember I bught a foam mattress a few years ago, and for the record, I still have it. I do not intend to change it: when I have guests who sleep at home on it they tell me that it is extremely comfortable!

martes, 9 de abril de 2013

Skaters at MACBA

Acording to what I have heard, the ideal city for skateboarders would be one with good weather and long hours of sunshine, compact, with a some slope and many items of urban furniture. Does this description sound familiar?
In this great city for the skaters, the perfect square would be quite broad, in order to move freely in it, but also with slopes, stairs, railings, curbs and benches. Oh, and if it is possible, also with a prominent architectural element to make good pictures!
Clearly, the skaters dreams have come true in the Plaça dels Angels of Barcelona, which is located next to the MACBA (Museu d'Art Contemporani - Contemporary Art Museum), to the point that it has become a meeting point and a world reference for skating enthusiasts.
Besides the coexistence problems that may have arisen due to the presence of the skaters, they have clearly transformed the square into a unique one, different from the rest, with its own character. And that's the point, right?

jueves, 4 de abril de 2013

Besos thermic power plant

Some days ago I was walking along the Besòs river Park, a restored space of nature and leisure, at the mouth of the river.
When you walk through that area you can't avoid noticing the presence of the power station, with its three tall smokestacks. Although the station is not in the municipality of Barcelona, it is clear that its uniqueness and visual power are a milestone in the northern coastal landscape of the city, from the moment it was built in the 70s. Three smokestacks 200 meters high don't go easily unnoticed.
The plant has been controversial since its inception as it is still today, although it is under partial demolition. Its construction generated many protests, which actually caused one death. During the decades of operation, the plant generated black rains in the municipalities of Sant Adrià and Badalona, that made cars and clothes dirty. In 2008, when its closure was approved, people from Sant Adrià decided in a referendum to keep the three chimneys of the plant as a symbol of identity of the city, although participation in the vote was very low.
Theoretically the plant must be used to host a public facility, but its future is very uncertain right now, partly due to lack of funding, and there are many voices saying that the smokestacks should be demolished and the landscape restored as natural as possible. What do you think about it?

miércoles, 27 de marzo de 2013

Barcelona Taxis

When I was a little boy I thought that taxis could only be yellow and black. Later I discovered that in most cities they are white, and many of them have a colored stripe so you can detect them. Even later I learned that there are other cities where taxis share colors with ours, as Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Mumbai, but they are an rare.

In 1906 the first motorized taxis appeared in Barcelona, with one single station in La Rambla, and they coexisted with the old horse carriages. Motorized vehicles finally prevailes and at one point it was decided that they should show a yellow, blue or red strip in the back, depending on the rate they charged. In 1934, though, it was necessary to organize the sector, and rates and colors were unified, so yellow was adopted as a common hallmark. this is the origin of the color of our taxis, with yellow doors while the rest is basically black.

As a curiosity, let me tell you that the person who took all this measures was Jaume Vachier, a municipal councilor, who tried to arrange the chaotic traffic of Barcelona in the 1920's, and planned underground car parks, promoted the first crosswalk of the city (at Balmes-Provença) and also the first traffic light at the same intersection.

Currently there is an EU directive that suggests that taxis should be painted in ecru color, as they are in Germany. For the time being noone is paying attention to it. Can you imagine the disappearance of the yellow and black taxis of Barcelona?

martes, 19 de marzo de 2013


I used to live in a large apartment in the neighborhood of Sant Gervasi, with a beautiful sunny terrace. In the center of the terrace there wa a bench which had, in its back, a sink with a faucet. The point is that this bench/fountain had been covered using the Trencadís ceramic technique.
You can still find Trencadís in Barcelona in many existing buildings, although it is really a typical technique of modernist architecture. It was first used in the latch of Güell farm in Pedralbes Avenue, almost out of necessity, since the sinuosity of this latch forced to break the tiles into small pieces to make them fit. I must say that even though Gaudí is considered the inventor of the technique, it was actually developed and improved by Josep Maria Jujol, who collaborated with Gaudí himself in the design and construction of the benchs of Parc Güell, for example.
If you look carefully, you will find many examples of Trencadís in Barcelona, in public and private elements. It is just another of the marks that Modernism has left us and we have incorporated almost as a sign of identity.

lunes, 11 de marzo de 2013

Winter storms

One of the good things people often mention about Barcelona is its nice weather, especially its soft winters. This is basically true, but sometimes we are visited by a phenomenon that makes the beaches empty of bathers and surfers. I am talking about storms coming from the East.
The northern wind known as Tramuntana is renowned for its vigour and intensity, but the east wind, which is more constant, sometimes gets mad and destroys beaches and boardwalks of our coast with heavy its rains, low temperatures and strong waves. Sometimes this combination even makes snow pop up near the coast of Barcelona.
There are storms like this throughout the year, but the most common time is for them are spring and fall. One of the most famous is the one that happened during Boxing Day 2008, but in 1911 there was one that affected the entire Catalan coast and Barcelona and caused 28 deaths only in Barcelona. As the singer Raimon says, rain doesn't know how to rain in our country...
To protect the beaches and prevent regression caused by eastern storms during winter, the municipality built between 2006 and 2010 three dams that stabilize the shoreline.
The storms, however, continue visiting us.

lunes, 4 de marzo de 2013

Tricky floors in Barcelona buildings

High steps Eixample

When I pay a visit to someone who tells me he lives on the first floor, I usually walk up the stairs. Sometimes there is no choice, since the building has no lift. But then, often, especially on the floors of the Eixample and Ciutat Vella, this first floor easily ends up turning into a third!
The stairs of the buildings in Barcelona are full of semi-floors, mezzanines and main floors (principals). Moreover, in the past the heights of these floors were greater, so it is not strange that you have to climb considerably to get to that "first floor".
Previously, the most wanted floor was the first one, in order both to avoid the discomfort of the street and to not having to climb too many stairs. Up from this floor you could progressively find the families with more limited purchasing power.
This way, it was most prestigious to live on a first or a second floor than on the fourth floor. Naming the first floors as "mezzanine" and "principal", the third floor suddenly happened to be the first, and so gradually. Thus, all social classes could be at the same time in the same building, the city's social hierarchy was translated to the distribution of families in the buildings.

lunes, 25 de febrero de 2013

Snowflake (Floquet de Neu)

Floquet de Neu Copita de Nieve

One of the most visited post of the (short) History of this blog is the one about Ulysses the Orca, that I wrote and published about a year ago. The visits to the Catalan and Spanish version of this post has almost three times the ones to the next one, about the chocolate of Petritxol street, in second place.
Ulysses the orca has probably been the second most famous resident of the Barcelona Zoo, in dispute with the elephant may Avi, the first one to come to our zoo. They both are defeated, and I think there's no doubt about it, by our white gorilla, Snowflake.
I remember seeing Snowflake on several occasions when I was a kid, and I must say that I loved him but he was not specially friendly. I always attributed this to the fact that he knew he was special, and that many of us visited the zoo just see him, so he was aware he was quite famous. Perhaps it was just my imagination.
Although he had 22 children before dying in 2003 at the (approximate) age of 39, none of them inherited his albinism. Maybe that's why the zoo of Barcelona continues to receive letters asking to clone him, something that is theoretically possible because there are the samples of his DNA. What do you think? Would you like to have another Snowflake through clonation? Perhaps the new one is a bit more humble :)

domingo, 17 de febrero de 2013

La Pedrera - La Casa Milà

Sometimes, we are so used to something that we take it for granted. In Barcelona that happens often. We  walk without paying attention next to architectural wonders, as if they were the most common thing.

Although the intention of this blog is not to list the main attractions of Barcelona, that does not mean that sometimes I have to stop at buildings that leave astonished to both tourists and barcelonians. And if they are celebrating an special date, like La Pedrera, which celebrates its centenary.

The Casa Milà is one of the most famous modernist buildings of the architect Antoni Gaudi, who designed it when he was in his artistic summit, and where he showed without any complex his admiration for the organic shapes of nature, in addition to applying innovative structural solutions.

Did you know that the point where this building was built was the exact boundary between Barcelona and Vila de Gràcia on Passeig de Gracia, the main axis of the new bourgeoisie of the time?
Did you know that the people of Barcelona named it La Pedrera (quarry in Catalan) due to its appearance? 
Did you know that it is a World Heritage Site since 1984?

martes, 12 de febrero de 2013


Panellets Barcelona

I have mentioned a couple of times on this blog the fact that the pastry counters in Barcelona change depending on the season of the year, and there are some sweets that have "starring" appearances during only a few days, as the "coca de Sant Joan" or the Easter Cake.

On November 1st the undisputed star is the panellet, that will be eaten together with sweet potatoes and chestnuts. This year it looks that the weather is quite appropriate and we are not celebrating the "Castanyada" in short sleeves...

In case anyone wants to try to do panellets, it is never a bad moment, and HERE you have a recipe. If you try it and make some, please let me know...I love them and I haven't had any yet!

martes, 22 de enero de 2013

Sarrià Stadium

When I was a kid, I had a friend whose family was really keen on football. Sometimes, problems arose because his father was a big fan of Espanyol, while the mother was an inveterate "culer". Moreover, at that time it wasn't very usual for the women to be football fanatics, so the situation was curious.
The point is that, sometimes, my friend's father took us to see the Espanyol match at the Sarrià Stadium. I was not really very interested in football, but I recall having a good time everytime I went there. I had no idea that the Stadium was set in a place with a long history: it  was opened in 1923, on the road leading to the village of Sarrià, which was later annexed to the city of Barcelona. Its cost was over 170,000 pesetas, and the Sarrià was the place where the first goal in the history of the league was scored. In the 1982 World Cup Sarrià received the powerful selections of Italy, Argentina and Brazil.
Now, every time I walk around that area I can not help thinking of those football games I saw there. At the Sarrià Stadium.

jueves, 10 de enero de 2013

Connection L3-L4 Passeig de Gràcia

Some connections between lines in the Barcelona Metro network are virtually instantaneous, some others are quite short, some are long, and then we have, in a category of its own, the one in Passeig de Gràcia. I do not know what you do, but I avoid it whenever I can. I prefer not to walk the equivalent of three blocks of the Eixample on a narrow tunnel..

Perhaps you don't know that the tunnel where we walk nowadays to connect between lines takes up part of an underground car park, which is actually behind just a wall of separation. Specifically, we walk along its second basement. If we could get through the car park, the connection would be a little shorter, but the parking was inaugurated in 1967, before the construction of L4, and the best solution they found was going along ots edge.

In order to reduce the distance the existing underground halls would have to be modified, and some new entrances would have to be done, in addition to a new corridor, that would go below the parking lot. Due to its cost you can imagine that this project is waiting for better times.

I think we'll still have a long connection distance for a few years.

viernes, 4 de enero de 2013

Eixample Porter's lodges

"Hello, good morning", "Hi", "Looks like it's hot again!", "Goodbye, and have a good day".

I have never lived in a building with a doorman, but I was imagining what it's like to have one. I guess it must be something you get used to and then you miss when you stop having it. It must be nice to get to the hall of your house and find a familiar face that greets you at that special moment when you leave the private sphere and go to the street, or vice versa.

Many will say, and they are probably right, that doormen and porters are known to be very nosy and gossip, but... I guess it's perfectly normal to know the lives of all residents of the building! They see them come and go, they know with whom and at what time, what they carry in their hands and if they arrive by taxi or bus, and even the mail they receive.

And we must admit that some of the porter's lodges of Barcelona, many of which are in the buildings of the Eixample, are magnificent. They make you want to stay a while there to watch how people come and go!