I took some time out today to take some pictures of my neighbourhood. The area is called Raval and is in the old city. The word 'raval' comes from an Arabic word describing the one-time suburban sprawl of this area to the south. This area has been a home for centuries for prostitutes and bohemians alike, and in the 1920s was famed for its brothels, cabarets and taverns. Even Picasso lived here for a while on Carrer Nou de la Rambla. By the 1960s many of the brothels had shut down, but was still a rowdy post when the American fleet came to port. El Raval was brought into the walls of the city in the 14th Century and in the 19th Century the walls were torn down and the streets that replaced them still trace the old boundary.
This neighbourhood received a bit of a boost with the construction of the Museu d'Art Contemporani Barcelona or MACBA (see 2nd picture). A lot of trendy little bars and shops have since sprung up around here. For all of you Torontonians, it definitely has a 'Queen St W' feeling to it, although there is so much more at play here in this 'barrio' ('barri' in Catalan). The mixture of modern boutiques and art galleries with old bars and tavernas (5th picture) adorned with art nouveau signs and stained glass is truly wonderful.
To the south of Carrer de l'Hospital, you get more of a North African and Pakistani vibe. Halal meat shops are everywhere, as well as tonnes of cheap phone and internet stores.
The new Rambla de Raval (4th picture) is also being built through the neighbourhood, which is a beautiful walking boulevard adorned with palm trees. A new centre for film is also being built as well as a new area for housing. You can definitely feel the neighbourhood changing right before your eyes.
Closer to the apartment, there are a lot of little 'plazas' and squares (see 3rd picture), with lots of cafés and restaurants. It's perfectly heaven sitting in the square, having the best coffee you've ever had and quietly reading a book in the afternoon sun.
My favourite place near the apartment is in the Plaça de Vincenç Martorell (see 1st picture). A simple walk in this neighbourhood can lift your spirits and transport you to another time and place...truly magic!