domingo, 11 de marzo de 2007

A Walk to Parc Guell

Today, Ernesto and I decided to walk the 4km to Parc Guell, Gaudi's famed wonderland in the north part of the city. It was a beautiful day and we saw a lot more than the park on the way. Heading out from the house, we walked to Las Ramblas, then headed north. We cut across the huge Plaza Catalunya until we hit Passeig de Gracia.

This long boulevard is always bustling. When Barcelona's northern part (known as the Eixample) wasn't built yet, this street was the main thoroughfare for coach and horses to get to Gracia, once its own town but now part of Barcelona. Passeig de Gracia is quite a noisy and busy street and is where all of the main boutiques are. Some names you will see are Gucci, Prada, Adolfo Dominguez, Zara and much more. Anyone who likes to shop till they drop would love it here.

Along the way, you will also see more of Gaudi's work, like the Casa Batillo, which is a site to see with it's twisted iron work and shiny blue tiles. Apparently the interior is stunning, but I haven't made it there yet. Eventually we hit Avinguda Diagonal which is more of the financial area. You see buildings for companies like Deutschbank around here. This avenue also marks the beginning of the Gracia neighbourhood.

There is truly a different feel here. Lots of little cafés and more boutiques, but the streets are smaller and it feels more like a neighbourhood again. Lots of 'plazas' here to take in coffee or a gelato. Gracia is another spot which is coveted by many...close to the city, but far enough away.

After Gracia, we started going uphill a bit and about 10 minutes away, we stopped to get bocadillos and water. Bocadillos are everywhere her in Spain. Essentially it's a crispy baguette-like sandwich (although about half as long). It can be filled with ham and cheese, tomato and tuna, things like that. They are very good!

We headed uphill even more and we soon got to the entrance. The place was full of tourists, shutterbugs and people just wanting to chill out in this fantastic place. How can I describe this park? It's set into a hill and the entrance has this wonderful, almost enchanted looking cottage with beautiful tile and organic lines to it.

The main staircase leads up to a platform with hundreds of pillars which support the platform above. That platform above was full of people feeling the warm March breeze, looking out on the stunning view of the city or sitting in the little tiles alcoves that act as the platform's railing.

Gaudi made these fantastic rock walkways that spiral up into the hillside. The vegetation is dry but with tonnes of pine trees (or at least pine-like). We stopped on one of the rock precipices that jutted over the public space below and had our picnic in the sun.

After we ate, we walked along the walkways through the woods, feeling the warm sun glinting through the trees. On one path we soon heard a guitar playing and a weird bam! bam! bam! We soon discovered that it was a wonderful flamenco dancer, dancing to the rythym of her fellow guitarist. It was truly a great moment as people gathered around and watched this woman do this amazing dance.

One truly has to experience this park for themselves, for there are just too many views and intricate passageways to describe in pictures. Another jewel in the crown of Barcelona.

sábado, 10 de marzo de 2007

Barceloneta -- Viva la Playa!

Today I went for a walk and headed for the boardwalk and the beach. The neighbourhood is known as Barceloneta which iterally means 'little Barcelona'. The area used to be the main fisherman's quarter back in the mid-1800s and is characterized by tiny, dead-straight streets, all running toward the Mediterranean.

On the main boulevard, Passieg de Joan de Borbó, you can find tonnes of amazing seafood restaurants and outdoor cafés. There's tonnes of greenspace, as you can see by the first and second picture. A long tree-lined walkway is filled with cyclists, runners and those who choose to just calmly walk the boulevard and take in the sun.

To the west of Barceloneta is the main marina and the Museu Maritim. I think I heard once that the Museu Maritim used to be a factory, and this whole area in general used to be quite a slum. Not anymore...prices have skyrocketed ever since the city began to clean up the beach during the early 1990s. My roommate Joe told me that Barcelona used to have its 'back to the sea', but more and more this area is being transformed into paradise.

The houses here are a style all of its own. Typically they are not bigger than 500 square metres and each level is one whole apartment. The apartments are typically long and narrow with exposed wood beams. I actually stayed in a place here while I was looking for a place to live and a lot of them have been done up in quite a modern way with exposed brick and modern kitchens.

The main boulevard leads to the sea and right at the end is this great little place to have a 'copa' or a nice strong cup of coffee. The boulevard ends and the place opens up to a huge area with palm trees and lots of space. To the west and east stretches the beach, but the boardwalk begins here and goes east for miles!

If you take the boardwalk, you will pass Frank Gehry's huge gold fish sitting on top of a building plus lots of other modern structures, which I will have to take pictures of another day. Who would have known that March could look like this! I have already headed to the beach, taken off my shoes and my shirt and have sunbathed here....truly heaven!

Just wait until the summer when they put up the little covered places where you can have lunch or have a cold beer and listen to hot Euro beats. This place is going to be wild as the months roll on. Just look at those waves!

domingo, 4 de marzo de 2007

My Birthday

Well, this entry is really behind schedule, so I'm publishing this as the date on when I would have normally posted it! Anyway on March 3rd, Ernesto said that all of a sudden we were going to have a housewarming party, since now we finally have a dining room table in the tiny spot by the door. It actually looks quite good with the cranberry red chairs and stools and Ernesto scored from Lacoste, where he works.

Well, it turned out that it was sort of a surprise party for me, which was really sweet. It wasn't a typical surprise party where people were jumping out from behind furniture (not that we have any furniture to jump out from!). We just all sat around chatting, drinking wine, smoking too much.

The second picture is Ernesto (I though I would take some black and whites for this round), the third picture is Piotr and Paolo, and the last picture is Joe, my other roommate from Germany. Piotr is a jewelry designer and is originally from Poland. Paolo is originally from Brazil and is starting an events company.

Other people that were there were Pedro, Otto (you might remember them from Carnaval) and Joe's friend Ingo, visiting from Germany. It's quite amazing how Barcelona is full of people that have come here from all over the world to make a go of it. There is something really special about this city that really attracts people and keeps people here, I think.

Anyway, after a few hours of wine and conversation, we all headed to Salvation, a huge gay club about 15 minutes walk from here. It really doesn't get going until 2am, which is the usual for this city and Spain in general. I think the Lonely Planet was right when they said that Spain leaves most other countries in the dust when it comes to nightlife.

So we all danced the night away and it was great. I especially missed everyone back home around my birthday, but luckily I had some good friends and some good company around me to celebrate.