Tomatina 2014

This week some 22,000 people and some 140 tonnes of tomatoes came head to head at the Tomatina in Buñol. The Tomatina festival is now famous worldwide, and people travel to this small village 30km from the Mediterranean to take part in the tomato-chucking mayhem.

La Tomatina 2014 started at 10.58 hours on the 28th of August. First comes the smell, then shouts and the shrill honking of incoming trucks loaded with tomatoes. Within but a few minutes, the cobbled street is transformed into a thick red carpet and a collective madness.

Said to have begun with a minor scuffle after part of the local carnival went wrong, the festival, lost some of its innocence and become a global event with increasing safety issues for the participants, and increasing commercial exploitation of the event.

This lead to a legal reduction in capacity by more than half (in 2012 more than 45,000 people, attended) Changes brought by the City Council have resulted in the limitation of crowds in attendance, signage and access, and have this brought the event under control. Some say however that in doing so, the original spirit of fun and spontaneity has been lost.

Certainly, the carnival aspect is less visible. There are fewer costumes on display and traditional headgear such as watermelon helmets or straw hats are conspicuous in their absence, it is now more common instead to see mobile video micro cameras with watertight covers and.

One thing that has not changed however is the hospitality of the people of Buñol, who open their doors during the festival today as they have done always.

Perhaps the only figure that remains unchanged is that of the tomatoes, no less than 140,000 kilos, all gone splat in the space of just an hour!

The village of Buñol can be reached by train from Plaça Catalunya in Barcelona in 4 hours and 45 minutes.

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Cultural Events in Barcelona this weekend

This weekend, the last August, also sees the end of many cultural events that have delighted the city this month. The Mas i Mas Festival sadly comes to an end, with a closing concert by the new international folk-soul sensation Aloe Blacc today at the Palau de la Musica.

Over this weekend there are still dozens of performances happening however, with a line-up including home-grown talent The Sweet Vandals. This is the third consecutive summer that Barcelona’s modernist gems have been made more accessible to its citizens, with half price discounts at until September 15th. This year the Bellesguard House and Leon Morera House have been added to the initiative.

Night time is another opportunity for some great events in the city. Summer nights are the perfect setting for dining outdoors and see the city from a new perspective. The Fabra Observatory offers you the chance to see the stars at a marvellous outdoor dinner dining experience that should make a great romantic date.

The Egyptian Museum of Barcelona also opens its doors when the sun sets. You can explore ancient Egypt through guided tours at night, and even sample some products that were part of the Egyptian diet!

Plenty to see and do! But do not fear, though August is coming to a close the Autumn promises many new exciting cultural events in the city.

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The 5 best parks offering shade in Barcelona

University Central

The University Central Garden is a fine emergency shelter when it gets hot in the downtown. This is a green island in the middle of an urban area where the Ciutat Vella and Eixample meet. The garden of the University was created with the dual purpose of being an educational garden, showing more rare botanical species, as well as a place of recreation and rest.
A walk through this interior courtyard garden provides tremendous relaxation. Out on the busy street it may be over 30 degrees, but the trees create the ambience of cool, calm and quiet.

Monterols
If you are caught out in the heat up in Sant Gervasi, one of the best options is to enter Monterols Park, where you can cool off under the shade of pine trees, the tops of which form giant parasols.

This park is simple and very well maintained, and is situated on top of an old estate owned by the Gil family. Its circular path, and small corner squares hidden amidst lush greenery offer all shades of green, amongst which you can spot rosemary and lavender, and oaks and pines. This is a fantastic spot for reading, chatting, and being alone in the middle of the city.

Laribal

A walk through the gardens of Laribal offers a new panorama over the city at every turn of its meandering path, which begins its descent near the Miro Museum on Montjuic. The gardens were designed by a man called Forestier for the 1929 International Exhibition in Barcelona. The gardens are heavily landscaped as they are built on a steep hill. Explore pergolas (beautifully restored), small ceramic benches, areas for rest and a monumental gazebo created from cypress tree turned into sculpture, a perfect shady spot. Within the park lies the famous Font del Gat restaurant serving delicious Catalan cuisine. The terrace affords magnificent views over the city.

The Old Botanic Garden

Since the Botanic Gardens were built on top of Montjuic in 1999, the much smaller old Botanic Garden has been rather overshadowed. Tucked away behind the Palace of Montjuïc, the old Botanical Garden lies within an old quarry, which naturally means it is very shady.

The garden was created in the 1930s by Pius Font Quer. It is accessed via a path that culminates at the bottom of the former quarry pit, lined with trees and shrubs first cultivated in the 1930s. The garden contains the tallest trees in the capital, as well as a small stream that trickles peacefully and creates a sense of calm and escape from the city.

Pedralbes

The gardens of the Palau de Pedralbes are a wonderful place to visit on the heat of summer, or at any time of year. Nicolau Maria Rubio i Tudurí designed the gardens, transforming an existing garden belonging to the Güell family (of Park Guell fame) for the 1929 exhibition, in honour of the Spanish monarchy.

His landscaping combines formal open spaces with thickets of cedars and bamboos. The uneven ground was overcome by creating a fountain and transforming the old avenue of limes with a carpet of ivy, one of the most beautiful parts of the garden.

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Autumn Art

The summer sun is still here in Barcelona but our minds are starting to turn towards autumn and hopefully some respite from the heat! This autumn Barcelona will be hosting some interesting exhibitions and cultural happenings, just in time for the end of summer.
An exhibition on Barcelona during the First World War, an exhibition dedicated to Carles Casagemas and another by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei are just some of the highlights.

From the 24th of October until February 2015, the Joan Miró Foundation will be exhibiting “Barcelona, neutral zone (1914-1918),” which will be about Barcelona during the First World War as depicted in formats such as: art, photography, illustrations, magazines, postcards, advertising, cards and film.
Also in October, “On the Table” will open at the Palace of La Vicereine, a comprehensive retrospective designed by Ai Weiwei that will reveal his artistic career, from his beginnings in New York of the 1980s to today.

The National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC) opens an exhibition on Carles Casagemas in late October. Casagemas was a close friend of Picasso who committed suicide in 1901 in Paris, very beginning of the twentieth century and has never been presented in a museum monograph friend.

The goal of the exhibition is to simply exhibit the work of Casagemas and Picasso together and confirm the place of both artists together in history.
Also on the theme of Picasso and his acquaintances, from October the 2nd, the Picasso Museum will be displaying a set of photographs s the second sample photographs donated to the centre by the international photographer David Douglas Duncan, another close friend of Pablo Picasso.

More traditional work is on display at the CaixaForum, which is hosting an exhibition of the “Treasures of the Prado” until the 5th of January next year. Old masters such as Goya, Velazquez, El Greco, Rubens, Titian and Hieronymus Bosch that are usually only seen in Madrid will be on display at the foot of Montjuic.

At the MACBA in October the work of Italian artist Carol Rama will be on display. His career spanned over seven decades (1936-2006).
From November the CCCB present “Piso Piloto” which explores the parallels between town planning in the Colombian city of Medellin and Barcelona, cities of comparable size, with a long relationship of mutual collaboration.

The CCCB proposes the audiovisual installation “Under Siege”, in the framework of the commemoration of the tercentenary of the Bourbon troop’s siege of Barcelona during the War of Spanish Succession, and reflects upon the contemporary aspects of the besieged cities.

Something for everyone is on offer in this diverse and fascinating set of exhibitions. Do not forget to check out the permanent collections of Barcelona’s museums as well, as the artistic and cultural offering here is superb.

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Running tours of Barcelona

Exercise is a great way to relax and a novel new way to see Barcelona has just been launched in the form of running tours. These guided running tours are in many ways like the traditional walking tours, stops are made along the way as you pass by important cultural sites, which a guide then explains, and, including stops, tells the story of the city while he was running from one place to another. Though in the case of the running tours, the guides explain the culture, architecture and the social atmosphere of the places while on the go as well.

Joan Brull of 360 Running Barcelona says “we are passionate about running and also our city. What we do is mix both to show the city while running”. Brull says the idea came about jointly with Jaume Pedregosa, another of the founders of the organization, together they had always enjoyed “running throughout the city, relaxing and losing ourselves”.

The tours are aimed at tourists who want to see the city in a different way and to take part in some sporting activity while on vacation. It is not important to be a professional runner, 360 Running emphasise that the routes are always adapted to the level of the participants so that everyone can keep up with the tour.

The team of 360 Running Barcelona offers tour routes ranging from coast to mountains – along the beach or in Collserola National Park at the back of the city, as well as routes crossing the Old Town, the Eixample and Passeig de Gracia and the Gothic Quarter.

Besides passing main attractions such as the Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas or the Palau de la Musica Music, other less known but interesting areas, such as Sant Pere are included. The tours usually take place early or late in the day and can be from 5km to 25 km long depending on the participant’s wishes.

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Festas de Gràcia 2014

Every August Gràcia hosts Barcelona’s biggest street party, La Festa Major de Gràcia. This summer the Festa takes take place from the 15th to the 21st of August, and is set to be a bigger party than ever before. Plaça de les Dones has been added to the Festa, and Providència Street will once again be a part of the proceedings as also. decked in its editing and more preventive security measures spaces.

Traditionally this has been very much a neighbourhood party for the residents of Gràcia. However, the president of the Festa Major de Gràcia Foundation, Carla Carbonell, announced at a press conference on Monday that more and more tourists are attending the Festas each year, and so the this year leaflets will be distributed in Catalan and English in Gràcia explaining the values of the Festa. Locals rightly fear that otherwise tourism will takeover their party and alter its identity.

New safety measures are being introduced this year due to this greater interest from tourists, and ensure the safety of all. This is a multi generational party with small children and great grandparents taking part, a true Spanish family affair.

Gràcia district councilor, Maite Fandos, has explained that to minimize the effect of the large number of people at the party a one-way street system will be implemented in seven of the busiest streets in order to prevent overcrowding. First aid teams will be on hand during the festival as well as marshals whose job it will be to provide advance warning of ‘correfocs’ (street level firework displays) to those with sensitive hearing. This year there will also be noise level restrictions for the first time, aimed at the 100 live music performances taking place.

Technology is being incorporated into the Festa for the first time. A downloadable Festa de Gràcia App is being developed. This interacts with Google maps where events are plotted, and allows users to set reminders for any performances or events they do not wish to miss, and then to navigate their way there. As well as the App, this year QR codes will be placed streets and squares, allowing party-goers to access information and the program of events via their phone.

Enjoy the Festas de Gràcia!

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Kitesurfing in Castelldefels

Castelldefels, for those who have not visited, is a charming seaside town no more than 20 minutes train ride to the south of Barcelona. Castelldefels boasts an expansive and beautiful sandy beach, and it is here that Barcelona’s first dedicated kite surfing area has just been created. The sport is popular in Spain, where year round sunshine and safe waters make for perfect kitesurfing conditions.

However kitesurfing is banned in many areas for safety reasons, including along the shores of Barcelona. The sport consists of strapping ones feet to a board, much like surf or windsurf board, which is attached to a large kite that pulls the board along at great speed. Obviously this can be very dangerous in area where there are bathers in the water, or even where other water sports are taking place.

The area for kitesurfing in Castelldefels is found at La Pineda beach, where there is a newly opened office from where kite-surfing is tightly managed. If you want to kite-surf at La Pineda, first you will need to go to the office and obtain a permit as well as a special coloured lifejacket to ensure your safety by making you highly visible to life guards as well as other people on the water.

Kitesurfing at Castelldefels is only permitted in the afternoon from Monday to Friday and not at the weekend, and only when conditions are suitable – i.e. when there is a wind speed greater than 15 knots.

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Tapas in Horta

The Barcelona district of Horta-Guinardó presented its tapas route ‘tasts d’Horta-Guinardó’ to be launched today, the 16th of July 2104. For those who do not know Barcelona, this district in the northeast of the city and is off the beaten tourist path but is a pleasant district to explore, close to the Sagrada Familia area.

With the participation of 28 bars and restaurants, an exciting new set of tapas tasting routes is opening in Horta-Guinardó. These will take place one day a week, on Wednesdays from 19:00 to 22:00 hours. These offer you the chance to enjoy tapas at a price of a mere 1.95 euros, including a beverage

Similar campaigns have been held in other Spanish cities including Bilbao, Sevilla and Madrid. Often taking place on Thursdays, these have all been a great success, helping to entice both tourists and locals alike into parts of the city they might not otherwise frequent.

In Barcelona, the five new taps routes found are in Horta, Font d’en Fargues, Guinardó, Can Baró and Teixonera. This is a gourmet treat – you can taste skewers of Iberian pork with onions, mustard and brie, a chicken sandwich with bacon, onion, cheese and three sauces, veal tataki with mediterranean vinaigrette, or sirloin steak with chimichurri source on a bed of potatoes, or a coca (Catalan pizza) with goats cheese.

When you visit Barcelona remember that there is so much more to be seen than Las Ramblas, Gaudi and the Old Town!

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El Prado Exhibits in Barcelona

The Table of Madness, by the Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch, arrived at the CaixaForum in Barcelona on Wednesday. The work is on loan form the Museu Del Prado in Madrid where it has and will form a central part of an interesting new Caixa Forum exhibition “La belleza cautiva. Pequeños tesoros del Museo del Prado” (Captive beauty. Small treasures of the Prado Museum).

This exhibition, which opens on July 15 at the CaixaForum (between Plaça Espanya and Montjuïc), will have a total of 135 works on loan from the Prado. What makes this exhibition all the more remarkable is that there are very few surviving works by Bosch in the world. The Prado collection is perhaps the most important. King Philip II of Spain had a special interest in this painter, and as ruler of the Low Countries at the time he was able to assemble a fine collection of the Bosch’s works and these have remained in the Spanish capital ever since.

Due to the age and rare nature of Bosch’s work, conservation is a concern. For this reason the collection generally does not leave Madrid often, and when they do, only those that are least at risk are loaned to other Museums. This makes the forthcoming exhibition in Barcelona all the more special, and furthermore admission to all exhibitions at the CaixaFourm in Barcelona is free for everybody.

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Bread & Butter meets Pan con Tomate

Barcelona is a city and a brand synonymous with style and fashion, and so it is good news that the urban fashion fair Bread & Butter Barcelona will return to Barcelona from the 8th to the 10th of January next year.

According to the founder of the Bread & Butter brand, Karl-Heinz Müller, the event will occupy a staggering 100,000 square feet, virtually all of the Fira de Barcelona’s Montjuic site.

The event returns to Barcelona in an attempt to recapture some of the Mediterranean market which has been in decline since Bread & Butter moved to Berlin in 2009.

The winter edition of Bread & Butter always faced stiff competition from other fashion salons in Berlin and Amsterdam and negotiations between Müller and the urban fashion and Fira Barcelona have been a long process.

The summer edition of Bread & Butter will remain in Berlin, with Barcelona’s sunnier climes hosting the winter edition. A first foray into the Asian market has also been announced, with Seoul elected for a new edition from the 3rd to the 5th of September next year. Organisers describe the city as “young, progressive, hungry, independent, and full of street life and energy”.

In the penultimate edition of Bread & Butter in Barcelona in 2008, over 90,000 people attended, and it was just days before the celebration of the winter edition in 2009 when La Vanguardia newspaper announced the organization’s decision to return to Berlin after offered them free use of Tempelhof airport to tempt them back. It’s departure was a heavy blow to the economies of the city and of the Fira de Barcelona, and hence shortly afterwards a new fashion event was launched in Barcelona, the Brandery.

Book your attendance here.

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