Mercat de Mercats

In Barcelona and throughout Catalunya, food markets are a feature of everyday life. Why shop in a supermarket where the food arrives on the shelf after a long process of transportation and storage when you can eat fresh and local fruit, vegetables, meat and fish? Markets are also often the focus of a community, a place to bump into neighbours, chat, or drink a coffee in a bar. In this sense they offer much more than just shopping, but are part of Catalan life and culture. Markets such as La Boqueria de Sant Josep on Les Rambles have become famous globally in recent years. Municipal markets are funded by the ajuntament (Barcelona’s city council) to make them economically viable in the face of competition from supermarkets.

This October the best of Barcelona’s market stalls will come together on the Plaza de la Catedral, in the old town to show their wares at the 5th annual edition of Mercat de Mercats, a gastronomic celebration of all that is good in Catalan food.

At Mercat de Mercats all of Barcelona’s district food markets will be in attendance, with a selection of individual stalls from each setting up shop to offer their finest fare.

The event is divided into different areas—the wine cellar, market stalls, tapas, and the cooking school. Local food and wine producers will be taking part, as will a number of bars and restaurants. Alongside the market there will be talks, workshops, and tastings run by local chefs and wine experts. This is a must for anyone who loves Catalan cuisine, or anyone who would like to find out more.

Entry is free and drinks and tapas are available at a variety of prices

Posted in Areas - The Old Town & Ramblas, Barcelona fiestas, Barcelona Gastronomy, Bars in Barcelona, Catalan traditions and culture, Tapas in Barcelona | Leave a comment

Progress is made on the Sagrada Famila’s Passion Facade

Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia is Spain’s most visited monument. Not only is this towering modernist masterpiece famed for its breathtaking eccentricity, it is also famed for still not being finished after nearly 150 years of construction!

Well there is a popular local saying that goes “a poc a poc”, it means “little by little” and it seems very appropriate here. Gaudi famously quipped “my client (i.e. God) is in no hurry”!

Good things come to those who wait, but meanwhile, a significant piece of the puzzle that is Gaudi’s design is about to fall into place.

Last Friday, the director and coordinator of the construction of the Sagrada Familia, Jordi Bonet, announced that the Passion façade of the Sagrada Familia is expected to be ready in between a year and a half and two years, this includes a monument Gaudí designed to honour the Catalan bishop, and close friend of Gaudi, Josep Torras i Bages. The economic crisis has not affected the Sagrada Familia, stated Bonet, suggesting that the monumental project could be ready for the centenary of the death of Torras i Bages in 2016.

The monumental 20-meter project, which includes a statue of the Catalan bishop, and close friend of Gaudi, Josep Torras i Bages, is supported by three legs corresponding to the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and is based on close study of a copy of Gaudi’s original drawings conducted by Bonet. Sadly the original drawings were lost when Gaudi’s study was set fire to during the Spanish civil war in 1936. However thanks to the copies made of certain drawings, in recent months Bonet has been able to study the proportions of Gaudi’s design, and has found that it follows typical Gaudí geometrical proportions, with ratios of 7.5 meters, 7.5 meters and 3.75 meters, or five times 3.75.”

Visitors to the Sagrada Familia can access the Nave, Crypt, Museum, Shop, and the Passion and Nativity towers. The entrance fee funds the continuing construction work.

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Tapa Solidaria 2014

Tickets is one of Barcelona’s most famous tapas bars thanks in no small part to its connection with the Adrià family. This Thursday Tickets was the stage for the opening of “Tapa Solidaria” for the fourth year running. Tapa Solidaria is an admirable initiative run by Barcelona´s restaurant community to help combat child poverty. This year over 80 establishments will be involved in Tapa Solidaria.

Tickets is located in the Paral.lel area of Barcelona, not far from Las Ramblas. Chef and owner Albert Adrià (brother of Ferran Adrià) presented the event alongside Lluís Prats of the Casal dels Infants, and the promoter of this initiative.

The money is raised to combat child poverty through a 0.50 cent donation from the price of a tapa sold in the partaking restaurants. So the good news is that when you visit Barcelona and eat tapas, you can help to combat child poverty at the same time.

Tapa Solidaria runs until the 7th of January 2015 offer until January 7, 2015 a cover tasting at participating restaurants go to 0.50 euros from the sale of a cover of his letter to the Casal dels Infants.

Albert Adrià has highlighted the importance of the participation of the hospitality industry in charity events such as this. Since 2011, Tapa Solidària has managed to raise 66,000 euros for the Casal dels Infants, a foundation that has worked for over 30 years to improve the future education of children and youth at risk of social exclusion.

As usual, if you buy a tapa in a restaurant partaking in Tapa Solidaria, you can enter into a draw to win a meal for two. This year for the first time you can also make a donation virtually via the Let’s Bonus platform.

See a full list of restaurants taking part here

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Barcelona Yewellery Week 2014

Barcelona Yewellery Week takes place from today until the 13th of October and during this time will convert Barcelona into the jewellery capital of the world. In case you were wondering, “yewellery” is how Spanish speakers pronounce the English word jewellery; the name is an irreverent one.

The event takes place in the Santa Monica Arts Centre and the Royal Shipyards, on Las Ramblas, and will showcase the latest trends in jewellery, with auspicious guest artists in attendance including Italy’s Giampaolo Babetto, considered the “father” of contemporary jewellery, as well as France’s Yannick Mur. In total the event will bring together 62 individual artists, over 52 artists from seven collectives, 45 artists and 37 galleries, and five students from eight different international design schools.

In addition a side named “Off Joya” invites attendees to walk the “jewel path”, in which fifteen of Barcelona’s most prestigious galleries have mounted several exhibitions.

While last year’s event highlighted rising stars of Latin America, in 2014 Joya will receive a large attendance from Asia, with 15 artists from the AME gallery in Hong Kong, a group of 10 artists from Taiwan, as well as various other individual designers from Japan and Thailand.

The “Espaijoia” display will the site of the former Royal Dockyards from October the 10th. This will feature 110 companies from six countries, with France as the guest country, with over 170 French jewellery stores. One of the highlights of Espaijoia be the “Author Gallery” where unique pieces or series of works will be on display.

You can also visit an exhibition of a selection of pieces designed by international artists involved in “Jewellery Contemporary Yearbook”.
This year’s edition of show will also be a tribute to the Catalan art nouveau jewellery house Bagués-Masriera, as 2014 is its 175th anniversary. Barcelona yewellery week marks this occasion with an exhibition of the most famous pieces by Bagués-Masriera.

Posted in Areas - Las Ramblas, Art in Barcelona, barcelona port vell, design in barcelona, Exhibitions in Barcelona, Shopping in Barcelona | Leave a comment

Douglas Duncan at the Picasso Museum

The Picasso Museum in Barcelona is opening a new exhibition of the American photojournalist Douglas Duncan, featuring 87 of his works. Duncan was a close frond of Picasso and took many photographs of that artist. These pictures have been chosen to create a dialogue with some works by Picasso featured in the permanent collection.

The museum’s director Bernardo Laniado-Romero, explains, “although many photographers portrayed Picasso, in the case of Douglas Duncan, his friendship with the artist resulted in a more intimate depiction of the private moments in the life of Picasso and Jacqueline, as well as a record of his artistic processes, so these photos can help us to better understand the artist.”

The merit of these photographs, Laniado-Romero adds, is that they are a complete set and tell a story, they are not unique works that exist in isolation from one another.

This second exhibition will be open to the public until January the 12th and predominantly features portraits of Picasso and Jacqueline taken between 1956 and 1962. One particularly interesting aspect of the exhiition is that many of the photographs show Picasso at work, and then feature the completed piece of work alongside.

The depiction of intimate moments, such as a photo from 1957 of the artist at work on a linocut design for an exhibition poster, while his daughter Paloma sits drawing alongside, help to bring the artist and his work to life.

Duncan’s works also record Picasso’s fascination with nudes by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Picasso owned several reproductions of Cranach’s work, including “Venus and Love”, which inspired various drawings and lithographs by Picasso in the 1940s and 1950s.

While working on ‘Las Meninas’, Picasso set up his workshop on the second floor of his home and studio, La Californie, next to a terrace where he owned a dovecote. A series of photographs from the exhibition show Picasso and Jacqueline surrounded by pigeons fluttering around this terrace, a fact that confirms Duncan moved in Picasso’s innermost circle, for while he was painting ‘Las Meninas’ Picasso famously allowed nobody into his studio.

Duncan is possibly most famous as a war photographer who covered both the Korean and Vietnam wars. As well as intimate moments in the life of Picasso, the exhibition are also some portraits not related to the great artist’s life, such as two poignant pictures from the Korean war of a friend of Duncan’s lying dead on a hillside.

The exhibition closes with an eloquent picture of a petite Jacqueline next to the immense canvas of “Guernica”, as it is about to leave the MOMA for its return home to Spain.

If you are in Barcelona this autumn you might already be planning a trip to the Picasso museum. If you do, be sure not to miss this wonderful exhibition.

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Fast rail link from El Prat?

Minister of Development Ana Pastor, has today announced a proposal to build a rail shuttle service between Barcelona centre and El Prat airport, stressing the need to improve the connection between the airport and Barcelona “so that even people who just spend a day at the airport as a stop-over have the opportunity to make a quick visit to the centre”

Pastor visited the recently remodelled T2 shopping area this morning as part of a campaign to publicise the proposal, and emphasised that the project would be a sound investment in the cities future.

The outcome of the proposal depends on the Generalitat of Catalunya, who would need to release funding for the project, the decision will be made in the coming weeks. A fast rail link from El Prat would be a boon for the city and its infrastructure, for tourism, for business and for its inhabitants as well. Watch this space.

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The re-opening of the Güell Pavilions

Barcelona City Council has announced plans to invest 900,000 Euros in restoring to restore the Güell Pavilions in the Sarrià district of the city. This is great news for the city’s heritage, as Gaudi´s architecture forms a huge part of Barcelona´s cultural identity. The Pavilions were declared a Monument of National Historic and Artistic Interest in 1969, but are only currently open to the public at the weekend or as part of prearranged tours.

Currently, Finca Güell Pavilions, located in the district of Les Corts, can only be visited in concert tours and weekend hours. Therefore very few people know the Pavilions, and very few tourists get to see them, instead visiting more central Gaudi sites such as the Casas Battlo and Mila.

The Güell Pavilions introduce us to some of Gaudi’s lesser known influences. The design largely features mudejar (Spanish Arabic) influences, though some of the more familiar curves of Catalan modernisme (art nouveau) can be seen in the design of the dragon in the wrought iron gate.

The council plans to establish a schedule of times visits for tourists, the proceeds of which will fund the restoration project that will return the Pavilions to their former glory. While tourists will be required to pay for their visit, Barcelona’s residents are to be entitled to free entry.

The mayor of Barcelona calls the Pavilions a “jewel of modernism,” and has hailed this opportunity to reveal a long forgotten piece of Barcelona’s heritage for the benefit of the city’s residents, as well as for its many visitors. He has also expressed his happiness at creating a cultural tourist destination, for those visitors who would like to learn more about Barcelona’s unique and delightful modernisme / art nouveau.

The Municipal Institute of Urban Landscape conducted comprehensive restoration, declared World Heritage Site by Unesco, and the improvement and open to the public, under a project called Jardí Gaudí (2014-2024). The total cost of the restoration is 900,000 Euros and the works are scheduled to open before the end of the year and be completed in 2016.

Already in the phase of the restoration work, the Institute will develop programs of cultural activities on campus, especially disclosure related to modernism and Art Nouveau.

To visit the Pavilions, the easiest way is to take the metro to Maria Cristina metro station on the green line (L3). Further information about visiting them can be found on the Barcelonaturisme website.

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La Merce 2014

As summer draws to a close here in Barcelona, as kids return to school and the holidays come to an end, the city prepares to celebrate its annual festival, La Merce.

This year locals and visitors alike will be able to partake of over 600 free outdoor activities (weather permitting!). La Merce starts today and will continue over the weekend, right through to Tuesday when the firework takes place marking the actual day of the Mercè, co-patron of Barcelona. This year also sees the celebration of a 1714-2014 tricentenary.

The legend behind La Merce is not widely known, but goes as follows: legend states that on September the 24th, 1218, the Virgin appeared to King James I (known as Jaume I here) and his knights Pere Nolasc and Ramon de Penyafort and asked them to found a religious order to rescue the Christians imprisoned by the Saracens. However, it was not until 1687, when the city suffered a plague of locusts that the date acquired significance, when the Consell de Cent (city and regional council) instructed the Virgen de la Mercè to swing into action and save the day, but it was not until almost two centuries to that in 1868, that the pope ratified the decision to make the Virgen de La Merce a saint, and it was not until 1902 that the day became an official festival.

La Mercè 2014 will have two main stages. One will be at the Moll de la Fusta in the Port vell, as always. For the first time, a stage next to the sea will be used, at Bogatell beach. Montjuïc Castle, will be used for circus performances, and the Ciutadella Park will host the Mercè Street Arts (MAC).

In total, more than ten thousand people star in the Mercè this year, and the guest city this year is Stockholm, where Catalan artists were participating in the Festival of Culture last month, and it is now the turn of Swedish artists to come to Barcelona and perform.

Posted in Activities - Summer, la merce, La Mercè Barcelona | Leave a comment

Sun, Sea and Ski in Barcelona

Barcelona, sun, sea, tapas, design, fashion, football. And skiing. Well not yet, but hopefully you will be able to soon. Barcelona’s claim to be a city with everything will soon be bolstered by the arrival of an indoor ski slope. Dutch firm SnowWorld has announced a plan to build a 300 metre indoor ski slope in Barcelona’s Zona Franca within a sports complex dedicated to winter sports.

Winter sports are of course already possible in Barcelona thanks to the proximity of the Pyrenees and Andorra, which can be reached in no more than a couple of hours by car. Up until now however there have never been any winter sports facilities in the city. The proposal has received full support from the Catalan Federation of Winter Sports.

While the initiative has not yet been given the green light from the city council due to issues surrounding the redefinition of the current land use, it seems highly unlikely that it will be refused as it will stimulate an area that badly needs investment and job creation. The key stumbling block in the proposal is that there is a Food Bank on the proposed site which feeds some 150,000 people. However, Sander Laudy, spokesman for SnowWorld, has stated that the company is willing to give a space in their facilities for the Food Bank to continue operating from.

So watch this space, and who knows, next year you can pack your skis when you come to Barcelona.

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Craft Beer in Barcelona

Spain has not traditionally been a big beer producing country. Beers such as San Miguel and Estrella Damm tend to be cheap and strong; Spain has always been more of a wine producing country.

However the recent global hipster craze for craft beer is changing things and Catalunya seems to be leading the way, as the number of local craft breweries and craft beer drinkers steadily increases.

Since 2008 the number of craft beer brands and microbreweries based in Catalonia has rocketed from about 10 to almost 200. Jordi Expósito and Joan Villar, the authors of Guia de Cerveses de Catalunya 2013, a guide to Catalonian beers attribute this increased interest to the Catalan passion for cooking and long tradition of producing wine and other alcoholic spirits. They also point to global recession which has hit Catalunya hard and encouraged many to broaden their horizons and look for new ways to make a living. Beers made in Barcelona and Catalunya feature a distinctly local flavour using indigenous ingredients such as citrus fruits, peppers, figs and even mushrooms.

Barcelona’s craft beer craze has also led to the creation of Barcelona’s own international beer festival, the Barcelona Beer Festival. This year over 10,000 visitors enjoyed 300 different beers from 150 international producers, of which 55 were from Catalonia.

This is a recent trend that has sprung up in the last few years. The first true craft beers in Catalonia were made in 1996 by La Cervesera Artesana, a brewpub in Barcelona’s Gràcia neighbourhood. Since then the number of similar establishments has increased dramatically. Here are our favourite picks.

La Cervesera Artesana

This is a large pub with a slightly English feel, where you can see the production area through a glass wall. Brewing under the name Iberian, the pub serves seven delicious beers made on the premises, often with eccentric local ingredients such as Catalan mushrooms.

La Resistència

La Resistència belongs to the owners of Rosses i Torrades craft beer shop. An enormous space where you can enjoy some of the finest international beers. Kegs are rotated every week so variety is not an issue. Of course, this is Spain, so there are tapas on offer as well!

Another microbrewery combined with a pub, Reptilian produces many an interesting craft beer, including Thymus, a medium-bodied white beer made with organic spelt and enhanced with thyme and other spices. Also of interest is a Garnatxa Beer, an ale cuvée incorporating the grenache grape (garnatxa in Catalan), which gives it some delightful fruity notes.

La Cervecita

A trip to Barcelona is not complete without visiting the beach. Once you have had a swim and are feeling in need of refreshment, head over to La Cervecita. It’s very close to the Selva de Mar beach, and it has five taps on the bar, as well as plenty of bottles of Catalan and imported beers you can take away with you.

La Cerveteca

A great place to quaff a few local and international beers. Located behind the Post Office building in the Barrio Gótico (close to where Picasso grew up), La Cerveteca offers close to a hundred different beers from around the world, many of which are on draft. From these, 14 are Catalan craft beers, including popular contemporary classics such as Birra 08, Guineu, Ales Agullons, Almogàvers and Garnatxa. Again, mouth watering tapas can be combined with the beers at La Cerveteca.

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