Off the beaten path in Barcelona: La Merce 2016

This an annual festival, local to Catalonia, that celebrates Virgin Mary, the merciful, for which people from all over Catalonia and rest of Spain visit Barcelona. You can imagine the crowd if you add the regular number of tourists that visit from around the world!

We were lucky to be in Barcelona during the time, since it exposed us to a side of the city we may not have ever seen. Besides the tourists, who throng to Barcelona, the streets was full of locals and others from the surrounding areas, all out on a holiday, which led to an amplified atmosphere of festivity and fun- extremely helpful when on holiday yourself, and highly contagious!

Due to the festival, there were events going on at every big square. There were music concerts, folk music and dancing, parades and sporting contests. 

There was a parade of the Giants where famous local characters were paraded around the square with music. The size and scale was impressive.

One peculiar contest was making of the Castell by castellers. It is a human pyramid or ‘castle’ and the skill lies in how high you can go or how complex your castle is. It was amazing to see the kids were participating in this and our local guide told us that every village had a team and representatives and they took great pride in participating and winning this contest. You can see them prepping by adding belts for waist and back protection. The bystanders also participate by supporting the lowest ring of the castle.

One of the main stages had folk dancing, which looked nothing like the graceful Flamenco that one would normally associate with Spain, but a lot like line dancing!

In the night, there were fireworks by the beach, which were attended by more people than we thought possible! The trains was filled to busting and local police directed the human traffic at the metro stations, to make sure people weren’t knocked off the platforms in their rush to get to the scene of the action.

They also had late night free music concerts which we missed unfortunately, being too jet lagged to keep our eyes open.

All together the festival gave us more insight into the local culture and rituals. An interesting experience and highly recommended!

Barcelona, parte dos: 24 hours in the city!

Second visit to Barcelona- though this time only for 24 hours. Joined the wife who was already in town for the ESID conference, before we headed to Morocco and Portugal.
Getting from the airport to downtown was super easy. Take the aerobus from either Terminal to Placa Catalunya which is the last stop. There are buses every 5-10 mins all day long and costs 6€ so not very expensive. The train is another option and is slightly cheaper.

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In keeping with our custom of checking out microbreweries in every city we visit, we started the evening at a local microbrewery – Moritz. Decent beer and tapas.2.JPG

We got lucky because this was also the week of La Merce festival. It is an annual festival that celebrates one of the patron saints of Barcelona – virgin Mary the merciful. There were events planned throughout the city, ranging from parades with giants to music and folk dancing. Just made our walk around the neighborhood more interesting.3.jpgRead more about our experiences at La Merce festival in our blog post dedicated exclusively to it!

We decided to take a walking tour through the El Gothic neighborhood. Alex from Travel bound Barcelona free walking tours, was our guide and did a great job explaining the history of Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain.

We met at Travel Bar, neat little place to meet fellow tourists, talk travel and get coffee or beer.

We started along Las Ramblas which was once a river of refuse outside the city walls. It also has one of three Miro art pieces welcoming those who came by sea.

El Gothic was part of the original city called Barcino that was occupied by the Romans. Some of the roman ruins are still visible. Walking past Cathedrals we learnt about the Spanish Civil War and the impact it had on the world and Spain itself. You also see a snap shot of the political situation involving an independent Catalonia with flags flown to show their support.

We also learnt about an extremely unusual Christmas tradition, practiced only in Catalonia!

Next we decided to visit Park Guell. Take the metro to Licepps and then walk for about 15 min. There are clear signs and when in doubt follow the crowds. To not waste time at Park Guell buy your tickets online. We took the guided tour and would recommend doing it. Gaudi was a genius and there are many details that could be missed without the experts.

After the park we revisited the Sagrada Familia. There seemed to be progress after 3 years but you can see how its many many years to completion.7.JPG

No trip to Barcelona is complete without sangria and paella.5.JPG6.JPG

Us with the second Miro piece at the airport. Check it out at terminal 2.4.JPG

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