Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A morning walk by the beach of Barcelona

I just love this, living so close to the Mediterranean Sea. Being able to go for walks there whenever I feel like it. Taking in the beautiful surroundings, enjoy the feel of the warm sun, sitting at a bench watching life go by, reading a book where all I hear are the waves rolling in and out.

This used to be something I would only dream of doing if I ever got on holiday somewhere a liiiittle more warm and exotic than Norway. Yeah, seriously. What is now so available to me, used to be something I could seriously daydream about doing.  

I am just so grateful to be able to be here! And happy that I did it, that I took the leap, packed my life into a suitcase and followed my dream of starting a new life in Spain, or at least going there for a while and escape one Norwegian winter, and learn some Spanish.

So today I would like to invite you along on a walk by the sea, hope you'll like it!

I still can't quite believe this is my "back garden"...

Monday, January 30, 2012

I got a free guided tour to the Palau!

When I looked through the program of the cultural offer at Barcelona Opporunity Week, if I would choose one thing that really stood out to me, it was the chance of getting free tickets to a guided tour of the Palau de la Musica. Yes, I have seen it, during a concert, which was really the most spectacular experience, and also in my opinion the best way to see this beautiful music hall. But I really wouldn't mind getting a closer look at the details in the decoration and also get some of the history as well, so off I went in the hope of being of the few lucky ones to get a couple of free tickets.(They were giving out 50 in total, for two different days.) And I did! I managed with my scruffy Spanish to ask if it was possible to get tickets for this, and it was!  Muchas gracias!!

On sunday, I'll be there, and I so hope I'll be allowed to take pictures!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Santa María del Mar - La Catedral del Mar.

There is a church in Barcelona. Well, there are quite a few, but for now I wanted to talk about one of them. Santa María del Mar. A huge, beautiful one, hidden right in the middle of the labyrinth of all the narrow streets of a part of the old town called “El Born”.

Tucked in between all these narrow streets, so that suddenly it’s right in front of you without much warning.

I personally love this area, I think it’s my favourite part of the old town. It’s charming, it’s beautiful, and oh so trendy with many art boutiques, café’s, restaurants and bars.
But I am getting sidetracked here, I can talk about El Born some other time. I was going to talk about this Church, Santa María del Mar.

Cause in 2006, Ildefonso Falcones published a book called la Catedral del Mar, Cathedral of the Sea, a historic novel set in Barcelona in the 14'th century. The story is set around the building of Santa María del Mar and although at this point there’s no chance to see the sea from there from the masses of buildings, back in the day you could, as it’s less than one km away from the Mediterranean, thereof the name.

I read it a while back and it kind of swallowed me a little, it was wonderful, almost magical, to read the story set in old old Barcelona, while being able to go out and walk around in those old streets and places described in the story. And entering the Cathedral, and realizing what a masterpiece it really is actually having some background information.

In my time in Spain I have already seen several opulent cathedrals and coming from Norway with our wooden or stone churches with very little thought put into the “interior design”, these Spanish Cathedrals really are something else.

Still, I am somehow more impressed by this one. It’s simpler, not so dramatically decorated, it doesn’t have gold everywhere, it’s just plain and simply beautiful, and knowing that it was built alt those years ago only with the human physical strength, and that the Basitaixos* carried the stones on their backs all the way from Montjüic… well it just gives the cathedral more life and soul for me.

Santa María, the patron saint of the cathedral

There is no entrance fee, which I think is great (and surprising), considering the increased popularity this church has received after the book became an international best seller.

The first time I entered, I came in the middle of a wedding ceremony, can you imagine?

As for the book, I loved it, the story is good, strong and sad. There's quite a lot of history in this book that got a little boring at times, too many kings and too many battles for my taste, but the main story is great.

Have you ever read a historical novel, and been able to trace the steps of the main
characters? Or have you read this one?

*Bastaixos: those who built the cathedral, and carried the stones on their backs, voluntarily and without getting paid.

Spanair declare bankruptcy

Yeah, that's right. Last night they announced it and parked their last aerplane.
My flatmate had no less than 6 flights planned with Spanair, and now he lost his money and has to buy all those tickets again. Very frustrating.

In the long run, I guess it's bad for air traffic in Spain also. Spanair has been in the market more than 25 years. Now, there's Vueling & Iberia (already merged a couple years ago, then killing ClickAir and a lot of competition as three airlines became one) And there's Air Europa which is honestly always (?? At least every time I have checked) so much more expensive than the other options. And that's it for Spanish airlines.

Ryainair is more and more present though, especially here in Barcelona after they last year started flying to the main airport of Barcelona and not just Reus (Tarragona) and Girona (Girona). Some newspaper says the competition from Ryanair is actually one of the reasons for the closing of Spanair.
I am sorry for everyone affected by this...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Barcelona Opportunity Week

I saw this sign about Barcelona Opportunity Week and of course it itched my curiosity.

The ad says:

Barcelona will be more accessible than ever, because Barcelona Opportunity Week will be bringing you major discounts at different places in the city. Not only will you be able to enjoy this week of unique opportunities, but many of the great deals and special offers include a donation to a charity specified in each participating establishment. Renowned restaurants, exclusive shops, hotels of every style, unrepeatable entertainments, all these things and many, many more are waiting for you during Barcelona Opportunity Week at great prices.

Starting on Friday 27th January and lasting 10 days, the city will be full of great offers. Now who doesn’t like the ring of this? I know I do.

There are 5 categories; hotels, restaurants, culture, markets and flowers.

If you need a hotel, 22 hotels (ranging from 5 star to 3 star) offer prices up to 50% off the usual rates

As for restaurants, 53 restaurants will provide a special set menu at a discounted price. 

And then you’ll want some cultural input too, maybe? A total of 23 theatres, 4 concert spaces, 14 art galleries, 22 cinemas, and 16 museums offers free entrance or a discount on the entrance/ticket fee. Have a look here for the full list.

For the best quality food, no doubt, you go to the markets that are spread all over town (every neighbourhood has one) and these 10 days, at 16 of them, every stall will be having products at a discount. Check out which ones here.

And then last but not least, 42 florists are part of Barcelona Opportunity Week, offering bouquets at a special price.

I for one, am excited about this!

Monday, January 23, 2012

The home of Salvador Dalí

Back when I had been to Cadaqués, I said I would write about the museum of Dalí’s home. I have completely forgotten, so if anyone’s interested, here it is!
Salvador Dalí was always one of my absolute favourite artists, I have always been fascinated by surrealist art where you can stare at a painting and keep seeing new figures and meanings the longer you stare. And the colours!

Swans reflecting elephants
The persistece of memory
Yep, Dalí's work was definitely something I admired. And again, just as with Gaudí he was a reason to be fascinated with Barcelona, him having spent most of his life here, and is somehow a part of the city.

Friends of his included Pablo Picasso, Federico García Lorca, Joan Miró, Luis Buñuel – all important names in art to this day.

His art stretches further than just painting genius pieces of art though. He made sculptures, wrote a few film-scripts and a novel, made the set design in movies for Hitchcock and Disney, had a dip into the world of fashion with Christian Dior and Coco Chanel and more. His house in Port Lligat, is one of his architectural works.

He lived from 1904 to 1989, in Madrid, Paris, USA, Barcelona and Cataluña. He used to spend his childhood summers in Cadaqués, and in 1930 he moved to Port Lligat, just outside of Cadaqués, attracted by the landscape, the light and the isolation of the place. He started building his house there, and spent 40 years doing it. This is the only place he ever really settled down to stay, and this house is now open as a museum and of course I had to visit!
Let’s just say his taste in interior design is somewhat unique. Lots of animals and eggs!

Ready for a tour? Here we gooo!

Views from the garden
What a great idea! A panoramic window in the wall with views to the beach.

"Garden art"...  (The egg is a theme in his art)
Swimming pool and lounge

Another egg, overlooking the bay..
More egg and ehm.. garden art
Lets step in to the house. I have chosen a few of my too many pictures:

His study

Self portrait of him and his muse, Gala

The wardrobe

Bird slash rhino...
The sofa that goes all the way around the oval room, and some animal-furniture-thing

At some point, I will also go to Figueras, the town Dali was born, and where the biggest museum/art gallery is located. Can't wait!

Do you like Salvador Dali's art?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Do the Spanish people have a different concept of time altogether?

So, I have been talking about how the Spanish seem to think that arriving 15-45 minutes late for an appointment is the most natural thing in the world  (really, they don’t see anything wrong about it at all) and I am still trying my best to not arrive 5 minutes before the appointed time. It’s hard, let me tell you! It’s like I’m programmed to always be on time (or early) and it’s hard to undo. I still can’t seem to make myself arrive late, although in 99% of the times it would save me from having to wait. Never leave home without a book in my bag!

Because waiting for someone to arrive can honestly be very boring. Or even uncomfortable. Especially at night. Girl standing on street corner, alone, dressed up (for salsa dancing) in her best clothes, nicest shoes, hair shiny and groomed, her make up as good as it gets… and waiting. And waiting. Alone. On a street corner. At night.

As you might have guessed, these moments are not the ones where the waiting is necessarily spent alone. They are among the times I wish I would just manage to arrive late, so I wouldn’t have random guys eyeing me up, pulling out (probably sleazy) comments in Spanish that I have no clue what means. And in case you wondered, it’s probably not prince charming you will meet in these moments.

If you are Norwegian, you might think I exaggerate when I say night. Normally, up there you meet your friends early to go out, not like here. Because when I say “at night” I really mean at night. Back in Norway, at salsa night it wasn’t unusual that we met around 9pm to dance. Perfect! After a few hours you’d be sweaty and tired enough to call it a day (night) and go home, get your 8 hours before getting up for work the next day. Sounds sensible to me!

Here, people don’t really go out until after midnight. And you don't necessarily meet your friends before. Best (it seems) is to go out around 1am. 1 am??? I would love to have done all the dancing and be back in my bed by then! I am having some adjustment problems... If I am to meet someone around midnight, chance is I'd rather like to snuggle up at home, or go to bed than "wait up to go out"...

Everything is just happening a lot later here. Meals. Going out. Work-hours. Dentist appointments (you can get them until 8:30pm! I think what’s normal in Norway is until 4pm.) And the list goes on….

I guess this too is a question of practice...?

P.S. And in the end, a little tip for fellow Salsa lovers: If you plan to come to Barcelona to go out dancing, don't be fooled when the salsa places are supposed to open at 11pm. Normally they don't, and if they do, there won't be a soul until well past midnight! I wish I'd known this in my first weeks here, when I went out to hit the floors alone.......

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


The other night, a dear friend of mine told me she wanted to show me the most fantastic bar, so off we went through the narrow cobbled streets of the Gothic quarter. After having crossed a high number of those tiny streets and turned even more corners we finally arrived. (Thankfully I got their card with the address on my way out, if not I would probably never find it again...)

So what's so special? Well, let me tell you. It's a pirate-bar! How fabulous is that?
It couldn’t be better decorated. It’s got lots of pirate ships hanging from the roof along with Peter Pan and Tinkerbell themselves, old photos all over the walls and (pirate-)ship-related decor. 

 Even the menu is themed, with Jack Sparrow’s wines, Juices from Never-land, Captain’s beers, Tinkerbell’s cocktails, and Wendy’s shots. Love it!

The bar is called Hook and can be found at Carrer Ample 35, Barcelona.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A library but not just any library - el Diposit de les Aigües

This is a hidden gem! The library at one of the universities in Barcelona was once a reservoir building to store water for the waterworks in the Parc de la Ciutadela

Fernando, my flatmate took me there one time we were out to see the good bits about our neighbourhood. The library is located at the Campus Ciutadela of Pompeu Fabra University.
The Diposit de les Aigües was designed in 1874 by Josep Fontsere, and worked on by then architectural student Antoni Gaudí (Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, Parque Guell etc etc.)
The purpose was regulating the flow of water of the Parc de la Ciutadela waterfall and watering thegardens.

I didn’t quite know how to explain it so I asked Wikipedia for help:

The construction is a copy of a Roman prototype comprising a labyrinth of parallel arches four meters wide and 14 meters high, which cross over in a barrel vault and extend as if by mirror effect along its 65 meters of depth.” 

Since it’s now a university library I wasn’t comfortable getting the camera out doing it’s thing with the clicks and the flash… so I borrowed some pictures from the big web. 

I just think the space is truly beautiful, the silence and the tall pillars makes it very special and almost ceremonious. And I love the fact that it is a somewhat hidden treasure in the bustling city of Barcelona. Not to mention my love for books, it's something so comforting  about them, can't quite put my finger on what it is but I love them!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

La Sagrada Familia

I realized I have completely forgotten to write about one of the absolute top tourist attractions in Barcelona! The city is really full of architectural gems but the Sagrada Familia has got to be one of the most astounding works here. Before arriving to the city, I had wanted to see it for years. I have had a fascination for Antoni Gaudí for as long as I can remember, this genius who dared go his own ways, creating things that at the time was completely unthinkable. He managed to create buildings looking as if they were taken from fairytales and Barcelona is full of them. Gaudí has truly put his signature on Barcelona in so many ways, and to me is one of the things that make Barcelona so truly special and different from any other “beautiful Spanish city”. 

I can’t quite describe my impressions when getting out from the metro station, and walking up the stairs wondering where the church was. In front of me, all I saw was some green patch and a normal Barcelonan street. I turned around and… WOW!

The pictures I have seen in the past just don’t do justice at all. I don’t have words to describe how incredible it is. I was in awe taking it in from all angles. It’s impossible to take good pictures that bring out the details, really. But I gave it a try for you to see!

 From the other side:

After having walked around it a few times taking in every (no, probably not) little detail I got in line to get in.  Thus far, it’s from the outside it is truly spectacular. It's not finished inside, but in the basement there is a museum though, with models and posters explaining everything - Gaudí’s plans when he designed it, the whole history, future and progress of this masterpiece. They hope to finish it in 2026, the centennial of Gaudí's death.

You can get up in one of the towers and enjoy the great views over the city.

One of the absolute MUST SEE'S when in Barcelona!

Friday, January 13, 2012

It’s the milk! - Another Spanish expression

"It’s the milk!"
"Yeah, it’s the milk, dude." (Happy body language and faces)

Haha, this is a translated little part of a conversation I heard the other day.

And I was like eeeh. I see no milk anywhere? Where’s the milk? And why do they seem over the moon about this invisible milk they are talking about?

So, some research had to be done and a little trip to wordreference.com was in order. And there I found that when something is the milk, it means that it’s something supercool. Fantastic, incredible, brilliant.

But, if it wasn’t confusing enough, the same expression used to say that something is all of the above, can also be used in a negative context too.

Found an example:

"Juan es la leche. Nunca cumple sus promesas"
"Juan es la leche. Siempre me hace reír" .

Juan is the milk, he never fulfills his promises. Or Juan is the milk, he always makes me laugh.

Haha! I really do have fun learning this language, and I realize more and more how important it is to learn expressions, cause they are used a lot and many of them have literally no meaning to me.

Do you have a similar milky expression where you come from? ...