Wednesday, June 26, 2013

5 Places To Find Peace And Quiet In Barcelona

Barcelona is a big city. A noisy city. There are always loads of people. Especially in the centre of the city, obviously, since that's where most of the tourists are. One time a friend in Norway asked me how I managed to stay there over time and seem so happy about it. He had done a two week Spanish course there once, and had gotten totally stressed out about the constant noise and movement. He complained that the city never sleeps. I would never have complained about the same thing, coming from a relatively sleepy Norwegian city! I loved how vibrant and alive Barcelona is. How there's always something going on, events, festivals, how the cultural offer is immense and how you just can't really get bored. Or if you get bored, it's your own fault, not the city!

But not all people like this, and anyway- sometimes us humans need to wind down and connect a little with nature, so I have collected some places where you can find peace and quiet, let your thoughts speak and not get drowned out by traffic and noise.

Carretera de les aigues and Collserola

Barcelona is sort of built in an uphill, and all the way up to the top is a huge green area, la Sierra de Collserola, actually said to be the largest metropolitan park in the world (as a comparison it is 22 times bigger than Central Park in NYC). It’s more like a huge forest than a park and it's not IN the city centre, but not far away either- just about 8 km from the heart of the city, Plaza de Catalunya. 

Collserola is great for a lot of different activities, such as walking, hiking, running, biking, walking the dog, picnics etc. but I wanted to point out La Carretera de les aigues.

From different places you can access la Carretera de les Aigües, a 20 km long pathway running alongside the mountain with panoramic views to the city, perfect for walking, running and biking. The views are spectacular, the air is pure and it feels wonderful to be up there. On the weekends it gets a bit crowded but during the week, it's a serene place to be.  

How to get there:
FGC train from Plaza Catalunya to Av.Tibidabo. Then change to tram/bus or walk up the hill (beautiful 15min  walk, just follow the tracks of the tram and you won’t get lost). Once up by the funicular going to the top of Tibidabo, keep on walking straight and after about 500m you reach the beginning of Carretera de les Aigües.


Get FGC train Plaza Catalunya to the stop “Peu de Funicular” and change to the Funicular going straight up to Carretera de les Aigües. It leaves you right on the pathway.

Parque de la Ciutadella: By many called Barcelona's green lung. This park is located quite centrally in the city, but is big and lovely. It has beautiful architecture (for instance the Museum of Zoology, Museum of Geology, the Parliament of Catalunya) lots of green, a little lake with rowing boats, and lots and lots of places to lay out blankets for a picnic or just reading in the sun/shadow. There seems to always be some kind of activity group there, practicing yoga, meditation, martial arts or drums and other percussion instruments. It's beautiful and peaceful- you can always find a quiet corner.

How to get there: The closest metro stations are L1 (red) Arc de Triomf, and L4 (yellow) Ciutadella/Villa Olimpica.

El Parc del Laberint is such a great surprise! It is located a bit out of the city centre and most other tourist attractions, and is mostly used by locals and the odd tourist that finds his way there/takes time to go a little out of the centre. Barcelona has so much to offer that I think this park wouldn't really get on the list of most tourists that have only a few days, but it's a really nice place to go.

The park is located at another entry point to Sierra de Collserola that I talked about above, and is another great place for pure air and tranquility. 

The maze of the park is fun, but there's so much more. Beautiful sculptures, water (in different forms) a neoclassical garden, a palace, and then at the back of the park is where Collserola starts - perfect for a picnic!

How to get there: Get on the Green metro line (L3) and take it all the way up to the stop Mundet. The park is just a few minutes walk from the metro station. 

El Diposit de les Aigües

This is a little secret! Hush, don't tell anyone! The library at one of the universities in Barcelona was once a reservoir building to store water for the waterworks in the afore mentioned Parc de la Ciutadella. 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, Casa Milá/La Pedrera etc etc.) The purpose was regulating the flow of water of the Parc de la Ciutadela waterfall and watering theg ardens. Wikipedia explains it better than me:

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.”  

I 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, there is something so comforting  about being surrounded by them!

How to get there: The campus is located just behind the Parc de la Ciutadella, and the metro stop  with the Yellow line, L4 is Ciutadella/Villa Olimpica

Via, see more fabulous photos here

The beaches. Especially in winter, spring and autumn, the beaches are lovely for reflection, thought and calm. In peak summer season, the beaches will be extremely crowded. That's when I always went out of the city to some other fabulous beaches, really worth the short train ride. (But if you want to go to the city beaches in summer and don't fancy lying 'on top' of strangers - go as far away from Barceloneta as you can get. The farther away, the less people and less tourists. While it can be really crammed at Barceloneta, closer to the shopping centre Diagonal Mar you can find a spot with some space between you and the next person.)

How to get there: For the beaches it's the yellow metro line (L4) you'll need to use. The stops Barceloneta, Ciutadella/Villa Olimpica, PobleNou and El Maresme i Forum are good stops. 

Not all parks are relaxing though, 
Parque Guell is fantastic to visit but very crowded, 
although if you go early morning during the week it can be a lovely calm place to be.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Why Orotava, Tenerife Caught My Attention. Volcanic Sand-art!

When I was in Tenerife back in January, there was no plan to stop in Orotava. But in the rental car, there was this CD with tourist information about Tenerife (as I talked about in the post about Fuerteventura, the rental cars from Cicar) and after having listened to the track about this little town we thought it might be worth a visit. On our way back from the National Park of the highest peak of Spain, the volcano El Teide, we stopped in La Orotava. We didn't have too much time since we had the fabulous Cirque du Soleil-show that same night, but we had a quick walk around, and had a look to the Casa de los balcones, which is probably what you should see if you would only see one thing there. 

So, this "house of the balconies" (...) was built in 1632 and has this name due to the beautiful wooden, carved balconies on the facade and also the interior patio. It now works as a sort of museum and handicraft-shop. Entrance to the interior patio is free, where you can sample and buy wine produced on the island, and buy other souvenirs from Tenerife, edible and not.

In the interior patio:

But although this is beautiful and worth seeing, what really caught my attention was what I found just across the street for this balcony-house. El museo de las Alfombras. Las alfombras here refer to 'the carpets', the flower carpets.

Back in June last year, in beautiful Sitges outside Barcelona, I was so lucky to bump into the most wonderful thing, something I had never even heard of- Flower Carpets! They had filled the streets with big "flower-carpets", "carpets" made out of flower petals, grass and seeds. It was such a lovely surprise and so beautiful! All this was to celebrate Corpus Cristi, a catholic tradition dating back to the 1200'scelebrated in many cities in Spain 60 days after Easter.

But back to Orotava in Tenerife. The celebration of Corpus Cristi in Orotava started to become famous from the middle of the 19th century, and in this museum you can see all the details related to the elaboration and history of these floral carpets. The lay them out in the street with fresh flowers and volcanic sand from El Teide, and one large piece on the Plaza del Ayuntamiento made with only volcanic sand from 'las cañadas del Teide'. (the glens of the mountain/volcano El Teide) This event attracts thousands of visitors every year in June.

The art work with sand is so impressive! You can see lots of pictures of former events in this museum, as well as this display: 

This image is made entirely from volcanic sand in its natural colours!

So every year (since 1912) 60 days after Easter, a big 900 square meter big picture 
of sand opens on the Town hall square in Orotava after having been worked on 
for one month. For this they use about 2000 kg sand. 
I would love to see this! 

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Couple More Walls At Mumbai Sunset, Las Palmas

On a couple occasions I have talked about "the wall at Mumbai Sunset," in Las Palmas (lounge bar/restaurant/tetería). Ever since I arrived to Las Palmas I have loved this- they paint a new inspirational quote every Sunday night! 

I must say though, that for my personal liking the quotes were better some time back, and maybe it's just my Spanish that is not good enough to really get them, but they don't make me all that inspired and motivated lately. Maybe someone else can interpret them better than me? 

I have taken a picture of some of them, whenever I have passed by and had the camera with me.

We're living on this planet as if we had another one to move on to
Your interior light makes the universe shine
It's in the heart where wars starts
Roads? Where we are going we don't need...roads
The one who talks with his eyes, can kiss with his gaze
Without freedom of thought, freedom of speech is of no use
 But last week's quote was simple, fabulous and even in English: LIFE'S FOR LIVING

I think my favorite from the past is this one: 

Do as the sun, who wakes up every day without thinking about the night that passed.
In other words live in the now, move forward, and don't stay in the past.
 If you got to choose a quote for this wall, what would you want to put out there? 

Monday, June 10, 2013

10 Random Architcture Shots From Barcelona

As a continuation to the "10 random shots from Barcelona"-posts, 
I am today posting 10 random architecture photos from my dear Barcelona. 

One of the things that often comes to mind when thinking about Barcelona for a lot of people is the stunning, fabulous, fun, original, very old and very modern architecture.

Again, I'll let 10 pictures do the talking.

Fabulous Parque Guell

The day(s) I go back to visit Barcelona will be busy ones, I keep thinking of all the places I would go... Soak in the atmosphere and admire all the beauty at every turn. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Experiencing another island, Fuerteventura. The one with the most beautiful beaches, ahh....

A sneak peak to Fuerteventura...

Gran Canaria feels a little far away from everything else. A little isolated if you will. And well, it is far away from everything. It's closer to Africa than Europe/Mainland Spain, (150 km. vs 1350 km. according to Wikipedia) and I have no problems understanding how these people feel less identified with Spain. They refer to mainland Spain people as "peninsulares" and themselves as "canarios".

While I lived in Barcelona, it was extremely easy to travel to different parts of Spain or Southern France or Europe, with Spain's second largest airport and a lot of flights to choose from, or trains. In Gran Canaria not so much. For most canarios, going to the other islands is an obvious choice when going on holidays, and I totally see why. There are seven bigger Canary Islands (and more small ones), and they are relatively close. The communication between them is excellent (ferries and flights) and although you might not think so, each island differ quite a lot. They say "Cada isla tiene su encanto" which means that each island has its own enchantment, different from the others.

So since I arrived to Gran Canaria I have focused my traveling attention to getting to know some of the other islands. I went to Tenerife in January (and I would say the encanto of Tenerife is the national park of El Teide, the volcano/highest peak of Spain, 3718m, magically beautiful!) 

...and then Lanzarote in February (and I would say the encanto of Lanzarote is the volcanoes at Timanfaya National Park- incredible landscapes and the possibility to eat food cooked from volcano heat! To this day one of my coolest travel memories! And well, the delicious wine produced in lava soil was pretty wonderful too.) 

Wines in lava soil

Geysir at Timanfaya National Park
And now, the turn had come to experience Fuerteventura. I had seen pictures from this island, so completely different from the others, and it looked paradisaical. Turquoise waters and long white sandy beaches. I was very curious to experience it myself. El encanto of this island is clearly the beaches/sand dunes. There isn't a lot more to this island, but the beaches are out of this world. The island is not exploited with loads of hotels and there are endless stretches of sand, sand and more sand- dunes/mountains/beaches.

A TIP! When you go to Fuerteventura you need a rental car, it's quite essential cause the island is fairly big, and you'll want to get out of whatever resort you are staying at and see some of the real stuff- the impressive beaches. I have now rented cars several times during my time at the island(s) as I don't own a car (and public transport is rather crappy) and I have found my preferred car rental company. CICAR is a Canary Rental Car company and they offer the best deal without a doubt. Included in the already relatively low rental price you get a full coverage insurance, unlimited mileage, two drivers if you want,  (all things other companies charge quite a lot for) and a map with an audio guide (CD) explaining the highlights of the island you are in. (Very handy!) I saw on their website that they now also have offices on mainland Spain and Balearic islands. The service has always been good, and since everything is included in the rental price you get no nasty surprises. They have offices all over all the islands, and I dare say that you won't find a better deal elsewhere.

I love how the roads cut right through the sand dunes!

The other islands I have visited have a lot to offer, apart from beaches (which is what many people think Canary Islands is all about) but if you get bored with lying on the beach for days, Fuerteventura might not be for you. But a good option is to combine this island with another. The closest ones are Lanzarote and Gran Canaria.

I got to see most parts of the island, and although there are so many beautiful beaches basically all over the island, there was one area that stood out to me: Corralejo, located at the north east of the island.

But there are wonderful, beautiful beaches all over the island. The huge (sandy) area of Jandía in the south is worth checking out, and so are the lagoons of El Cotillo in the north-west.

Have you ever been to or heard of Fuerteventura?