Back again in Barcelona – we can’t keep away! And in the first two days we saw Castellers, a parade, a demonstration and some Sardana dancing. We love this city because there is always something happening.Castellers are the traditional human towers of Catalunya. They existed in the 1800s but had a renewal in the 70s and 80s. The movement even has a UNESCO World Heritage listing and there are many groups around Barcelona. It’s worth checking the website to see if any Castellers are nearby: http://www.cccc.cat/contents/calendar-of-performances-6
We saw two teams in Plaça del Pi. They start off by wrapping support sashes around their fellow Castellers, then many form the wide base (Pinya). As well as supporting the tower, this acts as a safety net. Others climb up to form Castells (castles) in various formations, finishing with a small child or children who raise four fingers, symbolising the Catalan flag. Only the smallest children on the top wear helmets, but we did notice an ambulance with open doors on standby. Thankfully there was no need for it and everyone enjoyed the spectacle. The record is nine or ten levels, depending on where you read the information. We thought six was pretty good!
The other team offered support in the base – it was all very friendly with lots of applause and high fives after the Castells were completed.
Disassembling is all part of it. This single tower was left as the others climbed down.
Castellers are even featured in tiled panels and a modern sculpture in Plaça de Sant Miquel (near Plaça Sant Jaume) represents this much loved tradition.
I got caught up in a parade to celebrate The Diada of one of the saints. Anyone could join in – you almost had to in the narrow streets – and the atmosphere was fun and bustling.
The demonstration was interesting as it seemed to be about NOT having a separate Catalan state. On previous trips, especially on Catalan National Day, we had the feeling that the majority of people wanted self-determination. After seeing the demonstration, I did a little internet research and found it was about half and half. These people were chanting Viva Catalunya and Viva Espanya – so see themselves as both. Their Catalan flags did not have the star indicating the desire for independence. Interesting!
Sardana dancing was something I had heard about. I happened to be passing the cathedral on a Sunday morning and there it was. It is a traditional Catalan circle dance and seemed to be open to anyone. It seemed quite leisurely and many (but not all) the participants were elderly. There was one big circle initially then a few other smaller ones formed.
I had passed the beautiful courtyard of the Frederic Marès Museum many times but had not visited the museum. The museum is free on Sunday afternoons so I thought I would have a quick look. Hours later I emerged bamboozled by this incredible collection. Marès was a sculptor and some of his works were wonderful, but it was his bower bird collections that were amazing. He collected everything! Scissors, watches, toy soldiers, clocks, fans, boxes, garden shears, keys, umbrellas, crucifixes – the list goes on.
All were displayed beautifully in this historic building. These angels from the 1600s seemed to have particularly angelic faces as did Mary and Jesus from the 13th century.
We saw Casa Amatller every day, not in reality but on a photo that served as our bedhead in our BCNGotic apartment. That’s it in the middle next to the more famous Casa Batllo. We had peeped into the foyer a few years ago before it was open to the public, but this time It was definitely on the list.
Unlike its popular neighbour, there’s no queue and the audio tour is self-guided, so it can be a leisurely experience. Admission is 14€and you are given special shoe covers to preserve the floors. The house was designed by Josep Puig i Cadalfalch for Antoni Amatller and his daughter. It is over the top Modernism – something everywhere you look. There was quite a contrast between the father’s and daughter’s suite but every room had details that were not obvious at first. I loved wandering about and listening to the commentary. The chocolate shop/café at the end was delightful too.
Though it was not really beach weather, a few optimists were actually swimming in March. We preferred a walk along the promenade in the sunshine.
I found a few more businesses with the plaques showing that they have been in existence for at least 50 years. I have found about five of these on previous trips. There is probably a list of them somewhere but I prefer to find them on my walks. This time it was Casa Beethoven in La Rambla,
And this book and paper shop in the Gotic.
Long term locals took us to El Salon, tucked away in the Gotic area behind the big Post building. This was a great place and we had two small complimentary starters and some wonderful squid with white beans and slow cooked lamb with a few glasses of local wine. We’ll definitely go back next time.
Arume was a quirky place and the sister restaurant to Cera 23, one of our favourites from previous trips. The duck paella was really delicious and the little complimentary soup at the start and liquor at the end were very welcome, but we didn’t think it was quite as good as Cera 23. Still worth a visit though.
Our third visit to Senyor Parellada was certainly our best. It’s an elegant Catalan restaurant in the Banys Orientals Hotel. This time we went with Catalan speaking friends – maybe that was the difference. Very good service and food this time.
Caelum always seemed to have delicious cakes on display so it was inevitable that we ended up there for afternoon tea. Some of the cakes and products for sale are made in convents and monasteries and the place had a cosy and serene feeling. Caelum means heaven. Eating cake, drinking hot chocolate, listening to music and watching the world go by in Barcelona certainly came close!
La Luna is a must for us every time. It’s a casual place in a vaulted old building. Great atmosphere and great tapas. We again had the quesadilla and the slow cooked lamb Can’t remember what else, but all delicious.
Antic Forn was one of our favourites when we stayed in Barcelona for five weeks. It’s a simple neighbourhood place but at this time of year they have calçots on the menu. These are sort of a spring onion/leek cross and traditionally they are grilled and eaten wearing bibs, with great ceremony. We really enjoyed the meal and the waiter said he remembered us from a few years ago.
We went to a little lunch place in the Passagte Sert, called Cardona 2. A simple lunch, but three courses and wine for 9.90€ – no complaints from us. The Passagte itself is worth a look – some charming shops and a café at the end.
Ziryab Fusion A Middle Eastern/Spanish degustation tapas meal was a great finale to our time in Barcelona and a little twist was the map on the wall – La Ruta de la Seda – The Silk Road in China, coincidentally our next trip!