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Montjuic Cemetary
21 March 2019

The Montjuïc Cemetery is a unique place without a doubt, with unusual, modernist graves. 

Opened in March of 1883, Montjuïc is the biggest cemetery in Barcelona. It’s placed on the top of Montjuïc, which itself is a nice little mountain-hill overlooking the Mediterranean sea. There you can find graves of famous locals like those of Catalan leader Lluis Companys (1882-1940), Spanish anarchist militant Buenaventura Durruti (1896-1936), artist Joan Miró (1893-1983), and many more. If you walk to the top you can see a crematorium from Roman times. The journey to the crematorium is a very long walk and it can take more than 3 hours to tour the entire cemetery on foot.

In the silent west wing of the cemetery is 'El Fossar de la Pedrera' (the Grave of the Quarry). An estimated 4,000 people were buried there after their execution by the Franco regime following the fall of Barcelona to fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War. The quarry contains memorials to the victims of fascism, Lluis Companys (the last president of Catalunya before the civil war) and, recently, a monument commemorating the aspirations of the social revolution of 1936. El Fossar de la Pedrera is a moving and melancholy place. 


Walking through beautiful modernist graves, surrounded by pines and watching the sea. Experiencing this cemetery is widely considered to be one of the most enjoyable experiences in Barcelona and highly recommendable.


If you decide to go keep in mind that The Cementiri de Montjuïc is a little difficult to reach. The easiest way to get there is to take the 21 bus from the Jardins de Walter Benjamin at the Place de Les Drassanes, near (but not at) the southern end of Las Ramblas. But bus will stop at the bottom of the cemetery, after which, the 107 bus can take you to the top - this is helpful as the cemetery is nearly vertical and many may not be up for the walk!

 



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Figueres, Home to Dali's Last Work of Art
01 March 2019

The Dalí Theatre-Museum was inaugurated in 1974 and was built on the remains of the former Municipal Theatre of Figueres and is considered to be the last great work of art created by Salvador Dalí. Everything in it was conceived and designed by him so as to offer visitors an authentic experience and draw them into his unique, captivating and almost hypnotic world.

The Dalí Theatre-Museum's collection allows visitors to capture the artistic journey of Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) through a broad spectrum of works. The route around the rooms allows visitors to understand his first artistic experiences, surrealism, nuclear mysticism and his passion for science, guiding them to the works of the last part of his life. A visit to the museum is a unique experience, allowing visitors to experience and enjoy the genius's works and thoughts. In the words of Dalí himself:

 "It's obvious that other worlds exist, that's certain; but, as I've already said in many other occasions, these other worlds are inside ours, they reside on earth and are precisely at the centre of the dome of the Dalí Museum, which contains the new, unsuspected and hallucinatory world of Surrealism".

The Theatre-Museum project started at the beginning of the 'sixties. Ramon Guardiola, mayor of Figueres at the time, asked Salvador Dalí to donate a work for the Museu de l'Empordà. Dalí's reply came quickly: he would donate to Figueres not just a single work, but an entire museum:

"Where, if not in my own town, should the most extravagant and solid of my work endure, where if not here? The Municipal Theatre, or what remained of it, struck me as very appropriate, and for three reasons: first, because I am an eminently theatrical painter; second, because the theatre stands right opposite the church where I was baptised; and third, because it was precisely in the hall of the vestibule of the theatre where I hosted my first exhibition."  

The place in which the Dalinian project was to be located, as a specific wish of the artist, was the former Municipal Theatre of Figueres. Destroyed in a fire at the end of the Spanish Civil War, the building had been reduced to its peripheral structure. The ceiling of the orchestra pit had collapsed; of the boxes there remained only the access corridors to them and to the stage, the arch of the stage mouth and the side stores; the entrance hall and the toilets were the only parts that remained more or less intact. The artist planned to take advantage of the spectral charm offered by the ruins of the former theatre in order to house the future museum.

From the 'seventies onwards, Dalí devoted his entire attention to the museum project, taking part in it and designing its tiniest details, until it became real with the official inauguration of the Dalí Theatre-Museum on 28 September 1974. One of the most noticeable features of the museum, the transparent reticular-shape like a geodesic dome that crowns the building, was entrusted by Salvador Dalí to the Murcian architect Emilio Pérez Piñero (1935-1972). That dome has now become the emblem of the Theatre-Museum and a great icon for the city of Figueres.

 

The various collections of the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí include all types of works of art: paintings, drawings, sculptures, engravings, installations, holograms, stereoscopes, photography, etc. Of them, some 1,500 are on exhibition at the Museum.

The museum consists of three clearly differentiated museum areas offering the visitors an unguided and personal route across  the various galleries:

1) The Theatre-Museum as such, refurbished from the old fire-damaged municipal theatre, converted into the Theatre-Museum based on the criteria and design of Salvador Dalí himself. This part of the museum forms a unique artistic object in which each element is an inseparable part of the whole.

2) The group of galleries resulting from the progressive extensions of the Theatre-Museum, in which Dalí's personal intervention is superficial or non-existent. These galleries contain many works from the artist's legacy-  stereoscopic works, installations, and  anamorphisms-, as well as the Foundation's new acquisitions.

3) The Dalí·Jewels exhibition rooms, inaugurated in 2001, which contain the thirty-seven gold jewels and precious stones from the former Owen Cheatham collection, in addition to two jewels made later and the prior designs made by the painter. 


Aside from Salvador Dalí's works, there are  works by other artists that  the painter invited  to be exhibited  in his museum, such as Antoni Pitxot and Evarist Vallès, accompanied by other artists from the painter's own private collection, such as El Greco, Marià Fortuny, Modest Urgell, Ernest Meissonier, Marcel Duchamp, Gerard Dou and Bouguereau. In various galleries of the Theatre-Museum we can also find works by John de Andrea, Wolf Vostell, Meifrén and Ernst Fuchs. Since  Salvador Dalí death in 1989, the crypt where he is buried  can also be visited at the centre of the museum. This area was remodelled in 1997 to exhibit a collection of gold jewels designed by the artist. 


The museum is not to be missed, and any trip through Cataluñia should include a visit to this magnificent, unique work of art.



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Josep's Labyrinth
19 February 2019

In 1980, a man called Josep Pujilula i Vila, a former textile worker,  began crafting a labyrinth alongside the Fluvia river in Catalonia, Spain. After creating his initial labyrinth, he began to make other structures in the area as well. Pujiula made towers out of branches and trees stretching 30 meters into the air. He coiled wood into tube-like tunnels and walkways and he even made a small livable cabin.

 

As his world began to grow, the community took notice. Families came there with their children to solve the labyrinth and wander through the unique environment. Sadly, there were not only curious visitors to his creation. Along with wonderstruck children and their parents, came homeless people sleeping in the cabin, vandals and worst of all,...the Spanish government.

Inspecting the area, which was built on public land, the government quickly deemed Pujiula’s homemade park a dangerous environment. With overgrowing concern for visitor safety, he was forced to dismantle his work. Although safety was seen as a pretext for government action on the land, officials also wanted to use the land to create a new highway.

In 2002, they got their wish and Pujiula took apart his creation to make room for government roads. While he was beaten by the government, he refused to give in. Shortly after, he began to create a similar site near his previous work.

Although not quite as grand as his wonderland, Pujiula, didn't give up on his dream. Slowly, he rebuilt it, and a masterful tubed walkway and tower stand as a monument to his perseverance and architectural skill.

 


Its reminiscent of Peter Pan’s Neverland inspiring young and old. The complex of towers, cabins, caverns, channels and criss-cross tracks is situated on the outskirts of Argelaguer in the north of Catalonia by the road which leads to Olot. Some people found it a real challenge to find their way out...


Locals called this labyrinth “Castle Argelaguer” or “Josep’s Labyrinth”. You could scale up to the towers and cabins using rickety rungs of ladders, cross small rope bridges, move through channels formed by branches or even dare to see the caverns underneath the labyrinth – it offered a multitude of challenges. But all these attractions weren't necessarily completely harmless as there was a sign which warned you that you entered at your own risk because there was no guarantee that the construction could stand up to the rigours of permanent visitors.

It was a matter of time before the council stepped in and has now limited access to the park in so much as it is now not permitted to climb the towers or enter the cabins, you can only contemplate them from the ground and the pathways. Nonetheless, it is still a great day out and is a testimony to a man with determination and a creative flair beyond that of many. A man whose love affair with nature and fantasy gave so many children magical memories to hold onto.

 



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Carnival Weekend
14 February 2019

 

Of all the crazy Spanish fiestas that take place throughout the year, there is nothing wilder than the Carnival celebrations starting this weekend. The week leading up to Lent is a time for wild partying in some parts of Spain when the country plays host to Europe’s biggest and best Carnival festivals.

There are a few speculations on the origins of Carnival in Spain. Most popularly it is believed the term Carnival derives from the words “farewell to the flesh,” a reference to the excesses that led up to the somber Lent. Some suspect Carnival is derived from the Roman solstice festival, the Saturnalia, where participants indulged in much drinking and dancing. Saturnalia is believed to have had the first parade floats, called the ‘carrus navalis’. With these pagan roots, it’s easy to see why the dictator General Franco banned them for forty years!

Carnival in Spain is celebrated nationwide though the most raucous festivities are in the Canary Islands, Cadiz and Sitges. While each town has its own unique flavour of celebration they all have a devotion to having a good time. In these main destinations during Carnival it seems that no one sleeps as the drinking and dancing go from dusk until dawn. You’ll see extravagant costumes and people in masks everywhere and, in any of Spain’s Carnivals, you’ll have a lot more fun participating in the masquerading than you will just watching.

Although on a different level to the Canary Islands, Carnival will kick off in the Russafa district of Valencia this coming Saturday; it's time to get your costume ready and prepare for this multicultural festival when the streets of this emblematic neighborhood in Valencia get full of color and joy. Angels and demons live together in balconies and windows, and you can hear the first chords of acoustic music concerts that flood every corner and every street. 

The carnival activities in the neighborhood of Russafa begin on Saturday, February 16th, at 16:00 pm, with the Proclamation of "Russafa a Peu" at the Market of Ruzafa. That day coincides with the opening of the exhibition "A les balconades" (In the balconies), an activity which fills with art and creativity the balconies in the neighborhood.

 

More than sixty groups from different countries will participate in the event. With the collaboration of the neighbours, a number of additional activities complement the programme. Fifty local entertainment and hospitality businesses, as well as several cultural, social and artistic groups, are also partners in the initiative. So if you happen to be in Valencia this weekend, there is plenty to keep you busy!



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An Eerie Getaway
05 February 2019

 

An eerie landscape of jagged rocks that emerge from the sea, Gueirúa Beach is a small pebbled cove that stands out for its truly beautiful landscape. At its eastern end, there is a row of islets formed by sharp rocks emerging from the sea, the remains of an old fractured quartz and slate point. This area is called La Forcada (The Pitchfork), and separates Gueirúa Beach from Calabón Beach.


This is an unspoilt area, barely frequented and lacking in amenities, although it is not particularly difficult to access. It is reached on foot from the town of Santa Marina following a path that ends in steps down to the beach. Don't forget the camera!

 



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Moors and Christians Fiesta - Bocairent in February
30 January 2019

During the first week in February, Bocairent, in the province of Valencia, celebrates its Moors and Christians festivity in honour of Saint Blas, patron of the town. This particular Moors and Christians fiesta is one of the oldest and best in Spain. Fireworks, pasodoble music and bands, spectacular parades, processions and the deafening sound of gunpowder are the main ingredients of this colourful six-day fiesta. The highlight is the Entrà when over 2,000 people participate in an amazing parade of floats.

 

 

If you are in the area it really is a must! This deep-rooted tradition full of colour and popular culture makes it the town’s most attractive celebrations. You will be struck by the range and splendour of the traditional costumes, the music, and the gunpowder. Here is a summary of the programme:

 

FRIDAY

LES CAIXES
With the “Night of the Drums” (“Nit de
les Caixes”) the actual fiestas begin: hundreds of Bocairentines cloaked in their traditional woollen blankets take to the streets carrying Chinese lanterns and beating their drums, announcing the town’s patronage of Saint Blai since 1632.


SATURDAY
LA ENTRADA
The “Entrance” (“Entrada”) of Mores and Christians on 2nd February brings the fiesta to life. First to enter are the Christians who parade to cheerful sounding 
pasodobles and once night-time falls the Mores enter to the slow and emotive tunes of Moorish marches.


SUNDAY
SAINT 
BLAI
One of the most emblematic events of the fiesta is the procession on the day of Saint Blai; the entrance in to the Town Hall Square of the saint, his relics and the banner of Saint Blai is particularly stirring, with the bells tolling and everyone shouting in unison: “Vitol al Patró San Blai” (“Long live Saint Blai”), as the lights go out and a shower of confetti rains down on the statue of the saint.


MONDAY
MOORS AND CHRISTIANS
“The Embassies” (“Les Ambaixades”) on the 4th of February are the representation of when the negotiations for the conquest of the castle between Mores and Christians are acted out. The enormous quantity of gunpowder fired off into the air along the town’s main streets marks this day out as a special one.


TUESDAY
HOLY CHRIST
The day of the Holy Christ (Santo Cristo) is also noteworthy due to the procession up to the chapel by participants and musicians, converting the Stations of the Cross footpath into a snaking line of colour.



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"Blanco y Negro" - A Classic Spanish Sandwich
23 January 2019

Fried Spanish Morcilla is a dish that consists of frying black pudding with onions and other spices and then serving it on top of some crunchy bread, it's that simple! This is a typical dish found throughout Spain and is extremely easy to make.

Black pudding may not be an ingredient for the squeamish as it is made out of the congealed blood of a freshly killed pig, which gives the resulting sausage its dark hue. The sausage also contains a number of spices. 

The origins of black pudding are in Ancient Greece where, according to Plato, it was invented by a Greek man named Aftónitas. Black pudding is actually mentioned in Plato's 'Homer's Odyssey'. The first description of the Spanish food can be found in a passage by Rupert de Nola in 1525. The word 'morcilla' actually comes from Spain although it has its origins in a mixture between the Celtic word for stump and the Basque word for a bulky, deformed object.

Black pudding is very popular across the Spanish peninsular and many regions have their own version of it, around 15 different types altogether. The main black pudding producing regions of Spain include the Basque Country, Extremadura, Asturias, Valencia, Murcia, León, Zamora and Castilla-La Mancha. In short, wherever you go when you visit Spain, you will always be able to find a good example of black pudding.

 

Among some of the best types of Morcilla, you must try the 'Morcilla de Burgos' which is one of the most well known black puddings in Spain. This particular variety is made with pig's lard and blood, rice, pimetón, salt, onion and spices to taste. For example, the 'Morcilla de Arande' traditionally uses cumin, black pepper and a pinch of cinnamon to give it a unique taste.

Or if you are looking for a healthier option, you could always try the 'Morcilla de Villada'. This type of morcilla has a low fat content, around 3% fat. However, the texture is still very creamy with a delicious flavour, something which is enhanced by curing the sausage for a number of years.

Take care to pick the best type of morcilla for your dish. If you are unsure, you could always ask your local delicatessen as to which one will taste best when fried. Be sure that you slice the black pudding thickly as they will be less likely to disintegrate when you fry them. Also, when turning the fried black pudding over, make sure you do it very carefully as the slices can break up easily.

Finally one of my favourites is the Morcilla Oreada de Cebolla ( the local version from Ontinyent is fantastic!) - this morcilla has been aired and partially dried meaning that it is much easier to fry as it has slightly less moisture and won't break up so easily in the frying pan. You can recognise it by it wrinkled surface. This is my favourite for combining with fried eggs or even in a classic sandwich with crunchy bread know as a " Blanco y Negro"  -  Black & white. This is a baguette sandwich made with 'white sausages' (longanizas blancas) and 'black pudding' (morcilla with onions),  it doesn't look that appetising.... but trust me, it's absolutely wonderful!

 


 



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The Drop-Off point...
21 November 2018

Hiding inconspicuously in the heart of El Raval (Barcelona) is a small wooden inlet that was once attached to the House of Mercy. Although it looks like ornamentation, or a small shrine of sorts, the inlet was in fact a rotating wooden, turntable used to anonymously drop off donations for the church, including unwanted infants.

 

 

Originally founded in the late 16th century, the building at 17 Ramelleres became an orphanage in the 19th century. Like many other orphanages and convents at the time, a main feature of the building was its wooden turntable, which allowed the destitute to place their babies on it and anonymously spin them into the arms of a staff member inside the home.

Active from 1853-1931, the turntable saw hundreds of babies come through its portal into the orphanage. Other donations were occasionally dropped off including money and groceries, but mostly, babies were left by parents that did not or could not take care of them. Today, a small wooden inlet is the only remnant of Barcelona's walk-up orphanage and baby drop-off. 

 



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The Coolest Neighbourhood in the World, is in Spain
30 October 2018

 

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the magazine Time Out came up with the idea of finding the coolest areas in the most vibrant cities around the globe. And they determined that Embajadores, in Madrid, is the winner.

The area, located just to the south of the central Puerta del Sol, took the prize thanks to its “bustling cultural life,” its multi-cultural nature (focused in Lavapiés), the colourful murals on its walls, the vibrant squares such as Tirso de Molina, and its major cultural centers, such as the Tabacalera and La Casa Encendida, which, the magazine says, stand “like transatlantic vessels run ashore in the middle of the city.”

Embajadores is living proof of how this city is transforming, marching toward the future without renouncing its past which is a global benchmark when it comes to urban leisure, according to Time Out editors. In order to put together its ranking, Time Out turned to the opinion of its magazine editors via a “City Life Index” survey, in which more than 15,000 people took part.

Embajadores has, for some time now, been attracting tourists, new residents and migrants. The neighbourhood is currently very fashionable, but that is not always a positive thing for the citizens who live there. 

Lavapiés, for example, is one of the areas in the capital that has seen the sharpest rises in rents, driven in many cases by online accommodation sites such as Airbnb. Embajadores is not the only Spanish neighbourhood to appear in the Time Out list. In the number 22 spot is Sant Antoni, Barcelona. It’s  “a rarity worth cherishing,” according to Time Out..

 



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The Patio Festival of Cordoba
11 September 2018

The Courtyards festival of Cordoba is held every year from 1st to 13th May. It has been included in the list of intangible Heritage of Humanity of Unesco since 2012 and is really worth a visit next time round so make sure you note it down in your diary. But what does this festival entail?

Due to the hot, dry Cordoban climate, the city's inhabitants, - first the Romans and later the Muslims - adapted the typical design of the popular house to their needs, making the home centre around an inner courtyard or patio, normally with a fountain in the middle and often a well to collect rainwater. The Muslims made further adjustments, giving the house an entrance from the street which passed through a porch, and filling the courtyard with plants to give the sensation of freshness.

There are clearly two types of courtyard. The first type is in a one-family home in which the rooms are arranged around the courtyard - it usually has arches and either a clay tiled or decorative pebbled floor. The second type is called a neighbours house (casa de vecinos). Here the individual homes look out onto the courtyard - however, these are much less common nowadays. It usually has two floors and the courtyard is made all the more attractive by the long balconies, staircases and baked clay roof tiles. The floors usually have decorative pebbles and there is often a well instead of a fountain, as well as a communal washing room.

The most characteristic district is the Alcázar Viejo district, between the Alcázar and the parish of San Basilio, although there are also many in the districts of Santa Marina, around the church of San Lorenzo and near la Magdalena. Just around the Mosque-Cathedral, there are also very beautiful old examples of courtyards in the old Jewish quarter. The most beautiful courtyards of all are to be found in the Palacio de Viana, with twelve different courtyards.

Since 1921, the Town Hall has organised a competition of Courtyards and Crosses in the first week of May, and the owners decorate their houses with great care to try and win the prestigious award offered by the authorities. A festival runs in parallel with a number of performances by the best singers and dancers on the scene, while the local fino wine f flows freely and delicious tapas are served. Not to be missed.

 



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