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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas by Carlos Lorenzo - Barcelona Photoblog

Christmas Stand, Barcelona, Spain [enlarge]

I wish all of you my dear visitors Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Here is the stand at the entrance of Mercat de La Merce in Virrei Amat looked last weekend. Good luck and good health, prosperity and all the best for the rest of the season and coming 2014.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Ohla Hotel Barcelona Dressed up for the Holidays

Ohla Hotel, Barcelona [enlarge]

Ohla Hotel in Via Laietana, 49 looked this way last Friday night. The picture is taken with my cellphone. I liked the illumination for the holidays. If I were to select a hotel with good access to casc antic (old part of town) this one would be one of them. Ohla Hotel has a Michelin-starred restaurant, a rooftop swimming pool with great views over Barcelona and modern design rooms. Nearby you have Palau de la Musica, Las Ramblas, the Cathedral, Plaza Sant Jaume and Plaza Catalunya among other important main attractions.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Palau Baro de Quadras - Ramon Llull Institute's Brand New Headquarters



Built between 1904 and 1906, Palau Baro de Quadras, is a beautiful sample of Catalan modernisme. This palace was designed by architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch for Baro de Quadras (baron of Quadras). The building's main entrance is at Avinguda Diagonal 373, where you can appreciate a very elaborate façade of European Gothic influence blended with Neo-Plateresque style. From across the street you seem to be standing before a Renaissance Italian palazzo rich in lattice work. Worth mentioning are the gargoyles and floral adornments on this side of the palace. On carrer Roselló there is a backdoor entrance. That side, features a Modernista style with some hints of the Wiener Sezession school (Vienna Art Nouveau or Jugendstil).

This emblematic place was known till last October as Casa Asia, which is a public cultural institution devoted to the promotion of projects to strengthen relationships with that continent and that is going to inaugurate its new premises inside Hospital de Sant Pau's modernist complex. For those who don't know, the old Art Nouveau buildings there have been restored and will be used for other services.

Palau Baro de Quadras has been donated by the City Town Hall to Ramon Llull Institute. As part of their mutual collaboration, the City Council will integrate in the institute's consortium with the intention of participating in the international promotion of Barcelona and Catalonia.

Institut Ramon Llull is a public body created to foster Catalan language studies at international universities and to promote Catalan cultural production in all artistic areas.

But let's return to our palace. Notice in the image above, the stairway to the upper floor. Upon entering through either the main gate or the backdoor, you arrive to this place which has a small fountain to the right over a beautiful mosaic floor. Besides the profuse adornments surrounding the stairs, you really ought to see the stained glass ceiling that is slightly shown in the upper part of the photo. Some other day I will show you the gallery in the second floor and other details of this wonderful building so well preserved.

I hope you enjoyed yet another Barcelona photo here at Barcelona Photoblog. Perhaps you want to check this previous post about Palau Baro de Quadras.

But to know a place you need to see it for yourself and not just an image. Take a look at this very short video with slides that show the whole palace.



Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cheap Flights from London to Madrid or Barcelona: Pros and Cons

Aerial View of Mountain Range [enlarge]

Before talking about cheap flights from London to Madrid or Barcelona and giving my personal opinion, let’s check some stats and facts first:

About 400 international destinations are visited on board of flights departing from London airports: Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Southend, Stansted, London City Airport. Altogether, the six airports handled 133,709,327 passengers in 2011 including both domestic and world travelers. Considering only EU flights, there were 122 107 837 passengers moving in and out of London Area Airports that year, a 7 % difference with respect to 2010. Nevertheless, according to an annual passenger survey on passenger numbers at Britain’s airports carried out by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority in the UK) 2012 was completely different due to the Olympic Games. 800,000 passengers passed through London’s airports for Olympic-related journeys during July and September last year.

In the case of Spain, 2,496,921 traveled between London and Madrid and 1,661,301 between London to Barcelona back in 2011. The lure of Barcelona and Madrid attracts people from all over the world via London airports. Taking into account figures from Heathrow airport, 737 571 passengers landed in El Prat airport, Barcelona in 2012 (Easy Jet, Monarch, Vueling and British Airways) and 1.190.486 flew to Barajas airport in Madrid. As you can imagine, the volume is considerably higher if we count the other five airports.

With such figures, it is not surprising that there is a fierce battle between aviation companies and between travel agencies to attract the most clients and catch as many fish as possible in the turbulent waters of an always seasonal and uncertain market. Low cost carriers and regular airlines, offer cheap flights for last minute birds or for methodic passengers that plan ahead. Most of them, try to get the cheapest flight while avoiding the lousier companies. Yes, some of them are really frightening. Just to give you an example, very near one, I am traveling with the family to London, next January. I have already booked the flight with a low cost company, EasyJet after weighing different options. Some of them were really insulting, especially when you have to fly at 6.00 am in the morning and come back almost at midnight, on a plane with a ridiculous narrow corridor, stuffed in a narrow seat, assisted by a horrible and ill-mannered air hostess with your feet over the handbag you couldn't stick into the compartment. I finally got a decent flight, at a decent hour and I hope that with a decent company I know of from other flights. If I were you, I would check twice before buying any odd cheap flight from London to Madrid or to Barcelona. Many times, it looks cheap and then you get a big surprise when they add extra charges for the credit card at the end of the transaction. Beware of that. I would like to suggest a site or two to find your cheap but safe flight although there is a huge list out there to choose from. I almost always use Kayak.com to search for my flight, although I might use, eDreams or Expedia sometimes.

Those that are looking for London-Madrid Flights should definitely try the services of Easyvoyage.com, which I've seen has good reviews from customers and I tried myself sometimes.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Casa Comalat Backside at Carrer Corsega 316, Barcelona

Casa Comalat: Balcony and Windows [enlarge]

Casa Comalat is one of those secret places of Barcelona everyone would like to discover but sadly it is closed to the public. This Modernista house has two completely different sides which have been featured in Barcelona Photoblog in the past. There is the front side, magnificent, full of adornments, but sober in comparison with the backside façade, at carrer Corsega 316, which I find much more interesting and attractive.

But before we start, you should know some facts: The building is named after the its proprietor, Sr. Comalat, a moneylender that commissioned it to architect Salvador Valeri i Pupurull (1873-1954). Salvador Valeri built a house that is slightly different to other Modernista houses of the times, very rich in ornaments, very decorative, it became a perfect sample of Late Modernisme. Maybe you need a video to fully comprehend what Late Modernisme looked like and to discover what only a local Barcelona TV has unveiled, the inner secrets of Casa Comalat. The video is not in English but you really ought to watch it.

With regards to the Barcelona photo of the day, Casa Comalat Backside, you can appreciate the elaborate  ceramics on balconies and windows by artist Lluís Bru i Salelles and the over-undulating shapes framing wood blinds for the first time in Modernisme. Rigalt i Granell, a renown company at that time, was in charge of the stained glass works. Certainly, never backsides were so much better than front doors.

Previous posts: Art Nouveau Balconies
                        Catalan Modernisme: Casa Comalat
                        Avinguda Diagonal Comalat House 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Artistic Postcards or Reproductions of Dali Paintings Near Dali Museum, Figueres, Girona.

Artistic Postcards Dali Museum [enlarge]

It is not strange to find stands outside museums with people selling their 'artwork', on many occasions, artwork, directly related to what is displayed inside the museum. In this case, we are talking about the Dali Museum in Figueres, Girona. Just next to the main entrance, there was this nice fellow selling these small postcards or painting reproductions featuring Salvador Dali and his works. I am not sure about some of them, I am not a Dali expert but you can see Portrait of Picasso, the Meditative Rose and Young Virgin Autosodomized by Her Own Chastity. Yes, strange name indeed. I like the way the reproductions compose a single collage. Do you find any other work of Dali here that you know of?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Collections at Frederic Mares Museum, Barcelona: Hispanic Sculpture and Polychrome Carvings

Sculptures at Frederic Mares Museum, Barcelona [enlarge]

There is an important collection of religious art at Frederic Mares museum in Barri Gotic, Barcelona. Impressive sculptures such as the ones in the picture can be admired in the premises as part of a rich sample of Hispanic sculpture in which polychrome carvings deserve special emphasis. Frederic Marès (1893-1991), sculptor and founder donated his private collection in 1944 to the city of Barcelona. Worth mentioning too are the courtyard, a very idyllic and peaceful garden with a beautiful fountain, and what is known as the Collectors Cabinet, a vast collection of antiques that go from all sorts of pipes, to match boxes, cameras, fans, jewelery, watches, scissors, reliquary bottles and much more, each of them a reminiscence of 19th century scenes, people, fashion and brands. There is also the library that specialises in Hispanic sculpture, the world of collecting and decorative arts.

Address

Museu Frederic Marès (MFM)
Plaça de Sant Iu, 5

How to get there

Metro: Line 4 (Jaume I)/ Line 3 (Liceu)
Bus: 17, 19, 40 and 45
Tourist Bus: Red Route. Barri Gòtic stop

Opening hours

Tuesday to Saturday: 10 am to 7 pm
Sunday and Holidays: 11 am to 8 pm
Monday, except Holidays: closed

Monday, November 18, 2013

Barcelona Cruises, Port of Barcelona and The Future of Catalan Tourism

Port of Barcelona [enlarge]

Barcelona is consolidating as the first port for Mediterranean cruises and this position has been strengthened after Carnival Corporation & plc reached an agreement last September with the Port of Barcelona to build and operate a new terminal known as Terminal E. Over 20 million EUR will be invested in what is going to be the eighth International Cruise terminal in the port (see image below). Everything is supposed to be finished by 2016. Also check this info graph about the evolution of the Port of Barcelona from 1956 to 2011 to have an idea of how big the transformations have been.



Almost 2.6 million cruise-goers are expected in 2013 according to Barcelona's Tourist Office. They estimate that last year's figures had an economic impact of nearly 300 million EUR on the city's economy. The increase in the number of passengers adds up to the growth of tourism in Barcelona. Seven million tourists come each year and spend more than 20 million EUR a day in the city.

Cruiser sector investments be it by external companies or by the port, are contributing not only to the economic bliss of Catalan tourism but also to Spanish economy in general. According to a study from the European Cruise Council the cruise industry provided Spain with 1.190 billion euros in 2010.
To better understand about who runs what and where in the cruise terminals at Barcelona's port, I think you should check this official brochure entitled Barcelona Cruise Facilities 2013.

Regarding Barcelona cruises, I must say that there are many to choose from and it all depends on your budget, the cities you want to visit and of course the quality of the service. I would pick up of course a Barcelona to Barcelona cruise with the best quality-price relationship and a fantastic itinerary. I reckon it is not an easy task. Have you ever been on board of a cruise ship in the Mediterranean? Which cruise would you recommend?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Pumpkins or Chestnuts? Halloween or Castanyada?

Pumpkin Detail [enlarge]

Although Halloween celebrations permeate Catalan reality each year and it is not strange to see carved pumpkins and people wearing fearsome costumes here and there, the eve of All Hallows' Day or All Saints is definitely about chestnuts, baked sweet potatoes with Moscatell (Muscat wine) and panellets in what is known as the Castanyada (Chesnut day). In general terms it is a supper, a very heavy one, considering the ingredients mentioned and that they are an extra on top of whatever you chose to have for supper that day. It is more probable that you see little girls dressing as castanyeras (ladies selling chestnuts), wearing peasant's clothing and a headscarf than kids knocking on doors playing Trick or Treat. I leave you with this detail of a pumpkin that helped me bring the topic up.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Mae West Room at Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Catalonia

Mae West Room by Dali [enlarge]

Today's image was taken at the Museu Dali and it is not a painting but an illusion created by Salvador Dali expressly for the Theater Museum in Figueres (province of Girona, Catalonia). This work, is indeed based upon one of his paintings: Mae West's Face which May be Used as a Surrealist Apartment, 1934–35. Mae West had a clear influence on the Catalan artist, particularly in the movie called: She Done Him Wrong (1933) by Lowell Sherman, where she plays a very seductive saloon owner. An important part of the illusion, in the foreground of the composition, are those lips that resemble a cozy sensual couch, that slightly resembles a wood-and-satin piece of furniture by Dali known as The Mae West Lips Sofa (1937) although that one was pink, or better said, "shocking pink" as the lipstick shade inspired by the actress, developed by fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. For those of you who have not visited the Dali Museum yet, let me tell you that to see the face you have to climb a small set of stairs and look through a sort of circular magnifying glass to better appreciate the isolated objects that integrate the composition.

Salvador Dali, was born in this location in 1904 and was even baptized in the church right in front of the museum. Nevertheless, he did not spend all his life in his hometown. Dali studied at the Academia de San Fernando (School of Fine Arts) in Madrid in 1922 although he was suspended later, but not for academic reasons. He went many times to Paris and was influenced by Picasso, among other artists. All in all, he became world known as a surrealist artist in the period that goes from 1929 to 1937 in which he produced many of those paintings we admire so much today, such as ‘The Persistence of Memory’ (1931). Yes, the one with the melting watch! The artist also visited the United States where he lived for eight years with his wife Gala. From 1950 to 1970 his works included new themes, on many occasions, of religious nature but also erotic or recalling his childhood as in previous years. Gala was also present in his paintings often. After she died in 1982, he was no longer the same, and his health was affected by a motor disorder until his death in 1989. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Casa Comalat: Art Nouveau Balconies

Casa Comalat Barcelona: Balcony [enlarge]

Casa Comalat is the most emblematic modernist house by Catalan architect, Salvador Valeri. This jewel of Catalan Art Nouveau, has two façades, the main entrance facing Av. Diagonal and the rear at carrer Roselló. At first sight, nobody could tell the two of them belong to the same building if it were not for the intense use of undulated shapes and exuberant decoration, prominent features in the work of this artist. Built between 1909 and 1911, the house inevitably reminds you of the strong influence of Gaudi's famous curves upon the artists of his times.

In the image today, there is only a balcony, as both sides of the house have been covered here in Barcelona Photoblog in the past (Avinguda Diagonal - Casa Comalat and Catalan modernisme: Casa Comalat). Of course, this is not any kind of balcony as you can appreciate in the extremely beautiful and whimsical shapes of this wrought ironwork. I could tell you about the fabulous doorway, the gallery defiantly protruding from the façade crowned by an impressive pinnacle or about the shape of the turret on top of the building, or what is more, we could be talking for hours about the wooden galleries and the delightful ceramics on the other side of Casa Comalat, that are not precisely what you would choose to adorn the back side of anything, in the sense that, on that part, you feel like you are about to enter the Candy house in Hansel and Gretel fairy tale but why not concentrating on the details of this single balcony and let imagination fly. I took more pictures that will eventually appear on this blog, so do not miss them. Thanks for your time.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Porras with Hot Chocolate

 [enlarge]

If you fancy secret places out of the touristic routes, places not so charming but equally exquisite because of the quality of the product you get and if you cannot leave Barcelona without tasting those churros with chocolate somebody was bragging about just before you came visit us, then you should know that there is this small cafe, frequented by locals, very near Metro stop Fabra i Puig (Red Line) called Churreria Laia (carrer Malgrat 82) where you can satisfy your most guilty pleasures. For those of you that don't know what a churro is, let me tell you that it is just dough made right in front of you by mixing flour, hot water and salt inside a blending machine made for such purpose. Once the dough is ready, some portions are placed inside another machine called churrera that pipes everything through a star-shaped nozzle that gives it that characteristic prism-like shape. The dough comes out of it as if it were tooth paste slowly making a spiral that is then fried and served hot. You usually sprinkle sugar on top. Porras, which are very popular in Madrid, are thicker and longer as you can see in this image taken with my cellphone. Do you have churros in your country?

Check location on Google Maps

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My Own Barcelona Sunset

Barcelona Sunset [enlarge]

This picture was taken from my mobile phone the other day. It was one of those strange afternoons when the skies seem to be soaked in the blood shed by some imaginary Gods after engaging in some cruel and gruesome battle. It was funny to spot a neighbor on the roof nearby cellphone in hand bearing witness to the same wondrous moment of nature. How many times in a day, month or year can the scene out of your window change? That is a mystery to me, constantly surprising you with better results, on and on. Just like watching a damn kaleidoscope, always different, always magical. I have trapped one of those many possible frames of your city skies, in this case a sunset in Barcelona, do you have yours? And now for something completely different: If you are a blogger, an editor, an artist or simply feel like sharing your thoughts and you want to earn some cash in exchange you might find websites like Bubblews. It has no tricks. It is as simple as writing and being liked or disliked by the community. The more visits, comments and likes the more cash you may win

Friday, September 13, 2013

Top 10 Things to Consider Before Buying a Camera - Searching for our Vintage-to-be

Kodak Anastigmat [enlarge]

This is a vintage camera I spotted at the Francesc Mares museum. It is easy to grow a passion for vintage cameras when you see one. I have a wonderful Voigtlander for example which I feel proud of and which I own just by chance. Who doesn't remember that old camera we regarded as a weird obsolete dust-covered contrivance our parents had from grandpa or grandma? Well, this is exactly my case. And musing on this matter, I wonder what may become of modern cameras when time passes by, will my Nikon D7000 be an object of cult in say, fifty years? The digital cameras world has evolved so fast and access to decent cameras to shoot with has grown so much that it is difficult to predict what is to turn into a vintage article or at least a retro one up to the point it makes you feel proud of it and urges you to preserving it instead of letting it die. Of course, I reckon that things that are rather unique now, will be more appreciated in the future. Maybe a strange model of Holga, although made in plastic could be more sought for than the standard DSLR. There's a certain factor of uncertainty as to what is going to be cherished by next-generation collectors or fans. And all this leads me to conclude that it is that uniqueness, that weirdness, that peculiarity in certain items which gives them the category of vintage and not everything will prevail. Of course when you buy yourself a camera you do not foresee what value this is going to have later on and in fact I wouldn't recommend buying exclusiveness for two reasons, one, it is going to be more expensive and two, not even a medium can tell now whether you are going to be the happy owner of a collector's piece or not. So you'd better go for the gear that suits you according to your pocket and your goals as a photographer. Maybe you just want to take pictures of your kids and your smartphone does what you want pretty well or maybe you take it more seriously and prefer better images. If you are at that step, perhaps you wonder what to buy and you do not know what things you should take into account first.
These are the Top 10 Things to Consider Before Buying a Camera in my opinion although there are more of course:

- Which use am I going to make of the camera? What kind of photographs do I want?

This point might seem too obvious and simple but affects whatever tip you may need or follow afterwards. Perhaps you have enough with not so high quality pictures taken with a point and shoot digicam in which the camera controls you and not the other way, perhaps weight and ease of use suit you better. Maybe you want to go deeper in the learning curve and want to try a DSLR and tame your camera and your photographs, first in an amateur way and why not, in a professional way. Nobody wants to run with a bag full of heavy gear just to take casual images. Well, there are some exceptions. But you get it, I want this camera to take a decent picture and that's all or I want this to make me an artist and win the next World Press Photo Contest or somewhere in between, which I think is better. At which point are you in the range?

 - How much is it going to be? Can I afford it?

You have to adapt your expectations to your budget. With the same amount of money you can buy a point and shoot and a lot of extras or just a DSLR body. It all depends on your needs. There are people that prefer a simple underwater camera for the holidays and others that cannot live without their full frame DSLR. Once you know your limit, the limit in your pocket, then you should know that the photography market is full of offers and opportunities that not necessarily are found in that well known megastore. I would recommend starting with a good DSLR, body only and then buying lens and stuff later on. 

- How many megapixels?

 There is this general myth that the more megapixels the better quality you get in your pictures. Wrong! Pixels are just the dots in your image and having them more concentrated so to say, only matters if you enlarge for printing purposes. Of course pixels count for quality but I'd say that with 6 megapixels you have more than enough in the case of normal prints. That's the amount I had in my good old Nikon D70s. Now with 16 I am no longer interested in winning the megapixel battle with fellow photographers. It's pretty silly but there's this childish impulse to brag about megapixels.

- Read reviews!

It is of extreme importance that you visit sites where you get reviews about cameras, especially those where the author compares brands and models. I will suggest a couple of sites for you: Digital Photography Review or my favorite, www.kenrockwell.com

 - Go for the light!

 Photography is made with light so it makes sense that you think of it when buying a camera. You have to ask you yourself, how am I going to get more light to have better pictures? Of course you don't stop to ask the question but searching for the light is at the bottom of everything. Nikon D70s starts with an ISO of 200 and D7000 starts with 100. There is a debate about the difference between both. I don't think we can appreciate the difference in noise between the two (ISO is the level of sensitivity of the camera to available light), so the lower parameters are not that significant, but then after 400 or in other words with higher sensitivity you not only gain more light but also more noise, or more grain in your picture. Nowadays there are cameras that eliminate a lot of noise for you at incredibly high ISO, for example Canon EOS 1DX reaches 51.200 ISO and there's low noise up to 2786 ISO which is great. As you see is not the upper limit that really counts but the limit up to which you are in a relative low noise situation and then there is software of course to get rid of some more noise. But it is not only the ISO limit you should look. There is also aperture and shutter speed to take into account. The larger aperture you have the more light you get. Remember that larger in fact means lower numbers in your F scale. Obviously, a prime lens like Nikkor 50mm 1.4 lets in much more light than Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 kit lens in D70s. A wide range of shutter speed settings is recommended too to have more control of the exposure. Shutter speed is exposure time, it is how long the camera's shutter is open to the light that reaches the sensor. Shutter speed, aperture (f-number), and luminance together determine the amount of light that reaches the sensor (the exposure) and this is something somehow more restricted in point-and-shoots. 

-Be sure you can reuse old parts

Many camera systems offer the possibility of reusing old parts even from film cameras but some of them get discontinued depending on the brand. Nikon and Canon are for me the most complete in this respect.

- Image stabilization (IS)

There are three types of image stabilization, optical, digital and a mixture of both. It would be a good idea to check that your camera has a good optical image stabilization system which consists of moving the parts of the camera to compensate for camera shake. Digital stabilization is only about software and has to do with increasing ISO sensitivity in your camera to allow for more shutter speed and thus less blur in the image. 

- Zoom

Digital zooms modify images by software in the camera so this will never be as good as zooming in or out with the actual lens and its optical mechanism. 

- Usability

 If you want to have a good camera you need to make sure it comes with all the useful controls you may get for a reasonable price in a way that it makes you save time, it does what you want it to do, it gives you high quality pictures (as long as you know how to use it properly and you have the artist in you too) and it does not stand in your way making the act of photography something uncomfortable for you. Menus should be helpful and not confusing, LCDs should be big and well illuminated, the body should be made of good materials and have a good ergonomic grip. 

-Opportunities

Last but no less, find offers, bargain, negotiate and get your stuff for a reasonable price. Don't go crazy about buying that latest model in the official store when you can get it on ebay or similar. Sometimes simply the fact that you shop online helps squeezing a few bucks from the original price. 

I hope you find the tips helpful. Ten tips aren't enough though. If only they could brighten your ideas a little bit then the post was worth writing. 

In the line of recent posts I would like to suggest a website to find coupons to save up money in your purchase: Flipart coupon codes
category: cameras

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Poblet Monastery, Tarragona

Poble Monastery (altar) [enlarge]


The Abbey of Santa Maria de Poblet is a Cistercian monastery that dates back to 1151, in the comarca of Conca de Barberà, in Catalonia (Spain). By that time Ramon Berenguer IV had banished the Moors from these lands and Cistercian monks from France commissioned architect Arnau Bargués with the project. In fact, it was Ramon Berenguer himself who founded and endowed the royal monastery. Together with Vallbona de les Monges and Santes Creus, Poblet monastery was part of what is known as the Cistercian triangle, an ecclesiastic stronghold that gave a lot of power to Catalonia during the XII century. 

Almost all the kings of the Crown of Aragon are buried in this royal pantheon. 

The monastery was plundered in the XIX century. The tombs of the rulers were desecrated but the remains could be transferred to the Cathedral of Tarragona for some time until they finally were returned to their original place but all mixed up.

The present UNESCO World Heritage Site was refounded in 1940 by Italian monks of the same order. This is the altar (1527) sculpted by Damián Forment.

And now, in a totally different line of thought, I would like to talk about my recent lack of posts in the blog:

As fellow bloggers know so well, posting often and including relevant content takes time and effort. I used to have some sponsors that helped paying for my gear but it seems that Google does not like bloggers with content to survive and if it were for them we could be rotting in hell, sitting so comfortably as they are in their opulence. So from now on, I will be doing now and then, what I didn't in the past, which is, including sponsors in my posting because this blogger wants to keep taking pictures of Barcelona and writing posts with content or so I think.

As I mentioned, it is basically about buying gear and I will mention one of my favorite websites to get my stuff, I am talking about Pixmania. It is easy, it is fast and many times cheaper to buy there, especially using  voucher codes and waiting for special offers . Most of the products that get to the online shop here in Spain come from France and maybe that makes the price lower. Beware, it is not every product that you may find reasonably cheap and you may want to compare with other sites first, but all in all, you find good opportunities. Pixmania claims to be active in 26 countries, the UK being one of them. I have the opportunity to recommend a good place to get pixmania discount codes so do check it up if you want to save yourselves some good money, with special emphasis on photography products.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Table soccer - Futbolín - FCBarcelona vs Real Madrid

 [enlarge]

Table soccer was first invented by William Terrance Mkrill in 1921 and patented in 1923 or so it is said about the international version of this popular game, but Futbolin or Spanish table soccer was conceived by Alejandro Finisterre, a Galician and there is an important difference with the rest of tables abroad, players have both legs spread as you can appreciate in this image with the ever present rivalry between FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Real Estate Business in Barcelona

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The real estate business in Barcelona, has had its ups and downs since these years of crisis started back early this century. Our economy, that seemed to be so prosperous relied solely on the fast money coming from the building sector. Construction companies, protected by the government, went on a high escalate of selling houses and apartments at an incredibly expensive price, three or four times over the real value or at least the standard amount paid during the late 90s. This period was called the 'real estate bubble'. People suddenly got into mortgages that last 30 years in order to pay for a blatantly overpriced product. With time, there came the crash and severe austerity measures had to be taken. Now prices are lower and such trend is expected to keep steady in coming years but people are already indebted and unemployed, and brand new buildings are still waiting to be sold or let as they are controlled by banks and not the government. Wouldn't it be easier that the government stop speculation and take away those buildings from the banks to sell them at a reasonable price to young families? Why are government hands so 'tied up'? Who rules the country, the government or the banks? I don't know how international real estate status is in other countries right now, places like Portugal, Italy or Turkey just to mention some, but it is evident that this is a world crisis and that no one is safe. If only we had not based our economy on bricks maybe we would not be talking about being one of the last economies in Europe.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Gin and Tonic at Casa Fuster, Barcelona

Gin and tonic, Casa Fuster, Barcelona [enlarge]

Gin and tonics have been with us since 1858. I have missed millions of them since then but the way things are going I will be catching up soon. Now that you know one of my favorite hobbies...taking pictures of spirited beverages while enjoying them, I think you'll agree with me that a place may be the extra additive that makes all the difference. Casa Fuster, a historical building restored into a five star hotel, is a great place to try your favorite gin while admiring the incredible modernist architecture and the colorful furniture of its Café Vienés.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Kids Don't Care, Barri de Gracia, Barcelona

Kids playing [enlarge]

Here is a scene older than history, repeated over and over again in every place on earth. Who hasn't be an actor in this play? Look at these children, everybody is having fun in their own crazy way and yet it all seems as if there was some kind of plan. I am sure, there was a first call, a starting idea: hey, wanna play? Yep, it always began just like that, with a simple, unbiased act of human communication later hidden under hundreds of layers of social 'learning'. The place: Plaça Rius i Taulet, one of those wonderful squares worth visiting in the bohemian Barri de Gracia, in Barcelona. There is a big tower with a clock in the middle so no way you can miss the square. Those giants (Cat. gegants) out there at the back, have names, they are called, Pau and Llibertat and they are about to give those kids yet another happy day before they grow up.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Art Nouveau Mosaics: The Trencadis Technique

Trencadis, Mosaic Technique [enlarge]

Parc Güell, that amazing jewel of Art Nouveau, where Gaudi left his unmistakable legacy in spite of being part of a housing project that was bound to fail, is a vast green area where your eyes are immediately seduced by curious shapes, impossible lines, incredible designs and innovative ideas. Such is the case of the mosaic benches around the square facing the entrance to the park. Serpentine benches waving around the central arena, feature spectacular combinations of colorful shards of mosaic that apparently at first sight do not make any sense but that are part of an intelligent meaningful composition, a sort of magic snake showing off her shiny scales on top the 86 Doric columns that hold the square. The scales are really thousands of little shards, fragments of mosaic carefully assembled to create a sort of mural in which chaos generates beauty and such technique is called trencadis.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wax Museum, Barcelona, Spain: Box Office

Wax Museum or Museu de Cera, Barcelona [enlarge]

There are many great wax museums in the world so I think we cannot boast about our own Museu de Cera too much, but the building and the place where it is found in Barcelona, at the end of an alley near the end of Las Ramblas really pays for the visit. There is this box office you can see in the picture at one side of the central promenade in Las Ramblas, and right in front of the entrance to the alley, that has this attractive historical look. Located exactly at Passatge Banca, 7, Barcelona, the Wax Museum is a neoclassical style palace that dates back from 1867 that used to hold a famous bank. It wasn't till 1973 that the building was transformed into a museum by scenographer Enrique Alarcón.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Barri Gotic: Narrow Streets of Barcelona

Barri Gotic, Barcelona [enlarge]

It is easy to walk down the streets of Barri Gotic and get lost in time. Discovering narrow alleys along the way and contemplating how the perspective drawn by the lines of buildings lead your eyes into small figures that come and go, is certainly one of the most pleasing experiences for travelers that want to avoid the obvious touristic routes in Casc Antic (old city), Barcelona.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Art of Carving Spanish Ham

ham shop [enlarge]

Carving Spanish ham is an art more difficult to master than it looks. It's not just about slicing any odd way. It requires skill and the right tools. I cannot teach you to carve it like a specialist but more or less you grab the basics when you've had good instructors and you've carved a ham or two to the bone. It is important to have a very sharp ham knife, which has a long and narrow blade and you should fix the piece in a ham holder, some sort of wooden framework with screws to secure both the wide end and the hoof. You start your cut from hoof to tip, that is from the upper raised part of the ham towards the bottom, first eliminating the thick fat but keeping the first slice of fat that you use to cover the ham meat when you finish. The very fat helps preserving the ham from drying and losing its quality. Beware you don't cut yourself. Keep your fingers off the direction of your knife's cut. It happens sometimes that it slips and you end up hurting the hand that is holding the ham. The slices should be as thin as possible and that is the difficult part. Try not to make a deep curve while you cut. The idea is to keep it flat and to cut thin. It doesn't matter if it takes longer for you and people clean up the dish before you finish serving the slices. That is normal! It happens all the time. Not everyone has the patience to go for the thinner slices and the nice presentation. The final result is definitely better. The shop in the picture is located in Barri Gotic, Barcelona, I think that it was at Plaça Sant Jaume.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Caganers and Politicians

Catalan caganer with stelada [enlarge]

Caganers and politicians have one thing in common, they both do the same s***. Caganers do it on the floor and it looks funny, politicians do it everywhere they go to give a speech and pass an antidemocratic law and that is certainly not funny. A caganer can impersonate almost everybody, it depends on the imagination of the artist that designs them. Caganers are used frequently to mock popular personalities although originally these figurines are meant for Nativity scenes. Caganers are from Catalonia and other regions nearby and it is common that they wear Catalan traditional clothes, that is, a white shirt, a barretina (red cap), dark pants and a faixa (a sort of sash or band around the waist). We have seen some interesting examples of caganers in Barcelona Photoblog in the past, as is the case of George Bush next to Fidel Castro and Artur Mas or Rafa Nadal, the famous tennis player. In today's image we see a traditional caganer turning his back on us, surrounded by a bunch of similar fellows and apparently just doing what they do best, dropping their stools, although this time there is a certain difference, he is wearing the Estelada or starred flag that is waved by Catalan independentists that is slightly different from the Senyera, accepted as the official Catalan flag. As you can see, although Caganers still represent the common people and mock almost anything, even politicians, they can be used to send a subtle message to whom it may concern.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Barcelona Carnival 2013: Elvis

Barcelona Carnival 2013 - Elvis [enlarge]

Not than an Elvis impersonation is anything new to see specially without glasses but that tupee certainly caught my attention. This picture I took at Plaza Ibiza, Horta quarter once the local parade had come to an end. Participants and spectators joined at the square and started sharing experiences about the event. It's been yet another great year for Barcelona's Carnival this last weekend although technically it comes to an end tomorrow which is Ash Wednesday. Worth mentioning is famous Sitges carnival that really lasts till the very end tomorrow and where many people from Barcelona go to if they have the chance.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Barcelona Carnival 2013: Some Days of Pagan Joy

Barcelona Carnival 2013 [enlarge]

Carnival in Barcelona is enjoyed with passion, all the passion that a European carnival can have. I mean, this is not Rio with all the moving flesh and the stamina the tropic brings. Within Europe, maybe it is not as beautiful as the one in Venice. In that line of thought, Venetians also tend to be a little rigid when it comes to shaking their hips in comparison to a Brazilian girl, probably in fear that masks fell from their face, who knows? In other words, we celebrate it with joy, shake our butt a little and try to make it as colorful as can be in order to forget for a while about economic crisis and corrupted politicians. In Barcelona, for carnestoltes as it is also known here, there is the big parade or Rua (Catalan) in which each guild shows off their float and group choreography, and then there are small ruas held in parallel celebrations at neighborhood level. As you may know, Carnival starts with Dijous Gras (Fat Thursday) and finishes with Ash Wednesday right when Lent begins. It is based in old pagan winter festivities normally drenched with wine and open to other liberties which Greeks and Romans were so prone to and such habits were later adopted by Christians in their own let's say penitent way, interpreting this brief period as a time for a relaxation break before dealing with the fasting hardships of Lent. Only for a hearty meal and a little wine, of course. Around here, on Ash Wednesday, we make a funeral and bury a sardine, yes, we like to be different. Who wants to have sardines after having so much food and drinks. We have even created the figure of a guy, Carnestoltes, the appointed King of the Carnival, that dies every year, in some towns of a sudden death and in some others including Barcelona, after a public trial in which he is sentenced to death. The king, always ends up burnt to ashes, and as you may have guessed already, sometimes alive and sometimes being already a corpse. Whatever the way, he is given a non religious burial in accordance with his dubious nature and as a way to purify our repentant community from these days of sinful behavior. Obviously there is still a lot of pagan in our Christian souls somehow.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Barcelona's Twin Towers

 [enlarge]

Barcelona's Twin Towers, called 'Las Torres Gemelas' in Spanish, are tied for the tallest buildings in the city. At 154 metres tall, the Torre Mapfre (on the right) and the Hotel Arts (on the left) look over the Catalan capital from their location by the beach at Port Olímpic. The Torre Mapfre is owned by insurance company Mapfre and is home to their offices, as well as those of several other companies. Its sister, the Hotel Arts, is quite different as it is one of the city's most luxurious hotels. Many a celebrity has been known to stay in one of the Hotel Arts' 483 rooms that overlook Barcelona's beaches.

Photo is courtesy of Oh-Barcelona

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Offer of the Day, Barri Gotic Shop, Barcelona

Offer of the day, Barcelona [enlarge]

Now that the Carnival is starting in Barcelona, is not strange to see someone wearing costumes, in particular people disguised as Star Wars characters so if you come across this mannequin at the entrance of a shop in Carrer Arai, Barri Gotic (Gothic quarter) don't talk to it by mistake as it is probably just the offer of the day. In this case, the dress. I'd like to say that I find this kind of daring welcome more attractive than the classic stuff. Arai street is a very narrow street turning right at Carrer Avinyo.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Artist and its Work, Las Ramblas, Barcelona

 [enlarge]

Here is a real artist contemplating his drawing at one of those spots specially assigned to painters and caricaturists along Las Ramblas, Barcelona. Nothing like the pleasure of staring at your work with the satisfaction of having created something you feel proud of. It happens with almost everything in life, and certainly, we are here because we like to create stuff and have goals that make us find a place as individuals in society. Of course you create for yourself but you need some recognition for your creation to be valuable. Being an artist many times depends on just that, good reviews. Although, then, there's the real artist, the one with the gift, like, Mozart for example, people that are great simply because they are, and the only thing you can do about it is bow and worship in awe. In other words, there are gifted souls and the rest of mortals. Within the latter, you've got, individuals that try real hard, and come out with a remarkable result and then there is the mediocre kind, divided into those who accept they are and those who regard themselves as artists. Do what you do, your work is of course respectable because is yours but don't expect everybody to like it. But beware of critics that may be part of that mediocre bunch and their snobbish ways, because sometimes genuine art is judged by shortsighted minds and they are really harmful.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Smurf icecream, Las Ramblas, Barcelona

Smurf icecream [enlarge]

It's winter around here, not too cold but certainly not the best time to have an icecream, but you know, Las Ramblas never sleeps, tourists are always storming the place, going up and down, along the mall and probably more than one person will fall for this luscious sight, the sight of beautiful creamy icecreams like that blue one with the Smurfs on top that in Spanish are known as pitufos

Monday, January 21, 2013

Astrolabe sculpture, Plaça del Sol, Barri de Grácia, Barcelona

 [enlarge]

One of the most beautiful squares in the bohemian Barri de Gràcia in Barcelona is Plaça del Sol. This square was built in 1840 and has a surface area of ​​2,502 m2. There used to be a bomb shelter in this place during the Civil War but it was demolished during the latest urban renewal in the area back in 1986 led by architects Jaume Bach and Gabriel Mora Gramunt who placed this nice sculpture called Astrolabe by Joaquim Camps on one side of the square. Plaça del Sol (Sun square) is surrounded by streets such as Lluna (Moon) and Planeta (planet) in accordance with the astronomy related theme used by the architects.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Three Wise Men 2013, Crèches and Domenec Talarn

Wisemen [enlarge]

The Three Wise Men, The Magi or the Three Kings came to Barcelona today loaded with presents for kids as they do every year riding from the East on their camels. Well, you know the story. They carried gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus. They do more of less what Santa does but bring more presents, change the deers for camels and give kids coal in case they misbehave. Barcelona Photoblog has published about Biblical Magi in the past:
To celebrate the arrival of the Magi I have used an image taken in Barcelona's town hall during an exhibition of sculptor Domenec Talarn i Ribot's works. Talarn, born in Barcelona at carrer Jerusalem (Raval quarter) in 1812, was famous because of his representations of nativity (crèches) at the entrance of his workshop and the beauty of the figures he sculpted.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year Plans and Wishes from Barcelona Photoblog

Christmas [enlarge]

Celebrations came to an end, we dreamed of changing our lives, we went through a period of fantasies and illusions which is Christmas and New Year's Eve. Something that when we were young made us think was going to change the world or something right when you woke up in the morning. It's strange, it still happens sometimes. The point is that we want to believe in something and still have that sense of what family values are, what is good and what is bad, we have wishes, we seek friendship and love. Every January 1st we make a wish and we make our plans. No matter what that plan is, almost always it is to be a better person, to get rid of your past sins, and start again with what you think is right for you and your people. Whatever your religion, your creed, you feel there is something worth changing or improving cause that makes you feel good in your heart and soul. Thanks God for that or whoever or whatever you believe in! Bye bye 2012!

Sagrada Familia: Sanctus [enlarge]

Welcome 2013! I wish I am a better person this year, not only for me but with the people around me. I don't want anything for me. I wish you all, family, friends, friends of your friends, all of you a wonderful year, a wonderful life, a life you feel proud about and make your soul be happy. Best wishes from Barcelona Photoblog!