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Normal service now resumed

20th April 2017

That was an interesting few hours.

It seems normal services have been resumed.

However, it is still necessary to run a few more tests.

You may experience a few glitches in service as minor bugs are ironed out.

Thank you for your patience.

In the meantime, here’s a wonderful illustration I filched off Facebook (thanks to Paul Redfearn).

A poster for a movie I very much want to see, based on a book, yet to be written, that I am very much looking forward to reading.

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Please do not adjust your set

20th April 2017

The site is currently experiencing technical problems.

It is hoped to resume normal service as soon as possible.

In the meantime here’s an advert for an upcoming event you may be interested in.

Sant Gervasi–Galvany

Smart, Assured and Chic: Sant Gervasi-Galvany in Barcelona

17th April 2017
Sant Gervasi–Galvany

Smart and Assured with Chic Uptown Shopping and Clubbing


Sant Gervasi-Galvany is situated between Avinguda Diagonal and Ronda del General Mitre and Carrer de Balmes/Via Augusta.

Development began here in 1866, spurred by the promise of a new railway station, La Bonanova, opened in 1867, and a new covered market. The market was begun in 1868 but not inaugurated until 1927.

The oldest part of the neighbourhood is the area between Carrer Sagués and Carrer Amigó but the main centre is around the covered market.

Globally reknowned chefs, such as, Carme Ruscalleda, Carles Gaig and Jordi Vilà occasionally share their skills and secrets at gastronomic events hosted by the market.

Austria and Malta have their consulates here.

By day it's a busy commercial district, by night it's a playground for socialites and wannabe celebrities. The neighbourhood hosts several clubs, such as Otto Zutz and Cotton, venues such as Luz de Gas (where a humble bottle of Estrella will cost you at least 7€), cocktail bars, such as the legendary Gimlet, and many fine-dining restaurants such as Hisop and Freixa Tradició.

Given the number of young women wandering around with their knees hanging out of their jeans you could believe the neighbourhood was on its uppers. Don't be fooled. This is where local wealthy patrons do their shopping. Many tax dodging celebrities, corrupt politicians, property developers, business tycoons, fashion models, cocaine dealers, image consultants and personal shoppers all flex their platinum cards here.

The area hosts many interesting shops, among them several fashion stores for ladies of a certain age with access to large amounts of money. There are several couture shops where you can buy gowns, dresses, elegant threads, hats and gloves — all made to measure. They'll even organise a private fashion show for you. And, until recently, this is where you came when you needed to buy another Rolex

It may help you to better understand this neighbourhood when you realise that many people who live/work here regard Plaça de Francesc Macià as the city centre — not Plaça Catalunya.​

I visit the neighbourhood at least twice a week, every week, as I have for the past two years, and have developed a grudging respect for how it successfully pretends to normalise new wealth.

There's an interesting building, a rather grand mansion, at Carrer de Muntaner, 282. The place is known as Casa Ramonet, or Palau del Marquès d'Alella, and, when unoccupied during an extended period of legal limbo, featured as the wicked stepmother's house in a 2013 black & white movie production of Snow White (TRAILER HERE).

The gardens are now open to the public, and there are plans to refurbish it for use as a multi-lingual library — featuring the city's collection of materials in English, French, German and Portuguese. The building has a fascinating and torrid history which you can read about below.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF CASA RAMONET


Casa Ramonet, otherwise known as Palau del Marquès d'Alella, on Carrer de Muntaner, is a building with an intriguing past. In fact, the Ramonet affair still rumbles on after 27 years.

The former owner of the building, Julio Muñoz Ramonet, made his fortune in smuggling and laundering the proceeds through his textiles factories, which employed more than 40,000 workers. He was also involved in laundering Nazi loot. Until 1981 a Nazi agent known to trade in looted artworks lived just up the road from Casa Ramonet in La Bonanova. Ramonet was also known to have had dealings with the legendary art thief, Erik el Belga.

In many ways Ramonet was typical of a certain caste of dodgy buisnessmen who thrived during the Franco regime — untouchable robber-barons who bought and sold influence and lorded it over their contemporaries — landless caciques in a sense. People in Catalunya used to say, "There's God and then there's Ramonet." 

In 1946 Ramonet married into money — lots of money. His bride was the daughter of the head of Spain's Central Bank. He had access to unlimited credit.​ In the 1960s Ramonet used his banking connections to open two banks in Switzerland — the Kredit Bank de Saint Gall and the Banque Génévoise de Comerce et de Crédit.

In 1966, despite the strict marriage laws at the time, Ramonet somehow managed to divorce his wife and started living it large. It was said that when entertaining guests Ramonet would light his cigars with 1000 peseta notes, and, after using toilets in the city's bars, cabaret clubs and bordellos, would use a whole bottle of Chanel No5 to wash his hands. Once, when he was refused a reservation at a well-known restaurant, he called the owner to have the unfortunate who spoke with him fired, and then bought the restaurant, just so that he could claim his favourite table. During the '70s the Swiss financial authorities began investigating Ramonet's dubious dealings.

Following the Transition (the interregnum between the end of Franco's rule in 1975 and the re-establishment of a parliamentary democracy in 1981) the State, egged on by vengeful rivals, and led by judge, Balthasar Garzón, caught up with Ramonet. He was charged with fraud, tax evasion and money laundering. He hightailed it to Switzerland. He was found guilty of all charges in absentia and ordered to pay restitution. He died in Switzerland in May, 1991, having made no effort to pay a single bean.

The authorities were fairly relaxed about this — they had a will they said, which bequeathed the mansion to the city. They also had copies of his most recent inventories which listed more than 900 works of art, including works by Botticelli, El Greco, Delacroix, FortunyGoya, Rembrandt, Renoir, Sorolla, Velázquez and Zurbarán. If push came to shove they would seize the building and all the treasures it contained. Except — Muñoz's surviving family had other ideas.

And so, one winter's night in February 1992, between the hours of 2am and 5am, two armoured trucks appeared in the grounds of the house. Curious passers by and nosey neighbours were told that the trucks' occupants were in the act of officially sequestering the artworks on behalf of the regional government. Yep…you guessed right. When government officials finally turned up one morning, in July,1993, they found the house and grounds empty — apart from a few minor artworks, pieces of antique furniture and sculptures in the gardens. An estimated 853 major artworks had dsappeared.

A long legal battle ensued. During this period artworks listed in the inventories kept surfacing in unexpected places. For example, a Goya and an El Greco were discovered by the Guardia Civil in a modest home in Alicante. As court directives for the return of the artworks went unheeded, paintings were being sold at knock-down prices in auction houses in London and Geneva. 

Finally, after 17 years of legal argument, (the family is still threatening to appeal) the case was resolved in favour of Barcelona's city authorities.

Ramonet was an unscrupulous, greedy shit who engineered protection from the Madrid government. He wasn't stupid, but he wasn't clever, and he certainly wasn't cultured — but encouraged his entourage to convince him he was (sound familiar, Trumpistas?).

For a time in the 1950s and 60s Ramonet even had his hands on what is now Palau Robert. His big mistake was to upset someone unknown to us, someone higher up in his particular foodchain. His ownership of Palau Robert was sabotaged by corrupt bank officials, obviously in the pay of a rival.

And now? The City is proceeding with its plans to install a library in the house. The library will contain around  400,000 volumes in English, French, German and Portuguese. It is hoped the library will be opened to the public in 2018. 

If staying here…

… and you've cash to splash then you'll likely have a blast. Getting to and from here to the city centre, and all the sites you may want to visit, is a breeze. L'Antiga Esquerra Eixample is just across the Diagonal. Gràcia is just along Travessera de Gràcia.

Getting to and from the Airport ​is a bit tricky. If you want to avoid stumbling up and down stairs with suitcases in the metro — probably best to take a taxi.

If you're a foodie then you've landed in the right spot — many of the city's best restaurants are within comfortable strolling distance or a short taxi ride. 

If you like to keep yourself fit during your vacation then you'll be happy — there are a good few gyms which will accommodate your fitness routine.

If staying elsewhere in the city

then the only reason you may want to visit this neighbourhood is because of the abundance of opportunities for fine dining and clubbing.

There's nothing here to see — apart from how the local wealthy, and, more particularly, how the sons and daughters of the local wealthy, indulge themselves. 

People

FCBarcelona played their first ever football match here, on December 8, 1899, against a scratch team of English players. The match was played at a disused cycle stadium, situated in the block now defined by the streets Reina Victoria, Vallmajor, Vallero and Modolell. The English team won, I-0.

Revered Catalan poet, Joan Maragall lived the last years of his life here between 1899 and 1911 in a house near Plaça Molina. The house, at Carrer d'Alfons XII, 79, is now the home of the Arxiu (archive) Joan Maragall.

Joan Maragall was the grandfather of Pasqual Maragall, the now retired socialist politician who brought the Olympic Games to Barcelona.

Festivities 

Festa Major:

Last two weeks of June, with a programme of family friendly activities including parades, music concerts, correfoc, and castellers (human towers) — worth checking out if  in the area.

La Diada:

June 19th — the day of Sant Gervasi and Sant Prostasi. 

Food & Drink

Market

Mercat de Galvany, Carrer Santaló, 65.

Arts & Entertainment

Live Music

Luz de Gas, Carrer Muntaner, 246. WEBSITE HERE

Features

If you're a petrolhead then you'll be interested to know that the Antique Car Club of Catalunya has its HQ here and has a fascinating collection of classic and vintage motors which is only open to the public on Tuesdays between 6pm and 9pm.

Enjoy exploring Sant Gervasi-Galvany

Vila de Gràcia

Lively, radical, arty warren of fun and solidarity: Vila de Gràcia in Barcelona

8th April 2017
Map of Vila de Gràcia, Barcelona

Map of Vila de Gràcia.

Vila de Gràcia, the heart of the district of Gràcia, is a warren of very strollable streets and inviting squares fringed with café-bars, craft, design and fashion stores, restaurants offering every kind of cuisine, cool bodegas, independent cinemas, music venues, theatres, art galleries, craft workshops, two excellent indoor markets, plus much, much more. 

The neighbourhood is famed for its Festa Major in August, when hundreds of thousands of visitors cram the narrow streets to inspect the residents’ wonderfully inventive decorations.

Vila de Gràcia is also well-known for its political activism, with frequent protests, meetings and direct action which occasionally provoke a heavy-handed response from the Mossos d’Esquadra’s Mobile Group (anti-disturbance police).

You could easily spend a whole month strolling and grazing around, stopping off at squares, window shopping and dancing ’til you drop, and never get its measure.

Until 1897 Vila de Gràcia was a town in its own right and still has its own town hall (ajuntament). 

Deceptively quiet during the day​ the squares come alive after local kids get out of school. Then the shops, markets and bars fill with locals on the way home from work. Then it's dinner and the restaurants get busy. And then the grown ups come out to play in the squares.

With streets called Danger, Friendship and Liberty, and squares named John Lennon, Revolution, and the Women of 1936, how can you not explore this intriguing neighbourhood?

If staying here you’ll have a great time. Even if you're not a party animal, it's a fascinating area to simply stroll around — you're sure to find something interesting. Getting in and out of the city centre by bus, metro and FGC trains is a breeze.

If staying elsewhere in the city then it’s well worth a visit — perhaps for lunch or dinner, or a drink and a snack on your way to or from nearby, Park Güell in neighbouring La Salut.

People

Opera diva, Montserrat Caballé was born here, at  Carrer de Igualada, 21.

Movie director, Isabel Coixet lives here, as does singer-songwriter, Jackson Browne.

Esteemed writer, Mercè Rodoreda, although she lived in El Putxet before her exile in France, immortalized the neighbourhood in her classic 1962 novel, La plaça del diamant — In Diamond Square, set immediately before and during the Civil War.

Rumba catalana Catalan rumba music, made popular in the mainstream by The Gypsy Kings, was nurtured here. 

Festivities & Traditions

Els Foguerons

Last weekend of January — in 2018: Jan. 26th & Jan 27th. Bonfires,  a parade, correfoc, music and food.

Festa de Sant Medir

March 3rd — a colourful cavalcade of horses and carriages, freely distributing tons of sweets as it parades through the streets. All good fun.

La Diada

June 4th — the neighbourhood celebrates its Diada (founding day) —when they'll be a correfoc.

Festa Major

August 15th — August 21st

The whole neighbourhood goes crazy for a week. Streets compete to construct the most elaborate and entertaining decorations from recycled materials, and every square is packed with colour and music — from traditional folk, through swing, country, jazz, rumba, havaneres, R'n'B, world music, to ska, thrash-punk and techno. And all the decorated streets have stages hosting more music, theatre and dance.

My tip: Dress appropriately and go to Plaça Revolució at 8.30am on the first day (August 15th). You will most certainly see me there — I go every year. Follow the noisome parade to the town square, rest up a while with a drink and a snack, and then visit each of the decorated streets before the hordes arrive. You will never forget the experience.

Vlia de Gràcia Castellers in Plaça de la Vila, Gràcia, Barcelona
Town clock, Gràcia, Barcelona.
Castellers Ajuntament de Gràcia

Food & Drink

Snacks

Café Diamant in Plaça del Diamant. Here's my write-up.

Pizzeria Lucania II on Carer de Terol. Here's my write-up.

Tapes

Nou Can Codina on the corner of Torrent de l'Olla and Carrer Perill. Write-up HERE.

Bar Bodega Quimet on Carrer Vic just below Travessera de Gràcia. Write-up HERE.

Bar l'Amistat on the corner of Carrer Torrijos and Carrer Ramón y Cajal. Write-up HERE.

Roure on the corner of Carrer Luis Antúnez and ​Plaçeta de Sant Miquel. WRITE UP.

Restaurants

All these restaurants offer a good value menú del día. And all are good for dinner.

Cal Boter. My write-up​.

Goliard. Write-up HERE.

​La Singular. Write-up HERE.

Somodó. Write-up HERE.​

Bars

Raïm 1886, on the corner of Carrer Progrés and Carrer Siracusa. GUARDIAN write-up HERE. Spottedby Locals write-up HERE.

Markets

Mercat de l'Abaceria on Travessera de Gràcia. WRITE-UP.

Mercat de la Llibertat. WRITE-UP.

Bodegas

Bodega E. Marin. In between l'Abaceria Market and John Lennon Square. WRITE-UP.

Bar Bodega Quimet on Carrer Vic just below Travessera de Gràcia. Write-up HERE.


Arts & Entertainment

Cinema

Cinema Verdi on Carrer Verdi.

Cinema Verdi Park on Carrer Torrijos.

WRITE UP HERE.​ LINK TO CURRENT PROGRAMME HERE.

Cinemes Texas. Great little cinema run by film drector, Ventura Pons. Recently voted the best little cinema in Europe, all seats only 3€. All movies are in original language with Catalan subtitles. LINK HERE.

Live music

Heliogàbal on Carrer Ramón y Cajal. LINK.

Centre Artesà Tradicionàrius at Plaça Anne Frank. LINK.

Art, Design & Photography

Galería H2O at the top end of Carrer Verdi. LINK.


Kids' Stuff

Model Railway Exhibit

Barcelona en Miniatura — a lovingly crafted animated diorama of Barcelona as it was in the 1920s. Only open on Sundays between 11am and 2pm. FREE ADMISSION for youngsters aged 12 and under. Grown-ups: 3€. Plaça del Nord. LINK.

Dracs, Gegants & Capgrossos. Dragons, Giants and Big Heads.

Gràcia Town Hall. Permanent exhibit of local processional imagery. Weekdays only. FREE ADMISSION. LINK.

Enjoy exploring Vila de Gràcia.

Graffiti

Bryan Cranston in Gràcia in Barcelona

12th January 2017
 Bryan-Cranston-graffiti-Gràcia-Barcelona-by-Bill-Sinclair.jpg

One of the many wonderful things about exploring Barcelona is happening across curious portraits of well-known, and not so well-known, people in unexpected places.

Here's a portrait of the actor, Bryan Cranston as Walter White — AKA Heisenberg — from the TV series, Breaking Bad, on Carrer de Rabassa in Gràcia.

Context

The graffiti is on a private garage door.​

Walter White AKA Bryan Cranston, Gràcia, Barcelona by Bill sinclair

Enjoy discovering graffiti in Barcelona

BLOG

Happy New Year 2017 from Barcelona

31st December 2016

 

Wishing you a healthy, productive and prosperous 2017. And, if you can squeeze in some happiness, all the better.

See you next year. Sincerely hope it’s a great one for you.

The illustration is by our good friend, Oscar Astromujoff — a brilliant artist and illustrator —and a wonderful human being.

Oscar’s work is best known locally through his regular illustrations for the newspaper, La Vanguardia. In fact, there was one of Oscar’s illustrations in today’s (31/12/2016) edition. His artwork extends beyond simple illustration.

Thanks to Lali, his lovely partner, we were at Oscar’s apartment on Sant Esteve (Boxing Day) last week for a tea party. All good fun.

Anyway, here’s wishing you all the very best for 2017.

Fins aviat!

Restaurants

Make tracks to Tram-Tram in Barcelona

22nd December 2016
Amuse bouches at Tram-Tram, Barcelona

Tram-Tram, a family owned, family run restaurant, is an excellent spot for small get-togethers, or, perhaps, a romantic rendezvous, and a good introduction to contemporary Catalan cuisine. It's a small, perfectly formed and tastefully decorated restaurant, with private dining-rooms and a pleasant leafy patio.

Isidre Soler, the chef, (who spent time training with Ferran Adrià at El Bulli before it became internationally known) takes evident, painstaking pride in the preparation and presentation of his exquisite dishes.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have dined for lunch and dinner here a few times over the past thirteen years. I’ve dined in the general interior dining area, a private dining-room and in the patio. Never disappointed about any aspect of the experience.

Jamon-iberico-with-pa-amb-tomaquet-and-terrine-of-foie-gras-at-Tram-Tram

Price for lunch:

The menú del día, or almuerzo a precio fijo (fixed-price lunch), is 28€ and includes bread, water, a glass of cava or a glass of wine, and coffee.

Choice:

  • Tasting menu — offers five courses, with bread, and a dessert for 39,50€. Wine is extra — by the glass, between 3€ and 7€, and for 16€ you could have a very tasty bottle. The wine list offers a selection of 150 unpretentious wines.
  • El Festival — a surprise menu consisting of three tapas, four dishes, a cheeseboard and two desserts for 70€.
  • A lá carte — depending on the season, but the menu usually offers a choice of six starters, ten meat and fish dishes and six desserts. Prices for mains (entrées) are between 21€ and 28€ — and they offer ¾ size portions at appropriately reduced prices. In the autumn (fall) the menu will include a few game dishes.

All options include two amuse bouches — often an espuma (foam) or mousse of some kind and a sardine served with tongue teasing relishes.

Loin of cod with mushrooms squid-ink parsley reduction-and-chives

Quality:

Chef Soler uses only the very best ingredients — as is evident with every mouthful.

Sardine escabeche and espuma of courgette (zucchini) amuse bouches as served at Tram-Tram.

Taste:

The food — including original variations on classic dishes such as seafood paella and cochinillo (suckling pig) — is flavoursome without being rich, and is very, very good. It’s perhaps a strange observation, but there’s a certain clarity about the flavours here. Despite the complexity of some of the dishes — for example, Royal hare with foie gras and sweet potatoes — none of the flavours dominate but each are evident on the tongue.

Cochinillo (suckling pig) as served at Tram-Tram.

Service:

Service is excellent, the waiters, neatly turned out in white Nehru jackets, are very attentive though keep a discreet distance from your table, conscious to not interrupt the flow of your conversation. The very knowledgeable, and very helpful maitre'd will help you navigate the menu and off-menu specials, and guide you through the wine list. (An English version of the menu is available).

Ambience:

The overall feel is very restful, akin to dining in a wealthy friend’s home. There’s no rush, no bother, no drama — everything is just so.

Value:

You could pay a lot more for a lot less. You’ll be paying for reliably excellent food professionally served in a comfortable and restful ambience. You’ll likely feel better about yourself when you leave.

Pear and mango dessert as served at Tram-Tram

Michelin Guide:

If such things matter to you then you’ll be reassured to know that Tram-Tram is mentioned, although not starred, in the Michelin Guide for Barcelona.

In sum…

All in all, excellent value and highly recommended. Bon profit!

Location

Carrer Major de Sarrià, 121

Sarrià

Above Passeig de la Bonanova

​WEBSITE: HERE

SarriàALL FGC trains departing from Plaça Catalunya and Provença, EXCEPT L7, call at Sarrià.

MondayCLOSED
Tuesday1:30PM–3:30PM
Wednesday1:30PM–3:30PM & 9PM –10:30PM
Thursday1:30PM–3:30PM & 9PM –10:30PM
Friday1:30PM–3:30PM & 9PM –10:30PM
Saturday1:30PM–3:30PM & 9PM –10:30PM
Sunday1:30PM–3:30PM
Bar Restaurants

Lunch at Palermo on Mallorca in Barcelona

11th November 2016

Our restaurants and bars offer a wide and wild variety of cuisines and creative dishes.

However, grazing on tapas and fine dining is both wearing on the wallet and bruising on the palate. There are times while out and about when you want something more substantial than a snack, something a little more ordinary — more home style than stylish. The kind of food our city’s bar-restaurants excel at.

Salmorejo as served at Palermo, Barcelona

Palermo is another favourite lunch spot. They offer a very good menú diari [menú del día] which regularly features traditional dishes such as codillo al horno (knuckle), estofado de vedella (veal stew) or estofado de ternera (beef stew) and, of course, paella on Thursdays. The menú includes a bottle of vino tinto (red table wine) or beer.

Codillo al horno as served at Palermo.

During the summer they offer excellent cold soups such as salmorejo — tomato and breadcrumb soup served with ham and boiled egg — and melon and ham gazpacho.

And, they also offer an excellent arroz caldoso de bogavante (a soupy lobster and rice dish). Very tasty. Highly recommended.

Arroz caldoso de bogavante as served at Palermo.

Or, you can order off an extensive menu.

It's very popular at lunchtime so expect a ten-minute wait for a table — they’ll happily serve you a drink while you wait.

Lubina (sea bass) as served as part of the menú del día at Palermo.

Quality

The quality of the food here is very good. Everything tastes very fresh.

Value

Menú del día: 10,95€ including tax.

Arroz caldoso de bogavante: 15,95€ per person including tax, minimum 2 persons.

Ambience

Smart, modern and clean interior with outside seating. You’ll be rubbing shoulders with legal workers, shop and office staff, construction workers, families and elderly neighbours. It’s a busy place and can get a bit bustly between 2pm and 3pm — but it's all good fun. If you like humans, and find them fascinating, you'll like this place.

Service

Excellent. The wait staff here are very experienced, assiduous and very helpful.

In Sum…

If visiting La Pedrera or Casa de les Punxes, or on your way to or from the Sagrada Familia, and feeling peckish, then it’s a safe bet they'll have something you’ll like.

NEW FEATURE: Click on the map, eye and Metro icons below and access more information.

Location

Carrer de Mallorca, 280,

Dreta de l'Eixample.

Intersection: C/Roger de Llúria — below Avinguda Diagonal.


Nearby

  • La Pedrera
  • Casa de les Punxes
  • Casa Thomas

93 458 2408

Website: HERE

Verdaguer or Girona

Verdaguer

Monday7AM–12Midnight
Tuesday7AM–12Midnight
Wednesday7AM–12Midnight
Thursday7AM–12Midnight
Friday7AM–12Midnight
Saturday8.30AM-5PM
SundayClosed

                             Bon Profit!

Graffiti

Love is Everywhere in Barcelona

2nd August 2016
Love Everywhere graffiti, Barcelona, Bill Sinclair

One of the many wonderful things about exploring Barcelona is happening across curious images in unexpected places.

Here's a graffiti I came across on Carrer del Perill, a few metres from Nou Can Codina and directly opposite Restaurant Gut.

I really like it. Makes me smile.

Enjoy discovering graffiti in Barcelona.