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Architecture

A Garden Rooted in Books in Barcelona

14th November 2020

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An impressive multi-level public library which supports a rooftop garden.

BCQ architects were handed the double-headed challenge of devising a civic library and restoring a public garden. Guided by the notion of a Garden of Light they have successfully created a series of cheerful, thoughtfully connected, well-lit public spaces. And very popular it is too.

The project footprint was originally the site of a 16th century fortified mansion. In 1944 the building was transformed into a child health centre. Sixty years later the Ajuntament (City Hall) acquired the site and set about converting the building into a civic centre and the garden into a public park.

Making full use of the site’s topography BCQ decided to raise the garden and insert the library underneath it. The result is quite breathtaking and well worth viewing if in the area.

Where

Biblioteca Joan Maragall, Carrer de Sant Gervasi de Cassoles, 85.

Screenshot Google map Biblioteca Joan Maragall

Public Transport:

Rail: FGC L7: El Putxet

V13


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Nearby

When visiting, the adjacent civic centre has a very good cafeteria-bar, and the excellent deli-bar-bodega, Casa Pepe is a five-minute stroll.

Enjoy exploring Barcelona’s architecture.

Camp d’en Grassot i Gràcia Nova

Home of Football Giant Killers: Camp d’en Grassot i Gràcia Nova in Barcelona

15th February 2020
Bar Oller, Camp d'en Grassot, Gràcia, Barcelona

This friendly, unpretentious neighbourhood forms a lively transit-zone between Vila de Gràcia, El Guinardó Baix, L’Eixample Dreta and Sagrada Familia.

It’s a bustly area with a huge range of shops, some very good inexpensive restaurants, scores of cafés, bars, two markets, a 4000 seat football stadium and a cultural centre. 

The neighbourhood comprises two barris: Camp d'en Grassot and Gràcia Nova.

HERCULES, Passeig de Sant Joan-Còrsega, Barcelona

HERCULES at junction of Passeig de Sant Joan-C/Còrsega,

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Snacks

A pizza and a pint of beer for less than £4.60 in Barcelona

31st January 2020
Pizza at Lucania II, Gràcia, barcelona, Bill Sinclair

Barcelona's restaurants and bars offer a wide and wild variety of cuisines and creative dishes. 

Even the most ardent foodie will confess that grazing on tapas and dining in fine restaurants is both wearing on the wallet and bruising on the palate.

When out and about there will come a time when you want something more ordinary… a tasty, light bite.

Well… you could grab a pizza.

And, one of the best places to grab a pizza in Barcelona is Lucania II in Vila de Gràcia.

For around the price of a Bikini (grilled ham and cheese sandwich) you can enjoy a delicious, freshly prepared pizza margarita.

Carn Bier,Espinac,Gorgonzola pizzes, Lucania ii Barcelona

Variety

20 plus variations — including one of my favourites: minced beef cooked in beer with bacon, plus two or three daily specials. 

A printed menu, describing the toppings is available in English. Here's the current (though incomplete) list in català:

Lucania II menu of pizzas, Barcelona2016
Pizza slices, Lucania ii. Gràcia, Barcelona,

Quality

Flavour? We're not talking over-aired, spongy, doughy, cakey bases here…we're tasting crispy, thin, deceptively light, perfectly seared imperfect squares of mediterranean deliciousness.

They've got a real handle on combinations that work. Pere and his team have been preparing and serving pizzas for more than 30 years, and they're still dabbling with new recipes. Pere may even invite you to sample a new combination as you sit at the bar.

Pizza slices at Lucania II, Gràcia, Barcelona

Value

Obvious. The cheapest pizza is 2,60€ — the most expensive is 4,10€.

A pint of Estrella beer is only 2,75€.

Ambience

It is what it is. No pretension whatsoever. No fake-o Italian frippery. No nonsense. No tablecloths. No cutlery — unless you ask.

Only well-made pizzas packed with flavour, two types of olive oil — normal and extra-picante (olive oil spiced with chillies) — and a bar filled with appreciative and friendly customers.

Diners at Lucania II, Gràcia, Barcelona

Service

I don't know how they do it — but as packed and as bustly as it often gets, it's never too noisome, hassly or uncomfortable.  You'll never have to wait long. They've got the preparation and service down to pat.

You could make more of a meal of your visit by ordering a salad and a bottle of wine to accompany your pizzas, and finish off with a dessert and coffee.

In Sum…

I'm really glad this place exists, it's a really good, reliable standby. We visit regularly, often calling in on the way to Cines Verdi to watch a movie. Or, other times I'll call by for lunch, or later during the day when out and about doing errands. We've never been disappointed.

Location

Carrer de Terol, 29-33, Gràcia. Not so very far from Plaça de la Revolució de Setembre de 1868 at the bottom of Carrer Verdi.

Opening Hours:

Monday – Friday: 1pm until 11.30pm.

Saturday: 2pm — 11.30pm

Closed Sunday

LINKS:

Spotted by Locals write-up: HERE


Bon profit!

Tapas

Best Patates Braves — Senyor Vermut in Barcelona

22nd January 2020
INTERIOR Senyor Vermut, Bartcelona, Bill Sinclair

SENYOR VERMUT


You'll find this excellent and inexpensive tapas bar in La Nova Esquerra L'Eixample, on a corner of the intersection of Carrer de Provença and Carrer de Viladomat.

Patates Braves as served at Senyor Vermut

Patates Braves as served at Senyor Vermut

Price 

  • Patates braves — 2,95€.
  • 5 mini croquetes (incl. cheese, mushroom, cod) — 3,80€.
  • Regular size croquettes — 1,30€ each.
  • A slice of tortilla — 3,95€.
  • Pescadito Frito (whitebait) — 3,95€.
  • Mandonguilles amb sepia (meatballs with squid) 5,95€.
Chalkboard at Senyor Vermut, Barcelona

 Choice

Excellent selection of hot and cold plates including all the usual offerings, plus a good list of conservas (canned seafood) and platters of cheese and cold cuts and delicious salads. 

Croquetes i fricandó, Senyor VermutBarcelona

Mini-croquetes i fricandó at Senyor Vermut

  Quality

Very good. Their croquettes are excellent and up there with the very best in the city.

mini croqutes at Senyor Vermut, La Nova Eixample Esequerra, Barcelona

  Service

Very good. Even when very busy you will not have long to wait. Make a note of your place number before settling your bill/check.  

Ambience

Informal and relaxed. The design of the space is modern and light and has a welcoming retroish post-industrial vibe. Never too loud for easy conversation and never too crowded to feel squeezed. There are a few outside tables.

Value

Very good. Worth your time and money if looking for quality tapes in an informal, lively, friendly, chatty atmosphere.

In Sum

Welcoming, friendly place with reliably very good tapes at very reasonable prices.

Location 

In La Nova Esquerra de l'Eixample at Carrer Provença, 85 (the corner of C/Provença with C/Viladomat).

Two blocks from Hospital Clínic and two blocks from Entença metro stations — take your pick.

Opening Hours:

Monday: CLOSED

Tuesday - Wednesday: 6pm - 11pm

Thursday - 12noon - 4pm & 6pm -  11pm

Friday & Saturday - 12noon - 11pm

Sunday -  12noon - 4pm.

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Contacts & Links

Senyor Vermut web links sign Barcelona

Spotted by Locals write-up HERE

MOST RECENT VISIT: January 21st, 2020: Tuna salad; patates braves, 5 x mini-croquettes; 4 x croquettes and 3 beers = 26,10€

Bon Profit!

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Getting Around

How to use the T-Casual travel ticket in Barcelona

1st January 2020
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One of the many wonderful aspects of life in Barcelona is the public transport network.

The quantity and quality of passenger information, in Spanish, Catalan and English (and some French) is very good.

If visiting from the United States or the UK you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how clean, comfortable, convenient and reliable the local transport network is.

The best way to get around the city is to use public transport.

One of the first things to do after arriving in the city, if travelling solo, is to buy a T-Casual integrated transport ticket — it will save you a ton of money and a lot of hassle.

IMPORTANT: IF visiting as a group you will need to buy a T-Casual for every member of your group, OR buy a T-Familiar [SEE below]— you cannot share a T-Casual.

T-Casual ticket Terms & Conditions:

The T-Casual costs 11,35€.

The T-Casual is unipersonal — and can only be used by one person.

The T-Casual is good for 10 rides using a combination of up to 3 modes of transport.

Be aware that you CANNOT use the T-Casual for a metro ride to or from the Airport, howeveryou can use the T-Casual to get to the Airport RENFE/Rodalies rail station — from where it's five/ten minute stroll to Terminal 2, from where you can take a FREE shuttle bus to Terminal 1.

The T-Familiar:

The T-Familiar, costs 10€, is multi-personal and valid for 8 rides within a 30 day period.

So, for couples, families and small groups of friends, the T-Familiar is probably the way to go.

How to use the T-Casual on the Metro (subway), local trains (RENFE Rodalies/Cercanias and FGC) and Funiculars:

I use a T-Casual at least twice, sometimes five or six times every day during the working week. It really is quite simple, however, I can understand how visitors from an area without an integrated transport system could feel a little daunted by the process.
So, here's your guide to buying and using the T-Casual.

TMB T-casual ticket purchase machine process series 4

First, buy your ticket.

There are not any staffed ticket offices at stations where you can buy a ticket, and if you haven't already purchased your T-Casual at a tobacconists, newsagent or street news kiosk (some bakeries and other shops also sell T-Casuals) you will have to use a machine in a Metro station or at a Tram stop. These machines will be marked with the TMB logo (as in the photos below).

You can also buy a T-Casual at ticket machines at RENFE (Spanish national rail service) rail stations (these machines are coloured grey) and at FGC (Catalan national rail service) rail stations these machines are coloured orange.

You can also buy your T-Casual ticket online. However, to do so you'll first have to register with JoTMBé, a loyalty scheme which offers points and prizes for purchasing tickets online via the TMB app. If interested you can read more detail HERE and HERE.

There are also a few ticket machines near bus stops on Avinguda Diagonal, however, these machines only accept credit/debit cards, and are so few and far between, and so often out of service, that they are not worth your time looking for.

How to use a ticket machine

  • Search the touchscreen for the T-Casual ticket icon.
  • In the bottom right corner of the screen you’ll see four flag icons indicating which languages are available: Catalan, Spanish, English and French. Tap the union flag for English.
  • Tap the T-Casual ticket icon.
  • The screen will change and show you the current price (11,35€) and give you the option of buying multiple tickets by tapping the + symbol on the left of the screen.
  • You are also able to change the Zone by using the + and  symbols on the right of the screen.
  • Make sure you have the correct quantity and Zone and tap Confirm in the bottom left of the screen, (or Cancel in the bottom right of the screen if you have made a mistake).
  • The screen will change and show you the total cost of the the ticket(s) and how much you have to pay in red.

These three images illustrate the above:

TMB T-Casual ticket purchase
TMB t-casual ticket machine 2
TMB T-casual ticket purchase process series

Apologies for the quality of the images — will try and replace them at some point in the future.

BUY WITH CASH

Insert coins in the vertical slot above the screen, or insert a note (bill) up to the value of 20€ in the horizontal slot to the right of the screen, or if buying more than two T-Casual tickets, multiple notes/bills. (Please note: As at writing many machines do not accept 50€ notes/bills).

The most frequent cause of first-time users' frustration is incorrectly inserting notes/bills.

When inserting notes/bills be careful to place the note the correct way up as shown in the graphic above the slot. PLEASE NOTE: The 50€ note shown above and below is NOT crossed through with a red X — so it will accept 50€ bills.

The machine will issue change and deposit your ticket in the tray below the screen. You’re good to go.

BUY WITH CREDIT/DEBIT CARD

  • Find the T-Casual icon on the touchscreen.
  • Tap the T-Casual icon.
  • Select how many tickets you require and which Zone you require using the + symbol.
  • Place your card in the horizontal slot to the right of the touchscreen.
  • The machine will read your card and accept or deny it.
  • Then, on the card reader screen you will see the instruction to enter your PIN number using the keypad and the OK button, marked with a green tag in the bottom right of the keypad.
  • Then, all being well, you will see a message on the card reader screen, Mastercard (or whatever your card name is) XXXX with the amount that has been paid.
  • Then, you will see the instruction 'Extregui' telling you to extract your card. Remove your card.
  • The machine will deposit your ticket in the tray below the touchscreen.

IMPORTANT: Remember to remove your card. The machine does not emit any audible warning, as do ATMs, if you leave the card in the slot. If you do inadvertently leave your card in the machine then after 30 seconds or so the machine will swallow your card. If this happens the only way to retrieve your card is to go to the TMB customer services office in Diagonal metro station the following day. Station staff do not have any way of opening the machines  they can only be opened by cash collection staff.

Ok, so you've got your ticket — now, how to use it.

There are 3 types of ticket barriers:

  • Turnstiles: These are the most common.
  • Plexiglass doors: These are usually found in recently built or refurbished stations.
  • Extra-wide plexiglass access points: For people in wheelchairs or electric buggies and people with child buggies or bicycles, electric scooters and/or lots of luggage.

Turnstiles

  • Place your T-Casual the correct way up (i.e. printed with T-Casual and green icons) with the white arrow in the bottom left corner pointing toward the slot.
  • Retrieve your T-Casual from the slot at the back of the machine.
  • Pass through the turnstile to your RIGHT as indicated by the black arrow in the photo below.

Plexiglass doors

  • Place your T-Casual ticket face up (i.e. printed withT-Casual and green icons) and with the white arrow in the bottom left corner pointing toward the yellow plastic horizontal slot.
  • Retrieve your T-Casual from the pop-up slot.
  • Pass through the plexiglass doors to your LEFT as indicated by the two illuminated green arrows in the photo below.

You’re on your way — now go find your platform/track.

How to use the T-Casual on the bus network:

  • Buy yourT-Casual as above. Bus drivers cannot sell you a T-Casual,  they can only sell a senzill (single/one-way) ticket (2,40€).
  • Get on the bus at the front of the bus, NOT the middle nor the back, (although you CAN are allowed to access the bus  via the middle doors on some busses). However, as a visitor, you will likely not know which busses you can acess via the middle door — so, just hop on at the front every time.
  • Say ‘Hola’ to the driver and give a smile.
  • As you file along the gangway you’ll immediately see two ticket machines  one on your left and one on your right. (Some busses have three ticket machines—two at the front of the bus and one in the middle)
  • Insert your T-Casual with the white arrow pointing downwards into the red slot at the top of the machine.
  • The machine will make a sound and tell you how many rides you have left and your ticket will pop up.
  • Remove your ticket, put it somewhere safe and find a seat, or shuffle along the bus.
  • IF your ticket is used-up or defective the machine will make a loud intermittent beep. This is when you panic, frisk yourself for another T-Casual, realise you don’t have one, and before you can decide to backtrack and get off the bus the doors are already closed and the bus is on its way to the next stop. Oh no!
  • IF this is the case choose an appropriate moment, dip into your pocket and find 2,40€ in change and pay the driver for a senzill/single/one-way ticket.
  • Say thank you/gracias to the driver and take deep breath of relief — you have just avoided a potential fine of 100€.

Remember the T-Casual is a unipersonal ticket. So, if you have no rides left on your T-Casual you will NOT be able to borrow a ride from someone else's ticket unless they have a T-Familiar — you will be obliged to buy a single/senzill/one-way ticket for 2,40€.

Here’s a photo of a ticket machine on a bus:

How to use the T-Casual on a tram:

  • Buy your T-Casual from a machine, tobacconist or news kiosk as described above, or from a machine at the stop.
  • Board the tram.
  • You will find a ticket validation machine (very similar to the machines on a bus) attached to poles near every door.
  • Insert your ticket in the slot with the white arrow pointing downwards.
  • The machine will make a sound (described as a ‘bip!’ in the helpful information).
  • That’s it — you’re on your way.

Transfers and duration of travel:

You can use your T-Casual to switch between three modes of transport on your route for up to 1 hour and 15 minutes in Zone 1 and it counts as a single journey/ride.

For example, you could take a barrio bus (local public mini-bus) to connect with a regular bus to connect with the metro, or take a tram which connects with a local train which connects with a funicular. If you do all that in one hour and fifteen minutes from the start of your journey it only debits your ticket by one journey. However, note that once you leave the metro system you will have to use another ride when re-entering the metro.

IMPORTANT: Keep your ticket flat. If the ticket gets bent or torn then it will likely not work. You can take your damaged ticket to a TMB Customer Services office (in Diagonal, La Sagrera and Universitat metro stations) and they will issue you with another ticket. You could also ask at an office in a metro station, or on a bus. If you’re patient and polite the staff can, although they are not obliged to, issue you with a new ticket credited with the correct number of journeys.

LINKS (in English):

Enjoy getting around Barcelona with your T-Casual.

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Happy New Year, 2020 from Barcelona

31st December 2019

Wishing you a healthy, productive and prosperous 2020. 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 â a brilliant artist and illustrator and a wonderful, warm human being.

Oscar’s work is best known locally through his regular illustrations for the newspaper, La Vanguardia and the journal, Mercurio

Anyway, here’s wishing you all the very best for 2020.

Fins aviat!