Simply Superb: Semproniana in Barcelona

19th October 2017


Situated in what used to be a publisher’s offices, Semproniana offers a relaxed ambience in which to enjoy excellent food. 

One of my all-round favourites — equally good for lunch and dinner. 

It’s also one of the family’s favourite spots and often our first choice restaurant when we feel a need for a family celebration.

I can never help smiling whenever I dine here. It’s that kind of place — quirky, arty, fun, and free of pretension.

Chicken and prunes and pinenuts as served as part of the menú diari at Semproniana.

Price for Lunch

The Menú de Migdia (Menú del Día or Menú Diari) costs 16,70€.

The Menú offers a choice of 5 first plates and 5 second plates, ​4 or 5 desserts or fruit, water or a glass of wine.

The Menú changes every day.

A lunch menu may offer a choice of:

  • Steamed vegetables en papillote
  • Chickpea stew with chorizo
  • Cream of sweet potato soup with cheese
  • Endive salad with cod and olives
  • Scrambled egg with mussels

Followed with a choice of:

  • Chicken with prunes and pine nuts
  • Grilled leg of pork with orange and aniseed
  • Oven cooked rabbit
  • Fish of the day
  • Roast beef with mustard mayonnaise
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Civil War

Barbers in Barcelona

12th October 2017

Went to the barbers today. 

While waiting to have my hair cut I recalled this image.

Enjoy exploring the history of Barcelona.


The News in Barcelona

30th September 2017

As you'll know there is a referendum on the future of Catalunya planned for tomorrow, October 1st.

The question on the ballot paper is:

​'Do you want Catalunya to be an independent state in the form of a republic? YES/NO'


As well as sending in an additional 6,000 National Police officers and Civil Guards with orders to dismantle and disrupt the logistics of the vote, the Madrid government has closed down more than 140 pro-independence websites​ without warning; have ordered Google to take down a Google Play app which gave instructions on how to vote; seized control of the regional government's communications centre; mobilzed an army of internet trolls; and tried to block dozens of Twitter accounts and feeds.

Madrid is spewing out vast amounts of propaganda and misinformation, much of it exaggerated beyond parody and much of it based on fabrication.

Used to be a regular reader of El País and El País in English — not any more.

For a concise, and more accurate, summary of events up until September 28th watch the introduction to Matthew Tree's English language Avui TV programme: HERE.

For more up to date information go HERE: El Nacional.

Adéu Monarquia — Hola República.​


Amy Winehouse in Barcelona IV

13th September 2017
Graffiti portrait of Amy Winehouse on Carrer Mozart during festes de Gràcia, 2017

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 another portrait of the singer, Amy Winehouse which appeared on Carrer Mozart during the Festes de Gràcia, 2017.


The graffiti is on a door in Carrer de Mozart, Vila de Gràcia.

Enjoy discovering graffiti in Barcelona.


Festa de Gràcia, 2017, Day 2, in Barcelona

17th August 2017

Day 2, 10:30pm: After yesterday's exertions we planned to spend most of our time on one street, Joan Blanques, split into two decorated sections and with two stages featuring two very different crowd pleasing bands: A Contrablues and Dani Nel·lo's xxxxxxx

Carrer Joan Blanques de Baix

11pm: We found two chairs and a table and installed ourselves on Joan Blanques de Baix.

Carrer Joan Blanques de Baix de Tot

1am: Having decided we all needed a halfway decent mojito the four of us wended a way through the streets to Raïm. I ordered a mojito made with an oscuro (dark rum) 7 year-old Flor de Caña.

Visca Cuba! Visca Nicaragua!

Advertising poster for cigars in Raïm

2:30am ish: Having joshed and chatted with the Italian chef from a well-known and popular (or, should that be 'polpolar'?) Gallego restaurant, we left Raïm and headed down Carrer Progrés…

Collage of posters from USSR on Carrer Progrés

…and a huge statue of Lenin….

Mr. Vladimir Ilyich Ulaynov on Carrer Progrés

…where we encountered a handsome looking bloke wearing an Augusto Sandino t-shirt chatting with his poet girlfriend.

Visca Nicaragua! Visca Catalunya!

Carrer Progrés

Enter your text here...

Skellies on Carrer Llibertat

5am: We finally called it a night and headed for bed.


Festa de Gràcia, 2017 in Bareclona

17th August 2017
Diablos Plaça Revolució, Gràcia 2017

Festes de Gràcia, 2017 — and we're off! 

Day One:

8am: A group of eight of us assemble for coffee and pastries at La Corrala before setting off to Plaça de la Revolució de la Revolució de Septembre 1868 to catch the start of the parade which announces the start of the festes.

En route we caught a look of Carrer de Puigmarti. 

Carrer de Puigmarti  2017

Carrer de Puigmarti

8:38am: and the Trabucaires prepare to fire their guns to launch the parade….


And then…we were joined by…the Lord of the Flies himself…



And, so to Plaça de la Vila — now transforned as The Little Prince square…

Plaça de la Vila during festes de Gràcia, 2017

Plaça de la Vila during festes de Gràcia, 2017

While the morning correfoc reached a climax…

Then off to explore the streets…

Plaça Rovira i Trias Gràcia 2017

Plaça Rovira i Trias

… picking up a few stragglers along the way. Now we were 10.

VW camper van in Carrer Providencia

VW camper van in Carrer Providencia

But, before Carrer Verdi we lost two fainthearts. We were again 8.

Carrer Fraternitat

Carrer de Puigmarti

Carrer de Puigmarti

After visiting every decorated street we wended a way home via Carrer Perill…

Carrer de Perill

…and a bar on Bailén before getting home for a shower, lunch and a nap.

6pm: And, four of us strolled out again to watch the cercavila.

Mean looking hombres from outta town looking to party

And here comes the T-shirt man…

…and the Castellers…

Castellers on Travessera de Gràcia and Torrent de l'Olla

Castellers on Travessera de Gràcia and Torrent de l'Olla

11pm: And, so, after mazing and grazing around, and after choripans and empanadas at Plaça Joanic, the four of us ended up on Passeig Sant Joan to see A Contrablues and meet a few friends.

From the very first vibrato chords the band had all assembled in the palms of their sticky hands. A brilliant band who never fail to deliver. 

A Contrablues on Passeig de Sant Joan

A Contrablues on Passeig de Sant Joan

All in all a great day out in the 'hood.

Bones Festes!


Bobbing about on a boat in Barcelona

4th August 2017
Gemini sailboat off the coast of Barcelona


On a good day, with good weather, nothing beats bobbing about on a boat on the Mediterranean, except bobbing about on a boat while chatting, drinking, and laughing with friends.

Gemin boat trip Barcelona

Happy voyagers enjoying cava and laughs off the coast of Barcelona aboard Gemini on a beautiful day in November. (Photo: Marvin Wycoff)


Gemini is a beautiful classic sailing boat available for 3 hour long private trips expertly skippered by

Dr. David Baird.

Gemini is a sleek and stylish 41 foot long wooden hulled yacht, with a 9 foot beam, designed in 1936 and launched at Lymington in the UK in 1947.

Because of its ocean-going design it feels and handles like a much larger, steadier boat.

Sailing yacht Barcelona

Gemini off the coast of Barcelona.


To chill out and relax.

To find some relief from the rush, buzz and push of the city.​

You’ll get a completely different perspective of the city — perfect for snapping out of the ordinary holiday photos and Instagram moments.

You may well want to chill off during your stay — temperatures out on the water are a good few degrees lower than on the streets. Beats hanging around the frozen foods section in the supermarket or dipping in and out of over air-conditioned cafés.

When you get out on the water you may get lucky and encounter dolphins or porpoises splashing around.

You may want to dive in and enjoy a swim. No problem.

If you feel up to it Dave will gladly encourage you to lend a hand sailing the boat. If you ask politely he'll let you take the tiller and patiently teach you a few navigational tricks.

You and your family and/or friends, and only you and your party​, will be aboard. You will not be sharing the deck with anyone you have not invited aboard.

Dave is an all round, amiable guy and very knowledgeable about both the waters around the city and the city itself. You'll enjoy his company as well as being impressed by his sailing skills.

The CNN Travel show, 24 Hours in Barcelona was suitably impressed. 

Gemini under sail.


You can book trips through the website HERE.

If you want to check a few details before you book you can call Dave on +34 65 333 1545, or send him a WhatsApp message or email:

Here's a link to a map of Gemini's mooring: HERE

Dave does not serve food or drinks — but you are more than welcome to board with your own supplies.

Kids under 16 years old go FREE.

Gemini off Barcelona.


Dave will gladly take you out at sunset for an unforgettable prelude to your evening’s dining and drinking adventures and general gallivanting about the city.

Or, he can take you out mid-morning or midday. It's up to you.​

Trips are scheduled at 10am, 2pm and Sunset, every day of the week, all year round.

A view of Hotel W  from Gemini.


Gemini is a UK-registered vessel and is licensed by both the UK Maritime and Coastguard Authority and the Spanish Capitania. She undergoes regular official inspections to ensure her seaworthiness and that she carries all the required safety equipment.

Dave holds the RYA / MCA Yachtmaster Offshore certificate, and is a Master of Yachts for vessels up to 200 tonnes. He also holds and regularly renews certifications covering Survival at Sea, First Aid, Short Range Maritime Radio Operator Certificate, and Professional Practices and Responsibility Certificate.

All inspection and qualification certificates are available for viewing on board.

Gemini's skipper, Dave Baird.

I’m a Skipper’s mate.

In the spirit of transparency, and just so you know, I should tell you that I’m a very good friend of Gemini’s skipper, Dave. We known each other a fair few years now.

We became friends before he brought Gemini from Scotland to Barcelona and established his business. In fact, Dave asked me to join the crew for that journey — what an adventure that would have been (and very well was by all accounts)! Sadly, I wasn’t able to.

Anyway, I am not affiliated in any way with Dave’s business, and will not receive any commission should you link through to his website from this website and book your adventure. However, being a decent sort of guy he will probably buy me a drink by way of saying thanks for passing you onto him.

Gemini leaving harbour.

Bon Viatge!


How to check your vacation apartment is not Illegal in Barcelona

11th July 2017

Looking to rent a legal apartment in Barcelona?

There are around 17,000 holiday apartments in Barcelona — of which 7,000 are unlicensed and therefore illegal.

Problem is — how to tell a legal vacation apartment from an illegal one?

​In this post I'm not going to go into all the whys and wherefores of the resident/visitor housing situation in the city.

This post is solely concerned with giving practical advice on how to check the legal status of a vacation rental property, and is offered in good faith — you should consult a competent solicitor/lawyer should you wish to seek compensation for damages resulting from illegal activity.

Let's be clear, the City's housing inspectors are not going to evict or forcibly remove you from your apartment in the​ early hours of the morning if they find that the apartment you have rented is not licensed. However… with a little diligence you can avoid any unpleasantness and upsetting your holiday plans.

​Buyer Beware

In 2016 the City Council fined Airbnb a total of 600,000 for continuing to list unlicensed properties.

Obviously Airbnb is not the only offender, but the most high-profile.

As with every pricey transaction it pays to read the description carefully AND the details of the person letting the property. You may believe the person letting the apartment is an honest individual, but click around a bit, tedious I know, but if you see the same name and contact details appear for another property, or several properties, then chances are you could be looking at dealing with a property speculator or unofficial agency.

While searching for an Airbnb flat for my sister a couple of years ago I found one individual who had 7 properties listed.

The listing may give a licence number. But how do you know this is for real, and not invented? (This is one of the excuses Airbnb gives — it says it cannot check the accuracy of the information given. Pretty lame.)

OK. You've done the basic checks — you're reasonably confident all is in order. You confirm a deal.​

As with every pricey transaction it can pay to read the paperwork. 

A big clue in the paperwork that the property you are renting may not be li​censed:

  • Does the amount you are being asked to pay include Tourist Tax? If so, how much?
    • As of April 2017 the Tourist Tax, charged per person aged 17 and older, is 2,25€ plus IVA (VAT) = 2,475€ per night, but limited to a MAXIMUM amount equivalent to 7 nights' stay, i.e. 17,325€ per person.
  • IF there is no itemised amount shown for Tourist Tax then it is likely the apartment is unlicensed.
  • IF the itemised amount shown for Tourist Tax does not compute correctly then… you need to contest it.

Introducing the Flat Detector

In a previous post (12 Sinister Symbols & Ciphers in Barcelona) I strongly suggested that you check the legal status of any and all apartments you may  be interested in renting before you agree any deal with an owner or agency.

Easy said — a little tricky in practice.​

How do you check the legal status of a holiday let in Barcelona?

​Before you sign off on any deal with a private owner or lettings agency you can run the address of the  accommodation through the Ajuntament's (City Hall) 'Flat Detector'.

However, most Airbnb listings, for example, do not give the address of the accommodation — you'll have to ask the owner or agency for the precise address.​

They may tell you that for security reasons that cannot give you the precise address until you have confirmed your booking. If so, ask them for the licence number of the property.

If they refuse to co-operate — then, it's likely they have something to hide.

If you look at Airbnb listings you'll see that many owners (though not yet the majority) give the licence number in their listings.

If you do have the correct and precise address of the apartment you're thinking of renting then:

​GO HERE: or copy and paste this link into your browser:

This will bring up this page:​

Enter the address details and hit Search.

Should be straightforward. However, in the first box — Type of road — when you scroll through the dropdown list there are 16 options:

Which is where it becomes a little more complicated than it need be.

Firstly, as a would-be first-time visitor it's unlikely that you'll know what these abbreviations signify. As a regular visitor you'll probably struggle. 

I've lived here 15 years and had to check the difference between TRVS and TRAV, and look up CSTA.

If you have the property address in writing then you should be ok — just copy the address into the boxes​.

Be especailly careful when entering floor and apart​ment numbers. For example, say the address of the apartment you want to check is: Carrer de Sobeit, 56, 3-4 meaning, building number 56, 3rd floor, door number 4. If you transpose these last numbers to 4-3 then you will not receive the correct information. It may be the case that flat numbered 3-4 IS legal but that flat number 4-3 is not a vacation let and is not listed.

AV​ — Avinguda​ — as in Avinguda Paral·lel

​​BDA — Baixada — as in Baixada de Can Braso

C — Carrer — as in Carrer de Córsega — usually written as C/

CSTA— Costa — as in Costa del Bruc 

CTRA — Carretera — as in Carretera Antiga d'Horta

G.V. — Gran Via — as in Gran Via de les Cortes Catalanes 

PG — Passeig — as in Passeig de Sant Joan — sometimes written as Psg. 

PL — Plaça — as in Plaça de Catalunya

PLA — Plaçeta — as in Plaçeta de Sant Miquel 

PTGE — ​Passatge — as in Passatge de Maluquer

RBLA — Rambla — as in Rambla de Poble Nou

RDA — Ronda — as in Ronda de Dalt

RIER — Riera — as in Riera de Vallvidrera

​​TRAV — Travessia — as in Travessia de Sant Antoni

TRVS — Travessera — as in Travessera de Gràcia

VIA — Via — as in Via Laietana

If you succeed on entering the address correctly​ then a pop-up box will tell you that it isn't listed or that it is. Trouble is the pop-up is in català. But I think you'll get the drift.

What do you do if the accommodation isn't listed as being licensed?​

If you run a check and find the accommodation is NOT listed then you can report it by clicking on the 'Let us know about it' button — and this is where it gets more complicated than it needs be. 

When you enter the street name a dropdown box lists 67 options in castellà (Spanish), not català:

​Confusing? Yes, a little. But worth a try if you have the time and patience.


    • Try to get the corrrect and full address (in Català) of the apartment you intend to rent BEFORE you confirm the deal.
    • Run the address through the City Council's Flat Detector HERE.
    • IF the address comes up as NOT being licensed go back to the owner or agency and query it.
    • IF you have already rented an apartment before running a check then scan the documentation and contract, attach the scans to an email and send them  to your and/or your travelling companion's email address. This will ensure, if you're not taking a laptop or tablet on vacation, that the contract is available on your phone.
    • IF you have rented an apartment and then, upon arrival, you suspect that the apartment is not legally licensed then run the address through the Flat Detector as above.
    • IF, on arrival, you do not see a notice on or near the door to the apartment which gives neighbours, and inspectors, information about who to contact should any problems arise during your stay then you should question it.
    • IF the address comes up as NOT being licensed then go back to the owner and query it.
    • IF you do not receive a convincing or satisfactory explanation as to why the apartment isn't listed then complete the form, as shown in the section above titled: Let us know about it.  HERE
    • Locate the scanned contract on your phone and upload it to the form.

Enjoy your stay in Barcelona.

Safety & Security

12 Sinister Symbols & Ciphers in Barcelona

26th June 2017
Burglars and house breakers symbols, Barcelona, 2015

UPDATE June, 2017: Thought to re-publish this post not to alarm but by way of making you aware that given there are now many, many more vacation lets (both legal and illegal) in the city than when I first wrote the post — and, given that local sympathies are changing — some visitors’ apartments are now considered easy targets. Always check your vacation let is properly registered with the Ajuntament (City Hall). Otherwise, if things do go pear-shaped you’ll have a much harder time claiming for any loss and/or injury.

A sure sign warmer weather is on the way is the appearance of warnings posted in the entrances of apartment buildings advising residents to check for symbols scratched on, or near, their front doors.

With the warmer weather more of us spend more of our time outside the house. S’only natural. But our absence is often seen as an invitation to opportunist plunderers.

Having enjoyed a day, or weekend, hiking, biking, climbing, rafting, or simply mazing and grazing around, the last thing you need is to return home, find all your most precious things gone and something nasty in the fridge.
But these things happen — don’t let them happen to you.

You don’t need a brain like Alan Turing’s…

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