The other Gaudí gate in Barcelona

13th May 2019
Architectural details Façana Miralles, Sarrià, Barcelona, cris rosique

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

Here, just off Passeig de Manuel Girona in Sarrià, you’ll encounter an impressive remnant of an unfinished Gaudí project — Portal Miralles. Constructed in 1901, when Gaudí was preoccupied with Park Gúell, it served as a gateway to a private house. 

My colleague, Cris Rosique (who took the photo above), recently posted an interesting and informative article about the site on Spotted by Locals. 

If you want more background on this intriguing edifice I suggest you check out Cris’s article HERE.

Enjoy exploring Barcelona’s architecture.

Civil War

Battlefields in Barcelona 4: The Bunkers, Turó de la Rovira

9th April 2019

The streets and squares of Barcelona comprise a battlefield which occasionally continues to host skirmishes and more enduring clashes between armed police, the civil guard, the army, and local people.

The streets of Barcelona comprise a battlefield which continues to host skirmishes and more enduring clashes between armed police, the civil guard and local people.

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360º View of the City

So, here we are at The Bunkers, a site which offers one of the very best views of the city. Don't forget your camera. 

There was a time, not so very long ago, that you could come up here and be alone with your thoughts, or enjoy a picnic with friends or family as you soaked up the views. Not any more. Today there’s hardly an hour of the day or night when there isn’t at least two dozen or more intrepid visitors sharing this intriguing place — at various times a military installation, an uncharted, unofficial village, a party hangout, and music video location.

Recent infrastructure improvements have greatly improved access to the site — now managed by the City's Museums Service. Interestingly, it is a site which is visited equally by both residents and visitors. 

Now, on a sunny day, it's not unusual to find as many as 300 people inspecting the vestiges of a settlement that was known as Los Cañones (Els Canons in català).

Italian bomber

Some History

So, why is what you see, the remnants of an anti-aircraft battery, here? 

In July 1936 a cabal of army generals led by General José Sanjurjo, and co-ordinated by General Emilio Mola, rose up against the democratically elected government of the Republic of Spain.

The seditious Spanish generals were supported by Hitler and Mussolini, both of whom supplied the rebel army with arms, transport and aircraft.

Nazi aircraft transported more than 2,500 rebel troops from Morocco to southern Spain — then the largest military airlift in history.
What began as a military rebellion very soon became a revolution and a civil war.

The people of Barcelona, aided by loyal units of Assault Guards, Civil Guard, Air Force and Army which had refused to join the rebellion, crushed the rebels. SEE Barcelona's Day of Infamy HERE.
However, despite local people's victory in Barcelona, within a few months Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy had thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks, aircraft, artillery units, ships and submarines based in Spain.

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Deadly Experiments

The German and Italian forces used their involvement as an opportunity to experiment with new weapons and tactics.
For example, the Italian navy experimented with submarines and mini-submarines. (Between July 1936 and June 1938, 13 British merchant ships were sunk by Italian, German and rebel Spanish forces. Another 51 were bombed from the air, and five attacked by Italian submarines — and a craven UK National Government, led by Neville Chamberlain, did nothing.)

The Italians and Germans were especially keen to experiment with aircraft. The Italians formed an airforce called the Aviazione Legionaria. From its bases in occupied Mallorca  Aviazione Legionaria bombers launched attacks on dozens of Catalan and Spanish cities and towns.
Their raids were consciously designed to terrorise and demoralise the civilian population — not disrupt economic activity and military production.
Stealth was a key factor of the Italians' tactics. The only warning of attacks came from listening posts — crude devices, like giant ear-trumpets (see photo above).
Knowing this the Italian bomber crews would approach the city at high altitude, turn off their engines before reaching the coast, and glide in on their targets, only re-starting their engines after releasing their payload. Most locals' warning of a raid only came after hearing the first explosion.

While the Barcelona government was slow to react local people organised the building of 1,400 air-raid shelters across the city (two of which are now open to the public: SEE LINKS below). The work was paid for by local subscription, not local taxes.

Finally, in 1937, the government ordered the building of 4 anti-aircraft batteries to defend the city. The anti-aircraft battery here, on Turó de la Rovira, became operational in March, 1938 — too late to avert the worst impacts of the Italian bombing campaign.

The government's air defence efforts were too light, too little and too late. During the course of the war only one enemy plane was shot down by anti-aircraft fire over Barcelona.

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Bomb damage in Poble Sec Barcelona


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Barcelona suffered a total of 194 aerial and naval bombardments during the course of the war.
The Italian Aviazione Legionaria launched 72 air-raids against Barcelona.

The most notorious Italian raid took place on January 30th, 1938: 

At 9.05am six Savoia S-79 bombers attacked the city centre. At least one bomb fell on the small square, Plaça Sant Felip Neri in Barri Gòtic. The square was filled with schoolchildren, many of whom were orphaned refugees from Spain. Two hours later bombers returned to bomb the square again while rescuers were pulling wounded and dead children from the rubble; 42 people, 30 of them children, were killed.
Having found that the city had no aerial defences and no anti-aircraft batteries the Italians stepped up the number of attacks, culminating with a fierce onslaught in March, 1938.

Over the course of 41 hours between March 16th and March 18th, the Italians attacked the city centre 19 times, completely destroying 76 buildings, and killing more than 1,000 people.

Before calling a halt to these terror attacks because of international condemnation, the Italian Air Force dropped 1,352 bombs on the city causing 2,096 deaths, the destruction of 930 homes, leaving 4,568 people seriously wounded, and several hundred people homeless.

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Lessons learned…but ignored…

The number of deaths from air-raids on Barcelona during the Civil War would have been far greater had local people not taken the initiative to build effective air-raid shelters. This was noted by a prominent British politician, Winston Churchill.

Even before  the end of the Spanish Civil War Churchill arranged for one of the engineers involved in building the city's 1,400 air-raid shelters to visit London. Churchill, knowing that war with Nazi Germany was inevitable, wanted to appoint the Catalan engineer as an adviser to help plan and build a network of public air-raid shelters in London. Churchill, not yet Prime Minister, was frustrated by both the Home Office and the Defence ministry — who accused Churchill of alarmism, and claimed that building public air-raid shelters would damage morale through a mix of despondency and panic — while all the while knowing such efforts would detract from, or overstretch efforts to build an elaborate system of shelters for politicians and civil servants. The UK We, the UK Us, had to make do with Morrison shelters and Anderson shelters — cheap, flimsy, D.I.Y. sandbag and corrugated-iron lash-ups.

Looking over El Carmel toward Horta in the distance

Los Cañones

During the 1940s and 50s, the site was settled by families of migrants from Andalucia. Around 110 families occupied the site — around 600 people — until 1990 when, in preparation for the Olympic Games of 1992, the families were moved off the site and re-housed. This small shanty town even had its own rumba band, El Barrio Negro.

Aerial view of Los Cañones, Barcelona in the 1980s

Aerial view of Los Cañones, Barcelona in the 1980s


Interior of The Bunkers, Turo de la Rovira

Museum exhibit at The Bunkers

The City's Museum Service (MUHBA) has done a pretty good job of interpreting the site for visitors — with interpretation boards dotted about the site and a permanent exhibition which explains the site's wartime role and its post-war life as a shanty town. 

However, the exhibition is only open on WEDNESDAY between 10am and 2pm and SATURDAY & SUNDAY between 10am and 3pm. Entrance to the exhibit is FREE.

Here's a link to the site's official website in English.


From Plaça Catalunya: Bus 22 will take you on an interesting, but roundabout tour via Vila de Gràcia and El Coll and drop you at the entrance to Parc Guinardó from where it's a 10 minute stroll through the trees.

From Plaça Catalunya: Bus 24 will drop you at the bus-stop near Carrer Muhlberg.

When you get off the bus turn left and walk up to Carrer Muhlberg on your right, walk along this rising street until you come to a set of steps leading up to the Bunkers on your left.

OR, to make an interesting circuit, keep walking along Carrer Muhlberg — you'll cross an interesting bridge — then turn left up through the trees to a road (C/Marià Labèrnia) shouldered by houses and walk to the end of the street and up some steps to the entrance of the site.

OR, when you get off the bus just below Carrer Muhlberg turn left, walk uphill, past Carrer Muhlberg and Bar-Restaurant Delicias on your right and take the next turning right onto Carrer de la Gran Vista and keep on the right-hand side of the road until you come to a bus-stop and take Barri Bus 119 (every 30 minutes during the day) to C/Marià Labèrnia from where it's a short stroll to the entrance.

From Passeig de Sant Joan (Dreta l'Eixample): Bus V19 to Carrer Muhlberg and then follow directions/options above as for Bus 24.

Air-raid shelters open to visitors

REFUGI 307: Guided tours in English SUNDAYS at 10.30am, 3,50€. Advance booking recommended. Website: HERE

PLAÇA del DIAMANT in Gràcia: Guided visits to the site are organised by the Gràcia History Workshop. Scheduled tours, on SUNDAY at 11am, are available in català and castellano, 3€. The hour-long tour in castellano is only available on the second Sunday of the month.

Guided visits in English can be organised outside this time by prior arrangement. Contact the Gràcia History Workshop here: Website: HERE


A link to a fascinating documentary by Jordi Busquets: HERE

Enjoy exploring Barcelona's past.

Civil War

Battlefields in Barcelona 1: Carrer Diputació, July, 1936

2nd August 2018

The streets of Barcelona comprise a battlefield which continues to host skirmishes and more enduring clashes between armed police, the civil guard, the army, and local people.

The streets of the city have seen fierce clashes over issues such as workers' rights, the all-pervasive and malign influence of the Church, education, Republicanism, a Stalinist coup, national independence, workers' self-management, property speculation, squatters' rights, forced evictions and revolution.

Friday, July 17th, 1936:

The city is awash with rumours — have they or haven't they?

Tensions are high.

Has a cabal of  generals and colonels issued orders to the armed forces to rise against the Republic?

Radio and telephone messages from Morocco suggest so. But government censors suppress newspapers and radio stations from broadcasting what little information there is.

Anarchist spies in barracks across the city report that a military uprising is set to begin during the early hours of Sunday, July 19th.

Local authorities refuse workers' demands for weapons. Activists in the transport workers union take the initiative and raid two ships in the harbour. They expropriate and distribute 200 rifles.

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Air B’n’B latest

31st May 2018

Today, May 31st, 2018, there are 2,577 proven illegal apartments being advertised on Air B'n'B's website. Tomorrow, Friday, June 1st there will be none.

Or so say Air B'n'B and the Ajuntament (City Hall) of Barcelona.

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Getting Around

How long from Barcelona Airport T1 to City Centre?

28th May 2018
Airport Terminal 1 transit options

Visitors often ask, ‘How long does it take to get to the city centre from the Airport?’

The short answer is usually, ‘About 30 minutes’.

However, this doesn’t account for time spent in immigration, baggage claim, orientation, and wandering around trying to make sense of it all after a long flight.

What you need to know is how long does it really take to get to the city centre after landing.

I have travelled in and out of Barcelona airport more than sixty times and know how to move in, around and about the departure and arrival areas at all four passenger areas.

Realistically, the total time from touch-down at Terminal 1 to city centre is between 1 hour 45 minutes and 2 hours 15 minutes

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La Salut

Gaudí’s Dreamlike Park: La Salut, Gràcia in Barcelona

29th April 2018
La Salut, Barcelona
Map of La Salut, Gràcia, Barcelona

Map of La Salut neighbourhood in Gràcia,

Dreamlike park and hilltop views.

The small hillside barri, La Salut is one of the most visited neighbourhoods in Barcelona. Why? Gaudí’s Park Güell.

As well as the Park there’s the Gaudí House Museum situated within the Park, and the interactive Gaudí Experiència, with its 4D cinema-ride, at Carrer de Larrard, 41 on the approach to the Park.

It's a curious, residential barri and…

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Feliç Sant Jordi 2018!

23rd April 2018
Sant Jordi rose by Oscar Astromujoff

A rose for you, as created by my friend, Óscar Astromujoff.

You may have seen Óscar's illustrations for La Vanguardia and other periodicals.

To explore more of Oscar's artwork go HERE.

Ok, so now you have your rose you'll need a good book to go with it: HERE.

Enjoy Sant Jordi.

Lunch & Dinner

Honest, hearty homemade Catalan scran in Barcelona

18th April 2018
Meal at Bar Bodega Restaurante Gelida, Barcelona by Bill Sinclair
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Bar Bodega Restaurante Gelida

Situated on the corner of Carrer de la Diputació and Carrer de Comte d'Urgell in La Nova Eixample Esquerra, Gelida offers good food at a good price. Simple. 

It's  one of my favourite places to eat — especially during autumn and winter. 

Cigrons (chickpeas) as served at Bar Bodega Gelida, barcelona

Cigrons (chickpeas) as served at Bar Bodega Gelida.

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Price for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Gelida does not offer a menú diari/menú del día, all the dishes offered throughout the day are priced between 3€ and 5,10€.

Full meals available from 7am — making it popular with night workers coming off shift.

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Lunch & Dinner

Simply Superb: Semproniana in Barcelona

19th October 2017
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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.