Activities

Bobbing about on a boat in Barcelona

4th August 2017
Gemini sailboat off the coast of Barcelona

CLASSIC SAILING ON GEMINI


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)

WHAT

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.

WHY

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.

HOW

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: dave@sailing.barcelona.

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.

WHEN

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.

QUALITY & SAFETY ASSURANCE

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!

About

Off to Nicaragua

14th July 2017

Off to Nicaragua today.

Will be there for celebrations of the revolution on July 19th.

Go HERE.

Catch up when I return on July 25th.

Fins aviat.


Accommodation

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 are 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 properies 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 address of the apartment you're thinking of renting then:

​GO HERE: or copy and paste this link into your browser: http://meet.barcelona.cat/habitatgesturistics/en/

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.

TAKEAWAYS:

    • Try to get the corrrect and full address (in Catalan) 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 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…

Continue Reading…

El Raval

Culture Crammed Multi-ethnic Corner: El Raval in Barcelona

14th June 2017
Palau Guell, El Raval, Barcelona
Map of El Raval, Barcelona

El Raval

Situated between Les Rambles and Paral·lel, Ronda de Sant Pau/Ronda de Sant Antoni, El Raval is a lively, colourful, ethnically diverse neighbourhood which embraces the old and the new — hosting a thousand year old monastery, a contemporary art museum, the national film theatre, one of the largest opera houses in Europe, as well as the Boqueria, one of the world’s most famous food markets.

The Raval is the area which, more than any other, defines Barcelona as a multi-cultural, multi-generational city — 46% of registered residents were born outside of Spain.

Until the mid 14th century the area was a market garden outwith the city’s walls, supplying the city’s residents with fresh produce.

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Dreta de l'Eixample

The Heart of Modernista Architecture: La Dreta de l’Eixample in Barcelona

8th May 2017
Casa de Les Puntxes, Eixample Dreta, Barcelona
Map of La Dreta de l'Eixample

La Dreta de l'Eixample

Dreta de l'Eixample is where you’ll encounter more than 150 of the city's Modernista buildings. The area is sometimes referred to as the Quadrat d'Or — the Golden Square — because of the abundance and quality of the architecture here.

This is where Utopian engineer, Ildefons Cerdà's plan for an expanded city began to take physical form. The first buildings were constructed here during the 1850s at the junction of Consell de Cent and Roger de Llúria.

Passeig de Gràcia is host to Gaudí's La Pedrera and La Manzana de la Discordia the Block of Discord — where you'll encounter buildings by the three giants of Modernista architecture — Gaudí, Domènech i Montaner and Puig i Cadafalch.

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Pedralbes

Royal, Rich and Influential: Pedralbes in Barcelona

1st May 2017
Map of Pedralbes, Les Corts, Barcelona

Since 1327, and the founding of the Royal Monastery of Santa Maria at the behest of Elisenda de Montcada, wife of James II, Pedralbes has been inextricably associated with royalty, wealth and influence.

In 1926 King Alfonso XIII established a royal palace here. When the dictator, Franco visited the city he stayed here. The current King’s sister has a house here. FCBarcelona footballer, Gerard Piqué and his popstar wife, Shakira live here.

​Nearly every house has a swimming pool in its backyard.

A local wag dubbed it the Beverly Hills of Catalunya.

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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.

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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.

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