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Festes de Gràcia, 2017 in Barcelona

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 Septembre 1868 to catch the start of the parade which announces the start of the festes.

En route we caught a passing look of Carrer de Puigmarti. 

Carrer de Puigmarti  2017

Carrer de Puigmarti

8:38am: and the Trabucaires prepare to fire their very loud 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 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!


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.

[If interested in the ongoing wrangle between Airbnb and Barcelona City Council SEE this update as at May 31, 2018.]

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. Such is not uncommon.

The listing may give a licence number — sometimes referred to as a HUTB. But how do you know this number is for real, and not invented? (This is one of the excuses Airbnb gives — it says it does not have the resources to check the accuracy of the information given. Pretty lame — if they don't have the resources to play then they shouldn't be in the game.)

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…

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 — 51% 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.

Continue Reading
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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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, above Avinguda Diagonal, is situated between Ronda del General Mitre and Carrer de Balmes/Via Augusta.

Development began here in 1866, spurred by the promises of a new railway station and a new market. The station, La Bonanova, opened in 1867 but the market, begun in 1868, was 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 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, an excellent market, 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 protsts, 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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Breaking Bad’s Heisenberg in Barcelona

12th January 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 a portrait of the actor, Bryan Cranston as Walter White — AKA Heisenberg — from the TV series, Breaking Bad, on Carrer de Rabassa in ​Vila de Gràcia.


The graffiti is on a private garage door.​

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

Enjoy discovering graffiti portraits in Barcelona


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!