I am very happy to be back at Barcelona, but we almost didn't get any sleep last night because of the noise. The location of the hotel is beautiful, but the rooms are very small and very noisy. It seems to be one of the cheapest hotels in the center of the town (although, I don't think € 75 for a night is very cheap...) and there are lots of youngsters. We don't mind that, but when they are shouting all night to each other, especially between 3 and 6 it becomes a different story. After breakfast (which we can't recommend, we will eat somewehere else from now) Teije asks for another room and we move to the highest floor. For a second we hope it will be with balcony and view over the square, but that is not possible: it is an even smaller room with two single beds, one small window with bars before it viewing the sky and the roof. Alas, but it is only a place to sleep, not to stay!
We wash away the dry and unsavory breakfast outside on the square, Placa Reial, at one of the restaurants. According to the travel guides this is the best square in town and I must admit, it is very pleasant to sit here outside. Now we only have to find out where they have the best coffee.
Obviously, we start with a walk along the Ramblas; the bird market has started already and the artists are preparing to earn their money as living statues.
We walk towards Placa Catalunya where pigeons are fed well by people. But it is funny: the saleswoman of pigeon fodder chases away the birds with her broom while the buyers try to gather as many pigeons around them as possible.
Then we take the subway (going stairs down, and up again...) to Placa Espanya where we buy a Barcelona card. It costs € 27 per person for 5 days, but it certainly is worthwhile: free use of all public transport inside Barcelona (subway, bus, train) and substantial discount on many attractions, museums etcetera. Teije keeps a record of it and in the end we have saved € 30 per person with it. Enough for a lot of pub visits!
From the square we walk to the Palau Nacional and pass the Venetian towers which have been build for the world exhibition of 1929. The climb is made easier by the presence of a few escalators, but still we have to climb.
In the palace we visit the MNAC (Museu Nacional d'art Catalunya), or the national museum of Catalan art with many old remains of Latin churches in Pyrenees. It is as if they have rebuild some churches and replaced the wallpaintings to the museum, including arches and so. It is quite interesting, but taking pictures is forbidden, so we don't.
Then we walk uphill in the direction of Poble Espanyol, another heritage of the world exhibition of 1929. On the way we come along Torre Calatrava, a communication tower which has especially designed for the Olympic Games of 1992 (near the FC Barcelona stadium). An unusual monument, but it fits here.
Poble Espanyol is a village which was also specially build for the occasion of the world exhibition of 1929. Every house is different and build in a special style that is characteristic for a special area of Spain: so it is Spain in small. After the long walk to the village we first take a break and then start exploring the village.
Here we see our first 'giants', very large puppets. During La Mercé there are several parades with these giants, we have read, and we hope to see some of them over the next days.
There are almost 120 houses in different architectural styles but they fit all very well together. The village is surrounded by a copy of the 11th century city wall of Avilla. The entrance fee is € 7, but free for us since we have this Barcelona card.We walk back to Placa Espanya and we start to feel our feet. And when my feet start to hurt, my back soon follows. So it is time to find us a nice place at a restaurant and we take a subway to the Sagrada Familia so we kn ow for sure that we have a great view.
During a late lunch we see how workers try to place a head on a Maria statue, on a considerable height. Like mountaineers they are busy, but they seem to have problems. We are sitting first row and can follow everything quite well. Another day we will take some time to visit the cathedral from the inside again.
When we walk back to the hotel, we suddenly see a large crowd moving through the street into our direction and yes, there they are, the giants of Barcelona. Gigantic puppet of 3 to 5 meters are carried through the streets, every one by just one person. We can see there is a wooden construction under the puppets so the weight must be quite impressive, also literally. The whole parade is very impressive and the public has come in masses to see and enjoy it.We notice that it starts to be partytime vereywhere; more and more people assemble on squares where bands are ready to perform and on Placa Jaume (between the town hall and the building of the Catalan government) speeches are made. This is probably the real beginning of La Mercé.
After a short pause at our hotel room we go out agian and are surprised by street musicians who appear everywhere, sellers of roses who try to sell us a rose and acrobats showing what they can. Our square is next to the Ramblas, so we have a look there, too, and it is amazing how busy it is, we could easily walk over the heads of the people (a Dutch expression to say that it is really busy)!It soon becomes clear that we won't be going to bed early with all the partying and the bands performing. But we don't care, we enjoy it. This is a bonus to our stay here, we never had expected it to be such a big party. It is incredible, this atmosphere of celebration. So many people who are enjoying themselves and expressing themselves, without any disturbances. We notice one strange thing, though, and that is how prices of beer and coffee seem to change, dependant on the waiter, the time and how busy it is at the restaurant. But we like the fact that the better the waiter gets to know us, the lower the prices become.
We can recommend this to everybody: go to Barcelona when the festival of La Mercé is going on!!! But don't forget to take some good feet with you, since we can't describe in text the kilometers we have walked today.
At 11 a rock concert starts, performed by the band called Apache; they only do covers but it sounds really fantastic, the square is filled with people and they are all swinging on the music, including us. The enthousiasm of the band members is very catching and only at half past two they stop playing. We wouldn't have cared if they had gone on for a few more hours. What a great night!