One year ago Mercedes took this picture of me on the terrace of our lovely Ferran Batik apartment in sunny Barcelona. Little did we know at the time, that today there would be no travel to Barcelona, or anywhere else, and I would be writing this message from the cocoon of our home as we follow the rule book of a new world: instructions to stay home, maintain social distances, etc. In short, everything that all visitors to Barcelona used to like doing is now verboten.
’Tis the season of eating onions charred over live fire… In a previous post, we talked about the best places around Barcelona to find a calçotada. Yet, in a quarter century of at least one or two calçotades a year, I probably only have ever had 2-3 in a restaurant. Funny thing was that I would just order off the regular menu while the rest of the party would eat the calçotada menu, like I was purposely avoiding it. More about this later.
From humble beginnings in the “Golden Triangle” of Valls, Reus and Tarragona, the tradition has now spread through most of Catalonia, in restaurants, and more important, at home. It has even reached further afield with calçotades available in Madrid, London or Rotterdam; even Anthony Bourdain featured a calçotada on his “No Reservations” tv show.
A dear friend went as far as to throw a big calçotada party for all his friends in Orange County, USA to celebrate his 50th birthday! Nowadays, every company, social club or group of friends worth its salt has its yearly calçotada – the social aspects of the calçotada are key to its success – if you are anew arrival in Catalonia, no doubt you’ll get an invite to a calçotada – go for it!
Back to the real calçotada, the homemade – the feast lends itself quite well to doing it at home in an outdoor setting. First time I was ever invited for a calçotada, it was in Sitges at the home of my parent’s friends, and it was a friend of theirs from Valls who came over as the expert – an early sign that the ritual was expanding outside its homeland. He brought the equipment, a large reversible grill with different length legs allowing the grill to be higher for flaming the calçots and lower for grilling meat over coals. However, the most important bit of kit that he brought along was the recipe for the sauce: salsa de calçots. Any veteran will tell you it’s the heart and soul of the calçotada, getting it right is an art, too runny and it doesn’t stick to the calçots, too thick and it takes forever to dip. Starting from the basics of almonds and hazelnuts, roasted tomato, raw and roasted garlic and nyora (a type of slightly hot pepper), each chef adds their own touch, and the recipe becomes a closely guarded secret.
Just last week, with a group of friends we had a calçotada out in the country, very near my hometown of Artesa de Segre, just under the village of Montsonís with its castle looming over us. It was a perfect spring day, kids roaming freely all over thefields, making friends with random dog who just appeared, adults poking fun at a neighbour who was air-drying her multi-coloured thongs, and of course, grilling those calçots on a very original barbecue pit. It was a perfect day, but I still couldn’t get Agnès to tell me the (secret) recipe for the salsa de calçots.
Mobile World Congress. Em. Double u. Cee. I finally find myself using the official abbreviation, after holding out for a long time still calling it 3GSM, like an old timer. Back when it started in Barcelona five years ago, it was a different beast. Back then, all the buzz was about highly technical network stuff I didn’t really understand. But there was a promise that it would make mobile internet fast, really fast. Well, I’m not so sure that we have a fast – really, really fast – mobile internet connection anywhere near Barcelona, or that I could afford it if it did.
So fast forward to 2011, and one more MWC – this time around it’s tablets, tablets, tablets… I am writing this on my ipad, finally cutting edge technology even I can understand. Used to be a time when 3GSM MWC week was the only time of the year I didn’t feel completely awkward about carrying two blackberrys, speaking into one, while writing messages on the other… at the same time!
A chance encounter with cool blogger Rob Kerr on Sunday night – his light light up while he tells me and a friend about the new Xperia Play game phone he just saw at the SonyEricsson presentation, and I’m hooked. There might be something in it for me, after all.
As anyone who’s ever innocently tried to book a Valentine’s day getaway to Barcelona on the expectation that it is the middle of February, so low season, and couldn’t find an apartment in Barcelona or anywhere nearby knows, this is the highest week of the year in the city. It is an incredibly busy week, everyone is in a rush to set up their booths, go to meetings, tweetups, more meetings… and did I mention the parties?
We often get requests from clients ranging from recommending a catering supplier, delivering a package to our office or getting a hair dryer. All in a day’s work. But what in the world do you tell someone who asks you for a submarine??
Monday 17:00 I walk through the gates of mobile nirvana, only a couple of hours to get my fix. Good. Don’t wanna overdo it, there’s still three more action-filled days to go.
Special thanks to Markus Lonka and his great crew at Mixem Solutions for generously providing a pass to MWC.
Did you ever have a wealthy neighbour with a big mansion who fell on hard times, and now the mansion lies empty, dilapidated and almost forgotten? Such was the case of our illustrious neighbors on Plaça Catalunya, the Banco Español de Crédito, better known as Banesto. Occupying what is arguably the grandest building on the plaza, it was the bank’s Barcelona head office for many decades. Its more recent history is quite checquered, once vacated by the bank, plans first were to turn it into a hotel, then into luxury apartments. Finally, reality and the property market crash left an empty eyesore on the plaza.
Flash back to 1937, and read George Orwell’s first hand account in Homage to Catalonia.
Up at our end of the Ramblas, round the Plaza de Cataluña, the position was so complicated that it would have been quite unintelligible if every building had not flown a party flag. The principal landmark here was the Hotel Colón, the headquarters of the P.S.U.C., dominating the Plaza de Cataluña. In a window near the last O but one in the huge ‘Hotel Colón’ that sprawled across its face they had a machine-gun that could sweep the square with deadly effect.
George Orwell Homage to Catalonia, chapter X
These images of the same spot in Barcelona look eerily similar, even though they were taken 73 years apart.
Only a few days ago, a group of protesters broke into the Banesto building on Barcelona’s Plaça Catalunya and set up a squatters’ camp to be the headquarters for acts of protest which would culminate in clashes with riot police coinciding with the 29 September 2010 general strike. The Banesto building has sat empty for many years; now was our chance to see it on the inside, so risking life and limb, Albert grabbed a camera and I followed him in while he shot some footage of the interior.
It was a buildng site, left abandoned by successive would-be developers, whose task was complicated by having to remove the huge armored chambers in the bank’s several basement floors (see a cross-section of the building at 2:37 in the video).
Icelandic volcanoes and the Authorities contrive to keep thousands upon thousands of travelers away from family, work commitments or holidaymaking
Many of our great clients have been adversely affected by the ongoing shutdown of European airspace as they have been forced to cancel trips to Barcelona. I’d like to offer our empathy to all of you, for it is a situation which could make every one of us feel frustrated and powerless, when all plans go to nought.
Our response to these circumstances is clear and straightforward – we want to make sure that you won’t be kept away from Barcelona for long.
We will temporarily modify our policy stated in our terms and conditions articles 2.1.1 and 2.2.2 and shall NOT be claiming any cancellation fees from our affected clients who cannot travel to Barcelona.
Whims of the Icelandic gods permitting, our affected clients can make another booking for the SAME apartment (or an equivalent apartment in the same complex) for check in until 31 December 2010 and apply prepayment made as credit for the new booking.
See you all soon
Moreover, we have NOT raised our prices, unlike many other businesses in many industries which have taken advantage of the unfortunate circumstances travellers have found themselves in.
When you decide to travel our way again, we’ll glad to welcome you back!
Of course, as usual, I’m at your disposal should you want to make any inquiries about your bookings and I look forward to your feedback.
One of my favorite games as a child was to discover buried treasure. Of course, you needed a gang of like-minded ‘mates a couple of spades… and a treasure map! Before you knew knew it, we’d dug up half the garden and half the lovely old lady nextdoor’s garden too. The time we got really lucky, we dug up a couple of worms, and kept them to go “fishing” the next day. Flash back to reality… now that we are all grown up, the romance of the treasure hunt remains entrenched in our hearts. So what better way to pay tribute to our childhood memories than by creating a treasure map of our own?
So we at bizFlats did just that, we created a map with all our properties on it so you can quickly find an apartment in your favorite area of Barcelona. It’s still in beta, so if you see anything strange happenning, be assured we’ll work to sort it out. Have a look at the map below
Pinpoint your exact requirements
You can add and remove the apartments in any area of Barcelona. Likewise, you can add and remove the types of apartments most suitable to your requirements. Then click on a property’s icon on the map itself to get the vital statistics and a picture in the nifty little bubble.
Atop the map you can see a list of apartments too, which is especially useful when you seek out multiple apartments for a big group, all in one location.
Toggle to your heart’s content
Now you can see your chosen apartments either on a list – the traditional way – or on the map. When you include the dates of arrival and departure you’ll get the prices too. So just click the tabs at the top and toggle back and forth as much as you like. Soon, we’ll add a synchronization so if you make a change to the list, you’ll update the map and vice versa.
The treasure of a lovely stay in Barcelona is right here waiting for you to find it.
Do you have suggestions on how to make the map tool even better? Is there a particularly useful tool you have found on another website that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below
How about spending a few days in Barcelona this holiday season? Maybe shopping for gifts for your loved ones, pampering yourself at a spa or ringing in the New Year… the possibilities are limitless!
Take your friends or family to Barcelona and stay in our famous Chocolate apartment, a spacious gem of an apartment, 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, and of course the super cozy living area with a fireplace. Throw in the unbeatable central location so you spend more time doing the things you love and you may not want to resist the temptation.
To make your next stay even more special, we’re giving away a box of chocolate and a bottle of champagne for all stays at Chocolate apartment during December and January. Now that’s a great temptation for you… book now on www.bizflats.com.