Monday, May 21, 2012


At first I wasn't sure about the trip to Sitges even though it was highly recommended by the locals I had met in Barcelona. On my way to Montblanc as the train was passing by Sitges, my interest for the town was aroused by the surrounding rocky mountains and the shimmering Baleanic sea. I bought the ticket and jumped on a train at Passeig de Gràcia, following the instructions of the lady who sold me the ticket. Soon, I was panicking as I realized that the destination of the train was St. Vincenç de Calders. I got off the train at the next station, Barcelona Sants, and looked for a platform that showed Sitges but I couldn't find any. The next train to St. Vincenç de Calders arrived, I asked an old lady boarding the train whether the train stopped at Sitges and she nodded bewilderingly so I got on the train skeptically. Thirty minutes later the train stopped at Sitges.

It was a sunny day, a perfect day out for beach activities but the water was too cold and that helped to keep people away from the gorgeous beaches and created a perfect bio-distance for me: not too crowded yet you could still see people sun bathing, surfing, playing volleyball, playing guitar, practicing macaco and sailing. The mild heat in the air radiating from the sun contrasted with the freezing cold from the sea, it was an interesting oxymoronic sensation. Sitges has no famous architecture like Sagrada Familia nor museums like Picasso or Milo in Barcelona but the atmosphere of the town was cozy and relaxing. The houses gave me deja vu feelings; whitewashed walls, blue windows and shimmering water in the distance at the foot of the hilly town, I wondered, does this mediterranean style truly have magic soothing power or have we just been brain washed by the images of Greece?

Useful website:
Everything you need to know about Sitges
Buses every 30 minutes from Sitges to the BCN airport terminal 1 for 5.60 Euro (3.6+2tax)
it takes about 25 minutes from Sitges to the airport. 
Official tourism info website (no English)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sant Jordi and Montblanc

Saint George's day (La Diada de Sant Jordi), also known as the day of the rose (El dia de la Rosa) or the day of the book (El dia del Llibre), is Catalunya valentine's day (El dia de los enamorados, the day of lovers) held on April 23rd. Legend has it that there was a dragon destroying crops and killing stocks and people in Montblanc. The villagers came out with a solution to get the temporary peace by sacrificing a girl everyday to the dragon. One day, the princess was sent to the sacrificial altar as scheduled and a knight, Sant Jordi, rescued her and slaughtered the dragon. The blood of the dragon became red roses and Sant Jordi presented the rose to the princess and they lived happily ever after. Sant Jordi was recognized as a patron saint in Catalunya and his death was memorized by the tradition that men give their lovers a red rose on his death anniversary. The romantic story passed on for centuries and April 23rd is the valentine's day celebrated in Catalunya instead of February 14th. April 23rd is also marked as the world book and copyright day by UNESCO in 1995, given the fact that it is William Shakespeare's death anniversary. A rose to the woman, a book to the man, streets filled with rose and book stalls on April 23rd (especially on La Rambla), and men give a red rose along with a wheat-ear (symbol of fertility) to their lovers and women give their men a book for return. You can feel the influence of Sant Jordi everywhere in Catalunya; Sant Jordi's cross on the flag of Barcelona, the badge of Barcelona football team, the sculpture on the facet of Palau de la Música Catalana and even on the roof of Casa Batllo, Gaudi depicted the story of Sant Jordi slaughtering the dragon.

Sant Jordi day is one of the most important holidays celebrated in Catalunya. On this day, Ayuntamiento de Barcelona and Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya on Placa Sant Jaume in Barcelona are opened to the public. One hundred kilometers away, a medieval festival is held in Montblanc where the legend of Sant Jordi took place. Setmana Medieval de Montblanc is a festival that devotes an entire week to celebrate a variety of events centered on life in medieval Catalunya and the figure of Sant Jordi. The whole town put on medieval costumes, they organized various events such as medieval market where you can see blacksmith forging swords in traditional way, medieval fight, open air performances, medieval parade, Catalan courts and the representation of the legend of Sant Jordi. You can even join the party representing some of the characters like noble, clergy, servant... if you can participate in the whole event and their rehearsals.

There are 5 trains going to Montblanc from Barcelona everyday, the journey takes about 2 hours. Schedule refers to:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


I had seen Antonio Gaudi´s architecture; tasted tapas, paella and churros & chocolate; listened to Xavier Coll´s espanya guitar in Santa Maria de Pi; smelled the fragrance of roses on Sant Jordi day and orange blossoms at Hospital de Sant Pau; touched the freezing cold water in Sitges. With all 5 senses contented, I found myself falling in love with Catalunya so I started listening to Pablo Alborán's CD, following Spain related blogs, trying to replicate the taste of paella..., to slow down the feeling slipping away.

Before the trip, I heard my friends commenting on my trip with a tone of envy and jealousy: you must see Gaudi's architecture! I answered: 'of course, that's the highlight of Barcelona', but the truth was I thought Gaudi was a place or a style of architecture. My first Gaudi experience was Sagrada Familia, the one building that he spent most of his life working on as an architect and is still under construction after his death. "It can't be a basilica!" that was the first impression I had for Sagrada Familia, despite the fact that its exterior looks like one. The doors are not traditional wooden/bronze doors; they are more like doors you would see in some kind of contemporary art museum, emblazoned with 3 D bronze words with a few key words gilded. The interior is as solemn as all cathedrals, however, the bright ambient lighting and avant-garde sculptures distinct Sagrada Familia from other basilicas. Blazing colors cascade on pillars and the floor through stained glass, imagining the pillars as tree trunks branching out and up to the flowers on the ceiling, Gaudi transfigured a building into a forest that changes colors as the sun moves. "The straight line belongs to Man; the curved line belongs to God", given this idea of Gaudi, I wonder why the building dedicated to the Saint family feels less "curvy"  than his other works like Casa Batlló and  Casa Milà (La Pedrera). One thing for sure is that you will never find a basilica like Sagrada Familia anywhere else.

Casa Vicens, Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell, Palau Güell, Casa Calvet, Casa Milà and Casa Batlló are highlights of Gaudi's design in Barcelona. Casa Calvet is now a restaurant and Gaudi's first building, Case Vicens, is closed and entrusted to Altadicion for sale now. Except for Gaudi's architecture, Barcelona has much more to offer. The Palau de la Música Catalana hosts various concerts on a daily basis; Picasso and Milo museums exhibit the most complete collection of the two famous impressionists. The labyrinthine Gothic quarter is a great place to get lost while admiring Moorish architecture and various art performances in the streets. If you are visiting the Gothic quarter in Barcelona on April 23rd, Sant Jordi's day, do not miss Ayuntamiento de Barcelona and Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya located on the opposite side of Placa Sant Jaume that are only open to the public once a year. A visit to Anella Olímpica on Montjuic makes the decision of selecting Montjuic as the venue of 1992 Summer Olympic seem like a perfect choice. Standing in front of the Estadi Olímpic and looking down on the city below, I guess that's the scenario they portrayed about Greek Gods standing on Mount Olympus watching over mortals. There are 4 main beach areas spanning 4.2 km filled with people jogging, cycling, sun bathing, with restaurants and even a casino.

I stumbled across an open air concert held in the plaza next to the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art on Sant Jordi's day. The stage was set and the host walked back and forth communicating with the crowds in the venue. Half hour passed, there was no sign indicating the concert would start any sooner, I asked a guy, Émile, who sat next to me what the event was about and that was my lucky day. Émile not only spoke English fluently but he also spoke Catalan! He kindly explained to me the conflict between Spain and Catalunya and the campaign was to defend Catalan culture. I took the video of balloons arranged in Catalan and released with wishes attached in the air.

Barcelona four days Itinerary
09:00 Sagrada Familia (2-3 hours)
Walk to Hospital de Sant Pau via Avenida Gaudi (10-15 min)

12:00 Hospital de Sant Pau Guided tour (1-2 hours)
Sant Pau-Dos de Maig station take L5 direction Cornella centre get off at Diagonal

14:00 Casa Mila (1-1.5 hour)
Walk down Passeig de Gracia

16:00 Fundació Antoni Tàpies (30 min)

16:30 Casa Batllo (2 hours)
Passeig de Gracia station take L4 direction La Pau, get off at Barceloneta

19:00 Barceloneta beach and Port Vell

09:00 Placa de Catalunya walk down Portal de l'Angel turn right on Carrer de Santa Anna and visit Esglesia Santa Ana

0930 Gothic Quarter (3-5 hour)
Visit :Arxiu Historic de La Ciutat -> Cathedral of Santa Eulalia -> Museu Frederic Marès -> Palace de Rei -> Palca Sant Jaume -> Ayuntamiento de Barcelona -> Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya -> Carrer del Bisbe -> Lunch at Bilbao Berria (Tapas pay by the sticks ranged from 1-3 EUR; add : 3 Placa Nova Barcelona, tel : 34933170124) -> Placa de Sant Felip Neri -> Placa de Sant Josep Oriol -> Placa Reial

15:30 La Rambla (1-2 hour)

17:00 Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona - CCCB (1 hour)

18:00 MACBA (1 hour)

09:00 Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (1 hour)
Walk down La Rambla

10:00 Palau Guell (1.5 hour)
Walk to Paral.Lel station take Funicular de Montjuic Direction Parc de Montjuic get off at Parc de Montjui

12:30 Anella Olímpica (1 hour)
13:30 Fundation Joan Miro (1.5 hour)

15:00 Botanical Garden of Barcelona (1 hour)

16:00 Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (1.5 hour)

17:30 Poble Espanyol (1.5 hour)

19:00 Mies van der Rohe Pavilion Barcelona

Magic Fountain (Check musical display schedules )

08:00 Passeig de Gracia take bus No. 24 to Carretera Carmel (Davant Parc Guell) (30 min)

08:30 Park Guell Gaudi + Casa Meseo Gaudi (2.5 hour)
Walk to Lesseps take L3 direction Zona Universitaria get off at Palau Reial walk to Monasterio de Pedralbes

12:00 Monasterio de Pedralbes (1 hour)
 Take bue No. 22 to Placa de Catalunya, walk to Palau de la Música Catalana

14:00 Palau de la Música Catalana (1 hour)

15:30 Museu Picasso (1.5 hour)

17:00 Carre de Montcada -> Santa Maria del Mar -> Born -> Ribera

18:00 Parc de la Ciutadella

19:00 Arco de Triunfo

Useful websites:
Tourist Information:
The official organization of tourist promotion of Barcelona; portal for purchasing Barcelona card, articket, concert tickets and more with discount prices.

Public Transportation in Barcelona