Hola Barcelona!

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I thought that I would start my Spanish summer travel adventures with our trip down to Motril, Granada, in the very South of Spain, the place that we returned from shortly before the start of fashion week.

After spending a week at my parent’s house in the South of France, going to the beach, walking in the mountains and eating amazing seafood, we took crossed the boarder into Northern Catalunya and took the train from Figueres, home to the amazing Salvador Dali Museum, to Barcelona, a trip that I usted to do it fairly regularly when I played professional tennis at the Sanchez Casal Academy. It is a pretty easy journey and one that I would recommend to any travellers wanting to go from the South of France into Spain. It is so much easier, quicker and cheaper to cross the boarder by car and then join the local train network at either Girona or Figueres, which will then take you directly into the heart of Barcelona, rather than attempt to go directly from Perpignan.

The giant white eggs of the Dali Museum loomed above the rusty red mosaic towers that jutted into the sky. The air was already hot even though it was quite early in the morning. We bought out train tickets and then had some strong Spanish coffee, croissants and chocolate pastries in the small little station cafe. The timing was perfect, we were just finishing when the train was announced in Catalan and before we knew it, we were speeding off into the dust and sun, towards the big city, towards Barcelona.

Barcelona is one of my favourite places in the whole world, I have so many great memories there and whenever I return they all just come flooding back. I remember when I was just 14 having finished tennis practice, racing my friends up the steps at the Park Guel and wondering the Gothic quarters in search of tapas and earrings. Every weekend we would take the bus into town, we would walk down the Ramblas, go shopping along the Diagonal, have coffee at Starbucks and go then go on to Port Olimpic.  Indeed simply arriving at Sants and walking passed the McDonald’s where my friend Federica and I had been stranded at 1.30am and seeing the vending machine that we had searched when we arrived at the station another time only to realise that we had no money to get home because we had spent all of our money shopping, was a real trip down memory lane. It all felt like yesterday that we were all on tour together!

We had some time to wait before taking out connecting AVE, Spain’s super fast train, that would take us down to Alicante in 5 only hours! So we left the train station and walked around the beautiful city, passed the first nightclub I ever went out to and onwards into the distance, to Plaza Catalunya, to the old streets and passed Gaudi’s Casa Battlo. We walked around el barrio Gotico and had smoothies at La Boqueria. It was all so magical and it was shame that our stay was so brief.

On our way back to the station after an exhausting day walking around admiring the mosaics and blue sky, we stopped off at a nice looking restaurant and had a great lunch, perfect for preparing us for our trip down to Alicante. One of the best things I learned while I living in Spain was to always go for the lunch menu because they are usually around 10-12 euros and include drinks (wine, coke…) three courses and coffee. If you find a standard decent place to eat then the food will be fresh and of really good standard.

I was sad to say Adios to Barcelona but excited for our next stop, Motril a sea side resort close to Alicante which was now only 5 1/2 hours away!

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Gaudi, Picasso…in Barcelona we all become ledgends

It is strange, seldom when you live in a city do you fully appreciate it for the things which the tourist fly thousands of miles to see. How many times do you venture to Westminster to admire the Houses of Parliament? Or do you make the trip up the hill to see the Sacre Coeur and the great vistas of Paris which the Cathedral enjoys? As a New Yorker do you venture up the Empire State Building often? Or make your way to the Great Wall if you live in Beijing?Playing, shopping,competing, partying, sleeping. Dramas and laughter. Sometimes a city is just a frame for the bigger picture,friends, networks and communities- invisible to the world and to Google.We engulf ourselves in humanity and the everyday. Are we mistaken to do this and do we lack culture and appreciation? Indeed, home is where the heart is, so I will start off with what made my heart beat stronger and what fueled my passions and my rages in this city of sun, dust and wine.

Barcelona. Countless parties, countless faces and memories. Some fade and yet others never will. I miss it and yet as it is part of me I will take it wherever I go. I remember the Hard Rock Cafe and the flocks of people when leaving the Nou Camp. Godo, Barcelona’s tennis open where a famous tennis player asked me out. Chupito, the shot bar, where we would order the “Monica Lewinsky” for the most extroverted ones of our group.The face of the tennis academy owner when he walked into the nightclub Shoko and saw 28 of his underage pupils dancing on the bar and

smoking.

Our beach parties, the Starbucks in Plaza Catalunya and the L95, the bus which we would wait hours for and curse when we had missed the last one after a night out. Port Olympic and its tiny English cinema – the only place to watch a film for the first 6 months for lack of language. El Bosc de les Fades, the fairytale wood, a bar decorated to look like an enchanted forest.

La Obeja Negra, the black sheep – sangria and pop corn, a fantastic mix. I remember the blue of the sky and the red of the Earth, the heat and the dry palm trees. The leathers and the dark browns, the dark hair. The loudness of the voices and the smells of the drains. Las Ramblas, magical, alive with birds, portraits and grotesque statues.

My firs trip to the magnificent mind blowing Parc Guele designed by Gaudi, when we raced each other up the stairs to the top. When we almost got run over crossing the boulevard Paseig de Gracia and the Ronaldinho look alikes who played tricks with a football along las Ramblas.

Late nights and excruciating hangovers. The Gothic quarter, and the beautiful woman who sang or maybe still sings in the square. The courtyards, and the great tapas restaurant which we found when we got lost trying to find the Picasso Museum.

Four years, and not once inside the Sagrada Familia and not once to Montjuic. Once to Plaza Espana, on a date to see the sun set and the waterfalls change color. What I would give now to see inside that Cathedral, now that I am more than 1,000 miles away. We have returned now, to see what we have missed.

Sitges Carnaval – Party Time

This is the ultimate party and one of the biggest carnival’s in Europe. On the most popular days you will find more than 300,000 party goers dancing on the major streets across the town.In the gay and lesbian stronghold the atmosphere is very shrill and eccentric, and the parade is unique. In Sitges, the Carnival has been celebrated for over 100 years. Bring your own alcohol and have a drink whilst watching the parades and floats go by. Then, after all is finished, party until the early hours of the morning. We did, it was crazy. My friend partied so hard he split his trousers. Too much grinding and tight hunting trousers = not a good combo!

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Part of the fun is getting ready!

The carnival begins in Spain with “Dirty Thursday”, in Barcelona this day is called Jueves Ladero – Greasy Thursday, or Dijous Gras in Catalan. This day is dedicated to the “Vice” and is celebrated with many festivals in which vast amounts are eaten.

The weekend belongs to the Carnival Guilds. Highlight is the Gran Rue, the big carnival Parade (see below) with loads of colourful decorated carriages and carnival Groups.

On Ash Wednesday the carnival comes to an end with the funeral of the sardine. The King of Carnival dies and is buried in his grave in a funeral cortège, accompanied by his widow and companions – the colourful costumes are appropriately exchanged to black mourning clothes. The Part is dead! Long live the party… 😉

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