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The painting rises from the brushstrokes as a poem from the words. Barcelona through the eyes of Miró

Barcelona native Joan Miró is one of the key artists of twentieth century. He created a unique visual language that had a decisive influence on the people of Barcelona and Catalonia; leaving a legacy that still influences people in- and outside the art world today. Follow in his footsteps and see the city of Barcelona through the eyes of the young Miró, part 1.

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Born on April 20, 1893 Joan Miró i Ferrà first lives in a small passage way off Carrer de Ferran, Passatge del Crèdit, 4, Barcelona, near Plaça Sant Jaume. Miró’s parents Dolors Ferrá i Oromí (of Majorcan descent) and Miquel Miró Adzerias, a watchmaker and silversmith with his own store in Carrer de Ferran, notice his creative talent from an early age. Joan has an overwhelming urge to be creative, he is always busy making or drawing something. To stimulate his passion for the arts Miró’s parents send him to a private primary school in Carrer del Regomir 13, where the drawing lessons by Mr Civil become the driving force to keep him in school. Miró does not like his formal training much, when asked he describes himself as a poor student.

Also during his secondary school years at Instituto Provincial de Segunda Enseñanza de Barcelona ( Historical Building of the University, Plaça de la Universitat,Barcelona) Miró has a natural tendency to slack off and look for things he found more interesting. He was diagnosed as hyperactive, as he showed a severe lack of concentration in the study. Later he commented on this by saying that he wasn’t the least bit interested in studying; besides being easily distracted, he had difficulties to submit to the required discipline.

To the dislike of his parents Miró drops out of secondary school in the final year. Only 14 years old he leaves formal education without the usual Bachelor degree. What was obvious to Miró, becomes clear to his parents too. Miró desperately wants to be a painter. As his family did not have much confidence in the economic value of the Catalan art market, Miró’s artistic desires were delayed for several years.

Miró’s parents resolve to enrol him in the School of Commerce in Barcelona to brighten his chances. In defiance of his father wishes he registers himself as well at the School of Arts and Crafts and Fine Arts the Llotja, Passeig Isabel II, 1, 08003 Barcelona, where he first studies landscape art with Modest Urgell Inglada (1907-1909) and later decorative arts with Josep Pascó Merisa (1908 to 1910).

In 1909 Santiago Segura opens The Faianç Català (Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 615), a gallery that promotes avant-garde art or “Noucentisme”. Miró often attends exhibitions there. In the Faianç Català slipstream the satirical magazine “Papitu” appears, with illustrations by ‘Apa’ Aragay Gray Junoy, Can, Nonell, Pidelaserra, among others. It became the favourite magazine of Miró and many other Catalan artists.

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To please his parents he starts to work in 1910 as an unpaid trainee bookkeeper at the hardware and chemicals firm Establecimientos Dalmau Oliveres (now Edosa) at the junction of Carrer de la Princesa with Vía Laietana, 08003 Barcelona. Very unhappy with his job, Miró falls ill and catches typhoid fever. His family sends him to Mont-roig del Camp in the province of Tarragona, to recuperate, a determining moment in his development as an artist.

On July 20th 1911, he exhibits for the first time a painting at the “VI Exposición Internacional de Arte” in Barcelona organised by Barcelona’s town hall in the (now demolished) Palau de Belles Arts / Museum Palace of Fine Arts on the corner of Passeig de Lluís Companys and Passeig de Pujades. This first exhibition gives Miró the push he needs. He decides to devote himself entirely to painting. In 1912 his parents allow him to attend the Francesc Galí Art School (Carrer de la Cucurulla, 4, 08002 Barcelona) operated by the architect Francesc Gali. Francisco Galí took a liking to Miró and not only became his mentor in modern art, but also installed in Miró a love for the modernist architecture of Barcelona and the buildings of Antoni Gaudí.

Galí saw that Miró was struggling to draw from life and advised him to touch the objects he was about to draw with his eyes shut so he could understand the spatial quality of objects, although Miró’s inability to draw was well compensated by his sense of colour and form. During his whole working life Miró stayed more passionate about colour and discovering form than drawing the academic way. At the Francesc Galí Art School he teams up with Joan Prats, Josep Francesc Ràfols, Enric Cristòfol Ricart.

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From 1913 on he also frequents El Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc (Carrer de Montsió, 3, 08002 Barcelona) located in the same building as the former Els Quarte Gats, a cafe, cabaret and a buzzing gathering place in the early 1900s frequented by intellectuals and artists, Picasso among them. Until its closure in 1903 (due to bad financial management) Els Quarte Gats was one of the artistic and cultural epicentres of Barcelona.

In 1916 Miró meets art dealer Josep Dalmau, who shows an interest in his work. Josep Dalmau was a gallery owner and promoter of the arts, but also a visionary who organised international avant-garde exhibitions in his gallery on the Carrer de la Portaferrissa, 18, 08002 Barcelona, a gallery he managed from 1911 to 1923. In the same year Miró rents a studio with Enric Cristòfol Ricart at Carrer de Sant Pere Més Baix, 15, 08003 Barcelona, which they share until 1918.

After a stint in the army, Josep Dalmau puts on Miró’s first solo exhibition at Galeries Dalmau from February 16th-March 3rd 1918. Made up of almost two hundred works, the sixty paintings and around 140 drawings reveal Miró’s Catalan roots and his a special sensibility for colour and volume and eye for reality. “Everything is contained in reality” Miró writes to his friend Ricart.
Unfortunately not one of Joan Miró’s works was sold. The 1918 exhibition was a controversial one and people considered his art work the work of a madman and fool. Later that year he becomes a member of the innovative “Agrupació Courbet”, an artistic group named after the artist Gustave Courbet,  formed in 1918 by Josep Llorens Artigas and Josep Francesc Ràfols. United in their quest for renewal in the spirit of modernity the Courbet Group became the precursor of the Catalan avant-garde movement of the twenties.

In 1919 Miró participates in several exhibitions of the Courbet Group in Barcelona, in Galerías Layetanas, Gran Vía de las Cortes Catalanas, 613, de Barcelona and  the “Exposició Collectiva de l’Agrupació Courbet” at Palau de Belles Arts on the corner of Passeig de Lluís Companys and Passeig de Pujades. In summer of 1919 he stays in Montroig and plans his trip to Paris, disillusioned by the vicious jokes and attacks on his work. His dream is to succeed as an artist in Barcelona, ​​but he fails in the attempt. Miró realises that Barcelona does not have the right market for his modern, innovative art. He decides to go to Paris and is determined to exhibit in the more cosmopolitan Paris. In 1919 he reaches an agreement with Josep Dalmau to give up all his work in exchange for an exhibition in Paris. The Courbet group dissolves when several members leave for Paris. Agrupació Courbet briefly regroups as Els Especulatius or the Speculators; members include Picasso and Miró.

Late February 1920 he makes his first trip to Paris,“I feel a new world opening up in my mind.” Before he leaves he visits the mother of Picasso, a friend of his mother, who gives him a cake to take to her son. On the 2nd of March 1920 he meets Picasso. Picasso encourages Miró to follow his own path and helps him out whenever he can. He buys his paintings and introduces him to art dealers without much effect. When Josep Dalmau delays the promised exhibition in Paris several times as well, the disappointment is too much for Miró. He returns to Catalonia and Montroig to paint.

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In the spring of 1921 it is back to Paris. Josep Dalmau pulls it off this time. Miró’s first one-person show opens on the 29th April at the Gallery La Licorne, in the rue de la Boétie. In spite of some positive reviews, it was a commercial failure. In June Miró returnes to Barcelona and Montroig to begin his most ambitious painting to date, The Farm. Miró’s early masterpiece captivated Ernest Hemingway so much that he wants to buy the work. The story goes that Ernest Hemingway won the right to buy The Farm with a high-stakes game of dice, although the seller Evan Shipman, an American exchange student and a regular at the atelier of Miró at Rue Blomet, only recalls a simple toss of the coin. Hemingway did not win, but a generous Shipman allowed him to buy the work for 3,500 francs (about $175). Hemingway was happy with the purchase and he and Miró remained lifetime friends.

For Miró The Farm represents life and his Catalan roots. “The Farm is a résumé of my entire life in the country. We Catalans believe that if you put your feet firmly on the ground you may jump higher each year. The fact I come down to earth from time to time makes it possible for me to jump higher.”

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1. Miró was born here in the attic apartment, Passatge del Crèdit, 4, 08002 Barcelona, now part of the Rialto hotel on Carrer de Ferran, 42.
2. His father had a shop on Carrer de Ferran, 08002 Barcelona
3. School of Arts and Crafts and Fine Arts – the Llotja- Passeig Isabel II, 1, 08003 Barcelona
4. Chemicals firm Establecimientos Dalmau Oliveres (now Edosa) was located at the junction of Carrer de la Princesa with Vía Laietana, 08003 Barcelona.
5. El Palacio de las Bellas Artes or the Palace of Fine Arts was a multipurpose building in Barcelona, located on the corner of Passeig de Lluís Companys and Passeig de Pujades, opposite the Ciudadela Park. Built for the Universal Exhibition of 1888, it was damaged during the civil war and demolished in 1942.
6. Francesc Galí Art School on Carrer de la Cucurulla, 4, 08002 Barcelona can be found near Font de Santa Anna, Barcelona’s oldest fountain built in 1356 and located at the junction between Carrer de Cucurulla and Avinguda del Portal de l’Àngel.
7. Els 4Gats, Carrer de Montsió, 3, 08002 Barcelona. Els 4Gats could be found on the groundfloor of Casa Martí, the modernist building designed by the Barcelona architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Casa Martí still is testament of the modernist movement in Barcelona.
8. El Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc moved to Palau Mercader, its new headquarters in 2009. Parc de Can Mercader, Ctra. de l’Hospitalet, s/n, 08940 Cornellà de Llobregat, Barcelona
9. The Faianç Català , Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 615, 08007 Barcelona, building unfortunately demolished.
10. The gallery of Josep Dalmau was located on Carrer de la Portaferrissa, 18, 08002 Barcelona.
11. Together with Enric Cristòfol Ricart Miró rents a studio at Carrer de Sant Pere Més Baix, 15, 08003 Barcelona.

Tapantoni invites you to tapear (eat tapas) till you drop in the neighbourhood of St. Antoni

Tapatoni, the tapas route through the Barcelona neighbourhood of Sant Antoni, is back from from 13 to 29 November. Tapear is the Spanish verb for having some tapas. The tapa is an appetiser (not a snack, not quite a meal, although it can become one) that involves ordering a parade of little dishes to share over a drink, making it a very social think to do while in Barcelona.

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Tapantoni takes place during three weeks in spring and autumn and started out as a gastronomic initiative to suit every budget. In this sixth edition of Tapantoni 39 establishments invite you into their world of tapas offering a tapa and a drink for only €2.50, or, a special Tapantoni menu priced at €25. A word of advice though. At the start of your Tapantoni first decide what kind of role tapas are going to play on your menu. Some tapas can be very delicious and you can easily get carried away eating too many. Are you going to tapear for a pre-dinner drink, eat no more than three tapas. If the tapas are going to replace dinner at least five or six tapas are needed, or ask for bigger portions.

Besides eating, Tapantoni also invites you to take a walk through the San Antonio neighbourhood. I can assure you that it will be interesting experience as Sant Antoni often slips under the tourist radar, despite the fact that for the Barcelonese Sant Antoni is home to some of most popular local eating establishments. Prepare yourself for both hole-in-the-wall places, as well as more chic restaurants in the neighbourhood.

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Establishments participating in this autumn’s Tapantoni are:
Anardi restaurant, Bar bodega Chiqui, Bar Casa Balnca, Bar Pothos, Bracafè, Cafè Bar Merquén, Cafeparís, Cafeteria-Xurreria Forn d’En Pau, Ca la Jadi, Caravela Gourmet, Catavins, El Caliu Bar, El Duende, El Rebost de Sant Antoni, El 20 metros, Es Tastet, Fàbrica Moritz Barcelona, Fleca Barot, Gelateria Sirvent de la Ronda, Hamburgueseria La Lia, idò D.O. Balears, Jovani & Vins, La Bodega d’En Rafel, Lambicus, La Chirusa, L’Industrial, La Terrassa de l’Aiguajoc, Nostàlgic, Nostrebar, Nou Ambiente del Sur, OchoBCN, Passatge Tainos, Petit Ballet Restaurant, Racó de Manso, Rekons, Restaurante Mateo’s, Restaurant Terra Mar, Tootsie i Vinòdrom.

The autumn edition of Tapantoni also features a contest in which customers can vote for the establishment that offered the best tapas and best menu. All you have to do is to fill in a form provided by the participating establishments.

Website Tapantoni

Let the good times roll, Barcelona does look better on roller skates

Barcelona’s roller skating scene is alive and kicking and it has the yearly festival Skate Love Barcelona to prove it. Held annually in September, Skate Love Barcelona will be showcasing the passion, music and energy of Barcelona’s fun loving, multicultural and thriving roller skating community.

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This year Skate Love Barcelona is going to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest roller skate dance routine: the roller skates ‘candy dance’ on Badalona’s beach promenade. Skate Love Barcelona will also offer day and night-time roller skating sessions, workshops, kids’ activities and more. Saturday night will be the cherry on the cake. You can skate the night away at the Skate Love Disco, with DJs, surprises, performances, great prizes and the best skate beats. Get ready for some rolling craziness! Skate Love Disco takes place on September, 19 2015 at 21:00 hours or 9 PM at Up&Down, c/ Dr. Marañón 17, Barcelona.

When in Barcelona and want to rock and roll on roller skates join one of Barcelona’s skating communities.

The Roller Dancers
Barcelona Roller Dance, founded by Michelle Barrios in 2011, is a organization created in Barcelona to promote skate dancing as a sport (locally and internationally), and, as a a way of personal expression, where skating, dancing, design and music combine. The group meets every Sunday afternoon, either near the Hotel W beach area or along the Badalona beach front (in front of the Pont del Petroli). Whoever comes, they never fail to attract a crowd with their impressive moves. Skate Love Barcelona has a facebook page. BCN Roller Dance and is also the organiser of the Skate Love Barcelona festival, for more info, program etc…

The Roller Derby Players
Founded in 2010 by a group of adventurous women Barcelona Roller Derby is the first roller derby league in Catalunya. Roller derby is a contact sport where two teams of five members roller skate in the same direction around a track. The best way to learn about roller derby is to watch roller derby. Come to a game or two, and you’ll get the hang of it or ask a fan to explain you the rules and often aggressive tactics. The Barcelona Roller Derby team trains three times a week, doesn’t get paid or hires a trainer, they each and train each other. If you became so enthusiastic that you also want to start playing for Barcelona Roller Derby, you have to show your skills and pass a minimum skill set test. More info BCN Roller Derby

The Street Rollers
If you are in Barcelona on Friday night you might see them taking over the streets. Every Friday night APB, a non-profit organisation, hosts free guided tours through the city’s paved labyrinths. The roller tours are organised by a staff of APB skaters, volunteers known as ‘Stoppers’ (wearing yellow or orange vests), who are authorized by the mayor’s office to interrupt traffic and oversee the skaters’ security. To keep the group compact all skaters need a good condition and basic skills to keep up with the rest. Skaters must be able to maintain a minimum speed and control spin, as well as brake correctly, climb and descend curbs, turn, and independently avoid obstacles. For those not yet ready to participate in the Friday tour ABP also offers a free beginners class on Tuesday evenings at 9.30 PM in the “Passeig Garcia Faria” . More info ABP roller skaters

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And, not to forget, the International Roller Skating Federation (FIRS) has announced that Barcelona will host the first combined FIRS world championships, the Roller Games in 2017. The World Roller Games will be a very spectacular event gathering for the first time in one city the world championships of ten roller disciplines:
1. artistic, roller figure skating, including singles, pairs, dance, figure, and precision, 2. speed, 3. rink hockey, 4. inline hockey, 5. roller freestyle, 6. skateboarding, 7. inline freestyle, 8. inline downhill, 9. inline alpine, 10.roller derby.

Vine gem with tasty tapas in the heart of El Born, La Vinya del Senyor is the classic wine lovers bar

A wine bar with the name La Vinya del Senyor (the vine of the lord) carries a promise that is enhanced by it’s location just in front of the church of Santa Maria del Mar. No vineyards here, only the fruits of the vine in a bottle, served in a cute wine bar with a small terrace in the shadows of the church.

In summer you just sit down on the terrace order a cool glass of cava or white wine and watch the world pass by on one of the most enchanting squares of El Born. If you are lucky you might even see a the joyful wedding party. As one of the most nicely preserved examples of the Catalan Gothic style, Santa Maria del Mar is very much in demand for weddings, mainly on Saturdays.

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In winter the tiny bar inside, on the ground floor of an ancient building, is your best option. There’s a table upstairs (the curved, kind of rickety stairs take you up to a small mezzanine) for those who want to sample by the bottle rather than the glass or want to stick their head outside on the first floor terrace for some people-watching.

With a wine list as long as a medium size book this wine lovers bar gives you a lot to choose from. The wide variety of 350-400 wines on the wine list and a changing two-weekly selection of 20 wines by the glass doesn’t make things easier. On the other hand, the waiters are highly knowledgeable and help to pick the perfect wine to suit your taste, mood or budget. The price per glass might be a bit more expensive than a general bar in Barcelona, and some special wines only go per bottle, yet La Vinya del Senyor presents you with the opportunity to sample lot’s of different wines at your own leisurely pace.

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There is a small selection of tasty tapas, if you want something to nibble on. We loved the selection of cheeses, the bread with olive oil and rock salt, as well as cold cuts like salami. Also available is the Catalan’s favourite Coca, a bread dough with a little oil (similar to a pizza base or flat bread) called Coca. Coca amb Recapte is so Catalan that it has an IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) status. Rumoured to be of Arab or Roman origin, the Coca was prepared for celebrations because it is easy to share and eat at any time without using cutlery.

“Recapte” means all or anything referring to the diversity of the ingredients, like pepper and / or aubergine, tuna, ham, egg, onion, sausage, raw sausage, sardines, olives, tomato, herring, anchovies, mushrooms, etc … but always well sprinkled with virgin olive oil. Contrary to pizza the “Coca amb Recapte or Coca de recapte” is a little “dirty”, in the sense that the ingredients are not cut and therefore will not crumble, they are mostly whole or large cuts. You also will not find ketchup or oregano on a Coca, in principle that is.

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Although La Vinya del Senyor can be crowded at night, and a place “taken” by tourists, we wholeheartedly recommend it for the great selection and quality of wines and tasty, simple tapas. Here you can soak up some of the magic of the old city of Barcelona, but at the same time don’t forget to be streetwise too.

La Vinya del Senyor
Plaça de Santa Maria, 5, 08003 Barcelona
+34 93 3103379
Metro Jaume I or Barceloneta

Summer clubbing under the stars at one of the best open air clubs in town: La Terrazza, Poble Espanyol

After all the day tourists are gone and you wander through silent Poble Espanyol, looked down upon by crowds of stars, to the open air patio of La Terrazza, La Terrazza slowly glitters to live and becomes an almost surreal experience. For the past 20 years La terrazza has been one of best (and most famous) open air clubs of Barcelona and the gazebos, lookouts and some erotic paintings on the walls certainly add to the magic of this place, as well as the chill-out area (perfect for cocktails) under the waving palm trees and the spectacular views of the city from the vantage point of Poble Espanyol.

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La Terrrazza, is accessed by the incomparable setting of Poble Espanyol, next to Plaza España. Poble Espanyol, the remake of a mock “Spanish Village” was the idea of architect Puig i Cadafalch, and later constructed as by the architects Francesc Folguera and Ramón Reventós, with the participation of Miquel Utrillo and the painter Xavier Nogués. Conceived in just 13 months for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition, to display Spanish cultural and architectural diversity, the exhibition of 117 buildings on a 49,000 m2 plot oddly enough had an expiry date of six months. However, thanks to the overall success of the exhibition they were never demolished and some of the buildings have even outlived the original ones, the buildings they were modeled upon. In Poble Espanyol the buildings are grouped together, like in a “typical model” of an Iberian village with a central square, town hall, church, restaurants and bars.

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La Terrazza justifiably prides itself on its’setting, high on the hill of Montjuic in the open air courtyard of a beautiful replica of a Balearic mansion (in this case of Majorcan descent), where a cosmopolitan crowd from all corners of the globe gather to sip cocktails and dance the night away. Music delivered by the best names in the music industry. Not surprisingly, in 2010 it ‘DJ Mag ranked it 44th in the Top 100 of the best clubs in the world.

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Now in its 20-year existence, La Terrazza celebrates its anniversary and well earned status among the 20 best top clubs of Spain with a national and international line up of DJ’s and parties. Just go to their website to see the upcoming events and order your tickets online. La terrazza is open on Fridays, Saturdays from 00.30 AM to 6.00 AM and Thursdays till 5.45 AM, only in the summer from May to October.

Discoteca La Terrrazza, Poble Espanyol
Av Francesc Ferrer Guàrdia 13 (Sants-Montjuïc), 08038 Barcelona
Tel:(+34) 934231285
Web: La Terrazza Barcelona Poble Espanyol

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Jazzy summer nights at the rooftop of Gaudi’s la Pedrera, chillin´against the backdrop of Barcelona

Now in its 15th edition, the Jazz Summer Nights at “la Pedrera” (also known as “Casa Mila”) are considered a -must see- classic in Barcelona. What’s not to love on the roof of one of Gaudi’s most iconic buildings and an emblematic setting for a live soundtrack on a warm, lazy Barcelona summer night? The magical shapes and turns of Gaudi’s chimneys against the backdrop of the amazing skyline of Catalunya’s capital will get you right in the mood for some fizz and jazz.  

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Contrary to earlier editions this year’s Nits d’Estiu (Summer Nights) will be on Friday and Saturday and no longer three nights in a row. Always betting on local performers and emerging jazzy talents, the 2015 edition has an international tone too, with several artists of international stature. Besides classic jazz, musicians will also dig into afro/latin funk, groove, flamenco and even electronic music on their sessions. The ones to watch out for are and the unpredictable Llibert Fortuny and Gary Willis on 3 and 4 July and The Threejay & David Pastor 21 and 22 August. You probably missed Myriam Swanson, who kicked off Nits d’Estiu on Juny, 19. Myriam Swanson is one of those emerging local talents. Born in Barcelona in 1978, she began her career as a teenager in Barcelona’s underground scene, an eclectic musical environment that made her fall in love with vintage rhythm n ‘blues and rock n’ roll. Myriam is a singer, songwriter and performer who is influenced by legends such as Etta James, Bessie Smith, Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald.

Summer nights include a free visit to the Espai Gaudí, a visual tour of the work of this creative legend, who left such a mark on Barcelona’s architecture. Visits are followed by a concert with a glass of cava on the roof of Gaudi’s evocative building. The concerts will take place from mid June to mid September. Click here to buy tickets… A fixed tapas menu (16 euro per person) is available at Café de la Pedrera for the ones who prefer a bite to eat.

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Program
Benjamin Herman Trio 26 and 27 June, 8.30pm
Llibert Fortuny & Gary Willis 3 and 4 July, 8.30pm
Alexis Cuadrado Quartet & Perico Sambeat 10 and 11 July, 8.30pm
Carme Canela & Joan Monné Trio 17 and 18 July, 8.30pm
Giulia Valle Trio 24 and 25 July, 8.30pm
Ofri Nehemya Quartet & Fèlix Rossy 31 July and 1 August, 8.30pm
Àrid Feat. Kathryn Christie 7 and 8 August, 8.30pm
Garcia / Richardson / Warburton Three 14 and 15 August, 8.30pm
The Threejay & David Pastor 21 and 22 August, 8.30pm
Guillem Arnedo Band & Celeste Alías 28 and 29 August, 8.30pm
JP. Derouard & Ignasi Terraza & Juli Amy Recordant a Louis 4 and 5 September, 8.30pm
Susan Sheiman Open Gate 11 and 12 September, 8.30pm

From forgotten corner to the best view of the city, the metamorphosis of El Turo de la Rovira

It is hard to imagine, standing at the top of Turó de la Rovira halfway between the modernist Hospital Sant Pau and the Park Guell, but this popular hang out with the best 360 degree views of the city was once an important locale in times of war. The silhouettes of the anti-aircraft batteries and the army barracks are silent reminders of a history that used the same vantage point to defend Barcelona from air attacks during the Civil War. Not always effective from a military point of view, they however played a deterrent role in some attacks forcing the planes to fly higher making it harder to hit precisely.

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From the start of the Spanish civil war in 1936 until 26 January 1939, when Barcelona fell to Franco’s forces, Barcelona had high hopes to resist Franco, but betrayal, infighting, air raids and bombardments led to a painful defeat followed by years of dictatorship under Franco. Catalans still consider what happened to them in the 1930s as something completely different from what happened in the rest of Spain. This “fet diferencial”, the (f)act of differentiation, makes the Catalans different in some respects from the Spanish, while it is also something that unites most Catalans. Its is simply the desire to be who you are and to be recognised for what you are on a political and historical level. Probably that’s why Turo de la Rovira’s history sparked several years of archaeological excavations and the decision of the city to refurbish it, to make it more accessible to the general public.

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In just five years time the area of Turó de la Rovira has gone from being a forgotten corner of the city to one of Barcelona’s best vantage points to see the city. No news there for the residents of the nearby neighbourhoods of Carmel, Can Baró and Salut. This was something they already knew for a long time, although if you would have visited Turo de la Rovira more than 15-20 years ago, you would have been surprised by the neglect. The area was long inhabited by poor immigrants from the South of Spain (see also Retroblog Barcelona’s post Get your Flamenco gear ready for the festive and colourful vibe of feria de abril de Catalunya). Locally the area was called as “Los Cañones” (or Guns), the shanty town part of the informal city of huts and shacks that was home to 7% of Barcelona’s population until the end of the 1950s. Sadly its long-suffering inhabitants have known many years of deprivation and neglect. Years of protest in the 1970s led to progress in the form of public toilets, garbage cans and running water. Fighting for a qualitative housing extended the life of this district until 1990, but most houses were demolished just before the 1992 Olympics. Some of their remains, like tiles and staircases, are still visible to this day.

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A few years ago groups from an international work camp tidied up the place. A mutual initiative from the Barcelona City History Museum (MUHBA), the Horta Guinardó and Carmel district in cooperation with the neighbourhood people, ignited a further rehabilitation of the Turó de la Rovira hill. The idea was to get rid of the vandalism without stripping Turo de la Rovira of its magic. Archaeological remains were documented, the last meters of the road leading to anti-aircraft batteries and the army barracks arranged and informative panels placed, telling about its history. MUHBA established a heritage site in the Tres Turons (Three Hills) Park, published two urban history guides (Defensa/BCN, 1936-1939 and Barraques/BCN,) about Rovira and organised guided tours too. The project even won the 2012 European Prize for Urban Public Space.

Since the area was first re-opened in 2011, it has risen enormously in popularity, but strange enough only got picked up late by tourists as a place to visit in Barcelona. It works mainly through word of mouth, you won’t find Turo de la Rovira in many guide books. Lately there has been an other round of renovations. The 3 main rooms of the battery have been turned into a free museum with an exhibition which details how the bunkers were used and shows how life was for military and civilians in Barcelona during after directly after the war. If most people will come for this I doubt, the main attraction has always been (and will be) the spectacular 360º views over the city. Not to be missed.

Turo de la Rovira
Carrer Turó de la Rovira / Carrer de Maria Labèrnia / Carrer de Muhlberg / Carrer Budapest / Carrer Telègraf / Carrer de Sant Joan de les Abadesses
Public Transport Metro: El Carmel (L5), Alfonso X (L4), Guinardó | Hospital de Sant Pau (L4)
Take care at night!

The anti-aircraft batteries of Turó de la Rovira, with Spanish texts:

Mantteka gives powerful reflection on contemporary reality in Spanking Projects first BCN PopUp gallery

There is always something new and exciting going on in Barcelona and today it is the opening of the first pop-up gallery of Spanking Projects featuring BCN artist Mantteka aka Xavier Puerta’s showing his potent take on the contemporary reality of Barcelona. Mantteka uses his abilities as an artist and mathematician to investigate the abstract structures that underlie reality.

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In Mantteka’s vision art must serve as a wake-up call, projecting sensations and emotions that provoke a reflection on society and our own mental architecture, including our hidden desires and calculations too. Being conscious of this make us a little more free, but also allows us to break down boundaries and conventions to address the real issues of social injustice to make a better world possible. Art, according to Mantteka, is either subversive or revolutionary and if it is not, it falls back to the category of just being decorative. He wants to shake things up, both individually and collectively, to investigate the domain of remote interaction and social organisation that distances us from our very own humanity.

Mantteka’s and the Spanking Projects PopUp gallery works as an invitation to examine the social and personal structures we use to interact with each other. Sex and politics are the two extreme poles of this interaction. The exhibition lays out an emotional journey that might take you anywhere from the intimacy of the sexual to the remote detachment of the political. The lack of human dignity, the loss of dignity especially in childhood, but also in the way that society is organised, concerns Mantteka.

To (re)discover these human values and to expose the underlying structures Mantteka uses different tools, materials and techniques to express the uniqueness of the journey in the object itself. The political pole par example is expressed in bold aerosol street art. He also adds a touch of satire and humour to his installations to reveal the sadness, passion, hatred, love, outrage, laughter we share.

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Mantteka’s works are on the very same frequency as pop-up and itinerant gallery Spanking Projects and no wonder Spanking Projects starts their first ever PopUp gallery with this versatile artist. Spanking Projects’ mission is to match-make, produce and support both street and contemporary artists who show pure passion and are authentic,“because there are so few authentic people on this earth”. Spanking Projects wants to be controversial, perhaps provocative, but always firmly rooted in the belief that not only is a better world possible, it’s our duty to awaken and take action.” The first pop-up gallery of Spanking Projects is located in the trendy Born district, next to the Born Cultural Centre. In the future other exhibitions will be popping up in other venues around Barcelona and possibly the rest of Europe, as the Spanking Projects collective want to push the boundaries through innovative collaborations “por el amor del arte”.

PopUp gallery opening May 14 at 6:00 pm till May 31 10:00 pm
Spanking Projects PopUp Gallery is in The Basement of El Rendez Vous Cocktail Bar
Carrer de la Fusina, 6
08003 (BORN) Barcelona

For the love of vintage, vintage hunting Barcelona style part 1

If you love hunting for vintage, you’re in for a treat. For retro and street fashion you really can’t beat Barcelona. Vintage is trendy in Barcelona. The backstreets of the the Raval and Gothic, and lately also the Eixample and Gracia neighbourhoods, are full of second-hand and vintage shops. It’s no wonder that vintage is thriving. And why not, amidst the economic crisis Barcelona’s residents can be quite creative.

Just cross out everything in your agenda to kick-start your vintage hunting Barcelona style, no vintage loving visitor can do without, and eat as much tapas as you can. I am sure it will be another day well spent in the bowels of this magnificent city, you’re definitely hunting in the right place. We truly love vintage! Here is part 1 of our can’t miss vintage stores:

Le Swing Vintage

Le Swing is an institution in the BCN vintage world. This boutique has cool vintage clothes likesecond-hand Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and other priceless names, all for “downgraded” prices  (still not cheap) and sells also high style accessories; sister store in El Born, Blow by Le Swing.
Carrer del Rec, 16, 08003 Barcelona

Blow

Sister store of Le Swing Vintage, high end vintage store, centred around accessories. Here you can find clothes, shoes, purses, jewellery, retro sunglasses and more.
Bonaire, 6, 08003 Barcelona

Retro City

Fun sort of place, sometimes haggling is possible. You need to browse through the merchandize, but might find some gems for reasonable prices.
Carrer dels Tallers, 23, 08001 Barcelona

Lailo

Dive into retro  feeling like a vintage Alice in Wonderland. Sometimes expensive, but unique stuff from different eras and times. Costumes can also be rented, which some theatre companies do.
Carrer de la Riera Baixa, 20, 08001 Barcelona

Lullaby

Located on the king of Vintage Street “Carrer de la Riera Baixa” in Barcelona this charming shop is well sorted, clothes are classified by periods. For accessories’ fans this store is a vice, the accessories selection is excellent against very affordable prices. In addition to clothing and accessories, Lullaby sells decorative items as well.
Carrer de la Riera Baixa, 22, 08001 Barcelona

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Loisaida

A bit off the beaten path, but a must-go, this store is simply a gem. Loved browsing in this fairly large place, rocked by music of the 1950-60’s, very good mix vintage pieces, mainly furniture and accessories, antiques, vintage toys, comics, perfume and also new clothes.
Carrer Flassaders, 42, 08003 Barcelona

It’s vermut time in Barcelona, doing vermouth (“fer vermut”) is the prelude to a typical Catalan lunch

Sometimes I have an insatiable thirst for a delicious, cold cocktail and if you fancy a bit of pre-lunch or dinner socialising too, “doing vermouth” or “fer vermut” as the people of Barcelona say, is a good way to start.

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Like its neighbour on the Mediterranean shores, Italy, Spain too is in the midst of something called a vermouth (“vermut” in Catalan) renaissance, with Barcelona and Madrid as it’s capitals. Trends pick up fast in Barcelona and blending old and new is something that Barcelona does exceptionally well, so well in fact that the ritual of meeting colleagues or friends for vermouth time gave rise to a new expression “Fer el vermut”. “Fer el vermut or “doing the vermouth” became in effect a popular saying for an afternoon of drink and snacks with friends, regardless of whether the vermut is -de facto- consumed. Contrary to some other Mediterranean countries, in Barcelona socializing centers more around local meeting places like bars than than around the classic dining table. Not surprisingly the revived interest in vermut also lead to tidal wave of vermouth-themed bars, besides renewed gastronomic interest too. Michelin-starred chefs of the likes of the Adria brothers (of El Bulli fame) have gotten in on the action by opening their own Vermutería, Bodega 1900, in 2013. Before Bodega 1900, Casa Mariol, with its funky décor and wooden barrels, was always one of the the reference points for the vermut scene in Barcelona.

In spite of its renewed popularity vermouth actually never left Barcelona. In Barcelona’s golden age before the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), vermut has been the drink of Barcelona’s bourgeoisie, while after the war it became the drink of Barcelona’s working-class. The neighbourhood of Barceloneta was the vermut place to be up to the Summer Olympics of 1992, when the city gentrified and reformed Barceloneta beyond recognition. But, on the good side of things, many bars still serve their house vermouth directly from wooden casks (though in Catalunya neither barrel-ageing nor home blending are allowed, nobody seems to care). Generally this kind of vermut serving is called “Vermut de Grifo” or vermouth on tap. Draught vermouths are part of tradition in Catalonia, where hundreds of small winemakers once produced vermouths, sometimes labelled “vino aromatizado”, on the sideline next to their normal wine or other businesses.

In Spain a certified vermouth requires a spirits licence, although in fact vermouths are fortified aromatized wines. A wine base is fortified by adding a neutral spirit (in most cases a grape brandy) and aromatized through the infusion and distillation of botanicals, including roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, and spices. Vermouth actually comes from the French pronunciation of the German wermut, which means wormword, one of the botanicals used in the production of vermouth. It is the right mix of botanicals (each brand usually uses between 50 and 80 different ingredients) that determines the aromas and flavours of a good vermouth.The colour of the vermouth does not result from colour of the basic wine, but is a result of the botanicals used. Home made vermut or “vermut casero” is usually macerated through gentle heating, either by mechanical means, or simply in demijohns through “sun and serenity” as one bar owner told me.

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In the vermut bars of Barcelona, one generally finds the sweetened, red vermouth (known as “vermut negre”). And, what is there not to like (assuming you have the appropriate legal drinking age) about the tawny-coloured liquor served up or on the rocks, with or without a squirt of soda, and garnished with an orange slice, a green olive, lemon twist or just pure, without anything? There are more than 25 brands of vermouth in Spain, the best known being Yzaguirre, Iris and Miró, all hailing from the town of Reus in Tarragona. Casa Mariol’s vermut is an artisan version, made with a base of white wine from the Macabeo grape, darkened with green walnuts and flavoured with as many as 150 aromatics, prominent among which are rosemary, thyme, orange peel and green olives.

My advice would be to go to a good vermut bar (yes, we’ll give you some of our own recommendations below) and switch between vermouth brands to find the ones you like. Or, to spend an evening doing the Vermouth cocktail test with par example four leading Spanish brands of vermouth and 4 brands from par example France, Italy or the USA. Pick your samples wisely or ask a good bartender to point you in the right direction.

In the cocktail world there has always been discussion about the classic dilemma facing cocktail lovers: is the perfect vermouth shaken or stirred? The preference for shaking or stirring has to do with a liking for fast or slow diluting of the alcoholic beverage. The end result is the more or less the same. Shaking or stirring basically gets the drink to the same temperature. If you prefer to stir it takes up to 90 seconds to get the right dilution and chilling. If shaking is your thing, it calls for more energy, but it dilutes the drink fairly quickly, the required temperature can be attained in 10 or 15 seconds. Though some people say that shaking will dilute the drink more and “bruise” the gin. It breaks the oils out of the gin and the Martini becomes cloudy, while stirring gives a clearer, sharper looking vermouth. Another variation on the same theme is the naked vermouth, where you keep all your ingredients in the freezer until you pour them straight into a chilled cocktail glass. The naked vermouth takes advantage of all the ingredients, there’s no dilution.

It’s vermouth time in Barcelona, some great classic places and new additions:

Bodega 1900
Bodega 1900 is no bar in the ordinary sense, you don’t go to Bodega 1900 only for an aperitif, there is also the more than delicious, accompanying food itself.
Carrer de Tamarit, 91, 08015 Barcelona

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Senyor Vermouth
Senyor Vermouth opened in December 2013 at the hands of Jordi Miralles, who noticed that his neighborhood (Antiga Les Corts) lacked a bar where you can enjoy different varieties of vermut, on par with some mythical appetizers. Watch out for Jordi’s collection of old Barcelona photos and cocktail siphons.
Carrer de Provença, 85, 08029 Barcelona

La Vermu
The neighbourhood of Gracia has since September 2014 a new and highly recommended vermouth bar. Start with a carefully selected vermouth, some home made chips, smoked salmon with tartar sauce or spectacular Cantabrian anchovies just to wind down the day.
Carrer Sant Domènec, 15, 08012 Barcelona

Quimet & Quimet
If do not mind standing while sipping your vermouth and love an informal and relaxed atmosphere tiny Quimet & Quimet is the place to be. With vermouth from Reus and on tap, and more than 300 wines to choose from, you are spoilt for choice. Another fact stands out as well, Quimet i Quimet is its amazing culinary offerings.
Carrer Poeta Cabanyes, 25, 08004 Barcelona

Casa Mariol
Located minutes away from the Sagrada Familia Casa Mariol produces their own excellent vermouth; a spicy, aromatic drink that comes in smart, newly designed bottles. While sipping, you can enjoy some of the best canned food (Barcelonese love this stuff, but foreigners have to get used to it), along with excellent sandwiches (called clotxes) typical of the region of Catalunya, where the vineyards are located.
Rosselló, 442, 08025 Barcelona

Winery
Les Forques, 2, 43786 Batea, Tarragona

Cala del Vermut
One of the finest spots in town that still honours the old Catalan tradition of vermut on tap, they have their own sweet, red vermouth. Especially during the hour leading up to lunch “hora del vermut” this cosy, little bar has people queuing up the street with a vermut del grifo (draft vermouth) in their hand and anchovies from L’Escala or a small plate of olives on the side.
Carrer de les Magdalenes, 6, 08002, Barcelona

If you are short on time and would like a local guide to show you a selection of the best places go to in Barcelona try  Trip4real, they organise Off the Beaten Path Vermouth Tours.