Yes, fall has been felled. But, in my view that gives us outdoor photographers yet more opportunities to create. You really have to love the quality of light with the sun so much lower in the sky. (Well, for many of us–apologies to my Southern Hemisphere friends!)
And, the bonus: We don’t have to get up so early to be there and square with our tripods for sunrise!
A caveat…What this is NOT: A list of must-see tourist sights as you pass through town on your way to your 3,000 passenger Mediterranean cruise ship. No…Sagrada Familia, the Picasso Museum, and Park Güell will not be mentioned here.
You can get plenty of information about these and other popular and well-known sites and sights in Barcelona simply by asking la Sra. Google.
Instead, what follows are places you could visit once you have ticked off the standard tourist attractions–or, if you are simply interested in seeing Barcelona one layer down, a bit below the obvious and well-trammeled.
These are some of the unusual little places, most not-so-well-known that, for me, give Barcelona such depth of personality. Most will not be seen by your average tourist unless they happen to serendipitously bumble upon them…
In no particular order, we have:
—Pastisseria Barcelona, Aragó, 228 (original) and a new locale at Via Augusta, 166 – The desserts here are authentic works o’ fine art which you will definitely want to photograph before you bite into them. You might even find yourself getting a little teary-eyed and emotional as you watch the running videos above the counter of the talented Josep Maria Rodríguez Guerola as he creates them, so delicate and sensitive is he with his myriad specialty tools and delicious materials. He won the World Cup Pastry Competition in 2011 with his dessert art–the first time anyone in Spain had ever earned that award–and he was a mere 25-years-old or so when he did it. He is now a new and proud father.
—El Ingenio, Carrer d’en Rauric, 6 – This unique place was almost no more in 2015/2016, but managed to survive thanks to last-minute efforts by a family member. Their website says: “El Ingenio (the “Creative Genius” maybe?) is an icon of popular culture. It is an establishment with 179 years of uninterrupted history in the heart of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona dedicated to creating and selling giant heads, masks, stage props, circus articles, and a long list of products related to play, games, and the dramatic arts.” Go there and buy something–keep them in business and revel in the Catalan “Big Head” tradition!
—Casa Beethoven, La Rambla, 97 – This small store has been selling sheet music, musical scores, musical instruments, and other related gift items since 1880. A must-visit for the musician in the family. You’ll find it right next to the Palau de la Virreina / Centre de la Imatge (worth visiting in its own right), between Metro stops Plaça de Catalunya and Liceu as you stroll back and forth among the hordes, flowers, and human statues along La Rambla.
—Granja La Pallaresa, Carrer de Petritxol, 11 – Established in 1947, they have the best chocolate and churros in town! On a chilly winter’s eve, this is mo-definitely the place to warm up! The chocolate they give you for dipping your churros into is so luscious and creamy-thick the spoon darn near stands up vertical in the cup all by itself…and whipped cream on top o’ that…aaahhhh, this is definitely the place for the choco-cream addict! There is another, similar, place just down the alley at Petrixol, 2. It’s called Granja Dulcinea, established in 1941. It is probably just as good but I can’t personally vouch for it. So, hey…maybe try them both!?
—Gavineteria Roca, Plaça del Pi, 3 – Since 1911, this shop has offered up all manner of cutting tools, knives, scissors, shaving gear, and so on, as well as other kitchen gadgets. If it cuts, they have it. If they don’t, it doesn’t exist. Their storefront catches the eye of nearly every passerby and this facade alone is certainly worth a long pause, perusal, and photograph or two.
—La Basílica Galería, Passeig de Gràcia, 26 – A new location–they were in the Gothic Quarter until recently. This shop is basically a museum of contemporary art. As their website says: “The Basílica Galería is a cabinet of curiosities. In addition to contemporary jewelry, photography, art, and accessories…it is also the largest perfume exhibit in the world with more than a thousand fragrances.” A unique and sometimes bizarre display of pretty things that is worth a long browse.
—Museu de l’Eròtica, La Rambla, 96 bis – This one is actually fairly well-known, so maybe it should be on some mainstream tourist list rather than on my “alternative” list? That is, unless you are a frigid and guilt-ridden Puritan…or Catholic…or Jew…or Muslim…or adherent to any number of the world’s guilt-inducing philosophies or religions. OK, rant over. Since you will likely visit the wonderful and way over-crowded market, La Boqueria, along La Rambla anyway you might as well stop in here, too, as it is just across the street. From their website, the museum is… “a passionate voyage through the world of eroticism and its representation in art, as seen in the 800 plus pieces which make up our collection. Sensuality, sexuality, provocation… Fun! The museum you can’t miss.”
—The Ice Bar, Paseo Marítimo, 38 A – This is right on the beach. Take the Metro, yellow Line 4, and climb out at Ciutadella/Vila Olimpica, then walk 5-10 minutes toward the sea. Bring your jacket–or they will hand you one! It’s like walking into the guts of a glacier, but with bartenders and lots of the beautiful people. Currently, it will cost an adult 17.50 Euros to get in, kids between 5 and 12 are 8 Euros, and tots under 5 are free. This price includes jacket and gloves. Check out some of the pics and their FAQs at their website: Icebarcelona.
—Montjuic Cemetary, on the SW side of Montjuic, the hill by the port – A most interesting place to stroll and pensively peruse the tombstones and plaques. There is no cost to enter. Photography is technically not allowed, but it is hard to resist when no one is about and you come across a gloriously ornate and decorated gypsy tomb. Some famous folks are buried here, like the artist Joan Miró, the urban planner (Eixempla) Ildefons Cerdà, and the politicians Francesc Macià and Lluís Companys (and my mother-in-law, Carme Fusté). Check in at the information station at the entrance for advice on what to see. You can peruse more info, cemetery hours, and so an at their website HERE.
—The Bunkers of Carmel, in the hills above Barcelona – Dating from the Spanish Civil War, this is the place to go to see the remains of an anti-aircraft site and troop barracks, as well as to get a wonderful and romantic panoramic view of the city and the sea. Movie scenes and commercials have been filmed here (Tengo Ganas de Ti). It certainly won’t be as crowded as Park Guell. In fact, you might find yourself surrounded by more locals than tourists. Bring a sandwich (entrepà), a camera, and have yourself a sunset picnic with your significant lover. To get there, you’ll need to hike uphill a few minutes in the vicinity of the Parc del Guinardó. Let Google Maps be your guide and search for “Búnquers del Carmel Barcelona“. There is no fee or entrance station of any kind–it is always accessible.
Yep, they did it. The Catalan government voted to declare independence.
No one knows where this goes now. It’s all uncharted territory, as everyone is saying.
We could hear the sounds of the police helicopter overhead last night as enthusiastic Catalans gathered outside the Generalitat at the city’s center. The chopper was just keeping an eye in the sky on things, I guess.
–Remove and replace the Catalan President, Vice President, Chief of Police, Ministers, and perhaps other high officials of the Catalan government
–Call new elections for December 21st, 2017
As far as life on the street goes, it all seems pretty normal. I can still get my chocolate-filled croissants from the corner bakery, and I still plan on climbing at Montserrat on Sunday. It does look like there will be an anti-independence protest today and I am sure we will see more pro-independence protests at some point as well.
But, I wouldn’t expect any serious violence at all. Both the European Union and the Catalans don’t want that. The latter have always tried to keep this movement tranquil and peaceful over these past years, albeit with constant vocal and popular pressure against the central Spanish government.
There are really no guns around, so its not like there will be an armed insurrection any time soon and no one really expects anything like that. If you have plans to travel to Barcelona, I wouldn’t change them–just don’t step in between the police in riot gear and a crowd wrapped in Catalan flags if you happen upon such an unusual scene. Most anywhere you go you should be fine.
(Not-so-random factoid and violence comparison: Somewhere around 11,000 Americans are killed by guns every year–and there isn’t even a revolution going on there. Folks here cannot even begin to wrap their Mediterranean heads around that statistic and they figure America to be a way more dangerous place to visit.)
At least, that is what I have taken to saying to my friends.
From Trump’s Great and Wonderful America, we have moved to Barcelona for the foreseeable future. And the times…well…they are interesting here, too.
Two Catalan officials have been jailed for sedition, the Spanish Police came down somewhat excessively during the recent non-binding (and illegal, according to the Madrid government) independence referendum, and now Rajoy & Co. are invoking the never-yet-exercised Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution in order to take control of the Catalan regional government.
Where this ends is anyone’s guess.
It seems to me that the only way to really put this whole thing to bed for a siesta would be to hold a real and binding Scottish-style independence referendum in Catalunya (something Madrid so far has absolutely refused to do). Yes, it would be a risk for Madrid…yes, it might prompt other European regions to ask for the same thing, causing a cascade effect…but it is not entirely clear that the result would be “Sí!”. Polls seem to indicate a fairly even split between those opposed and those in favor of Catalunya as a separate nation.
The debate would almost certainly be harsh with all kinds of rhetoric, including outright lies, emotional appeals, wringing of hands, twitching of eyebrows, and so on.
At the same time, Catalunya would need to carry out some serious preparation with the European Union to assure a smooth and quick transition into that community in the case of a “Sí!” vote. This, in order to avoid a huge disruption in the financial sector (to date, some 1,000 businesses have apparently re-registered their headquarters outside of Catalunya due to the recent unrest–although some Catalans say, at least in part, at the urging of Madrid).
So, we had yet another massive (450,000 people) protest today. Here are a few images from the tiny Sony RX100iv point-and shoot…
Note the symbols here–the unofficial Catalan flag of independence with its solitary star, the yellow ribbons, the Tweety Bird (symbol of pacifism against agression?). The political prisoners referred to in the signs are the “two Jordis”, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez (Jordi is George, or Jorge in Spanish), who were both apparently involved in organizing these large independence protests. They are being held without bail by the Spanish government and are accused of the crime of sedition:
These protests are often a family affair, with grandparents, kids, folks of all ages out on the street dressed in the Catalan colors. What I don’t see a lot of? People of color, recent immigrants, etc., of which there are a high number in the region. Perhaps they don’t feel like this is their fight? Or perhaps they are simply content to be part of Spain?
Sometimes the crowd would grow hush and everyone would raise their hands–’twas amazing to “hear” the silence of thousands of protesters–then the clapping and slogan-shouting would begin anew. A “Llibertat Jordis” (Freedom Jordis) sign is just visible left of center:
There were odd juxtapositions at times…here, modern consumer society and a street protest merge on Passeig de Gràcia:
Those big white rings are handcuffs basically asking, ‘Is this Really a Spanish Democracy?’ The poster depicts Franco, the Spanish dictator from 1936 to his death in 1975 (a fellow fascist chum of Hitler) and it reads, “This dead man is very alive”, a reference to what the Catalans view as fascist tendencies on the part of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the national government. Indeed, Rajoy’s center-right political party, the Partido Popular (PP), can trace its lineage back to former members of the Franco regime:
Many very young folks were at the protest. Are they being sold a costly bill of excessive and unrealistic expectations, without understanding the huge list of technical and economic details such independence would necessarily imply?
Whenever the chopper from the Spanish police would fly over, everyone would flip the bird toward the heavens and shout (as if the helicopter pilot could hear!):
A giant “senyera”, or Catalan independence flag is unfurled, then furled:
Here is a close-up of the handcuffs (esposos). The small sign reads, “Europe, when will you apply Article 7 to Spain to avoid abuses of power against Catalonia?” Article 7 is a European Union provision designed to curb human rights abuses by EU member countries, the threat being sanctions and loss of EU voting rights. So far, the EU has the official position that the Catalonia crisis is an internal issue for Spain to resolve:
This could be it: Hanging Lake, just a few minutes drive east of Glenwood Springs.
You have easy, quick access off of I-70, and about three miles of hiking (total, round trip).
You DO need to be in something better than Standard American Couch Potato Condition, however, as you climb over 1,000 vertical feet in just over a mile. Then you come back down. If you just came from sea level, you might even find the walk challenging, asphyxiating even. Plan on 2-3 hours for the adventure.
Wear supportive footwear as the trail is rough and rocky in places.
Also, be aware that you’ll have to backtrack a bit on the Interstate before you can motor east toward Denver again, if that is your intended direction of travel.
I chose a beautiful autumn day to finally stop and check out Hanging Lake. I can’t believe a have never stopped before…
A small shelter you’ll find along the trail (off limits, however). The autumn changing of the leaves was in full swing and turned the walk into an idyllic odyssey:
You follow beautiful Dead Horse Creek (what a contradictory name, eh!?) as you climb. This is a hand-held image with the Sony RX100iv…that’s right, no tripod was harmed in its making. The key is to snap maybe ten photos at various slow shutter speeds–brace on something if you can (or against the stretched out camera strap on your neck as I did), hold your breath, and gently squeeze the trigger. With luck, at least one will come out sharp and not blurred from camera movement. This one was taken at 1/5 of a second:
A lone cloud hangs over the narrow slot canyon:
The actual Hanging Lake is really more of a pond–but a very attractive one with ribbons of water pouring in from all sides. In the early spring this must be roaringly spectacular. In winter, it must be a quiet paradise of vertical snow and ice. Another hand-held image, this one at 1/8 of a second:
Ah, the warmth of autumn colors–but the air was dry and crisp:
Another, wider, view of Hanging Lake. I spotted trout in the pond–how did they get there?
Just because you might be a bit tired and shagged out from your prolonged walk, don’t blow off the short (five minutes, I promise!) trail to Spouting Rock, just above Hanging Lake. The water pours out of a hole in the cliff above and is almost more interesting than the Lake itself:
On the way back down–they made me pose:
Dead Horse Creek detail:
A view of the main Glenwood Canyon, the Colorado River, and the railroad tracks:
These two showed up since my last visit to the Old Pueblo. And there are apparently six or eight more I need to locate…
This masterpiece, near 6th Street and Stone, was painted earlier this summer by Joe Pagac, a cycling enthusiast and, obviously, a very talented mural artist. Go to his Kickstarter page HERE for more details and the thoughts behind his imagery:
Across the street from Joe’s mural is the old Tucson Warehouse building, a structure I’ve always admired for its classic signage on the roof (unfortunately, due to storm damage, missing all but the wheels of the Mayflower moving truck). As of the summer of 2016, thanks to the Tucson Mural Arts Program, it has been adorned with a new and impressive work called “Goddess of Agave”, by Cristina Perez.
2016 Black & White Magazine, Spotlight Award Winner! (Issue: June, 2017, #121)
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