Friday, 19 August 2016

Category The Bad: Barcelona in August

10 Reasons to hate Barcelona in August

Landed in Barcelona for your August getaway? 
One piece of advice, get out!

Why? Let me count the (10) ways I hate Barcelona in August;

  1. Heat and humidity, and what it does to people. August is the hottest month of the year, so most sensible people will leave the city and head for some coastal resort with a soothing sea breeze. Those staying behind, do so at their own peril.
  2. Clerks and waiters in heat. People tend to get irate in the heat, and none less so than those bitter and resentful for being made to work in August. You will meet plenty of these poor souls when trying to order a beer or when doing some necessary shopping.
  3. Joggers in the streets. What are you thinking you masochistic lunatic?!
  4. Closed for vacation. Trying to find anything slightly out of the ordinary in August, and you’ll spend half-a-day running from closed signs to closed signs
  5. Corte Inglés. In desperation you end up in Corte Inglés trying to find that slightly out of the ordinary thing, which they eventually will not have, and you waste another hour going up and down escalators becoming increasingly agitated because people in Barcelona are oblivious to the concept “walk on the left, stand on the right”!
  6. People who are oblivious to the concept of “walk on the left, stand on the right”!
  7. Overfilled subway, bus, tram, beach, whatever! Barcelona fills up like a rush-hour subway car in Tokyo in August, and any kind of public transport can quickly turn into some kind of 21st century version of a Medieval torture chamber. The beach. I won’t even go there… No, seriously, don’t go there!
  8. Tourists. Let me get one thing straight, I am not among those locals (mainly because I am not one of them) who immediately puts on a sour face and loudly complains that the street is filled with individuals who are not 11th generation Catalan, when the summer hoards arrive. Yet I can’t help grumble each time I’m trying to find a seat at my favourite hang-outs, and they're either closed, so as not to deal with tourists, or they are filled with coconut smelling individuals who really should be somewhere else listening to Keisha.  Or, when a gang of half-naked Italians are sweating over the seats designated for the elderly and the handicapped on the bus.
  9. “Tourists go home” signs. Yes, it is a nuisance with too many tourists at once and not all of them being on their best behavior, but running around posting those signs just make you look like a Xenophobic a-hole.
  10.  Parties everywhere. Go home! It’s getting late. I am old.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Category The Bad: The closing of BarcelonaReykjavik

Barcelona Reykjavik, bakery Barcelona

Sometimes things are just too good to last. The closing of eco-bakery BarcelonaReykjavik is a recent example, leaving Barcelona less rich in fiber and variation.

Before BarcelonaReykjavik, the city was a desert of white, bland bread. Personally, I was in excellent shape, back then, running for miles through the city trying to find a bread that was a slightly darker shade of white.

When BarcelonaReykjavik opened their first bakery in El Raval my aimless bread hunts through the city stopped and my relationship with ecologic “turgidum” and “dicoccum” began. Through the years I’ve always dropped in to get a potent dosis of carbs and rich tasting baked goods.

Their downfall? Prices, I guess. Bread heavy in content, fermentation time and weight (as you normally pay bread by the gram) tends to be costly and Catalans are (in)famously stingy and not always willing to accept that quality and manual labor have a cost.

Today, the bread “apartheid” of “white only” is a thing of the past, and most neighborhoods have the darker variety, but it is truly sad to lose the original!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Category: Society - The Bad: Working in Barcelona

Working in Barcelona still has a ring of the good life about it for foreigners, and company’s promote the beachside lifestyle for all that it is worth. The ads don’t tell you the real story; that for most people working in Barcelona means a pay check so thin you can use it to slice open the can of soup you’ll have for dinner five days a week, you’ll encounter 19th century style management and a monotonous work situation with no real prospects.
So, how did it come to this?

It is about the money

It is rather sad that Barcelona is a place where you come to leave your (professional) dreams behind, not to fulfill them. I recall talking to an American friend as she was leaving Barcelona to go back to the States. She had left an executive job with a comfortable salary to live for substantially less in Barcelona, but being here to enjoy the lifestyle that the city offers more than compensated for the pay cut. Now, however, it had become too hard to hold on as expenses kept accelerating and income stalled or even slipped down. 

This was about five-six years ago, and the situation has hardly improved since then.
Unemployment is skyrocketing and It doesn't help the country that they are under the rule of the most incompetent and corrupt government in the democratic history of Spain, whose only response to the crisis is to cut pensions,  unemployment compensation and wages and raise costs for education etc. while ensuring it is business as usual for the corrupt politicians and bankers.

It is not all about the money

For people in the Northern part of Europe the impression is that the Spanish work life is all about the siesta, conveniently overlooking that the amount of hours put in are not any fewer than in Scandinavia or Germany. I would argue that systemic inefficiency and lack of incentives are key issues. Old-fashioned hierarchies dominate here. The management level in Spain receives a markedly higher percentage of salary payments of the European Union average.


In many companies in Spain there exists a mouldy, old-fashioned hierarchy with a clearly marked demarcations between employees and management levels. Often these hierarchies are rigged such that the person at the level above always takes the credit.

Many managers (high and low level) seem to confuse fear with respect whereas the two could not be further apart! I actually know of one company where the support department is run after the fashion that when the service is up to scratch, middle management lets someone go to show their superiors how efficient they run the shop. Way to keep the staff inspired!

Fear is a lock on creativity and efficiency whereas respect is a door opener for loyalty, dedication and consistency. 

The less distance between levels, the faster ideas travel and they arrive at a higher momentum, and easy just to implement with a "nudge." Levelling out the corporate structure and getting rid of middle management, that in many cases only function is to act as bottlenecks for creativity and productiveness, would be an excellent start.

The “shrugged shoulder policy”

What the failure of management leads to is a “shrugged shoulder policy”: why do a decent job if there are no incentives to? This is why calling any kind of support, dealing with plumbers, the postal service etc. is always such a hassle. So, your Wifi doesn’t work, your toilet is overflowing, the DVDs ordered never arrived. What are you met with? The shrugged shoulder. Furthermore, if taking a decision is more risky than not to, much better to shift the responsibility to the co-worker, your superior or to the customer.

I have no doubt about the ingenuity and the willingness to excel among the Barcelonins, but a government that is destroying social structures, and outdated attitudes towards leadership and organization will spur on an exodus of young talent with higher ambitions for their work-life, and quell the influx of young talent from abroad. Then, the managers of these outdated institutions can close shop and head for the beach.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Category: The Ugly - Cyclists

Look, I am as much a fan of bicycles as the next guy. In fact, I think we should have a lot less cars and a lot more of stuff with pedals and two wheels.. Mother Nature would appreciate it and we could all live happier, healthier more fulfilled lives. Cyclists, on the other hand....Something happens with these spandex dressed bundles of carbon dioxide guzzling health fetichists flock together. They seem to feel more sense of entitlement than a Tea Party zealot with a great great great grandfather who arrived on the Mayflower and has Manifest Destiny as a religious belief.

I used to think Spanish drivers were the most aggressive representatives of road rage and ignorance in Spain, but that was before taking a short drive from Sant Celoni to Montseny, where two different groups of cyclists managed to halt all traffic through the city main street, jumping pedestrian crossings, holding back traffic on the main road, and causing dangerous situations up the narrow mountain road when other drivers decided to overtake the group at any suitable and non-suitable spot.

It is true that cycling raises the pulse and makes the blood run faster - at those in the car behind stuck watching the backsides of a group of pedalling maniacs oblivious to te world, for miles!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Doble Zer00

Category: Restaurants - The Good: Doble Zer00

address: Carrer de Jaume Giralt, 53, Ciutat Vella.

Doble Zer00 is located by a small plaza around the corner from the Santa Caterina market. It is a discreet location for a pretty exciting take on Asian fusion. Nice selection of sushi plates, but also some Thai and other "exotic" varieties. A favorite is the steak with foie on volcanic rock on a bed of maldon salt. The ambience is laid-back, Barcelona chic and well suited as a first-stop on an evening out in El Born.

The service is, ...let´s say relaxed. Not overly professional, but friendly. The kitchen is not without some minor mishaps, but we've been there on numerous occasions and never left less than content with the experience. Medium priced with the lunch deal offering especially good value for money.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Category: General - The Bad - Drivers

In Catalonia a worryingly large number of drivers seem to drive with two demons on each shoulder: Incompetence & Recklessness.
One can make a list of typical driving errors and tick of every box when observing traffic here during longer drives. The most dangerous being overtaking other cars and the most inopportune times and places. Here is a typical example from a narrow mountain road.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Category: Architecture - The Bad: Cubics

Cubics, Santa Coloma
This hotel/apartment/entertainment centre project really is one of the most misplaced architectural projects in the greater Barcelona. The entrance to the cinema looks like a parking entrance with an inclination steep enough to preventing those with weaker legs from ever leaving the premises. The buildings are completely "dead" with the appearance of lego pieces dropped by some gargantuan child from above. The height naturally adds to the whole "out of placedness" of the buildings, though this height combined with the "cutting" of the nether section of the structure does allow for an efficient use of space. Unfortunately the total impression is hostile and enclosed. Two characteristics that neither the hotel, the movie complex nor the apartment building should "wish" to transmit!

Architect: Eduardo Souto de Moura - The 2011 Pritzker winner 

The architect responsible for Cubics, Eduardo Souto de Moura, has, in 2011, won what is arguably the most prestigious architectural price there is: The Pritzker. Cubics is the perfect example of an architect getting lost in conceptualizing and not really considering surroundings and practice. Forms that look great on the (3D) drawing board sometimes fail miserably to communicate with the real life landscape. According to chairman of the Pritzker jury, Lord Palumbo, de Moura's buildings possess a unique ability to transmit apparently incompatible characteristics... (trans. from Spanish). Indeed, in the case of Cubics there is a lot of transmitting of incompatible characteristics, but of characteristics that, in my mind, are irretrievably incompatible! The sheer scale of the buildings impede communication with any form in the area. In any case I feel there is always grounds for caution when someone is referred to as an architect's architect as in the case of Moura. It is akin to that of being a musician's musician, it could be a great thing (Nick Drake) or a not so great thing (Steely Dan)!