Thursday, 17 January 2019

Category - The Ugly: Dogs in Barcelona

Dogs! Shitting, barking, biting dogs! I effing hate them, or rather dog owners - barking, biting or otherwise. In Barcelona it is “dog rule” as the animal is free to lay down its crap anywhere and bark at what and whomever, at anytime. Step in dog shit all day and listen to the canine choir of your neighbourhood howl all night. This is part of the privilege of life in Barna.

Worse is, naturally, when you experience an attack. I am someone who truly enjoys the outdoors, hiking and running, and unfortunately this drastically increases the number of dog encounters. Since I have been attacked by dogs more often than I care to remember, I am cautious when faced with a dog. Still, I have been half a kilometer away, walking in the other direction and still been attacked, so taking precautions is no guarantee.

In fact, the only reason I have been able to escape several dog attacks unscathed is that I have managed to stay calm, avoiding further provocation of the animal, and thus diffused the situation. My point is, though, how is it possible to have this many dog owners that don’t have any control of their pet?! Having a pet, whether it is hamster or a dog comes with responsibilities; giving it a good home, feeding it well, keeping it healthy and have it under control. These basics seem to be beyond the grasp of a large percentage of dog owners in Barcelona.

So, do I have any empirical evidence that dog owners in Barcelona are more incompetent than in other countries? Well, 20+ years of experience living in various European countries, the UK (soon to be non-European country) and the US. The only place I have experienced being attacked by dogs is in Barcelona. I realize a dog just acts out its nature, and as a dog owner you should have a handle on that, otherwise get yourself a turtle!

Who let the dogs out!? Fuck knows, just keep them the hell away from me!

Friday, 14 September 2018

Category - The Good: Exploring Catalonia

As a newcomer to Barcelona, or even as a frequent visitor it is easy to miss some of the treats that make the city and the region of Catalonia so special. Our recommendation is simple, go explore Catalonia!

Southern Catalonia

South of Barcelona you encounter small towns with large beaches like Gavá and Castelldefels, a short train ride down from Barcelona. Venture a little further and you’ll find a couple of cities that merit a day’s outing.


This is a lively, and lovely, city that hosts an annual film festival that is gaining renown as well as a gay pride parade that is the focus of a week-long party that attracts people from around the world. Attractive city beaches and an intense nightlife are also enough to convince many to pay Sitges a visit.


The city is home to the most complete Roman Forum outside of Rome. The city itself makes for an interesting visit. The (for catalan cities) “mandatory” Old Town is certainly inviting for those addicted to roaming city streets. Decent shopping can be done  here as well!

Northern Catalonia


For many, the first encounter with the region is the Girona airport. And, it would be a shame to miss the city! It is a must to visit the charming Old Town with its centrepiece, the cathedral. The cathedral has been made famous by the Game of Thrones’ chapter with Cersei’s “walk of shame”.  The building is, however, much more than “ prop” for a popular TV-series. In fact, it might be the most impressive example of the “Catalan gothic” architecture around. Combine this with a walk along the old city walls to take in the city from on up high.


A small town that was founded in the 11th century, located 30 kilometers from Girona, with a stunning medieval architecture and a famous Romanesque bridge with a unique structure. Like time traveling.

The Costa Brava

The Northern coastline is where you go for beautiful beaches and a stunning, rocky landscape. Hence, the name “costa brava”, which roughly translated into “the wild (or rugged) coast.” The best way to get around is by rental car as only the very northern part, by the French border, is covered by train service. If you don’t mind spending a little time on the road, there are bus routes from Barcelona to the main towns as well.


Palamós - A small, former fishing village (like most places along this coast) with a small, charming beach area and pristine, clear water.

Cadaqués - A beautiful village with white-washed small houses, which is rather inaccessible, situated as it is between big slabs of rocks (mountain) that your vehicle needs to navigate. The adjacent Port Lligat is the birthplace of Catalonia’s great painter, Salvador Dalí. The house where he lived until he left as a young man to conquer Spain and then the world with his surreal paintings can be visited by pre-booking a tour.

Figueres - Talking Catalonia’s favourite son, Dalí, the city of Figures biggest claim to fame is the Dalí Musum - naturally just as whimsy and surreal as you’d expect. Certainly worth a visit!

and, back to…..

Barcelona City

Naturally, it’s easy to miss a few of the gems that Barcelona hides within its many backstreets as well! For those with special interests (architecture, wine, gastronomy), in particular, it’s worth considering booking a specific tour with an experienced guide to make sure you don’t miss something that would be a highlight on the trip!

If you need an extra hand when planning activities in the city, especially when traveling in a group, we’d like to recommend They are Barcelona specialists with an outstanding reputation for excellent service. The site has tours that cover basically any thinkable special interest as well as specialising in tailor-made tours and planning for corporate groups.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Category: The Ugly - The Catalan Referendum

in 5 Questions

First off, let me state this is neither a pro independence or a pro Spanish state article, but a pro reason and democracy argument. Both sides in this sorry mess that is the conflict between the Spanish government and Catalan separatists, have brought the country to the brink of political mayhem. 

I have 5 questions to ask to try and explain this situation:

1. Why this unyielding moving ahead with the Catalan referendum, on part of the regional authorities?

The right-wing Partido Popular government is weakened after the last election, and 
the Catalan government could bide their time and work the backchannels of those parties willing to negotiate, mainly on the left, PSOE and Podemos. The second right-wing party Ciudadanos talk a lot about dialogue, but have taken no initiatives towards this and keep insisting on invoking “article 155” in the constitution, meaning that the Spanish government takes full control of the region. Not exactly a move that would inspire dialogue. 

In stead of blowing all the bridges to smithereens with insisting on the referendum and the following declaration of independence, the Catalan leaders could have worked to strengthen ties with the forces in national politics that are just as eager for a change on a national scale as well as being open to a change on a regional scale, i.e. increased autonomy. 

Patience is a double virtue when dealing with the most incompetent and corrupt government (with officials currently under investigation for: money laundering, bribery, tax evasion and slush funds) in western Europe, and the Catalan president, Puigdemont and his cohorts are understandably “reluctant” to show such virtue. Furthermore, the draconian attitudes of the Spanish government is the best “secessionist recruitment tool” they could have!

2. Why does the Catalan authorities insist that they have the mandate to declare independence?

Many Catalans feel “held hostage” by the independence movement and those opposed didn’t voice their opinion in the referendum, in part due to the incredibly ham-fisted intervention of the Spanish government. Nevertheless, it is a divisive move on part of the secessionists to use the “90%” pro independence vote as a carte blanche to move for independence. 43% of the voting population in Catalonia voted and under conditions that were far from ideal.

Puigdemont could have said; look, more than 2 million Catalans voted despite the Spanish government's clumsy and violent intervention. We recognize that a 43% turn-out and the conditions for the referendum are not a basis for declaring an independent state, but this sends a clear message that the Catalan people should get the opportunity to vote. The reason is that he did not choose this route, is that he is himself "a hostage" - a hostage of the left-wing "Candidatura d'Unit Popular" (CUP) party that he depends on to hold parliamentary power in the region. As with their right-wing antagonists, Partido Popular, democracy takes a back-seat to political (and personal) gains and aims.

3. Why is the Spanish government so hesitant to negotiate increased autonomy for Catalonia?

The ruling party, the Partido Popular has a long history of imperialist nationalistic thinking and ignoring the rights and demands of the “autonomous” regions. The party springs out of the fascist Franco state, founded by a Franco-regime minister, Manuel Fraga. If you think bringing up Franco and fascism is harsh and unnecessary, and that the party has moved along since then, take a look at this:

This is the party’s vice secretary of communications, Pablo Casado stating that the Catalan president Puigdemont might end up like the previous Catalan leader who proclaimed independence, Lluis Companys, 83 years earlier. He was jailed, tortured, then executed. Naturally, Casado claims he was just talking about Company’s politics. This is a clear, albeit, pathetic attempt at dog-whistling, loud enough for their nationalist base to applaud, but also loud enough for anyone else to get what he is really saying. It is hard to imagine anyone not getting the message coming from a party spokesperson.

4. Why didn’t the Spanish government allow the referendum to be held, and then declare it void?

This seems like a gigantic tactical error, if the government had maintained the position that the vote was illegal but not intervened, you’d most likely have scenario 1. The secessionists would have lost. Should you have an unlikely scenario 2. A win for the Catalan independent movement, the government could simply refuse to acknowledge the legality of this, with the support of the EU.

Sending in the paramilitary Guardia Civil who used the same tactics as when they were Franco’s henchmen: the baton and the boot didn’t do their cause any favor. It made their EU partners uneasy, it made Spain look bad in the eyes of the whole world and it made the secessionists cause easier, people who were on the fence or against independence now fell on the “YES” side.

Again, the Spanish government shows that “realpolitik” is just not their thing, they’d much rather go for symbolic decisions and declarations that appease their nationalist base than look for solutions and compromises that would benefit the whole country.

5. Why no negotiations?

Both sides are way too entrenched in their positions, and the outside pressure on the Spanish government too feeble.

Getting new solutions with old politicians rarely works, so unfortunately this looks like a long arduous road of more chaos and mayhem, political posturing and flag waving. 

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Category the Ugly: Renting an Apartment in Barcelona - 3 common pitfalls.

renting apartment Barcelona
Don’t rent an apartment in Barcelona before reading this article! In fact, you’re better off not renting an apartment in Barcelona at all.

Why? Basically, because there’s so many ways to get screwed. Let us introduce you to the three most common pitfalls that will get your blood boiling:

#1 Agencies.

So, if you’re using any of the rental portals (“Habitaclia”, “Idealista” etc.), 99.9% of the listings will be by agencies. And, why is that a bad thing? Well, because you, the customer has to pay for their “services”! In what other line of business does the customer has to pay for the privilege to buy a service or product?! 

It’s like if you had to pay an entrance fee to get into a shoe shop to buy new sneakers. Renting via an agency, you end up paying 10-15% of the yearly rental sum + taxes, or a flat fee, which is really wonderful if you are looking for a short term solution as it ads 60-100% to the total rental price. How to avoid? Take your time, eventually you’ll find an owner who doesn’t deal with these leeches.

#2 Fake ads

In danger of stating the obvious, never send money to anyone without personally assuring the legitimacy of the offer! Secondly, if an offer looks to good to be true, it is just that - guaranteed! No one rents out a “palace” in Barcelona for 550 euros a month. Period.

So, how to spot the fakes? Fortunately, this is easy. First of all, the above argument - the quality-price ration should be realistic. Secondly, normally people don’t share their life story via e-mail when replying to a request, so if you get this, the alarm bells should go off. In particular, if this life story involves the owner “being abroad”.

Thirdly, is you get an e-mail fromReverend Someone”; this is a tell-tale sign. For some reason, these geniuses seem to think that signing off with “Reverend” actually makes their scam look more believable. They could just as well sign it “Sir Swindle”.

#3 Additional costs

When renting from an owner there are costs that is only fair that are covered by the tenant; gas, electricity, WiFi etc. However, there are several taxes and costs that are directed to the owner and should never end up in your bill pile. Otherwise, beware of “gastos de comunidad”- these cover monthly maintenance of the building, which is fine if, well, if there actually is maintenance being done, cleaning of the stairs and other common areas, for example.

Happy hunting!

Agencies to avoid: Oh-Barcelona, Barcelona-Home, SH Barcelona, Friendly Rentals.  These are just a few that charge a ridiculous monthly rent with an outrageous fee on top.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Category The Ugly: Anti-Tourism in Barcelona

Barcelona anti-tourism
 Barcelona is, like a few other Spanish regions, in the throes of a real zealous anti-tourism movement theses days. One constantly runs into “Tourist Go Home” posters and graffiti around town. Rising prices on rental apartments, congestion in popular spaces and noise level all contribute, and are reasonable concerns. However, the level of xenophobia and political laziness that shine through in the discourse make it hard to sympathize.

There’s a genuine concern regarding housing prices being pressured from many angles, but that is just the point, many angles! In fact, new research from the consultancy agency InAtlas shows that vacation rentals has no measurable impact on rental prices in Barcelona. The recurring argument contra the tourism industry in Barcelona is this, vacation rentals drive up prices and drive out the locals.

Personally, I’m all for regulating tourist licenses etc. in pressure neighborhoods, taking steps to preserve authenticity and ensure a vibrant city center makes perfect sense. A “Disneyfication” of this city benefits no one (except the usual global brands). However, one will not achieve a sustainable politics on tourism based on the wrong facts or on promoting regressive measures  like stopping advertising or introducing (more) taxes on tourists visiting the city.

So, what’s the real issue then for the anti-tourism movement; xenophobia, misplaced ideology or ignorance? All of the above I suppose. When you read “No guiris” on walls, that doesn't exectly spell out tolerance. “Guiri” is a derogatory term for Europeans, especially from Northern Europe. No doubt “incidents” (mainly) featuring drunken tourists don’t help, but really there’s no excuse for the use of derogatory terms.

Ideology, then? I confess to being a lefty myself, but the blind resistance to any type of gentrification, normally on the political left, seems completely reactionary to me. Large parts of the center of Barcelona has been in dire need of improved infrastructure and general standard of housing. It’s a complex political and fiscal process to do this well; to respect the architectural and demographical history of an area while renewing. However, a by default resistance to the process in itself is a knee-jerk opposition to progress.

Ignorance is bliss, or in this case, breeds contempt. Much of the arguments by the anti-tourism movement is based on ignorance. This, in part, because it serves certain politicians. If you can blame tourism for all housing issues it’s great tactic for diverting attention from failed politics in other socio-economic areas.

“Tourist go home. Refugees welcome.” 

is another slogan winner, although it’s hard to see what negative effect tourism might have on the ability to receive refugees. In fact, tourism contributes to 15% of the gross national product of Spain. I wonder how much zeal there would be to receive refugees if you cut the GNP with 15%?

Lately, things have taken a turn for the worse, including violent attacks on tourist buses, bikes etc. led by the Arran organization whose mix of (Catalan) nationalism and use of violence has some historic predecessors that give any democratic minded individuals the chills.

In fact, I'd argue that history shows that the "...Go Home!" (fill in the blanks)  slogan has never been used by open-minded, progressive individuals. It's the last resort of the bigot, and I'm not sure that those who spray paint the slogan around the city would be comfortable with the historical company they're in.

It’s pretty amazing that the number one concern for Barcelona inhabitants in 2017 isn’t unemployment, nor littering, pollution or lack of security, but tourism! Admittedly, the congestion represents a real problem, certain areas have serious issues with noise and crowds and would benefit greatly from a sensible plan to regulate the influx of tourists.

A well-structured plan to keep tourism in check, by all means, but please stop this “Tourist go home” nonsense, you’re embarrassing yourself, the region and the amazing city that is home to people from all walks of life from across the globe!

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!