Fiesta de Gracia and a birthday in Barcelona

And here is the second belated blog on my travels to Barcelona of this year. I had just more or less unpacked my luggage from my trip in July when I booked my next ticket to Barcelona for one week in August. Just five weeks after I returned and I already headed back again, this time without my Bianchi.

The reason for not taking he bicycle along this time was that I was only going for a week, during which the Fiesta de Gracia would start and we’d celebrate Monica’s birthday. The Fiesta de Gracia was about to hit it high as the festival is 200 years old! I figured I’d be able to get by without my Bianchi for a week.

On Saturday August 12 I flew to Barcelona and after a long day of traveling, we took it easy once I had arrived. Simply a nice evening with a stroll around the neighborhood, looking at the final preparations for the Fiesta de Gracia, taking a dinner and a terrace. Not so much the next day. To make as much of the weekend as possible and to enjoy the gorgeous sunny weather we headed to Canet de mar. Not as far as Palamos the last time, but far out of reach of the hugely crowded beaches of Barcelona. Lots of room on the beach, clear sea water and a great sunny day away.

Taking to the sea

On Monday Monica had taken the day off and we had a fairly quiet day, we’ve done a bit of shopping and in the evening we had a dinner with friends celebrating Monica’s birthday. On Tuesday it actually was Monica’s Birthday and also the start of the Fiesta de Gracia. It’s a holiday so Monica had the day off and we checked out some of the decorations in the streets of Gracia. There are some really impressively decorated streets with fantastic themes. We then headed into the center visiting some newly discovered terraces with great views over Barcelona and in the evening I took Monica out to for a birthday-dinner, just the two of us.

Rooftop view over Barcelona

And after that? We¬†headed into the Fiesta de Gracia festivities. In the daytime you can admire the decorations, but at night the fiesta really gets going. It’s a mish mash of people looking, drinking and having a great time with load of music playing in the streets. We find The Bronson playing on one of the stages, a band named after Charles Bronson. While the band is dressed in Steam Punk style the background shows short clips of Charles Bronson during the songs. And although it sounds a bit corny… the music (funky rock with a pinch of soul) is really good too. We had a terrific time.

The Bronson at Fiesta de Gracia

On Wednesday Monica had to go back to work again and so I took up my regular routine of walking the streets. I wanted to visit some cycling-stores in Barcelona in the hope of finding a good store that’s more of an enthusiasts store then an ‘all-things-all-bicycles’ variant. However I can only find a few and for some reason all the good ones are closed and I can only find a few fairly basic bicycle stores open. So that was a bit of a bust, but good for a day bit of walking.

Not finding any actual stores, so a piece of cycling graffiti will have to do

Monica is back from work, we head back to Gracia and see some more wonderfully decorated streets. The street decorated in the Ghostbusters theme and the street with Saint George & The Dragon really are outstanding! Not many interesting concerts in the evening, but it’s just really good fun walking around in the festivities.

Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!

We do see an annual attraction and if you’re ever in Barcelona during Fiesta de Gracia, it is worth visiting Atelier Robert, an antiques store whose owner has housemusic pounding from the speakers while he dances, waving light-emiting toys around. He’s a sight to see and honestly I never ever see the store openen on any other occasion, maybe these are the only open days in the year ;)

Fiesta de Atelier Robert

Thursday, August 17 starts innocently. I see Monica off to the station and have a coffee, walk some streets but also I decide I want to see an exposition. During the previous stay (back in July) I had seen that there was an exposition by Brian Eno in Arts Santa Monica and in the afternoon I walk down the Rambla where the gallery is situated. It’s an interesting exposition, of more of an ‘installation’ using sounds and loops, several visual installations with changing colours, some photos and other artforms. I took my time and when I was done, walked up the Rambla again and took the metro back in the direction of home. A few more block through Gracia as Monica hadn’t returned from work yet and then went back home. Monica returned not much later and while we were resting, we suddenly got the news of the day: the terrorist attack on the Rambla. Crap!!! I’d just walked there not long before and I was not so much afraid as I felt really lucky. Informed the family that I was OK and for a long time we watched the news. It’s a weird realising it was actually really close.

Brian Eno exposition at Arts Santa Monica

Friday is an odd day. Logically all festivities are cancelled (less terrible then the attack itself of course but the Fiesta de Gracia is a huge source of income for the neighbourhood and no fiesta on Friday and Saturday after all that hard work on the decorations is such a shame), everyone is a bit tense and both Friday and Saturday float by, living in a bit of a bubble. There is some life and activity come Saturday evening as Barcelona and Gracia grieve and get back up. It’s not how we (or anyone els for that matter) ever imagined the Fiesta de Gracia to go.

On Sunday unfortunately I have to leave for home again. As sad as I am for how the week ended I’m happy at least I was with Monica for those days. I’d have hated being in Assen during those days with Monica in Barcelona. We now had to plan our vacation with each-other. This would turn out to be the trip to San Sebastian and Bilbao in September, happier days…

It’s not the nicest way to end the trip, or this blog, but I’ve been in Barcelona a few times after and I’m happy to see they’ve recovered well from the attack.