Tag Archives: Barcelona Pickpockets

Travels in Spain, Body Art on the Streets of the Barcelona Gothic Quarter

Gothic Quarter 4Gothic Quarter 1Gothic Quarter 3

Travels in Spain, Eixample and the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona

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“Most visits to Spain are trouble-free, but you should be alert to the existence of street crime, especially thieves using distraction techniques. Thieves often work in teams of two or more people and tend to target money and passports.”   British Foreign Office Advice

The modern parts of Barcelona are a triumph of urban planning.  We were staying in the Eixample district which was planned and built about one hundred and fifty years ago by a man called Ildefons Cerdà and is characterized by long straight streets, a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues and square blocks with chamfered corners all of which means that the traffic always flows freely in a slick one-way system and it is easy to navigate on foot.

Eixample, rather unimaginatively, simply translates as ‘expansion district’ and was developed when the old town of Barcelona became too small and overcrowded, the medieval city walls were demolished and the city overflowed like a river bursting its banks.  This is where to visit the Sagrada Familia and the modernist architecture of Antoni Gaudi but today we turned our backs on this and found our way to the old town and the Gothic Quarter.

Barcelona Streets 2

I mention these details about Eixample because the old town of Barcelona is a complete contrast with a maze of winding narrow streets with soaring buildings that block out the sun, where laundry hangs out to dry, shutters are thrown open like butterfly wings and  balcony gardens are stacked in the sky.

This is where to find sections of the original Roman Wall, the Jewish Quarter and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia which although now eclipsed perhaps by Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia is the one true Roman Cathedral of Barcelona.

It is quite a nice but these days I am beginning to agree with Kim that all Cathedrals tend to be rather similar and instantly forgettable once back outside the front door so I have become interested instead in the stories of the Saints who are commemorated in these places and this I think is a good one.

Barcelona Cathedral

By the way, if you are squeamish about torture, mutilation and murder you might want to close your eyes, skip this part of the post and go straight to the next picture below.

Saint Eulalia was a thirteen year-old Christian girl who suffered martyrdom in Barcelona during the persecution of Christians in the reign of Emperor Diocletian as a consequence of refusing to renounce her faith.

The Romans subjected her to thirteen tortures…

  1. Imprisonment in a very tiny cell barely big enough for a mouse,
  2. being whipped,
  3. scourging of the flesh with metal hooks,
  4. walking barefoot on burning embers,
  5. mutilation,
  6. rubbing her wounds with rough stones,
  7. branding with cast iron,
  8. throwing boiling oil and,
  9. molten lead over her,
  10. submerged in burning lime,
  11. locked in a flea box,
  12. rolled down a hill, naked, in a barrel full of knives, swords and glass,
  13. crucified in the form of a cross.

Gothic Quarter 2

Eulalia must have been really tough cookie because even after all of this she was still alive so they finished the job by cutting off her head.  A dove is supposed to have flown from her neck following her decapitation and that is why the Cathedral keeps thirteen white geese (one for each of the tortures) in the cloister in memory of her.  Geese because doves fly away I guess.

After the Cathedral we strolled slowly to the sea front and the modern marina and then headed back to the centre along the iconic La Rambla.

Barcelona Sea Front Symbol of City

La Rambla is a riot, an eclectic mix of sights and sounds which easily strays from modern to medieval and back with impressive ease.  Here are the boutiques and tourist shops, the street statues and entertainers, the tapas bars and souvenir stalls but alongside them are the market stalls and animal livestock sales which would appear to be more appropriate to a shopping experience in the Middle Ages.

Barcelona has a reputation for being the pick-pocket capital of Europe and La Rambla is certainly a place to keep a firm grip on your wallet.  As it turned out we didn’t need Santa Eulalia to look out for us because we had Kim.  Ever since being robbed on the Athens Metro she is always suspicious and ever  alert to danger and paced out La Rambla with eyes swiveling left and right, up and down like Liam Neeson after four shots of double espresso and forever heeding her warnings we successfully negotiated the walk from south to north before arriving safely back in Plaça Catalunya and what had become our favourite lunchtime café.

Barcelona Streets 3

Other Unlikely Saint Stories…

Saint James and Santiago de Compostela

Saint Patrick and Ireland

Saint Spiridon and Corfu

Saint Janurius and the Miracle of The Blood

Weekly Photo Challenge: ZigZag

Barcelona Gaudi Park Guell

ZigZag – Gaudi Style

The bus continued along Passeig de Gràcia past the Casa Milà and then turned right along the grid pattern streets and headed towards Gaudi’s unfinished Cathedral, La Sagrada Familia and still we stayed stubbornly in our seats with a plan to see all of these on the next day but the next stop on route was the architect’s vision of a Barcelona middle class housing development away from the grime of the industrial city, the Park Guell and here we made our first stop.

Read the full story…

Catalonia, Barcelona and the Bus Touristic – Part One

Barcelona Catalonia Postcard

“Most visits to Spain are trouble-free, but you should be alert to the existence of street crime, especially thieves using distraction techniques. Thieves often work in teams of two or more people and tend to target money and passports.”   British Foreign Office Advice

I was rather nervous of visiting the Catalan capital of Barcelona and the pickpocket capital of Europe because the last time that I went there a thief separated me from my wallet and went on a spending spree with my debit card.  It was rather like losing a camera on the Athens Metro.  I eventually got the money back from the bank but it spoilt the day as most of it was spent at the police station and the British Embassy but I like to think that the whole unpleasant experience taught me a valuable lesson in life and I am much more careful now with my possessions.

Not, however so confident about security that I would want to leave a car there and as  I didn’t want to drive into Barcelona  we took the train from Girona and arrived mid morning at Plaça Catalunya and emerged blinking from the darkness of the metro station into the blinding sunlight of the busy square with white knuckles gripped tightly around my wallet – still there – a good start!

I had a city map but we were completely disorientated and quite unable to distinguish between north and south or left and right and we circumnavigated the square several times looking for a street name that reconciled with the map until at the second or third pass we found La Rambla which was something so familiar that I can’t imagine how we missed it the first time and so we walked along the most famous street in Barcelona and about half way down stopped at a pavement bar for an expensive beer and an overpriced tapas lunch.

La Rambla is a riot, an eclectic mix of sights and sounds which easily strays from modern to medieval and back with impressive ease.  Here are the boutiques and tourist shops, the street statues and entertainers, the tapas bars and souvenir stalls but alongside them are the market stalls and animal livestock sales which would appear to be more appropriate to a shopping experience in the Middle Ages.  It is certainly a place to keep a firm grip on your wallet!

We knew that Barcelona in just a couple of days was going to be a challenge so we flicked through the pages of the guide book and ticked off the places that we wanted to see and when we had finished that we reviewed the selection and realised that it would be almost impossible to achieve in the time available.  Kim however came up with a solution that would help and she suggested using the open top Barcelona Bus Touristic which is a bus service with three main routes that cover all of the principal sights around the city.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

One of the main interchanges was at Plaça Catalunya so we wandered back, purchased our tickets and for no particular reason decided to start with the red route that covers the northern part of the city.  We took our seats on the top deck in the sun and soon the bus started to move and joined the Passeig de Gràcia in the Eixample district of Barcelona and heading for Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Milà but only a short way along across the street we saw the most amazing building that also turned out to  be the work of the famous architect- the Casa Batlló, recently restored as a museum and now open to the public.

Because we had only just started the tour about five minutes ago we didn’t get off here but I knew that we would definitely have to return.

The bus continued along Passeig de Gràcia past the Casa Milà and then turned right along the grid pattern streets and headed towards Gaudi’s unfinished Cathedral, La Sagrada Familia and still we stayed stubbornly in our seats with a plan to see all of these on the next day but the next stop on route was the architect’s vision of a Barcelona middle class housing development away from the grime of the industrial city, the Park Guell and here we made our first stop.

Actually the whole project turned out to be overly ambitious and the houses were never built but before it was abandoned Gaudi designed and built the infrastructure of roads, terraces and parks and he did himself live there for twenty years before his death in a house that is now the Gaudi House Museum.

Gaudi Dragon Park Guell

As we left I checked my wallet for the hundredth time today and we got back on the bus which now headed further out of the city to the suburbs on the higher ground.  At Sarria we got off and explored the narrow streets of a traditional and quiet area of the city where we bought some local cake specialities and found a bar for lunch and a beer and watched council workers erecting lights and decorations in preparation for a festival.

After lunch we rejoined the bus and to my surprise I was beginning to enjoy this method of sightseeing as the route took us through a district of wide leafy roads with churches, monasteries and palaces and then began a climb to a high spot above the city and pulled into a bus stop on the edge of a massive empty car park.  This was Camp Nou, the home of Barcelona FC, the largest football stadium in Europe and possibly, by some measures, the largest in the World.

Barcelona FC was founded in 1899 by a group of Swiss, English and Catalan footballers and has become a symbol of Catalan culture and separatism that has the motto – “Més que un club” (More than a club).  After its Spanish rivals Real Madrid, it is the world’s second-richest football club in terms of revenue, with an annual turnover of nearly €500 million and after Real Madrid and Manchester United it is the third most valuable, worth €2.6billion.

A lot of people got off the bus here but I wasn’t especially interested in visiting the stadium or the museum and I was certain that Kim wouldn’t be so we stayed in our seats until we reached the next stop where our plan was to change to the blue route which would eventually take us back to the city centre.  Half the tour completed and I still had my wallet and we both still had our cameras– we were doing well!

Barcelona Catalunya

More posts about Antoni Gaudi:

Catalonia, Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi

Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Antoni Gaudi

Twelve Treasures of Spain, La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Cantabria, Comillas and Antoni Gaudi

Casa Batlló, Barcelona