Tag Archives: summer

Cinema Under The Stars

Picture the scene. Up high above Barcelona, in the fading light of another dazzling summer’s day, the sweet refrains of modern flamenco guide film lovers towards the grassy scarp beneath Montjuic’s castle walls. Here they lay out their picnic blankets, break out a hamper full of fresh treats from La Boqueria market, and settle down to watch one of the year’s most arresting offerings on the silver screen. Friends share a glass of Cava, couples cuddle close together and fireflies skit like miniature shooting stars through the ink-blue sky.

No doubt that was the vision of the organisers when they conceived this romantic(-sounding) al fresco cinema that screens four movies a week from late June to early August….

Summer cinema season at Sala Montjuic

Summer cinema season at Sala Montjuic

However as I trudged up from the funicular stop that didn’t take us anyway near as high up the mountain as I would have liked, my new shoes pinching my toes harder with every step, I got my first reminder why I don’t visit this festival on any old occasion. My second reality check was the enormous queue of hopeful cinephiles who hadn’t bought their ticket in advance and were now waiting in the (unlikely) hope there would be enough space to admit them (I’d been there before two years ago and that sure wasn’t fun!). The third whiff of coffee was when, having found that rarest commodity at Sala Montjuic, a patch of vacant grass (admittedly way at the back where we could barely see the screen) we were joined by approximately twenty loud American teenagers, who parked their blankets approx. 6 inches away from ours and proceeded to regale all and sundry with their schoolboy/girl humour. Hardly conducive to romance.

Undoubtedly the biggest obstacle to enjoying this festival of cinema however, was just how impossible it is (at least for a fidget like me) to sit on a rock-hard piece of turf for the two hours required to ‘enjoy’ the film. As the scant cushions and blankets we had managed to carry with us on the hike up Montjuic became soaked through with humidity I found myself constantly wrenching my moist ass to and fro in the vain hope of finding a position I could hold for more than 10 minutes, whilst hands and elbows were overstrained and redistributed on multiple occasions as I balanced the pros of sitting up and being able to see the screen, and lying down and being at least moderately comfortable – the latter requiring I glean what was going on from the top 25% of the projection only. After 90 mins I was begging the film to finish. Not that that signals the end of the evening’s ordeal. When several thousand people try to exit one of Barcelona’s least accessible locations all at once, the results were quite predictably chaotic and frustrating. At least for those foolish enough to enter the melee. I enjoyed a good stretch, attempted to pat dry my saturated buttocks and finished my Cava, before even thinking about making the long journey home.

Tips for Attending Sala Montjuic

Ironically enough the film I had gone to see on this occasion, Moonrise Kingdom (a typically pointless, enjoyable, unsatisfying, Wes Anderson diversion), was all boy scouts, and the moral of both that story and mine should be “always be prepared”. With that in mind here are some tips that can make or break your Sala Montjuic experience!

1) Buy your tickets in advance! If you don’t there’s a very real chance you’ll be climbing the mountain for nothing.

2) Even having bought your ticket in advance get there as early as possible. If you want to put down your blanket anywhere near the screen this is essential. Also there is a limited number of those funny little beach mattresses which you can borrow for free, plus also deckchairs for rental. The latter cost 3 euros, but I don’t think you can reserve them in advance, so getting there early essential once more.

3) Arrive by car if possible, or scooter or taxi. That way you can bring loads of comfy blankets, pillows, cushions, mats etc, as well as your picnic. Parking can be a bit of a mare, so see point 2).

4) Bring loads of comfy blankets, pillows, cushions, mats etc:)

5) Bring a sweater. It may be hotter than Satan’s sauna when you leave home but it can get chilly, esp. after two or three hours of reclining.

For more info head to the official website.

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Barcelona Summer Programs

What could be better than spending a summer in Barcelona? How about spending a summer in Barcelona learning Spanish? Yes most people, determined to have the time of their lives in Spain for one long sunny season are forced to take jobs handing out flyers for bars, working in over-crowded Irish pubs, or looking after someone’s screaming brat with a job in childcare! Clearly not the smart option.

This year I’ve been feeling an increasing amount of envy for those lucky language students who manage to wangle a whole summer’s of Spanish lessons as part of their University/College degree and who, not only leave Barcelona better at Spanish than I am, but also have a great time doing it. If you do decide to study abroad in Barcelona then there are no shortage of great summer programs to choose from offering intensive Spanish classes, plush student accommodation and all manner of extra-curricular activities – day trips, cultural tours, nights out etc! Oh, what I wouldn’t do to be 21 and have rich parents!

If that sounds like you then I suggest you have a read around the Study Abroad in Barcelona website, where you can find out more about their initiative and what’s included on their comprehensive cultural and language program.

Summer: Part Dos – Fiesta Forever!

Ah yes, Sant Joan/Sant Juan/St. John’s…. call it what you will. This crazy fiesta, celebrated on midsummer’s night, is the equivalent of New Year’s Eve in the rest of the world and easily the biggest booze up in Spain (including Catalonia).

Sant Joan’s has two elemental components: booze and fireworks. Possibly the least responsible combination since Roman Polanski and underage girls were last teamed up. However the Spaniards are never ones to let an EU health and safety manual stand in the way of having a good time (running the bulls, anyone?) and so it is that children, drunks and cretins (sometimes even cretinous drunk children) are allowed to play havoc with explosives to their heart’s content.

The utter stupidity of this was rammed home as me and my friends made our way to Mar Bella beach to enjoy the celebrations. Everywhere rockets and bangers were being set off, some at worryingly horizontal angles. One idiot let off a rocket that exploded just a metre above some hapless bystander’s head and I walked hurriedly, with shielded eyes, from the metro to the relative safety of the beach where most people were more intent on drinking than unleashing pyrotechnical chaos.

Sant Joan... the aftermath on Mar Bella beach

Once we’d run the gauntlet and survived it was time to enjoy the festive atmosphere and as tonnes of my friends and Couchsurfers had all gathered it became a great social occasion. Sadly I had barely finished telling some American dude how I never miscalculate how much I drink these days, when – still early in the night – the white wine/beer/mojitos hit me like sledgehammer over the head. I had to lie down… for five hours. When I woke, with a girl in my arms (yeah even I don’t know how I pulled that one off!), it was sunrise and my God the beach was a mess. You could barely see the sand for the empty cans, cartons, plastic bags and burnt out rockets. I had to puke up a bit first, but by then I was ready for the tram/metro journey home. So there you go, my first Sant Juan party! Slightly wasted on me, but we’ll chalk that up to experience. (ie. don’t drink 79 cents white wine from litre cartons).

Otherwise the Barcelona party season has carried on. From Nasty Mondays at Sala Apolo to the usual Saturday nights at Razzmatazz there has been some epic nightlife. And whenever I was getting bored of Barcelona’s clubs a fresh idea would come along. Recently I’ve been to a couple of awesome pool parties up on Montjuic, whilst last Sunday we went to an all right beach party on Playa Parc Forum with German DJ MANDY. I was particularly pleased with this event as the f@cking Barcelona council with their ever more fascist noise restriction policies have banned DJs from playing at chiringuitos at most of Barcelona’s beaches, but as this one is just outside the city limits it was full steam ahead for the all night party. Lots of cute girls too…:)

Right now it’s one of the very best festivals in Barcelona, the Festa Mayor de Gracia… another week of liver-busting fun beckons! Think I’ll stick to a couple of shandies…

Summer: The Story So Far…

Yes, it’s been a long time since my last post but then again, who can blame me? It’s summer in Barcelona and I’ve got a tonne of much better things to do than type up ditties for you guys. (In fact I was planning on being on the beach playing volleyball right now but a rogue bit of Barcelona rain has put paid to that!).

Summer really is a non-stop party everywhere in Spain, but Barcelona in particular. You can place the start of the season where you like but I think a good a landmark as any is the Primavera Sound Festival (official website). Naturally I was too poor to go to the whole shebang, but after seeing a post on Couchsurfing I bought a night ticket for the Friday for some mash-up dubstep sounds. Being older than the average woolly mammoth’s tusks (btw did you know there’s a mammoth museum in Barcelona??? Something on that another time!) my knowledge about the genre and artists was vague at best but I must say dubstep rocks! Diplo, who seems to be the crowd-pleasing guru of dubstep if this show was anything to go by, seems to encapsulate the basic concepts of the art form fairly well. His set basically consisted of well known dance and hip hop tracks with a ridiculous fat bass throbbing underneath all the mid and high notes. For me Joker was much better, with really deep almost emotional (yes, I was drunk) introspective style of original tracks. I guess he is the LTJ Bukem (who I met incidentally in Krakow, when I was high of my nuts.) of the genre… anyway much fun had by me and the two lovely CS girls I went with, and next year gonna hopefully have the dinero for a full week ticket.

That was the last week of May, but things really hot up in Barcelona, literally and figuratively speaking, in June. First up is the Sonar festival (official website). Again a limited supply of euros stopped me from snapping up a ticket for the whole weekend (it’s a three day, two night event), but me and my ex-companero de piso and compadre in crime, Albert (aka Big Al), decided to repeat 2009’s shenanigans by attending Sonar By Day on the Saturday. This year I took it much easier (went a bit OTT in 2009!) and as usual Barcelona’s cool cats were out in droves, raving in the sunshine at the MACBA. Good times even if the only act I had heard of was Uffie, and she was fairly pants to be honest. Oh well.

Most people need weeks to get over Sonar festival, but unfortunately by now the parties are coming thick and fast. Just a couple of days after Sonar finished came Sant Joan – the most famous party night of the year… but I might save that for Barcelona Summer part dos. Adios for now amigos…