St. Sebastià & St. Miquel Beaches, Barcelona, Spain
St. Sebastià & St. Miquel Beaches
Together with Barceloneta beach, these are the city’s oldest and most traditional beaches. They were the first to have amenities for bathing, an activity that was the exclusive domain of the city’s well-to-do classes at the time. The recent building of a hotel has created a small, peaceful cove where you’ll find a number of restaurants. Services: Red Cross, Local Police, beach information point, adapted showers, adapted public toilets, sun loungers, beach umbrellas, drinks and ice cream kiosks, sports facilites, bicycle parking areas, restaurants and Wi-fi. by barcelonaturisme.com
Beaches of Barcelona
Barcelona has ten accessible beaches, with Wi-Fi and excellent amenities and services inviting you to enjoy the Mediterranean Sea throughout the year. Platges Barcelona is a city open to the sea. The broad beaches of the Catalan capital, which extend almost for 5 km, are blessed with fine golden sand and shallow waters for bathing. They constitute one of the largest areas of leisure available to locals and visitors in Barcelona alike. They are never more than just a few minutes away from any point in the city, since they are easily reached by public transport or by bicycle. Equipped with all the necessary facilities and services, every year they are visited by around seven million people. Platges The beaches provide a perfect complement to the cultural attractions of Barcelona, and all year round they offer a never-ending variety of activities: taking a stroll, passing away the hours on a terrace or in a restaurant, simply enjoying the view and the sun of the Mediterranean Sea, having a bathe, playing some sport, riding a bicycle... by barcelonaturisme.com
Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Barcelona, Spain
Beatiful church Sagrat Cor!
The Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica located on the summit of Mount Tibidabo in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The building is the work of the Spanish Catalan architect Enric Sagnier and was completed by his son Josep Maria Sagnier i Vidal. The construction of the church, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, lasted from 1902 to 1961. The idea of building a Catholic church on the summit of the Mount Tibidabo emerged in the late 19th century amidst rumors about the construction of a Protestant church and a hotel-casino at that location. This motivated a "Board of Catholic Knights" to acquire the ownership of the field and give it to Saint John Bosco in 1886, when he was visiting Barcelona at the invitation of Dorotea de Chopitea, a great patron and promoter of the project. From this arose the idea of a building dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a dedication very popular at that time thanks to the impetus given by Pope Leo XIII, and following in line with the church built in Rome by Bosco himself (Sacro Cuore di Gesù a Castro Pretorio) and the famous Sacré-Cœur in Paris. In 1886 a neo-Gothic hermitage was built, and two years later, for the Universal Exposition, the Vallvidrera road was urbanized and a pavilion of Mudejar inspiration was built beside the hermitage to serve as a viewing point (for the city below). However, the project to build the church suffered a significant delay mainly because of the development of a new project to build an astronomical observatory on the summit of Tibidabo, which was eventually constructed on a nearby hill (Fabra Observatory). Finally, on 28 December 1902, the first stone was placed in a ceremony presided by the Bishop of Barcelona, Salvador Casañas i Pagès. The crypt was built between 1903 and 1911, and the main church was built between 1915 and 1951. The church was consecrated by Bishop Gregorio Modrego Casaus during the 35th Eucharistic Congress held in Barcelona in 1952. The towers were completed afterward, with work officially ending in 1961. On 29 October 1961 the church received the title of minor basilica from Pope John XXIII. Exterior Facade of the crypt The external appearance of the church is of a Romanesque fortress of stone from Montjuïc (the crypt), topped by a monumental neo-Gothic church accessed by two grand outdoor stairways. The upper church has a central floor with an octagonal dome on eight columns. The dome is crowned with an image of the Sacred Heart; the original work was by Frederic Marès (destroyed in 1936) and replaced in 1950 with another by Josep Miret. The upper church is square with three apses, a large central tower, and four lower towers marking the four corners of the square, and statues of the Twelve Apostles sculpted by Josep Miret. The main facade has three sections, the central wider, chaired by the figure of the Archangel Michael in the arch of the main entrance, and John Bosco in the pediment above. Over the left door is the statue of Teresa of Ávila and over the right, Marguerite Marie Alacoque. Above the door is an open gallery of arches with tracery. The façade of the crypt has a richly decorated tympanum with sculptures by Alfons Juyol i Bach following the design of Eusebi Arnau. The sculptures represent the Virgin of Mercy, Saint George, and Saint James, the patron saints of Barcelona, Catalonia, and Spain, respectively. The crypt facade consists of three semicircular arches on columns, inserted under a larger semicircular arch, originally decorated with a mosaic of the Holy Trinity by Daniel Zuloaga (destroyed in 1936). In 1955 it was redecorated by the Bru Workshop of Barcelona; the work depicts an allegory of the devotion of Spain, represented by its patron saints. Interior Inside the temple The interior is divided into a nave and two aisles with semicircular apses, with stained glasses and four rose windows on the facades. In the main altar stands the great crucifix, a work by Joan Puigdollers. The windows of the presbytery are dedicated to Pius X, John the Evangelist, Marguerite Marie Alacoque, Paul the Apostle and John Bosco. The left altar has five stained glasses dedicated to various Marian devotions: the Virgin of Antipolo (Philippines), Our Lady of Luján (Argentina), the Assumption of Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico) and Our Lady of Charity (Cuba). The right altar is presided by the Risen Jesus, a work by Joan Puigdollers, and its stained glasses are dedicated to Spanish Marian devotions: the Virgin of Almudena (Madrid), the Virgin of Núria (Catalonia), Our Lady of Hope, Our Lady of the Forsaken (Valencia) and Our Lady of Begoña (Basque Country). The windows of the four towers contain the Latin phrase tibi dabo ("I'll give you"), the name of the mountain. At the level of the choir include founding saints: Marcellin Champagnat and Jean-Baptiste de La Salle on both sides of the presbytery, and Anthony Mary Claret, Joseph Calasanctius, John Bosco and Maria Domenica Mazzarello next to the main facade. The windows of the four facades are dedicated to Francis de Sales, Pius XI, Ignatius of Loyola, Francisco Javier, Pius IX, Rose of Lima, Leo XIII and Pius XII. The eight stained glasses of the dome depict scenes from the life of Jesus. Statue of Jesus Statue of Jesus on the top of Sagrat Cor. The church is crowned by the enormous bronze statue of the Sacred Heart made by Josep Miret in 1950, replacing the original made by Frederic Marès in 1935, and destroyed the following year. The ascent from the crypt, passing through the church and ending at the sculpture, reflects the rise and the purification of the human condition by means of sacrifice and atonement. by wikipedia.com
Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Barcelona, Spain
Gran Templo en situación especial
El Templo Expiatorio del Sagrado Corazón (en catalán Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor) es una iglesia situada en la montaña del Tibidabo, en Barcelona, obra del arquitecto Enric Sagnier i Villavecchia y finalizada por su hijo Josep Maria Sagnier i Vidal. Su construcción se prolongó de 1902 a 1961. La idea de construir un templo en lo alto de la montaña del Tibidabo surge a finales del siglo XIX ante los rumores sobre la construcción de un templo protestante y un hotel-casino, ante lo que una “Junta de Caballeros Católicos” adquiere la propiedad del terreno, cediéndolo en 1886 a San Juan Bosco, de visita entonces en Barcelona invitado por Dorotea de Chopitea, gran mecenas y promotora del proyecto. Surge entonces la idea de hacer un templo dedicado al Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, advocación de moda en aquel entonces gracias al impulso del papa León XIII, y siguiendo la línea del templo construido en Roma por el propio Bosco (Sacro Cuore di Gesù), así como del famoso Sacré-Cœur de París. En 1886 se construye una ermita neogótica, y dos años más tarde, con motivo de la Exposición Universal, se urbaniza la carretera de Vallvidrera y se construye al lado de la ermita un pabellón de inspiración mudéjar, que servía de mirador -posteriormente derribado-. Sin embargo, el proyecto sufrirá un importante retraso debido sobre todo a la aparición de un nuevo proyecto para construir un observatorio astronómico en la cima del Tibidabo, que finalmente se hizo en una colina próxima (Observatorio Fabra). Finalmente, el 28 de diciembre de 1902 se coloca la primera piedra en un acto presidido por el obispo de Barcelona, Salvador Casañas i Pagès. El 29 de octubre de 1961 recibió el título de basílica menor, otorgado por el papa Juan XXIII. de wikipedia.com
Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Barcelona, Spain
Wonderful Views, An Amusement Park, An Impressive Church
This place is for everybody: For artists, architects, parents and children! The Church and the Park are managed by different groups. It´s a wonderful pice of art, obviously designed by a "mad genious". It is so different and absurd that is absolutely wonderful. And it is still in the process of completion. Don´t visit Barcelona without visiting. Since the long ques, make ticket reservations at least one day ahead. That will save a lot of time.
Sant Pau Recinte Modernista, Barcelona, Spain
One of those places you've got to see if in Barcelona
If you are visiting Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, do include a trip to this place as it gives you a different take on the Art Nouveu by a different Architect. As an atheist health professional, this place struck even more of a chord with me than Sagrada Familia. It is hard to believe this entire hospital complex was built to such an astounding standard of architecture and mosaic interior decoration, inside and out...just wow, wow, WOW. The magnitude of this project in the early 1900's is mind-boggling, very sad to think that the architect Lluis Domenech Muntaner did not live to see the opening of this hospital (4 years after his death.) Really, you must see this - even if you think you are not the biggest fan of art, architecture or healthcare. Like the Sagrada Familia, do not miss it! This will be one of the highlights of all my European travels that I will remember for many years! We took a guided tour and it was very well worth it, with a self-guided tour you will still be able to see all the elements of the hospital complex but having a guide full of passion for the place who is able to tell you all about the facility and its history really made the experience for us. We booked onto the English tour online before we went but it did not appear that it was essential - we could have turned up at 12pm or 1pm and purchased tickets there.
Castell de Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain
Castell de Montjuïc
This forbidding castell (castle or fort) dominates the southeastern heights of Montjuïc and enjoys commanding views over the Mediterranean. It dates, in its present form, from the late 17th and 18th centuries. For most of its dark history, it has been used to watch over the city and as a political prison and killing ground. Anarchists were executed here around the end of the 19th century, fascists during the civil war and Republicans after it – most notoriously Lluís Companys in 1940. The castle is surrounded by a network of ditches and walls (from which its strategic position over the city and port become clear). Until 2009 the castle was home to a somewhat fusty old military museum, closed since the Ministry of Defence handed the fortress over to the city after protracted negotiations, although it is currently undergoing renovations and will be used as exhibition space. The artillery that once stood in the central courtyard has been removed, but some of the seaward big guns remain in place. In 2014 parts of the castle previously closed to the public – such as the tower and the dungeons – were opened, and an entrance fee was applied. A large part of the castle will now function as exhibition space, although the finer details had yet to be ironed out at the time of writing. The current exhibition explains something of the history of the place as well as detailing plans for its future. Perhaps when all this is done, the tombstones (some dating to the 11th century) from the one-time Jewish cemetery on Montjuïc will get a more imaginative exhibition space than the drab room once set aside for them in the military museum. The views from the castle and the surrounding area looking over the sea, port and city below are the best part of making the trip here. Around the seaward foot of the castle is an airy walking track, the Camí del Mar , which offers breezy views of the city and sea. From the Jardins del Mirador , opposite the Mirador (Telefèric) station, you have fine views over the port of Barcelona. A little further downhill, the Jardins de Joan Brossa are charming, landscaped gardens on the site of a former amusement park near Plaça de la Sardana . These gardens contain many Mediterranean species, from cypresses to pines and a few palms. There are swings and things, thematic walking trails and some good city views. by lonelyplanet.com
Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar, Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona’s finest Catalan Gothic church
At the southwest end of Passeig del Born stands the apse of Barcelona’s finest Catalan Gothic church, Santa Maria del Mar (Our Lady of the Sea). Built in the 14th century with record-breaking alacrity for the time (it took just 54 years), the church is remarkable for its architectural harmony and simplicity. Its construction started in 1329, with Berenguer de Montagut and Ramon Despuig being the architects in charge. During the construction, the city’s porters (bastaixos) spent a day each week carrying on their backs the stone required to build the church from royal quarries in Montjuïc. Their memory lives on in reliefs of them in the main doors and stone carvings elsewhere in the church. The walls, the side chapels and the facades were finished by 1350 and the entire structure was completed in 1383. The exterior of Santa Maria del Mar gives an impression of sternness, and like many of the buildings in the old part of town, it suffers from the impossibility of an overall perspective – the narrow streets around it are restrictive and claustrophobic. It may come as a (pleasant) surprise then, to find a spacious and light interior – the central nave and two flanking aisles separated by slender octagonal pillars give an enormous sense of lateral space. The interior is almost devoid of imagery of the sort to be found in Barcelona's other large Gothic churches, but Santa Maria was lacking in superfluous decoration even before anarchists gutted it in 1909 and 1936. Opposite the church’s southern flank, an eternal flame burns brightly over an apparently anonymous sunken square. This was once El Fossar de les Moreres (The Mulberry Cemetery), the site of a Roman cemetery. It’s also where Catalan resistance fighters were buried after the siege of Barcelona ended in defeat in September 1714. Keep an eye out for music recitals, often baroque and classical. In summer you can visit the roof terrace as part of a guided tour (€5) by lonelyplanet.com
Palacio de la Virreina, Barcelona, Spain
The Palau de la Virreina
The Barcelona Culture Institute is a public body set up by Barcelona City Council to support and promote cultural activities in the city, including the programme of events at La Virreina Image Centre at Palau de la Virreina. In 2008, La Virreina exhibition centre began a new stage as an Image Centre. Its programme has since included photography, audiovisual works, election broadcasts, book publishing, literary festivals, talks, digital documentation and expanded literature in the age of the image, amongst others. La Virreina Image Centre aims to explore the notion of the image as knowledge and also as a way of sparking new cultural experiences. Its key mission is to forge its own identity within the network of spaces in Barcelona, in terms of its lines of programmes and its contents and formats, as well as working closely with other centres for visual creation. The Palau de la Virreina, a jewel of baroque civil architecture, was built between 1772 and 1777 as the residence of Manuel d’Amat, Viceroy of Peru. The Amats finally sold the building, which was the property of the Carreras family from 1835 to 1944, when it was purchased by the City Council. The site housed different museums and collections until, in 1986, it was converted into the seat of the Council’s Culture Department (now ICUB). In 2007, approval was given to establish La Virreina Centre de la Imatge on the first floor and part of the ground floor, with the mission of generating a space in which to explore the universe and promote new cultural experiences. It was La Virreina Centre de la Imatge that, in 2010, promoted a “critical” restoration of the building.
Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona, Spain
Parque de la Ciudadela
Construido sobre los terrenos de la antigua fortaleza de la ciudad con motivo de la Exposición Universal de 1888, el Parque de la Ciudadela (Parc de la Ciutadella) fue durante muchos años el único parque público de Barcelona. Con una extensión de más de 17 hectáreas que se extienden sobre el barrio de Ciutat Vella, el parque compone uno de los principales pulmones de la ciudad y un oasis alejado del tráfico y las prisas. Tras la Guerra de Sucesión Española Felipe V ordenó la construcción del Castillo de Montjuïc y una enorme ciudadela, para lo cual se derribaron las casas de la zona y más de 4.500 personas fueron desalojadas. Tras la Revolución de 1868 la ciudadela fue demolida y solo se conservaron la capilla, el Palacio del Gobernador y el arsenal, que actualmente es la sede del Parlamento de Cataluña. Con motivo de la Exposición Universal de 1888 tuvo lugar la construcción del espectacular parque, para lo cual se contó con las colaboración del artista Antonio Gaudí. Con una extensión de más de 17 hectáreas que se extienden sobre el barrio de Ciutat Vella, el parque compone uno de los principales pulmones de la ciudad y un oasis alejado del tráfico y las prisas. Probablemente los elementos más llamativos del parque sean su sorprendente cascada compuesta por un enorme conjunto monumental y el edificio del Castillo de los Tres Dragones, que en la actualidad funciona como Museo de Zoología. Además de esto el parque cuenta con extensas áreas ajardinadas, monumentos, arboledas, un lago, un invernadero y el Zoológico de Barcelona. El Parque de la Ciudadela es un espacio muy agradable que ofrece la posibilidad de relajarse en un entorno propio de un museo al aire libre. de conocerbarcelona.com
CosmoCaixa Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
Great place to visit, if you have time
Great museum to spend a day in, there is something for everyone. There is information about the Mediterranean, then biology, then technology and also a bit of archaeology and history! Lots to do. Also lots of kids running around. Easy to get to as well by metro! And very cheap at 4 euro
Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Puerto Madero: un sitio residencial exclusivo y elegante.
Puerto Madero en un sitio residencial exclusivo y de excelencia por la elegancia, el buen gusto, los increíbles edificios, los buenos restaurantes y negocios de la Ciudad. Uno de los detalles a recalcar es que todas sus calles rinden homenaje a mujeres destacadas de la historia argentina. Entre los magníficos edificios totalmente de cristal y las antiguas casonas, podemos descubrir algunos chateau como el edifico del Hotel Hilton que, aunque nuevo, está realizado en un muy clásico estilo francés, también podemos admirar las fábricas de antaño recuperadas, su antiguo puerto inaugurado en 1897, con un lugar especialmente adjudicado a los Museos Corbeta Uruguay y Fragata Sarmiento, que conviven armónicamente con algunos yates y elegantes veleros del Yatcht Club Puerto Madero, la exposición de antiguas grúas, sus plazas y plazoletas. Es un placer caminarlo, recorrerlo, mirar hacia arriba y hacia abajo, en medio de una fina llovizna que le daba al cielo ese color plomizo ideal para las buenas fotos. Allí nos encontramos con la Fuente de las Nereidas, la Juan Manuel Fangio y su Monumento el auto Mercedes Bez con que se hiciera famoso Campeón del Mundo en automovilismo, y el moderno Puente de la Mujer. Al limitar con el Barrio Monserrat podrán visitar la Plaza de Mayo , y todos los importantes edificios de sus alrededores y, al hacerlo también con el Barrio San Nicolás se encontraran con la Catedral Metropolitana
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Mi viaje a Buenos Aires
Hay dos Buenos Aires diferentes. Una para el turista, una vidriera de cosas estupendas, y otra para el porteño, que puede darse algún que otro gusto pero no puede permitirse vivir al nivel de un turista. Me refiero especialmente a ciertos barrios relativamente nuevos como Puerto Madero o Palermo Soho (llamado así porque es un barrio “trendy”) donde sus restaurantes, tiendas y hoteles están preciosos, impecables, pero que en general son bastante caros, con precios para turistas que van con dólares o euros. Algunas tiendas no marcan los precios en la ropa, a modo de broma dicen que depende de cómo habla el cliente, es un precio u otro. Si te mueves en sitios muy turísticos, los precios son elevados, aunque de todos modos, con el cambio actual, para los europeos son muy buenos precios. A lo mejor no hay tanta diferencia en ropa de marca, que es cara, pero sí por ejemplo en cosas cotidianas como cenar en un restaurante o en coger un taxi. Hemos pasado allí Navidad y Año Nuevo, con calor, claro. A pesar de los 35 grados se acostumbra comer frutos secos, turrones y unas buenas comilonas protagonizadas generalmente por un asado o un lechón frío acompañado de todo tipo de ensaladas, arrollados y postres con dulce de leche para después. Buenos Aires es y está muy bonita. La seguridad, un tema que preocupa bastante a los visitantes, está mucho mejor que años atrás, ya no se nota esa sensación de inseguridad en las calles. Desde luego es un momento ideal para conocer la ciudad. A partir de estas fechas los precios de los pasajes ya han bajado, y a pesar de que hay que aguantarse 12 horas de avión merece mucho la pena conocerla. Y ya que hacemos el viaje es obligado hacer un recorrido por las bellezas naturales del país como el Glaciar Perito Moreno, las cataratas del Iguazú o la Patagonia Argentina.
Argentina es un país que invita a disfrutar de su naturaleza y su gente, y entre sus atractivos turisticos encontramos ambientes naturales, ciudades fascinantes, la tranquilidad del turismo rural y una rica historia. Disfrutar de las vacaciones en Argentina será sumamente placentero. Argentina está atravesada por una variedad de climas. El extenso territorio de la República está dotado de grandes atractivos turísticos. Hacer turismo en Argentina significa tener una amplia diversidad de opciones para sus visitantes. Es un país que cuenta con casi tres millones de kilómetros cuadrados (es el cuarto país más grande de América y el octavo país más grande del mundo). Cuenta con una topografía de variedad única como sus climas y vegatación. Argentina posee dentro de sus vastas fronteras algunas de las riquezas y tesoros naturales más envidiados del mundo. La tamporada alta en la Argentina transcurre en los meses de enero y febrero (vacaciones de verano) y julio (vacaciones de invierno). En esos períodos hay mucho turismo local y los precios en general son mayores. Buenos Aires se puede disfrutar todo el año, aunque en verano es muy caluroso.(enero y febrero sobre todo).
La Ribera, Barcelona, Spain
A must for anyone taking a walk through Barcelona.
La Ribera neighbourhood is a must for anyone taking a walk through Barcelona. Whether you get there from the Via Laietana or the Arc de Triomf, as you explore the maze of narrow streets in this neighbourhood where merchants, artisans and guilds once, you’ll discover the city of design, leisure and fashion. Many artists have set up their studios in La Ribera neighbourhood, inheriting the past of the neighbourhood where Barcelona city’s artisans used to live. Many street names remind us of the ancient trades and skills: Mirallers (mirror makers), Sombrerers (hatters), Argenters (silversmiths), etc. Streets that grew up around the church of Santa Maria del Mar, which is, without a shadow of a doubt, the masterpiece of Catalan Gothic architecture. By the 13th century, Barcelona needed to expand beyond its city walls and a separate borough was created, which soon became the district where merchants and the wealthiest Barcelona families came to live, supported by an important seafaring tradition. Carrer Montcada, currently the home of art galleries and major museums such as the Museu Picasso, formed the centre of this affluent part of Barcelona. The medieval palazzos are a vivid reminder of this past. A period of splendour cut short in the 16th century, and later, by the War of the Spanish Succession, when Philip V built a military citadel on the eastern side of La Ribera. Now, among the ancient stones of La Ribera, restaurants, wine bars, cocktail lounges, dance clubs and designer boutiques showcase the vibrant colour of an old neighbourhood whose beauty has been renewed.
Barri Gótic, Barcelona, Spain
The centre of the Roman city, today’s Gothic Quarter.
A stroll through Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter brings to light the early Roman city of Barcino and the medieval town with its palazzos, mansions and Gothic churches. This is the style that defines “the heart of Barcelona”: a neighbourhood where the splendour of the historic past coexists with the vibrancy of the present. The centre of the Roman city, today’s Gothic Quarter, was marked by the point where the two main streets, the Cardo and Decumanus, converged. Today the Carrer del Bisbe and Carrer Llibreteria stand on this site. Nearby, we can still see the remains of the Roman temple of Augustus. In fact, the original centre of Roman and medieval Barcelona still forms the core of 21st-century Barcelona. Its maze of narrow streets and squares is steeped in the city’s past and present. Here, in the Gothic Quarter, we find the City Hall and the seat of the Catalan Government, the Palau de la Generalitat, the Cathedral and other Gothic churches, including Santa Maria del Pi and Sants Just i Pastor. Very near the Plaça de Sant Jaume, right in the middle of this Barcelona neighbourhood, is the old Jewish Quarter, the Call Jueu, with its endless narrow streets, where some remains of the ancient synagogue still survive. In the Gothic Quarter, the Plaça del Rei proudly showcases the architectural ensemble made up of the royal residences of the Catalan-Aragonese monarchs. Below the square, you can visit the impressive archaeological remains of Roman Barcino. Behind the Cathedral stands the beautiful Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, with its baroque church. The square is surrounded by narrow streets in a Barcelona neighbourhood suffused with history which comes to life when you go there. by barcelonaturisme.com
Barrio del Raval, Barcelona, Spain
Beautiful place to visit!
The word Raval, which comes from the Arabic Rabad, means neighbourhood or district. Once home to a cluster of convents and hospitals in Barcelona, the Raval has become a multicultural mosaic where the mix of modernity and the past of the former Barrio Chino, have made it a pole of attraction for people from all over the world. Barcelona’s Raval neighbourhood, which was hemmed in by the city walls until 1859, is now bounded by La Rambla, Carrer Pelai, the Ronda Sant Antoni, Ronda Sant Pere and the Paral·lel. These ancient Roman roads marked out the boundaries of the walls which were demolished so that the rapidly growing city could expand. Within these perimeters, this area, which had been the site of fields and convents until the mid-19th century, saw the construction of textile mills and workers’ houses throughout the network of narrow winding streets in this Barcelona neighbourhood. As a result of its industrialisation and proximity to the port, the Raval became a neighbourhood with a high immigrant population, where social problems were commonplace. And it was because of this that the journalist Àngel Marsà christened it the Barrio Chino in 1925, a monicker still used until fairly recently. The efforts made by Barcelona City Council since the 1990s to clean up and improve living conditions in Raval neighbourhood, by building new streets, such as the Rambla del Raval, and creating institutions which have had a major impact on its social and cultural life, such as the Centre de Cultura Contemporània and MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona), have given the Raval back its reputation and prestige. by barcelonaturisme.com
If the aurora inspires wonder, the fata morgana may prompt a visit to a psychiatrist. The clear and pure Arctic air ensures that distant features do not appear out of focus. As a result, depth perception becomes impossible and the world takes on a strangely two-dimensional aspect where distances are indeterminable. Early explorers meticulously laid down on maps and charts islands, headlands and mountain ranges that were never seen again. An amusing example of distance distortion, described in the enigmatic book Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez, involves a Swedish explorer who was completing a description in his notebook of a craggy headland with two unusual symmetrical valley glaciers, when he discovered that he was actually looking at a walrus. Fata morganas are apparently caused by reflections off water, ice and snow, and when combined with temperature inversions, create the illusion of solid, well-defined features where there are none. On clear days off the outermost coasts of Lofoten, Vesterålen, northern Finnmark and Svalbard, you may well observe inverted mountains or nonexistent archipelagos of craggy islands resting on the horizon. It’s difficult indeed to convince yourself, even with an accurate map, that they’re not really there! Also unsettling are the sightings of ships, large cities and forests where there could clearly be none. Normal visibility at sea is less than 18km, but in the Arctic, sightings of islands and features hundreds of kilometres distant are frequently reported.
There are few sights as mesmerising as an undulating aurora. Although these appear in many forms – pillars, streaks, wisps and haloes of vibrating light – they’re most memorable when taking the form of pale curtains wafting on a gentle breeze. Most often, the Arctic aurora appears as a faint green or light rose but, in periods of extreme activity, can change to yellow or crimson. The visible aurora borealis, or northern lights, are caused by streams of charged particles from the sun, called the solar wind, which are directed by the Earth’s magnetic field towards the polar regions. Because the field curves downward in a halo surrounding the magnetic poles, the charged particles are drawn earthward. Their interaction with electrons in nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the upper atmosphere releases the energy creating the visible aurora. During periods of high activity, a single auroral storm can produce a trillion watts of electricity with a current of one million amps. The Inuit (Eskimos) call the lights arsarnerit ('to play with a ball'), as they were thought to be ancestors playing ball with a walrus skull. The Inuit also attach spiritual significance to the lights, and some believe that they represent the capering of unborn children; some consider them gifts from the dead to light the long polar nights and others see them as a storehouse of events, past and future. Norwegian folklore attributes the lights to old maids or dead maidens dancing and weaving. The lights were seen as a bad omen and a sign that God was angry, and people who mocked the superstition risked incurring the ire of God. The best time of year to catch the northern lights in Norway is from October to March, although you may also see them as early as August. Oddly enough, Svalbard is actually too far north to catch the greatest activity.
Norway: Midnight sun and polar night
When it comes to spotting natural phenomena, it's hard to go past Norway. From August, you'll catch the end of the midnight sun and, if you're lucky, the start of the dancing light show put on by aurora borealis. And when that's not happening you'll have your sense of perception challenged. Midnight sun (and polar night) Because the Earth is tilted on its axis, polar regions are constantly facing the sun at their respective summer solstices and are tilted away from it in the winter. The Arctic and Antarctic circles, at 66° 33’ north and south latitude respectively, are the southern and northern limits of constant daylight on their longest day of the year. The northern half of mainland Norway, as well as Svalbard and Jan Mayen island, lie north of the Arctic Circle but, even in southern Norway, the summer sun is never far below the horizon. Between late May and mid-August, nowhere in the country experiences true darkness and in Trondheim, for example, the first stars aren’t visible until mid-August. Conversely, winters here are dark, dreary and long, with only a few hours of twilight to break the long polar nights. In Svalbard, not even a twilight glow can be seen for over a month. During this period of darkness, many people suffer from SAD syndrome, or 'seasonal affective disorder'. Not surprisingly, most northern communities make a ritual of welcoming the sun the first time it peeks above the southern horizon.
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