I thought it would make a change to stroll around Barcelona (taking care to avoid all the Gaudi buildings) as I went on my hunt for a key shop in the old town. What I got was rather less expected. I did find probably the best knife and scissor shop ever.
Everywhere you go, ephemeral modern art can be seen on streets, in parks, and in less obvious places. This lady had decorated the basket of her bicycle.
But there are signs of the credit crisis even here, in the wealthy Catalan part of Spain, with rough sleepers bedded down inside ATM foyers and a mass protest outside the town hall against a plan to privatise parks and public spaces. Here, a Channel 8 reporter attempts to be heard above thousands of whistles, blown so that the sitting council can hear them in the debating chamber and take note.
The poster announced La Merce (sorry, no accent button for the ‘e’), Barcelona’s celebration of its patron Saint, which tales the form of castellers, or human castles (sometimes immense), giants, dragons, demons and lots of fire-running. Every district has giants and fires.
The last thing you expect to see during a walk in the park is a dozen tango couples dancing through a lake of fire, but in the Cuitadella Parc at midnight there were shadow sand shows, acrobats, spacemen, dragons, bands and groups of children being entertained under trees by teachers – all after midnight. The couples waltzed and poured liquid fire over each others heads in spectacular displays of elegance. Each event had a narrative and thousands attended, young and very old, under the stars with sherries and a very strong smell of hash.