Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Circuit de Catalunya: Formula 1 test days and a Le Mans race

Circuit de Catalunya is in Montmelo, about a 30 minute trip by train from Barcelona. In this small town is the car track, used for events like Le Mans, Radical European Masters, CEM, and most importantly Formula 1. Though a seat during a Formula 1 race can sell for close to 600 Euros, there are plenty of other events that are cheap or even free.

We went to an F1 test day a few weeks ago. These aren't official races, but they are a chance for the teams to test their cars and drivers. Full speed, some famous names, free seating... lots of fun.

(click to enlarge, especially the Le Mans images)

The Grandstand and entrance

Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari F60

Heikki Kovalainen in the McLaren Mercedes MP4-24. I might make Spaniards mad... but this is definitely the most impressive car to me. :)

Pit crew for Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.09 (I think)

* * *
1,000 Km of Catalunya: Le Mans Series

April 4th and 5th were two days of Le Mans events. Included was the first leg of the Le Mans series, a 6-hour race around the track. Other classes of cars were able to race or have other events as well. Overall winner was the Lola Aston Martin.
Tip: The tickets were supposed to be 15 Euros a piece, but on the site there was a downloadble ticket for free entry for two days.

Starting lineup

Here you can see a few classes of cars sharing the track during the race.

nice day for a race
We walked around the entire track to kill some time, even though we only came for the last 3 hours of the race. The landscape is really nice and during this time of year, the weather is great. Lots of trees and flowers to contrast the sound of jet-engine cars - fun for everyone right?

Ha! I don't think we were supposed to be up here, but a smile will get you far.
Here you can see the multiple classes of cars again - check out the little green guy in front of the others. I think the driver is just having a good time with the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, the Saleen, etc.. what is this car?

I will have that Aston Martin.

I cannot tell you what this car is... but here it is!

Access to the paddock was included in the ticket. Very cool to see all the people and equipment behind each race. Aston Martin's trailer was the most impressive. It expanded into a two-story restaurant/conference center. I will have that Aston Martin..


What's a win without Champagne?

Lots of winners, lots of Champagne

For people travelling to Montmelo and the Circuit by train:
It's a long walk from the station to the track, don't let the maps provided by the track fool you. Just follow the sound of the cars..
Round trip from Passeig de Gracia's Renfe Cercanias is 3 Euros a person. There are plenty of trains, at least 1 every half hour that will go in your direction.
You are (usally?) allowed to bring in your own food and drink, as long as it's not in glass bottles. I saw people having beer out of cans so I think alcohol is OK too. Bring some bread with meats and cheeses and you can make a day out of it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fiesta de San Medir, Gracia

This is a festival that happened a few weeks ago in my neighborhood of Grácia. We were shook awake by what we thought were gunshots at 8am -- these turned out to be firecrackers being shot from plaza Rius i Taulet, signaling the start of an all-day fiesta. Streaming through the streets are parades of colles, which are different groups of people in open trucks which represent various groups in this part of the city. In the end, they all have one thing in common -- throw as much hard boiled sweets as you can to the people in the street. I've read two versions of why this festival goes on, but the common answer is: the parade originated in the 16th century as a pilgrimage in honor of Sant Medir, the patron saint of broad beans. What?? Ok! Street party all day til midnight!

Plaça Rius i Taulet, with its regular patrons on the benches

Entering the plaza

The local government building

Very Catalan

Kind of like birds in a nest!

Definitely the momma bird

Street cleaners came by 3 times that day.

Shoulda stayed on the ground!

I told you this was an old festival right? Everyone takes advantage of the candy!

Every 20 minutes a new band would come by.

In between the bands, horses!

Monday, March 2, 2009


As I've said before, this isn't a vacation-photo blog with postcard-ready, wide-angle shots of popular sights in Barcelona. These are images that you probably won't see on Frommer's or tripadvisor - the ones you have to be on foot to get to, or at least be willing to crop much of the image to isolate something even more interesting. (2nd blogpost of the day! I'm on a roll!)

(Plus, I don't even have a wide-angle lens :) this leaves me with only tight crops anyway!)

So, here's a bunch of photos I took last week while wandering around:

Casa Comalat
This is a detail of a building that is a couple of blocks from my apartment. Amazing mosaic work! It is under construction/renovation right now, which is really sad for me because if you click here you can see it's a cool building. At the moment there are huge sheets covering the front. If you compare this view with one of the others that are in the above link, you can see how the construction has dirtied the spaces between the tiny tiles. I hope I am still in Barcelona when they finish construction.

Around the corner is this mosaic on the side of a church. "Mare de Deu Del Carme."

J. Murria, 85 Roger de Llúria
Wow.. This is a beautiful store. It's a gourmet delicatessen that dates from 1898 and is part of the Modernist Route of Barcelona. A complete image and their site is here. Below are more details..

Vinos de Alella

Marques de Monistrol

agh shiny!!

Chartreuse! Tarragona is a town not far from Barcelona.

Modernist Farmácia
Plenty of these in Barcelona. I believe this one is also on Roger de Llúria. The window-box above the pharmacy is typical of this area.

Around the corner - dragon detail in a gate. Plenty of dragons to be found in Barcelona.

?? It looks cool. :)

This door is on my street. Elaborate!

The next street... spanish redundancy. Redundancy and graffiti. Sounds about right!

My street

I love the interior plaza!

The corner of my street, at sunset. Take that, Cedar Park!

Casa Milá/La Pedrera

Well, here is one of the wide touristy shots I told you would be uncommon - but I had to put this in order to put a better perspective on the next photos and I have never posted about this building before. This is Casa Milá, also called La Pedrera. It's one of the most famous landmarks of Barcelona, and has a very interesting history - see the link if you like! Also, it is famous for going against city building code on multiple counts... what do you think of that, mom?
Casa Milá / La Pedrera wiki link

Famous streetposts on Passeig de Gracia

Now that you've seen the building, I can show you the man painting it! Also you have a better idea of how huge it actually is.

Close-up of the painter