We’re walking down Passeig de Gracia with a group of clients — a family — who is wide-eyed with wonder at the life and vitality of Barcelona’s swankiest street.
We head toward Plaza Catalunya. All of a sudden, the dad stops in his tracks. He’s staring across the street at a building laden in tiles, wild colors and crazy designs.
“What’s that?!” he asks.
Favorite Questions From Our Clients
Our clients aren’t any different than the majority of tourists who come to Barcelona. The city is new for most of them, some have studied BCN a bit while others are roaming the streets as a blank slate.
Take our example in the introduction. The father, as it turns out, is standing across the street from Casa Batllo, one of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi’s creations and a top-10 tourist site in the city. But the dad didn’t know it — that’s part of the magic of showing visitors our city. They have plenty of questions and the city’s landmark sites literally stun them.
We get plenty of questions every tour. Here’s a list of our favorites:
Barcelona is a city known by its architecture. More than half of the top-10 sites in the city are buildings. Each year, millions of people walk in and out of the doors of Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo and La Pedrera.
Yet this trio of buildings — all built by Gaudi — are just three of dozens of examples of the modernista movement in the city. Other famous Catalan architects like Puig i Cadafalch and Domanech i Montener left their unique touch on many buildings in the city. It’s difficult to go even a few blocks in the city within curious eyes focusing on these fantastic buildings. And, usually, the first response is, “What’s that?!”
“Is Catalan a language or a dialect?”
This is a classic question and it’s a great question because it brings to the forefront the cultural and historical differences between Catalonia and Spain. The simple answer to this inquiry is, “A language.” In fact, Catalan enthusiasts like Gaudi have rightly pointed out that Castilian Spanish has borrowed words from Catalan. The natural tendency is to believe it’s the other way around, but that’s not the case.
Read the mobile fable: a hand-decorated carousel powered by peddling and turning a hand crank for the music. #carousel A photo posted by Barcelona Experience: (@bcn_exp) on
Catalan is its own language with origins that date back thousands of years. It’s spoken throughout Catalonia and in some parts of southern France as well. The language has some French and Italian influences in it — some words are nearly identical to their French and Italian counterparts, while other words are completely unique.
If you speak Spanish, you’ll have a relatively easy time reading Catalan. Listening to and speaking Catalan is a different story — sometimes you can understand three or four sentences, then completely blank on the meaning of the next three or four sentences.
“Isn’t there talk of independence?”
Yes, there’s always talk of independence in Catalonia. The Catalan people are very proud of their heritage and the long history their land has. There was a time, under the reign of Jaume I, when Catalonia ruled the Mediterranean. Enthusiastic leaders and writers believed the Catalans could rule much more than just the Med.
That sense of Catalan ambition has stayed with the people despite their loss to Spanish/French armies in 1714. The region has been an industrial powerhouse for hundreds of years, and this sense of economic self-sufficiency fuels the Catalan desire for independence. Furthermore, recent economic times have continued to sour Catalonia’s relationship with Madrid, the center of power in Spain. Catalan independence goes beyond just talk. The region has held a series of votes, that, while not having any legal basis, are a strong statement of the Catalan desire for full autonomy.
“There’s a soccer team here, right?”
Indeed there is. FC Barcelona is one of the world’s most successful football clubs and a perennial powerhouse in the Spanish First Division. For the past five year’s, they’ve been arguably the best soccer team in the world. Their stadium, Camp Nou, is the epicenter of the city’s support of the team. A collection of chairs in one section of the stadium are painted to spell out “Mes que un club,” which is Catalan for “More than a club.”
FC Barcelona’s 2015 jersey breaks with the traditional vertical lines of colors and goes horizontal. Visiting at #campNou. Do you like or dislike this season’s jersey? #Barcelona #fcBarcelonajersey A photo posted by Barcelona Experience: (@bcn_exp) on
But here’s the catch — FC Barcelona isn’t the only First Division Spanish football team in the city. RCD Espanyol also plays in Barcelona. Their stadium is located next to the freeway on the way to Barcelona’s El Prat airport. Their team isn’t nearly as good as FCB, but they have a knack for finishing each First Division season in the middle of the pack.
“How’s the transportation system?”
Barcelona’s transportation system is phenomenal. Metro stations are easy to navigate. Buses are plentiful. A well-organized train system takes you to surrounding communities and cities.
Another advantage to the public transportation system is that one metro ticket can get you a ride on the metro, the bus, the regional train, the national train and the funicular that takes you to Montjuic and to Tibidabo.
Metro signs are written in Catalan, English and Spanish and the public transportation system (TMB) has an app that gives you up minute-by-minute wait times for all the city’s bus stops and metro stations.