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Independent shops in Barcelona, Catalonia

Friday January 7th, 2011 10:06 PM

tiendas de barcelona

One of the things that has always fascinated me about Spain in general but Barcelona in particular is the large number of independent shops that seem to thrive despite competition from large chain stores or out-of-town malls.

Barcelona’s Barrio Gótico  – or old centre – is full of such shops which, at the extreme, may specialise in only one product. Arlequí Màscares, in Plaza St Josep Oriol, sells only masques, many made in-house. Not far away, the hat shop Obach, was attracting a constant stream of customers through its doors when I passed by as was Subur, a shoe shop that sells only one style of shoe, albeit in a variety of colours.

In Calle de Pi is Drap, which sells dolls houses and miniature furniture and figures destined to live in them. And if you get peckish after all the walking required between shops, a few doors up is Pineda, a café which specialises cured meats.

All this is not to say that Barcelona is bereft of department stores and high-street names – in fact they were packed with people on the first day of the sales when I took these pictures – but the fact that the city is able to accommodate both is surely one of the factors Barcelona’s continued success.

tiendas de barcelona

tiendas de barcelona

tiendas de barcelona

tiendas de barcelona

tiendas de barcelona

tiendas de barcelona

Bar El Refugio photography, Ezcaray, La Rioja

Monday December 13th, 2010 07:38 PM

Bar El Refugio Ezcaray La Rioja

My sister-in-law, Allende, has just spent a fortune renovating her bar in Ezcaray. Technically known as Cervecería Refugio (where ‘cervecería’ translates, I guess, as well-stock pub), I’ve always thought it’s best known for its marvellous selection of sensational tapas and, perhaps too, the forceful character of its owner. She is, as they say, unique. The day before the builders moved in, I took some photos so she’d have a memory of the proverbial good-old times.

The renovation, eventful to say the least – they discovered a stream flowing under the floor-,  is now finished. If you think the place looks good in the photos, it’s even better now.

Bar El Refugio Ezcaray La Rioja

Bar El Refugio Ezcaray La Rioja

Bar El Refugio Ezcaray La Rioja

Bar El Refugio Ezcaray La Rioja

Bar El Refugio Ezcaray La Rioja

The Rioja Alavesa harvest, Laguardia, Álava, País Vasco

Thursday October 14th, 2010 07:47 PM

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

For people the world over the word Rioja is synonymous with great wines. But how many people outside Spain would be able to picture the landscape where the vines grow? La Rioja is an area that neither fits with the dry image of southern Spain nor the green of the north coast.

So harvest time seemed a good moment to revisit Casa Primicia winery where I’d been in April and was struck by the beauty of the setting. The bodega is in Laguardia, a medieval hilltop village in Álava, in the southern Basque Country, and part of Rioja Alavesa wine growing area.

There was a team of eight pickers – all Moroccans now living in northern Spain – who worked their way through the vineyards with impressive speed. I was lucky that the early morning light made the vines – with the leaves just turning red – all the better. In the top photo you can just make out the mountains of the Cordillera Cantábrica which lies to the north of the bodega and heavily influences the local microclimate.

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

San Mateo fiestas, Logroño, La Rioja

Friday September 24th, 2010 04:37 PM

San Mateo, Logroño, La Rioja, España

One of the great attractions of San Mateo – the week-long festival taking place in Logroño, the capital of La Rioja, these days – are the weird and wonderful events put on by local clubs.

No one in the tourist information office could tell me what Tirada a la Rana (literally: Throw at the frog) consisted of. It was, it turned out when I found my way to a nearby street, a variation on a well-loved and global fairground activity testing people’s chucking prowess. In this case the local club, Peña La Unión, was challenging people to lob small disks into the mouth of a metal frog. Each competitor had 10 throws. Few managed to score a direct hit.

In Logroño’s old quarter, many stands had a gastronomic delicacy at heart. A club with connections to neighbouring Navarra were offering chistorra (a type of sausage) hot dogs and a glass of wine. Not far away Peña Rondalosa was busy barbecuing hundreds of sardines served on bread with a glass of wine. And beside the cathedral was the Federation of Peñas offering stuffed red peppers… with a small bottle of wine. Notice the trend here?

Aside from these stalls a staple of many La Rioja festivals, giants and “cabezudos” (big heads) were winding and twirling their way through the city’s streets. The giants are big but relatively harmless. The cabezudos, however, have a not entirely agreeable habit of sneeking up on the unsuspecting and giving them a whack with a large club. No one, young or old, appears to be immune from their attentions. In their wake many parents are left comforting petrified small children. But all in the best possible taste, of course.

San Mateo, Logroño, La Rioja, España

San Mateo, Logroño, La Rioja, España

San Mateo, Logroño, La Rioja, España

San Mateo, Logroño, La Rioja, España

San Mateo, Logroño, La Rioja, España

San Mateo, Logroño, La Rioja, España

San Mateo, Logroño, La Rioja, España

San Mateo, Logroño, La Rioja, España

Clay pigeon shooting competition, Ezcaray, La Rioja

Monday September 20th, 2010 09:50 AM

Torneo de Tiro al Plato, Ezcaray, La RiojaThe landscape may still look parched after the dry summer but the nights are getting longer, the mornings cooler and the swallows have gone. And with the changing season, the crack of far off gunfire from the hills has returned. The hunting season is underway.

Fowl shooting began the middle of last month and the deer season will get going next month. In the mean time, dozens of game sport enthusiasts met in Ezcaray, La Rioja, last weekend for a clay pigeon shooting competition.

The competition attracted some serious hands who turned up in kit embroidered with their names and autographed weapons. But most of those taking part borrowed a gun and stood in line in their t-shirts, shorts and trainers while waiting to have a crack at the 20 targets.

Some hit almost all; a few hardly any. But what was really noticeable was how competitive and emotional almost everybody became.

Torneo de Tiro al Plato, Ezcaray, La Rioja

Torneo de Tiro al Plato

Torneo de Tiro al Plato, Ezcaray, La Rioja

Torneo de Tiro al Plato, Ezcaray, La Rioja

Torneo de Tiro al Plato, Ezcaray, La Rioja

Torneo de Tiro al Plato, Ezcaray, La Rioja