Flamenco Dance Show.

* Another post from my old blog that I forgot to publish here.

One of the first bookings we made upon arrival to Barcelona was to purchase tickets to a flamenco dance club called Cordobes. Cordobes is in Las Ramblas area in Barcelona. Las Ramblas usually describe as the “heart of the city,” as it has many theatres and shows houses in the area, that dates back to the nineteenth century. Cordobes have had Flamenco shows since the 1970s. We knew Flamenco shows are popular in Barcelona, but never expected it to be as popular; to have three full shows per night. The first performance at Cordobes was at six thirty, followed by another show at eight thirty and the last show scheduled at ten thirty. The early show is the most expensive,  ticket combined with a tapas buffet dinner. The second show was at eight-thirty, had two options, one with tapas buffet dinner and the other with a drink. Of course, the prices differ, as the saying goes, you’ll get what you’re willing to pay. The last show at ten thirty was the cheapest, with no additional charges or add-ons of extra services. The ticket prices ranged from forty Euros to hundred and twenty Euros. We purchased our show tickets for eight-thirty, with drinks only option.

We arrived at Cordobes fifteen minutes early, to find, that people were mingling and queuing in front of the building. Soon after we joined the line, our tickets were checked by a staff and pamphlets given to us. The leaflet had information about the Flamenco dance, its history and a brief note about the venue and performers. Soon we were assigned to another staff, who took charge and ushered us into the building. I assumed the hall we were in could probably accommodate over a hundred people. The room looked like a cave. Its length was longer than its width. The stage was facing the narrower part of the hall, set in a setting that resembled the mouth of a cave. The seating arrangement for the majority of the audience was on either side of the stage, where the room looked wider and longer. However, about six or seven rows of chairs were positioned, in front of the stage, directly facing it. The room was fully pack in all directions, except for a small gap between the stage and the few rows of seats facing it.

A preshow announcement was made informing us, that the show will be conduct, without using microphones, speakers and sound systems; hence, the organisers appeal for total silence during the performance. Filming or still photography using a camera or phone is prohibited, until they signal the audience to do so. Shortly after those briefings, it was show time. The music was played solely on guitars. Singing sounded like ballads, and there was a beautiful connection between the singers and the dancers. It looked as though the dancers movements and emotions get charged with the words from the vocalists. Dancing began as a gentle heel tapping on the floor, followed by a slow, gracious movements of arms and rhythmic hand clapping. Gradually the songs and the tunes from guitar became livelier, louder and the dancer’s moves became faster and more vigorous. Each performance ended with frenzied heel tapping and body movements with a sudden loud cry of excitement and handclapping from many performers.

The information on the Cordobes Flamenco dance club described the performance in these words. Flamenco does not tell a particular story, but speaks of the human condition in general or everyday life. It is music and dance, created in its purest form. The continuous improvisation from the artist, and the mystery of “Duende”; the playful interaction between guitar, song and dance create a dialogue with each other, which is inspired and created through intuition.”  Flamenco is performed in religious festivals, rituals, and church ceremonies and in private celebrations in Spain. In 2010, Flamenco made it to the list of UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

A work of art, an architectural miracle: Sagrada Familia.

In our experience, the most convenient, reliable, safe and inexpensive way to explore a new city is being on a Hop-on-Hop-off bus. The bus ride on its particular route gives an idea of interesting places in the city. From then on, we chose the places to explore at our convenience and pace. In Barcelona, we did so and got off the Hop-on-Hop-off bus at Sagrada Familia. It was a very windy day in March 2013, but we lined up to buy the entrance ticket. The queue to the ticketing booth was long. By the time we bought our tickets, I was shivering from the cold. Back then, we paid eighteen Euros for our entry tickets with an audio guide.

We approached the door to the basilica with our tickets and noticed its long, wide door, decorated with words from the Bible. Carved letters filled the door from top to bottom. Once inside the building, we were quite surprised by the unique features of the interior work.  I felt that I was in some magical place.  The tall columns inside the building looked like tall trees. In some parts, it seemed the branches have been cut off. Parts of the ceiling had complicated geometric shapes; that resembled like flowers. There were many flowers with different sizes and shapes, like a flower garden. The sunlight reflected from the stained glass windows into the building, painted the walls naturally with shades of colours. It is clear that Gaudi was very inspired by nature when doing the project of Sagrada Familia. Many structural and ornamental pieces in the church resembled trees, flowers, leaves, snails, birds, and humans. The basement level of the building is the museum, showcasing photographs,  sketches and models of the building by Gaudi.

Sagrada Familia is in Mallorca district in Barcelona. The famous Spanish architect and artist, Antoni Gaudi designed the unusual, gothic style church. The church’s construction work began in the year 1884 with the financing from donations. Gaudi himself had been employed on the project for twelve years before he died in a tram accident in 1926. At the time of his death, the building was incomplete. According to the narration, Gaudi’s has said;  “The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is made by the people and is mirrored in them. It is a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people.”  At the time of his words, no one may have imagined it would take 130 years to complete what Gaudi started. According to the information booklet, we have from 2013; the church will fully be completed by the year 2025.  Its funding comes from over two million visitors who visit Sagrada Familia every year.

 

 

 

Interesting Buildings in Barcelona.

A visit to Barcelona may be incomplete if you miss the work of famous Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi. He changed the face of architecture and building technology with curves, shapes and ornaments. We stopped by at two of his iconic buildings. Below here is La Pedrera or Casa Mila, a residential building, Gaudi made for a business man. It is said to be one of the last piece of civil engineering by Gaudi. At the time of Antoni Gaudi’s death, he was working on Sagrada Familia. It is a Roman Catholic Church in the Mallorca district. The construction work started centuries ago. When we visited the church in the Spring of 2013, it was still an ongoing project; preserving the old and continuing the process of building, according to Gaudi’s original plans. The mystical, magical, yet terrifying facade of this building has a beautiful interior, made of ornate columns resembling trees, flowers, stars and stained glass windows. The reflection of light inside the building creates a magical feeling. A closer look at the building from outside will make you notice the  sculptures and statues.

 

Gastronomic Experience in Barcelona.

I love food, be it eastern, western or Mediterranean cuisine. Experimenting with food is sometimes a hobby and a passion. At times when I cook, I try to recreate a dish from previous food experiences with a twist of my own. Therefore, when we travel, food tasting is an important part of our trip. Instead of opting to choose the familiar, safe food, we always choose the local specialities of a particular place we are visiting.

Our visit to Barcelona, in the Catalan region of Spain, provided an excellent opportunity to discover Spanish food, especially, Catalonian gastronomy. Cooking methods and use of ingredients vary from region to region in every country. The story is same in Spain too. Spanish cuisine varies from region to region. The most significant difference in Barcelona, in Catalan region, is, how they cook paella. It is said to be a common practice of Catalan’s to mix meat with seafood while cooking paella dishes. The next thing  I noticed is the very, many, tapas bars in Barcelona. It’s usually full of people. Spanish people have dinner late at night, often, after 9 or 10 p.m. It is a social habit of Spanish people to have a drink and a small bite before dinner, usually in one of the tapas bars. Tapas snacks may include a broad range of fried or grilled seafood, chicken wings and most noticeably Padron peppers, a type of chilli that belongs to Capsicum family.

The most unforgettable dining experience we had to date is the time we spent in Barcelona. If it is a tapas bar or an experience in a restaurant, it was, actually amazing. Especially the last dinner we had in Barcelona was outstandingly good, truly memorable and will stay in our memory forever. We came to know about a restaurant named, Passadis Del Pep in Barcelona during our trip in March 2013. When enquired about the place, we found the price per person wasn’t cheap, a 100 Euro per person. We managed to book a table for our last night and considered it as our last Spanish food treat. Besides that, when w travel, we usually share a meal between us for lunch and save money for proper dinners. So a hundred Euro per person was totally justified.

l'Auca

We took a taxi to Passadis Del Pep that night. The driver stopped at a particular road after driving for about twenty minutes.  We paid him the fare and disembarked the vehicle. He immediately left, and we realised we were on a deserted road. At the time, there was no traffic, nor any people on that road. It was close to 9 pm. We thought we have fallen into a tourist trap, we would be attacked and robbed, if we resist, probably killed. As we imagine the worst kind of scenarios, we looked out for buildings, which look like a restaurant. There was none visible to the road. The building in front of us certainly didn’t look like a restaurant, had no windows; therefore there was no sign of tables and chairs and people inside it. It had no name, but a number above its door, number 2 written. Entrance to the building was an open door to a corridor visible to the road. There was no one in the hallway. We decided it would be better to enter the building and find someone who can assist us. We entered the building and almost immediately a man approached us. We told him we were having trouble finding the restaurant, Passadis Del Pep in the neighbourhood. He answered we were in the restaurant and walked us past the corridor, into a big hall, with arched walls, beautifully decorated the interior with paintings and artefacts of several household and kitchen items. He checked to confirm our reservation and seated us.  As soon as we sat, a waiter briefed us on the restaurant’s arrangement, regarding food and drinks. According to him, we need not order our food, they will serve from the “chef’s pick of the day.” The arrangement sounded like  “you eat what we serve and pay a 100 Euro person.”

passadisdel

Soon, a waiter began served us. First, drinks, followed by sea-snail, crayfish, clams, prawns Padron peppers, baby squid, octopus, shrimp lobsters and finally paella. After the paella, we asked the waiter to stop serving us, as we were too full to go ahead with the adventure. If we had continued, we would have discovered more magic of Spanish or rather Catalan cuisines. The seafood and other small bites we had that night was flavourful delicacies, presented beautifully and hard to forget. It was worth the experience and worthy of a 100 Euro treat. If I ever get a chance to go to Barcelona,  I would visit Passadis del Pep once again.  I would indulge myself with the “chefs pick of the day” until I can no longer bear to hold the food in my stomach.

del pep

Barcelona, A city full of energy.

During my visit to Barcelona, I found it to be a very clean city. It was vibrant and full of energy. Its people were bubbly and beautiful, passionate and proud of their country. The energy that brings with a simple greeting, Hola, completely changes the atmosphere. My impression of Barcelona was it’s a very well planned city. The roads and alleys were pretty straight forward and clean. It was easier to navigate without circling around and getting lost. There were many beautiful squares with statues and fountains. We walked around many neighbourhoods and found it to be old and charming. Some buildings were hundreds of years old. Many of those buildings had small balconies filled with plants. The outward appearance of all the buildings had a well-maintained look. Since Spain is very famous for its football players and their football league, the signs of support and love for the game is quite visible, especially in the district where the world-famous Barcelona football stadium is.

We stayed in Aribau district, at Axel Hotel Barcelona. It’s a chain of hotels focused on the gay community. According to the hotel chain, their product is created as “heterofriendly” with the philosophy “free and tolerant society, where diversity and respect are valued.” When we booked the hotel, we had no idea about the nature of that hotel and the hotel chain’s philosophy in creating it. So we were a little surprised when we walked into the hotel lobby on that day, at late afternoon. As we waited to complete our check-in formalities, we noticed the awards displayed on the wall behind the front desk. Axel Hotel Barcelona achieved ‘Best Gay Hotel 2005’ award and earned the title ‘Best Hotel 2011.’ Advertisements of hotel’s spa, bar and restaurant were on one of the walls of the hotel lobby. The models on it were all male characters, very handsome and athletic. Once our check-in formalities were complete, we waited to go up to our room. One of the elevators opened at ground level, and we saw four men inside the small lift. They were wearing white bathrobes, busily engaged in conversation and happily laughing like kids over something they must have been discussing at that moment. In the few seconds when the lift was open, one of them signalled that they were going down to the lower ground level. As we waited, I couldn’t help but point the fact to my husband that they were very handsome. 😉 They were perfectly proportioned with sharp features and well-built muscles. They looked liked as male models, yes, the eye candy type we see in fashion magazines, movies or,  in fashion runway shows.

Spa advertisement near the lift in our room floor.

Spa advertisement near the lift on our room floor

When we reached our room, we liked the simple, yet modern and sleek looking furniture and amenities. The interior decoration was a bit different though than any other hotel we have ever stayed before. Decorative posters in the room were that of handsome men, instead of photos of natural scenery, objects or women. It was very much a gay-friendly hotel. I’m not homophobic, and I do respect people’s individuality and preferences and choices they make with their lives. If it’s so, at first, we felt out of place in the hotel. We felt that we were aliens, invading territory that we do not belong. But those inhibitions were gone, when we refreshed ourselves and headed back to downstairs to go out for dinner. A French speaking teenage girl with her parents rode the lift with us to lobby, and we knew the hotel has a vast group of people as their guests.

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The rooms’ safe.
Posters on the wall.
Wall posters in the room.

The next day at breakfast we saw families, couples, men and women and, of course, more gay couples than lesbian couples at the time we had breakfast. In Southeast Asia where I belong, especially in the Maldives where I was born and raised, homosexuality is a taboo subject. It is loath, ridiculed and prohibited. People and the government are in denial and still not ready to accept the truth, which our community have people born differently, with their different needs. If anyone suspects a particular individual is different, they get ridiculed by acting out. Usually, it’s men, who would wear feminine clothes, pretending to be a woman and acting feminine in songs, plays and short films portraying them to be gay men.  It is an ongoing practice from many years ago, and it still exists. Ironically,  such behaviour is uncommon about Lesbians. In the Maldivian context, homosexuality seems to be limited only to a man-to-man relationship.

In our society, homosexuality is projected as a man being feminine, I realised I might have unconsciously perceived it to be true while growing up as a child.  If not, I wouldn’t be surprised to see men, who were strong, manly and as good looking as them to be gay. Almost everyone in the breakfast hall had equally strong and good looking partners. It looked, as though, they’re our for breakfast with their gym buddies. By staying in Axel Hotel, a hotel focussed on the gay community, I realised, homosexual couples are no different than any other type of couples. They need a partner whom they can connect emotionally and share a life together. Someone whom they can talk and laugh with, share experiences and live together and grow old being as partners like any other couple. The only difference is the personnel preference, preferring to have a partner of the same sex. Their choice is different, may be because they are born differently. In short staying in Axel Hotel turned out to be an exceptional new experience for us as we have never, ever stayed in such a hotel. The hotel staff was attentive to all their guests, regardless of their differences. In the end, we didn’t feel awkward as we felt it’s a hotel for everyone. The management and staff were keen on treating equally to each and every one of their guest. We never had a chance to regret having chosen this hotel. There’s nothing we can complain about our trip to Barcelona. We loved the hotel, the food, the places we went sightseeing and the people we met along the way.  It is an enjoyable experience we cherish till today.