Rambling along Las Ramblas

Having spent the last couple of days shopping, sightseeing and celebrating Merce, my pink sneakered feet needed a day off from any type of structured activity. Leaving the map and guide book back in the apartment, my only plan was to leisurely stroll along the tree-lined boulevard of Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s pedestrian friendly promenade. Stretching nearly a kilometre from central Placa de Catalunya to Monument a Colom, at the edge of the harbour side, Las Ramblas reveals the energy and joie de vivre of this vibrant city.

Meandering along the boulevard, I was not the only pedestrian soaking up the late September sunshine. Street entertainers, human statues, flower vendors, tourists, couples strolling hand in hand and kids on bikes were just some of the people who were also out and about enjoying a Spanish paseo (stroll).

One of the most fascinating sights are the human statues, people dressed up in various garb, replications of genuine granite and marble figures.  Standing still and immobile on the street corners, not even gusts of wind or torrents of rain are able to crumble their impenetrable facades.  Unsuspecting passer-bys often do a double-take when spotting a Christopher Columbus or Marie-Antoinette figure, oblivious that there is a living breathing person behind that seemingly cast-iron “monument”.  These imposters have indeed perfected their craft, as not even a blink of an eye gives them away.  Time and time again, I’ve witnessed the startled gasps from surprised spectators when the bronzed figure that they successfully captured in a digital imprint, suddenly jolts to life.  I’ve since learned that if you want to take a picture, posing with one of these faux marbled effigies, it is wise to leave a few coins in the tin can located just in front of the figure.
 I once had a “statue” chase me down the promenade because I photographed him and foolishly didn’t leave any coinage. That was years and years ago and I’ve since learned my lesson.  Nowadays I saunter up to the granite bronzed celebrity of the day, smile, pose, grab a photo opportunity, and toss some loose change into the tin can. This also ensures my safety as I know that I don’t need to make a mad dash on the pavement trying to outrun the marble draped mannequins, just to save a Euro or two. After all, my pink sneakers are taking a day off and don’t need to exert themselves if at all possible. The only type of running I’m going to be doing is sprinting from one designer handbag shop to another in search of that discounted Louis Vuitton!!


Seeking to quench your thirst?  Craving exquisite Spanish cuisine?  An abundance of tapas bars and cafes are scattered along the promenade. The choice of dining options are endless, one quaint venue after another, charming Spanish waiters enticing you to wander on in and savour mouth-watering tapas, all to be washed down by a pitcher of intoxicating sangria.

Pink Sneaker Tip – take a bit of time to wander up and down Las Ramblas before deciding where to partake of that well-deserved siesta. The prices vary considerably and it is wise to do a price comparison before parking yourself in just any picturesque cafe. I once ended up paying double the price for a large glass or beer (12 Euros), yet had I frequented the tapas bar next door, I would have been able to get one for 6 Euros instead. Quite an exorbitant price difference indeed!  All of those Euros add up and every extra bill in my pink piggy-bank gets me that much closer to being able to purchase my long-for coveted limited edition Carolina Herrera designer handbag.

Flower markets, stalls selling birds, newsstands and souvenir shops crowd the wide boulevards, energetically competing with the portrait artists who promise to transform your likeness into the next Mona Lisa. This melange of vendors, street performers, locals and tourists are what makes Las Ramblas the go-to location when in Barcelona.

Did you know that the word “rambla” has its origins as an Arabic word? “Raml” means river-bed in Arabic.  The promenade of Las Ramblas is actually a dried-up river bed. Who knew?

Come stroll along Las Ramblas and promenade with me....come travel with me....

Lost amongst the crowd and the Giants

If you’re ever fortunate enough to find yourself in Barcelona during the annual Merce festival, held each year around September 24th, you will not be disappointed. The festival is a 5 day long event that is held in honour of the Patron Saint of Barcelona, Our Lady of Mercy, La Mare de Deu de la Merce, who saved the city from locusts in the 17th century.

On my way to see the Human Ladder competition, I had been advised to arrive early at Placa de Sant Jaume, stake out my seat on the edge of the fountain and wait for the spectacle to begin. Mistakenly thinking that it would be a pleasant stroll through the winding narrow medieval streets of the Barri Gotic, instead, I got hopelessly lost.  Map in one hand, tourist guide book in the other, I sought to find the quickest route out of the maze of cobblestoned laneways, each leading to a different square or monument.  Surely this can’t be happening to me, I fumed. This was not my first visit to the Gothic Quarter, having shopped and dined there the previous day. Perhaps I shouldn’t have taken that shortcut through the picturesque alleyway where there was a handbag shop that I wanted to take a snapshot of, so that I could return later that afternoon.  Always one to search out landmarks in order to navigate my way through the medieval passageways, I broke the cardinal rule of sightseeing and deviated from the trodden path.  It was now getting late and there was no way that I’d be able to snag that up close and personal view of the Castellers (human towers) from my desired vantage point in the square.

 My travel buddy was somehow able to squirm her way into the throng and get a bird’s eye view of the Human Ladder competition that was about to start. I, being a mere 5 foot 3, was already starting to feel somewhat claustrophobic and wrongly imprisoned in this ever growing sea of humanity. More spectators were trying to edge their way into the square and I was starting to feel like a sardine. If I don’t get out now, then I’m on my way being mush....and it won’t be pretty.


Feeling slightly overwhelmed, I knew that I needed to escape and get some air.  It also didn’t help that I was headed in the completely opposite direction than everyone else! Elbowing, shoving and pushing my way through the crowd would have been the quickest way to make my getaway from the swarm but not the most dignified. After all, there were babies, grandmas, old folks and just plain nice folks amongst the horde, spectators like myself, merely desiring to partake in the festivities.

The streets, flooded with throngs of onlookers, jostled for space with the paper mache giants, dragons, musicians, circus acts and street entertainers of all kinds.  Tourists, grandmothers pushing strollers, people in wheelchairs, rollerbladers and local dignitaries were just a fraction of the sea of people who were nestled in the tiny medieval square.

What felt like hours later, tired, cranky and miserable, I had successfully managed to forage my way through the mob. Exhausted, I proceeded to plop my pink sneakers down on a street corner, praying that the strollers (steered by persistent mothers determined that their newborns witness the festivities) would not mow me down. Yikes!! I’m gonna meet my end by being trampled to death by a baby carriage!

Little did I know that I had now secured one of the most desired viewpoints and was delighted at having the opportunity to observe the parade of Giants up close! My disappointment with not having been able to witness the Human Towers was transformed into awe and giddiness as I gazed upon the giant paper mache figures that now filed past me.

Walking, dancing and spinning, the towering figures enthralled and entertained old and young alike. Babies squealed, children hollered and the older folks were just as captivated by the merrymakers, as if experiencing the excitement for the very first time.

Swathed in regal robes, kings, queens and nobles spun around and around, showcasing their magnificence to the crowd.  The 16 foot tall gegants (giants) represented all members of the community, as bakers, cobblers, seamstresses, farmers and senoritas danced and twirled alongside the royal entourage.  No parade is complete without some type of marching band and it was fitting that flute playing musicians and drummers frolicked amongst the revellers, a steady rhythmic beat resounding through the streets.

Standing on the congested pavement, shoulder to shoulder with the rest of Barcelona, I contentedly immersed myself in the gaiety and the joie de vivre that contagiously spilled out into the streets, permeating the hearts and souls of all.

My pink sneakers and I couldn’t have been happier to have gotten lost and to have stumbled across the magnificent spectacle of the Parade of Giants.

Come enjoy the Catalan festivities with me...come travel with me...


Sagrada Familia Light Show (Ode a la Vie)

Having seen incredible Casa Mila, Sagrada Familia was next on the sightseeing agenda. This breathtaking cathedral was Antoni Gaudi’s last project.  Gaudi died in 1926 and is buried in the crypt in the Sagrada Familia. The temple is unfinished and is a still evolving work in progress.  It is estimated that the structure will be completed around 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death.
Words cannot describe this incredible UNESCO World Heritage basilica.

I was fortunate enough to be in Barcelona during the annual Merce festival, which is held each year around September 24th.  As tradition dictates, a host city is asked by the city of Barcelona to participate in the festival and this year it was a Canadian city that held this honour.

 A Montreal based studio called Moment Factory was asked to produce an interactive light show depicting the creation of life on the facade of the Sagrada Familia. Was it merely by chance that I just so happened to be sporting the Canadian Olympic jean jacket (purchased at The Bay at 50% off, the day after the closing Olympic ceremonies)? I felt an immense sense of Quebecoise pride to be here in Barcelona, in a small way, representing all of Canada.

The “Montreal Signe Ode a la Vie” light show was an out of this world illumination detailing the exquisite reproduction of the Nativity of the Holy Family that was carved into the stone of the cathedral.


I couldn’t help but marvel at how Gaudi’s uncompleted basilica was continuously evolving and rejuvenating  and that this Spanish architect would have been as impressed and astonished at how future generations have interpreted his grand vision.

Perhaps that is why the Sagrada Familia has not yet been completed and remains a work in progress, giving current artists the gift of contributing their imaginative interpretation to Gaudi’s masterpiece. Since Gaudi’s original architectural drafts were lost in a fire, no one knows what his final vision for Sagrada Familia was supposed to be.

Wow!!!!!!!  Here’s a first!! I was so mesmerized and enthralled by the light show that it didn’t even occur to me to try and locate a shop of any kind. On the odd occasion, it is reward enough just to embrace the moment and savour the delight of experiencing a rare once in a lifetime moment.

Come discover the architecture of Barcelona with me....come travel with me.....

A day in the life of Pink Sneakers on vacation

Reading about the life and works of Gaudi opened my eyes to the splendour of Barcelona. I now had to add sightseeing to my “to do” list, which had previously consisted of shopping, acquiring small leather goods, savouring the local cuisine and indulging in vino tinto! I vowed never again to sleep in until 11:00am and henceforth rise early with the chirping of the birds.

Luckily for me, I still had 12 more days to explore this magnificent seaside city and I vowed to set my pink sneakered feet not only in every shop but also in every tourist attraction out there. I just had to figure out on how to combine sightseeing, shopping, eating and enjoying vino tinto into a 24 hour day.

I require at least 8 hours of sleep a night in order to function as a human being and so that left me with 16 hours to play with.  Perhaps I should scrawl a prospective schedule in my brand new pink leather agenda. Purple pen in hand (see how nicely it matches), several glasses of sangria later, my new “pink sneakers on the go” timetable was complete.

5:00am – wait for the birds to chirp and get out of bed by 7:00am, at the very latest.

7:00am – make coffee (provided the coffee maker doesn’t explode) have breakfast, shower, find a chic ensemble to wear and head out by 8:00am.

8:00am – walk to the tourist destination of my choice.  I don’t take public transit or taxis when I’m on holidays and so my pink sneakers and I walk everywhere. Does majorly suck in the rain, though...

8:30 – 9:00am – arrive at the desired tourist attraction. 

9:00am to about 12:00 noon – tour, walk around the structure, sightsee, take pictures, locate the gift shop and find where the loo is.

 12:00 noon – start searching for somewhere to eat.  It has to be someplace that serves local cuisine, has ambiance, is budget friendly (10 to 15 Euros, including vino) and has outdoor seating so that I can watch the world go by.

3:00pm – Like what? 3 hours for lunch? Well, I am in Espana, where life is more slowly paced and where they enjoy something that is called a “siesta”. I’m fitting right in! Just one more glass of vino tinto, por vavor...

3:00pm or so – it’s time to head out for some serious shopping. My strategy is to look for the sale signs (las rebajas) and aim for the stores that are located off the beaten track, focusing primarily on the shops that are tucked away around the corner from the mucho expensive designer boutiques.

8:00pm - 5 hours for shopping? Like really? Well, it takes time to find that perfect handbag, so sprinting around town in pink keds requires an extra couple of hours.  One also has to factor in the waiting period for an available dressing room as well as having to navigate the long line ups at the cash register.  The wait can be especially long if there is a huge sale going on.

8:00pm to 8:30pm – My poor, exhausted pink sneakers, weighed down by numerous carrier and shopping bags, slowly march home.  The only thing that keeps them trudging along is the highly anticipated Epsom salt warm water feet soak renewal reward.

8:30pm – 9:00pm – Thank goodness I’m back in my Spanish rental apartment. Yikes!! Shopping really works up an appetite!! Gotta pour myself some vino, set the table with some olives, salmon, cheese, jamon, an assortment of tapas and just chill out and relax.

9:00pm – According to the new schedule, bedtime should be at 9:00pm but I’m nowhere near tired. I am exhilarated with the adventures of the day. I partook in a little bit of sightseeing, culture, savoured local cuisine, shopped for the current fashion trends and walked all over Barcelona! I deserve to stay up late, indulge in some vino, listen to Spanish guitar music and fawn over my new purchases.  Plus, I still have to plan tomorrow’s sightseeing adventures. ..

11:00pm – Still enjoying that vino...more please...

12:00am – Yikes!! It’s getting late. The jazz music serenading us from somewhere in our apartment complex is so mesmerising and intoxicating....

1:00am – Really should get to sleep as tomorrow is another long day of sightseeing, shopping , eating and indulging.

2:00am – 3 more hours until the birds start chirping. Well, really, maybe on vacation I can make do with 3 hours of sleep instead of my required 8 hours?  After all, I didn’t jet half-way across the world to spend my entire time sleeping. 

3:00am – It’s only 9:00pm back in my neck of the woods and I suddenly  feel the urge to use up all of the minutes on my Spanish SIM card and call all of my friends and relatives and yak.

5:00am – Really tired now.  Should get to bed and enjoy some shut-eye.

 Can’t believe that the birds are already starting to chirp!! Like, really? Don’t they ever sleep?  I guess that the saying “the early bird gets the worm” really means something or other...Yikes...it’s getting light out there...

Come enjoy planning the day’s activities with me...come travel with me...