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Illustration by Kat Cameron
Surviving August 2010
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Jordi Hereu - Mayor of Barcelona
Barcelona offers so much in the summer. It's not a question of 'Surviving August', but living it to the full. And sometimes the best things to do at the height of the summer here are just simple things like taking a stroll in the cool of the evening along the seafront or in any of the city's historic centres, or having dinner with friends at a restaurant terrace, or a drink overlooking the Mediterranean. I especially recommend a visit to the street fiestas of Gràcia or Sants, with their decorations and popular culture.
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Ryan Chandler, editor of quarterly literary magazine, Barcelona Ink
Escape the suffocating lunchtime heat at the CaixaForum (a particularly good choice this year with the Barceló retrospective) taking in some air-conditioned art and a cool lunch in their café.
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Lucy Brzoska - from www.Iberianature.com
Go up to Collserola for an evening walk, following the ridge from Vallvidrera to Sant Pere Martir. At this time of year, you can coincide with a colourful flock of bee-eaters, leisurely foraging in the setting sun. As night slowly falls and the crickets start up, you might spot a boar family, with scampering boarlets in tow
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Emma Grenham -from www. kidsinbarcelona.com
Away from the city centre, at the Parc del Fòrum, the Bosc Urbá is Barcelona´s new family attraction. This urban adventure park offers a unique climbing experience for children as young as 4 years old with a range of circuits to suit all abilities
For much of the year, most Barcelona residents would likely agree, this city is a pretty pleasant place to live. But August is different. With the highest average temperatures of the year (in the mid to high 20s and often spiking into the 30s), the city goes through a strange dichotomy in the eighth month. On the one hand, it’s much quieter in the residential areas because so many businesses are closed for annual holidays; this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for those who, whether for economic or employment reasons, don’t join the mass exodus as it leaves more tranquil streets and squares. However, it does mean that finding an open newspaper seller or greengrocers can become a long, sweaty and often frustrating expedition. In contrast, head anywhere near the centre, main tourist attractions or beaches and you’ll discover the other side of the coin: crowds filling every available corner of space.
Culturally, much of the most interesting summer shows take place in June and July, before petering off early in August; in addition, much of what is on this month tends to be the same year in, year out (Gràcia festes, Mas i Mas and late-night openings at the museums), with a lack of innovative and original events to enjoy.
In the face of all these obstacles, one way to deal with August in Barcelona is to do things differently. Don’t go to all the usual places, don’t do all the same old activities. Try something new or re-discover parts of the city you’ve not been to recently. Go to places you’ve never visited before where you won’t care if the local kiosks and bakeries are closed and you might find somewhere worth re-visiting once the weather ‘improves’. If you live in the Raval, jump on metro Line 3, at Paral·lel or Poble Sec, and head either north-west to Les Corts or north-east to Vallcarca. Gràcia residents could take the number six bus from the Diagonal towards the Rambla de Poblenou (get off at Roc Boronat-Passatge Mas de Roda and you’re two blocks away). For those near Francesc Macià, why not take the tram to such mysterious out-of-town destinations as Sant Feliu de Llobregat and Sant Joan Despi?
Another change you can make this year is in your timetable. Even if you’re not a morning person for the other 11 months, August is definitely a time for getting up early, making the most of the cooler mornings, resting in the afternoon, then getting out and about in the evenings when the temperature lowers somewhat. For those who are working this month, and if your company allows for it, going intensivo is definitely the way forward. This summer tradition throughout Spain means that you start working earlier, say at 7.30 or 8am, then do your normal hours without a full lunch break to finish at 3.30 or 4pm, meaning you’ll be free to enjoy the balmier evenings for al fresco merrymaking (more of which below).
You’ll need to be up with the lark anyway this month for any kind of ‘official’ business, such as going to the post office, as state institutions cut back their hours with most closing in the early afternoon. Becoming an early bird isn’t always bad news however. At the Icaria cinema, there are discounts on the first showings, (matinales), usually starting around 12 or 12.30pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You pay €6 instead of €7.50 to see an original version film at the hottest time of the day. Take advantage of its position close to the beach by heading down beforehand for a spot of pre-cinema sunbathing.
And in the spirit of trying something different this August, why not skip the Festes de Gràcia? Sounds drastic and of course, if you’re new to Barcelona or haven’t been to Gràcia’s annual street celebrations, (see page 32 for more information), then by all means go and have a look. But for all those that have been more than twice, swap Gràcia for the Barri Gòtic and the Festes de Sant Roc. Celebrated around the saint’s day of August 16th, this festival has been marked for over 400 years, in what was once called the barri de Sant Roc. Activities and traditions, some of which date back to the Festes’ 16th-century origins include: la Cucanya, where intrepid participants have to get across a large turning tree-trunk that has been helpfully greased down beforehand (every day at 7pm, Plaça Nova); glops amb el Porró llarg, a variation on the Catalan imbibing of wine from a long-spouted glass container (porró), but this porró has a spout more than half a metre long; and the singing of sea-shanties (havanares) accompanied by ron cremat (burnt rum). In addition, to mark the fact that Sant Roc is always illustrated with a dog, there is the Sant Gos (sainted dog) festival on August 17th. (Legend has it that his four-legged friend helped the saint when he was unwell and living on the streets, by stealing bread for him to eat and that once he was recovered, the two were constantly together.)
Finally, where August in Barcelona excels is with open-air night-time entertainment. On the 6th at 10pm, Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionaire will be shown in Carrer Conreria in Barceloneta as part of that neighbourhood’s evening summer programme. It also includes live music (12th and 26th) and circus acts (27th), in the Parc de Barceloneta. Alternatively, go to one of the many hotel rooftop bars open to the public for late-night drinks amongst the city’s beautiful people, accompanied by excellent city views. Amongst those open are Hotel 1898 on La Rambla, Casa Fuster on Gran de Gràcia and Hotel Claris on Pau Claris. For those of a more sporting frame of mind, enjoy this season’s first match at the Camp Nou, with the Trofeu Joan Gamper, now in its 45th edition, which marks the official presentation of the football team for the new campaign. As this year’s event will be the first of the Sandro Rosell era, go along so you can say you were there when it all began.
Click through our slideshow for some expert advice on how to survive August.