Sunday, July 1, 2007

Barceloneta and beyond (well, a little) during the summer solstice celebration


Copied from original http://myspainblog.wordpress.com/ posting by Carloz on 24 June, 2007
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It’s just after 4:30am and I’m back home for a little break, so here’s another update. The fantasticness (Merriam-Webster lists it) of this night has continued. My fellow carrefoc spectator decided to go home, so I walked over to Pl. del Mar to meet some friends. On the way over, I joined a few people (strangers) jumping over a little bonfire for good luck — emphasis on “little.”
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At Pl. del Mar there was a stage set up with a pretty good Spanish rock group called Electronico playing. However, my interest in them waned as my curiosity grew about what was going on further up along the seaside. My friends were enjoying dancing, so I decided to head up the coast on my own. (You see, Pl. del Mar is at one end of the Barcelona beachfront. The other end is about 6.5 ks, or 4 miles, away, at the Rio Besos — Kisses River. The distance is only an estimate, but it shouldn’t bee too far off.)
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The crowd was thicker than on Sundays when the tourists are joined by all the locals taking their Sunday seaside stroll. The place was packed! The beach was completely full as well as the “paseo” that runs along it. People were walking, sitting, dancing, drinking ,eating, playing games and, of course, throwing fireworks.
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At the first chiringuito (the name given to the small bars located directly on the beach) I passed, the music was blaring electronic dance music. The next one had a DJ playing old disco music. (For example, Fly, Robin, Fly.)
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Then I passed the Restaurante Salamanca, a seaside institution in Barcelona, which had a very lively crowd beside it. This eatery, which is a block from my apartment building, is well known for its paella and seafood dishes, not for music or dancing. So, imagine my surprise when I realized Salamanca had a DJ playing music on its beachfront terrace. He was about 70 years old, dressed in dark blue slacks, a crisp blue shirt, blue suspenders and a bright green tie. This fellow was wowing the crowd with hot salsa music and Spanish dance hits. Unable to resist, I stopped and danced until the restaurant management made him close down around 2 am, despite cries of “Otra! Otra! Otra!”(or ”More! More! More!”) from the ecstatic crowd. Everyone around me was disappointed to see him fold up his equipment.
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Then I thought, “Hey, I always stay here in La Barceloneta for San Juan. I wonder what’s happening even further up the beach? Even to the other end?” All of a sudden I knew how to find out first hand exactly how folks spend San Juan outside of my barrio — Bicing! (Bicing is the Barcelona public transit system’s bicycle lending service. See June 17th post, Biking with Bicing in Barcelona for more details.)
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Just a few feet / meters away was a Bicing bike stand, so I walked on over and used my magnetized membership card to get a bicycle. Then I was off on a wonderful night “madrugada” ride to Besos.
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Between Barceloneta and the Puerto Olímpico (aka Port Olímpic) night-life area, the paseo and beach were full of people enjoying the night. In fact the beach was as crowded then as it normally is during the daytime! Only, now there were ”moon-bathers” who were gathered around torches and bonfires.
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The Puerto Olímpico area, where Northeners and Southerners "meat", was even more intense than usual. The outdoors was as stuffed as the scores of discos in the area usually are. Despite the large number of people, other cyclers and I didn’t have much trouble getting through.
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Next was Nova Icaria Beach, which is usually a lot quieter than Puerto Olímpico at night. Tonight it certainly wasn’t! The chiringuitos were rocking, people were lying on the beach and walking up and down the paseo. The next two areas, Bogatell Beach and Mar Bella Beach, had similar scenes. As I was riding along Bogatell, the lights went out on a section of the paseo, which led to lots of oohs and ahhs from the crowds around me and on the sand below, as this improved the view of the fireworks blasting in the skies above us. I believe the outage was an accident, however, because the next area, Mar Bella, had lights ablaze.
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As Mar Bella gave way to Nova Mar Bella Beach the crush of people continued to increase. Then as I passed the only sand dunes on BCN’s beaches I saw an incredible sight: the beachfront, from there until practically the end of the access to Nova Mar Bella Beach about a half a kilometer beyond, was chock-full of people dancing to the music of the four chiringuitos that are spaced out along the sea. It was just about standing room only — and people were still arriving! All of the bars had DJs playing similar dance music so that there was a semblance of musical continuity as I sailed by.
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The next area was broken up by construction that is underway for Barcelona’s new aquatic zoo. Therefore, in that section there was no one on the beach, as people are not allowed on the seafront there. The area that follows is the remnant of Barcelona’s Universal Forum of Cultures held in 2004. It is a 18,000 square meter fairground, similar to an Olympic Games site or a World’s Fair site. People were going to and coming from the giant tents that serve as dance areas along the sea.
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After a quick glide across the bridge that spans the Forum yacht basin, I ended up at Barcelona’s newest beach. The crowds were much thinner there, but judging from the burnt out sparklers and spent rocket shells, the area must have been jammed with revelers earlier on. When I was riding by there were groups of people scattered around little fires in the sand, while they drank, talked, sang and watched the concentration of fireworks in the skies above the area I’d just ridden over from. Next, I basically retraced my ride.
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In both directions, there were people who greeted me (”¡Hola hombre!” ; “¡Que pasa bien!” which means, ”May good things happen to you!”), cheered me on when they saw the type of bike I was riding (”Bicing! Bicing! Bicing!”) and stopped to chat with me. I even met a nice couple from Leeds who are in town for a medical conference.
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Well, now it’s about 5:30am and the sun will be rising soon. It’s quieter — no more fireworks at a rat-tat-tat speed, but just an occasional whistle followed by a blast. I’m going to head out to Barceloneta beach, plant myself in the sand and thank old sol as I watch another of its grand appearances.
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Good night and good morning…
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Responses
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By: Colin on June 24th, 2007 at 2:34 pm
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Wow! it sounds amazing! The only comparison I have is last New Year in Gran Canaria. The fireworks were pretty amazing and the party went on all night - sadly I had to get a plane home at 2.00pm on New Years Day so I couldn’t stop out too late. BTW… I checked the Cambridge dictionary and there is no ‘fantasticness’ in it… methinks this is one reason why the language is still called ‘English’!!!

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