Sunday, July 22, 2007

Next, Barceloneta's seaside


At the seaside end of Paseo Juan de Borbon / Passeig Joan de Borbo (or as I fondly refer to it, Paella Row) you will find a seafront plaza named Pl. del Mar. On the right of the plaza, the Paseo turns off into a semi-industrialized port area, the sea and beach are in front and on on the left is a pair of high rise apartment buildings -- which thankfully are few in Barceloneta. The ground floor of these 70s style towers houses a convenience store, two restaurants (Buenas Migas and KAiKU) and the Seapoint Youth Hostel, Barcelona's only hostel on the beach. Both of the restaurants and the cafe of the hostel offer food and drinks out on the plaza.
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Directly on the beach is Chiringuto del Sol, one of many "chiringuitos" you'll see in Barcelona. Chiringuitos are what Spaniards call the little beach bars/cafes that dot beaches throughout the country. Barcelona's are regulated by the city, even down to their uniform design: small wine colored rectangular bars with slat wood serving areas on one side.
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These places are popular! They sell coffee, drinks, sandwiches and such. There is always music, often supplied by a live DJ. Beach goers mix with beach watchers, locals chat with one another and visitors try to soak in the atmosphere while they can.
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Actually the chiringuito that you first see when you reach Pl. del Mar is not the first one on Barcelona's beach. That one is Chiringuito de Barcelona, located a bit to the right of the plaza. It is marks the edge of Barcelona's predominantly gay and lesbian beach, appropriately named Playa San Sebastian.
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Not much further beyond Chiringuito de Barcelona, Barcelona's beaches end - or, more accurately, they begin there. Therefore, one needs to veer to the left at Pl. del Mar to truly have a walk up Barcelona's coast. Heading that way there are soon two more chiringuitos on the beach side, Chiringuito Goa and Chiringuito Bar Playa 23.
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Meanwhile, on the inland side Barceloneta's residential streets jut out, often with a restaurant or two on their corners. Cal Pinxo is one of the best seafood and paella establishments around, with prices that reflect the fact. You can sit on their terrace or in one of their sea view dining rooms to enjoy the excellent cooking. Definitely worth it!
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Just up the walk a bit and on the lower end of the economic scale, but still within the tasty realm is a little place called Restaurante Venta Mancheca. This joint has no dining room, only a kitchen with a terrace. However, the paella and other items on offer are filling and very affordable.
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Two of the curiouser looking edifices around here are former boat repair centers that now function as an ice cream shop (Heladeria La Lechera) and a surf shop (Wind 220). These two hangar-like structures face the sea side by side and seem to beckon passers-by to have a look inside. I suggest doing so, even if you're not in the mood for a sundae or a wet-suit.
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Just after the Bar Playa 23 Chiringuito, pedestrians are faced with a choice of continuing along at the beach level or of heading up the elevated sea wall that is parallels the Paseo Maritimo / Passeig Maritm. Most people seem to choose to go up along the palm-tree lined walk overlooking the beach.
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At this point the sights on the inland side are not as interesting or attractive, but merely a series of public buildings from a few decades ago: a middle school, a community center, a kindergarten and an elementary school. Fortunately, they are behind the palm trees that run up and down the bicycle lane alongside the Paseo.
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However, the seaside view is always entertaining: people passing along the sidewalk beneath, sunbathers stretched out on the sand, volleyball players, swimmers and, of course, ships, sailboats and such coming and going. Every few meters there is a set of stairs leading down to the lower level, should you get the urge to join those below.
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After a short while there is a jetty on the beach with concrete seats in front of it. These seats are in the form of chaise lounge chairs and are great for relaxing on and gazing around. There is also a children's play site and a little public work-out area for doing leg-lifts, chin-ups, etc.
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On the inland side there is an oasis of green, the Parque de la Barceloneta, followed by the modern Hospital del Mar and then the beginning of the Puerto Olimpíco / Port Olimpíc area.
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However, I'll stop here for a rest and write more details about the park later.
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Chao amig@s,
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Carloz

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