A Day Off

Legend has it that on the night of the 24th of September, 1218, the Virgin of Mercè (Barcelona’s patron saint), appeared to King James I of Aragon, Saint Peter Nolasco and Saint Raymond of Penyafort at the same time. She ordered each of them to liberate Christian monks held by the Saracen, or Moorish, occupants of the city.

Pretty standard stuff.

So nowadays, it’s celebrated with a week’s events and activities. Last weekend, the drumming parade that I came across – no better way to cure a hangover – was a part of it, and over the past couple of days there have been parades, laser shows, and open-air concerts held all over the city. This culminated in an enormous festival on the beach yesterday, as well as a day off work today.

Last night, after FINALLY moving into my new apartment, and purchasing far more than I needed (several mattress-dimension-induced-errors) from Zara Home, I headed out to Plaça Catalunya to meet the Durham Crew. Chilled there for a while to watch some acapella – if you were lucky enough to get my Snapchats, you know quite how fun it was. Greatest part? Spanish crowds are *ahem* of limited stature – there wasn’t a single spot where we couldn’t see the whole stage.

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Having had enough of sober dad-dancing, we made our way to the beach. Only problem was that everyone else had the same intention, so queuing for the metro was an absolute no-no. We walked all the way, drinking lukewarm mulled wine sangria, following the crowd.

And at the beach, we found an even bigger crowd.

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There must have been 150,000 drunken bodies just moving as one swarming mass to the sounds of some (apparently) famous singer. Feeling really very sober and thus underwhelmed at the prospect of passive smoking Marlboro Reds and being sweated on by thousands of catatonic Catalonians, we called it a night (an early morning) and headed home after chilling on a less crowded bit of the beach.

Today, after brunch at Luce’s, we walked to Plaça Sant Jaume, (St. James’s Square) for a major part of the La Mercè festival, castells! Not castles, but giant human pyramids, seven, eight, or nine people-layers high. Sounds distinctly average, but it has to be seen to be understood – these people practise twice a week, every week for this, and it really is very impressive in person. The photos don’t really do it justice.

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It was a bright, beautiful day, meaning I am feeling a little sun-kissed (read: scarlet and freckly) to head out this evening for the last part of the festival, fireworks!

S. X

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