Parc de la Ciutadella
The Ciutadella Park is located near the port, in the Ribera district. It started out as a fortress in 1714 when Philip V became the first Bourbon king and his man the Duke of Berwick ordered its construction. In 1869 it was decided to turn this into a park and the fortress was demolished. The park was going to be used for the Universal Exhibition of 1888 and the architects of the park were Josep Fontsere and Elies Rogent. The gardens were the work of the French landscape architect Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier. The park has the former Arsenal, which is now the Catalan Parliament building. There is a spectacular and monumental waterfall, called the Cascada, that was designed by Fontsere with the help of a student called Gaudi. The cascading waterfall has sculptures of horses and winged dragons. The backdrop of the fountain is a triumphal arch that is topped with a sculpture of a manned chariot of four horses. All of these have the Baroque style.
I know there already are a lot of VT tips on the Catalan language, but as a translator and language lover, I have found most of them unexact or incomplete. So, I'll try to write my own tip. Here, I will only deal with the language itself, leaving my opinions about Catalunya's linguistic policy for another tip.
First of all, Català is a Latin language: it is not a dialect, a patois or any variant of Spanish. It has its own grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary.
As for the pronunciation, I have found it more similar to Portuguese than to Spanish, due to its intermediate vowels: e.g. unstressed a's are pronounced more or less like in above, while unstressed o's are pronounced like /u/.
Ortography makes it closer to Latin and French than to Spanish, while many words are very similar to their Italian equivalents.
Article 3 of the Spanish constitution allows the autonomies (autonomías or comunidades autonomas) to have their own official language. However, what makes Catalan far more important than Basque or Galician is its transnational dimension. Beside being the official language of Catalunya, the Baleares isles, Valencia, it is also the official language of the Principat d'Andorra. Moreover, it is spoken in Southern France (Perpignan) and in Alghero, a town in Sardinia (Italia).
This makes 9 million speakers, more than many national languages in Europe.
Like many European languages, Catalan has its varieties and dialects and varieties, as you can read here. However, I suppose that all Catalan speakers understand each other.
If you want to learn Català, you won't easily find many books in Spanish. Being the official language, everybody learns it as a child, so courses in Spanish are rare. I found one in a bookshop, titled Catalán para dummies published by Granica. It is a basic course including a CD and I think it's enough to get started.
A more complete Catalan course is published by ASSIMIL, my favourite language course publisher. There are an edition in Spanish (El catalán sin esfuerzo) and one in French (Le catalan, issued in 2009).
Suitcase, shoes and other such essentials
Not a medium size suitcase!!!! Most of our group had the smaller carry on bags and soft over-the-shoulder bags. I thought I was okay for a ten day trip with a medium. Here were the problems--I brought tooooooo much stuff, two pairs of shoes to many and clothes that were never unrolled. Most important, my back started to hurt towards the end from lifting the suitcase onto beds and airport weighing machines. Of course my fanny pack was also the culprit on this one along with hilly cobblestone streets (Porto, Portugal) Absolutely - COMFORTABLE shoes. Barcelona and Porto have serious cobblestone streets that will do your feet and body in!!!!! Two pairs with plenty of socks--'cause focused tour freaks like us will go for hours and those tootsies get sweaty. (Did Rome with only one good pair and I was a mess by the end.) Pic of my worn Clark espadrilles! Any kind of allergy medicine. Benadryl, Claritan. There are many different kinds of plants so always be prepared. Ibuprophyn, and Tylenol. I was taking Tylenol every day for my back. Digital camera with two battery packs. A lot of the new cameras have video capabilities which can drain the camera. I ran out of juice several times. I do advocate for the cameras with some video ability, I did short little vids that are priceless memories. Tour books - I'm a Lonely Planet fan. They give you enough history to let you have a sense of the country, but not so much your glassy-eyed. They also note some unique places that no other book will have. For Barcelona it was the Fira de Sant Ponc--Saint for Bees and Herbalist festival. AAA Travel Board Book. Doesn't give an in-depth review, but definitely shows great walking tours that are easy to follow.
Monstserrat Cable Car
I would highly recommend taking the cable car (aerial) to Montserrat rather than the train. It is about a ten minute ride and the views are just spectacular. You really can see forever, especially on a clear day! It is also a VERY steep climb up the mountain, which can be quite exciting.
The cable car takes you to nearly to the top of the mountain, to a height of approximately 720 meters above sea level. You will still need to take the funicular to reach the top.
Mercat de la Boqueria - A riot of colours.
We can honestly state that if you are looking to buy fresh food in a picturesque setting, be sure to visit Barcelona’s Mercat de la Boqueria. Do keep in mind that this is not only a market to come and buy, but also to enjoy the pleasure of wandering around ... and so we did! Once we entered it we witnessed that here at the market the stand owners still engage in the direct and personalised sale of day-to-day products. We immediately saw this huge central courtyard with little (wooden) shops/stalls and the hive of activity and the atmosphere was a riot of colours.
We did walk around for almost an hour and we smelled (and almost could taste) the aromas from the various exotic flowers, fruit and vegetables, willow works, fish and other local Catalonian products. We noticed that some of the stalls were already closed and we learned that they were sold out for the day, so they did well! Some of the vendors were in traditional costumes, which again added to the vibrancy of this magical place. It was great fun to see Iris breathing the atmosphere and enjoying herself eventhough she was only 5! You can buy any of the city's specialties on food and drinks. That's up to yourself. Do toggle off!