Monday, August 20, 2012

Hanging Out in the 'Hood... Festa Major de Gracia 2012

Just about every night for the last 10 days, the kids and I have been taking an evening stroll around our neighborhood, Gracia.  You see every year, there is the Festa Major de Gracia, the biggest festival in our neighborhood.  This is a tradition that dates back around 200 years.  Streets are decorated in different themes, a project that runs the entire year and is painstakingly put together in the days leading up to the start of the Festa.  There are also tons of squares where bands ranging from folk to pop and all in between entertain people day in and day out.  And let's not forget the traditional entertainment made up of castellers (human towers), batucada (percussion parades) and gigantes.

The first year we lived here, the kids and I missed the entire Festa.  We actually didn't even know about it til Josh started sending us pictures of it.  We were in the States and Josh was here in Barcelona.  So last year, we knew it was happening but we were out of town up til the last day.  Which meant at least we got to see some of the streets decorated but after a week of wear and tear they definitely were not at their peak display and were looking a bit on the ragged side, but at least we got an idea of how elaborate the decorations had been.

This year, with Josh away, it was actually a nice excuse to get out every night and take a walk through Gracia to see how the decorations were coming along.  Each night we'd compare with the previous to see how much had changed from the day before.  And we would wonder, will they be done in time for the big start??  It's a wonderful thing to see a city neighborhood coming together to create something so elaborate to represent their street.  You would see both young and old sitting outside at tables on blocked off streets cutting out decorations, gluing pieces together and chatting away with friends and family alike.
You can see the Millenium Falcon being worked on in the distance

Construction of the Wild Wild West

Took a while to figure out what the picture on the right is, but I think based on the finished product that it is part of red rock canyon perhaps???

Medusas aka jellyfish... they are lit up at night

Liam got a Gracia shirt - they change the logo each year so it will be cool to wear it again next year and I say, yeah, I was there in 2012 ;)

Under the sea construction

Star Wars construction... see the changes in the Millenium Falcon?  They've added paint...

The Circus!!  Paper Maiche elephant under construction...

More Wild West construction

This is our square near our house - it's video games of the 70s/80s.  Not the best square but the kids liked it for the video game theme alone!

Death Star under construction

We attended the opening ceremonies, or at least a portion of it.  We were there with 6 kids and they didn't really have the patience to sit around and wait for everything to start and so we walked around to see if any of the streets were complete.  On opening night streets were still in the hustle and bustle of getting the last minute details completed.  Which leads me to believe that opening night is not actually opening night for the streets (many of them were completely blocked from pedestrians so that they could finish their work without interruption) but the following morning instead.  My guess is the official start was around 8AM on Wednesday morning which is when I heard several rounds of fireworks going off as I tried in vain to sleep in.  

The kids and their the opening ceremonies, for about 5 mins.

Wednesday was also a holiday so the perfect day to kick things off.  For the most part, people head out of town in August and a good chunk of shops are closed for the month - it gets pretty desolate here.  But then it's also tourist season.  And I think every tourist in Barcelona was in Gracia the opening day.  You could tell the tourists from the locals.  Locals here tend to go at a slower pace, there is no rush - you'll get to see everything, so why run people down?  The tourists on the other hand are pushy like they are in any country - needing to see everything and see it now!!!

The streets were beyond packed with people on opening day.  It felt like walking through the streets of New York and not a quiet little neighborhood like Gracia.  And if I thought the daytime was bad, the night was 1000x worse!!  I had debated not going out with the kids on that first night but I knew they were so excited about seeing everything - so we went sans scooters and Jake (and thank god we left him home, he never could have handled the crowds, he would have been stepped all over!).  And so off we went!!

From the Wild, Wild West to the Arctic North to jellyfish to video games and of course, to our favorite, Star Wars... it was an diverse and eclectic mix.

Giant Super Mario!!

Ice cream headache!!!

X-Wing Fighter - it's actually in a pool of water 
(it doesn't look like water in the pic but I assure you, it is).

Obi-Wan is actually hanging above the street... the Cantina band... 

Liam and R2-D2 and on the right is the Millenium Falcon hanging above the street - Awesome!!


Nooses from the Wild West... I don't think that would actually fly very well in the US... ahhh Spain you are so not PC...

Our square again 

Up close with Mario

You can see the jellyfish lit up from blocks away...

Getting closer!

More Star Wars... lit up this time!

Darth Vader...and Liam... 

Tie fighter... also all lit up

You can't see the Death Star well in this picture but you can see the laser on it lit up ready to fire!

Storm troopers lined the way...

More Millenium Falcon

The kids with a storm trooper and Jabba

Aidan says, "hey mom, isn't this the thing that eats people from under the desert"?  He's making a face like he's about to be eaten...

Bobba Fett

Boys doing a balancing act with their new friend, Eitan

North Pole

More North Pole

And some more...

Jellyfish lit up and up close!

Along the under the sea street were also paintings that people on the street had done that were representative of their theme.  Absolutely beautiful!!

No toca!!!!

More paintings

Under the sea

Under the sea

Flowers made from recycled goods (I should mention that technically everything is supposed to come from recycled materials) 

More flowers 

The moon

This is the "night" side

And then the day side

With the "sun"

Liam under the sun and next to a giant rubiks cube!

Huge gramophone 

Close up 

Rubiks street

There was a solid Rubiks cube and then this more translucent one

We LOVE Star Wars!! (despite Liam's forced smile)


Sagrada Familia... in miniature
All these dresses were made from recycled materials - the one on the right was made from squished nespresso cups

Dress made of candy wrappers

Dress made of, yup, you guessed it, toilet paper

More Star Wars (are you sick of it yet?)

How cool is this mom????

Getting in between Han and the bounty hunter...

These are made of paper maiche, pretty awesome isn't it??

Jawa, complete with lit up eyes 

Liam is keeping an eye on things...

The circus!

Trapeze artists and acrobats

It's hard to see but there were full size paper maiche lions in the cage 
along with a trainer outside the cage

While out and about during the week we also came across a store called Budda Bag - it's like a bean bag type store.  Full of bean bag chairs (only I think these are foam, not little beads).  The kids went beyond crazy for them and in the end, we made a purchase for Aidan that I picked up on Friday while they had a babysitter watching them.  He's rarely been seen away from it since!!

The one Aidan got was actually a bit smaller than this one... this one is just too big for his room (and too expensive!!)...

Imagine Liam as a teenager... not that much of a stretch...

As the week has progressed, we've met up with friends both old and new to walk around the streets and take in the sights.  We saw castellers one night, listened to batucada another.  And meandered around.  The sad thing is seeing the streets slowly deteriorating.  As we worked our way around last night, just 5 days into the weeklong festival, I was shocked and amazed at the destruction.  As our friend pointed out, Saturday night had just been the night before - so lots of drunk people out not thinking or caring about their actions and the repercussions of them and all the hard work that had gone into putting together these streets.  It's a shame to see because we saw how much work goes into them and that was just the work we saw over the week leading up to the festival, not the year of prep that we didn't witness!

The last day of the festival is Tuesday, tomorrow, and then Gracia goes back to it's normal, laidback self.  By Wednesday morning there will be no trace of any streets having been decorated.  Then it's off to prep for next year.... I wonder what the themes will be??


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