Thursday, September 1, 2016

Barcelona's Festa Gracia is Better than Your Street Fair

When the people at my hostel suggested I go check out the block party taking place in our neighborhood, I used the only frame of reference I have and imagined a couple of arepa trucks, some lukewarm beer and a bunch of stands selling random crap. Sure, I would walk over there and see what was going on but my expectations were set to low.

They handed me a map of the area with about a dozen non-connected blocks highlighted. It seemed odd to me that the party would be so spread out in what looked like a pretty haphazard way. How many arepa trucks did these people have?

I only got as far as the first block before I realized that I was dealing with a totally different animal. This was not the typical street fair, not by a long shot. This was neighbors coming together to throw one hell of a party.  And not just any neighbors, this was a decidedly local (read: no tourists except maybe the ones from my hostel), hip artsy area throwing down.
The highlighted streets on the map each had a different theme and had been transformed through lots of work and planning by the residents. Block #1 had a wine theme. 

Then there was a space theme...

And whatever this one was.....

For eight days each year, the Gracia district goes all out as half a million people come to check out their handiwork. A panel of judges determines which block did the best job.  I don't envy them having to choose just one because there really was not a dud in the entire bunch.

The decor is all decidedly hand-made.  There is no slick corporate sponsorship, no crass commercialism and no price gouging. All they have is a beer stand on each block, manned by the residents themselves and a couple of ladies selling homemade food out of disposable baking pans. I went to one of the souvenir tables to buy a Festa Gracia tank top and left with a free hat "porque hay mucho sol".

Somewhere there is a miscreant with a purloined white walker head.  At least they took pity on the dire wolf.
There were also plenty of activities (all free) including concerts, childrens' game and down one particular alley, a flamenco dancing lesson.  If there was video, you would be able to see me furiously stomping while trying to wave my arms around gracefully, believing all the while that I was nailing it.

I looked up who Joan Blanques was. It is not a who but a what, it is the name of the street.

"Ostia! Otro gilipolla esta usando mi patio como pipican!!" 

I was there on the last day of the festival and if the schedule of activities I was seeing was  indicative of the entire eight day run, these people are my heroes. They must have the stamina of coked up race horses. There was something going on from early afternoon until the wee hours of the night. There were bands with 1 and 2 am time slots!

Had this festival taken place in Miami, by the end of day one, someone would have jacked Neptune's crown, tagged his seaweed and humped his seahorse.

What I had expected would be a 20 minute walk through the same old/ same old ended up being an afternoon of dancing, drinking and reveling in what was now my favorite neighborhood in Barcelona. Thank you, Generator Hostel, sorry that I doubted you.  You definitely steered me right.

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