This month I am writing about hometowns and while Barcelona is my city of residence, my hometown is actually Gracia. You can see Gracia on a map of Barcelona here. Like other European cities including Paris, Barcelona is divided into districts; each of these districts is further subdivided into neighbourhoods or barrios (in Spanish) or barris (in Catalan). To see the neighbourhoods of Gracia, click here.
The name of our district Gracia means grace, as explained in this post. The original village of Gràcia sprang up around a Carmelite convent called Nostra Senyora de Gràcia (Our Lady of Grace) dating back to 1626. Up until 1897 the village of Gràcia was a separate village and municipality from Barcelona city. To pass through the fields between Barcelona and Gracia, one traveled along the road called Passeig de Gracia, literally the passage to Gràcia. Almost 400 years later, this fabulously posh avenue, home to Burberry, Max Mara, the Spanish TOUS and other exclusive boutiques, still bears the same name.
In 1897 Gracia was annexed by Barcelona. (I can only imagine that this left some residents of Gracia outraged… as people often are when “annexed”). As the city expanded and grew to surround Gracia, the district was left largely intact which explains why the oldest part of Gracia, the Vila (or village), has retained its old worldness in the middle of the modern(ismo) city.
The love affair between Gracia and los Barceloneses (plus a couple of Canadians) is also due, in part, to its location. Although certainly not off the beaten path for anyone who lives here, Gracia is not over-run by tourists. Although only a 15 minute walk from Plaza Catalunya, it’s in the opposite direction from the Mediterranean. The only real “tourist” site is Gaudi’s Park Guell in the far north of the district. This means that we get the fabulous restaurants and shops and plazas (oh, how I love the plazas!) mostly to ourselves. Once a year, however, Gracia becomes the centre of the Barcelona universe when it hosts the Festa Major de Gràcia.
FESTA MAJOR DE GRACIA
This has to be the best organized and most divertido (fun) block party on the planet. The 190 year old festival, held in late August, showcases many Catalan traditions including the Castellera or human towers, firework processions (correfocs), live music, workshops, traditional Catalan dancing (sardanes), and traditional processions or parades (cercaviles). Gracia gets dressed up for this party; in 2007 a total of 18 streets and squares were transformed into elaborate carnival-style sets competing for the prize for best decorated street or square of the festival. In many plazas there are market stalls selling yummy food, drinks and handicrafts. For ten days in August, the party never ends and the partiers never sleep. Maybe just a little nap in the afternoon…
This year’s Festa Major will run from August 15th until August 21st, 2008.
What is your hometown’s best party?