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Monday, December 3, 2018

Le Merce Festival And More - Barcelona, Spain

When we were in Barcelona before our Mediterranean cruise, we were very fortunate to be there to witness a grand celebration.  Unfortunately at the time, we didn't realize what was going on.  All we could tell was that there seemed to be a lot of excitement and fun going on all around us and we didn't know exactly why.  I have since researched and found out that the Catalans were celebrating their biggest annual 4 day festival, La Merce, often called the Festival of festivals.  It has been an official city holiday since 1871 and it celebrates the feast day of Our Lady of Mercy.  It would have been wonderful for us to know all this at the time, but we at least we did take pictures and can now understand what we were part of.

On our first day in Barcelona we noticed some large puppets a few blocks ahead of us.  We raced to catch up with this unusual sight but whatever was going on was over before we could get any closer.  Luckily, the next day we stumbled upon a building filled with the "stars" of the parade of the night before, the giants.  This parade marks the start of the La Merce festival.

The building turned out to be Palau de la Virreina.  It was formally a palace that is partially open to the public for cultural events and art exhibitions.  At the exhibition we saw, along with the giants, the Beasts of Barcelona.    I am not sure if any of the beasts were in the parade because we could only see the heads of the giants over the crowd of people.  But, I've since learned that you will see these beasts at festivals and in parades.

One of the beasts we saw at this exhibition was the imaginary animal, la tarasca.  This monster has the body of a turtle and a human face.  He can suddenly spray out fire, water or candy and will stretch out his neck to bite the nearest victim!

On the other hand, the ox is calm and peaceful.  I found out by reading the plaque near the animal, that the ox made it's first appearances in 1467 and 1568.  And, like many of the other animals, has his own music and dance.

The following day we paid more attention to the billboards all over the neighborhood and finally realized that there would be festivities in the evening to enjoy.  We spent the afternoon following Rick Steves' Ramblas Ramble self-guided walking tour and decided that we would spend the evening enjoying the celebration.

We didn't know exactly where or when the festivities were taking place so we just walked around and hoped that we would be in the right place at the right time.  We started our walk at Placa de Catalunya.  When we were there earlier in the day waiting for a bus to take us to La Sagrada Familia, we saw lots of preparations being made for something that was going to happen there and also saw what looked like a list of entertainment.

We were right.  When we returned to the plaza in the evening, there were two stages set up.  We really enjoyed the traditional performances of the singers and dancers at the first stage.

The speakers at the second stage seemed to be getting the crowd riled up about something as the audience was yelling and cheering very loudly.  I know the Catalans are fighting for independence from Spain and we did see evidence of protests and such around the city.  We couldn't say for sure that anything political was happening here, but we avoided going near that stage!

We walked around the plaza to see what else was happening here and saw boards set up and markers available for people to leave their messages.  I had to add my message.  I took a marker and joined the others.  I couldn't understand very much of what was written on those boards or what kind of message we were supposed to leave, but I did see the word POWER!!    This was my message:

We had fun in the plaza but we never saw a Le Merce sign and started to think that what was happening here was a normal weekend event and not a part of the festivities so we left the plaza and headed for the Barri Gotic area.

When we got to Avinguda del Portal de l'Angel, the boulevard lined with the most expensive stores in Barcelona, we heard drums but couldn't see a thing.  We followed the crowd of people who were following the parade and finally caught up with a high energy, very intense group of drummers.  They were so much fun to watch and we followed them along with the rest of the crowd.

They brought us near the Barcelona Cathedral where we saw preparations being made for what looked like a concert of some sort.  We thought we would get back to this area to see the entertainment but we didn't.  I read, after we got back from vacation, that there was also a light show projected on the cathedral.  We missed that also.

There were kiosks in this square, in front of the cathedral, selling all sorts of things.  The cutest sight we saw all night, though, was this group of children having a ball with a gentleman making hundreds of bubbles to be popped.

Now that we know about the Le Merce festival we would love to go back one day to appreciate it.
My dream would be going to Barcelona in September, 2026 to really enjoy this festival and also to see the finished La Sagrada Familia.

This was the last evening of our stay in Barcelona and we were ready to go back to our hotel to relax on their balcony.  We were ready to have the beer and cookies that we knew were waiting for us at their buffet.  Tomorrow we would be checking out of Hotel Continental Barcelona and checking into our cabin on our cruise ship, Vision of the Seas.  

The next morning and our final day in Barcelona, we went to mass at Barcelona Cathedral and then had brunch with our son Mike and DIL Chrissy who happened to be arriving in Barcelona, after their European cruise honeymoon, the day we were leaving, !

Then we made sure that Mike and Chrissy drank from the Fountain of Canaletes that would guarantee their return to Barcelona, which was not the fountain we found the day before.  Thank goodness we found the right fountain today.

It was a little sad leaving Barcelona because we were having a great time and loved this city.  But we had an exciting Mediterranean cruise ahead of us!

Our first stop would be Nice, France!  To be continued...


  1. Sounds like a wonderful time, great pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  2. thanks for sharing I love to see festive times like this and how others celebrate
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  3. Looks like a nice place to visit, enjoyed the pics! Thanks so much Cathy for partying with us at the #WednesdayAIMLinkParty and Giveaway! We hope to see you at our next party on Dec-19-2018.

  4. Beautiful place to visit and hope to go there someday! Happy to have you party with us at #WednesdayAIMLinkParty and Giveaway!

  5. You took some really great pictures, and it sounds and looks like such a fun time! Thank you for sharing at Celebrate It!

  6. What a wonderful trip and a beautiful city! Pinned! Thank you for sharing on Merry Monday! We hope you will join us again next week!