Today, we finally got to experience more of the amazing festival that is La Merce. Looking at the schedule of events is always a little intimidating, due to the sheer number of things going on all over Barcelona (which is partially to blame for us going to an event on the wrong date yesterday), so our goal for today was to head to Parc Ciutadella and just immerse ourselves in the thick of it. Mission accomplished!
In addition to the various major events that are held only on specific days and locations, there is an entire festival of circus, dance, and street arts that is ongoing mostly all day for the duration of the festival at three locations: Parc Ciutadella, Montjuic Castle, and Palauet Albeniz. The most centrally located of these, and the one with the biggest variety of events, is Parc Ciutadella, so this is where we headed in the afternoon. There is even a portion of La Merce that is strictly dedicated to children, called La Petita Merce. Most of these events, as far as we could tell, are held in the park, perfect for us family travelers.
Free Play and Children's Shows
At the park, there are a variety of areas just open for playing, and as you walk you can find different events starting about every half hour. The first thing our kids enjoyed was experimenting with colorful animals connected with gears and wheels. Each one did something different when pushed, and was fun for young kids.
Shortly after, we all sat down to watch a wonderful marionette show. There was no speaking, just music, so the plot was very easy to understand. We loved that the kids (and parents if they chose to) could sit on the ground to be close to the adorable clown marionette, named Clara.
As we walked through the park, we saw saw several events going on in different locations. The first was an ABBA group dancing and singing, which we found a little silly...sorry performers...unless that was your aim, in which case job well done. We didn't stay long, then also briefly checked out a hip hop/pop/break dancing competition that was already in the progress. We also saw there was another, larger puppet show, which did have speaking in Catalan, but one puppet show for the day was enough for our kids..
La Cascada & Saturno Park
Near La Cascada (a triumphal arch with a waterfall and fountains) we found even more children's activities. There was a whole area set with cute little tents, small rides (meant for kids 0-3 years), and tables set up with coloring pages and color pencils.
We then watched the fountains in front of the arch dance to music. It sort of reminded us of the Bellagio fountains in Vegas :). They had dubbed this section of the park as "Saturno Park", and there were some space themed rides and other amusement park type activities.
The staff for all the children's events were amazing. So kind and loving, and it seemed like they wanted to make sure the kids will have fun.
Food Truck Heaven
Oh my goodness! I hadn't seen so many food trucks lined up since I left New York! And even then, not many that were so cute looking! I was so excited, and we knew we were going to change our dinner plans and eat here. There was a variety of food, and we tried little bites from a few trucks.
Projection Light Show
As it started to get dark, we meandered through the El Born and Gothic Quarter streets and found our way to Placa Jaume, as a projection light show on the facade of the Generalitat building (Barcelona City Hall) began. This 30 minute show is run multiple times each night for the duration of the festival, but even still the square was packed. The show was in Catalan, but there were enough lights and images and music to keep us very entertained.
Parade of Giants and Dwarves
This was definitely our favorite event of La Merce 2014 so far. It was so incredibly festive and fun! The giants and dwarves walked down the street with lots of different bands playing music, which added to the upbeat atmosphere. There were also a lot of kids and grown ups that walked around with paper confetti and threw them in to the crowds, especially at kids. Some of them would give fist-fulls of confetti to the kids to throw around too.
The parade went from the Maritime Museum (close to the Barcelona Port) up about half of La Rambla, through the Gothic Quarter, and ended at Placa Jaume (where we had just seen the light show). Instead of staying by Placa Jaume, we chose to stand closer to the beginning of the parade, on La Rambla (near the Liecu station), where we were right in the front and were able to interact occasionally with people walking in the parade. It also wasn't overly busy on the street, as most participants likely stayed on or near Placa Jaume.
The whole parade was quite huge, and they seemed to be in no rush, so the whole thing took almost a full hour to pass by. Never was there a dull moment though, as the kids loved playing with the confetti which covered the ground in a thick layer by the end of the night. Speaking of which, we also loved that sweepers and sweeper trucks were right behind this fun parade. They wasted no time cleaning the confetti off the street, leaving little traces of the event behind.
Well done Barcelona. We are impressed :)
Check out this fun video of the parade followed by many pictures of the various giants and the good time had by all.