on February 25, 2013
Barcelona’s cool and vibrant Mediterranean atmosphere reaches a peak of leisurely indulgence on the shoreline of the city’s graceful harbour. Like most Mediterranean beaches, Barcelona’s coast offers excellent opportunities for swimming and boating but this aspect of recreation is merely one facet of Barcelona’s seaside entertainment scene.The soaring structure of the Colombus Monument marks the southern end of La Rambla and the first step on the quayside of Barcelona’s seaport. Jutting out of here into the sea is a wood-and-steel overpass, long enough to afford a ten-minute stroll over the water. Known as the Rambla de Mar, this undulating walkway is graced with lovely views of the harbour and offers an escape from the unceasing noise of city traffic. Halfway on Rambla de Mar, a revolving bridge turns open from time to time to allow sailing boats and large pleasure yachts to get in and out of the marina. Needless to say, pedestrian access is closed for as long as the bridge remains open.Walking along the whole stretch of Rambla de Mar brings one right on the tip of the harbour’s most popular boat-sheltering peninsula. As one swaps the quaking wood of the overpassing walkway with the rigid concrete of the pier, one is faced with an attractive modern building that is a delight to explore, particularly after sunset when rays of coloured artificial light hit the mirrored walls and the arched ceiling of the complex provoking a glimmering kaleidoscopic glow. Called the Maremagnum, this two-storey place, located right over the water of Barcelona’s harbour is nothing more than a colourful retail centre that houses a mixture of fashion and beauty stores, food and homeware shops and a good choice of cafes, restaurants and fast-food joints. The usual international fashion stores (Pull & Bear, Lacoste, H & M, Springfield, etc.) have all secured a space here. Complementing the fashion stores are several restaurants that offer the most comprehensive range of food possible.Typical Catalan tapas and canapés accompanied by a choice of Spanish reds can be savoured daily from 11:00 am till late at night at the Tapa Tapa Restaurant on the ground floor while a Mediterranean seafood cuisine can be enjoyed both at Restaurante ELX and at El Chipiron de Monchos where the food is always freshly cooked and of top-notch quality.Overlooked by tourists but frequented by a local clientele on a regular basis is a buffet restaurant that pervades across an extensive area of the ground floor. Appropriately named Fresc Co, it offers an all-you-can-eat self-service menu that is centred around fresh salads and vegetable soups. Taking your share of food from the display is easy once you follow perseveringly the queue of customers who invade the place daily but particularly on Saturday nights. For a start, lay a Fresc Co paper napkin on a tray, take a couple of plates and fill in with your preferred assortment of greens. On approaching the cash counter, choose a drink (soft drink, beer on tap or wine) before you settle the bill, fixed at 9.95 Euro on weekdays and 11.95 Euro on Saturdays and Sundays. You can refill your plate with more crispy greens or instead indulge in a freshly-baked serving of hot lasagne or a dish of rightly sauced meat stew. Fill your glass with additional drinks if your thirst for liquid wash-down has not yet been fully satisfied. Fresc Co’s green logo stands to testify to the attention the restaurant gives to healthy eating. This can be further witnessed from the displayed range of fresh fruit from which you can take your share as well. The ice-cream machine churns out …well, ice-cream but the two flavours available, both equally yummy and squashy incite anybody with a sweet tooth to indulge beyond control.Fresc Co is an all-glass eating station and consequently all tables afford views of the harbour and the sea. But choosing a table next to a front glass wall is synonymous with getting the best view of the adjacent promenade that looks out on the marina. Although the Maremagnum proper is the shopping centre on the tip of the peninsular marina, the name is for the most part used to signify in addition the whole area behind it. As one goes out of the complex through the alternative exit, one encounters more restaurants and bars, most of which are endowed with elevated sun terraces that offer excellent views of the harbour. Located only a stone’s throw from the Maremagnum secondary exit on Carrer d’Itaca, Sweet Terrazza is a restaurant of distinction. The name befits the place with certainty because the spacious terrace the restaurant provides for diners is not only sweet and graceful beyond comparison but it embraces sea views that extend to both sides of the marina. Dining here at night is tantamount to experiencing a romantic atmosphere amidst a profusion of coloured lights that glitter and flicker in an attempt to show off the dazzling beauty of Barcelona’s harbour. The excellent food (try lasagne au saumon et legumes, simply too delicious to stop before the dish is wiped clean) complements the views and the atmosphere; the delicious dessert (try chocolate profiteroles) is utterly divine. The square right behind the Sweet Terrazza is an arena of leisure and play. Young children have reserved areas where they can practise running, jumping, climbing and skipping. Skateboarding zones are earmarked … well, for skateboarders although some of the latter seem to prefer the smooth rigid surface of the promenade rather than the uneven terrain set aside for them. Lingering here on a bench or right on the shoreline amidst hosts of visitors of all ages, particularly on a sunny Saturday afternoon is an experience of engaging in carefree leisure away from hassle and concern.Only steps away from this popular stretch of coastline is Maremagnum’s prime attraction. Known as L’Aquarium de Barcelona, it is not merely a marine underwater display of sea creatures similar to those found in other coastal regions but is in addition an educational aquatic leisure centre equipped with innovative material that makes it possible for visitors to enrich their understanding of the fascinating underwater world with engaging activities that are equally interesting and entertaining. Diving magically into the abysmal depths of the sea with thousands of sea creatures or inspecting the various features of the Mediterranean seabed is only the prelude to an exploratory journey of surprises and excitement. Discovering the aquatic environment with its cold temperatures, its abysmal darkness and its cavernous depth is a tummy-turning activity that leaves you breathless. Investigating a diversity of habitats (marshes, isolated sandy beaches, lagoons and cliffs that overhang dramatically into the sea) where animals live and to which they migrate for food or shelter is a Biology lesson enriched with colourful organisms, all alive and kicking. Strolling across the gigantic Oceanarium close to tiger sharks and queer fish of the deep or walking through an eighty-metre long glass tunnel right above the seabed is a unique experience that visitors cherish with delight and amazement. Before you depart, visit the centre’s auditorium where films and documentaries related to marine life and environment are presented from time to time. The adjacent souvenir shop located among the remains of an old Spanish galleon is the place to visit if you are in search of a venerable memento of the place to take back home.Right behind the Aquarium is Barcelona’s amazing Imax movie theatre. Equipped with a twenty-one-metre high screen, it is designed to offer an extraordinary experience of sight and sound that is entirely different from a typical 3-D movie sensation. Wearing special polarized glasses, viewers are exposed to images that often seem more lifelike and realistic than the real thing. The audio system provides in addition excellent sound quality through front, side and back speakers. Although films are rarely shown in English and no English subtitles are thrown in, it is nonetheless worth coming here more for the phenomenal experience than for understanding the narration. If however, you want your Barcelona Imax experience to become more bizarre and ethereal, you can opt for the Omnimax performance, a projection on a huge dome-like screen that creates a sensation for the viewer that he is right in the centre of the action. The area behind the Imax theatre is a huge playpark, dotted with fast-food kiosks, doughnut and ice-cream vendors and several unlicensed pedlars who deal in all sorts of China-made wares and accessories. Having no license to sell is a guarantee that the pedlar disappears as fast as lightning as soon as a policeman comes into view even if a prospective buyer is still in the action.The edge of the park right in front of Via Laietana is unofficially reserved for street theatre. Performances of some sort or other are held daily in fine weather. Some of these are mediocre and mundane and do not deserve a passing glance; others are surprisingly spectacular and worth following.
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