Collecting our senses in Collserolla

Evarist March of NaturalWalks joined our group in the afternoon and led us “by the most natural route possible” from the top of the Collserola park down to the station for our suburban train back to Barcelona.  One of the most interesting facets of the conversation along the way related to public attitudes to this Natural Park.  While it seems much of the media and public discourse on the park is negative, pointing to issues such as the risk of forest fires and wild boars encroaching on peripheral residential areas, few stories celebrate the beauty and mere existence of this diverse natural area so close to the densely-populated built-up area.

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A sense of place trail through Barcelona

From the site of the Republican Army’s Spanish Civil War gun placements and shelters.

Working through Nick Lloyd’s Iberia Nature and Spanish Civil War tours I was able to take some visitors on a rarely-run, long Barcelona walk at the weekend.  We ventured through some of the city’s particularly meaning-laden places, as well as other places less well-known, applying a kind of sense of place framework as we went.

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Getting Close-serola

Barcelona, post-1992 Olympics, is a story that has been told countless times in print, conference rooms and tour guide banter: finally, after decades with their backs to the Med and their plumbing pointing straight into its immediate depths, the Barcelonins gave their stretch of coastline a spring clean and reacquainted themselves with their maritime souls.

It’s an account that washes over some contradictory and more place-specific detail.  For insight, talk to some old-timers in the sea- and portside neighbourhood of La Barceloneta, or ask questions about the former shanty town neighbourhood, El Somorrostro.  A good source of such insight might be La Barceloneta Rebel.

My point is that the situation today is generally the reverse.  From their homes and workplaces the attentions of many Barcelonins are directed to the beach, to a stroll in sea breeze reverie, or to a plate heaped with steaming cooked gifts from the sea and rice paddy.

Meanwhile, the thoughts of a small minority of Barcelonins slip through the backdoor to the hills behind this compact metropolis: La Collserola natural park.

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Going unseen places

One of the highlights of last week’s World Responsible Tourism program for me was finding out about Unseen Tours (London’s Street Voices), which received a hefty whack of recognition by winning Best Tour Operator for Local Experiences and Joint Overall Winner at the Responsible Tourism Awards 2011 (the latter shared with Robin Pope Safaris).

Here’s the proposition.  If you “want to challenge your view of what it means to be a person living in London”  then Unseen Tours offers “historical but also unexplored glimpses of the city, as perceived through the lens of homelessness”:

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Midnight Beast and the vulnerable image of destination Ibiza

Is this irresponsible tourism?  A group of London lads travel to Ibiza to film a music video parodying a certain brand of British tourism–cue littering, reckless spending, drunkenness, vomiting, and the wanton spreading of venereal disease–and subsequently achieve notoriety by posting their production, Pizza in Ibiza, to YouTube (390,000+ views since early June).

While the Director General of Toursim for the Balearic Islands’ autonomous community, Jaime Martínez, has erupted–“it’s intolerable that four louts have smeared the image of Ibiza for their own benefit”–I was left wondering if they hadn’t captured part of the reality of mass party tourism to Ibiza.

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