Barcelona – food and big data

Back to this lovely city. I’ve been here twice before, almost 2 weeks the first time, during xmas two years ago, again almost 2 weeks in the beginning of my journey through Europe, in April, and now 2 complete weeks again. I bought the flight in a bad timing and it cost me about 140€, with everything included. I had my big backpack, plus my small ones, and I needed flexibility in case I changed my mind. If you’re traveling just with a small backpack and a hand bag you can get it much cheaper – the same flight would have been 80€.

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It has been three months and a few days in Prague. So some last information about prices in Prague, in case you’re thinking of visiting for longer periods of time:

You can find rooms in shared flats from 200€ to 300€ and something, with everything included. From less central locations to right in the centre. It’s about 150$ to 400$. There are even some options of fully furnished 1 bedroom / decent sized studios for rent at those values. For a bit more you can certainly find a 1 bedroom in the city, with good location and quality. It’s not that expensive. Outside the centre young people usually speak english, but older people don’t speak it at all most of the times.

A monthly pass for the metro, bus and tram will set you at around 24€/30$ . This is fairly cheap if you compare to other cities in Europe, even cities like Lisbon. On the other hand, less than 1 month passes are touristically priced. So if you’re staying more than 10 days it is probably better to buy this kind of pass. Just ask in the metro where you can buy such a pass and they’ll direct you to that place.

view of my room in Prague

view of my room in Prague

Eating out and drinking. There are several options, but all in all, besides some places, I would stay away from the centre. Near Namesti Miru for instance (2 stops in metro from the centre) you’ve got some streets with many restaurants where you can eat a goulash or other nice dish from as low as 4€. Specially if you visit those places that are obviously more local and off centre. One thing most places have is good food, generally very well cooked – although simple, it’s very tasty. Half a litre of local drought beer will set you at back 1€ which is extremely cheap as well.

Clubs, discos and others are fairly more expensive than that, but still accessible and usually have a very good atmosphere. Coffee is usually german style. You can ask for espresso but… I would leave that for Italy & Portugal.

So, to Barcelona now!

This time I won’t bother you much with politics, although I must say that the Spanish government as refused the right to referendum in Catalonia, this way preventing catalans from expressing if they want to be an independent state or be part of Spain.

On the other hand, I will give you some cool places to visit in case you’re there, are going there, or just like to read this kind of stuff.

me in Barna

me in Barna

I’ve compiled these notes on 4 places that might interest you while you’re there. Once again, besides these recommendations I would invite you to step out of the more central & touristic areas and just pop straight into some local restaurant. Remember, restaurants with locals eating there are usually good options, for a taste of traditional cuisine as well as a traditional feeling. Sometimes they aren’t so well prepared to handle foreigners or non-speakers but if that happens just use your imagination, be patient, and you’ll end up eating, eventually and hopefully something that you won’t regret! And for a much lower price.

If you have a deadly allergy though, it might be a bad idea, you could just die during your vacation and who would want that. Imagine dying because of peanut allergy while eating at a restaurant, just after taking that photo for instagram with the following description “I have no idea what it is but it’s so good!”. It would be hilarious – sorry!

I once had a 2 course lunch near the centre, with coffee, drink, and dessert for 10€. The place wasn’t fancy but you couldn’t hear a word in other language than catalan and it was completely packed for lunch time. Of course, I was with someone who was catalan and that made it easier. The places I’ll show you range from 22€ to 120€ for two persons and aren’t properly local, but still great choices.

So first spot:

  • Nanaya@22 at Diagonal 173

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Ok so this is a japanese style fast-food restaurant. If you’re a connoisseur of japanese food, it might not be the indicated. If you aren’t too picky like me, it’s a good option for a cost-wise meal, as long as their electronic interface ordering system along with simple decoration and service doesn’t put you off. Each order is done independently on their monitor machines, you choose a flag number and take it to the table. You pay ahead. The orders arrived quickly as expected, it’s between 11€ to 16€ per person depending on the things you choose for your meal. The base sushi table, along with a small salad, a dish of tempura, a small mizu soup, a glass of wine (decent) or another drink, coffee or dessert, sets you at 11€. You can then add things like the dish of noodles with beef (very tasty) and/or beef/shrimp/pork pieces on a small skewer, with a delicious sauce.

Ok, it’s not like the most intimate spot, nor is it something unique, but you eat well, with a wide array of tastes for a very reasonable price in Barcelona. It’s fast too.

Next:

  • Fábrica Moritz at Ronda Sant Antoni, 41

So this is a brewery, concept store, wine store, restaurant and bar. “Fábrica” is an industrial building used to build or process something. For instance, Henry Ford had many automotive “fábricas”, where the cars were assembled.

Moritz is a local brand of beer and here you can eat from a wide and varied menu, from vegan friendly meals to pure beef, light and heavy meals, but best of all, you can digest it along with a daily brewed beer. It has a small place outside with small tables to sit and 2 big floors inside the building, all quite modern and stylish. A meal for 2 here will set you back around 30€ to 50€ euros depending on what you choose.

For what you see, a rustic bread sandwich with dried tomatoes, soya beans and other veggies, a well sized beef hamburger on slightly toasted bread buns, home-like french fries, 1L of local brewed in the day beer, plus a plate of potatoes cooked on the oven with cream, the bill with a 2€ tip was 34€. It was great and the sauces for the hamburger were delicious with a great deal of high quality mustards and others to choose from. All of this in a very central location. The only draw back is that besides the beer the menu is mostly doable by yourself at home, but still I think for the price, location and the amazing beer it’s worth.

 

  • Vegetalia

Ok, this one has restaurants in two different places of the city, but we visited TWICE the same one, at Square Emili Vendrell 1. It’s about 10 minutes walking from Las Ramblas. As the name indicates it’s a vegetarian/vegan restaurant. It’s delicious really. The one we visited has some tables outside in a square and two indoor places. One of them is where the counter & kitchen are located and the other one, separated, is a cozy dinning room some meters away. This one is more intimate and in both days was mostly empty, while the outdoor tables and the other dinning part were seeing much more movement. Although the weather was fine we had dinner once in each of the rooms.

Here you can taste a varied menu of vegetarian/vegan meals. Definitively  you have to try these:

  1. Humus – A dish of well prepared and tasty humus served with crunchy pieces of bread (more similar to pita bread than regular bread) – one is ok for 2 persons as a starter;
  2. Seitan books filled with a cheese like cream and served with sauce and whole-rice. Delicious, soft and tenderly cooked seitan that has the texture of meat. We ordered one of this each time we visited because it was so good.
  3. A bottle of their eco-org white wine
  4. Chocolat brownie with cream (similar) and fruit jam – all home made

 

On the first day we also ordered noodles but I didn’t enjoy that as much. It had a spicy taste and was no match for the seitan-books. Looked much more like something you could cook yourself in 10min at home.

This will set you around 35€ to 50€ with tips. The first time we ordered 2 main dishes and the second time we only ordered one main dish as with the humus, seitan & brownies it’s a decent enough meal. Plus with a bottle of wine for two…

Either spot is around 5 to 10min walking from Las Ramblas. It’s enjoyable to walk from that main touristic street through the smaller lateral ones. You’ll see some other bars, coffees and restaurants on your way.

Main room in Vegetalia - cool decoration - all seems very DIY but with a certain charisma , not cheap looking

Main room in Vegetalia – cool decoration – all seems very DIY but with a certain charisma , not cheap looking

  • Carlota Akaneya

On my last night in Barcelona, we decided to visit this Japanese BBQ. It’s somewhat a famous place having received some well-known people from Barcelona’s scene and it’s near (I use near but my near is like walking a bit – it’s not right on the side of) Las Ramblas (actually you can see it on your way to Vegetalia). You usually have to book. Here you can have a menu starting a 36€ per person (excl. drinks) or starting at 59€ (excl. drinks). The main difference, but not the only difference, is the quantity of kobe meat you get to grill.

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Although somewhat fancy the atmosphere is very laid-back and personable. Each table has a place in the middle where the hot charcoal is going. You’ll be served some starters. We had a salad, soup and some other delicious bits. You’re served a hot pan to cook some vegetables on the grill, that you’ll eat along with the meat you’ll be grilling. The meat is excellent kobe beef from different parts of the animal and you’re invited to eat it with salt & spices or the special sauce they provide. In the end we had some Mochi cakes that were delicious, I had never tried them before but found it quite different from the kind of sweets I’m used to – they were sweet but fresh, whereas for instance portuguese pastry is sweet but not fresh at all. We drank their particular Sangria that is made of sake instead of wine and is deliciously refreshing. Coffee was also included but we skipped it. On the other hand we were offered two glasses of prune sake that made me ask if they didn’t have a bottle for sale. I’m usually not comfortable with spending this much money on a meal, really, I think you can eat very well and have a pleasant night/meal with spending much less, but for a special date or occasion it’s perfect.

So this ends up our food tour.

One other thing I ended up seeing and is relevant for this social media world was the “Big Bang Data” exhibition at the CCCB.

 

"Hello World", installation by Christopher Baker. ©Micael Nussbaumer

“Hello World”, installation by Christopher Baker. ©Micael Nussbaumer

This exhibition gathers several projects from many artists and researchers – it mixes it in a visually appealing narrative about the facts relative to the internet usage and social media.

“In 24 HRs in photos, Eric Kessels printed out all the photographs uploaded on to photo-sharing website Flickr during the course of a single day in 2009, piled them into a room, then took a picture of them “to show the deluge of images that the internet condenses daily and how we have become accustomed to consuming them, and also to raise awareness of the fact that private photographs pass from the private sphere to the public domain when they are uploaded to the internet.” El Pais digital

Eric Kessels' 24HRs in photos installation

Eric Kessels’ 24HRs in photos installation

Although the seemingly abysmal number of images would render the fact of uploading images of ourselves as a meaningless activity for anyone trying to survey us – we would just be a very tiny fraction of the full amount of images – the fact is that in the digital world, unlike the physical one, you don’t have to go through a whole room of images one by one looking for a photograph of someone or something. You can just run a facial-detection algorithm, and voilá. You can even just scan images as they are uploaded. Or specific computers. In a way, it makes sense to do “whole” surveillance, as long as this surveillance is collected and not analysed immediately by humans or disclosed to human personnel. On the other hand, such information, if aided by anti-terrorism laws, could become a very serious threat to freedom.

Even if an algorithm responds to your personal web history, that doesn’t mean that any sentient human being knows any of it – this is interesting – if no sentient being has that knowledge in fact can you say that your privacy has been breached? The fact that the data is stored, is a problem though, since it is stored it can be accessed – but the immediate response from the web algorithms, even if could be described as a breach of privacy, isn’t so in any social sense. Other thing that can come out of a brutal transparency through the digital world is a much more clearer picture of how things actually work in the real world.

 

“The show, which takes up an entire floor of the center, combines statistical and visualization programs to create installations that illustrate major global processes and their influence on all aspects of private and public life.” – El Pais digital

On other hand, this mechanisation of human life that has started with the industrial revolution, and now continues through more subtle and fancier methods – like sensing/input of caloric intake, activity, mood, body temperature – present real challenges to human life as we know it. Will we become so detached of the mystical world that we start behaving as machines rather than humans, or in a less anthropocentric wording, organic systems of consciousness? Will we leave the choices of our whole existence as humans to algorithms and feedback systems? We use natural feedback systems already, they’re built into us. We use them throughout our whole lives, that’s actually how we are able to learn and grow up from helpless babies to what we would call functioning adults. The analysis of data was always linked with higher ordering of society. But is this extreme “datafication” of the universe any good? The datafication of all aspects of reality will probably render this same reality meaningless.

Soon, to Saigon!

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