Vintage shop signs of Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona

Els Tres Tombs 2, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona

Ronda de San Antoni may not be high on many people’s places to visit, but here at Four Blocks from….we love life’s vignettes.

Look up.

Ronda de San Antoni is one of Barcelona’s important arteries; it runs north to south for 700m, starting at the busy Plaça de la Universitat. The Ronda becomes pedestrianised about halfway along, a stretch of concrete that temporarily housed Mercado San Antoni in tents during the original market building’s refurbishment.

The space left behind is now a thoroughly pleasant place to stroll, with hopscotch and play areas for kids, jumpers for goalposts football pitches and the chance for residents to…

Look up.

Like much of ‘new’ Barcelona, construction started in the 1880s albeit most buildings here are from the 1920s and 1930s. Barcelona’s tight streets don’t always allow for its building fronts to be properly seen. With the temporary market gone, the Ronda opened up.

What piqued my attention immediately were what are now probably vintage shop signs.

Look up! Here are some of my favourites from the Ronda – there are many more in the barrio – and here they are in north to south spotting order.

 

Vintage shop signs

La Torre undergarments shop, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
La Torre: It was being painted the day I walked by. Has some original signing of almost 100 years of age. ‘Timeless’ underwear, too.

 

Coffee Shop, Cafes Caracas, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Cafes Caracas: Two fonts, two colours. Cafes is clear – Caracas is a wonderfully illegible squiggle a doctor would be proud of.

 

Mistral Bakery, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Forn Mistral: I love the bulbous curves and the matchsticks lines, reflected in the canopy, too. Best ensaïmadas (sweet pastries) in Barcelona – just look at them!

 

Hostal Delfos, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Hostal Delfos: Hidden away and easy to miss, this sign is classically drab. Reviews suggest the rooms, shared toilets and hygiene standards can all be inferred from this yellowed wonder sign.

 

Motor School, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Autoescola 2000: If you can’t be bothered to make an effort, show that you can’t.

 

Sports Ramells outdoor shop, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Sports Remmells: These were put up in 1969 and age better than fine wine. Half a century selling sports and outdoor kit, easy to see how they pull them in.

 

Sir, shoe shop, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Sir: My personal favourite. No need for words.

 

Luxpiel, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Luxpiel: The L, X and E are works of font mastery, and that yellow…I would go every week, if it were a nightclub.

 

Els Tres Tombs and apartments, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Els Tres Tombs: This sign needs the building behind it to frame it properly. A Barcelona classic and landmark which never seems to close. Best visited at 3am to see randoms, or 6-8am when the all-night party people’s special type of cheeriness mixes with folk on the way to work.

 

Seen a sign?

Barcelona is full of amazing shop signs – feel free to share your favourites.

Jardins de Cándida Pérez, Barcelona

Jardins del Cándida Pérez, Comte Borrell, Barcelona

Welcome, dear reader,

I’ve been living in the San Antoni barrio (neighbourhood) for three of the nine years I’ve called Barcelona home.

Along with my partner, known as hitherto as The Plek, we seldom need to walk more than four blocks from our front door to find almost everything we enjoy.

This blog is about what we love about our part of this city; the people, food, bars, shops, animals and whatever else we encounter.

There’s a lot of life to be seen from our 10m2 balcony that looks over the Jardins de Cándida Pérez – and that’s precisely where we start.

Jardins del Cándida Pérez, Comte Borrell, Barcelona

 

Gardens (Jardins) Cándida Pérez

The Plek and I reckon, Rear Window style, there are about 200 other flats that peer into this central courtyard along with Biblioteca de Sant Antoni-Joan Olivé.

Some trees and bushes line and dot what is essentially a kids’ playground and outdoor gym, with some benches and seats.

It’s named after the singer Cándida Pérez, a master of warbling ‘cuplés’ (variety songs) who lived in Brazil, but was born and bred (then dead) in Catalonia.

Fortunately there is no audio homage playing here.

Afternoon siestas are often accompanied by a lilt from our resident blackbird who also likes to toot at sundown, sometimes sat on our washing line. The tax we pay is the occasional dropping on what were freshly-washed towels.

There is also a whopping great chimney in the middle of the park, the remnants of the Tarda Dolcos (sweets) factory. Locals reliably inform me that Tarda produced boiled sweets, chocolates and turron and closed its doors some 40-50 years ago.

 

Wildlife of San Antoni

Our lead singer is not alone. Flop down into one of our balcony’s street seats – furniture left in the street by neighbours for others to use – and a fine supporting chorus appears.

Swifts’ distinctive chatter greets us every morning in the summer. These migratory birds fly in and out of the balcony like charged alien spacecraft. They launch from the nests they’ve built in walls and crevices around the Jardins.

At night, bats compete to snatch a mosquito meal. Such rapier flight is essential; Peregrine Falcons have been reintroduced and we’ve seen one scouting for a swift meal.

Pigeons roost here, too, always watchful of seagulls who think nothing of attack-and-kill tactics. There are often a set of wings on display on a roof, folded out like an angel but lacking any body.

There are also a dozen or so domestic cats that scour these plains, looking for a kill. They are, however, absolutely awful hunters and we’ve never seen a successful chase.

 

Human’s in El Barrio

The gardens are incredibly important to the community. They are a space to hold a birthday party or concert and somewhere to let the kids blast off steam, to name but a few social functions.

OK, some Sunday mornings the screaming at 10am is a bit much, but apparently these children are to be considered as newts – and newts are good.

“If you can see children, it’s probably a healthy and happy city.” says Liz Zeidler, chief executive of the Happy City Initiative, a research centre based in Bristol. Read more here.

There’s a boules/petanque group, teens who come to learn dance moves, people training and keeping fit plus a plethora of dog walkers and the occasional drunk. 

Candida would perhaps be proud of the karaoke parties, hear a rhythm in the pot-banging that has accompanied Catalonia’s political ups and downs of late, and, like us, want to shout at the folk who let their dogs bark at all hours.

Oh, and did I mention I saw some very impressive meteors burning up in the atmosphere one evening, just over the Med.

Hardly any neighbours use their balcony for meals, drinks and enjoying the breeze, so we get this almost all to ourselves.

Oh, and hats off to the guys who watch TV all day, every day, too. We know you won’t be reading.