Calle Murillo 18-20. (January 2013)

We have rented an apartment in Badalona, a suburb of Barcelona, that’s about 14km north, along the coast.

We decided to choose this part of Spain after a train trip from Barcelona to Perpingnon in 2008. We loved the coastline and felt that if we wanted to live near Barcelona, then this would be the place to stay.

Here are a series of random snaps of the area that I have taken over a number of weeks.

It’s a strange district with a mixture of old and new housing, factories and large vacant blocks where factories once stood.

There is even a cemetery of old suburban busses.

Then there’s the beaches, long stretches of beautifully groomed sandy coastline that extends for many kilometers north and south of Barcelona.

In summer they’re full of Spanish sun worshippers, cafés and bars. Now that winter is here, all that remains are groups of over optimistic surfers and fishermen, along with the dog walkers, well wrapped up against the winter wind.

Even the beach bars or chiringuito have disappeared, they get dismantled in autumn and will magically reappear next summer.

The vacant area, between the railway line and the beach, now forms part of an extensive coastal path with cycling and pedestrian access. On most days there’s a good cross section of the population, either walking, riding, blading or just sitting, enjoying the view over the Mediterranean.

The railway line that runs along the coast from Barcelona to the French border is ever present, both  visually and audibly. It has become an artificial division between work and play for these seaside towns.

The people of Badalona are fiercely independent and the red and gold stripes of the Catalan flag can be seen hanging from many windows.

Badalona is the third most populated city in Catalonia and has been inhabited since 3,500 – 2,500 BC. The city of Badalona was founded by the Romans in the 3rd century BC, with the name Baetulo.

There are still Roman ruins within the city centre and we went looking for them.

We finally discovered that they are under the Badalona Museum with 3,400 square meters of old Roman Baetulo to explore. There we found the remains of the old Roman Baths plus a urban settlement that was just near the old Forum. The street level entrance is just a portal to the subterranean treasures that house a small part of the Roman Empire.

During a period of urban development, in the mid-1970s’, a number of archeological digs were carried out that revealed the extent and importance of these ruins.

However housing was put ahead of history and a block of flats was built over the site. It wasn’t until the end of the Franco era that the building was declared illegal and subsequently pulled down.

On the same day we found old Baetulo we also discovered the twin parks of Badalona, Parc de Can Solei and Can l’Arnús. The oldest part was built in the Romantic style between 1870 and 1880. There are old buildings, sculptures, arbors, grottos, waterfalls, walkways and playgrounds. There’s even a small lake with a tower.

During the 19th century Badalona was an important town in the industrialisation of Spain and that’s the reason for the old factories and now vacant blocks.

Most of the factories along the foreshore are empty or home to a variety of discos and some very creative graffiti. While the vacant land, where the factories once stood, is now awaiting redevelopment into apartment blocks, shopping centers and hotels for the beach loving tourists.

Just north from where we are in Badalona is Montgat, an area that was the home to the wealthy industrialist who built these factories. It seems to have been left in a 19th century time warp, with the closest development, apart from apartment blocks, being a huge marina and restaurant complex further up the coast in Ocata.

There is still one factory that dominates the skyline from wherever you are in Barcelona, Badalona or even Montgat. It’s the power station at Sant Adrià de Besòs, with its three giant chimneys that seem to be omnipresent in so many of the shots I have taken.

We get plenty of exercise with our walks south into Badalona and north to Montgat and Ocata. So in an attempt to fine new territory we headed up the hill, just behind our street, to the Parc de la Mediterrania.

As the name suggests there were sweeping views of the Mediterranean but they were interrupted by high tension power lines and the ever present three chimneys.

From our elevated position we did manage to get a good view of Calle Murillo and we also discovered that the barking, we hear every afternoon, comes from a dog training centre and adjacent kennel that’s on top of the hill.

There is another factory, well at least their logo, that holds a fascination for the people of Badalona, and that’s Anis del Mono.

The anis factory has been located beachside in Badalona since 1870, with the distinctive humanoid primate logo emblazoned on their walls.

There are many theories as to the origins of the trademark, some even suggest that it’s a caricature of naturalist Charles Darwin.

There is a life size bronze statue of the monkey on the promenade and a constant line of people waiting to have their photo taken with him.

One of the objectives of our trip was to gain a better understanding of what life was like ‘somewhere else’. Living in Badalona, on and off for the last 5 months, has given us a good appreciation for this seaside suburb of Barcelona.

We had hoped to have picked up a bit of Spanish along the way, however most people in this area speak Catalan, so the Castilian will have to wait for another time.

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