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FollowTheBaldie.com: Town and country walking and study tours in Barcelona and the Western Med
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    • Language All our guides are native English speakers and speak the local language fluently.
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Barcelona tours - Mad Lord Peterborough takes Barcelona

Overview

Barcelona, 1705. The War of the Spanish Succession is in full swing, and Lord Peterborough sits in his tent fearing he will never take the city by conventional means.

So, without consulting his cautious multinational staff, he decides to pull an old Grecian trick on the Bourbon Viceroy. With 1,400 men he embarks and sails off. Then, as dusk falls, he doubles back and, early in the morning, lands behind Barcelona's impregnable mountain fortress of Montjuïc. Guided by a shepherd his troops assault the castle and a fortuitous grenade in the powder magazine ends the drowsy resistance.

Then, says Voltaire, instead of settling down for a victory lunch, Peterborough continues down the hill to Barcelona, which surrenders too.

But you betrayed us, cries the Viceroy: your (German) allies are in the city, pillaging and killing.

Peterborough enters on his horse, stops the havoc, and then to cap it all rescues a succulent damsel from some brutal Catalans and ... restores her to her husband. Ah, sighed the populace, those gallant Brits!

Well, for a couple of days at least.

Itinerary

Peterborough's probable route is now mainly quarry, but our route evokes something of the atmosphere of that day. We start at the site of the first Roman port: several kilometres south of the current city, river silt caused its gradual abandonment, but a castle remained here until the Middle Ages. The river delta provided rich farmland, and mass settlement only came in the 20th century, when hungry workers from other parts of Spain built shanty towns and cave dwellings on the slopes of the mountain and employers built factories on the plain. Now gypsies (including Barcelona's most notorious southern Slav clan) with pigfoot charms rub shoulders with memories of dictator Franco's Catalan nationalist (!) aviator brother.

Next stop is Barcelona's great South-West Cemetery, which opened in 1883 on a site overlooking the Mediterranean where a 1091 document mentions "old Jewish sepulchres". Like its predecessor in Poblenou, it was a secular, municipal project whose purpose was to prevent the dead from infecting the living. Poblenou, however, reflects Enlightenment ideals--equality, uniformity, rationality--while on Montjuïc the great marble temples and avenues of dead industrial and colonial bourgeois and the warren of multi-storey niches for the poor mirror the industrial metropolis of the living.

We'll visit the tombs of libertarians Francisco Ascaso, Buenaventura Durruti and Francesc Ferrer i Guardia; mass graves of paupers, Civil War victims, and at least one more "martyr"; and then the resting places of various luminaries, along with some marvellous gypsy pantheons and the odd moment of madness.

Up then onto the mountain, the metre, and Peterborough's castle, with splendid views over the modern port and
the rest of Barcelona.

Details

Grade easy
Base Barcelona (Meeting point information here, where relevant - make sure you have the right one!)
Location tags Barcelona, Catalonia, Montjuïc, Zona Franca,
Theme tags archaeology, architecture, art, history, literature, military, nature,
Your guide(s) Mr Baldie
Walking distance 6 km / 3.73 miles
Walking time 3 hr
Total return travel time from base to walk 0.45 hr
Total time from "hello" to "goodbye" 3.90 hr
Fiestas and markets in places we go through - combine a walk and some partying or shopping!
  • November 1 (All Saints - spectacular decoration of parts of cemetery)

Note that there are also events in most places on January 6 (Three Kings), Carnival, Easter, April 23 (St George), June 23 (St John), and September 11 (Catalan regional/national day)

Photos

Coming soon! Please try the overview or itinerary for pictures.

Comments

  1. [...] along the coast should no rebellion be forthcoming. Charles was uninterested in the project, so when Peterborough took Barcelona in 1705 it was as an accessory to the Catalans, and as a result no guarantee with respect to Catalonia can [...]

  2. [...] don’t often take groups around Montjuïc cemetery, but we were there this morning and found his name had been removed from the list of executions for [...]

  3. [...] Montjuïc cemetery publishes a little map which, interested in historical renown, guides you past the generally terribly tedious tombs of well-known Barcelona citizens (good, bad, ugly) and thus omits the quite extraordinary artistic achievements of some of its less well-documented residents. Here is one of the finest funeral monuments, built by people who have clearly inherited something of the spirit of the pharaohs of the land whence they say they came: There’s another splendid example nearby dedicated to a young man–strong as a horse, ringed by them–who shares his name but little else with an ex-foreign minister of Chile, and there are many more. It would be a nice irony if these folks were to be remembered after all the bloody Batllós and Ferrer i Guardias are forgotten. [...]

  4. [...] but they have the same function as the hand (and the eye, and perhaps the left nipple) of Fatima. Here’s a trinity of them on a garage door in a place dedicated to Francisco Franco’s [...]

  5. [...] documentation and photos of the area and its people, including this history of Seat by José Sanz. This walk traverses briefly one of the district’s stranger residential developments, but things are a [...]

  6. [...] We’ve been going out early on Sundays with a couple of artichoke farmers from el Prat to bag wildfowl for lunch, but it seems the bloody ecologists are onto us. No sooner had Jordi opened up with his RPG on a cloud of Anas platyrhynchos than the ba$tards mortared us from Montjuïc castle, which they apparently now control. However, we know a shepherd. [...]

  7. [...] recalled by Francesc Candel from pre-war infancy spread between the old port of what is now the Zona Franca, the Casas Baratas on the fringes of Montjuich, Vallvidrera and Sant Hilari de Sacalm: Ja és de [...]

  8. [...] its cathedral, and its scenery, the bridge over the Huécar, and in jingoistic recollection of Peterborough’s capture of it during the War of the Spanish Succession. If you want to see the Casas [...]

  9. [...] great number of other places, including this Gracia walk, this Girona country tour, and on tombs in the great Montjuïc cemetery. (But if you're leaving things, you have to be careful: a friend who decided to stop being a boring [...]

  10. [...] Here. This is one of my favourites and works perfectly well as it is, but an even more interesting, guided walk is available here. [...]

  11. [...] response to this site's airport walks, as well as perhaps some other triumphal entries, HtH has kindly contributed the opening of the last chapter of Mani - Travels in [...]

  12. [...] viewings here. I don't know the exact figures, but it is my impression that the eviction rate has risen [...]

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