From Yaya: Let me start by first introducing the newest member of the Hand Luggage Only team – Henry! I know you’re here for the amazing La Mercè festival so I’ll keep things brief. 🙂 Henry is a new addition to the Hand Luggage Only team (as I mentioned before) and will be popping in from time to time to say hi and share his travel stories!
Henry is actually not a stranger to Hand Luggage Only and you might actually have noticed a few things from Henry on here in the past (and on our instagram). Henry is the one behind this stunning video of Iceland and the Northern Lights (*sidebar: the video actually used to be on YouTube for the longest time until YouTUbe got awkward hence the switch to Vimeo).
Recently, Henry went to Barcelona as part of Hand Luggage Only and happened to be there on the same weekend as the famous La Mercè festival (win!). This post is all about that! We will, of course, do a proper post to introduce Henry in the coming weeks (I did say I’d try to keep this intro brief). Till then – here’s Henry first post from Barcelona!
Giants, devils and magical fountains sound more like something out of Lord of the Rings than a festival in Barcelona. This was my very first time experiencing La Mercè and it really was a trial by fire! 😄
Fresh off the plane, I headed straight out to Jaume square to check out the Castellars which is essentially large teams competing to form the tallest human towers as possible. It’s the kinda thing you’d expect to see trained gymnasts perform but these were just normal people (this thrills and terrifies me in equal parts).
I was told it’s considered to be a massive honour to be the child at the very top and everyone received a huge round of applause when the towers were completed. Watching them build is exciting but there’s always that fear of what would happen if it did go wrong (or maybe that’s why its exciting? 🤔 😄 ).
My fears turns out to be warranted as I did actually see a tower collapse but luckily everyone was caught by the dozens of teammates below so I guess there’s a safety structure to it all? 🙂
Next up was the parade of giants. If you’re ever wondering what it’s like to live amongst 15ft dancing giants then this is going to be your best bet. Parades of giant puppets walk through the streets to a marching bands rendition of Despacito (which is actually a lot more impressive that it might sound).
If you pay attention though, every so often you’d find people escaping the giant costumes in a hot and sweaty mess. You’d never be able to tell from the outside being a La Mercè giant is not easy work.
The rest of the day was pretty much spent eating my way through the city and soaking up the energy and atmosphere in the city.
In the evening I headed back to the gothic quarter to check out the Correfoc – a fire run! If you plan on going to this, my biggest advice here is to try and cover up as much as possible. The fire running is one of the most mental things I’ve ever experienced and is definitely not for the faint-hearted!
100s of devils, drummers and monsters run through the crowds letting off fireworks as they go showering everyone with sparks. It seems like the least safe thing ever but then again I had just seen small children climb up a 50ft human tower so, y’know…
Needless to say though, everyone was absolutely loving it! Trying to not get your eyebrows singed off whilst a guy in a devil onesie comes charging at you with fireworks might not be a lot of people’s cup of tea but it definitely makes for quite the experience. 😆
After one too many near misses, I headed back to Jaume square to check out the projection show at city hall. A genuinely stunning display with a soundtrack to match. The shows were on loop every half an hour and it was absolutely amazing seeing the square lit up in such a way! Picnic blankets were out, beers and snacks at the ready and it was just such an amazing (and thankfully, more chilled out) part of the La Mercè festival.
Across the festivities, you soon come to realise that music plays a huge part in the festival with stages and arenas built up throughout the city. Walking through the streets you’re never too far from stumbling across another stage. I checked out the biggest stage at Place d’Espanya to catch some late night music (even though I couldn’t understand a word of what was being sung – still though, it was pretty fun!).
The finale for the festival is a fireworks show at the magical fountain. Thousands of people turned up to see it with music ranging from George Michael to Hans Zimmer being blasted out while a beautiful display of both the fountain and fireworks for about half an hour. Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared for how busy it was and viewing points are pretty limited if you’re late. I had to make a choice of either fountains or fireworks as I stood underneath a bridge to watch it so if you’re planning on going, my advise here would be to get here pretty early!
Barcelona is already a pretty fun city but when this festival is on, the city amps up its energy by several more folds so without a doubt, if you ever get the chance to attend (or can plan your trip to coincide with the festival), you absolutely should! 😁