June 8, 2015

Barcelona ~ Plaça Reial, Carrer del Carme y El Segadors

  Plaça Reial at night
photo by Styrous®

Five years ago today, June 8, 2010, I departed for my last visit to Spain. It's been over 25 years since my first magnificent experience in a very special spot in Barcelona, Plaça Reial. Confused? Don't be, both events are tied together; you'll see.    

I'm very well aware that the Plaça is one of the most touristy spots in the world but it is marvelous and I dearly love it.   
Plaça Reial (In Spanish Plaza Real, meaning "Royal Plaza") is a square in the Barri Gòtic of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain right off La Rambla. It was designed by Francesc Daniel Molina i Casamajó in the 19th century. The lanterns there were designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí.  

A friend of mine, Maria, had an apartment in the Plaça and I had the incredible fortune to stay with her for a month during my second visit to Barcelona (see Journals link below) in the winter of 1993-94 from mid-December to mid-January. Her apartment was in a corner overlooking the square (see red circle in photo below).  

Plaça Reial
Apple Maps

It was one of the most incredible months of my life! I got almost NO sleep the whole time I was there. That was not because of the 24-hours-a-day noise from the Plaça, but because of the incredible activities that went on 24-hours-a-day! It was amazing! I had to stay at the window constantly to see everything that went on and I saw almost everything possible.   

evening, Plaça Reial 
photo by Styrous®

The stories I have of it are wonderful. One of the more memorable ones was the time, around 3 or 4 in the morning, I heard a large group of young men singing in the far distance, drunk-out-of-their-minds after a night of revelry (presumably in a bar or several of them). They slowly approached the Plaça along Carrer de Ferran, then stumbled through the entrance to the Plaça which was just below my window. They teetered through the square, arms around each others shoulders, then staggered out of the other entrance onto La Rambla. The whole time they sang, El Segadors (The Reapers), the Catalan official national anthem. It was beautiful and grand even though sung by a bunch of drunken guys. There was a fiercely emotional feeling in the way they sang it. I had never heard the song before and knew nothing about it but I sensed it was something very special.  

I've made links (below) to two versions of the song on YouTube; the first is a very traditional version with orchestra. The second one is an intensely dramatic interpretation by Marina Rossell with exquisite instrumentation.   

El Segadors dates in the oral tradition to 1640, its modern lyrics were written by Emili Guanyavents, who won a controversial competition in 1899.

The music was standardized by Francesc Alió in 1892.

(both are lousy images but the best I could find)

The song is based on the events of 1640 known as Corpus de Sang during the war of 30 years (1618-1648) Between Spain, England, France and Austria, the event that started the Catalan Revolt or Guerra dels Segadors (Reapers' War) where Catalans fought against the Count-Duke of Olivares, the chief minister of King Philip IV of Spain.  - from Wikipedia

The Catalan government adopted "Els Segadors" as the national anthem of Catalonia sometime in 1993.

~ ~ ~ 

During this stay in the Plaça, I explored the Barri Gòtic as much as I could and became familiar with it's many wonders. The area behind the Plaça was a world unknown to tourists at that time, dark, dangerous and mysterious. It reminded me of the Tenderloin of San Francisco or New York before the city started cleaning up in the 80's; except the streets are narrower.  


thirteen years later

In the winter of 2006-7, I lived at Carrer Carme, 5, in El Raval for a couple of months. That was another eye opening experience! I began to discover the wonders of the Raval. The location was near Plaça Reial so I could walk to it from Carme.   

Carrer Carme, 5 to Plaça Reial 2006-7
Apple Maps


three years later

In 2010 I moved to a piso (apartment) a couple of blocks up on Carrer Carme, number 31 (see El Raval link below). This time I became completely familiar with the area in the Raval and totally fell in love with it. I could still walk to Plaça Reial from there. 

Carrer Carme, 31 to Plaça Reial 2010
Apple Maps

Some of the photographs I got of El Raval during this stay are featured in another blog entry (link below). I saw the Gigants, the museums, the galleries and so very much more.  

El Raval, Barcelona      
El Segadors (with lyrics in Catalan)       
Marina Rossell ~ Els Segadors    
Gegants en El Raval     

I can't wait to get back 
and I will love Maria forever! 

Styrous® ~ Monday, June 8, 2015


  1. Very good information of plaça Reial, els Segadors and carrer del Carme in Barcelona. Thank you!


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