NO BULL!

Bailèn 41's favorite snowbirds Tracy and Len are wrapping up their three-month expedition to experience everything Barcelona and environs have to offer. Tracy has kindly written this guest post on the bull rings of Barcelona, complete with her water color of "La Monumental: The Bullfighter's Perspective." We love our guests!

Catalunya outlawed bull fighting several years ago, meaning there's no bull to be found in Barcelona's two bull rings. This also means that you can enjoy these architectural beauties without the gore or the guilt. Both arenas, of course, are within easy striking distance of Bailèn 41.

watercolor courtesy of Tracy P.
The closest arena is La Plaza Monumental de Barcelona, built in 1914 and with a capacity of almost 20,000 persons. La Monumental, as it's generally called, now houses the Museo Taurino. For a small fee, you can enter the gates, walk around the arcade, and imagine what it would be like to see the stands filling with cheering patrons. On the winter day that we visited we had the whole place to ourselves. We walked out into the center of the ring, faced the red doors, and imagined the bull coming straight for us. YIKES! Time to check out the horse stables and the animal pens, which featured individual stalls for each of the six bulls in a corrida.

The museum attached to the arena turns back the hands of time. Yellowed newspaper articles, old posters, and matador costumes line the walls; the heads of renowned bulls loom overhead, all with at least one ear missing and most lacking both. Suggested reading before you go: the chapter on "The Bulls" in IBERIA, James Michener's marvelous book on all things Spanish, available from your Bailèn 41 concierge.

Getting there from Bailèn 41: Exit the apartment, cross the street, turn right onto Grand Vía and walk six blocks to Carrer Marina.

For a less gruesome experience, head to Plaça Espanya and Las Arenas, an old ring from 1890 transformed into a modern shopping mall. The building retains all of the original flair on the exterior but now boasts an interior that has been wonderfully updated with upscale shops and modern conveniences. Take the escalator to the top floor and walk the perimeter of the structure for a great 360-degree view of the city. Also on this level are several fine dining options; on others you'll find flamenco shows and movies.

Getting there from Bailèn 41: Left from the apartment, cross Grand Vía, and hop on the H12 bus to Plaça Espanya. For the return, catch the H12 on the other side of Gran Vía.  The Tetuan bus stop is right at the corner of Bailen. So convenient.

If you must see a bullfight while you're in Spain, follow the directions in "Day Trip to Madrid" and book your tickets.

Ole!