Barcelona is my new home town.

Barcelona, Lionel Messi, books

photograph: Christopher Johnson

No one understand a single word I say, but I love it already. The coffee is brilliant and there are little bars everywhere filled with people still dying for a smoke. You are never more than fifty metres from tapas. The sun has shone every day even though it’s winter. Lionel Messi lives here.

What’s not to love?

But here are eight and a half things you perhaps didn’t know.

 1. There were no beaches in Barcelona until 1992.

The seaside was owned by local industry but when the city won the bid to host the Olympic

Games they decided to change things round. Barcelona now has four and a half kilometers of sandy beaches.

Barcelona, Lionel Messi, books

photograph: Sergi Larripa

2. The city was founded by the Tunisians

Legend has it that the city got its name from the Barca family of Carthage; that it was founded by Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal, the one who took all those elephants over the Alps.

3. Its most famous church is still under construction.

Barcelona, Lionel Messi, booksLa Sagrada Familia is one of the major works of Antoni Gaudi, and construction began in 1882. He worked on his masterpiece for over 40 years and is now buried in the crypt.

When he was at university his professor said that he was either mad or a genius.

He was certainly obsessive. When he was creating the sculptures of the Nativity Facade he used the corpses of dead babies to prepare the scene of the soldier and the innocents. The soldier in that scene has six toes on one of his feet and this is because the man who was modelling for him also had six toes.

Mad or genius?

4. They speak Catalan here, not Spanish.

Barcelona, Lionel Messi, books

photograph: Xavier Caballé

There are in fact four official languages in Spain: (Castilian, Catalan, Basque and Galician aswell as three unofficial languages, Asturian, Aragonese and Aranese as well as innumerable dialects of these (Andalucian, Valencian, etc.)

Almost all Spaniards can speak Castilian Spanish.

I can’t.

4½. If it wasn’t for the Spanish you wouldn’t have tomatoes, potatoes, avocados, tobacco or chocolate (cacao).

They were all brought back to Europe from America by the Spanish. It’s why all those words end in ‘o’.

Yes, I know, this has nothing to do with Barcelona, which ends in an ‘a’. That’s why it’s only a ½

photograph: DJ Lucifer

photograph: DJ Lucifer

5½. Drivers in Barcelona are the worst in Europe.

They tell me that according to recent statistics an accident occurs on average every ninety


Take the metro.

6½. 94% of the Spanish population is Roman Catholic

But gay marriages have been legal here for quite some time. They are a very cool people.

7½. Barcelona’s most famous road is La Rambla.

It’s a one kilometre pedestrian zone between Plaza Catalunya and the port.

On average 150,000 people walk along La Rambla every day. 149,000 of them get their pocket picked.

The other 1000 are pickpockets.


And my extra bonus fact:  

Barcelona, Lionel Messi, books

photograph: Marcela (talk)

Barcelona is where they invented World Book Day. La Diada de San Jordi on April 23rd is one of the biggest, most widely celebrated festival days in Barcelona.

Dating back to 1436, the ‘The Day of the Rose’ is like our Saint Valentine’s Day and features an exchange of gifts between sweethearts.

Men give woman a rose; women give men a book, a more recent tradition originating in 1923, when a bookseller promoted the holiday as a way to commemorate the deaths of Migue Cervantes and William Shakespeare on 23 April 1616.

And sell more books.

As Barcelona is the publishing capital of both the Catalan and Spanish languages, thousands of flower stalls and bookstalls appear in la Rambla.

By day’s end some four million roses and 800,000 books will have been sold.

This accounts for half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia in 24 hours.

Now for a taste of the spirit of Catalans: this did not happen in Barca but in a town just to the north of her called Sabadell . This is just beautiful; I dare you not to replay it. Check out the kid up the lamp post!!

anastasia, colin falconer, Russian RevolutionThere’s a brand new cover for ANASTASIA – and you can see the storyboard for the book right here on SLIDESHARE.

And to stay up to date with my latest releases and the chance to win one of my books, sign up for THE NEWSLETTER here!!!


About colinfalconer

author of bestselling historical novels like Anastasia, When We Were Gods, Aztec and Harem. My books have been published in the UK, US and ANZ and translated into seventeen languages.
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25 Responses to 800,000 BOOKS IN ONE DAY

  1. A great post as usual, Colin.

    The video was so moving, so uplifting.

    • Wasn’t it though. I loved the way the video caught so many expressions – the look on the musicians faces as they played, and the little girl up the lamp post was a hoot. I’ve watched it maybe a dozen times. If I ever have a down day, I watch it and it lifts my mood straight away.

  2. raventracks says:

    Well, the Carthaginians were in Spain, so entirely possible! I’d rather have a book than a rosé, although with my shelves full up… – Sue Bursztynski

  3. Colin. I’ve been to La Rambla. Spent an entire evening there with family in one of the best street restaurants ever about 3 years ago. ~ Jonathan PS. Brilliant author post.

    • Thanks Jonathan. And I love all the streets off the Rambla best, and the food market. I just make sure I heed local advice and wear a money belt. But I could happily get lost here for days.

  4. ritaroberts says:

    Nice post Colin.Never been to Spain but promised myself one day I will. I am waiting for the delivery of your book ” Silk Road ” can’t wait to read it.

  5. rolandclarke says:

    Another entertaining post with an inspiring video – thanks Colin. Spent a lot of time in Spain but too little in Barca. (Will share on FB as usual)

    • Thanks Roland! I haven’t spent any time in Barca until now. My daughters arrive this weekend and we’re going to go exploring. I can see the Sagradia Familia from my terrace – it’s an astonishing building.

  6. Julia Robb says:

    The music was wonderful, thank you. I’m so appreciative that people like the musicians try to lift us (humanity) up, God knows we need it.

  7. Interesting Colin. No espanol? Uh oh. You’ll have to fall back on your english. Or maybe a little sign language? That’s amazing for a small country how many languages are spoken there. You are going to have a blast! I did see that video before. If memory serves me right, it was a commercial made for a bank in the background. It is really cool. Funny how music can break through any language. I wish you all the best in your new home! 🙂

  8. 1000 pickpockets…I love it! The video is great, too. I would love to be in the right place at the right time to see something like that. Wow, I just cannot imagine living in a country where I didn’t speak any of the languages. Is it hard to do business there? I mean like shopping, or going to restaurants? 🙂

  9. Went to Barcelona once, don’t recall the beach.. t’was in the 80’s. Great post. Looks like you’ve settled in already! The video is amazing, very inspirational.

  10. violafury says:

    Vive Beethoven! I love this video and Beethoven has watched over me my whole life. Great post and of course, this sent me off to poke around on the internet about Spain. Now, I would like some nice paella. I hope you have a marvelous time, The Spanish are lovely people and I’m betting you and your daughters will have a great time!

  11. Lurdes says:

    I was looking at the page of your book Harem in Goodreads, went to your blog and OH SURPRISE!! You are presently living in my home town Barcelona. Welcome and wish you a pleasant and fruitful stay.

    Only one little comment: I do not know about what statistics have been given you for bad driversin Barcelona. Pls simply compare with Portugal, France, Greece, South Italy, when being there.

    The video was great, but was some sort of advertising for a Bank (Banc de Sabadell). But a video that truly expresses our feelings at the moment is this one:

    So thank you for your attention!!!

    • Love it. I’ll replay this on the main blog with some background on Catalonia and why there’s no flamengo dancing and bullfighting! My statistics on car accidents could be a bit dodgy – since I’ve been here I thought it was actually pretty sensible. I actually think drivers in Adelaide, Australia are the worst in the world. That’s just my opinion … Thank you Lurdes, great video!

  12. filbio says:

    Nice post! Some great facts here that I did not know. Definitely Barcelona is on my must visit list.


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