One of my favourite travel experiences EVER is La Mercè festival in Barcelona, the annual celebration of the city’s patron saint Our Lady of Mercy, La Mare de Déu de la Mercè.
In a nutshell, La Mercè has everything: parades, dancing, fireworks, concerts, papier-mâché giants, a fire run, gun-toting trabucaires, fire creatures, human towers, and much, much more. The days leading up to La Mercè holiday, September 24, are jam-packed with activities, some aligned with the more traditional celebration of Catalan culture, and many along the festival’s annual theme and guest country.
I planned my 2011 visit to Barcelona to coincide with the festival. To the casual observer, me, it’s rather difficult to squeeze in a lot of celebration, so I was pretty selective about what I did. If only so I could squeeze in other sightseeing and activities in Barcelona. It’s neither a marathon nor a sprint, it’s a loud, brightly-coloured combination of both, as exhausting as it was exhilarating.
Going back through my Twitter archives from my Spain travels, my morning-after dispatch still, in my opinion, sums it up perfectly.
Pretty much everything I loved about La Mercè was found in the first parade. It was an amazing 8-minute introduction to Catalan culture, and, to this day, brings me indescribable joy every time I watch it.
Things I love about this:
- The Catalan people are very comfortable walking around with open flame or lit cigarettes in crowded or confined spaces.
- I will give eternal gratitude to anyone who can identify the song at the 5:30ish mark. I sing it in my head all of the time. Update: After my second trip to Barcelona in 2014, I finally identified the song, it’s called “Toc d’inici.”
- A red-haired tv reporter tries to interview a papier-mâché gegante at the 8:00ish mark.
- A parade is an excuse to socialize while parading.
- Catalans are fiercely proud and an awful lot of fun.
This year’s festival is coming up 21-24 September, and over the next week, I’ll be sharing more of my adventures from last year. If you’re in the area (for TBEX or just regular traveling around), add some Mercè festivities to your plans.