BARCELONA, Spain--After attending way too many trade shows in Las Vegas over the past 10 years covering technology, I'm delighted to come to Barcelona for the annual GSMA Mobile World Congress. Vegas might have the Strip, Sigfreid & Roy, and amazing buffets, but Barcelona's got it beat with Parc Guel, Gaudi, and the freshest and most delicious seafood I've ever eaten.
You can't come to Barcelona without checking out the buildings and parks designed by the modernist architect Antoni Gaudi. This is a photo of Casa Batlló on the Passeig de Gracia, one of the two great buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi on Passeig de Gracia, the other being La Pedrera. The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of bones) because the outside looks like a skeleton. On Monday night, Acer held a press conference here where the company unveiled eight new smartphones. Check out Bonnie Cha's coverage of the event.
Parc Guell was also designed by Gaudi, and it might be my favorite spot in all of Barcelona. Sitting atop the hill of el Carmel in the Gracia district, Parc Guell not only offers an amazing view of the city, but it's also filled with amazing stone structures, stunning mosaic tiling, and fascinating buildings, one of which Gaudi himself lived in at one time. And at the top of Parc Guell is a terraced area where a serpentine bench covered in colorful tiles winds around the park. It's truly a lovely place to spend an afternoon.
I know Vegas has the desert and the Strip. And to some people that might be beautiful. But I am a beach girl. I grew up in a tiny seaside town on the East Coast and I have a soft spot in my heart for beautiful beaches and harbors. In this photo is the Rambla de Mar, a footbridge that connects the mainland of Barcelona to the harbor's shopping complex. The city of Barcelona renovated the entire seafront for the 1992 Olympics.
Tourists and locals alike enjoy the harbor on a sunny afternoon. Another reason I love coming to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress is that even in February, the weather is usually nice enough to sit outside on a bright sunny day.
There are about two miles of golden sandy beaches only about a 10-minute walk from Barcelona's city center. The city's close proximity to the Mediterranean also means there is an amazing selection of seafood. Two years ago, when I attended my first MWC, I stumbled upon a tiny seafood restaurant called La Pardeta near the El Born section of town. It offers glistening mounds of fresh shellfish daily. You point to what you want; choose one of three ways to have it cooked: grilled, steamed, or a la merinera; grab a drink, and wait for your number to be called. I go there at least once every time I come to Barcelona.
Almost every month there is some sort of festival in Barcelona where locals and visitors alike join in celebration of a saint, public holiday, or a historic victory. February 12 is the feast day for Santa Eulalia, the patroness saint of Barcelona. The four-day celebration typically falls the weekend before MWC. And for the three times I have come to Barcelona for this trade show, I have gotten to partake in the celebration. Eulalia is also called "The Child Saint," and so her festival is major for children. As part of the celebration, school children, beating drums and playing kazoos, march in parades along La Rambla on Saturday afternoon. Oversized puppets are featured too.
While Vegas has the glittery Strip, I prefer my nightlife to include a good festival. After the sun sets on Barcelona during the feast of Les Festes de Santa Eulalia, children dressed as dragons and wearing sparklers on their heads fill the cobblestoned streets of the Bari Gotic.
Carrying fiery sparklers above their heads, children march through the streets. Drummers drum a repetitive cadence as they trudge through the Gothic quarter on their way to the steps of the cathedral. When I saw this for the first time, I thought of how I couldn't imagine any parent I know in America letting their 6-year-old put a firecracker or sparkler on his or her head and dance through the streets. But that is one of the reasons why I love Barcelona so much; those crazy Catalans.
Big trade shows in Las Vegas, such as the Consumer Electronics Show, often attract a, how shall I say it, less professional crowd. But Barcelona and European trade shows in general are filled with executives, or at least people dressed like executives. I like to call this look, "The European trade show uniform." But honestly, what man can ever go wrong with a dark suit and a tie?
While Barcelona is filled with beautiful architecture and design almost every where you look, the real reason I come to Barcelona every year, is for the phones. Here's a picture of Sony Ericsson's newly announced touch-screen smartphone, the Idou. The phone is so hot Sony Ericsson's executives wouldn't even take it out of the glass case at the press conference.