Mr Canary Islands, Matthew Hirtes, heads to Barcelona with family in tow to trial Past View’s latest time-travel adventure.
Following the 1992 Olympics, Barcelona was reborn as a thrusting modern metropolis. If you mention the Catalan capital as a travel destination these days, people tend to think of gorging at the Mercado de La Boqueria (no longer a market for locals), strolling the Ramblas (with tourist traps peddling more tat than Oxford Street and Walthamstow Market combined), taking in the Camp Nou of Barça (more than a club as in more like a brand). Personally I prefer Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s semi-mythical, post-war Barcelona.
Indeed, on a recent family holiday in the city, I found fact replicating fiction. Imagine my surprise when reading The Labyrinth of the Spirits, the latest in The Shadow of the Wind saga, and learning of the two central characters racing to the Hospital del Mar as I waited in the Casualty section of the very same hospital for what turned out thankfully to be a non-emergency. The next day, Past View Barcelona took us even further back in history.
First Sevilla, second Barcelona
Seville’s my favourite Spanish city. But this isn’t why I’ve titled this section this way. Seven years ago, I travelled to Andalucia’s main hub to review what felt like one of the most exciting new travel developments of 21st-century Spain: Past View Sevilla.
It was the first time I got my hands on an iPhone. Luckily, a handy guide showed this techno klutz the ropes. Although I’m one of the few of my contemporaries these days to stick with an Android.
So it was a delight to receive an invitation from Past View founder Jorge Robles de Salto to replicate my Andalucian experience in Catalonia following the company’s latest launch. This time I brought my family along. Our verdict follows.
Although we stayed out of town, the majority of our Barcelona visit was in the centre and we were happy to leave our hotel early and return late to make the most of our trip. So Past View Barcelona’s central location, in Carrer de Monsió’s Rusc de Turisme proved ideal. Located, as it was, between Barcelona’s cathedral and main square, Plaça de Cataluñya.
Rusc de Turisme’s a co-working centre. It won’t come as much of a shock to discover that Rusc de Turisme, given the name, houses mainly tourist-focused businesses. We’re tempted to give some of them a try on our next Barcelona break.
We head upstairs to the comfy meeting area. Where we meet our guide and another family who have booked a Past Experience tour. The guide turns out to be a veritable fountain of local information.
Peeling the onion
Residing in a small, provincial city like Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, I always get off on spending time in somewhere bigger. So it’s a joy to walk through bustling streets. To get lost in the alleyways and avenues of less familiar locations.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s history stretches back to 1478 when it was founded by Spanish settlers. Barcelona’s, by way of contrast, goes altogether further back; to Roman times. The beauty of a Past View tour is that you get to see the various layers of this giant onion.
The tour is a greatest hits package of the Gothic Quarter. Stopping in the likes of the Plaza de Rey, a rogues’ gallery of local characters talk us through their present; our past. We even see how the buildings looked like originally; as if we’d hitched a ride in Doc’s DeLorean DMC-12 rather than donned snazzy smart glasses.
What I enjoy most about our tour is that it’s a threefold affair in that 1.) it’s a walking activity which enables you to work off breakfast/lunch and build up an appetite for lunch/dinner. 2.) You stop at various points of interest which the guide shines a light on before 3.) you put on your smart glasses which further illuminate the area.
All in all, we give Past View Barcelona a thumbs up. For me, it struggles to match the novelty of the Seville experience. However, I love to look at the amused faces of my family and see the same joyful sensation of trying something thrillingly new.
Disclaimer: We were invited to a complimentary tour by Past View in exchange for a review.
All images kindly provided by Past View. Their rights reserved.
Matthew Hirtes, our resident broadsheet journalist, moved to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria back in 2004. He’s travelled extensively through Spain, covering it for such publications as Telegraph Travel, Metro, and The Independent. The author of Going Local in Gran Canaria: How To Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home, Matthew truly is a resident expert.