In Barcelona

October 13, 2010

The Hartleys slept like babies! So it was their good fortune to insist that we take the master bedroom. The back bedroom, I guess, is too far away to be affected by the nightclub craziness. Well, that made me feel much better. So I make a note: find earplugs today.

Today we explore the Barrie Gòtic (gothic quarter). We begin our day back on the Ramblas. The incomparable La Boquería market is open and we go to take in the sights of this incredible covered market (on the site of an ancient monastery). We’ve never seen this variety of seafood—some of it still crawling around or twitching. The produce vendors have produce from around the world that is beautifully displayed or cut-up in convenient ready-to-eat packages (fork included). There are even more kinds of wild mushrooms than we saw in France—the wild mushroom populations must now be entirely depleted. Goats heads with the freshest looking eyes, big tongues, whole baby lambs, a huge array of sausages, huevos del toro (bull testicles—yum!), full legs of the local smoked ham (with the hooves attached), plus of course the “usual” meats. There are vendors that just sell eggs of all colors and sizes. Juices of every fruit imaginable lined up in ice ready-to-drink. Olives, jams, prepared foods, cheeses, breads—you name it; they’ve got it. We have NEVER seen a market like this. This alone is worth the trip to Barcelona! We vow to come back and make a seafood dinner at home.

The next stop of the day is the Cathedral of Barcelona where most of the construction took place in the 14th century. The inside supporting buttresses provide walls for 28 richly ornamented chapels. There is an “ambulatory” floor plan—it encourages worshippers to amble around to each chapel. The individual chapels were sponsored by local guilds that competed with each other to see who could provide the most ornate chapel.

Each chapel honors a saint. Having been brought up a Catholic I thought I knew almost all of the saints. It was important (maybe obligatory) for all elementary school children to study The Lives of the Saints. I may have only focused on the gory stories but I did not recognize 80% of the saints honored in the chapels. The high altar of the cathedral sits upon the tomb of St. Eulàlia. I must have missed her story (and it’s a gory one). In memory of my mom we lit a candle at the chapel of St. Joseph.

The cloisters area adjacent to the cathedral includes a lovely garden with fountains and geese. The 13 resident geese (in memory of the 13 times St. Eulàlia was tortured by the Romans—how did I miss that story?) act as an alarm system to the monk in charge. The geese are a big tourist attraction.

It has been threatening rain so a stop at a nearby café, Restaurant Allium for hot chocolate and churros is welcome. We are told that the churros must be dunked in the hot chocolate and the combination sure is good. The server was especially friendly and told us that they did a nice tapas lunch. Maybe we’ll get back there…

Next stop is the Picasso Museum  which is housed in several connected Gothic palaces. The collection is presented chronologically from age 12 through 75, although most of the pieces are from his earlier years. The narrative through the rooms focuses on his “periods”—the blue period; the rose period; etc. Stephan says that “Picasso has more periods than a woman!” HA!!! In spite of the period weirdness we all enjoyed the museum.

It’s after 1:30 and we are hungry for lunch. We find a nice restaurant and have a great, inexpensive 3 course fixed price meal for less than 10E. Stephan starts with, he says, a delicious vegetable soup. The rest of us start with a salad of salt cod and broad beans—it was great! Then we all have a plate of 2 kinds of small sausages and wild mushrooms—also very delicious. The pièce de résistance is profiteroles for dessert. These profiteroles are filled with whipped cream. We find that normally in France they are filled with ice cream. I prefer the whipped cream! Cat says that the real profiteroles have whipped cream and that she will make us a pile of them when we get home. That’s maybe the only reason to leave this beautiful city of Barcelona.

It’s been a long day out and we’ve walked a long way. We get home and snooze on the sofa for an hour. It’s getting toward 7pm so we must make a decision on dinner. We had hoped to get back to the market for seafood but it’s too late. We head out to a wine shop and a small grocer and create a great “picnic” dinner of cheese, Spanish dried ham, tomato and shallot salad, bread and, of course, Spanish wine.

It’s Wednesday night and it appears that the nightclub is closed. Yippee!