The wonderfully colored, Gaudi inspired roof, the woman sitting, obviously waiting for someone, with the knife sharpener plying his trade off to the side; it all just seemed to fit into the mental portrait perfectly.
More market than food hall; catering to locals and tourists equally, we enjoyed Mercat Santa Caterina more than Mercat La Bouqueria.
Though I'm still not quite sure where the foie gras-avocado makizushi fits into this. Perhaps a statement about Spain's fearless, adventurous approach to food might be appropriate....or maybe not. It was one of the few foie gras items we took a pass on during this trip.
Heading off from Santa Caterina, we did a bit of window shopping along Carrer de la Palla, full of little antique shops.
We walked around a bit and I managed to take a photo of the Chinese Dragon holding a lantern, the dragon is of course, the symbol of Barcelona. This building is the work of Catalan Architect Josep Vilaseca and the dragon used to be the sign of the umbrella shop that was housed right below it.
For us, Las Ramblas is best in small doses. By the time we left the area, we had made a decision. I had a short list of places for dinner....but we decided to forgo the list and head back to Santa Caterina Market, pick up some jamon and other items and just eat in.
As we approached the market, the Missus had a great idea. Why don't we find a small table, relax, and have bottle of wine?
Which is just what we did. We found a table...somewhat unbalanced, near the doors of the café. No one wanted to sit here because it was very small. This was where customers sat when waiting for a "real" table. We sat and ordered a bottle. The young lady who had all the outside tables was amazing to watch. She even gave offered us one of the regular tables, but we refused. She worked hard and was totally in control. It was first come, first served, regardless of who you were. I love watching a pro at work and she was definitely quite skilled.
One person working all these tables.....there's no way you'd please everyone, but she did a great job.
This was also prime people watching territory as well.
After finishing up our bottle, we headed back into the market and did some shopping for dinner and also breakfast the next morning.
We then walked back to our apartment. We were now quite familiar with the downtown streets and even where the local bakery was.
We realized that there was much we missed on our visit; Montjuïc and the Joan Miró Museum and the interior of Sagrada Familia comes to mind. As always, we visit the places that are high on our list and place everything else on our "when we return list"......which might be more sooner than later with regards to Barcelona.
Dinner, as is the norm when we self cater when travelling was a simple affair.
Charcuterie and eggs are easy. Though like our previous experience; they seem to cut the jamon way too thick in Barcelona. Eggs are the key; three for dinner, then three for breakfast.
After dinner, the Missus decided we needed "some exercise". So we headed down Avinguda Diagonal. This time away from Central Barcelona. Things were even more relaxed and laid back here......
Near the end of the avenue resides a sort of recreational area, with volleyball nets and ping pong tables.....
And decided to turn around when we saw the Torre Agbar, the skyscraper also known as "El Supositori".
Heading back down the street we ended up at the Arc de Triomf, which by the way, was also designed by Josep Vilaseca.
We usually don't spend more than two nights at any location. The Missus is funny that way. She gets "tired" of places and wants to move on. However, I planned on three nights in Barcelona, and in retrospect, even this was too short. We could have easily spent a week, or more. On this morning we had tickets to the Picasso Museum and the Missus had determined that we'd be walking there.
At the end of the street is the Arc de Triomf, built as a main gate for the 1888 World Fair. It now marks the entrance of Ciutadella Park, which holds the Parliament Building and the Zoo.
We decided to stop and have some espresso before crossing the street and passing through the gate.
It's a nice green space, where locals and their dogs love to hang out.
We spent the time before our reservation itme walking the street of Barri Gòtic. It is by far our favorite neighborhood in Barcelona. When we return, this is where I think we'll stay.
We loved the Picasso Museum (sorry they don't allow photos). I really didn't appreciate Picasso until I saw his early works at the Prado Museum in Madrid. He was so talented at a young age; his father was an art instructor and professor at the School of Fine Arts, so Picasso was taught in the most traditional way. His early work really highlites his talent. The transformation from his early works thru his various periods, to cubism is amazing. I finally understood his famous quote: "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."
At age 16 Picasso attended the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. While there he visited the Prado Museum and among the works that made an impression on him was Velasquez's Le Meninas, which I was blessed to see myself. Which Picasso set out to interpret in only the way he can.
It also displayed some of the 40+ interpretations of the classic, an amazing amount of work. It just cemented my appreciation for Picasso. As far as I'm concerned, a must visit.
Picasso Museum Carrer Montcada 15-23 Barcelona, Spain
After visiting the museum, we meandered around Barri Gòtic, then into the Ribera neighborhood taking time to stop in at the Church of Santa Maria del Mar -the "Church of the Sea".
Completed in 1384, this is the only surviving church built in the Catalan Gothic style. The interior is pleasantly spacious and uncluttered.
Just a few blocks away is the waterfront and some of my favorite pieces of public art.
The Missus wanted to return to Barri Gòtic. She saw some shops that interested Her. So we headed back.
She found a shop that sold hand made sandals in the typical Spanish style.
By now we were getting hungry. We had enjoyed our previous visit to Bar del Pla and was just a block away, so why not? There was still a couple of items we wanted to try. Like before, having no reservations, we sat in the bar area.
The Missus had Her crianza and I had a beer. We placed our order.
That phone in front kept on ringing, folks walked through the door trying to get a table, or making reservations.
Meanwhile, I got to watch that flying pig swaying back and forth above the bar.
It was kind of relaxing in that "watching the aquarium" kind of way.
Of course we had to have the pan con tomate.....
Next up, the tasty and porky, Pork Cheeks.
Fork tender, porky, mildly sweet demi glace, this was nice.
This was followed by the House Foie Gras.
Ok, this is foie gras, seared, rich, they love their pine nuts.......a touch of sweetness, the wonderful flavor of pure fat. This was a triggering event for us. From this point on, we'd be having foie gras every single time we saw it on the menu. Every time......
The lamb "terrine" was interesting.
Like the pork trotters we had on our previous visit, this looked like a product of sous vide that had been seared. It was very tender and well seasoned, tasty though that flavor of the pasture we enjoy was quite muted here. Still, not a bad dish at all.
We enjoyed our visit to Bar del Pla and will definitely return when back in Barcelona.
Bar del Pla Carrer de Montcada 2 Barcelona, Spain
After our post meal espresso's it was time to head off. It was just past 1pm, there was much more to do......
After a nice lunch, we were off. The Missus wanted to explore Barri Gòtic and the sun started peeking out as we crossed Via Laietana.
We decided to enjoy the day and bought some water and headed back to Barcelona Cathedral. We had a seat and just watched Barcelona pass us by.
One quick note. In Barcelona, we noticed some distinct differences in pronunciation from Madrid. For instance, they call their fair city "bar-theh-LO-nah". I think some of the differences other than Catalan versus Spanish language thing is explained here.
After a brief respite we were back wandering the back streets of Barri Gotic.
This is where the city of Barcelona was established. We would find all sorts of hidden treasures in the winding back streets of this neighborhood. Everything from Roman ruins to charming plaças (squares) with a ton of history and numerous little shops mixed in. We just got lost in the maze of little streets and really didn't mind at all.
In Roman times, what is now Plaça Sant Jaume was the center of the Roman city of "Barcino". These days it is still an important square. On one side stands the Palau de la Generalitat - the Presidential Palace.
On the other side City Hall.
Since this was once the center of the Roman city, you know there must have be some Roman ruins somewhere. Right down a small side street (Carrer del Paradis). At #10 you'll be at the highest spot in the neighborhood, at the top of Mount Taber! Walking through the doorstep and you'll be quite surprised by the ruins of a Roman Temple. Not huge, just a few remaining columns, once forgotten then rediscovered in the 19th century.
Turning back down a little street you can't help but notice the Carrer del Bisbe Bridge which used to connect the the government building with the presidential palace.
Also along this area is the old Jewish Quarter where over four thousand Jews were forced to live down a tiny alleyway named El Call.
Also in the area is a peaceful little square named Plaça Sant Felip Neri. The little square houses the school of Sant Felip Neri and the church that bears the same name. Gaudi used to attend services at this church.
This pretty little square still shows the scars of the bombs that landed here in 1938 as the Germans at Franco's behest used Barcelona (and also Guernica) as a practice range for their air force. 42 people, mostly children were killed.
Going down the short alleyway back to Carrer del Bisbe we noticed this sculpture. During our visits to the Prado Museum in Madrid, we managed to view Goya's famous work; The Third of May 1808 which depicted the execution of Spanish citizens who opposed Napoleon's occupation of Spain during the Dos de Mayo Uprising. This monument memorializes those who were executed when Barcelona rose against the occupation. Inscribed on the monument is "por dios por la patria y por el rey" - for God, for their Country and King.....
By this time, the clouds were returning. The Missus thought it was time to head back to our apartment....by foot of course. For those who have visited Barcelona, think of it as walking to Sagrada Familia from Barcelona Cathedral.
It was actually a pretty nice walk as we chose streets at random making our way back to Avinguda Diagonal. We'd do a similar walk one more time the following day.
We took a break at a non-descript coffee shop where the Missus saw "Horchata" on the menu and was excited. No, this is not the rice and cinnamon drink we're used to here in San Diego. Rather, Spanish Horchata is made from tiger nuts, a tuber which has a nutty flavor. I stuck with an expresso.
Close to Avinguda Diagonal, which actually splits Barcelona in half diagonally on Passeig de Sant Joan we saw this beautiful church.
It wasn't marked on our map, which we had gotten from a booth since the only person that met us at the apartment was the building manager, so we were on our own when finding maps, directions and such. looking at the board in front of the church we learned this is Església de les Saleses - Church of the Salesians. It is the work of architect Joan Martorell i Montells who was one of Gaudi's teachers and introduced him to Eusebi Güell (remember Park Güell ?).
We made our way back to the apartment. We showered, freshened up, and decided to stay in the neighborhood for dinner. Not in the mood for a typical restaurant we headed to an interesting shop named Típic i Català. Located a couple of blocks down and one street over on Carrer de Sicilia, this little shop sold wine, cheese, craft beer (!), and other food products from Catalan.
The shop also serves up charcurterie. local cheeses, matched with wine, along with other chalkboard items.
It's more of a wine shop with some tables, then a tapas/wine bar.
This sounded great so we ordered the cheese and wine and the charcuterie and wine....which did take a while, but the gentleman working on this day, who is Belgian, it is his wife who is from Catalan, was very nice.
He really didn't explain much, but perhaps we should have asked more questions. Overall, this was fine but nothing special. Still, he was very nice and it was a good, light meal.
Tipic i Catala Carrer de Sicilia 290 Barcelona, Spain
Taking a walk around the area, we came across this shop.
We decided a bit of Jamon would be a nice snack.
The woman working here was really, really friendly and nice. We didn't see any bellota pata negra, so got their highest grade jamon.
The flavor was nice, perhaps a bit too salty. It was just cut way to thick for us, taking away from the texture.
Charcutería Simón Carrer de València 392 Barcelona, Spain
At the end of the evening we resumed the usual routine, I was relaxing in the living room, going through photos. While the Missus had started planning for the next day. We had reservations for the Picasso Museum, but after that; well it was all to the Missus....
As the Missus predicted after dinner at Disfrutar, I needed to get my rest because we did quite a bit of walking on this day. The Missus wanted our first stop to be Park Guell. Most of the instructions I'd read on getting to Park Guell was to either take a taxi, bus and taxi, or metro and taxi. But you know the Missus, there would be no shortcuts, we'd be walking up that hill to Park Guell. The morning was nice and cool, so the 30 minute walk didn't seem too bad; even the hill.
An interesting thing we quickly noticed were that many street corners in Barcelona are chamfered, these 45 degree cuts at the corners make the space seem larger as the streets widen at intersections. We loved the feel; though it would never fly in the states since the crosswalks are moved off the corners. I can just imagine folks here grumbling about having to walk the extra 10 feet.
Park Guell will undoubtedly elicit a response. Like it or not, you never forget the place. From your first look at the "Main Entrance", actually the exit on this day......
The park is something to see....whimsical, fanciful, .....whatever the colorful (hey there's another one) adjective you'd like to associate with the place, it is without a doubt unforgettable.
From the Grand Stairway with the Dragon Fountain; the Dragon is one of the symbols of Barcelona, though this one looks more like an iguana to me. Which leads to the Hall of Columns and the back story of the park. You see, Antoni Gaudi, backed by Eusebi Güell, the park's namesake who purchased the land, designed this to be an upscale housing development. The area with the pillars was to be a market to cater to the 60 planned mansions.
The plan was not a success since folks didn't want to move all the way to this "remote" (at the time) location.
It is said that Gaudi took much of his inspiration from nature. Walking through the "Portico of the Washerwoman" really emphasized that for me. The columns are not uniform, but somehow create an irregular harmony that is pleasing to the eye.
Visiting here early in the morning is recommended. Much like Fushimi Inari in Kyoto, you'll have a better experience and time to contemplate, and appreciate this unique park.
There is an entrance fee for this area called the "Monumental Zone", but it is well worth it.
The highlight is without a doubt the Terrace and the view of Barcelona. On a overcast morning like this with rain in the forecast, there was a Tim Burtonesque - Walt Disneyfied - Dr Seussificated, fairytale feel to the whole place. You may be inspired to flights of fancy, like Mr Selfie-Stick in the photo on the right. The Missus worked hard to get a discreet shot of the guy, who was obviously "inspired" by the sheer comfort of the multi-colored, ergonomically designed bench which wraps around the terrace. After all, what else could move a seemingly normal adult to act like this?
Only Park Guell.......
Groups of visitors had started arriving, so we knew it was time to leave. We exited, walked down the hill, and headed west. Somehow we got onto Passeig de Gracia in the Gracia neighborhood and headed down the street, which was a small street that became a multi-laned deal. It was pretty much by accident that we came to Avinguda Diagonal, which we became more familiar with later, running straight into Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera, a study in Modernisme, designed by who else? Well Gaudi of course.
I'm not sure if you noticed something about the name Gaudi. Doesn't it sound a lot like "gaudy"? And I don't think it would be much of a stretch to think of his works as being somewhat gaudy. I was told that Gaudi's name was indeed used as the source for that word. But after returning home I did a bit of research and found it's an urban legend as the word was used before Gaudi was even born. It would make a heck of a good story though, huh?
Where Passeig de Gracia ends, Barcelona's Old Town begins; at Placa de Cataluñya.
Of course beyond the wide open space and the fountains, we found the "Pigeon Lady" the most fascinating feature......
Las Ramblas, one of the most popular streets, actually a series of streets starts right off Placa de Cataluñya. The center of the street is a pedestrian only zone with cars that pass on either side.
It is without a doubt the most tourist dense area we saw in Barcelona....full of all the folks who make money off tourists, souvenir hawkers, street performers, and pick pockets. It was a bit too crowded and full of tourists for us. The buildings crowding each side didn't help. It was not our favorite part of Barcelona. While we found Puerta del Sol in Madrid lively, though crowded, Las Ramblas just seemed packed and lacking in atmosphere....in a Waikiki kind of way. We did return later when the weather was better, but still felt the same way.
Still, I wanted to check out La Boqueria Market, which turned out to be quite a nice collection of (rather pricey) food stands as well as functioning as a food hall.
Catering to tourists and locals alike.
After a nice walk around the market we headed back out. We'd had enough of Las Ramblas for now and decided to duck out. We took a side street and ended up at Placa Reial, then moving onward into the Barri Gòtic, the Gothic Quarter, ending up at Barcelona Cathedral.
And past Barri Gòtic, the area known as El Born, with atmospheric narrow streets, buildings with laundry hanging off lines on pulleys from windows. You'd enter a small street and end up in a quaint square or an alleyway full of bars and restaurants.
I realize that this is currently one of the hippest, up-and-coming areas within Barcelona, and tourists flock here in droves to visit the Picasso Museum (which we would do the next day), but the place still seemed to have the feel of a local, residential neighborhood. Which really charmed us.
There was a place in the area, basically right across the street from the Picasso Museum...well more like across the street and down the alley; just look for the "Udon" sign; really.....
The name of the place is Bar del Pla located right off Moncata in the opposite direction of the Picasso Museum.
I love the atmosphere......though getting a "real" table pretty much takes a reservation, the phone is ringing off the hook for bookings. The seating in the bar area does just fine and is first come, first served. We loved the "flying pig" hanging over the bar.
I started with a beer, the Missus a "tinto" and we proceeded to order. One of Catalonia's signature food items is "pan con tomate", tomato bread. So we had to order it here. This was delicious, the best version we had during the entire trip. The bread was decent, though not outstanding, but the tomato tasted like the essence of summer sunshine.
How something so simple, can be so satisfying when done right is amazing.....
The Missus wasn't sure about me ordering the "Smoked Sardines Coca" (8.3 €).
She needn't have worried. This was a nice combination of flavors. A "coca" refers to a Catalan style flatbread and this crisp piece of bread was topped with some very moist and tasty lightly smoked sardines, pine nuts (which they love here), mango, and red peppers. It was such a nice combination of flavors and textures.
The Tripe Stew was passable, well prepared and tender, though we'd have better later on.
The dish named "Mr Pork Trotters" was divine, though listed under "Granny's Cuisine" on the menu, I'm fairly certain the wonderful flavor and even texture was due to sous vide.
The texture was so evenly tender; on the edge of falling apart, but still able to keep form. The rich flavor so prevalent...more pine nuts! Personally, I love all that connective tissue, but this was so velvety, so smooth, so nice for a place with a simple "tapas" sign outside.
Having had two beers, I needed to end the meal with an espresso. After all, we still had a whole lot of walking to do.
Bar del Pla Carrer de Montcada 2 Barcelona, Spain
I'll leave with this sign......of Gaudi's "Dragon" being defeated by a piranha. It always makes me smile.
So what do you get after the defacto "Best Restaurant in the World" (could there really be such a thing?) closes and three of the Chefs de Cuisine (Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casañas), with over 45 years in the hallowed kitchens of the restaurant decide to collectively open up their own place in Barcelona?
You get Disfrutar, which opened at the end of 2014. When planning for this trip, I decided on three upscale dinners and Disfrutar was one of them. We took the metro to the Hospital Clínic stop which is just a few blocks from the restaurant.
The restaurant looks fairly small from the outside but the dining area is actually quite large. We had arrived at about 8pm, pretty early in Spain, but were relieved to see at least two parties had arrived before us. Being led to our seats, the Missus had a stroke of genius....She asked if we could sit at the bar instead, which is actually the dessert prep area. We were cheerfully accommodated. Like Suzunari and Wakuriya, sitting at the bar watching the food being prepped with precision and skill is a treat.
Also a treat was the service, which we found unpretentious, relaxed, gracious, well paced, knowledgeable, and very pleasant. We enjoyed the service at Disfrutar the most of all the high end places we visited on this trip, which says quite a lot. All questions are answered with enthusiasm and recommendations are made as to the best way to enjoy each dish.
There are two tasting menus each evening; the Menu Disfrutar (68 Euros) about 19 dishes and the Menu Festival, which is 25 (98 Euros). You know which one we chose, right? The serving style is perfect for us; almost family style. The Sommelier, understanding our taste in wine, made some great recommendations, which paired well with our meal.
Enough you say....where's the food? Anyway, here's the deal. I don't want this to be bedtime reading, so I'll try to keep it pretty straight, short, and sweet from here on. I'll highlite our favorites and those we didn't care for as much.
Things started with a foamy Melon Caipirinha, Liquid was poured into a cup of ice, yielding something that frothed up and was nice, with the jellied melon-mint-salt cubes rejuvenating your tastebuds.
Our first bottle of wine.
Our Server brought us what looked like a bowl of black rice. He shook the bowl and up rose "The Beet That Goes Out of the Land".
The balls were light and crisp, the flavor of intense beets coming through. The Missus, who has several times told me; "I hate molecular gastronomy" was sold! This is what I call soulful transformation. We were actually shown how this was made. A beet meringue was created, then dehydrated.
Crispy Bow with Iberican Bacon.
Crisp strand of what was like chicharron with a sticky, thin, slice of jamon on it.
Another flavor explosion; Caramel coated hazelnuts with elderberry.
Another great dish for us; Tomato Polvoron and Arbequina Caviaroli.
A polvoron is basically a shortbread cookie; the texture was similar to that, but with a wonderful deep tomato flavor; a "cookie that spreads edible sunshine", the olive oil caviar, a product of spherification added the fantastic grassy-peppery flavor of good Arbequina Olive Oil.
What I was told is a classic El Bulli dish - Transparent Pesto Ravioli.
Made from oblate film, the stuff folks use to help them swallow meds, is used as a wrapper for pine nuts and basil. It is dipped into a parmesan jus, the wrapper starts melting and basically melts away in your mouth. Nice flavors of pine nuts and parmesan.
Another favorite of ours; from what I was told later another classic El Bulli item; Disfruta de la Aceituna.
Spherification at work again. Two cocoa coated "olives", one contains a concentrated olive flavored liquid, the other a blood orange concoction. Amazing and intense flavors that just explodes upon breaking the cocoa butter crust.
Smoked Idiazabal Cheese Bisquit with Apple.
Looking all the world like a simple cookie with frosting; the creamy unpasteurized goat cheese, with a nice smoke flavor was a surprise. The tart cider aperitif helped balance things out.
Next up, an amazing dish; Crispy Egg Yolk with Mushroom Gelatin.
Think egg yolk tempura; crisp and light on the outside, soft and oozy when you bite into it. It's a fabulous bite. The eggshell holds a mushroom gelee that was full of savory mushroom flavor.
Seafood and Avocado Merengue sandwich.
This was a bit fishy and rich, the Missus could only finish half of this tiny flautas.
For some reason we didn't take to the overly salty and fishy anchovy part of Anchovy and Almond Mato with Truffle, Fir Tree Honey, and Pine Nuts.
Too many strong flavors and textures. This just didn't seem to go together real well.
The Missus was really worried about the Marinated Oily Fish with Cauliflower Tabbouleh and Mushrooms. First, She's not a big fan of mackerel and also not fond of strong parsley flavor.
So this was a wonderful surprise for Her, the fish rich, not too fishy, tender, the oil negated by the acid and the savory mushroom jus. The tabbouleh was delicious, the cauliflower seemed the perfect foil for the parsley. This was delicious.
In turn we weren't wow'd by the Macaroni Carbonara.
Gelatin based noodles, parmesan and pancetta were combined with a parmesan-truffle foam, which became the sauce. The "noodles" didn't break down quick enough and the texture was like eating plastic.
The Vegetable Sashimi served as sort of an intermezzo, we loved the pure flavors of the vegetables combined with the sauces/seasonings each one was graced with. Those tomatoes were amazing and the combination of cucumber with mint just worked right.
The Scallop Marrow with Osetra Caviar was fine....this really reminded me of swordfish bone marrow, which I actually prefer to this. I thought it needed less salt and a bit more citrus or acid.
Mussels with Peas in Salsa Verde.
Asparagus in Fennel Meunière with Trout Eggs.
The trout eggs added the zing to a rather mild dish. For some reason we didn't enjoy the flavor of white asparagus with fennel.
Deep Fried Monkfish "Ssam", I'm guessing from the Korean Bossam as this came in the lettuce cup.
Loved the fry job on the monkfish, the flavor came through, it was moist, a perfect piece of fried fish.
We both thought the Unilateral Langostine was a bit overcooked for our taste.
But man, the Perigueux Beef was amazing.
You wrapped the slices of beef around a little crouton and foie gras and had the perfect bite(s).
Nice meal, eh?
But it wasn't over yet.
You know I'm not a dessert kind of guy; but man, some of this stuff was plain amazing. The photo above is of the "Tangerine", a frozen tangerine rind which bears a granite, rose jelly, and a parfait.
Chocolate Cheesecake Cornet
That's Catalan Cream Bread, which came with Blood Orange Couscous.
We saw one of the Chefs placing what looked like chili peppers on a plate. We had no idea what it was. It turned out to be my favorite dessert item; Chocolate Peppers, olive oil, and salt. Man, what a combination! The sea salt really brought everything together. Like I said, I'm not a dessert guy, but this was really, really good. This was the perfect whimsical, fun, but delicious dessert.
As for our after dinner coffee? Well it came in the form of Coffee Profiteroles. A nice way to finish dinner. And though it seems to be a lot of food, we weren't stuffed to the gills, which I think is a tribute to the pacing of dishes.
As we finished up our dinner, our wonderful Server told us to follow him and took us on a short impromptu tour of the kitchen. The place was packed with customers greeting their dishes with wide eyed anticipation.
When I quickly mentioned the skill it takes to make these dishes, his answer came quickly; he pointed to his heart and said, "we are always reminded, it must come from here." Ah, a perfect end to an epic and wonderful meal. One of a trio of unforgettable experiences. We will not forget you Disfrutar, as you are unforgettable. Might be the best 250 Euros I've ever spent.
Disfrutar Calle Villarroel 163 Barcelona, Spain
Heading back to our apartment, we decided to take a walk around Sagrada Familia, which looked quite beautiful without the swarms of tourists around.
The Missus turned to me and said, "ok, we've had a great dinner. Now we're burning it off tomorrow!"
The AVE High Speed Rail took us to Barcelona in a bit over 3 hours from Madrid. Strangely, it seemed a bit longer than that. For some reason, the Shinkansen in Japan felt more comfortable and faster. Regardless, we ended up at Barcelona Sants Station and with no trouble were able to get a T10 mulit-person metro card, which was great because we could both use the card for fares and also saved us a bit.
In one of my Madrid posts, I mentioned how the dogs in that city seemed quite rambunctious. Meanwhile, in Barcelona, the dogs seemed more relaxed. We saw several, like this one, riding the metro with no problem.
As much as I had read, or heard, nothing prepared me for the first time I set eyes on the place. We exited the metro station and headed off in the direction of the apartment we were staying at. I turned around and was just awestruck at the sight of Sagrada Familia. The Missus was busy heading up the street when I told Her, "turn around......turn around." Her eyes got quite large, jaw agape, all She could mutter was "oh my god......" As we just stood and stared for a few moments.
Such is the effect of Sagrada Familia. Love it or hate it, I doubt you'll ever see anything quite like it.
We had a bit of time before checking in and were getting hungry. We had "big" dinner plans so finding something simple and unpretentious like this little shop fit the bill. It was quiet, an older gentleman reading the paper having lunch, another guy having a beer at the bar.
The young man working the front bar was very nice and we took a table in the rear of the place so as not to get in the way. There was a menu "del dia" - menu of the day available, along with various small dishes which we felt was more suitable for us.
The Missus was still feeling like Pimientos Padrons so we got that.
Not as salty as other versions, this had a nice "zing" due to the addition of red peppers. Nothing amazing or surprising, but simple and tasty.
At this point, we had a little travelers malfunction. I had done a bit of research on Catalan Charcuturie and was excited when I saw this:
What the Missus and I didn't pay attention to was the top part which said......
Entrepans....."between bread", Freds "cold", so we were caught off guard when sandwiches arrived. What could we do but just laugh at ourselves and be happy we ordered "petit". Simply meat and bread.
Fuet is a dry cured thin sausage that reminds me of pepperoni.
The butifarra is the serious sausage in Catalonia. This was the "blanca" or the white version.
Soft, coarse ground pork, with no paprika, which is why it's called "blanco". Nice and ham like.
The Catalana reminded me of salami.
It was more than enough for lunch and would hold us over until our 830 pm dinner. We finished off with some espresso and headed off to the apartment.
We were located 1 block from Sagrada Familia. In fact, you could see the one of the spires from the window!
After settling in and freshening up, we decided to walk over to Sagrada Familia, just to take a look around.
Even though Antoni Gaudi's grand work is not yet finished; he became involved in the project in 1883 and worked on it until his death in 1926; 43 years, the Church has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was only 25 percent completed at the time of Gaudi's death and work continues to this day.
The church is made up of three facades and will have 18 spires, when and if it is ever finished. Only one of the facades bears Gaudi's direct influence; that is, was almost complete at the time of his death. My least favorite façade is the Passion Façade which was completed by 2005. It is quite plain, but somewhat dark and grim.
I could write another two thousand words on the place, but why not read this or this.
My favorite view from the other side of the pond in Placa de Gaudi. It shows the rich and complex design of the structure as it seems to reach for the sky.
It's also far enough to escape the tour buses and the masses, where you can watch the old-timers playing bocce.
Or just shooting the breeze.
We ended up not doing the interior of Sagrada Familia, perhaps on another trip...you need tickets and all that. We headed back to the apartment for a short nap before dinner. And oh what a dinner it would be......
Yep, it's that time again. A couple of weeks ago, one of my coworkers noticed I was getting a bit grumpy. He told me, "I think it's time for another nice long trip, right?" And he was so right.....
Anyway, we're having a great time at our first two stops. The sights are amazing.
And things go long into the evening.....well, morning.
The food ain't too shabby either.
As you can tell. We're eating well.
We're headed to our next stop tomorrow. It's been a long couple of days with tons of walking but I'm having blast. Folks are pretty relaxed and we had a marvelous dinner at I believe a fast rising restaurant here.
As always, I leave you in the capable hands of Cathy. Here are a couple more photos for your troubles.