Friday, 29 July 2011

Barcelona Part Two - Ya no solo

That's me (in the middle wearing the green shirt)  at Park Güell
Day Two:  We awoke early, thanks to our daughter, and we hit the streets of a very sleepy city at about 8 a.m. on Easter Saturday.  Our first goal for the day was to find breakfast, the second was to kill time until we caught up with some American friends from Bayreuth and did some serious sightseeing.

I have to say, Barcelona by day when everyone else is still asleep is much more pleasant than Barcelona by day when folk are awake.  Earlyish morning the buildings feel slightly grander and the city more immense, more promising and more tantalising.  Once the town fills up, it’s still a wondrous city, just much more frustrating to wander about.

A very sleepy La Rambla on an early-ish Saturday morning
We chose surprisingly well for breakfast on Day Two.  Choosing a cafe opposite the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia (AKA the Barcelona Cathedral) was always going to be a gamble, but the tortilla (in Spain the equivalent of a frittata not a wrap) was tasty, the coffee respectable and the hot chocolate, although insanely expensive, was thick and delicious.  Strangely (at the time), when ordering I received odd looks when I asked for “due [do-eh]” of things, which puzzled me for quite sometime, days in fact.  It was only towards the end of the trip that it dawned on me that “dos” is two in Spanish, “due” being Italian – no matter, at least I tried I suppose.

Nothing says dignity like electronic candles do
Caffeine/sugared up we headed into the Cathedral, whose beautiful interior was spoiled by the presence of electronic candles.  In most European churches, you have the opportunity to donate some money and light a candle in remembrance of the deceased, but in the Cathedral, instead off lighting a candle you effectively pay to turn on a light bulb.  Weird, and cheesy rather than dignified in my opinion.  Rather than the interior, the nicest aspect of the Barcelona Cathedral are the gardens built into the sides of the building.  Tranquil and elegant, they’re make for an extremely stark contrast to the “candles” within.

From the Cathedral we wandered down to the start of the water front, but turned towards La Rambla instead of towards the beach.  By 9 a.m. La Rambla was beginning to fill up, mostly with booksellers and florists.  This struck us as rather odd until Sara discovered it was St George’s Day in Spain, and by tradition men are meant to buy their significant others roses, and in return they are meant to receive a book.  Matilda was given a free rose, and, in no way influenced by the prettiness of the rose-selling girls, I bought Sara one from one of the stalls selling the roses for charity.

Mushrooms, oh so many mushrooms
Once the Shope-Rileys arrived, we headed down to the Mercat De Sant Josep, which was mind-blowingly awesome.  Seafood, fresh fruit, the most beautiful asparagus I've ever seen, stalls and stalls of various funghi, it's a food lover's dream.  I just wish I hadn't spilt half the fruit salad I bought their on the pavement outside.  As usual, it was jam-packed, but it was wonderful, and made me wish we'd rented an apartment so that I could justify spending a tonne of Euro there.

Dr Suess's imagination is Barcelona's reality
We'd originally panned to visit La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's most famous piece of architecture, but multiple block queues weren't on anybody's agenda, so we instead headed up to another piece of Gaudi magic, Parc Güell, a sprawling Dr Suess-esque park.  We'd imagined it as a fantasy playground of sorts for the children; it wasn't, but it is marvellous, filled with oddly curved walls, crazily slanted columns and meandering pathways.  It's a very busy place though, so serenity is not something you should seek there, but worth a visit?  Absolutely.

Cuttlefish + Basil + Garlic + Olive Oil = Scrumptitiousness
By the time we'd finished in the park it was getting late (by four parents + three young children standards), so we headed to Cerveseria Catalana for simply amazing tapas.  Thinly sliced deep fried artichokes were a revelation, and the cuttlefish drowned in basil, garlic and olive oil were beautiful and delectable.  Cerveseria Catalana is a restuarant I can categorically and without hesitation recommend, between the food and the company it made for one of the best meals I've had in Europe (And I've enjoyed quite a few good 'ins).

The Gaudi Museum Another Gaudi design, because a blog can never have too much Gaudi

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