Next stop Barcelona! We were on the same flight out of Newcastle with a few of our friends who also happened to be heading to Barcelona after the wedding, so we had company on the trip. We’d found a place to stay through airbnb, and we stayed in this lovely apartment in the Ciutat Vella, which is the oldest area of Barcelona. We spent lots of time just wandering the old city, sitting outside drinking coffees and walking around endlessly.
Last time I visited Barcelona, I somehow ended up mostly eating mediocre tourist food, and I always suspected that Barcelona had better food to offer; this time we made a point to research good places to eat, and came up with some really excellent tapas and dinners. Quimet y Quimet was so good we went back a few times, and so intense that I didn’t take any pictures. It’s tiny and pretty affordable and incredibly crowded, spilling out onto the sidewalk. They serve montaditos, which are tapas served on crispy rounds of toast. I remember eating lots of little brothy shellfish things including some mussels, and some squid in tomato sauce, and smoked salmon with sour cream and truffled honey, and at least a few glasses of champagne. It was a bit of a fight to elbow up to the counter and then shout our order over the crowd, in Spanish, then find enough floorspace to enjoy our spoils. Well worth it, though, and it didn’t take too long to squeeze into a seat at the bar. We also had a five-course tapas lunch at Cal Pep, which was significantly more expensive, and involved a long wait, but it was also really tasty.
We admired the produce and seafood, drank avocado and watermelon smoothies, and ate some fish croquettes on a stick at the well-touristed Mercat La Boqueria.
We visited the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat, which is a really fascinating history museum, partially underground. In the 1930’s, while digging to build a new avenue, construction workers found Roman remains: the Roman outpost of Barcino was buried under the modern city of Barcelona. Underground, this museum contains the remains of a Roman neighborhood, with the footprints of buildings and many artifacts, interpretive displays explaining the lives and habits of the people who lived in Barcino. This bit of Barcino dates from between 1st century BC and 7th century AD, and includes sections of the city wall, houses with mosaic floors, a laundry facility, a winery, and a manufacturer of a fish paste called garum, which was a specialty of Barcino, a delicacy exported throughout the Roman Empire. We learned that in Roman times, urine was important in the laundering process. They kept an urn on the street corner where passersby could contribute to the urine collection. Above-ground, the Museu consists of the Palau Reial Major, which seems to include a few historic buildings, the gothic chapel Capilla de Santa Àgata (built in 1302) and the Saló del Tinell, which was the main hall of the Viscount of Barcelona’s palace. When we visited, the grand hall was hosting an interesting but incongruous exhibit about Barcelona’s public water supply; a few centuries past, it was supposedly the site where Christopher Columbus reported back to Ferdinand and Isabella on his return from the New World in 1493. The chapel and the Viscounts’ Palace were both built into the original Roman walls, and the palace was built on top of another historic site, I’m honestly not clear on the entire story because there is (literally!) such an incredibly complex and layered history here.
We visited Gaudi’s Parc Güell (on what turned out to be a thunderstormy afternoon) and La Sagrada Familia, which I knew was going to be crazy but it still totally blew my mind. I’m so amazed that someone with such a wildly ambitious and thoroughly unconventional creative vision was actually given the job to design and build an enormous cathedral. It’s traditional in the spectacular scale, the ecstatic detail and the way it makes you feel humbled before the infinite. But the shapes are incredibly modern and… kind of surprising. There was a wonderful snippet of an exhibit about Gaudi’s nature drawings and his natural inspirations, and in the basement there were lots of fascinating plaster models.
And also we just walked around the city some more, looked at old buildings, visited with friends. Went wading at the beach. Drank & ate to excess. Had coffees and doodled in sketchpads. Good vacation stuff. More Barcelona pictures here.