|Subject: Spain Trip-Day 2|
After a much needed three hour nap we were chomping at the bit to get
out and explore the streets of Barcelona. Additionally, we would be needing
a light meal. As we make our way out into the twilight our first impression
is that there are still remnants of daylight left. At this hour (8:00pm) in
San Diego it would be completely dark. A sure sign that we are a bit further
north. The next morning we discovered that the hour of daylight we'd gained
in the evening was missing from the morning; dawn was delayed until after
7:30am ( fortunately I'd packed my travelsize coffee maker).
Las Ramblas (Castilian) or La Rambla (Catalan) is a wide pedestrian walkway bounded on both sides by narrow lanes for vehicular traffic. Mature trees (liquid amber?) line the avenue that runs from the Plaša Catalunya to the Port Vell (Old Port). The small merchant's kiosks that run the length of Las Ramblas are interrupted every block or so by larger newsstands called Lecturas.
On either side of Las Ramblas are these fin-de-siecle buildings with a few hinting of the moderniste treasures that await our discovery. Groups of pedestrians break off from the masses strolling the Ramblas and flow off into narrow streets (smaller than our alleys in San Diego) that disappear into the Barri G˛tic and Ciutat Vella.
Following their lead we head off into the Barri G˛tic (Gothic Quarter) in search of a recommended restaurant. It being a Sunday evening most of the businesses are closed with the exception of the cafÚs and restaurants. Our initial impression is a similarity to Venice. Narrow bricked streets (many traveled only by pedestrian or scooters) lined with 3 to 4 story stone buildings. Like Venice, the Barri G˛tic hypnotizes one into strolling from one narrow street into the next. The amount of people we encounter is neither oppressive nor scant enough to give us concerns about our security.
As we walked, at one point a large anxious-looking dog bolted into our path from a side street. He looked excitedly both ways then heard the distant whistling of his master. The anxiety vanished from his face replaced by determination as he took off at a full run weaving between the much slower (and more sedate) humans strolling the ancient streets.
We needed only two stops to get our bearings; once at the Plaša de Sant Jaume near the municipal buildings and again at a plaza near the Bßsilica de Santa Maria del Mar before we found the restaurant (Euskal Etxea) we'd been searching for (and walked right by) was closed that evening (and the next as well). No problem, we simply headed back up the Carrer Montcada, Barcelona's oldest street whose gothic buildings date back to the 13th century (but foundations go back to Roman times), to a tapas bar we had passed earlier.
Tximurri was busy enough and informal enough that we felt encouraged to make our first foray into tapas grazing. We stepped up to the bar and the friendly bartender gave us our drinks (dark Belgian draft beer for Sara) and a couple of plates onto which we were directed to load our selections from the offerings arranged along the bar counter. We ended up with eight total: two tortillas de papa (a potato omelet ubiquitous in tapas bars), two different fish (anchovy and sardine) selections, roasted pepper with ham, sausage, asparagus, and some kind of spread like chicken salad. All were arranged on sliced bread (baguette) and toothpicked.
We retired to the less noisy back room which was empty but quickly filled. Sara commented how easy and convenient tapas are and I began making plans for a Spanish dinner party back at home. This lighter meal was perfectly in order after our previous evening's carnivore fest at the rodizio's restaurant in Newark. Relaxed and decompressed we paid the bartender ($8) who relied on our accounting of consumed items (so civilized).
Opting to attempt to get lost in the Barri G˛tic we plunged deeper and deeper into its labyrinth of narrow streets, alleys, and tiny plazas. Things got slightly seedier (more graffiti, streets in disrepair, dive bars, packs of youths) but not enough to cause concern.
A shop with some bees on display intrigued us. It's merchandise consisted of handmade artisan-style items, mostly foods. The shopkeeper was very friendly telling us where each item came from. Although intrigued by the chocolates (spelled xocolat in Catalan) we opted for a more practical fig cake. The shopkeeper gave Sara a large bunch of blooming rosemary branches for good luck and we sampled some local olives before exiting his store. That bouquet of rosemary (with the addition of wild lavender picked along the Costa Brava) ended up making the complete journey being ensconced in a glass of water in each of our hotels or hostels.
Soon we were back at Las Ramblas where we headed toward the port in search of dessert. We passed under the 200 ft. high statue of Christopher Columbus that marks the end of Las Ramblas and the entrance to the Port Vell.
Our strolling took us out to the Maremagnum, a modern seaside mall with shops, restaurants, and theaters. We stopped for an ice cream (Sara's caramel tasted too much of burnt sugar while my coconut/hazelnut was the perfect combo, as usual) and then set admiring the lights of Montjuic, the Sagrada Familia, and Tibidabo.
Afterwards, our interest definitely piqued, we made our way back to the hostel stopping to call home and pick up essentials for the next day's excursions.
I've uploaded two photos to the Travelzine website which are relevant to this day of our trip. You can see them at http://www.egroups.com/files/TheTravelzine/.
John Rule San Diego, CA