|Subject: Spain Trip-Day 3, Part 1|
Our first full day in Barcelona was a busy one. We awoke later than normal,
7:00am, due to our fatigue from the lengthy flight. Poking my head out
the window and looking up the airshaft I noted it was still dark anyway,
so our usual early start would have to be delayed here. Fortunately I
had my travel coffee maker and we enjoyed a couple of cups while we prepared
for the day. One of our chores for the day would be to find a shop that
sold freshly ground coffee for the remainder of the trip.
Our first stop was the Mercat de la Boqueria, the large covered market located at the midpoint of the Ramblas, and just a block and a half from our hostel. Markets of this type fascinate me. The different fish, produce, and other foodstuffs and their ornate displays I find mesmerizing. The interaction between the stall workers and the customers intrigues me. I want to buy things just to get involved. Sara often has to drag me out of these markets so we can get some sightseeing accomplished. The Boqueria was no letdown. In fact, we found it to be pretty sophisticated. Although we were early and many of the stalls were in the process of being set up we still managed to catch some of the unique character of this market. The shops selling the hams and bacalao really stood out. In two days we would get a lesson regarding the incredible variety of hams. I've always been a fan of Prosciutto di Parma but after sampling some of the Jabugo I'm a convert to the Spanish hams. The bacalao shops intrigued me seeing as I'm in the fish business. We don't see much bacalao in San Diego except in some of the Italian delis. But here, in the Boqueria, there were at least a half-dozen stalls devoted to this one specialty item. The bacalao hung at the stall fronts while along the counter tops were sinks where pieces were being reconstituted with water so it could be prepared that very day. You can bet I'd be sampling some of this while dining in Barcelona. Some of the other interesting shops included carne caballo with a prominent sign of a smiling horse (of course, I'm uncertain as to why the horse was smiling), one egg stall that was uniquely decorated with wood shingles and had a diverse selection of eggs of various sizes and colors, a couple of stalls with some unusual varieties of wild mushrooms, and the olive stalls with more types of olives than you could imagine. Comparing the local fruits with those from home we found the plums and kiwis to be enormous, up to two times the size we left back in California.
After purchasing some bananas, juice, and pastries we made our way to the Plaša Reial, a handsome square just off the Ramblas we'd noticed the night before. This plaza built in 1848 offered us a place to sit and partake of our breakfast while watching a couple of dogs chase some pigeons. The Gaudi designed lampposts were under renovation, a process we noticed going on throughout the city. A sure indicator of a vibrant economy when funds are put towards ensuring the continued well-being of such treasures. And Barcelona is full of treasures.
We had made an ambitious list of things to see and set out to begin. As we were already there we started in the Barri G˛tic the oldest part of the city. The night before we had passed by the Palau de la Generalitat and the Ajuntament (the sites of the Catalan autonomous government and municipal buildings respectively). These buildings (along with the Cathedral behind them) were built on top of the foundations of the ancient Roman settlement in the 13th and 14th centuries. The remains of the ancient walls of the city blend into the area surrounding the Cathedral.
After some searching we were able to find the Casa de l'Ardiaca (the Archdeacon's House). Sara had a list of architectural interests she wanted to see and among them was an ornate marble letterbox located here. This letterbox was ornately carved with swallows and a turtle. We were pleasantly surprised to discover a beautiful small entry courtyard with a wisteria in full bloom. Inside was a cut away of the wall &floor where the original Roman walls, aqueduct, and streets are displayed. Dated to the first century B.C. these were the oldest ruins we'd seen.
The Cathedral is quite ornate inside with every available stone and wood surface carved. A bit much for Sara's tastes but I was impressed by the incredible detailed carving on the wooden choir built in the 1390's. It is easy to see where Gaudi received his inspiration. The highlight of the Cathedral is the cloister around the back. Old fountains provide the splash, and, in the case of the St. George fountain, a taste of water. Several geese live here among the small orange trees and are quite the hit with the touring groups that pass through. Their reason for being here are lost in history but a common explanation is that they represent the purity of Saint Eulalia, Barcelona's first patron saint who is entombed in the Cathedral. The cloister is a must when one visits the Cathedral, its sedate atmosphere with the light filtering through the arches, palms and fountains coupled with the comical honking and waddling of the geese make for a very pleasant stop.
Leaving the Cathedral we happened upon the Museu d'Hist˛ria de la Ciutat which has further displays of the Roman foundations of the city. We visited the museum store where Sara purchased a small ceramic draco (Gaudi's mosaic dragon we would later see in the Parc Güell) and I picked up a period travel poster (of Montserrat) from the early twentieth century for only $1! We also learned about the unique Catalan tiles which depict scenes from everyday life in the 17th century. Sara decided we'd need a few for our eventual kitchen remodeling.
This led to forays into a few more stores as we made our way to the Palau de la Musica. We were able to find several significant tiles: a waiter (my profession), a hunter with dog (anything with dogs is a must), and a fishing scene (Sara's father is a hard-core bass fisherman).
As we approached the Palau de Musica we noticed a very long line of schoolchildren waiting for their tour. Sure enough, we needed to make a reservation#which leads us to require another day in Barcelona. We decided to head back to the hostel to drop off our purchases freshen up before heading up to the Eixample for the afternoon'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