Day 5: Barcelona, Part 1 – Gothic Quarter


Today was the first official day of Dan’s vacation (we’ll just ignore that he’s on a conference call at this moment…approaching 10pm….) so he slept in since we weren’t on any kind of real schedule. I got up about 7am and planned the details of the day. He got up about 8:30. We took our time eating breakfast in and headed out about 10:15.

The apartment we’re in is very centrally located, so today would be a walking day for sure. We went to the Placa de Catalunya first to stop at the visitor’s center to pick up the museum pass we’d purchased in advance. That’s where the bus dropped us off yesterday so we knew where we were going. It also sits at the edge of the Gothic Quarter, the neighborhood we would spend the day in, so it all flowed pretty easily.

 

 The fountain at the entrance. It’s actually a big shopping area but we were in and out; not really big shoppers.
 There were pigeons all over this plaza and this woman was creating a little feeding frenzy.
 Next we started to walk La Rambla, a tree-lined pedestrian mall that runs about 3/4 of a mile from Placa de Catalunya to the ports at the Mediterranean. Everything we wanted to do sort of criss-crossed this so we figured we might as well use it.
All of it runs through the Gothic Quarter, a neighborhood that contains the old city of Barcelona, some of it dating back to the Middle Ages.

 

 

Our first stop was the Museum of Contemporary Art. If you were with us last year, you might remember my little diatribe about modern art after my visit to the Ludwig in Cologne. When I told Dan where we were going first he was like “what??” I said “I know, I know – we’re not going for the art, I understand the building is worth seeing and since it’s on the pass we might as well take a look.” The building was interesting and modern – although very, Very white, inside and out. The art, well, let’s just say it was modern. There were only a few pieces we liked,  but we still managed to stay there about an hour.

 This piece is a great example of Dan’s first rule of what belongs in a museum: “If I could do it, it shouldn’t be here.” This is made of fragments of wood from old ships that ended up in a ship graveyard. It is supposed to “bring to mind the remains of illegal vessels bearing people from Africa who have tried, successfully or otherwise, to fulfill their dream of entering European territory.” Of course it does – that was the first thing I thought when I saw it!
 The building was just OK.
 This was only about 2.5 feet high. Dan said “it looks like monkey bars.”
No clue.

 

As we continued back down La Rambla, we discovered one of Dan’s favorite things: a local outdoor market. This was an interesting combination of produce, meats, fish and full on restaurant food. And it was crowded. We spent about 45 minutes in the the first time, then made our way back for some lunch a little while later.

 The entrance to the market.
 Lots of stands with very fresh fish.
 Good looking fruits and vegetables, much better than what we saw in the grocery store last night.
 Dried fruit and nuts.
 We had never seen this before. I took the picture to remember to look it up later. Finally saw a translation in another stand: barnacles. Specifically a Spain thing according to the article in the link. Seems like a lot of work!
 A stand where they sold, among other things, paella. This is where we ended up coming back for lunch.
 The seafood paella. We shared one of those and a black rice paella we both thought was excellent and better than the seafood one. Dan thought the black came from black beans. The real answer: Squid ink.
Conejo = rabbit
 All it needs is an apple.
 These lobsters and crabs were very fresh, many of them still alive.
More kinds of lobster than we knew existed.
 A Christopher Columbus statue at the end of La Rambla, with him supposedly pointing to the New World he discovered under the financing of Spain.

 

 This is Placa Reial, a large square with nothing but restaurants in it. We walked around and looked at the menus of just about every one, and then decided to go back to the market.
 See, I’m really not on this vacation by myself.
 We love these narrow streets and saw a lot of them today.
Random pretty administration building we passed on the way to the Picasso museum.
 The very humble entrance to the Picasso museum, off a small side street. We actually passed it twice. I think we were expecting it to be something more obvious. You had to pay attention to where you were going.

 

 One of several nice courtyards in this building.
 What I enjoyed about this museum the most was Picasso’s early works. His father was essentially an art teacher so he was exposed early on and showed a talent at a young age. He was 14 when he did this.
 He was 15 when he did this.
About that time I saw the “no cameras” symbol everywhere and stopped taking them. I’m surprised I didn’t get caught, there were plenty of docents around.
 Dan managed to sneak this one in. Probably more along the lines of what you think of when you think Picasso.
What the other side of that courtyard looks like.
Another cute little plaza we passed on the way to the next stop.
 This is the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar.
 It is not on the main drag and there are buildings close to it all around so it was impossible to get a decent shot of the outside.
 The inside was respectable. There was something charming and satisfying with how old it felt. And with good reason: it was built between 1329 and 1383.

 

 Last church of the day: the Barcelona Cathedral.
Built primarily in the 1300’s, it has a distinct look about it, despite definitely fitting the overall Gothic style of the period.

 

 

 

There were LOTS of side altars, most of them decked in gold like this. But they were hard to get photos of because there were high wrought iron fences in front of every single one. This was the best I could do with one of them, just pointing my camera through the bars and getting what I could in the shot.
 You could go up to the roof and get some pretty decent views of the city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 That’s La Sagrada Familia to the right, the most famous work by the architect Gaudi. We’ll be going there on Sunday.
 We stopped at a little cafe for some coffee, and used Yelp to figure out where we were going to do dinner.
There was a nice view of the back of the Cathedral from there.
 This we passed on the way to dinner. Never could figure out what it was, but it’s very Gaudi-ish.
 We went to a tapas place called El Bitxo. One of the criteria for choosing a restaurant was, oddly enough, that it be open. MANY of them close after lunch and don’t open for dinner until 8:30pm. This was open, but we got there at about 7:20. That it’s otherwise empty is just because these people eat really late!
We shared a nice salad with some cod and a great vinaigrette, some cerviche, and this really nice potato dish that we both agreed was the best of the evening. Really interesting sauces layered on top of underling potatoes – first layer was goat cheese based, 2nd was spicy and red/orange but we’re not sure what it was and forgot to ask. And sorry, foodies, we forgot to take pictures, too!
 Search lights for some reason in the distance from our terrace tonight.
It was a good first day!

0 thoughts on “Day 5: Barcelona, Part 1 – Gothic Quarter”

  1. The market food pictures are amazing! although all I can think about is poor Thumper right now! I have never seen dried fruit and nuts like that!

  2. Steve Haas says:

    I did like that church! You could feel the age of it all around you, and loved that it was sort of tucked away off the main drags. If you weren't seeking it out it would be easy to miss.

  3. The cathedrals look amazing, especially Santa Maria Del Mar.

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