Monday, 26 November 2012

Religious experience

And now for the cultural aspects of Barcelona.

1) Religion of architecture

Barcelona is home to many incredible works by very famous architects, but it's mostly Gaudi that people associate with. His yet-to-be-finished final work is the Sagrada Familia - the large Roman Catholic Church which began construction in 1882 (although Gaudi came on board a year later and added his signature style).

Here is a photo of the 'Passion' facade as we strolled up to the church through the adjacent park.

With new work happening everyday, the latest statue installations are easy to see against the weathered, older parts of the church.

This picture shows the contrast of the different styles of each of the church sections - the darker, weathered part is the Nativity facade and the angular portion on the left is the main Naive. The spires are topped with sculptures of fruit.

And this is the fourth, unfinished side of the church. When it's completed (estimated at sometime in the 2030's....exactly as Gaudi had thought over 130 years ago) it will depict the 'Glory' - man's place in creation.

Seeing the church, along with other Gaudi buildings is quite amazing. It's interesting to think what the city council of the time thought when tenders were put out for architects.....there must have been some pretty open minds. Good forsight though - in 1999 Barcelona won the Royal Gold Medal for award usually reserved for a single person.

2) Religion of shoes

Spanish espadrilles to be exact.

By some fluke we happened upon the store while winding our way through the Gothic Quarter. Cassie had it on her "hit-list" of places to see in Barcelona - but with those highly UN-detailed tourist maps, you're never 100% sure where you are exactly in a more medieval street layout. None the less, at the sandle store we arrived.

The store, La Manual Alpargatera, dates back to the 1940's and they stock an incredible amount of espadrilles (or, in Catalan, espardenyes). They have the classic flat, slip-on style (in a rainbow of colours) and a beautiful selection of wedge-heel ones with various embroidery and coloured ribbons for lacing up.

There shouldn't be a problem finding your size or colour as one wall of the store is the entire stock of the basic espadrilles.

And here's a shot of two things - Brad waiting very patiently for me to pick out my three pairs (two basic ones and one wedge heel) and the classic glass display cases of the other "dressy" styles).

And then onto the final religious experience of our visit...

3) Religion of Tapas

Quimet & Quimet

Tapas bars are everywhere in Barcelona, from tiny bars with barely four stools lined up in front of the beer tap to large, modern restaurants with both indoor bar seating and outdoor patios (some even had a very Cactus Club feel to them...with full colour photos of each dish and specials on sangria jugs....not that this is a bad thing).

But we were after something a little....cosier.

So we sussed out this place:

Located just a few blocks from our hotel, we strolled over, arriving just as the doors had opened for the evening service (19:00). Arriving another hour later may mean standing on the sidewalk and having to elbow your way back into the tiny restaurant to order food and replenish drinks.

The walls are lined, to the ceiling, with bottles of every type of liquor....all for sale, with the price written in chalk right in front of it. There are no seats and only three, small tables to perch your drink and plates on.

We eased into ordering by getting two half plates - one seafood and one meat....and a platter of fried potatoes as suggested by the waitress ("very Mmmmmm", she said). The seafood is canned, which in Canada makes it a bad thing, but here in Spain, they can the GOOD stuff!

Seafood: anchovy wrapped olive, razor clams, baby clams, soft squid and mussels.
Meat: cured ham, house pâté, foie gras, onion confit, sautéed mushrooms and a chestnut...all drizzled with a truffle vinegar.
Potatoes: essentially giant, thick chips...but lightly salted and drizzled with a honey-vinegar.
Washed down by glasses of rose cava and house beer.

Next plates were four montaditos (round toasted pieces of bread topped with various fillings - about the size of a small half-bagel)

Cockwise from top left: Anchovies on tomato jam, topped with olive tapenade. Mussels topped with caviar. Prawns with creme fresh and caviar on a roasted red pepper. Codfish with black and green olive tapenade.

As we ate and drank, locals stopped in for a quick drink, bite and short chat with the owner/manager. Although we weren't the only tourists there, you could tell most of the clientele were locals. It was great to not only enjoy the food, but the experience of a traditional tapas bar.

For €30.
No kidding.
Two half platters, four montaditos and three drinks.
Start the car!!!

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