Where the Sun Don’t Shine: In Which Spain Takes Our Money

Saturday was Sars’ last day with us in Barcelona (partially because he had a flight to catch in Madrid on Monday and partially because he did not plan ahead to book a room on this, the kick-off weekend for the biggest festival of the city). Treating us to a goodbye breakfast at a corner bar, he gentlemanly explained the reason for the sawdust on the floor (naïve me, I thought it was because of the rain), entrusted us with the keys and cash for his landlady (old biddy went to the beauty salon and was not there to check him out), and took his leave.

I shopped at El Corte Inglés (i.e. checked my email and then browsed around without spending a penny) while TP went back to the apartment to shower and shave and meet up with the hostile hostel landlady.  After perusing some of the giant statues intended for the festival, we shopped at the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (i.e. actually shopped and purchased fruits, vegetables, bread, cheese, and fresh juice).  The array of displays was visually arresting and dizzying.  See for yourself.

Relying on a guidebook for our chocolate fix, we navigated the narrow streets to make our way to Granja M Viader which was touted as the oldest and therefore best place for chocolate.  Upon the book’s recommendation, I ordered a cup of suís and was disappointed to find out it was much heavier on the milk and whipped cream than it was on the chocolate.  But then again, maybe it’s just me and my desire for pretty much a block of dark chocolate in melted form.  Add to that the fact that there were no crispy hearty churros/xurros but rather flimsy ladyfingers/melindros instead and you get a recipe for an unsatisfied sweet-tooth.

there is some chocolate under that mountain of whipped cream

ah, there it is

We spent a good while roaming the various toy stores on the hunt for a suitable gift for our kids: one that reflected the nature of the trip (meaning something typically Spanish) but that also would be appreciated (meaning a toy).  Alas, most of the toy stores were stocked with all of the kinds of things we could easily purchase here: Disney this, Lego that.  On LB and KG’s visit to Barcelona, they picked up this adorable brown-skinned soft doll that was perfect for AP.  I went to the exact store that sold it in hopes for a sister or friend version to pair Barbara with but the only thing they had was a gigantic version of the one AP already had.  As the teaser from the last entry explained, we could easily have ordered the doll from Amazon or even Target but at least we got to pick up a toy Vespa for ZP.

While I was busy window-shopping, TP was distracted by a woman giving out business cards for her restaurant.  With no set menu in mind, we decided to give La Luna a try.  The fig and walnut salad was appetizing and the tilapia served on a bed of whipped pumpkin was savory enough but the service was incredibly slow, the menu was confusing (we ended up ordering dessert thinking it was part of the fixed price but it wasn’t and so we paid extra for something we didn’t want or need), and the prices were a bit high for the slightly-better-than-average-but-not-by-much fare.  We could have had an equally delightful meal at home for (nearly) free.  I’m sure if we drank the house wine that was offered as part of our meal, we might have felt differently.  But we didn’t and we didn’t and there you have it.

After a nap, we walked around the Barri a bit, watched a wedding ensemble circle the area where Francisco Franco lined up prisoners and had them shot, and eventually headed downhill to the park.

bullet holes in the walls

The park! No, not the famous Parc Güell by Gaudi. The walking-distance Parc de la Ciutadella.
Peaceful gardens (read: empty), free wifi (lie!), and a break from the crush of humanity in the city center.  Dismissing a visit to the beach since the ominous clouds did not bode well (and TP’s dour warning about the previous night’s storm sweeping filth and sludge onto the beach didn’t help matters), we started trudging our way back home when we encountered the RENFE train station, Estació de Franca. Free bathroom, free place to sit, and best of all, free art exhibit! It turned out that the station was featuring an exhibition of Cuban artists’ “ENERGY-DEVOURING MONSTERS” turning 1950’s General Electric refrigerators into works of art.  Pix on Flickr here.

The walk back to Plaça Urquinaona (our ‘hood) was about a mile and since we had already hoofed it all over town, we treated ourselves to a €1.40 metro ticket and rode back.  I had seen an advertisement for Masters of the Spanish Guitar: Manuel González at the Palau de la Música Catalana and since this WAS my birthday present, we swung by the ticket booth, bought two tickets for the concert that night, and returned home (right around the corner from the concert hall) to wash up, eat, and relish the fact that we were footloose and kid-free. I may have even brushed my hair for the momentous occasion.

The building was fascinating (modernista style, of course), the interior was gorgeous (I was hypnotized by the stained-glass skylight alone), and the music was at turns sublime and hilarious (he performed a piece called “Interrupted Romance” where the classical Spanish romantic music met incongruous snippets of tunes such as The Pink Panther theme, The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly theme, and the holy trinity of rock a.k.a. Smoke on the Water.)  Date night zindabad!

Stay tuned for the next exciting installment where I sigh over the cloudy weather, examine our various maps and train schedules, and considered our options go to another city.


4 responses to “Where the Sun Don’t Shine: In Which Spain Takes Our Money

  1. Nice to relive the good parts from the comfort of home.

    The train station near the Parc Ciutadella was Estacio de Franca, not Sants.

  2. ah, so it is! good thing nobody reads this thing unless i force them to…

  3. but there are so many great things at el corte inglés!

  4. agreed – which is why (preview) we went anywhere from 3 to 5 times a day there – sometimes just to check email but sometimes to shop. their gourmet section is enough to kill an hour in itself!

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