Impressions after 2 days? Yes, this place is crazy about Gaudi.
Even their geckos are Gaudi inspired. While I must admit the guy was very clever about using natural light and introducing ergonomics into his work, I’m not a fan of the wavy lines he takes from the inspiration of the sea in creating his Casa Batllo. It’s a great work, and very progressive for his time, but it’s just not my thing. I mean come on, even the city’s drain covers have wavy lines?
What I do like about the architecture in this city, is that everything is very neat on the outside, yet different. The style variety of each building front comes together in the uniformity of the balconies each unit has. Really does justice to the plenty of cloudless blue sky days this city enjoys. Picturesque indeed.
The picture is somewhat marred by the amount of petty crime I heard all about from each person who has ever visited the city. We even witnessed at dinner one evening, when a poor man got his bag nicked in what was all of 5 seconds literally from under his feet. The slick operator distracted everyone by being on the phone, walked into the bar, swiped the bag and was on his way out in that short space of time. Spain has done a lot to sell itself as tourist friendly, but it really needs to do more to allow visitors to have fun with peace of mind. Since that episode, I’ve spared no effort in clutching onto my belongings. More stressful than work, really.
That’s really one of the reasons I don’t particularly enjoy La Rambla. I don’t get the deal on the main drag. In fact, it’s so crowded and unsettling that it’s really a drag walking there, with the many Paella and Tapas touts. I mean really? It does get better within the rabbit warren of streets in the old quarter off La Rambla with its trendy stores, and the walk down to the pier is pleasant enough.
The La Boqueria market though can be a highlight. A busy cacophony of stalls selling local produce from fruit to fruits of the sea, spices and of course, little Tapas bars offering Tapas and beer for the weary. The only bar which was still opened at 5pm when we got there was quite underwhelming but we were a little too hungry to care.
There are however, very decent restaurants around the area and one worthy of mention which many do the food Mecca through is Cal Pep. You can’t make reservations if your party is less than 4, and so we join the ranks of many who queue before opening to score a seat. If you miss the first round of seatings, you get a beer and wait behind the lucky ones who make the first seating. The tremendous amount of action which occurs under the watchful eye of Pep Manubens is organized chaos. And the system seems to work. Once you get a seat at the bar, you get the freshest offerings of the day.
The walk around Gothic quarter post lunch is an extremely pleasant one, working off all of that excellent food, looking at butcherias, trendy shoe stores and just soaking in the old historical feel of the area.
For a breather from the city, a day trip to Montserrat to visit the Benedictine monastery set in the hills is quite an experience. The cathedral is a work of art and the surrounding peaks are excellent photo opportunities as well. If you like choir boy singing, be sure to check they are there. We lucked out since they are absent this whole week.
Stay tuned for more about the food!