Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Travels and Tastes of Spain ( Part 4)


Barcelona

(has anyone ever noticed that Columbus is actually pointing to Africa)
 

Before we got to Barcelona we had to endure the pleasures of riding in the sleeper compartment of an overnight train.  If you have any inclinations in including this type of transport in your future, do yourself a favor – DON’T.  I had somewhat romanticized memories of a Soviet sleeper trains from my childhood, with delicious home packed snacks and glasses of scalding tea with little cubes of sugar. The thrill of being allowed to sleep on the upper bunk… This was nothing like that, either I grew up and my memories are flawed or this was the shitiest train in the world… I prefer the later.   This ride was an experience I would rather forget, although the rest of my family embraced it as an adventure and even enjoyed it.  The only decent part of the trip was having breakfast in the dining car sitting at a well-served table with tablecloth and glasses of fresh juice, riding along the sparkly Mediterranean beaches and villas of Costa Del Sol. 

 

After cities like Seville and Granada, Barcelona hits you over the head with the sheer amount of people, activity and the bustle of city life.  Masses of tourists seem to overtake every walking space of the city.  Barcelona is a marvel, with seemingly endless things to do; it was a great shame that we had less than two days to explore it. 
View from Palace Majestic onto the city of Barcelona
and the port

 

Just like the great city of New York is not representative of United States and stands on its own, Barcelona is not Spain.  It is separate living and breathing creature, a magically beautiful and whimsical city where the new and the old seem to intertwine in perfect harmony.  Barcelona is like a breathtakingly beautiful woman, you cannot take your eyes off her, captivated, enchanted by her spell.

Barcelona as it stands today, was build out of great devastation of the War… and when the city was rebuild it was designed around people’s lives and perceptions.  It was meant for you to not want to leave the streets, to wrap you around like the most luxuriously beautiful blanket and never leave you wanting more….  Gaudi’s genius is felt throughout the city.  From the magnificent Sagrada Familia Cathedral, (where you can spend hours just talking about the intricacies of the façade, until you finally get inside and see the full wizardry at work), to the houses and streets designed by him.  There were far better writers than me trying to describe Gaudi’s work, so I am not even going to try… I cannot do it justice.  All I am going to say is that experiencing it is like going through a rabbit’s whole and emerging in Alice in Wonderland’s world, mesmerizingly reminiscent of nature, wonderfully whimsical and paradoxically functional at the same time.   The inside of La Sagrada Familia leaves you standing in the middle of a forest where each ray of light coming through the stained glass windows has its purpose ant it’s note to play in a great architectural symphony.  Casa Batllo could have been an inspiration for Nautilus or the other way around, breathtakingly weird, functional, beautiful, entrancing, brilliantly thought out and in tuned with nature.  Gaudi has once said that his greatest inspiration is a tree growing outside his workshop, his work reflects not just a love of nature, but a deep understanding and emotional connection to it.  And that will be all I am going to say on Gaudi, because it should be seen and not talked about….

A part of Sagrda Familia facade

Inside the magical forest
where the light is enchanted and everything has it's place
 
The night view of casa Batlo

A play on light and perception
 
Are you inside some giant sea creature or a house?

 
All though our trip, we were trying to see a Flamenco show, but kept walking as either the time or the price didn’t feel right… I am so glad we waited.  Here, in Barcelona, we got to experience Flamenco like I never imagined.  The stage was settled in the pretty 13th century building’s courtyard.  The sounds these boys coaxed out of their simple instruments were out of this world.  The drummer’s hands moving as fast as Calibri’s wings, the dancer’s feet following suit, the tragedy, the expression….it spoke of it all, the great love and passion, the conquests in the name of your beloved, the heartbreak, the triumph….it left us feeling absolutely speechless and thankful we didn’t partake in the previously offered shows, which seemed touristy and uninspiring…

The tastes of Barcelona deserve a full paragraph of their own starting with Boqueria Market.  Of course we got there way too late, a good half of the place was closed, including all of the great fish market.  Of course, when we got their my son was theatrically “STARVING!”, which has pretty much been a theme to the whole trip… Of course, as I tried to get any pictures and tastes of true goodies that can be found only at this world famous market, my family ate New York style pizza at one of the stalls…. I can’t even convey the hatred that I felt for them at the time…  Nevertheless I did find the most gorgeous dry harissa mix, the most ridiculously tasting marconna almonds and the taste of my childhood, the fragoli (tiny wild strawberries).  The taste brought me right back to being 10 years old and spending hours in the forest with my grandfather so that by the end of the day, there would be just one delicious palm full, that he generously let me gulp down….
 

We finally ate at a traditional tapas place where they count the toothpicks on your plate at the end of the night… it was strange and kind of fun sharing a snack meant for drinking at the bar counter with my kids…. God knows, they embrace these eating experiences and I hope it expands not only their palates but their world.


The sea food was crazy delicious, straight from the Mediterranean, sweet like butter king prawns, huge langoustines as big as my forearm,  muscles with red juice succulent flesh…. I swear, having eaten them once I will hardly ever look at the North East famed variety the same again…. 
 
 I had to stay away from oysters as I am still getting over the New Orleans disaster but eating this gorgeous sea food right outside the Barcelona marina, marveling at the very expensive and grand sail yachts ( that my children were attempting to steal and sail back to the States..), I couldn’t help but imagine myself a bit richer… a bit famous… a bit…being able to do this more often.  

 
 

One of the highlights of my tastes in Barcelona was the Valencian Fideua, which is like a paella but made with tiny vermicelli noodles.  It was not laden with sea food, just tiny clams, no bigger than my thumbnail.  It was the most addictive dish I ever had; I can eat this every day for the rest of my life (preferably in Barcelona) and not get tired… This is an absolute must to re-create at home….
Delicius Fideua
 
This is what Barcelona feels like
 
All in all, Spain left me with unforgettable experiences, sites and tastes….but…I always leave a bit of my heart in places I go…This time, I left a bit of my heart in Barcelona, and I hope I get to come back to my make my heart whole again…..

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