Wednesday, June 17, 2009

spain: day three (sunday in the barri gotic)

the thing about spain is that it didn't seem to understand my need for coffee first thing in the morning. there was no coffee maker in our hotel room, and as far as we could tell, no room service in our hotel. there was some sort of breakfast situation downstairs from six to seven a.m., but i was never awake early enough for that. so the morning of day three, alan was extra amazing and ran out for coffee from a nearby cafe. after we got dressed and ready, we picked up a light breakfast and headed back down toward the placa catalunya.

from the placa, we walked down avinguda portal d'angel, past lots of fancy shops and not-so-fancy stands selling little trinkets. we heard some music coming from one of the tiny side streets and decided to explore further, following the sounds down the narrow cobbled lane until we discovered some sort of procession... all sorts of people, young and old, were emerging from a gate in the stone wall, some playing music, some carrying a big shrine-type thing (it reminded me of a mardi-gras float with jesus on top), others were carrying banners or nothing at all. tiny older women wore black mantillas, and the musicians all wore green. they were all very serious-faced, and as they passed we followed some other onlookers through the gate into a lovely little hidden courtyard. there was a little flower shop on our left, and directly in front of us was a beautiful 15th century church. the cloister was charming and quiet, and we just couldn't believe our luck, that we had found this incredible little church, tucked away where we would never have expected to find such a thing.

we could still hear the music as we left the courtyard, although we could no longer see the procession. continuing down our original path, we came to a fork in the road. before we made our decision, we took a moment to admire a 17th-century fountain that once served as the last watering stop for horses on the way out of barcino (ancient barcelona). past the fountain, we came to a square where there were two towers, left over from the walls that surrounded the city in roman times.

eventually we came to the cathedral of barcelona, a 14th-century gothic cathedral dedicated to one of the patron saints of barcelona, santa eulalia. we toured the cloister, where thirteen geese are kept at all times, in honor of eulalia. i don't have good history with geese (they're mean!), but these ones were behind a gate, so i felt pretty safe. we left the cloister and made our way to the front of the cathedral, which sadly was under construction and hidden behind a giant picture of what it was supposed to look like. a large crowd had gathered out in the square in front of the church, and there was a group of musicians seated on the cathedral steps. it was time for the sardana dances! every sunday at noon, locals of all ages come together to celebrate catalan pride with this traditional circle dance - dancers put their belongings in the center of the circle and join hands, moving to the music made by the cobla band on the steps. we watched in awe as up to seven circles formed during each song. everyone seemed to know the dance, young and old, and anyone could join any circle at any time.

we ate a small lunch at a lovely little cafe (margherita focaccia) and wandered around the narrow cobbled streets of the gothic quarter for a bit. everywhere we turned, there were hidden plazas and sunday concerts - there was always soft music coming from somewhere. we found and toured the picasso museum, which housed an amazing collection of picasso's works from every stage in his artistic journey. it was fascinating to see it all laid out like that. and there was an entire room dedicated to his fifty-ish interpretations of velazques' famous las meninas. after the picasso museum, we ate a tortilla espanola (more like an omelet than a tortilla) at the museum's textil cafe, tucked away in a sweet little courtyard nearby.

we did a little more wandering and found ourselves in barcelona's ribera (el born) neighborhood. behind the church was a long narrow square that we learned was once used for jousting. there was also a monument with an eternal flame, dedicated to catalonia's own september 11th tragedy, a massacre of catalan patriots that happened almost three hundred years ago.

it was getting to be siesta time, so we looked for the metro (actually, got lost looking for the metro) and took it back to our hotel. after our nap, we took our cava and cerveza and hopped on the metro again, bound for the magic fountains! as it happened, our arrival at the national palace coincided with the end of a futbol game... celebrating fans were out in droves, cheering and making mischief. kids were playing in the mountain of foamy bubbles they had created in one of the small fountains. the magic fountain itself was pretty impressive - every twenty minutes or so there was a fantastic light and water show set to music. we sipped our bebidas and watched two or three different shows, and a few of the people too. this woman in particular was absolutely...mesmerized.

once we were back in the eixample, we ate a delicious tapas dinner at a table outside - seafood croquettes, patatas bravas, a bikini sandwich, and paella. they kicked us out at midnight because they were closing the outside seating area, so, satisfied with our meal and our day, we went home for some sleep!

No comments: