Experience Barcelona: Part 3
I don't think that it's possible to run out of things to do in Barcelona. We are cramming every every second of our days to get everything we can out of it, and I still feel like we"re leaving with so much left undone.
1. La Boquería
Located within spitting distance from our Airbnb, La Boquería is Barcelona's largest market with history dating as far back as the 11th century, when tables were installed to make an open-air meat market. Now La Boquería is one of the most famous public markets in the entire world. Located right off of La Rambla, you'll feel the gravitational pull toward its interesting exterior long before you're a part of the food action inside.
An experience at La Boquería is an explosion for the senses with bustling sights and sounds, tantalizing smells, and motley of colors and textures. There are several little restaurants dotted among the never-ending lines of food stalls. It's easy to get lost in La Boquería and it's easier to purchase a hoard of queso de cabra, jamon iberico and exotic Spanish ingedients that you have no idea how you'd get home, nor how to prepare them if you did.
2. Cathedral de Barcelona - Barri Gòtic
There are so many diverse neighborhoods and quarters in Barcelona that you can round one corner and swear that you are in a different country from another era. At least
that's exactly what happened the moment we stepped in to the Gothic Quarter. Secluded from the busy city streets, with ornately carved stone buildings and exuding
sophistication, Within its colonnades, Barri Gòtic houses rich history and modern vivacity. There are museums and old cathedrals, plus fun bars and cafes all packed in to winding medieval streets.
We took our time wandering, feasting our eyes upon superb architecture that tells tales of a time long gone.
Our destination was the Cathedral de Barcelona, its facade is lavish and intricate, with rippling turrets and stone-carved gargoyles. And while the exterior only dates back to the late 1800's (only, right?), the actual cathedral was built between 1298 and 1460. And if you find the facade to be a feast for the eyes, it astonishingly pales in comparison to the chasmal, cavernous ceilings of its core.
Gothic architecture is comprised of globular arches contrasted by sharp angles. It's meant to represent a disruption of continuity. I think there is something so beautiful about that.
3. Parc Güell
We saved what I was most looking forward to, for last. When I think of Barcelona, the primary-colored mosaics of Parc Güell have always been the first thing to come to mind.
A stone's throw away from the bustling Plaça de Catalunya, Parc Güell is seemingly close to everything. Be that as it may, the landscape on which Antoni Gaudí built his miniature city of colorful cottages and mosaic walls is on a hill. It's a big hill that looks out on the entire city and the only way to get up there is by taking stairs, stairs and more stairs. Not exactly fun in the Spanish summer heat when you are, regrettably, quite out of shape.
Conceived by Güell and Gaudí, Parc Güell is a representation of Gaudí's love of naturalistic shapes, his architectonic mastery and love of vibrant colors. PSA I've never taken an art history class, but this is what my guidebooks told me about the park.
Originally commissioned for for housing, the land upon which the park is built wore many hats before it became Barcelona's classically quirky park.
8. Paella at 7 Portes
On last night in Barcelona, finding the perfect paella was an imminent vital mission. For the Spanish food newbie, "paella is a traditional rice-based Spanish entree, kind of like jambalaya." Another spiel from my job where I attempt to coax unadventurous midwesterners to step out of their comfort zone.
Outside of tapas, paella is considered to be the trademark of Spanish cuisine, but its global popularity is the only predictable thing about it. Paella can be cooked with all different meats like rabbit, chicken and bilbao chorizo; host a medley of fresh seafood like octopus, mussels and clams; or it can be a smorgasbord of all of the above. No matter what, it's simmered slowly in Spanish gold saffron rice and and accentuated by spices such as garlic, cayenne and paprika.
After some light research we headed to Barceloneta, the Waterfront District of the city where some of the best restaurants are to be found. After being tempted by some beautiful look knockoffs, we arrived promptly for our reservation at 7 Portes. Opened in 1836 as a cafe and converted to a restaurant in 1929, 7 Portes has an elegant white table cloth setting, with classic black and white tiled floors and chocolate stained mahogany accents. The elegant atmosphere is cloistered beneath on exterior of graceful stone archways.
But enough about the decor. 7 Portes is an intrinsic part of Barcelona's dining scene and boasts whats been acclaimed as the best paella around, with big names like Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Harrison Ford and Robert DeNiro to wholeheartedly back up that declaration. If it is good enough for Picasso, then I suppose that it will live up to my standards.
Dressed to the nines (or as dressed up as you can be after recycling the same few outfits for two months straight), we shared a bottle of Marqués de Cáceres Tempranillo and went to town on a couple of paellas. Personally, I take paella very seriously and wasted no time ordering their signature, coined Paella Parellada "The Rich Man's Paella." It's a decadent medley of chicken, pork, cuttlefish, sausage, lobster and prawns. I can say with honesty that 7 Portes has ruined paella in the states for me. I died and went to heaven again with every bite.
We both licked our paella plates clean, and I was full enough to burst out of my back-less dress, but there was no way I was leaving without dessert. So to cap off my feast, I borderline force-fed myself a rich and boozy Puding de Melindros.
Basically, it's flan crested with rum-soaked Madeliene cookies and doused with plump and boozy golden raisins. I might not eat again till next year, but it was worth it.
My time in Spain felt both ephemeral and eternal. It hasn't even been a full week here and I feel that I have come to know the city so well, yet I have much left here to experience. We've checked a lot off of the "Must-See"list appointed to Barcelona, but I plan on coming back, sooner rather than later to finish what we started here.
Amazing, implausible, remarkable and wonderful; these words aren't enough to accurately describe Barcelona's magic, but they are all I have right now because I still can't wrap my head around the amazing time I had. My only regret is not booking this trip for longer. Or not staying forever. I could happily move to Spain and take flamenco lessons.
Also- check out the bravura of the full moon, gracing the dusky sky on our last night in the city.