|Date:||September 3, 2000|
Same breakfast -- I snag two pears today, and skip the protein.
We meet our tour guide in the lobby, and tour the Eixample (pronounced eye-shample, and meaning "expansion") area. The attraction here is the Moderniste architecture on the "Block of Discord". This style, dating to the first decades of the 20th century, is characterized by a VERY organic look. The main proponent was Antonio Gaudi, whose designs often have only one flat surface: the floor. The story goes that when Gaudi built Casa Mila, the client complained that without any flat, straight walls, there was no place to put the piano for his son's lessons. Gaudi's answer was simple: Switch him to the violin!
The quintessential Gaudi work is the Sagrada Familia (Sacred Family) church, which we saw yesterday from the bus. This church has always been built on donations, and has therefore been under construction since the turn of the century -- uh, that's the turn of the 19th century! Since donations are suddenly in generous supply, it is estimated that the church will soon be done -- in only 50 more years! The current eight spires will eventually be joined by ten more, representing the 12 apostles, the 4 gospels, Mary, and Jesus.
Our local guide (Wendy?) leads us back to the Barri Gotic, to see the Picasso museum. Somehow, Picasso doesn't do much for me -- not even his very early work, from the age of 14, in which this museum specializes. It also has several pieces from his "blue period", which describes both his mindset and his choice of predominant color. Feh.
We then briefly visit the Cathedral. There's nothing spectacular here. The most notable feature is the large video display, apparently existing to remind the faithful to turn off their cell phones, and to give them the cathedral's web address!
We join a group who are planning to lunch at Els Quatre Gats, a restaurant famous for having been patronized by Picasso early in his career (and for having their menu illustrated by him). Their food is good, but I was a little disappointed.
We started with a honeydew-like mellon, covered with Iberian ham. The ham is very lean, yet very rich in flavor. It was an excellent and refreshing choice. Then, Brigid has a crepe filled with shrimp in a cheese/cream sauce. I ordered the Catalan salt cod with figs and pine nuts, as did Marie. Janet orders the baked salt cod, with potatoes and white beans. We are all served the baked cod. Later, when we realize the error, we call the waiter over. He assures us that we got what we ordered, even though there are no figs or pine nuts anywhere in sight! It's difficult to argue after so much of the meal has already been consumed.
Afterwards, Brig and I wander over to the port (sampling ice cream along the way: chocolate, lemon, and pistachio: 300 pts = $1.75 -- the chocolate is very good). The walk is nice, but there isn't much to see. The 3-story "Mega" building is basically a mall. I sample a long, sticky-sweet cookie, rife with pine nuts, called Coca de Viedre. (Nice, but nothing special. It must be good for dentists' bank accounts, though.) The top floor is miniature golf, sans hokey distractions.
Back to the hotel for a siesta, and to develop an appetite for dinner...
We have our dinner at Les Quinze Nits (in Plaça Real): gazpacho, "les 15 nits" (brie, greens w/crispy leek roll, croquettes, veggie quiche), octopus w/onions & beans & rice, roast lamb shoulder w/potatoes, bottle of "cava de la casa" (spanish "champagne"), and crema catalana (sabayon with carmelized sugar and a small scoop of strawberry ice cream). True to Tooraj's recommendation (his restaurant recommendations proved to always be bang on!), there was a disconcertingly long line. However, if you watched it for a minute, you would notice that the line moves very fast! The price was excellent ($26!) and so was the food!
On the way back to the hotel, two notable experiences: A fellow starts bumping the back of my right leg, and showing me a mobile phone. Another fellow "accidentally" bumps into me from the front, and I feel (what do you know?) a hand in my left front pocket (where I've always kept my wallet). I force the front guy away, and tell these bums to buzz off. The guy in back tries one more time to distract me with the phone, but I get loud and shoo them away. 30 years of putting my wallet in an unusual and inconvenient place originally chosen primarily to put off pickpockets, and this is my first encounter with one -- and they figure it out right away! Damn!
..And then we begin hearing strains of Abba's "Chicitita" from up ahead. A trio, playing zither, cello, guitar, & pan flute (the last two by the same performer) are playing. They're pretty good. Their money is made by selling CD's (in addition to the usual open guitar case, to receive coins). Well, that bottle of Cava may have cost only 1,000 pts, but it probably influenced our decision to buy the CD (for 2,000 pts -- around $11).