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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 5 Barcelona Trip Review 2010

FINALLY! A completely sunny day in Barcelona from beginning to end!!

And I truly took advantage of it, deciding NOT to go to the Alimentaria Barcelona Food & Drink expo. It was evident immediately. The morning was almost warm as I'd finished my breakfast at Pension Bahia and decided to go to the Mercado de la Boqueria to take some photos and have a coffee at the Bar-Restaurante El Quim.

Upon arriving at the market I realized I'd left my camera in the room. Hmph. The day wasn't starting out well but I made the best of it and ordered a coffee at the popular aforementioned bar. Lots of locals eating there at 10am, some even drinking wine, and I sipped my hot coffee amid the market bustle and surrounding merchants ordering the same over my shoulders.

Since I didn't have my camera I wasn't going to waste my time so I went back to the pension and called ahead to the next pension, Pension Plaza de Goya, to see if my room was ready. It was so I checked out of the Pension Bahia and walked 20 minutes to the other pension, my last lodging establishment of this trip. Another 2 nights here. It was an easy walk, crossing La Rambla and walking to the end of the Carrer de Tallers through the El Raval neighborhood. I was hot and sweating a bit when I arrived but my room was ready and I was glad for that.After taking a few minutes to admire the plaza from my balcony, I stripped off my sweaty clothes, hoping they'd dry by the time I went out again for lunch. And they were.

Now it's about 1:15pm and I make my way back the way I came through El Raval, and went back to the Bar-Restaurant Elisabets - which is in all the guide books and even the maps. And since it's so well known there were several tourists having lunch but several locals as well. I took a seat towards the back with the full-bar view and decided to have their Menú del Día.There were 5 choices for the first course, 5 choices for the second course, 5 dessert choices, and it came with bread and beer, wine, or water. I ordered the Fideua for the first, the solomillo al roquefort for the second course, and, of course, the Crema Catalana for dessert. GOTTA order the Crema Catalana while I'm here in Barcelona whenever it's offered. Oh, and I also chose the half-bottle of house wine.

The total was 10.75 and it was all good. The fideua was much different from that you get in Madrid, which is a normally macaroni paella - instead of using rice. Here, it was simply fried noodles with a dollop of mayonnaise on top. Interesting. The tender solomillo steak pieces with roquefort sauce and sliced mushrooms was very good too. The house wine was decent and very drinkable. But the crema catalana was the best. I enjoyed my lunch while writing postcards to friends - a typical tourist activity over a meal - and chatting with the Catalonian waitress about how TYPICAL we tourists are after she gave me a smirk when seeing me take photos of my food.

Now it's about 2:30pm and I make my way to Plaza de Catalunya where I get the metro to the Sagrada Familia Temple. It was a perfect day for it. Not hot, not too windy, and not cold. It was my 3rd visit to Antonio Gaudi's temple but was more there just to take photos so I didn't rent the audio guide this time. The sky was perfectly clear and blue, making a striking solid-color backdrop for Gaudi's color schemes. I waited about 30 minutes to take the elevator to the top, took in the views from the different towers, squeezing by photo-taking, backpack-wearing tourists, and then walked down the super-duper spiral staircase to finish.

Now I'm done. Tired. My feet hurt. First I'd thought to go over to the Alimentaria expo late in the afternoon but thought better of it. Instead, I took the metro to the Gothic Quarter and started winding my way up and back, up and back, zig-zagging a path towards nowhere in particular - and getting there was half the fun. I stopped at two bars for a sit-down and a beer. One was modern and empty. The other was old, very old, and a bunch of elderly men were playing dominoes in the wooden booths. There was no one at the bar or eating in the back. It was a beautiful place, all wooden, and full of earth tones. This was my kind of place. And since I didn't fit in there, I got a number of stares, not only by the domino players but also by the bar tender which served me the beer. I thanked him, drank it, and left immediately. A 3-minute beer - a new BarcelonaMan record. What I really needed was a stool and there were none at the bar.

I turned a corner and BOOM, I was at the rear entrance to the Barcelona Cathedral where I entered into the beautiful gardens. Now it's about 6:30pm and the light is low, making interesting sunbeams across the plant-filled cloister. There were geese (or large white ducks) swimming in the pool, tropical fish swimming about, and birds singing above. As the sun fell, the soft lights came on and people began lighting votive candles, presumably for not only the Virgin Mary or Jesus Christ, but also for the upcoming Holy Week. Soft, far-away chanting could be heard (but was probably coming from tiny speakers tucked away in the corners).

Next, I spent the next 30-40 minutes on the inside of the Barcelona Cathedral. I know I'd been here before but this time, for some reason, it was more special, I was in no hurry, and it was quiet, very few people were inside.

My time in the cathedral was really special. In fact, I was moved by the experience. I'm not a religious person but I found myself somewhat emotional by the art, the history & age, and the size of everything. And, now, just after dark sundown, the illuminated ceiling was something spectacular. Upon leaving I crossed the San Jaume square and sat on a bench for about 20 minutes to admire the structure. It was nice and I felt very peaceful.

It's getting late and I'm a little hungry so I decide to head back through El Raval to Pension Plaza de Goya and get a ham and cheese sandwich on the way - when I realized I have a 10:45pm Flamenco Show at the Palacio del Flamenco. Oh, goodness. I'm beat and would rather be in bed at 10:45 than sitting at a flamenco show until midnight - THEN walking back 8 blocks. Sure hope I can sleep late tomorrow morning.

The flamenco show at Palacio del Flamenco was very good and I enjoyed myself a lot. My V.I.P. seat was along the left side, maybe 3 tables from the deep, wide stage, so I had a wonderful view. The seating area is modern and elegant and most everyone seemingly had just finished their dinner when I arrived for the show. Palacio del Flamenco is located on Carrer Balmes, 139, very close to the DIAGONAL metro station in the upper Eixample.

The flamenco show began with three yellow-dressed ladies, all standing in preparation for the number, when the music started. They remained motionless for a good 60 seconds until they began. The music was perfect, so rich that I was certain it was a recording. But HOW could they possibly use recorded music for a flamenco show, I thought. They wouldn't. Then the curtain rose very slowly, proving to me and the full-house that there were real musicians playing live music. Wow, they were great and I was impressed. All the while I was wondering where I could buy their music.

The flamenco show itself lasted about one hour and fifteen minutes and never ceased to entertain. There were maybe a total of 7 different "sets", all without a break. The featured dancer, a woman dressed in all black, was REALLY something. She danced alone but used the entire stage. Truly impressive. A real professional, as was the entire guitar-playing, singing, and clapping group. I was in Flamenco Heaven!

I took note that the woman playing the violin in the group, I'm CERTAIN, was German-born Lisa Bause of the Barcelona-based, 4-woman flamenco folk band Las Migas, whom I saw in Madrid at one of last year's Suma Flamenca concerts. She's very talented.

The below, taken from the Palacio del Flamenco website:

A show of the purest flamenco

palacio del flamenco

Currently Palacio del Flamenco is offering a show called “El Duende del Palacio” (The goblin of the palace) presented by a cast of 15 artists on stage. Flamenco singers, dancers, guitar players and other musicians are offering a powerful staging and musical event. A journey through different types of Flamenco provides the Flamenco lover with the opportunity to participate intensely in this art performance while the amateur audience will be able to enjoy a wonderful and unforgettable Flamenco night.

The show is made up of original choreography acts including soloist acts. The night begins with the unique and enthusiastic performance of our flamenco group. The guitar and the sound of the palms accompany the "taconeo" and the movement by the “bailaores” that introduce to us in this enthusiastic world.

In our show also, you will be able to see some classic Spanish dance acts with the intention to offer a glimpse of the wonderful ones and varied dances of flamenco

The music, created originally for this show, is interpreted live giving rise to a full picture of plastical beauty, light, and strength. The improvisation between the musicians and the bailaores, makes the show different day to day.

BarcelonaMan can easily recommend seeing a flamenco performance at the Palacio del Flamenco in in the upper Eixample district of Barcelona.

During my walk back, I was tempted to go out, "hit the clubs", and dance Sevillanas 'til dawn. Nahh.... I had another full day tomorrow so I headed back to the Pension Plaza de Goya to get some shut eye. Which is just what I did.

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