I made the executive decision to wake up without an alarm on Saturday. This is one of my greatest pleasures in life, and sadly, it rarely happens. While I wanted to enjoy all Barcelona had to offer, I also wanted to make sure I used this weekend to rest. I had some breakfast at the hotel and made my game plan for the day. I started down Las Ramblas – a major touristy street that runs from Plaça de Catalunya to the sea. My first order of business was to visit La Boqueria – a huge market that was packed full of vendors and shoppers on a Saturday morning. It was madness, but I loved it. You could find fruit, eggs, meat, candies, and of course, fruit juice! (I promised one of my colleagues I would enjoy a fruit juice for her. I chose Raspberry Pineapple, and it was delicious!) And just outside of the market, there are flower stands running along Las Ramblas for at least a block. What other market has a stained glass sign at the entrance? Only in Barcelona…
Next, I needed to visit the Cathedral. While I knew it wouldn’t be able to compare to Sagrada Familia, it was recommended that I check it out. I roamed through the windy streets until I saw…no, not the cathedral. A shop full of Haviana sandals! I was introduced to Havianas when I was in Brazil and Argentina four years ago. I bought my first pair from a street vendor in Brazil for the equivalent of $10 USD (which is a good deal) and my second pair from a shop in Argentina. The first pair turned out to be a bit too big, but I LOVE the second pair. I’ve worn then so much the past four years. This shop on a little side street in Barcelona was the first place to sell the same style! And a couple of other cute ones I’ve never seen before. I promptly freaked out (telling all of this to the sales girl) and bought four pairs. Summer just got a whole lot better!
Oh yeah…I forgot. I was looking for the cathedral before I got distracted. It didn’t take long to find. The Gothic Quarter isn’t too big. It was really large and very beautiful, but I have to say, I was really stressed out when I went inside. There were WAY too many tourists, and they were SO. LOUD. I know this statement officially makes me an old person, but I’m shocked at the lack of respect tourists have. There was even a service going on. I think I lasted approximately 1 minute and 45 seconds before I had to get out.
It was getting warmer, so I opted to drop off my new collection of sandals at the hotel and shed my coat before heading out again. Of course, I stopped in one more store on the way. (You can tell that 6 months of no shopping is getting to me.)
I headed back out and proceeded to roam for a long time through the windy streets. I thought I was heading toward another church, but instead I ended up in Plaça Reial instead. It is full of palm trees and surrounded by gorgeous buildings. I talked myself out of buying a baby girl outfit for my niece, who will be born in September. (Now that I know she is a girl, it’s a constant internal battle not to buy every adorable baby girl thing that I see!) Ultimately, I found my way to the other church I wanted to see – Santa Maria del Mar. It was lovely and SO calm in comparison to the cathedral.
It was closing in on 2:00pm – time for lunch. I decided to try a place near the church called El Senyor Parellada. It was gorgeous, and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch of paella and churros for dessert. Mmmmm…
Now, the part you’ve all been waiting for – PICASSO! I made my way to the Picasso Museum. I heard that the museum was amazing and that it was home to many pieces from his early years, but that was all I knew. The museum is tucked into an old building that you would never know to be a museum unless you were looking for it. (Though, the long line of tourists waiting for tickets could be another clue.) I absolutely LOVED this museum. My experience started out rocky thanks to an obnoxious group of teenagers that were carrying on in the first gallery. I know it’s not a church, but I like art museums to be a tranquil, calming place. Thankfully, I opted to insert my headphones and play my “Chill” playlist instead of freaking out. It’s amazing how a little music can make everything feel right again.
The museum takes you through Picasso’s life chronologically. I was amazed as I realized some of the initial paintings on display were created when he was merely 14 years old. They were SO GOOD! I absolutely loved the paintings and sketches from his first 10 years or so. Over time, things started to become more abstract, which I don’t fully understand. But, I feel like I now appreciate it more, because I saw the journey. So, the truth about Picasso (according to Megan)? He wasn’t always so abstract. He has a huge collection of “normal” artwork, which is truly remarkable.
After so many tourists (and particularly a few too many noisy ones), I thought a stroll through one more park would be the perfect end to the afternoon. Maybe I would even find a place to sit and keep reading my book. I headed for Parc Ciutadella. It’s a huge park with some other famous Gaudi pieces. I didn’t see any Gaudi (that I know of), and I honestly didn’t see a whole lot of the park. When I arrived, I was greeted by some kind of festival or health fair or something. (Let’s be honest; I can’t read any Spanish, so who knows what was going on.) There were people EVERYWHERE. And TONS of booths set up. I was slightly overwhelmed again, because it wasn’t the calm “take a nap in the park” atmosphere I expected, but I was also delighted. So many people were out on a Saturday afternoon enjoying the sunshine! There were all kinds of performers and dogs and nappers and people selling all kinds of things. I opted to just walk through on the way back to the hotel. While the energy was high and very exciting, it was a little too chaotic. However, I can’t get enough of palm trees, so the fact that they were everywhere was enough to make me smile.
As I type this, I am exhausted. How in the world do I manage to cram so many things into a day?! I changed into something a wee bit fancier before heading out for the evening. I stopped by 4 Cats for some tapas. This was Picasso’s old stomping grounds, and it happened to be one block from my hotel. It’s a charming little spot with a lot of character.
I only ordered three things this time, but I ordered something I shouldn’t have…prawns. For some reason, shrimp seem to ALWAYS come with their eyeballs included when I order them in Europe. While I love seafood, I don’t love it looking back at me. And I know this is how they serve it, so I typically avoid ordering it, but in the moment, I forgot. Okay, let’s pretend I’m brave enough to get past the eyeballs. Next problem – the poop. Has anyone else heard that you shouldn’t eat the black along the “spine” of a shrimp, because it’s actually its poop? (If someone can disprove this, I would be forever grateful, because I’ve been PARANOID for the past several years after hearing this.) The shrimp situation proved to be a worse massacre than that of the boney fish yesterday. After a while, I gave up trying and used my napkin to cover up the evidence hopeful that no one would ask me if I didn’t like it or if something was wrong with them. What would I have said, “No, I just couldn’t get past the eyes or the poop?!” I know we were right by the sea, but isn’t frozen shrimp cocktail so much easier? (KIDDING!) I seriously need that lesson in “how to dissect and eat difficult food like a lady.”
Whew – after surviving my tapas experience, it was time to indulge my closet orchestra nerd. For those of you who don’t know, I pretended to play the viola during high school. I really play the piano, but I don’t think I can claim the same for the viola. However, I do have a soft spot in my heart for stringed instruments, and I have several friends who are incredible string players. I read about Palau de la Música Catalana before the trip and that a tour of the interior was highly recommended. I thought I should see what shows were playing during the weekend, and it just so happened that there was an amazing line up for Saturday night. Perfect!
This venue was magnificent. So much incredible detail, and yes, that it a stained glass ceiling! Isn’t it exquisite?!
[The incredible stained glass ceiling]
For my fellow “orch dorks,” here are the pieces that were performed (several of which are traditional wedding pieces in the US):
- “Air” Suite no. 3 in D Major…Bach
- Concerto grosso in G minor…Corelli
- Canon in D Major…Pachelbel
- Suite Antica…Muffat
- Divertimento in D Major…Mozart
- Célebre Minueto…Boccherini
- Momento musical…Schubert
- The Four Seasons…Vivaldi – Mario Hossen, violin
I would say that churches, shopping, good restaurants, sunshine, amazing artwork, and beautiful music made for a lovely Saturday in Barcelona.