Monday, June 07, 2010

barcelona day two

No alarm clock this morning. Yeehaw.

We strolled down the ramblas to cafe zurich for a quick coffee then on to the Boqueria market for a look around. The presentation at every single stand was astounding. Each stall a rainbow of colours, seafoods, blackened legs of ham, chocolates, nuts, sweets, veg. We started with a little paper cone full of croquettas of salt cod. In the end, Kiosko Universal got our vote for lunch. We shuffled a stool or two to make room for ourselves (occasionally having to get up to let the next shift in under the counter). The stand was an island, three men hustling inside a bar lined with glass shelves and white platters of fresh seafood; on the outside of the glass, a U of happy people perched on stools, oily fingers clasping glasses of beer or wine. We ordered a couple of glasses of Cava, a bubbly white wine perfect for daytime, some tiny little clams, razor clams, all fresh from the sea thrown on the griddle with a splash of oil and some crystal salt. Then some calmar on a bed of fresh fries. As soon as any of it came off the griddle, our man behind the bar squeezed an oil & garlic & parsley emulsion over the whole thing. OH MY GOD! On the top of the bar was a huge rectangular plate of mixed mushrooms which we couldn't resist. Again, fried in oil and perfect and delicious. A few chunks of hearty bread to soak up the last drops.

We wandered back to the bicycle rental place where the new attendant, upon hearing that we were from Quebec, hit us with a very interesting (post-cava) but long-winded talk about separation and the oppression of the catalan people by the centralist spanish government. We rode through the Barri Gotico, a maze of narrow alleys with foot-deep wrought-iron balconies lined with flowerpots and washing hanging overhead. Every alley hits you with a new view of the city, impossible-to-resist hidden corners, glimpses of spires, stone arches. A little shopping at Camper (can you come to Spain and NOT go to Camper?). Sandals for me. Metrosexual running shoes for my hot husband. Past the statue of Cristofol Colom pointing toward the new world and down to the sea. Then along the beach crowded with topless and occasionally naked spaniards, wandering masseuses, and very pink and very drunk brits. Bike paths abound, we rode on through La Ciutadella park and back up to the hotel for a snooze. Siestas are so civilized.

Awoke to the lovely sounds of an accordeon playing in the street.

Off to Cal Pep, our first choice for dinner, where we decided that having people standing in line behind you while trying to enjoy dinner wasn't what we were looking for. The long walk in the new shoes back across town into Parallelo to find Quimet y Quimet, a tapas bar that has been handed down from Quimet to Quimet since 1914. Brother and sister man the place. An eight-foot long bar, a pair of square-foot round tables in the middle of the floor. No seating. The fifteen foot high walls lined with floor to ceiling bottles and their posted price by the glass. We nudged our way into a spot at the bar and watched Sr Quimet concocting tapes. Little rounds of bread topped with sour cream, salmon, tapenade and a generous drizzle of honey. "Any advice for us?" I asked a Spanish trio on our right. Take whatever he tells you to take" was the answer. "He makes the best tapas in Barcelona!" Wil ordered a couple of glasses of cava and pointed to something on the bar, a practically liquid round of sheep's milk cheese. Sr. Quimet spooned a heap onto a round of bread and topped it with a few sweet, pickled chestnuts. Then a mixed platter of fish and one of seafood. Slices of salmon, sardines, bacalao, hot-smoked slices of tuna, smoked oysters with little piles of tomato salsa & tapenade, the other plate razor clams, calmar, and tiny little clams. We chatted with our neighbours, Teresa, her brother and her husband, who was a gypsy. She was born in Valencia but her parents moved to Barcelona when she was six months old. She and her family obviously did not share the bike rental guy's feelings about Catalunya and its need for independence. "We refuse to speak Catalan" they said. Teaching only Catalan in school makes us backward and keeps us from moving forward. When I asked her questions about what was on her plate, she handed me little slices of things, a thin slice of bright orange cheese, a chunk of blue, a little cube of manchego. We bought them a round of beers, they countered with a round of cava.

She tut-tutted Wil when he put down a tip on the bar. One euro is more than enough, she said. Four is criminal! We walked back, sandals in hand with my new-shoe-blistered feet, through a neighbourhood completely different from the other side of the Ramblas. Clusters of muslim women with strollers chatting while their older children pushed scooters in the deserted streets. Halal and shawarma shops testament to the big north african population. Past black-as-night African vendors with their Dolce & Gabbana handbags or sunglasses laid out on square sheets with ropes tied to the four corners, one hand ready on the rope to pull the whole into a tidy bundle for a quick getaway? Sunburnt brits in white tube tops and floral flipflops.

Barcelona is fantastic.

No comments: