Sunday, October 26, 2008

Eating in Barcelona

Finally, I'm all caught up with my Barcelona posts! This is the last one of some of the food we ate there. The afternoon we arrived, we had bocadillos (sandwiches) at a small neighborhood bar.

For dinner, we ate at Can Culleretes, a really old restaurant serving traditional Catalan food. Oh, I just found out it is the oldest restaurant in Barcelona, and the 2nd oldest in Spain. We weren't sure what to order, but the zarzuela Stef ordered was not bad. It is a traditional Catalan fish stew with assorted seafood like shrimp, fish, shellfish and squid. The catalan soup I ordered was all weird and watery, but the grilled shrimp dish was good. It was late and we were tired and hungry so I forgot to take pictures. But I did regain my senses in time to take a picture of the crema catalana we had for dessert. This was the real deal!

On another night, we decided to try out Bar Inopia, a tapas bar opened by the brother of Ferran Adria, chef/owner of famous El Bulli restaurant, which had been judged the 'best restaurant in the world' for the past 4 years. Since we couldn't afford the average 250 euro cost of a meal at El Bulli, not the mention how impossible a reservation is, this place seemed like a good alternative.

We arrived around 8pm, which was still early for dinner, so we managed to be seated right away. The staff was friendly and we enjoyed the tapas. We had patatas bravas, fried sardines, the russian (potato) salad, meat skewers... There were many tourists, but just as many locals dining there.

When we left, there was a huge crowd waiting outside and even a rope to hold the crowds back. I thought the food was good but not that fantastic.

One morning we had breakfast at one of the many outdoor cafes just a few steps from our hotel, with the Sagrada Familia in the background. My cafe con leche was excellent.

The afternoon before we left, we had lunch/dinner at La Fonda, a restaurant we had spotted the night. We had walked past one night around 10pm and there were literally 100 people standing in line outside this restaurant waiting to get in. The menu and prices in the window looked decent so we decided to try it out.

At 3pm, we only had to wait 10 minutes for a table. The fish soup Stef ordered was really good. The seafood fritters I had wasn't bad either.

We had to try paella at least once, unfortunately, it wasn't the best here. But overall, the ambience was nice and the prices decent at La Fonda.

Until our next visit to Barcelona, adieu...

Barcelona: Park Guell

Another attraction in the city is Park Guell, a parked designed by Gaudi. We took the metro to the Garcia district and proceeded to walk up the hill where the park is located. Unfortunately it was a cloudy morning, but we could still enjoy the view of the city below us. See how the Sagrada Familia sticks out in the landscape.

In the middle of the park is a terrace with a long bench in the form of a sea serpent.

Apparently to form the curvature of the bench surface, Gaudi used the shape of the butt left by a naked workman sitting in wet clay. hehehe. Well, the bench was quite comfortable!

Gaudi's mosaic work covered the surfaces of the bench.

From the terrace, we could see the two fairytale-like houses at the entrance of the park. Don't they just look like a house built of sugar and candies from from Hansel and Gretel?

The terrace is held up by many tall columns.

And underneath the terrace among the columns, you can look up to see more of Gaudi's mosaic designs.

The view from inside one of the two houses. It's really a unique sight. Boy, does Gaudi have some imagination.

A close up look at one of the story-book houses.

More of the mosaic tile-work.

And the cute multi-colored dragon welcoming visitors at the entrance of the park. Yeah, we had somehow managed to enter the park from a side entrance, unlike the rest of the crowds. Barcelona is really fortunate to have such a special place to take respite from the bustling city.

Barcelona: Casa de Gaudi

What the heck? Is she not done with Barcelona yet? Hehe, no, just a few more posts to finish up on my impressions of the city. There really was alot to see there!

This post is about Antoni Gaudi's work, which has left a huge mark in Barcelona's architecture. It's a style that to me is so unique and refreshing... nothing like I'd ever seen before. It's like something a child dreamt up except this time it came to life.

This is Casa di Pedrera or Casa Mila, an apartment building right in the middle of the city. There are families living there, amid the busloads of gawking tourists.

The rooftop had these whimsical looking sculptures masquerading as chimneys, or is it the other way around?

Just down the street was Casa Battlo, another sight to see, with its curving lines.

Off the Ramblas is another house by Gaudi.

Again, his trademark rooftop designs...

We passed by and saw Casa Battlo all lit up one night.

We decided that this was the house we wanted to see inside. The entrance ticket cost 16.50 euro each, and included an audio tour of the house.

Look at this mushroom-shaped fireplace.

All the lines were curved, even the doorways and windows.

A cool-looking light fixture.

Gaudi designed the windows to open upwards.

This window looking out into the internal courtyard had movable panels underneath, that can be adjusted to control ventilation inside.

The back of the apartment building. The top two floors are actually occupied by private residences.

The backyard was decorated with lots of colorful tiles.

The internal courtyard was topped by a skylight letting in natural light. The shade of blue on the wall tiles actually increased, getting darker on the higher floors... since it's brighter higher up.

This was a cool stairway up in the attic area, where each family has a laundry room and a covered area where to hang their laundry out to dry.

Gaudi was inspired by nature and designed the wall and ceilings to resemble fish gills.

It made for a very interesting effect. It's hard to imagine how Gaudi dreamt this up and realized it way back in 1877.

The roof top had this spire inspired by a garlic bulb.

It was very cool and well worth the admission ticket. You can find some really amazing looking pictures on the official website.

Mercats de Barcelona

Ahhh.. what would Barcelona be without its markets? We really enjoyed visiting the markets and I thought they deserved their own post. The first market was the Mercat de La Boqueria, just off the Ramblas so you can't miss it. It even has its own website where you can read about the history of Mercat de la Boqueria or Mercat de Sant Josep.

We walked in and was hit by the beautiful displays of fresh and brightly colored fruit, vegetables, meats, fish... everything a cook would need to create a wonderful meal.

The coolest thing was that you could see that this was a 'real' market. Despite the beautifully arranged displays of fresh produce, you could see lots of locals shopping for food.

Some of the fruit were already cut up. Look at the brightly colored dragonfruit, papayas and pineapple.

And there were several stores selling freshly squeezed fruit juices and smoothies for 1 euro a glass. They looked tempting but I wasn't willing to risk getting a tummy ache.

And Stef's favorite vendors: the fish sellers. His eyes opened wide looking at the array of fresh lobsters, crabs, prawns and shrimps.

They sure looked fresh. It was too bad we didn't have a kitchen so we could buy and cook our own seafood. We'd sure like to come back one day and rent an apartment with a kitchen.

We decided to buy some figs as a snack. It was sweet and yummy.

The next day, we were wandering around the downtown area when we spotted these colorful roofs. We headed over to check it out.

Turns out it was another market! Mercat de Santa Caterina was much more high-scale looking.

Everything was again beautifully displayed. Look at the impossible selection of eggs.

And of course we couldn't miss the fish sellers.

The butchers selling countless varieties of hams and sausages.

Legs of ham that have been sliced into.

It was fun wandering around and watching the locals buy food. This market had a really beautiful ceilings too.

How I longed to shop with the locals instead of just snapping pictures. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to soon!
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