Milchtoast

Chronicles of a writer abroad

Barcelona Part I: Losing my appetite, feasting my eyes

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I went to Barcelona with two main things in mind: food and architecture. Natural scenery, too, as a kind of afterthought: I knew that the city’s port was probably pretty, and we planned to make a day trip to the mountains. But really, the goals were to eat and be wowed by Gaudi’s creations.

I had some nervousness about the eating situation. Friends who’d visited the city told me that in Barcelona, lunch and dinner were late (with restaurants typically opening for lunch around 1 or 1:30, and for dinner around 9 pm). I am a person who considers 7 p.m. a lateish dinner time necessitating a snack several hours beforehand. So we planned to cope by doing as the Spanish do, and eating a big meal at lunch that would see us through to the evening dining hours.

On our first full day, therefore, we enjoyed a delicious three-course lunch, consisting of a starter salad, a main-course meat dish, and a dessert. It was delicious; we were stuffed. Afterwards, though, a strange thing happened: my appetite never returned. When dinner rolled around I didn’t want to eat it. On the next day and the ones that followed, I wasn’t interested in lunch or dinner, though I made an effort at both.

Perhaps I contracted some very mild virus or food-borne illness whose main symptom was disinterest in food. Or perhaps my stomach just went on strike due to the new and unaccustomed schedule. Either way, it was a very regrettable thing to befall a person in a foodie city – especially since not only was the quality of the food high, but the klein aber fein principle did not apply — portions were huge, in some cases ridiculously so (not just in my estimation; Stelian, still in possession of his usual voracious appetite, could not finish some of his dinners). Now that I’m home, of course, my appetite is back to normal.

All of this is to explain why I won’t be waxing poetic about the world-famous tapas and seafood: because I didn’t eat much of it. Nevertheless, for anyone who happens to be going, I present this as a recommendation of a place with a lovely atmosphere, nice servers, and where the food I managed to eat tasted really good.

Now that’s out of the way, we can talk Gaudi. This aspect of the trip was everything that I had hoped it to be, and I left Spain not only with great memories and cherished pictures of the sites that I saw, but a fascination with the man himself.

So let me take a moment to introduce Antoni Gaudi, especially since I plan to devote more posts than this one to his masterpieces. This man epitomizes devotion to one’s work. He was born midway through the 19th century, and after receiving his degree in architecture in the 1870s, he was first allowed to design small things, like some of the city’s lampposts; later he moved on to more important buildings and acquired a wealthy benefactor, one Count Guell, who commissioned him for, among other things, a mansion and a park. By the turn of the century, he was working fervently on the Sagrada Familia, a project whose completion he knew would not occur in his lifetime. He never married and apparently displayed little interest in women. He also took few pains with his appearance, so that when, in 1926, he was struck by the tram that would kill him while crossing the street near the Sagrada Familia, he was assumed to be a beggar and not given immediate aid.

Let’s have a look at Gaudi’s magnum opus, then. The first stone of the Sagrada Familia (or, in English, Church of the Sacred Family) was laid in 1882, and the current estimate is that the work needed to fully realize Gaudi’s vision will be completed in 2026. There is something so cool about visiting such a monumental site and knowing that it is, in fact, still being developed, day by day — there are still towers going up and sculptors chipping away. Also, the church’s completed Nativity façade is one of the most visually stunning things that I have encountered in my travels (though Stelian and another male tourist standing near us came to a mutual assessment that it was “too busy” for their taste). But I’ll cease chattering now and let you take in this wonder too.

Church entrance/Passion façade

Detail of Passion façade

Nave

Inside one of the church's towers

Nativity façade

Detail of Nativity façade

As indicated, more posts on this great city are forthcoming! But for those eager to see all the pictures now, please visit my Picasa album here.

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4 thoughts on “Barcelona Part I: Losing my appetite, feasting my eyes

  1. I am overwhelmed! Such a lot of beauty to take in. The detail of the Sacred Family Basilica is stunning and it is indeed a marvel to stand in a place which is still be built after all these years.
    What a disappointment that your tummy rejected all that interesting food. Oh well, there will be another time, another place to remedy that.
    I’m so glad you enjoyed your few days in Spain – how is your Spanish by the way?

  2. The photos are stunning! I like the intricacy but prefer simplicity over so much happening in the carvings. You’ll have to go back for the tapas someday …

  3. I guess “busy” could be used to describe that architecture – but “mesmerizing” works well! And too bad about losing your appetite around such great food. A good excuse for a return trip!

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