Barcelona (June 6, 2013)

Last day in Barcelona: Casa Batllo, Parc Guell, and tapas omekase.

Woke up and got a latish start in the day. Acquired empanadas at the market and headed for a museum that sounded like a cross between the Isabella Stewart Gardner and some crazy hoarders house.

decorative stonework under an archway on our walk

We never made it there because it turned out that in the plaza across Via Laietana from us there was a flea market. We ended up killing the time we had pre-zipcar-reservation there, where Eric bought Kendra another small sword, I found an art nouveau pin, and Eric got some cufflinks.

Then we hopped in the car and headed for the airport. Unfortunately it turned out Kendra’s phone wasn’t interoperating with the Spanish provider, and she’d gotten directions to where cars were dropping passengers off, while we had parked and gone to arrivals. So we killed over an hour waiting in different places and hoping to meet up, which was frustrating.
Eventually we made it back to the flat, showered, and headed out for food and afternoon entertainment.

This is still the stairs to our flat. Now: more noire!

We had late “lunch” (5pm), at the restaurant at the market, which was tasty and included 3 different ways of preparing artichoke. Then we headed to Casa Batllo.

The entrance fee was step, but I’m glad to have now proven that Gaudi just isn’t for me. It was a perpetual case of almost-but-not-quite, and very frustrating. I love his curves and complete attention to details, and some of his proportions, but I just don’t like his ornaments, or the mosaics. I do like all the skeletal imagery at though.

Then it was off to Parc Guell. We took a taxi on the theory that it was more efficient and less money than 3 subway fares. Again, glad to have seem it (and the views of the city) but I’m thoroughly done with Gaudi now.

(I will say, having recently re-read William Gibson’s “Count Zero”, I had this strange thrill of recognition, as I encountered Virek’s preferred virtual reality setting and could visualize all of it in detail, whereas before it had just seemed like a perfectly Gibson-esque place description, but not like a real place in the real world. How wrong I was.)

We went back to the flat and got changed, and went to Cal Pep for dinner on Kate Stine’s recommendation. She described it as something like tapas omekase and it was pretty much that, full of things we never would have ordered on our own. We were worried when the restaurant was just a single bar with a dozen seats and a line of more than a 20 people going the length of the restaurant, but they kept people moving and we were seated at the bar in less than half an hour at 10pm (prime Barcelona dinner time). The chef asked what we ate, suggested a list of things off which I understood less than half, and we just nodded enthusiastically.
We started with whole baby anchovies, deep fried in cornmeal, charred peppers of some kind, with no heat, but a deep bitter green flavor that went well with the fish, which weren’t fishy at all. There were clams or cockles in some tasty broth, and squid with something very much like ratatouille. There was some kind of potato torte, and the normal bread-with-oil-and-tomato. The last thing was described as carpaccio, but turned out to be wafer-thin slices of monk fish, with more olive oil, tiny bits of pineapple, dried tomato. The waiter was a hoot, and kept serving us of the serving plates, insisting we finish what we were given. When we protested we were full he made a very sad face. I had been hoping for the amazing-looking creme Catalan we’d seen other diners getting (which was branded with a hot iron to say “CAL PEP”), but instead he gave us four shots of flavored whip cream, which was actually perfect for folks who said they wanted dessert but also protested they were full of dinner. One was an intense lemon, one was orange with a little burnt sugar on top, one was pineapple with pineapple chunks on the bottom and one was more or less chocolate mousse. I had gotten red wine, and Kendra had gotten white. They brought a small glass for each of us, and set the bottles on the bar. Eric was worried we’d bought a bottle of each, but I said that Kate had said they’d just kept pouring, and in fact at the end of the meal, they charged us for a glass of each (though I’d killed almost half a bottle of very nice rioja). so all in all a very successful last dinner in Barcelona.