A quiet day in Barcelona

September 3, 2017 - Barcelona, Spain

At last we had a chance to relax and we took full advantage of it. It was 9am before we got up this morning, partly because of some busy days and early mornings and partly because the window of our room opens into an atrium where there is only a feeble bit of sunshine in the mornings and evenings. By the time we walked out to look for breakfast it was probably 11.30am but we thought we should keep up our tradition of a large breakfast to fuel up for the day and then save the next fuel stop for the evening. Last time we were in Barcelona we discovered a plush little place, the Restaurante Ferran that served a pretty good English Breakfast yet was usually very quiet so we made our way along the Carrer de Ferran. We were not disappointed. This morning, and at this hour we were the only people inside. The food and coffee was as we remembered. Good juice, good coffee, fried eggs and bacon with little Spanish sausages, grilled tomatoes and toast. The toast is made from little round Spanish buns so is really crunchy. Difficult to cut if you stick to Australian ways and try to pile eggs and tomato on top of your toast but still good to eat. (Does nobody else in the world put cooked breakfast on top of their toast?) €20 saw us well fed and even with a second coffee to rev us up.

We intended to go to see the Pavilion of Mies van der Rohe that Kevin McCloud is often banging on about so we planned to try out the Metro to get there. From the café we walked back to the Hotel Espanya for our tourist trappings, bags, cameras etc., and went down into the Metro to try our hand at wrangling a ticket from the machines. We had stopped in yesterday to look at what was required and we managed up to the point of payment of €4.30 for our two tickets. After trying all four possible orientations of a €20 note and having it rejected I elected to use the Visa card. While the machine was printing the tickets and relinquishing control of my card we heard a train come and go. 'Oh, well', we thought, 'at least we will know how long between trains'.

As it turned out we walked on to the platform where there was a digital sign to say 'PROPER TREN 3:28' (Next train in 3:28 minutes I guess). Sure enough the sign counted down and the train arrived so we piled on board. It was relatively busy but we found a seat and headed for Plaça d'Espanya where we again rose into the daylight.

It was a relatively short walk from there toward the Palau Nacional and the Font Màgica de Montjuïc where we found signs directing us. The pavilion was built originally for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition and dismantled again in 1930. Because the design became an architectural benchmark for the period the Barcelona Urban Designers decided it should be rebuilt and it was opened again in 1986.

The design is a radical departure from the more robust traditional building styles of the period, and the Palau Nacional at the top of the hill and also built for the 1929 International Exhibition makes for a good counterpoint in architectural styles. The narrow columns and cantilevered concrete slabs give it a very open feel with plenty of light and yet shaded throughout. We wandered around taking photographs of the architecture and, in my case, of one particular guy in a white 'T' shirt who always seemed to walk into the middle of my frame and then stop to play with his phone. I don't know if he was texting his friend, taking notes or trying to take photos but he seemed to appear everywhere.

From the pavilion we walked up to the top of the steps at the Palau Nacional for the view back toward old Plaça del Toros which has become a shopping centre since the Catalans banned bullfighting. Laura told us in passing that the Madrid Government (spoken with slight contempt) is now trying to say that the Catalan Province had no right to do that. Perhaps with an eye to the tourist potential that is being exploited in places like Pamplona.

The Metro took us back to Liceu station (after another fumble with the ticket machines) and then we headed back to the hotel for a swim and a few beers in the rooftop terrace. Although one (slight) reason for choosing this hotel was the atmosphere of the rooftop terrace we haven't had much opportunity to use the pool so today was the day. The way the terrace is organised there is usually a quiet place to sit back and enjoy a drink and tapas without feeling you are cheek by jowl with the rest of the crowd.

Suitably refreshed we then retired to our room to do some work on the journal and our photographs from the last few days. Feeling better for our swim and then our earnest endeavours with the photos we headed out at 7.45pm to find some dinner. Well, we really knew where we were headed. My Way Restaurante is one that we knew from 2015 and it has a good reputation for food, drink and atmosphere.

As we approached the Carrer d'en Rauric we were saying how we had been met last time by a young man who encouraged us to try the restaurant. This time a young woman stepped forward with a flyer that we could take to the restaurant and trade for a glass of cava. Same old, same old. We told her that was our plan and took the brochure anyway and went to 'My Way' anyway.

Our hostess? (greeter, maitre d', mistress d'hote) led us to a table upstairs and handed us over to an effusive waiter called Stefan. I think they have a very careful selection process for their staff. Two years ago we had a very 'over the top' Spaniard with a curly moustache. This time our waiter treated us like old friends every time he approached the table. We tried hard to pick his accent. Some English in there but also some Continental so we had to ask. He said he was brought up in the UK (no mention of where) but was born in France and now is obviously in Spain. He also suggested he will sometimes adopt a bit of a Northern English accent to make people more comfortable. As he worked the tables around us I tried to listen to his accent which ranged from sort of French, to Spanish, to Scouse and with maybe a bit of Italian thrown in, depending which table he was serving. I think I would get confused even if I could imitate enough accents. Where are Rob Bryden and Steve Coogan these days? Last we saw they were on 'The Trip to Spain'.

Our meal was everything we had expected. First a glass of Cava as an aperitif, then some toasted bread spread with a tomato pesto (compliments of the kitchen) before Max tucked in to a piece of Sirloin that was perfectly cooked and melted in your mouth while Margaret picked her way delicately around a plate of lamb ribs which must have been just as good as they were gnawed right to the bone. To finish we had a Crème Catalana (Crème Caramel although slightly softer and dressed with a blueberry) and a coffee each. When we asked for the bill we were first presented with a shot of a liqueur coffee. A shot glass with a layer of liqueur (unknown type) beneath a layer of hot espresso, and topped with cream dusted with a little chocolate powder.

We stopped in the foyer of our hotel on our return to buy tickets to the Sagrada Familia and to the St Pau Recinte Modernista. Both should be worth a visit. It was a bit of a fiddle to print our tickets as we had no real instruction on the use of the printer. In fact the tickets for St Pau were sent by email and we had to retrieve that and work out a different approach to the printing of those but it was all OK in the end and clutching our tickets we went up to bed.


'Dawn' reflected
Looking along the pavilion to the sculpture
Font Màgica de Montjuïc
Looking toward Plaça d'Espanya from Palau Nacional
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