Thursday, April 24, 2008

An extraordinary day

By any standards, yesterday was a wonderful day to be in Barcelona. The sun shone all day as the city (and Catalunya) celebrated Sant Jordi when every man has to give a red rose to his beloved and in return receive a book. 

The streets were packed with rose sellers, some from florists, others who'd just bought a dozen or so and set up a table at a street corner. And book stalls were everywhere with readings, signings across the city. If it was not quite the city of love, it was at least a city of blissful happiness. 

Having no beloved here (she is in London) I did the next best thing and bought roses for some proxies who I happen to like and who I would see that day. Rebecca of course, Elvira, our cleaner, and Vicky and (another) Rebecca, the mother and daughter team who run the polloeria in Galvany market where I buy my chickens.

Best of all, they opened up the magnificent town hall for the one day only and I got to look round the mayor's office (and saw the mayor) the council chamber and most of all, the vast and  wonderful salo de cent, the 14th century great hall where the council of 100 deputies sat as one of the earlier examples of representative local government. 

Oh yes there was a football match on as well; the one I hoped would never happen between Manchester United and Barca. As a spectacle - a packed camp nou full  of cules in their best voice - it was extraordinary, and to be there with Ben was something I will always remember.  

My two favourite football teams, my son, the best stadium anywhere, a fine havana cigar and a bocadillo pernil amb tomate. I'm easily satisfied ... 

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Still a great place for food

It seems we hadnt been out to eat in a while but then came a mighty rush this week, all proving that, despite the trailer trash levels that the pound now stands at against the euro, you can eat amazingly well here for very little money. 

Here goes:

  • Thursday night: Cuines de Santa Caterina. An old favourite but still packing them into the huge canteen style tables for great market-style fusion cooking ranging from Gorgonzola risotto to tuna and avocado tartare via thai chicken curry. Ten of us ate here for under £200
  • Friday night: El Japones de Tragaluz. Same owners as the above; a very stylish Japanese. We'd been told to avoid the sushi but the hot dishes and desserts were all more than up to par. Japanese pizza and mandarin sorbet are not to be missed.  Four of us for £55.
  • Today. Went with a huge group to the Castell de Rocamora in Montferri, about an hour south of Barcelona for a calcotada - a feast of eating calcots, the wierd and wonderful leek/onion crosses that are just ending their season. 
You basically thrown a whole mass of these things on the fire to cook, let them cool a little and then serve them at the open air table. You get your bib on, strip the outer leaves, dip them in romesco sauce (almonds, tomato, oil, vinegar) and shovel them down your throat.  They're delicious, very moreish and pretty windy.

After getting through several dozen of these (see aftermath above) you then go inside for the rest of the lunch - sausages, black pudding, lamb chips, chips, salad, profiteroles, red and white wine and cava. The cost?  £30 a head ...

Possibly the best football ground in the world

A strong candidate would be the Campo de Futbol de Carmelo where I watched Ben play on Saturday morning. Sadly I didn't have my camera with me, but if you imagine a football pitch carved high into the rocks of a mountain you have it. 

The mountain is actually Barcelona's Park Guell, home to several Gaudiesque follies, high above the city. The ground has a neat little grandstand on one side, so you can watch the game and get this stunning view of the city and the sea beneath you. It was a glorious sunny morning on Saturday which made sitting there even more blissful. 

There was, as with all these clubs, a splendid cafe which served a bacon baguette of some brilliance. That, a decent cup of tea, and a variety of podcasts on my iPod Touch; what more could a man ask for?

Oh yes, the football. Ben's team went three down, fought back to 4-4 and lost 6-9. Which was a whole lot better than the previous week's 15-0 defeat ...