Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Barcelona: I Am a Stuffed Spanish Olive

It's a lucky thing that we walk so much on these trips, because I eat so much. I am like a stuffed Spanish olive, like a fat sea scallop, like a roasted pigeon, like a plumped quenelle of miticrema, ...like...like...like...I'm hungry.

You know how Homer Simpson’s belly bulges from under his T-shirt? That’s me this evening after a late-night dinner at La Fonda, a lovely little place on Carrer Escudellers near Placa Reial.

Dinner here in Spain is so much later than I’m used to, but we must adapt or starve (!) so finally, after shedding the last vestiges of jet lag and really getting on track, we had tapas late in the afternoon and then trekked out to La Fonda at almost nine-thirty. Of course this place is no secret. It was recommended to me back in 1997 and it’s still the same, tasty home-cooking in an elegant setting, where two can still have three courses with a bottle of wine for 35 Euros.

Then, you may take my bloated tummy and me out in a wheelbarrow.

We started today out with a relaxed plan which mostly worked quite well. A trip up to Placa Espanya and a stroll to the Museu Nacional dArt de Catalunya (or MNAC) was quite pleasant, especially since yesterday’s clouds moved off, giving us the bright Barcelona sunlight mixed with cool Mediterranean breezes.

The MNAC is up on the top of Montjuic, a reclaimed area that had been set up for the 1929 Exposition that um... didn’t do so well after the stock market crash. But Montjuic was used for the 1992 Olympics and it’s a pretty classy looking hill now, especially the MNAC part, which is like a giant palace.

After climbing the stairs to the top we paused for the spectacular view back over the city, as a Spanish guitarist strummed away on the steps.

In the distance you can see the church of the Sacred Heart perched up on the Tibidabo mountain and in the haze, the ever present looming spires of the Sagrada Familia lurk with attendant construction cranes. Then there’s the curious cigar-shaped building we see lit up at night. It looks a bit like the “Gherkin” in London, but a blue gherkin.

Inside the MNAC is a fantastical array of art – everything from reconstructions of Romanesque church interiors that are a thousand years old, to El Grecos and Titians. It’s a bit of a mishmash, but a really pleasant one.

Of course, by this time we’ve worked up an appetite and so it’s a stop at the restaurant. I’m starting to feel a little self-conscious that every time I start a conversation with an admittedly accented, “Si us plau, voldria una…” they hand us an English menu.

After seeing all the cod in the Boqueria yesterday, I decided that it has to be cod, which I have to say is delicious, but I find a little bit chewy. Maybe it’s the curing process. The kalamata olive stuff drizzled around the edge of the plate though is terrific.

From the MNAC, we walk down to the Miro museum, conscious that we’ve been whiling away the afternoon and now we’re cutting into siesta time. Still, we take a couple of hours to go through the museum, which is full of unruly student groups. I have a feeling Miro would have liked their sort of dedicated unruliness though. The museum is filled with fanciful pieces that span his career, from the giant tapestry to small sketches. One I found amusing was his morphing of his own name “Miro” to the word “Mierda.”

My Dad calls this one "The Bunny."

There was also a fascinating sculpture by Alexander Calder called the Mercury Fountain, part mobile, pushed by the motion of a large pool of liquid mercury. (No health hazard there…) It’s not something you see often and I have to say, the running of the mercury is incredibly mesmerizing.

From the Miro museum we trotted down to the tramway, where we braved the wait and the vertigo to ride down the airtram to the Port Vell. I’ve always wanted to ride on the thing, but I have to say, they always warn you not to look down… Don’t look down.

A brief siesta at the hotel and we were ready to venture out to the Ramblas again for dinner. La Fonda is still as popular as it was back in 1997, and the line still stretched along the side. And it’s still worth it.

There was a plate of those lovely little meaty garlic olives to start and we were off and running. A red pepper spread on toast with savory greens and a gigantic paella that we couldn’t possibly finish was the bulk of our meal. Is it me, or are the langoustines staring at me? I have trouble with food that watches me.

The rest was delicious though, and put me in mind of the Boqueria again. Tomorrow, I think we have to begin to gather our food supplies.

With dinner we had a Castilian wine which I chose because it was made from Tempranillo and very hearty/tasty. And to finish it all off, we shared a crema catalana, the local version of crème brulee. We ate it before I could even get the camera out.

Waddle me home, please.


Anonymous said...

hhmmm.... I had Cheerios for breakfast and toast and packaged prosciutto for lunch. Dinner will probably be toast and soppressata. Boy I've got you beat!....or not. :-(

Mary Ellen Hunt said...

Um...maybe not beat... you ARE getting one serious bundle of food items, by the way....