Saturday, October 29, 2011

Barcelona: Gothic Quarters

One of the charms of Europe is its well-preserved history. Being a history buff, I love ambling through those narrow, cobble-stoned alleys, trying to visualize how these old towns and city-square must have looked during their prime. I had spent the better part of a day traipsing through Gaudi’s unconventional buildings and monuments; and then on the last day here, I discovered the more familiar Gothic architecture in Barri Gotic. Barri Gotic is the center of what used to be the old city of Barcelona, with several buildings and churches dating back to the Roman empire. The most famous landmark here is the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia.

The Cathedral is large, impressive and still a functioning church. As the story goes, Saint Eulalia was actually a very young girl, they say thirteen, when she was killed by Roman soldiers in a barbaric manner. Another reminder of how much blood has been spilt in the name of religion over the ages. Apparently after several rounds of torture, she was stripped, put in a barrel with knives stuck into it, and then rolled down a street. The cloister within the walls of the cathedral still has thirteen white geese to remind people of her age when she was martyred.

We took a tiny elevator to the top of the cathedral to get a panoramic view of the surroundings before strolling down the alleys with their quaint little shops. Masks, antiques, clothing, jewellery, pastries and legs of Iberian ham jostled for attention. Sunlight barely entered these narrow alleys until we reached Pla├ža Reial, a square with several open air cafes.

After glasses of Sangria we continued on looking for a place to have lunch. We finally decided to try a tiny place called Meson Jesus. This family-run restaurant was exactly what we were looking for. We could see the owner busy chopping greens one one side, while red checkered table-cloth added color to the cosy little room filled with old artifacts. The menu was fixed but the food excellent. By the time we got done, the place was filled with locals – not one tourist in sight.

I started with chilled gazpacho which was so good! The main course was sausage with chips followed by a delicious dessert of Catalan Creme, a local version of Creme Brulee. The house wine and bread were pretty good too. Dare I say perfect? If you are in the Gotic area at lunch time, do try. Meson Jesus is located at C/ Cecs de la Boqueria, 4, 08002 Barcelona.

After spending some more time we walked out through a busy marketplace selling the most colourful spices and fruits with the ubiquitous legs of ham everywhere on display.

The spices and fruits reminded me it was the Spanish who brought so many of today’s staples into the rest of the world when they accidentally discovered the Americas. They went hunting for black pepper and nutmug but came back with chilli peppers, vanilla beans and tomatoes!

Previously in this series: Lip-Smacking Tapas & Paella
First in this series: In Catalan Country

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