Sunday, August 19, 2007

Barcelona, the Catalan capital

Barcelona is the metropolitan capital of Catalunya, the northeast region of Spain. Barcelona was the center of the resistance against Franco during the Spanish civil war and even today, the catalans peacefully wish for independence from the Spanish state. Thus, Barcelona has a strong revolutionary feel to it. Laura grew up just a 25 minute train ride away from the center of the city. The city is well known for its Catalan restaurants, Gaudi architecture, street performers on La Rambla, and beautiful beaches. Laura and I spent 2 weeks with her parents and decided to spend some of our time photographing the city for the blog.

One of our first days was the paella contest at Festa Major in Sant Fost de Campsentelles. Sant Fost is Laura's home town and Festa Major is an annual fair in the town. The paella contest is a big draw as numerous groups/families create their best paella for judges. Paella is a rice dish that is extremely flavorful. The rice is generally cooked with various meats and seafood to create an incredibly tasty dish. Entries to the contest are judged upon taste, appearance, and creativity. I'd really like to know how one can become a judge for the contest. Here is a creative "tour de france" paella.

Along with the contest, Festa Major funds are used to pay the best paella restaurant in town to create a huge community paella. It's a real treat to watch this paella get created. Three gigantic water pots are set above small bonfires to get water boiling. Once the water has reached proper temperature, the cooking pan fire is started and rice and water is added to the pan. Ingredients are slowly added upon the direction of the restaurant owner, an elder man probably in his 80s. The chefs bring him spoonfuls of the paella concoction for tasting and he then directs them on what needs to be added. The result is a huge line of people awaiting their dish of paella. Here's a few photos from the largest paella I've ever seen.

Many people say if you could only do one thing in Barcelona, you should walk down La Rambla. It's a huge pedestrian walkway that travels from the center of the city to the beach. La Rambla is lined with tourist shops, restaurants, and most importantly, street performers.

The street performers range from dancers to statues to painters to... well, lets just say anything under the sun. For me, the most impressive of them are the statues. Here are a couple of the statues along our Rambla walk.

Halfway down La Rambla, you will find Mercat St. Josep, commonly knowns as La Boqueria. This market has some of the most beautiful and tasty food a person will ever find. It's always loaded with people coming from La Rambla and pictures are the only way to do it justice.

After walking up and down La Rambla, we walked up Passeig de Gracia to capture some photos of Antoni Gaudi's architecture. Here are photos of the Pedrera and the Casa Batllo along Passeig de Gracia.

Gaudi designed numerous buildings in Barcelona and also designed a beautiful park (Parque Guell) in the city. For most, though, his crowning achievement has to be the still unfinished cathedral, La Sagrada Familia. Gaudi died when La Sagrada Familia was being built and city officials debated for years on whether or not to continue his work. Gaudi had the habit of changing his designs as the design was being build and many felt that La Sagrada Familia should not be completed based on his plans because he himself never would have followed them. Now, the decision has been made to complete La Sagrada Familia and therefore, in our lifetime, you won't be able to get a photo of it without a crane in the way. The cathedral is being built completely on private funds as Gaudi had wished. It's the most identifiable building in all of Barcelona. Click here for further info and a picture of the model which shows how the exterior will look upon completion.

Finally, just walking along the streets of the jewish community is a great experience. The streets are small and laden with restaurants, shops, and cafes. It's quite easy to find yourself a glass of sangria, an ice cream, or some tapas.

Sorry, no pictures of the beach. Too many beautiful topless women and afraid google would stop me from blogging!

Barcelona is a special place for Laura and I. We grew up as a couple there and it's become a special place to both of us.


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Anonymous said...

What an awesome sounding trip!

Best regards from CO!

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Derek said...

I watch a lot of The Travel Channel and I think you guys should propose a show to the network. Perhaps you could call it "Continental Drift with Laura and Jeremy". Just a thought - you probably have better things to do than get paid to travel.

Great stuff! Keep it up.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful! Thanks for sharing such a memorable and special place with us. I will look forward to more.


J.Pallotta said...

Hey Derek,

Are you a fan of "Passport to Europe"? Samantha Brown drives me crazy... I can't stand watching her!!

Josh said...

Barcelona always will have a space in my heart. This is a lovely city where everybody can find something in accordance with its hobbies, everybody feels at ease in Barcelona!!! Why? Has all the things that you can imagine: beach, mountain, museums, discos, sea, parks, zoo, aquarium, Olympic village, interesting buildings, a lot of hotels in Barcelona, old churches, market places, big stores... Barcelona is "AMICS PER SEMPRE" (in Catalan language, ALWAYS FRIENDS)!