So, everyone says Barcelona’s for foodies, right? To be fair, we have been stopping at our share of tapas restaurants in the past 36 hours, but the two real attractions we’ve had in our sights have been the Museu de la Xocolata (the Museum of Chocolate) and a candy shop that Devon’s brother brought us back sweets from during their family trip to Barcelona last year.
So we set off on foot this morning and almost made it. Wound our way down la Rambla, around and into the Cathedral, through the old Jewish quarter and past a freakishly loud firefighter’s strike at City Hall (note: not clear that firefighters should be allowed to use their sirens when they’re not technically at work). Explored the gorgeous, narrow, twisty streets of the Gothic quarter and made it this close (holds thumb and index finger about 500 meters apart) to the steps of the Picasso Museum before jet lag nailed us and we beat a retreat back to the apartment for a siesta.
Once we’d rejuvenated ourselves with a couple of hours of face-in-the-pillow time we managed to extract the kids with bribes and promises for another attempt. Navigated the bus system and found ourselves on the steps of the fabled Chocolate Museum. At the end of it all, we didn’t go into the museum proper, but ordered a few cups of their famed chocolate caliente – thick as mud and dark as a moonless night. Got as collectively buzzed as a hive of honeybees (look at me with all the similes, eh?) and found ourselves with enough energy to scramble to the Picasso Museum and blitz through 50 years of the artist’s work in something like half an hour. Which was fortunate, because that was all we had before they closed for the evening. Still, great fun, given how little time we had, which we mostly spent around his interpretation of Velasquez’s Las Meninas. There was Picasso’s interpretation of the piece, but also three rooms of variations and studies of the various characters that let you get your head around his thinking as he approached the final piece. Even the kids got into it.
Once we were out on the street again, Devon reminded me that there was this place somewhere in Ciutat Vella, a candy shop called Pappabubble that she’d been obsessing about. They made these cute little hard candies with designs on them. Now, I’m not a hard candy kind of guy, but fine: she’d accommodated enough of my capricious quests, I ought to indulge her in one of hers, right?
And wow. I’m so glad I did. Because I was envisioning a Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory kind of place, some teenagers up front with bins of candy being churned out by a stack of machines in back, or more likely, a bunch of pallets of stuff shipped in from China. But this was…amazing. They had a couple of large tables behind plexiglass: a “hot” table where big chunks of flavored sugar putty were formed by hand, and a “cold” table where it was allowed to stiffen, and there were two guys who hand assembled, pressed, shaped and formed it all into an enormous 8 kg log of Tootsy Roll-consistency with the pattern shape embedded in the middle. But the candies in the bags were something like a quarter inch in diameter – where was the incredible Shrink-o-tron machine? Once the log was assembled They didn’t need it. Guy Number One grabbed one end and drew it out into a long strand, picked up his knife and whacked off an 18 in segment which he passed along to Guy Number Two to roll into a uniform consistency. They repeated this with amazing speed and precision working their way through probably a quarter of the log while we watched, mesmerized, for close to half an hour. They seemed pleased to have an audience, and happy to chat with us while they worked, and when we left, we felt like we really ought to have paid them much more for the bags of gorgeous little masterpieces we carried away.
(We did, eventually, stop for non-sugar nutrition at a fun Basque Taverna near the waterfront, where everyone found tasty stuff with which to indulge themselves, then negotiated public transit back to the apartment to immerse ourselves in internet. Tomorrow: the big double-decker tourist bus! Because, well, we need a break from the “walking” thing.)