I had purchased a Barcelona Card in advance of my trip. It gives you free entrance to many museums, discounts at others, and free travel on most local transit. (check it out and crunch the numbers to see if it would work for you, it did for me). I missed the opportunity to pick it up at the airport in my zombie-like state from lack of sleep, so I went to pick it up at the Barcelona Tourism offices at Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol.
The city was getting ready for Xmas and had a tree and an artful nativity set up in the square:
Not much to report huh, you town’s got one too? Well for me it was an epiphany, because for the first time I saw a cat in a nativity scene. It only makes sense, what kind of barn doesn’t have a cat or two? I was to learn soon, that the Catalans take their nativity scenes seriously….kind of.
It turns out, I was in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona and hadn’t realized it, Dumb luck, as I had wanted to see it anyway. Lots cool things to see. Small ally-ways and streets, and for some reason a Swedish flag.
I didn’t have anything planned for the day and decided to wander over to a food market I had read about and had someone I’d met in Geneva recommend to me, Mercado de La Boqueria. It was just of La Rambla, and I figured I’d grab a bite and then walk around and grab some postcards to send back home.
While en route, I came across this amazing building that had a Japanese theme. It’s a bank now, but looks very much like a stereotypical view of Japan from about 100 years ago as seen by a European architect.
Photos do not do it justice. The giant dragon lamp is so impressive, a friend of mine’s husband got a tattoo of it. Once again, dumb luck I walked by it. I had no idea it existed.
I found the market and all of my senses received a shovel to the head. All the fruits, vegetables, and meats you can imagine are for sale in dozens of stalls. If you are vegan or vegetarian, be very wary. They have it all: tripe, kidneys, fish, jamón on the bone with hoof, and sheep’s heads with intact eyeballs (don’t worry, they did some of the work for you, they are at least skinned). If you are from America, or any other place where you food comes neatly wrapped in plastic, this will all be a jolt. But if you eat, you will find something here you like. They have a few bars serving food and drink as well.
I picked up a few things to snack on and then decided to hit La Rambla. As I was walking towards a museum I wanted to check out, I found another that I had a hard time passing up, Museu Eròtic de Barcelona. For those of you who do not speak Catalan, that is the Erotic Museum of Barcelona. I quick look through the Barcelona Card guidebook they gave me said that they have many exhibits showing erotic art from ancient times until today. You also get a discounted admission with the Barcelona Card. Fine. I’ll check it out, but only for educational aspects of erotica through the ages. It was all very interesting. Most of it I was somewhat familiar with, history studies is not all battles and even more battles, but I was shocked to learn Spain’s King Alfonso XIII produced silent porn films! Some of which still exist and are on a loop at the museum.
Once I was done at the Erotic Museum, or maybe Museum of Erotica, the museum itself wasn’t very erotic (unless museums are you thing), I decided to head towards the Jamón Experience. It was discounted with the card, but when I arrived it wasn’t open yet. I looked around the shop and grabbed a sandwich at their take away stall and palled my next move.
I was a few blocks away from Barcelona Cathedral and I had read there was an Xmas market there so I took off in that direction. While en route, I found another square where they had a few stalls set up where people were selling homemade foods. Jams, cheese, honey, etc. Can a man not walk a few blocks without being bombarded by foodstuffs he needs to buy?!?!?!
I finally found the cathedral and the annual Fira de Santa Llúcia Market. It was about lunchtime and it was packed. The day before was Constitution Day and the next day was The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, two big holidays here. I’m guessing kids were out of school and most people took off work to get a 5 day weekend. I did my best to look around for Xmas gifts for the folks back home but it was too crowded. I gambled it would be less crowded later in my trip.
I walked towards the cathedral which was less crowded than the market. I am a sucker for big, old churches. I took lots of photos of the outside statues.
I declined to go inside, as there seemed to be a steady crowd coming and going who were probably doing religious things so I figured I’d stay out of their way. The outside was nice enough.
While admiring the outside of the church, I happened to notice I was at the Museu d’Història de Barcelona MUHBA, or in Anglès, the Barcelona History Museum! I had wanted to check it out, and when I found out you got free admission with the Barcelona Card (I swear this is not an ad for it), I was sold.
The coolest thing is that you get to descend below ground and walk above the Roman era remains that were unearthed years ago. The audio guide was included and was quite interesting. There are many sites that are under the Museu d’Història de Barcelona MUHBA banner, which may cover other eras of the city’s history. The location covers mainly Roman era and a the period a few hundred years after the Romans split.
Having taken in the Gothic Quarter, food, erotic history, the Christmas maket, and Roman ruins, I decided I’d had enough for the day and hit the metro back to the hotel. Friday was to begin early with a bus ride to Andorra.