I hope you enjoyed a wonderful New Year’s celebration and, whether you hit the slopes, managed a getaway, or binge-watched Making a Murderer, you were able to spend the holiday weekend doing what you love most. You know that my goal here at Year of Months, is to not let the years slip by – to make the most of the days that fill the months that create the year. Even doing this, it’s still hard to believe that it’s 2016! But, here we are, with a new year of months to start filling up.
After a lazy day on Friday recovering from ringing in the New Year, RF and I spent Saturday in the Gothic Quarter. Our quest began in search of Plaça del Pi, which is actually two adjacent squares in the shadow of the 14th Century church Santa Maria del Pi. One side houses a small farmer’s market, the other is the weekend home of the Pintors del Pi art market. Pintors del Pi was our intended destination, but as we made our way through the weathered stone corridors to the square, we got distracted by bakery windows filled with decadent sweets, painted plaques telling stories of the neighborhood, and colorful displays of locally-made crafts.
Finally, the rose window of Santa Maria del Pi crept into view leading us to a series of vendors displaying stacks of red and white checked lids on jewel-toned jam jars, lines of honey pots glowing with amber liquid, and sweet smelling beeswax candles in various shapes and sizes. A kind man with a bushy white beard quickly spotted my weakness for cheese. He handed me a series of little white cubes speared by toothpicks, explaining the age and quality of each. I couldn’t resist a little wheel of the creamy young goat’s milk. He showed us a photo of his small village north of Barcelona. I asked him to hug one of his goats for me, explaining that I would have a farm full of critters of my own if I could.
Only about half of the artists were displaying their work when we first arrived in the Pintors square. Though there were many fine watercolors and oils, some on canvas other on wood, we kept returning to a particular painting knowing that it was probably our “one”. I, however, was incapable of sealing the deal with other options still locked away in their black leather portfolio cases. So, we agreed to have a bite to eat and return to determine if we might see everything before taking the plunge.
We crossed back over La Rambla on the hunt for El Mercat de la Boqueria, the massive food market with stall upon stall displaying bright mixes of fruit and plastic cups filled with their vivid juices, meat stands offering cones of thinly shaved salami or jamon and cheese, and a mix of tapas counters. Sadly, we arrived just as Bar Pinotxo was closing. We squeezed into the tightly packed stools at El Quim de la Boqueria instead and gorged ourselves on their spicy version of patatas bravas, deep fried padrons, Butifarra sausage with white beans and roasted tomato, and to die for shrimp in a dreamy garlic and cava sauce, perfect for sopping up with a chewy baguette.
Stuffed to the gills, we ambled back through yet another maze of streets to see if any new artwork might be in our future. Wandering back through the easels several more times, we kept returning to our boats. So, we had them pack it up!
We continued deeper into the Gothic Quarter after reading that dusk is one of the best times to view the Catedral de Barcelona. The dioceses dates back in official records to 343, with hints of a start in the late 3rd Century. Construction on this massive and ornate gothic cathedral began in 1298 and was completed in the mid 15th Century. Venturing through the structure is a profound experience. We’ve been to most of the major cathedrals in Italy – Milan, Florence, St. Peter’s – and I thought they all paled in comparison to this one. I really have no words, though heavenly and divine come appropriately close.
In yet another happy accident, we arrived just as the nativity in the cloister gardens was opening. The cloister is home to 13 white geese representing the age of Saint Eulalia when she was martyred. I couldn’t tell if the children enjoyed the geese more, or if the geese enjoyed the children – the two carried on lively conversations with each other through the fences. The geese live in a lovely central garden; though, the garden nativity figures paled in comparison to the surrounding advocations, a series of gilded chapels along the three main galleries.
We initially approached and entered the cathedral from the side. After passing in awe through the cloister and basilica, we exited at the front and were dumbfounded once again. The spiky stone towers jutted into the darkening blue sky. I scanned the carved facade trying to absorb every detail, but knowing that it would take me years to fully see them all. Lights began to filter from inside the stained glass windows. The entryway shone bright in the night. It is understandable, even to a heathen such as myself, how such a structure serves as a beacon.
Overwhelmed by architectural stimuli, we made our way back through the alleyways once again, tempted now by small, dark bars tucked into the ancient buildings, stopping in more small squares to admire fountains and bell towers and graffiti. We made it to the Plaça de Catalunya subway stop just before my feet gave out, making it home to rest our legs before embarking on yet another day of adventures on Sunday.
With only a few more days left in Barcelona, I’m feeling the pressure to fit everything in. Much like trying to take in every detail on the facade of a gothic cathedral, I know we will never be able to see it all…but, I have to at least try! To make the most of yet another year of months.