Monday, September 16, 2013

Day trip to Barcelona to see Tintin exhibit and renovated market

Thursday morning and it was time for a long overdue visit to Barcelona. We particularly wanted to see the Herge exhibit at the Museum de Catalunya before it closed at the end of September. For those of you who don't know, Herge was the Belgian author of the Tintin books that continue to sell four million copies a year in more than fifty languages.

Herge drew on the news stories and books of the day. On display were clippings of articles about fascist plots, ships, pictures of the desert and the race to the moon. There were postcards, catalogs and even a book about Rasputin. Entertainers such as Rudolph Valentino were also included in his books, Valentino in Cigars of the Pharaoh. Each display featured a different book and all the clippings and other materials that Herge used for that particular book. The pictures, when compared with the originals, are remarkably accurate.

It was really interesting to see how Herge had developed his colourful books from events of the time. And of course it is easy see how the books still retain their popularity today.

After a short walk we arrived in El Born. Our first stop was the new Mercat de Princessa, which is really a number of tapas bars with beautiful displays of meats, breads, sausages, desserts and wines on display. We didn't stop for anything to eat today but we will go back there the next time we stay in el Born.

We continued our walk to the old El Born Market, which reopened the day before. The giant market was built in the late 1870s and has had a varied history. It has been both a  retail and then wholesale market. The nearby and smaller Santa Catarina market always did more business than its giant neighbour. Eventually the rundown El Born market closed in 1971. Changing governments had different plans for the market. In 2002 renovations were underway to make the site the Provincial Library of Barcelona, when medieval remains were discovered. We have passed the 'under construction' market for many years and tried to peek behind the hoardings. We were quite excited that now we could visit the market.

Initially we were quite surprised that there is no market on the site today. In fact Seamus had some difficulty coming to grips with this. It didn't matter though, the building is magnificent with its high ceiling and 19th century cast iron architecture.

The archeological excavations show what life was like in the 1700s at the time of the Siege of Barcelona. You can clearly see the remains of the houses and the roads. The people of Barcelona loved their sweets and were very social as they are today. You can clearly see the remnants of the ice house that provided ice for the favourite granitas, shaved ice drinks. The big vat where the brandy was made is quite prominent. The attack at the time of the siege devastated the site.

Notarized documentation exists about the area so that it is known who lived in the buildings. At the sides of the market or cultural centre are museums showing daily life in the area with lots of ceramics and displays and a war room. We will visit these next time we are in Barcelona.

We did visit the restaurant or tapas bar for a beer and some beautiful pan tomat, grilled wonderful, multigrain bread with tomato rubbed in it. Delicious. At one end of the restaurant was a huge nine-screen display showing the stages of the magnificent renovation.

After a quick visit to the nearby Santa Catarina market to admire the food displays, we went to the adjoining Market restaurant, our favourite, for lunch. We had an odd non Spanish lunch of a 'melt in your mouth' Thai chicken curry and oriental ribs that came with rice wraps, strings of cucumber and a black bean paste. We were instructed to eat them like Peking Duck. Never having had Peking Duck we were a bit baffled for a minute but managed to eat the delicious concoction with no difficulty.

A window shopping walk up the incredibly busy Passeig de Gracias finished our day. Unsure about the time of the Figueres train, we made it to the platform with two minutes to spare.

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