Our third day in Barcelona I decided to sleep in a little and by the time I was ready to go, Sissy told me she wanted to join me and Baby Groot for breakfast, which was extra special.
After breakfast Sissy went back to our room and I took off to roam the streets of Barcelona.
I had a few things on my itinerary and although some of them matched up with what Mom and Marion had, I had no idea which place they were at at this point because they had left earlier than me. I figured I would eventually run into them.
My first stop was the Picasso Museum which was located in the El Born quarter, that is right next to the Old Gothic quarter, so I didn’t have to far to walk.
The El Born quarter is filled with buildings that date from the late Medieval times and is filled with tons of little streets and alley ways.
The Picasso Museum is located in five medieval palaces that are linked together to make a museum. This was actually my favorite part of the museum, the buildings were really cool to walk around.
I had already purchased tickets ahead of time, so I walked right in and started to look around.
The collection, which includes more than 3500 artworks, has a lot on Picasso’s earliest years, up until 1904. Allegedly it was Picasso himself who proposed the museum’s creation in 1960, to his friend and personal secretary Jaume Sabartés, a Barcelona native. Three years later, the ‘Sabartés Collection’ was opened, since a museum bearing Picasso’s name would have been met with censorship – Picasso’s opposition to the Franco regime was well known. The Museu Picasso we see today opened in 1983. It originally held only Sabartés’ personal collection of Picasso’s art and a handful of works hanging at the Barcelona Museum of Art, but the collection gradually expanded with donations from Salvador Dalí and Sebastià Junyer Vidal, among others, though the largest part of the present collection came from Picasso himself. His widow, Jacqueline Roque, also donated 41 ceramic pieces and the Woman with Bonnet painting after Picasso’s death. The original collection still hangs in the Palau Aguilar.
I am not a big Picasso fan but earlier in the year the Los Angeles Art Museum had a special Picasso exhibit that held a lot of his earlier works, which I quite liked, so I was able to appreciate this museum a little more than expected.
I started to take a few pictures inside before I realized I was being “one of those tourist” who couldn’t read the signs that said “no pictures.” Whoops, luckily I overheard someone else getting in trouble for it before I got caught.
Here are a few of the pictures I was able to get of his early work.
Walking around I ended up running into the kids, which was perfect since the next few things on our list were the same places.
It was really hard not to stop and admire these beautiful Medieval buildings. I think I was more taken with the buildings than I was with the art.
Our next stop was the best place ever! The Museu de la Xocolata (the Chocolate Museum.) This is the best idea for a museum ever created.
The Chocolate Museum is located in the former Sant Agustí monastery, a historic building that already had a relationship with chocolate: in the 18th century the Bourbon army was a fanatical consumer of chocolate and, according to the ordinances, chocolate was present on the menus of the 18th-century military academies: “For breakfast each cadet and company officer shall be given one and a half ounces of chocolate with a quarter of a pound of bread…”. When the troops were in barracks, acting as garrison, chocolate was also commonly eaten. The halberdier corps, the monarch’s personal bodyguard, was enviously known as the “chocolateros”, because, as they were a pampered, elite corps, they consumed a great deal of chocolate.
The chocolate museum shows the history of chocolate in Europe: its origins, how it got to us and how it was traded as an element between myth and reality, between medicine and food or as an aphrodisiac. It also shows the manufacturing of chocolate, from the cocoa bean up to industrial production processes.
Our ticket was a piece of chocolate that didn’t last more than 30 seconds once I used it to enter.
The self walking tour begins with the history of chocolate, how chocolate was brought from South America to Europe by the Spanish conquerors. Columbus knew of the existence of cocoa, but was not aware of its power. Without additional sweetening, the cocoa brought home by the Spaniards was not a very popular drink. But with the addition of sugar or honey, it soon made itself a reputation.
In the first hall, you also see the cocoa plants and the fruits of the tree.
All over the museum are amazing chocolate sculptures.
In the second hall, we learned about the recipe of “Xocaotl”, the cocoa drink of the Aztec and the importance of chocolate for the ancient cultures of Latin America such as the Aztec and the Maya.
Next the tour continues with the history of chocolate in Europe, its influence on art and bakery.
The first shipment of cacao left Mexico and arrived in Spain starting in 1520, a year after the arrival of Cortés to Mexico. A Cistercian monk, Fray aguilar, shipped it along with the chocolate recipe to the abbot of the Monasterio de Piedra in Aragón.
With the introduction of chocolate drinks, there was a division within Europe to either go to the café or to the chocolate shop. Coffee and tea, which was easy to prepare, turned into symbols of a dynamic bourgeoisie and chocolate, which was harder to make, was more adequate for the nobility.
In the late 19th century the large production was on such a large scale that the commercial and advertisement of chocolate grew as well. All the brands hired the best designers and artists to advertise their products, accomplishing masterpieces. In the 20th century, radio, television and cinema became the vehicles of transmission for advertisement.
There are several works of art made of chocolate here. Some are replicas of sculptures and paintings from famous artists, some are replicas of famous buildings, and some are from awesome movies and TV shows.
Marion was quite fascinated with all the logistics of making chocolate over the years.
As if a whole museum on chocolate wasn’t exciting enough, at the end of the museum was their cafe and shop.
This was a perfect place to stop and get some drinks and try some of the goodies they were selling.
Reluctantly leaving this wonderful place, we stepped back out into the streets of Barcelona and sundered over to the Santa Maria del Mar Church.
This church is the only surviving church in the pure Catalan Gothic style and was completed in record breaking time for the Middle Ages. It took only 55 years to complete this stunningly simplistic church, from 1329-1384.
The structure comprises of three naves that are all of the same height, underpinned by very tall columns that are set 13 meters apart, a distance unsurpassed by any other existing medieval building.
The front facade has a rose window, which depicts the crowning of Mary and dates from the fifteenth century; the original window was destroyed by an earthquake in 1428.
The interior is sparsely decorated since most of the monuments were lost during the Spanish Civil War, when a fire destroyed the central choir and the Baroque high altar. The nave is very wide – exactly twice as wide as the aisles – and no transept. The beautiful cross-vaulted ceiling is supported by a surprisingly small number of slender-looking octagonal columns.
The actual place the church is built has a particular importance since the early Christian period. It is said that the apostle James had preached here and therefore, a small chapel was built. In 304 the corpse of Holy Eulalia was buried there, the bones were then hidden in the 8th Century by the Moors and found 15 years later. In 1339 they were then transferred into the Cathedral of Barcelona.
Continuing our stroll we ended up in Casa Gispert, one of the oldest food stores in Barcelona.
Opened in 1851 by Doctor Josep Gispert, the warehouse was designed to store overseas products such as tea, cocoa, coffee, and spices from the Americas, and to commercialize them under SABOR brand. Later on, the shop changed its name to E&A Casa Gispert Roasting Masters, the two initials coming from the owner’s two sons, Enrique and Alfons.
Thanks to its high quality products, Casa Gispert has been recognized as one of Europe’s 10 best food artisans, and awarded by Les Gourmands Associés with the prestigious Coq d’Or prize (Paris, 1999).
After many years of specializing in roasting coffee and nuts, Casa Gispert has developed and diversified, providing a selection of unique local goods such as exquisite dried fruits, superior oils and vinegars, exceptional chocolates, Catalan wines, and aromatic herbs.
They have also been roasting nuts with oak wood since 1851, making it the oldest nut roaster in Europe.
We purchased some goodies, including some saffron, that I have really enjoyed adding to my weekly veggie soups.
After leaving here, we started making our way towards Barcelona’s port district. It was a little bit of a walk from where we were but it was a very pretty walk.
Our destination was the History Museum of Catalonia, a museum dedicated to the history of Catalonia, from the Stone age to the early 1980’s.
The Museum is housed in an old brick building that was used as a warehouse in the 19th and 20th centuries but was renovated in 1992 during the Olympic Games.
The first thing we did once we entered was go straight to the roof. They have a roof top cafe but we walked past it. We were only interested in getting some glimpses of the outstanding views from this vantage point.
Going back inside we started touring the museum, but we kinda started backwards. We started on the second floor instead of going back down to level one. We were kinda all over the place in the history timeline.
The museum is a hotchpotch of dioramas, artifacts, videos, models, documents and interactive bits, but all of this seems to work perfectly to make it an entertaining exploration into 2000 years of Catalan history.
The first room we wondered into was around the early 1800’s during the reign of Ferdinand VII and the Carlist Wars.
The next area was focused on the early 20st century during the civil war and Franco’s reign.
We made our way down stairs and started, in what I’m sure is suppose to be the proper place to start, the Paleolithic era to the Roman era.
The last rooms we came to focused on Early Christianity and the Medieval time periods.
I have to say I was really surprised at how much I ended up liking this museum. Even touring the museum in all the wrong order, it was still a fascinating museum. They museum was fun and interactive and I wouldn’t mind seeing more history museums like this one.
Being so close to the port, once we left the museum, we made our way towards one of Barcelona’s busy beach areas, Barceloneta Beach.
Barceloneta is the first of Barcelona’s beaches, which means it gets pretty packed during the summer. Barceloneta was started in 1753 and has a whole host of restaurants and leisure attractions and represents the close relationship of Barcelona to the city and sea.
It is said that Barceloneta inspired Miguel de Cervantes as the setting for the fight between Don Quixote and the Knight of the White Moon. It was here that the knight errant was finally defeated and abandoned his quest.
The current promenade is the result of the refurbishment of the seafront for the 1992 Olympic Games. There are also several contemporary pieces of art that are on display here.
I will say that I much preferred Valencia’s beach. Barceloneta reminded me too much of Zuma Zero in Malibu, over packed with too many people and the water was a bit cooler here than in Valencia.
We wanted to head back to the port area to get some ice cream, which meant we had to walk down some small streets. The streets and the very beachie vibe reminded me so much of Venice Beach.
Back near the port we found the perfect ice cream spot, Eyescream and Friends.
Eyescream and friends is a new brand serving original shaved gelato and this was their first store that opened here in 2012.
How it works is you pick a tray, then pick your gelato flavor, grab two toppings, and then they put two eyes on the gelato to give it character.
We walked across the street and found a table on the boardwalk and ate our ice cream as fast as we could before it all melted away.
The ice cream was good and it was a fun idea they had to make eating ice cream even more fun.
Finishing our ice cream we continued down the pier and I saw where my yacht was parked for the day 🙂
Continuing on we came to the Christopher Columbus column that was created for the 1888 Universal Exhibition.
The iron column is 51 meters high and is set on a stone base that is topped by a crown containing a viewing gallery, which can be reached by a lift inside. The octagonal base is flanked by eight lions and four sculptural groups representing distinguished people associated with the Crown of Aragon who took part in the Discovery of America. On each side of the octagon are eight bronze reliefs showing scenes from Columbus’s life. They date from 1929 and replaced the original reliefs which were stolen shortly after the monument was inaugurated.
At this point I split from the kids to wander on my own but later I did regret that I didn’t go to their next stop, the Maritime Museum. I don’t know why it never occurred to me, that if I was going to visit a Maritime museum, that this would be the one to visit. This is where Columbus sailed from and the museum showcases shipbuilding from the 13th to the 18th century. Ugh, I was so upset with myself when Marion later told me all that was there.
Instead of going to the cool museum, I started on the twenty minute walk back toward the Gothic Center.
On my journey I came across a neat Roman ruin from the 4th century. It was a round tower that was used to defend the eastern part of Barcino.
I ended up back in front of our hotel and across the street from our hotel is the first covered market in Barcelona, the Santa Caterina market.
The Santa Caterina market opened in 1848 and in 2005 was completely renovated. The brightly coloured undulating roof was designed by architects Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue who designed the Scottish Parliament building. The extraordinary new roof consists of 325,000 ceramic pieces of over 60 colours representing the colours of the fruit and veggies sold inside.
Being here later in the afternoon, there wasn’t a lot going on. I wasn’t enthralled with the market, but I walked around to see if anything caught my attention, but ultimately I just left.
Once I left the market I walked around the alley ways near our hotel and did some shopping and then went back to the hotel because Sissy and I had booked massage appointments.
The hotels spa was located on the top level where we had some spectacular views.
The massage was nice and relaxing and afterwards we met up with the kids in the lobby so we could all go to dinner together.
The restaurant Marion found wasn’t too far away, it was past the market and down the street.
The restaurant was a tapas bar and there was about a 20 minute wait, so we just hung around. There was a building right across the sidewalk that really caught my attention.
It was a gorgeous building that turned out to be The Palau de la Música Catalana, a concert hall that was built between 1905 and 1908.
We couldn’t enter but when I googled the building I could see how stunning the inside was. The inside looks like it is filled with colors and light. I’m sure it would be something to see but for now it was time to get some food in our bellies.
Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the restaurant we ate at but I do recall how yummy it all was.
After dinner, the kids went back to the hotel and Sissy and I hit up some of the shops on the street and ended up finding a really awesome shop that carried all Spanish products. I got some salt and soap and olive oils and a lot more.
After this shop we walked back to the hotel and got ready for bed. We had only one day left of our vacation and it was going to be a busy one.