Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Gaudi and the last day in Barcelona

Our last day in Barcelona was well spent walking through the many mazes the streets have to offer. I am sure if I was at home this scenario would have really gotten under my skin, but here, in the wake of our travels, life has changed a bit for Nicole and I. The stress level is down, I am sleeping a full night’s sleep and not even once have I prepared a task list for myself for the following day. I guess this is what vacation is supposed to be about. The occasional mishap with the day’s travel plans and even over paying for little things still beats that daily grind that we all sign up for and try to enjoy. That being said, I have to be honest here…I miss the work I do. I am enjoying myself thoroughly and have adapted to this lifestyle of travel seamlessly, but I truly miss my craft and cannot wait to get back behind the fiery coals of kitchen life.

Nicole sipped on her mango zumo as we headed to the Gaudi Cathedral. This is an unfinished piece of work that he spent the last 43 years of his life working on. Spanish officials estimate that the project will not be finished until the middle of the 21st century, but when it is done, it will be the largest cathedral in the world. We took various pictures from a multitude of angles, but after reviewing these up close and personal photos, not one displays the detail and the life that was spilled into this work.

We enter from the back of the cathedral greeted by life size engravings in the entrance’s concrete of gospel stories. For example, Jesus chained to a post as he is getting whipped and Simon helping Jesus by carrying the cross. On the surface, this outdoor entrance tells a story, but the reality lies in the facial expression of each engraved figure. It is so real, the emotion, the eyes….all this in concrete and there we are asking ourselves if those are real tears dripping from those faces.

Upon entering the cathedral we are greeted by an all out assault of construction. Scaffolding consumes the interior as we are neatly escorted beyond the hard-hatted workers and into a foyer that tells a little history behind the project. I can’t help but noticing a beautifully spiraled staircase leading into the attics of the church. These stairs poured out of the ceiling like water flows down the smooth rocks of a small Asian bamboo garden. These graceful stairs were more viscous than solid making them one of the most memorable pieces of construction that I have ever seen.

We backed ourselves to the main entrance and were again awe stricken. This is the part that if you are ever in Barcelona do yourself a favor and see this in person. It is no wonder that this great architect died working on this project. The amount of detail in his design is gigantic. We are talking a whole different level of work here. Sparrows, blooming flower varietals, jewels, and other small displays all engraved into this church front. It was absolutely breath taking. Up close the detailed work is life like and I can only imagine the amount of artists it took to get as much as they all ready did. I feel like they would have had to employ the entire city’s artist community and more. The cool part, from far away, all this detailed work protruding from the foundation wall causes the entrance to appear that it is drooping. Almost like something you would see in a Tim Burton creation. Truly special.

We wanted to make our last dinner in Spain a casual one so we set out to a small café in the Gothic center. We were sat outdoors surrounded by brick road and brick buildings with concrete gargoyles staring down at us. We had a court jester of sorts tossing fire sticks behind us in search of a Euro or two and a good musician soothing us with his saxophone.
Salad was on the agenda for me. It arrived with a mix of vegetables like carrots and haricot vert, some crisp romaine, tomatoes and grilled corn. This is just what I wanted on this warm evening and finally I got a salad that was tossed with some sort of vinaigrette rather than the standard drizzle of olive oil. Nicole had a beautiful eggplant terrine that was enhanced with sweet red pepper custard and all topped with an enormous chunk of goat cheese and drizzled with concentrated aged sherry vinegar. The cheese was unnecessary, but regardless, we considered the dish a success.

Nicole was filled at this point because of her large appetizer portion, but went for a few bites of her shellfish risotto anyway. She fished out the seared cuttlefish, prawns and mussels and took a few spoons of her perfectly cooked rice swimming in a lusciously reduced fish stock. I had taken a chance and had the Catalan sausage. This type of sausage ranges from house to house and my version was made of pork trimmings, pork fat, paprika, garlic and blood. At first I was a bit afraid, but I must tell you this was quite delicious. The spices and the pork meld beautifully and when paired with grilled asparagus, mushrooms and a poached egg, well, it is hard to leave the table hungry. Let’s just say I was satisfied and the crème caramel that Nicole and I shared for dessert was pure gluttony.

Next stop….Athens…..

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