Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Trip Ends with an Incredible Dinner

Restaurante Viana on Carrer Vidre
Every night in Barcelona has been tapas.  Tapas.  Tapas.  Tapas.  There's only so many squid rings and jamon iberico and giant prawns and jamon croquettes one can eat.  And believe you me, I have tested the outer limits of that theory.

So we decided to go to a real restaurant.  I wanted to try Restaurante Viana.  It was the #2 (out of 7,151) ranked restaurant in Barcelona, but it was affordable price-wise.  I was afraid to go because the reviews all said reservations were essential.  It is intimate.

We got a seat, initially, in the bar area, across from the very well-stocked bar.  The food was SO worth squeezing into this place to get to eat.

This was the complimentary pre-appetizer dish that they brought us.  It was very good,  Very fresh.  It was a little wrap, with some fresh vegetables (heart of palm?) and some blackberry syrup drizzled in.

We then got moved to a table.  I could see the little kitchen in the back.

Then it was time for my real appetizer. Carpaccio de Presa Iberica con Virutas de Provolone.  Translation:  Iberian Pork Carpaccio with Provolone Shavings.  I was scared to order this.  I'm no gourmet but my understanding is that "carpaccio" refers to extremely thinly cut RAW meat.  The waiter (who I later found out was the co-owner) insisted that it would be good.   

He was right.  It was incredible.  Raw pork.  Sliced extremely thin.  Topped with provolone shavings, yes, and radish slices and little tiny tomatoes.  So, yes, I ate raw pork for my appetizer.

The bar was very well-stocked for a tiny restaurant.

Then came the main course.

Merluza de Pincha con Salsa Naranja Sanguina y Chips de Espinacas y Yuca.  Atlantic Hake with Blood Orange Sauce and Spinach and Yucca Chips.  Oh.  My.

The hake was cooked perfectly.  Thorough, but not dry.  The yucca chips held their crunch throughout the eating and totally worked as a topping to this dish.  Best of all, the blood orange sauce overpowered the hake, which was an absolutely awesome thing to have happen.  The blood orange sauce was absolutely completely delicious.  I could put that sauce on chicken, or fish, or shrimps, every day for the rest of my life and die a very very contented man.

For dessert?  Because you have to have dessert after a meal this delicious.

La Torrija (Muy) Especial de la Casa con Helado de Vanilla.  Our Very Special House Torrija with Vanilla Ice Cream.  It's basically bread pudding (which I know I should not have but come on it's the last day of vacation) with a scoop of ice cream.  But it was SO much more.

Other dessert options looked equally delicious.  This was the cheesecake.  Served in a jar!  And topped with a berry mousse.

The meal ended with a complimentary shot of a drink made with chocolate and cherry.  Maybe chocolate liqueur and a cherry syrup.  I don't know.  It was incredible.  Dinner for two was about 60 euros, including a lone glass of the house red wine, for an incredible awesome artisanal gourmet meal.

I highly recommend Restaurante Viana when you are in Barcelona, which I have thoughtfully embedded their webpage as a hyperlink.  And not just because the waiter-owner Ruben used to be a lawyer and got out of the law business to feed people like me very delicious gourmet food at mid-market prices.

All good things must come to an end.  As must this meal.  As must this trip to Barcelona.

Walking back to the hotel, near the top of Las Ramblas, I finally found the legendaery Font de Canaletes.

The legend is that he who drinks of the waters of Font de Canaletes will return to Barcelona.

Here is the Font de Canaletes under the Super Moon, which, had not yet turned into the Blood Super Moon.  But, before I left to end this trip, did I drink of the waters?

Walking to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya

Looking over the City of Barcelona from Montjuic
Today is the final day in Barcelona.  And like the final day of every long vacation, I am dog-tired.  But it's the last day to see the place, so taking an off-day is not an option.

But a low-key final day most certainly was an option.  So it was off to the Pablo Picasso museum.

The museum is housed in five separate but now connected mansion in the historic La Ribera district of Old Barcelona.  

The museum was founded by Picasso's long time friend and secretary Jaume Sabartes.  It opened before Picasso died.  Picasso was intimately involved in the planning of the museum.  But he never saw it.  He vowed never to step foot in Spain until Franco died.  Franco out-lived him.

The museum houses an extensive collection of Picasso's early years, including some amazing pieces done in his teen years, as well as an extensive collection from the World War I era "Blue Period."  The collection is largely chronological, but, strangely, from the late 1910's, the collection fast forwards to his work in the late 1950's.  We miss the time period when Picasso went completely off the rails with cubism and placing both eyeballs on the same side of the nose.  The day art died.  We miss all that and head into his major works post-Elvis, most specifically his studies on Velazquez's masterpiece, "La infanta doña Margarita de Austria."  We saw Dali's take on the same piece at his museum in Figueres.

Why am I saying and not showing?  Because the museum enforces a strict "no photography" policy.   It's like all the single artist museums are anti-recording.  Except Dali.  His museum is the art world equivalent of a Grateful Dead show.

So let's scoot away.

Speaking of Elvis, I never went to the Barba Rossa, as advertised in the Barcelona Metro, for one of their "Burgers of the Route 66," specifically the awesomely delicious looking "Fat Elvis Burger."  You have to save some things for your next trip to a city.

So after getting cut into the little cubes at the Picasso museum, it was off to the Plaça d'Espanya to check out the surrounding neighborhood and go to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya.

This is Plaça d'Espanya, a.k.a. Plaza de España.  This was an area largely developed for the 1929 world's fair in Barcelona.

Also just north of Plaça d'Espanya is Parque de Joan Miró.

It's worth walking a block north of the Metro just to see this giant Joan Miró sculpture piece.

So I will stand in front of that giant Joan Miró sculpture in Parque de Joan Miró and take my final selfie of this trip.

But other than that, it's just a park.  With grass.  Some trees.  Dogs (even though a sign says "no dogs").  I was hoping there would be more Joan Miró stuff at the park, but it's more "parque" than it is "de Joan Miró."

Notice the red brick circular building in the background of the giant Joan Miró sculpture?  Here's a closer look.

I had a guess as to what that building would be, seeing as it was a round open air arena in Spain.

I asked what appeared to be a TV news crew what that building was.  The man in the suit was struggling with the English, so he switched to Spanish and said that was the "plaza de toros."  I was right.  It was the old bullfighting ring.  Bullfighting is not indigenous to Catalunya.  Apparently it was introduced into the region when Franco was trying to make Catalonia less Catalonian and more Spanish.  It has been re-purposed into a theater.

Plaça d'Espanya, as viewed from another angle.

And now walking into the old exposition area.

To get to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya.

There are a lot of steps to climb from here to get up to the museum.  Fortunately, there are some escalators for some of the up journey.

The building is beautiful.  Here it is posing behind four columns that symbolize something,

Here is a view without symbolism.

So close, yet so many more stairs to climb.

Only to find out that the museum closes on Sunday at 3:00PM and it was 3:15PM by the time we climbed all those stairs.  But at least the views from the top were still viewable at that hour.

I am now sight-seed out.  Time to wash up for dinner.

Dinner at Ciutat Comtel

Benvinguts a la Ciutat Comtal (Catalan)
Bienvenidos a la Ciudad Condal (Spanish)
We finally got into the tapas restaurant recommended by the hotel concierge:  Ciutat Comtal, if the Catalan, Ciudad Condal, en español.  Google translator translates both the Catalan and the Spanish as "Barcelona."

It was packed.  But the reason is that this was the best tapas place at which ate so far.

No seats at the tapas bar, so we had to wait for an actual table.

This was the last of the giant boiled prawns.  Barcelona loves to serve up the prawns full-bodied, heads and all.

This was a most delicious stuffed red pepper.  I come from a long line of stuffed pepper eaters, so I had to try it.  So what was it stuffed with?  Cod puree.  Tasted much better than it sounds.  It was awesome actually, so free your mind of any prejudice you may have against cod in a pureed form.

The last of the tapas they served up was the beef tenderloin, topped by a mild pepper.  Sabroso.  Oh wait, we're speaking Catalan here, not Spanish.  Saborós.

Is it time to try something other than tapas?

FC Barcelona Game at Camp Nou

FC Barcelona spelled out in the seats at Camp Nou
Saturday, we went to an FC Barcelona game at its huge football/soccer stadium, Camp Nou.  "Barça," as it is affectionately called, was playing Las Palmas, a team from the Canary Islands was newly-promoted to the top tier of Spain's La Liga this season.

We arrived at Camp Nou fairly early.  We didn't know how long the trip would take by subway and hoof (one hour, more or less).  We wanted time to check out the sites around the stadium.  And we wanted to soak in the atmosphere.

Apparently fans of FC Barcelona are sufficiently polite -- at least against teams low in the table -- that the fans of Las Palmas could make a small scene outside of stadium grounds.  The Las Palmas fans are the ones waving the giant (canary) yellow flag.

The fan store is outside the stadium.  It is huge.  Complete kits available for every player in a multitude of alternative uniforms, from the standard blue-and-red vertical stripes, the blue-and-red horizontal stripes (the uniform style Barça wore to play), and the yellow-and-red Catalan colors uniform.

Want to buy a Catalan flag striped soccer ball?  The FC Barcelona fan store has many.

The store is huge.  If you were an FC Barcelona fanatic, I could see you dropping serious coin in here.

Game time was almost an hour away, so it was time to head inside the stadium.

We had an excellent seats, near the pitch.  They were a little cheaper than the most expensive ticket because they were in the sun.  Fortunately, it was an overcast day.

Lots and lots of Lionel Messi 10 jerseys throughout the stadium.  There were some Neymar 11 jerseys, mostly on attractive woman. I did not see any Suarez #9 jerseys in the crowd until we were leaving after the game.

Great seats we had, only eight rows back.  Finally, the game started, right on time.  No national anthems, but they did do the ceremony where the each players walks out onto the pitch holding the hand of some child.

See that tiny #11 playing for Barça?  That is Brazilian star Neymar.  With a buzz cut.  He has shaved his boy band / Kajagoogoo haircuit and now he has a shaved head.  He was almost unrecognizable.

Yes, that's Neymar.

And this man, #2 for Las Palmas, David Simon, played like he was their best player.  I don't know who he is.  And I don't know how highly he is regarded, but he played great for the visiting Las Palmas.

I could give you a description of what was happening in the game while I shot these pictures, but I would be completely making it up.

The score was 1-0 at the half on a Luis Suarez goal in the 25th minute,  Suarez added another goal in the 52nd minute to put Barça up 2-0.

As shown on the scoreboard.  See all those fans dressed in (canary) yellow to the left of the scoreboard above?  That is the visitor section at Camp Nou, the largest soccer stadium in the civilized world.  The fans visiting from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands are perched way up high in this 98,000 seat stadium, dressed in their (canary) yellow.  Oh, and by "civilized" world, I am referencing the fact that there purportedly a 150,000 seat soccer stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, which would be the largest in the world if it actually exists.  With North Korea, you can't be sure.

Barça went up 2-0, but missed a lot of chances.  Neymar missed a penalty kick.  Perhaps he was shorn of his soccer prowess when he was shorn of his Boy Band locks.  Other Barça players missed chip shot goals.  Then Las Palmas got a late goal to narrow the score to 2-1.  Despite some frantic final few minutes of excitement, FC Barcelona held on to win 2-1, with Luis Suarez providing all of the goal scoring Barça needed (and got).

You could say that Luis Suarez took a big bite out of Las Palmas.  

What about Lionel Messi?  Substituted out after a mere 10 minutes.  He hurt his knee on a routine drive to the goal.  MCL tear, scheduled to be out seven to eight weeks.  This could be significant as
FC Barcelona tries to defend its La Liga title AND its Champion's League title.

The Las Palmas fans were certainly happy with the game's outcome.  They saw their team come into Camp Nou, which is supposed to be an intimidating place to play -- although the fans did not seem like a threatening presence this day -- and give FC Barcelona everything it could handle.  When you cheer for a low-in-the-table team in the European leagues, the noble struggle is good enough.  It was a fun day at Camp Nou.