Eating in Barcelona: Part IX: Gaudi, BO and castellers
July 31, 2014
This lady tried to pin a flower on my chest. I mean she poked me with the damned thing. This picture, mind you, isn't of her initial approach. This is after she poked me, and after I had walked past her. This is her friggin' chasing me with the deadly flower. It's really not a solid business model if you ask me.
"That's no way to start a day," I thought. Thankfully there was a very pleasant day ahead. A largely accidental one that I couldn't have planned better.
It was Sunday, and very few people were around, aside from the chest stabbing gypsies. We were well away from Las Rambla and meandering through fascinating little sections of Barcelona on our way to Park Guell, Antoni Gaudi's silly garden and park. The walk was well over an hour, and took us to parts of Barcelona we didn't know existed. Gràcia, for example. It's a very different world in the outlying districts of Barcelona. These were once towns in their own right, but were eventually sucked up by the expanding city. I cannot speak with much authority on this, but I suspect many have retained their own unique identity, which makes these towns-within-a-city great places to visit.
We arrived at Park Guell and found out that you have to buy tickets. In advance. It's nuts. Here I thought we'd be walking through a park filled with Gaudi's Willy Wonka-esque art and spirit. But that wasn't meant to be. We did find out that you can walk through much of the park without a ticket. I really don't know what we missed, but we had a nice time walking around the free section. The walk takes you up and up and up, exposing grander views of the city at every turn. Lots of cactuses and various flora to take in. And, of course, you'll have a chance to see some of his wacky creations.
Our walk through Park Guell terminated at the opposite side of the hill, away from the entrance. It just sort of plops you out onto a street. I really had no idea where we were, but I knew the walk back to Gràcia would be long, but downhill. Away we went, off to find a suitable place for lunch.
A few of the restaurants that we thought sounded good on the internet appeared to be less than ideal once we saw the menus. There weren't many options in Gràcia, even less so because it was Sunday, and things were beginning to look kind of bleak. But we pressed on.
We stumbled across what appeared to be a neighborhood street feast, just starting up. Big ol' paella pans were being filled with olive oil, garlic, and magnificent prawns. Would they let us just sort of hang out and eat? We dreamed that could be the case. But we pressed on.
Another restaurant that we found online didn't exist when we got there. I was really at a loss at this point. I figured we'd hit a main street and find something, and even then there wasn't much. It was a bit baffling.
Suddenly we heard a bunch of noise and music and saw this mass of people:
I initially thought it might be some sort of political rally. But what I saw were humans making towers. This wonderful square, with a big clock tower in the middle, was brimming with people and music and this tower business. I came to learn about three hours ago that these people are called castellers. Castells are their trade. They arrange, design, and make castells. It's a Catalan tradition, and it's really cool.
The square, called Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, had several restaurants, with outdoor seating, with a full view of the activities. Contrasted to the emptiness of the surrounding area that we had just spent two hours exploring in search of a sign of life. This was a clear case of stepping in shit.
We grabbed table at BO Restaurant, and started right up with a vermouth. I don't think I've ever had anything that tasted so good. Sipping vermouth, in the shadow of a clock tower, watching a Catalan tradition of strength and guts and community. I mean, c'mon. It felt like they were doing it all for our benefit.
The food at BO was not mind-blowing, but perfectly delicious.
The tomato soup was a real standout. It may seem odd to gush over tomato soup, but this one was souper super.
Was that calamari or seppia. I have no idea. This was months ago!
Croquettes, likely cheesy. Possibly hammy.
Mushrooms with ham. No doubt hammy.
Chorizo and blood sausage. I saw a lot of blood sausage on this trip. I didn't realize there was a tradition of blood sausage in Catalonia.
A peek inside of the restaurant revealed a sort of modern, hip place. I wouldn't get on a plane to eat here, but it was a very enjoyable meal.
The real star of the lunch was the entertainment. It's hard to imagine how these folks make these towers. It takes a whole lot of people, a whole lot of balance, and a whole lot of balls. The top-most castellers are little kids! They must be 30 feet in the air, standing on someone's shoulders.
Every time a team sets up to start their tower, a roaming band of drums and horns plays some crazy music. It was really quite something else. Very thrilling.
Here's a wonderful video of the festivities at Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia.
This little girl above almost got to the top, but decided against it. She was obviously heartbroken, and received a warm and huge round of applause.
Look how they load up. Walking on the heads and bodies of the men creating the foundation. Then one by one they climb to the top.
Here's a wee one practicing for his eventual big day.
And just like that, in a parade of music and cheers, they were all gone.
BO Restaurant : Plaça la Vila, 11 08012 : Barcelona, Spain