Around the Market and Old Town

It’s hard to believe we’ve been gone a week today. Time certainly evaporates with astonishing rapidity.

After a late rise (we’re adopting the clearly Catalan way of life) without hitting the gym, we met up with the vastly knowledgeable Jeff Koehler, an expatriate American food writer, now living here to whom I had been introduced via email through our mutual friend Naomi Duguid (herself a former lawyer and food writer of considerable distinction.) You can read about Jeff and his several books, one of which we bought from him,

After a  coffee/hot chocolate at L’Escriba,, (from 1906) of which there are 3 in Barcelona, we made our way along the long boulevard, La Rambla, from the fabulous La Boqueria covered market (think St. Lawrence, only more compact and greater variety) down to the old fisherman’s quarters and ultimately just off the beach area, where we had a leisurely lunch at around 2 p.m., a seafood paella at Can Majó, Besides his mother-in-law’s, Jeff thinks this is the most authentic paella in Barcelona. I wouldn’t know but it was pretty tasty.

On the way, Jeff showed us round the old part of the town, a shop from around 1900 wood-roasting and selling all variety of nuts (the platonic ideal of a roasted hazelnut; they punctured the bag to keep the warm nuts from heating further), another selling a multitude of olive oils (single-orchard, no less), a shop purveying goods from a monastery around here and the like, not to mention the second largest Cathedral in Barcelona.

A couple of notes: no one here thought much of Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Javier Bardem comes from a long line of, mostly stage, actors, Penelope Cruz is the A-one celebrity in the country and the Spanish eat paellaonly for lunch, not dinner. For dinner, they eat simply, like grilled vegetables with a little salt and olive oil. With a lunch like this, as our taxi driver pointed out on the way back to the hotel, it’s no wonder people don’t mind a few hour siesta before they sally forth in the evening.

If you are coming to Barcelona, especially if you are a foodie, arrange for Jeff as your guide, an enlightening way to see a Barcelona you would otherwise miss.

Late, way past our normal bedtime, we headed to a great wine bar, near the Santa Maria cathedral, La Vinya del Senyor. Exceptionally fun, even the fire-twirler was entertaining in the square in front.