— 02 Jun 2010 —
Before leaving for this trip, I was reading a lot of travel blogs. Solo travelling blogs. Most written by women. Most had done some sort of learning class on their travels; cooking, painting, silverware jewellery. I decided on the cooking class because that involves eating. Win-win. I chose a half-day cooking class and an optional La Boqueria Market visit with Cook & Taste Barcelona.
(Too) Early in the morning we met at the kitchen. No surprise that I got lost given my track record. It’s all because the signs on the wall are so small. And the street name was half faded. Just my luck. Eventually I made it and I met the other ladies there for the market visit. There were 3 Canadians and 1 American. We set off to La Boqueria. We were in heaven. The smells, the variety, the people, the freshness, the sheer size of the place.
This is the entrance to a foodie’s heaven. It doesn’t look like much on the outside but just wait till you step in.
Rows and rows of sweets. This stall will set you back €65.00/kg!
The best selection of mushrooms I’ve ever seen.
Dehydrated salted cod fillets. These can be rehydrated and cooked like a normal fish fillet. Or they can be rehydrated, diced, seasoned and served as a condiment.
Shellfish of all kinds, some I’ve never seen before. I wanted to taste the barnacles they had on offer. According to the chef, the barnacles are picked from the cliff face up in the NE coast of Spain, just north of Barcelona. The barnacle pickers (is that what their job title is?) hang off the cliff and pick the barnacles, with wind and huge waves threatening their lives. I’m glad it’s them and not me.
The egg stall. There were big ones, small ones, some as big as your head!
Fruit and veg galore. Look at the sensational colours of the summer fruits.
Poultry. Enough said.
We purchased the ingredients for the dishes and headed back to the kitchen where the other foodies were waiting. A nice mix of British, Australia, American and Australia in the group.
Here I am in my apron as an upcoming masterchef of Spanish cuisine. We were making a 3 course meal consisting of gazpacho, tomato bread and potato omelette for entrée, paella for main and creme catalan for dessert. YUM. Judge the results for yourself.
Tortilla de Patatas y Pan Con Tomate served with Chupito de Sopa de Tomate al Aroma de Idiazabal (Potato omelette with tomato bread served with a shot of Gazpacho flavoured with Idiazabal cheese).
Paella de Marisco (Seafood Paella). All the fresh seafood we bought at the market. The pan itself is 1 metre in diameter. I wanted to bring one home but it wouldn’t have fit in the suitcase.
Crema Catalana (Catalan cream). I’m not a fan of Creme Caramel so I was hesitant to try this (I know, I’m a freak) but I did anyways since I put in the hard work. It was nothing like I expected. It was light and creamy. I could’ve eaten the extra ones.
Cook & Taste Barcelona Cooking class holds classes of all sorts for whatever kind of foodie or cook you are. Ranging from a half-day course for a dip into Barcelona cuisine or a 3 day cuisine seminar for the masterchef in you, they can cater to your needs. They also teach in English, French and Spanish. Whilst preparing the meals, you will enjoy a glass (or 3 in my case) and conversations with your fellow foodies*. Last but not least, the chef. He holds a wealth of knowledge in the regions’ cuisine. He is professional, engaging and lots of fun. If you attend one of the classes, ask him where he thinks the best restaurant in Barcelona is. His answer may surprise you.
With a full belly, I decided to walk off the 10kgs I had just put on. But I found more food on my way out. And who can resist these lovely macaroons at Escriba on La Rambla? I dare you to walk past and not walk in.
I ventured down La Rambla passing all the stalls aimed at tourists and into the Barri Gotic District or Gothic Quarter. Here you can find cathedrals, cathedrals and more cathedrals. Oh did I mention cathedrals? I chose Basilica de Santa Maria de la Mar. It is situated in a tiny square within the quarter and surrounded by quaint boutique stores. Unfortunately because it is built in the tiny square, there is nowhere you can stand to get a shot of the entire structure.
The core of the building. Look at how many columns there are to support the ceiling.
I love the beautiful colours in each of the stainless windows. The natural light really accentuate the vibrant colours.
After resting my feet while people watching (I wondered if the others were also sitting to rest their feet, or were they there to admire the beauty of the structure, or were they there for religious reasons, or what were they doing there?), I strolled down one of the streets and into a sanctuary which turned out to be Viceroy’s Palace.
This is Saint Georges Door. It is made completely of bronze and connects Viceroy’s Palace with the Great Hall of the Royal Palace. I suspect it would be very heavy.
One of the beautiful gardens within the palace. Damn tourists ruining my photo.
I finished up at the palace and went on walkabouts again. This time I ended up at Catedral de Barcelona. It just so happened when I needed to rest my feet again so I ventured inside to chill out. I got told off at the door for having bare shoulders. Bad girl.
Construction was underway for a restaurant to be part of the cathedral. I found most of Barcelona was undergoing construction. I wonder what for?
One of the things I’d recommend you to do is to look at the ceilings in the cathedrals. They are just stunning. This is a clear example of a gothic vault ceiling. Isn’t it just mesmerising? Don’t look at it for too long or your neck might start hurting. Or you just might walk into another tourist.
That night Jaeshin and I went out to La Rambla to meet Bed #3 girl (she’s Korean and speaks fluent Spanish) and we went pseudo tapas bar hopping. Yes we were taking advantage of her skill.
This is the type of tapas served when you’re sitting at the bar. The restaurant will usually have a deal. I think this one was 3 tapas and a glass of sangria for €5.
We sat down in the serviced area of the restaurant and Bed #3 girl took charge to order our dishes. Mushrooms, marinated squid tentacles, spicy chicken wings and curried potatoes. And of course a 1L jug of the infamous white sangria. I like it better than the original. You can’t taste the cheapness. Also the waiter was very surprise to hear fluent Spanish coming out of her mouth. It was funny seeing his reaction.
Full and tired, we headed on the night train. I was satisfied.
* I made friends with one of the girls on the market tour. It turns out she is a recruiter in the USA (very handy since I want to move to the US of A) and loves food as much as I do. We organised to meet up and try out a dessert parlour. Photos (for you to drool over) to come soon.