Thursday, October 23, 2014
ALL PHOTOS COPYRIGHT SUSAN V KAPLAN 2014
Last Thursday at this time we were boarding a train for Barcelona to spend a few days there. In spite of the fact that we returned Sunday, we managed to accomplish all that we had set out to do.
The main objective was to afford Susan the opportunity to update her photos of the Sagrada Familia. It is a project that she began in 1974 and has continued to the present day. 1974 was the date of our first visit to Spain and way back then there was no intention of there being a photo project. However, repeated visits to Barcelona turned it into a project.
We reached our hotel, the Ayre Caspe, a little before 3:00. After unpacking we went in search of a Chinese restaurant that is highly recommended by Trip Advisor. It is called Chen Ji and was a quick ten-minute walk from the hotel. The restaurant itself is rather non-descript. The décor is minimal and the tables and chairs serve their intended purpose.
The menu is rather extensive and we chose four items from the menu – bao, steamed dumplings, hot and sour soup, and a shrimp dish. When our dishes arrived we were surprised by the quantity of bao and dumplings that covered their respective plate. There was a dozen of each. Both dishes were very tasty and, I am pleased to say, authentic in taste. Finding a Chinese restaurant in Valencia is a herculean effort because most of the restaurants tend to dumb down their food to appeal to the Spanish palate. The Spanish palate does not tolerate spicy very well.
The hot and sour soup needed the addition of a little vinegar and the shrimp dish was quite good. The only surprise and disappointment was the white rice, which was rather soggy and clumpy. Our lunch cost less than 20 Euros and that included a beer and a bottle of water.
Thursday evening we walked to the Sagrada Familia from our hotel hoping that they were illuminating the building at night. That turned out not to be the case. Susan, however, was able to get a few night shots and we were happy to discover that the chapel was open and there was a mass going on. After the shoot, we headed back to the hotel for a nightcap.
Susan was at the entrance of the Sagrada Familia at 9:00 with the entrance we had purchased on line in hand. She shot interiors and took the elevator up to one of the towers for some interiors and exteriors. I caught up with her at 11:30 and we headed over to Calle Córcega to catch up with two friends from Valencia, Vik and Carlos.
Vik was a waitress at Carosel for several years. Carlos cooked at a number of places that we frequent here in Valencia. He worked at Seu-Xerea, Carosel and La Comisaría to name a few. He and Vik moved to Valencia when he was offered a contract at Granados 83. Granados 83 is a hotel that belongs to the Derby Chain and features a restaurant with the same name. Vik was finishing up a one-year contract at the Barceló Hotel that is located on the beach. She was tending bar there.
We had a lovely visit and as we left we told Vik that we would visit her at her hotel that night in hopes of taking some roof shots of the city at night. We told Carlos that we would see him tomorrow at his restaurant where we were going to have lunch.
The nighttime shots of Barcelona did not materialize. We had hoped that Vik would be able to find an empty room on the top floor that would afford Susan the opportunity to take some pictures. That was not to happen. We had a drink at the bar and then we headed back home.
Saturday morning saw Susan in line at the Sagrada Familia at 9:00 to take a few more interior shots and to explore the second tower. When she returned to the hotel we headed to the old quarter of Barcelona with the intent of visiting the oldest magic store in Barcelona, El Rey de la Magia. We found the shop rather easily. It gets a lot of tourist traffic and, in this day and age, that determines the type of product that it carries. I was looking for a couple of things, neither of which they had. The owner explained to me that these days their focus was on the theater that own and operate. The theater features local and visiting magicians.
At 2:30 we met up with Jaime Monfort who is studying at a circus school in Barcelona. The restaurant has a lovely outdoor terrace and Carlos had reserved a table for us. No sooner had we sat down than he emerged from the kitchen to greet us and to help us decide what to have for lunch. Our menu consisted of cod croquets, gourmet Iberian ham and cheese, a salad and a wild mushroom dish. Jaime and Susan ordered the fish of the day, which was corvine and I opted for the tuna tataki. Of course dessert was a necessity and it was outstanding. We took our coffee on the roof terrace and thoroughly sated we left the restaurant around 5:00.
That evening we attended a guitar concert at the Palau de Música, an Art Nouveau building that is a favorite of visitors to Barcelona. We heard a very engaging concert performed by the Barcelona Guitar Trio. There were works by Piazolla, Albéniz, de Falla and Chick Corea. We ended our evening at the hotel bar and afterwards we packed our bags in preparation for an early morning departure having accomplished our mission.