VOTE RESULTS: El Born, by more than half! Guess y’all want me to hang out with the locals. I’ll take it. Thanks everyone for voting. Look for another voting opportunity very soon, then it’s off to Istanbul, via San Sebastian.
Getting Happily Lost
You could call the barrio ‘El Born’ The Mission District of Barcelona. Amazing restaurants, trendy shops and incredible visuals. Off the tourist path, filled with local hipsters and sought-after small businesses, especially restaurants. Like the Mission, Born has only fairly recently been upgraded from a mostly working class neighborhood to the vibrant “mecca of all things cool” that it is today.
El Born is a spider web of streets; a labyrinth of narrow lanes (we’d call them alleys) in which to get happily lost (at the top of my bucket list!). Apartment buildings on either side have windows maybe ten feet each other. Shops are slipped into tiny slivers of space, deeper than they are wide. Walking down a dark lane I would happen upon a shop I wouldn’t be able to see until I passed it; the door open, shelves and walls covered with all manner of trinkets and tchotchke, many items of great quality.
On the wider lanes I’d spend a lot of time navigating through thick groups of tourists, sometimes stepping into the street to get around the slower lookie-loo’s or to just get a small breather from the density. Watching for cars and bikes, of course, I’d play dodge ball with suitcases, backpacks and photographers.
Speaking of photographers, a recent mini-industry here is selling selfie sticks (an apparatus you clip your smart phone into that enables you to put the camera out in front a foot or two to snap a picture of yourself with your chosen background). Short ones, long ones, brightly colored. Used to be knock-off watches and handbags, now it’s selfie sticks. And in this case, selfie sticks and Spanish fans.
It also used to be when witnessing a performance or incredible vista, one had to look around everyone putting their phones and cameras in the air to take photos. Now one has to look through a small forest of selfie sticks. What will be next, peering though a swarm of a hundred personal drones? It is something though to notice that so many are focused on recording their experience rather than just having it. Apparently the experience isn’t valid unless it’s recorded.
Strolling the narrow lanes, making random turns, allowing the moment to guide my steps, inevitably the path would open to a plaza (or placa, here) where an ancient church stands majestically, her aged and darkened stones still offering her original purpose, sanctuary for the weary pilgrim.
Now, still a peaceful place in which to sit and rest, placas are crowded with umbrella’d tables, people laughing, chatting, drinking cortados (espresso) and sharing tapas.
There are the calm, picaresque, quaint streets and shops, but there are plenty of exciting destinations in Born, as well. The Picasso Museum, La Peradata (that crazy seafood restaurant I posted about earlier), the Chocolate Museum (yep!) and one of the nicer green spaces in town called Cuitadella Park. I strolled through a wine tasting festival there, folks walking (stumbling) around with their wine glasses. At one end is Barcelona’s Arch de Triomph. Everyone’s gotta Arch de Triomph. How come San Francisco don’t have an Arch de Triomph!?
Popped into the Chocolate Museum. Didn’t pay the five Euro to go through, but looked in the windows. Large animals and people carved in chocolate, displays of the history and cultivation of chocolate and various processing machinery. Their gift shop, naturally, was filled with all manner of bars and truffles and barks and bags of drops and covered nuts and ropes and, well, if it could be covered in chocolate…
In stark contrast to the overcrowded, bustling streets of El Gotic with its tourism on steroids, El Born is calm, roomy and restful. Both have ancient cathedrals, placas, shops and restaurants, but visiting El Born is like moseying through the Mission District, versus navigating Fisherman’s Wharf.
And, like the Mission District, there was plenty of wonderful things to eat. Everywhere. All over the place. Non-stop. I think you catch my drift. Even the local antique shop had to put out an array of snacks, like the one below with fresh, shelled mussels, olives and chips. Shopkeep even offered me a beer!
I love this place.
(sorry for the focus..I was trying to be discreet)