That Spanish expression, which literally means “enchanted of life” or “charmed by life”, is pretty much the only way to describe my emotion upon entering George’s apartment. Heather’s parents had managed to end up staying there due to a correspondence started through Mr. Morse and ending in his friend’s offer of his apartment. The author of Fodor’s Spain and Barcelona titles, he had left us a stack of travel guides (the majority written by him or his wife), a hand-drawn map of the neighborhood, and various notes and tips about the ins and outs of the apartment. The house was incredible: the rooms all decorated with lovely wooden furniture, bookcases and shelves filled with books and movies in Spanish, English, and Catalan, and charming aspects that kept popping up as time went by. Our first mission was to stock up on some foodstuffs, so I went for bread while Heather and her parents found the vegetable shop and the deli. We also bought some Catalonian noodles, shaped like short macaroni with one end closed. The larger sizes are stuffed, but all sizes are popular.
George had marked a place that sold prepared food, so we decided to check it out for lunch. We ordered some delicious “espinacas a la catalana” – spinach with pine nuts and raisins, “paella de verduras” – in this case, rice with caramelized onions and artichokes, and pesto tortellini.
Tired from travel, we decided to rest a bit after our epic meal – a perfect opportunity for me to make the batter for the sourdough pancake recipe I’d found, which needed an hour’s rest and then another rest overnight.
George (or Mr. Barcelona, as I took to calling him) had made us dinner reservations at a recommended restaurant, Sagardi, renowned for its Basque food and atmosphere. Seeing as all the food in the País Vasco had been so great, Heather and I were excited. We left with plenty of time to find the restaurant so that we could walk down La Rambla and through the Barrio Gótico on the way. The restaurant was located in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, and about 50 yards from the church where we’d be going to a concert/midnight mass afterwards – another of George’s recommendations.
Since it was Christmas Eve, which is probably a bigger holiday than Christmas here in Spain, just about everything was closed – but the lights and buildings on our walk were gorgeous.
For our dinner, I ordered “alubias de Tolosa”, dark kidney beans prepared in the northern Basque style. Absolutely delicious!
After such a wonderful dining experience, we walked over to the church, or cathedral, as I should say: it was the famous Santa Maria del Mar. Since George was good friends with the organist (who happened to be from Texas), he had arranged for us to sit in the organist’s balcony with him. !!!!!!!!!!!! However, when the church came into view, the line to get in was winding around the block. Since we were supposed to meet the organist early, we decided to check for other doors. We found one in the back, and Heather knocked. The woman who opened the door was about to turn us away, but Heather convinced her that we actually were supposed to meet the organist and we were admitted.
What an incredible cathedral!