On Boxing/Stephen’s Day, we stopped in to two churches, La Seu (Barcelona's catherdral), and Santa Maria del Mar. The cathedral is large and formal, with lots of arches, gold and gated chapels inside. It’s kind of cool that the crypt is visible from the main floor. I’m pretty sure I saw a black madonna in one of the chapels that looked pretty familiar as we had just seen the Virgin of Montserrat at the monastery. Of the two we liked the feel of the smaller Maria del Mar, with its simple columns and open alcoves. Mass was due to begin, so we had a quick look around and escaped back into the streets.
We had previously found the aquarium and taken silly pictures outside it, and we succumbed to advertizing and went to see the captive creatures of the sea. There were fish in the marina beside the aquarium, so we got to see a preview before we got our tix and had our picture taken, cruise-style, as we entered. It was actually pretty cool, very kid-oriented and family friendly as well. After viewing the bulk of the exhibition tanks (which includes the obligatory “Nemo” tank), there are more kid-sized tanks and interactive play places that we enjoyed too. Because we’re big kids. We always love the sea horses, who look so mopey as they look around for edible tidbits. Tiny Eeyores all. There were also sea dragons whose leafy appendages made them look like different kelps. One of the most mesmerizing little fellows for me was what I now call a “nose fish” (spotted unicorn fish, actually) – it looks very cartoonish, just like you’d draw if you anthropomorphized a fish – y’know, like I draw after years of biology. I should explain that, sophisticated lady that I am, I spent most of my visit making fun of everyone else – the rays with their eyes above and smilie-faces beneath, the unfortunate looks of the frogfishes, the way snails steadily nom…nom…nom, crabs wearing other people’s shells. We watched feeding time in one tank. At first it was just lazy swimming and the anemones swaying their tentacles; eels were hiding in plain sight. Then the first bits of food dropped – mussels and bits of other fish, I want to say? – and it was a feeding frenzy! Anyway, it was good to get out of the rain and see those who might otherwise eat me if I were to go where they live, or who I can’t visit because it’s a little deep and cold for me. The main tank has lots of viewing space and a glass tunnel so you can watch sharks and stingrays swim overhead. I got a little obsessed trying to take pictures with the battle-scarred sunfish.
We wandered back across the Rambla del Mar and Passeig de Colom with Columbus atop his pillar pointing out to sea, and back on to La Rambla once again. By this time it had really become our familiar street. It was still spitting, but there were covered market tables set up, and we browsed the stalls and discovered a new wallet for Morgan and all kinds of baubles and bags and handicrafts. The buskers were setting up for the rush, and we passed our painting guy as we made our way along. I definitely <3 our little picture of la rambla!
Back at Hotel Principal, we formulated our plan of attack and headed back to Maria del Mar’s hood to check out a tapas place some friends had been. But we were too lazy to stand at the bar or around high tables to drink and chat as everyone was doing, so we went to dine in the fancy back restaurant. If you just want good food, you’ll get better value at Carmelita’s or Los Caracoles, but I must say the service here was the finest I’ve experienced anywhere in recollection. The wine list looked really tantalizing, and they served cider from a spigot that was run through a huge decorative cask set into the wall. That looked really good too. Our serving gal was good at pouring the cider from a long way away and making it look artistic.
By the time we were released back into the wild, it was the end of our trip. The next morning we got up early and grabbed the first croissants and juice of the day, checked out and caught the train, as Spanish-less and Catalan-less as we came.