Jamon and Flamenco

In our little apartment we have a two burner stove top and a microwave – it’s not a lot to work with but if Luke Nguyen can travel the world whipping up gourmet meals on a gas burner lit wok, then I’m sure we can make this work.  For our first breakfast we cook up an omelette using the fresh mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese and eggs we bought from the market and it tastes pretty damn good.  It’ll also keep us full for the morning ahead.

Antoni Gaudi was born a sickly child in 1852.  Perhaps it was this childhood that launched the creative thoughts that would inspire Gaudi to create some of the most fantastical buildings in his later life.

It is said that about 90% of visitors to Barcelona, come to visit Gaudi’s buildings, which of course he must have foreseen when he said “One day all of the world will travel to Barcelona to see my work”.  Not half modest then, this Gaudi fellow.  But of course, it’s exactly one of the main reasons why I wanted to come here too.  The trouble is choosing which of the master’s buildings to fit into a three day visit without going Gaudi mad and getting to see other things in Barcelona!  No idea.

To experience some of Gaudi’s handiwork, we jumped aboard local bus number 24 from Plaza Catalunya to visit Park Guell.  Eusebi Guell was a wealthy entrepreneur who had made his money from the industrial revolution.  He had met and befriended Gaudi and become a great fan of his talent.  So when Guell came up with plans to create an estate for the weathy in the Gracia district of Barcelona, he called on Gaudi to create it.

Park Guell housed an entrance and porter’s lodge a nature theatre (created to hold open air shows), magnificent entrance and an incredible hypostyle room which was a covered space that could be used as a market for the estate.

The location of Park Guell, with it’s views over Barcelona and across to the sea, was incredible but the estate was a commercial failure with only two homes being completed within its boundaries.  It was too far from the centre of Barcelona and people just weren’t willing to make the move.  Guell’s heirs offered it to the Barcelona City Council upon his death and it was opened as a public park in 1926.

As I said before, there’s not enough time to fit in all of Gaudi’s incredible works, so a great way to do so without, well, doing so, is to visit the Gaudi 4D experience.  4D basically means that you watch a 3D movie presentation but with added effects such as wind, rain, lighting or vibration to enhance the movie and give you a ‘just like you were there’ kind of feeling. The experience explains the inspiration behind designs of Gaudi’s most visited sites.

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Our so not cool 3D glasses

Back at our hotel for a simple lunch of toasted bread with chorizo, tomato and melted cheese, we discover that our hotel has a rooftop solarium.  So off we go to discover it.  The views of Barcelona from here are gorgeous.  You can see everything from the peaks of La Sagrada Familia to the treetops of the Ramblas and La Catedral nearby.

So, what’s to know about ham?  Lots apparently.  And that’s why we’ve ended up at the Jamon Experience.  Because you can never know too much about the finer things in life.  To be fair, jamon is not just ham.  Jamon comes from the black Iberian pig which is allowed to roam free in the fields during it’s fattening period.  The best jamon (Iberian Bellota) comes from those who feed on a diet of acorns (bellota).

We had come at the end of the day, last session in fact, because we were having such a great time enjoying the sun on our hotel rooftop that we totally forgot the time.  So it was clear they were ready to pack up.  We start with an multimedia display on how jamon is created.

Afterwards, we sit at a high table and go through the different types of jamon, tasting each along the way washed down with a couple of (small) glasses of wine.

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When in Rome….  Well, we aren’t in Rome.  We are in Barcelona, so the obvious thing that comes to mind when in Barcelona, or Spain in general, is a bit of flamenco.  We booked ourselves a table for a drink and a flamenco show at Flamenco Cordobes which, luckily for us, is right down the road (or should I say, the Ramblas?).

The tablao (place where the show is performed) is situated in the Ramblas.  Flamenco Cordrobes try to recreate the genuine atmosphere of a performance, meaning there is no more than 180 people gathered around the stage (just like a Flamenco family party), seated in simple wicker chairs in a room with a vaulted ceiling (like a cave) to let the sound reverberate around the room without the use of microphones.

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There is no script for the show, instead the music, singing and dance reflect life in general including stories of love and and loss.  It’s a lot more passionate than I expected and you can’t help but get into it. The guitarists are incredible.

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The star of the show would have to be the formidable Juan de Juan, who is considered one of the most important male dancers in recent years.  Although I don’t understand all his moves (there’s a lot of jacket holding and slapping very reminiscent of German dance), it’s clear the man has talent.  The show was incredible.

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