Our stay in Burgos would be short. We rose early and before we left went out into the dewy morning air and explored on foot. We entered the old town as the warm sunlight was just kissing the upper reaches of the cathedral. The streets were clean and empty. Our route took us up and down the hillside as we searched for every sight of interest we could find on the map. We were not certain that we would be able to return so it was good to see as much as we could while we were there.
We had time for a café and pastries under the façade of the cathedral. By the time we finished, the morning bustle was in full swing and the streets were alive with the residents going about their morning business. For us, it was time to return to the room, pack, and depart.
Our itinerary took us to Barcelona. We were careful to leave early for our flight out of Bilbao, but the two-hour drive and rental car check-in were uneventful. Our early arrival left us plenty of time to explore and take pictures inside of the ribbed cavern of the modern Bilbao airport. In the terminal, we found a store that sold many of the Basque food specialties that we had been sampling at the pinxtos bars. The store would heat the food that you purchased and serve it to you at the bar. How could we pass? If they had had pimientos de Padron, we would have missed our flight.
After a short flight and a transfer, we were in our room in the ultra modern Barcelo Raval. The hotel is located in the Raval District on Rambla del Raval, a former red light district of Barcelona that is undergoing an uncertain gentrification. After a break, a short walk took us through the slightly sketchy neighborhood to Barcelona’s main pedestrian thoroughfare, La Rambla. On our way was Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boquería or, more simply, La Boquería. La Boquería is a large, covered market. It is one of the most famous markets in Europe. It was on our route. Of course we had to go in.
We like to go to markets. It is one of our favorite things to do while traveling. The myriad of high quality ingredients on offer in La Boquería, with their broad spectrum of colors and smells, was mind-boggling. But I have to say, we like it better when a throng of tourists does not share our venture into the day-to-day workings of the locals’ lives. At La Boquería, the ratio of tourists to residents was about one-to-one. Somehow the local people could shop and ignore the camera swinging tourists. Lost in the crush was the day-to-day reconnection that patrons have with other shoppers and their favorite vendors.
I guess the crowds at La Boquería should have come as no surprise. Barcelona is a tremendously popular tourist destination. Out onto La Rambla and its broad central pedestrian area, the crowds swirled amongst the street performers and the vendor’s stalls. In the Basque country, we almost forgot about tourist throngs. There was no ignoring them in Barcelona.
This was our second visit to Barcelona. Walking along La Rambla quickly recalled the sophistication La Rambla’s buskers. The performances by theses street artists are well choreographed and there seems to be an unwritten set of rules for who performs where and when.
As we moved north on La Rambla past Placa de Catalunya, the street performers faded and the typical tourist’s age moved past the college years more typical nearer to La Boquería. We were headed to Ciutat Comtal Cerveseria for tapas. This tapas bar was recommended for us by Barcelo Raval’s front desk. When we arrived at the restaurant I realized that I had eaten there before, on my previous trip to Barcelona. That was a good thing. It was good. And the food was good again. Most memorable were the potatoes served with a tomato sauce and mayonnaise. The dish was simple, tasty, and comforting. We also liked the sautéed mushrooms, and, of course, the pimientos de Padron. There was not even a whisker of a chance that we were going to miss the little green peppers when we found that they were available.
Back on the streets we eased back on La Rambla past the now inebriated visitors and the buskers. Off La Rambla, the streets on the way to Raval were edgier, with more people loitering about. But it was no big deal and we were soon in our ultra modern room. It was a long day and sleep came quickly.