Over the years we've learned a useful trick for trip planning: leave an extra day. Having a free day means you have some time for overflow — if something's closed on the day you planned to see it, you can go in on the extra day; or if you find something you hadn't known about, you've got time. An overflow day relaxes the entire trip. There isn't quite as much of the frantic hustle to keep up with your planned schedule. You can stop to have dessert, or chuck it all and go home for a nap.
The final day of our trip was the overflow day, and we did a number of things which we had overlooked. Since it was Saturday, the usual bakery was closed, so the youngest member of our Crack Team and I went over to the Santa Caterina market to buy some pastries. The market, by the way, incorporates its own archaeological site, another outpost of the mighty MUHBA.
On the way back from the market, we stumbled across a nice little bakery less than two blocks from our flat, open for business with what looked like a great selection. Keep this in mind: all of my descriptions of Barcelona are incredibly superficial and incomplete. We didn't really visit Barcelona, we visited perhaps a dozen streets there. I think one would need weeks or months to really learn the place properly.
Properly dressed and breakfasted, we took the Crack Team to the Museu de la Xocolata. That's right, Barcelona has a Chocolate Museum. Your entry ticket is a bar of chocolate. (No, there is no terrifying boat ride.) The Museu de la Xocolata has some barely-educational displays about the history of Chocolate and How They Get Chocolate, but the really astounding things to see there are the sculptures. The Museu is filled with enormous, fantastically intricate chocolate sculptures. A chocolate Sagrada Familia, a chocolate Pieta, chocolate Smurfs and Lucky Luke, a chocolate albino gorilla, a chocolate Barcelona FC player, a life-size chocolate Komodo Dragon, and (weirdly) a life-size chocolate ape with Charles Darwin's face.
A little boggled from these displays of candymaking art, we did stop in the museum shop for some chocolate. As it was a hot day we decided to get cups of chocolate to drink (rather than carry melting bars around with us). Being Americans we were expecting chocolate-flavored milk, but what we got was chocolate. Basically cups of bittersweet fudge sauce. Wow.
Energized by a giant theobromine fix, we strolled over to the oldest part of the old quarter to see the satellite MUHBA museum in the old El Call section. That was the Jewish quarter of Barcelona in the early medieval days, and it finally got big enough to be a literal quarter of the city. Apparently the Counts of Barcelona and early Kings of Aragon loved their Jews because they paid their taxes directly into the Royal treasury, without any feudal or ecclesiastical middlemen skimming the take. But after the Reconquista the Spanish weren't very keen on religious diversity and kicked them out.
There are still some Jewish remnants in Barcelona, including the old Synagogue Major, which was used for the past six centuries as a workshop or storage space, but now is a museum. The space itself is a simple basement room with a low, vaulted ceiling, but the guide gave a very informative talk about the history of the place. It is apparently one of the oldest synagogues in Europe, second only to the one in Prague. I was amused to note that at the gift counter one could purchase yarmulkes in the Barcelona Football Club colors.
We searched for a place to have lunch and finally settled, rather resignedly, on a cafe called "Venus" which looked a little dodgy (freaky R. Crumb-knockoff nudes on the walls) — but which turned out to be quite good. I had a sort of codfish ceviche salad and a glass of wine. From there we made our way back to the flat with a stop to look at the flea market in the square by the cathedral.
In the afternoon we napped, then the youngest member and I went out to sit in the square before Santa Maria del Mar. I gave him money for gelato and got myself a glass of wine and some salty stuff. While we sat a wedding party emerged from the church, accompanied by showers of rice and an amazing cluster-bomb confetti launcher.
For our final dinner as a family we decided to return to the excellent Basque joint nearby. Instead of tapas we got a table and ordered the prix fixe menu. It was excellent — fish with a bell pepper puree, entrecote of beef, a sardine salad, and a Basque dessert which turned out to be a sort of hybrid of creme brulee and tiramisu.
And so to bed for a few hours before leaving. Did not sleep at all.
Cats sighted: 0
Tomorrow: How Long Does it Take to Get a Taxi at 4:45 A.M. on a Sunday in Barcelona? (And final thoughts.)