Free visitation time ended at the cathedral before we’d even made it halfway through. The guards herded us towards the exit and we stepped back outside, blinded by the sunlight. Still trying to absorb the beauty of the cathedral, we wandered over to the temporary installation in the plaza for the Festival of Saint Roch and snapped a few photos.
We found a quiet spot just inside the plaza and sat down to mentally digest and figure out where to go next. We had been sitting there quite some time when two rats suddenly came scurrying out of the crevices to explore and scavenge. The brown one ran to where another couple was sitting. It stopped just inches away from the lady’s feet, but I don’t think she noticed. If she did, I guess she didn’t mind as she didn’t flinch or make a peep. The white rat started loping towards us, which made me nervous. I pointed it out to Jesse (he had only noticed the brown one), and we watched carefully while slowly pulling out our cameras. He had been eyeballing us strange humans though and must’ve sensed something suspicious occurring, so he quickly scurried back to his safe corner. He sat on his perch and continued to eye us while sniffing and straining for the old bread that was scattered on the rocks just below him. He could never quite decide if we were the enemy and made no attempts to grab a piece while we were present. Still, it was entertaining to watch him lust after the bread. I love small, unexpected moments and experiences like this.
We headed off to explore El Born district next, passing by this Julio Nieto sculpture on the way, and filling up our water bottles at a nearby fountain. We really enjoyed El Born. It was quieter and less touristy. The streets were cleaner and emptier and I heard more Catalan being spoken there, as opposed to the countless other languages we heard from the tourists in the districts we had explored earlier. El Born is a more eclectic area with independent shops/boutiques, artists’ studios, museums, and local restaurants. Many of shops are both store and studio, as artists sell what they make.
We wandered through the Mercat de Santa Caterina, similar to la Boqueria on Las Ramblas, to find something for lunch. Santa Caterina Market is a beautiful, colorful building constructed upon the ruins of an old monastery (on display at the back of the market). Everything looked delicious. We found a booth that sold only cheese and we purchased some manchego and maó cheeses. We found a jamón booth and, feeling more confident today, I asked the clerk which jamón she preferred, as there were around 10 different kinds. She recommend two to me, stating something along the lines of one being very good but second one, jamón de bellota, being absolutely divine (though much more pricey). Jamón de bellota is made from acorn-fed pigs and is supposed to be the best, most flavorful of all jamón. We went ahead and bought both the acorn fed and grain fed so we could compare. Our last stop at Santa Caterina was the bakery up front where we purchased dos baguettes. I was having a lot of fun communicating and exchanging euros with the merchants. It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep will do to boost your confidence. With our picnicky lunch secured, we headed out to explore the rest of El Born.
(these four photos are just random shots from our walk of El Born. The Palace of Catalan Music is gorgeous (also hard to photograph) and the very last photo is a Romanesque chapel, Chapel of Marcus, built in the 1100s. It is supposed to be the oldest church in town).