Saturday 1 June 2013
During our wanderings the previous day we had chanced upon the imposing edifice of the Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya (MNAC). We decided to make a day trip to this establishment the next day, so after our usual breakfast of huevos à la Ho Chi Minh (which is inspired by a wonderful street stall outside the hotel Ana in Saigon where we usually ate breakfast on our visit to Vietnam in 2008 with Ruby and Clare), we took the metro to Espanya and walked up the hill past a series of impressive water features to MNAC. Among the many nice surprises of the day was free admission to the Museu and an audio guide for only one euro each. Like a number of major art museums in Spain, MNAC gives a discount to teachers.
We spent the entire morning exploring MNAC’s impressive collection of Romanesque and Gothic art. The Museu is justifiably proud of the former: they have gone to extraordinary lengths to preserve and present an amazing collection of paintings that originally adorned the walls of churches in rural areas of Spain, and which at one point seemed destined to end up in the private collections of wealthy Americans. The Gothic art was every bit as impressive, and it was certainly the most comprehensive collection of Gothic art that we have encountered on our travels because it contains many wooden carvings and other artefacts as well as religious paintings.
We broke for lunch and sat in sun out the front of the Museu admiring the panoramic views of Barcelona, and then retreated into the shade for a beer in the café. After lunch, we went back to explore the Renaissance, Baroque & Modern Art collections.
At length we emerged from MNAC around 5:30 p.m., thoroughly dazzled by the depth and breadth of the collection. We caught the metro back from Espanya to Sagrada Familia via Universitat. Susie worked on her librito—a small scrap book that contains various tickets and other small recuerdos from our wanderings. Then she watched tennis on the tele while I took a 45 minute siesta.
In the evening, we went out for dinner at a seafood restaurant that was recommended by our host, Stefano. This was more complicated than it sounds, because it was no ordinary restaurant. At the front, it looked more like a seafood retailer. We had to observe the other clients and work out the protocol. First you made a selection of seafood from the display out the front. Then you ordered your wine, paid for your meal and took a table. On your receipt you are given a table number. At length, this number is called out and you go to a window in the wall and collect the plates on a tray. Our order consisted of whitebait, calamari (the legs only), 4 large prawns, a green salad, a bottle of dry white wine, and a typical dish of razor clams which a young man at the display had recommended. These were entirely new to us. They were a bit gritty, but they were extremely tasty and we were very glad we took his advice.
When you have finished eating, you return your empty plates and used cutlery to a different window in the wall. We never worked out what to do with the empty wine glasses. We got chatting to a friendly Spanish guy at next table who had been to Sydney, and he took a photo of us together. We don’t have very many of these!
After dinner, we walked through park in front of La Sagrada Familia, and we spent some time looking at the nativity façade which we had not yet seen at night. Needless to say it is lit up like Christmas until late into the night.