After almost two months in Barcelona, I finally had my first ever paella this week! Paella is a traditional Spanish dish, but even more so in the region of Cataluna. It’s a rice dish with vegetables, seasoning, and some type of meat- here it’s usually seafood or chicken- served in a shallow dish/pan that it was cooked in. I had Paella con Mariscos (seafood) and it was delicious! Filled with shrimp, onions, garlic, lobster, and mussels it was probably the tastiest dish I’ve had yet. My friends and I went to a great restaurant in the “El Raval” neighborhood; a less touristy, slightly “gritty” part of Barcelona, known for its nightlife but also for its crime, and is the area bordering the other side of “La Rambla” (the other being the Gothic Quarter) as mentioned in my previous posts.
Along with the wonderful cuisine of the region, Barcelona also has many great museums and art exhibits. One such notable museum is within the Gothic Quarter, or the old Roman city area, and is the Museu Picasso (Picasso Museum) that houses more than 3,500 works by the 20th century Spanish painter, and is the most extensive collection of his works in the world. It has been open to the public since 1963 and was the only museum dedicated to Pablo Picasso that opened during his lifetime. A passerby on a regular day would not even realize they had just passed the museum, walking through the narrow, stone-lined alleyways, surrounded by cafes, shops, and five story apartment buildings on either side. In a way that added to the charm of the museum and I felt that I was experiencing the Barcelona that Picasso lived in while he was here. The works were beautiful and there was a tremendous variety, with works from his blue period, cubism, surrealism, realism, and even some of his sculptures. There was also gallery of photographs and portraits of Picasso, his wife, and others which were particularly interesting to me. In high school, I wrote an extensive English paper accompanied by a project that showcased much of Picasso’s life and art, and some of these photographs were familiar to me which was exciting. One of his most famous works that depicts the German bombing during The Spanish Civil War, Guernica (1937), is in a museum in Madrid, and unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to see it while I was there, but this museum is definitely a must-see in Barcelona. His life and art are amazing and he has always been one of my favorite artists.
During the week, I also visited a bomb shelter with others in my program to solidify some concepts we’re learning in one of our classes. It was a bomb shelter build for and used during The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and is one of the estimated thousands throughout just the city of Barcelona. We were able to walk through the underground tunnels and learn about what life was like in the city during that period of time. Most of these shelters were dug only with shovels and pickets and mostly by the elderly, women, and children since the able-bodied men were at war. There were rooms specifically designed for bathrooms, children areas, smoke escapes, “fountains” from the underground water resources, community rules written on plaques on the walls, and even a room for the sick with special floor ventilation to keep moisture away. Over 75 years ago, hundreds of people relied on these tunnels for there lives and spent their most uncertain and fearful hours here, and just yesterday I was standing on the very ground they were while being attacked by French and German bombs- amazing.