Barcelona-Tickets Restaurant

We declared 2016 to be the year in which we would try many new fine dining experiences. And we did. A small number may stretch the definition of “fine” but the majority would not. Altogether there were 35 such venues. The last of these was Tickets in Barcelona, which was voted the 29th best restaurant in the World. It proudly advertises this in its window.

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The restaurant is themed as theatre (or maybe circus, but certainly an event). You enter at the ticket counter and the wait staff are dressed in uniform with epaulettes.

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Perhaps I should share the first few courses and then we can have a little rest, before we move to the home straight.

Firstly, with emphasis, the signature dish transported from ElBulli, an explosion of intense flavours from the olive reconstituted as ……..an olive:

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imageimageNote the pearl in the oyster. The razor clam is a splendid variety of flavours much preferred by the subscribers to TripAdvisor.

There were more savouries and my favourite was the octopus served on the beach box with the most fabulous cucumbers in a Tickets jar.

There is not a set number of courses for the menu. It is called a surprise menu and the waiter brings out food that he thinks you will like and you say stop when you’ve had enough. We said stop after 19 plates had been set before us and consumed with gusto. At that point, we were invited to leave our table and transport ourselves to ….fanfare……….The Dessert Room. It is hidden behind a curtain. As the curtain opens you find yourself in a Willy Wonka type location, witness the roof:

imageimageThe cheesecake masquerading as cheese is pretty special

imageThe total cost of this extravagant evening was Euros 300. This fed us each 21 plates and we drank two glasses of Cava, a bottle of red wine, a lot of fizzy water and then total included ten percent tip.  This was exceptionally good value. Alex has declared it to be her best ever restaurant experience. There is no higher accolade. A very fitting finale to the year of fine dining.

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Barcelona- Fundacio Joan Miro

A local boy made good. In his case the gallery contains the greatest collection of Miro’s works. I discovered that his intent was to assassinate painting………and he was doing this …..by paintings?? I’m not really sure how that works.

However, very much worth a visit. A really lovely gallery, well laid out and attractive. It’s on MontJuic which is higher and to the left of the city. Up there you can wander on foot or by cable car and enjoy views down and across Barcelona and the water.

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Behind glass is the Mercury fountain created by one of Miro’s mates. It doesn’t poison visitors, but it does fascinate them.

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Barcelona-Gaudi, encore, encore

We visited the Sagrada Familia. I feel inclined declare it to be the best church in the World. So, I shall. It is the best church in the World.

It isn’t a cathedral and it isn’t finished. Work commenced in 1882. Underneath the church there is a very fine museum. Inside the very fine museum is a room that shows a very fine video. The very fine video states, with authority, the church will be completed in 2026. This is the hundredth anniversary of Gaudi’s death. My experience of large projects is that the project conspires to extend beyond any nominated completion date. This truculence continues until the project has been declared completed, at which point the project has another couple of years to go before it is completed. It is worthy of visit before completion, and recurrently, until, and beyond, completion. It is extraordinarily impressive.

Why is it impressive? The design is unique. The columns resemble tree trunks and as they approach the roof line they branch apart and as they hit the roof they burst into foliage.

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Why is it unique? The light. There is a time lapse video that plays inside the church. It shows the effects that the large stained glass and white light access makes as the sun crosses the sky each day. I can’t recall seeing that concern for light so well executed on such a grand scale as it here.

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Why is it unique? Such a lot going on on such a grand scale. There are not one or two well executed ideas. There are hundreds and hundreds of ideas. To my eye they are all flawlessly executed. So where ever you look there around this church that caters for 8000 worshippers and soars to 45 metres in height there many many things to intrigue and impress, inside and out.

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Barcelona-Gaudi encore

I visited Barcelona in June two years ago. At that time I did not visit Sagrada Familia and I did not visit Casa Battlo (or Picasso) and the reasons were the same. The queues for tickets were long and I had not invested in the requisite volume of patience into that visit.

This visit was completed in December. There are fewer visitors and I was prepared. I had bypassed queues and purchased a visitor time slot using the marvellous productivity enhancer named the Internet. I reinforced this good judgement by selecting time slots for popular venues early in the morning, before the less determined tourist had finished their croissants.

Visiting fresh examples of Gaudi’s architecture two years on provided me the opportunity to be even more highly impressed.

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The images above and below are from Casa Battlo. A house for his patron and six (or eight) apartments above. He was inspired by nature and shunned the straight lines. This must have made it extraordinarily expensive to build his creations. I have watched Grand Designs and I know that carpenters (and tradesmen generally) do not like curvature. They display their contempt for curves by destroying architects budgets the moment a curved surface appears. At Casa Battlo, Gaudi used few straight lines.

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On this visit  I was struck by the frequency and vibrancy of colour that Gaudi incorporated into his buildings, very little beige in sight.

Gaudi was innovative. By example, he incorporated passive heating and cooling systems into his building design and designed in modern contractions such as lifts, showers, inside toilets, borrowed light…….. He also extended himself by designing the furniture, doors, door handles, decorative turned metal……..He must have been an extraordinarily hard working fellow who expressed his deep talents across many aspects of design.

At Casa Battlo there is a rather nice little device given to the visitor. A tablet. With enhanced reality !!! Huh , what’s enhanced reality? In this instance it means you point the tablet around the room you are located. You look at the screen of the tablet and cannot fail to notice that it has overlaid the real room with on screen features such as the original furniture or lit the fire or added carpets or  recreated the original layout of the room. That is clever.

 

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Barcelona-Figueres and Dali

Figueres is less than hour north of Barcelona when travelling on the very pleasant, very fast train that continues to Paris. It stops at a very modern station called Figueres Vilafant. This is not to be confused with Figueres station which is a very slow train ride from Barcelona.

Walking from Figueres Vilafant station to Figueres town centre you get the impression of a drab town that is down on its luck. The town centre is not like that at all, it is full of expensive shops and then you walk another few hundred metres and the drabness is again before you. Figueres is the home town of Salvador Dali. To recognise his affection for the town he built them a museum of his works, renovating an old, burnt out theatre for the purpose.

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The museum is different. There are not audio guides. There is little explanation next to works. There is a small floor plan provided and there are numbers on rooms that can be followed sequentially or not. I was looking for a logical pathway through the museum and I’m not sure that I found one and I suspect that may have been the design intention.

The museum contains 1500 pieces of Dali’s work. The most famous, from my knowledge, is the Mae West room, which is very impressive. Generally, there is a lot of space dedicated to works that play with perspective and optical trickery.

The corridors are quite narrow, the volume of visitors can be very high and alongside the chaotic self navigation I imagine that the art works get banged and nudged around quite frequently. It provides the museum a less reverential feel than many. The paintings seemed to have very little to protect them which reinforces the accessibility.

The flip side of this accessibility is that the famous works are not here. They are behind thick glass at the end of large rooms that are well designed to cater for crowds in the worlds major cities.

 

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Dali inspired by Monty Python? Or vice versa? Or neither?

The surprise find was the Dali jewellery. It is housed in a separate building that abuts the museum. I was not aware that Dali had designed jewellery. He did, and a lot of jewellery and they are very impressive creations. These were the highlight for me. And if that wasn’t enough I came across Dali while considering his jewellery. His resting place is amongst the exhibits behind a very plain stone containing his name and key dates. It was odd, no pomp, no candles, no flowers. I checked afterwards on the Internet of everything to confirm that I had seen, what I thought I had seen, the location of Dali’s remains. Yes, odd. But odd is the consistent at this museum, it’s why we visited.image

 

 

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Nuremberg-Didn’t invent Christmas

But its a mistake that is easily made.

There is a toy museum in Nurnberg which indicated that in the 19th and early 20th century Nurnberg was the world capital of toy making. Dolls, animals, wind up tin and thousands of imaginative creations were exported around the globe.

Childrens toys go hand in hand with Christmas. The reason we are in Nurnberg  in the cold is to see the Christmas nightmarkets. They have not disappointed, they are magical. If Nurnberg didn’t invent Christmas it is certainly one of the locations in the World that does an excellent job in bringing it to life. The city is appropriately dressed for the occasion:

The market stalls have thousands of ardornments for the tree:

Supplemented by the local favourites of gingerbread, Gluhwein and some very strange looking candles:

A this point you should be crooning seasonally appropriate songs in the style of Bing Crosby or Kings College Cambridge. If not, I suggest you need a visit to Nurnberg.

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Yo ho ho and a very Merry Christmas to every little girl and boy.

 

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Nuremberg-The odd bits

The title is incorrect. There isn’t anything odd about Nurnberg. I suspect the things that are striking me as odd are aspects of Germany and not this particular city.

1. The sale of tobacco products.

I am accustomed to cigarettes being hidden from sight within a newsagent shop or supermarket. As a shopper at either of those places I cannot see their packaging, which I am told is plain.  I understand plain means that the manufacturer cannot be identified as logos are absent. There is no signage permitted that would advertise such products. In Nurnberg there are cigarette dispensing machines that sit on the street. A person who is tall enough to reach the coin slot (or has access to a small stool) can purchase the product. As a consequence, I cannot see an effective restriction on sale of tobacco to minors. There are no restrictions on viewing the manufacturers logos and there is 24 hour access for the impulse purchaser. I do not wish to judge and I would not wish to be accused of being an evangelical ex smoker. However, one of many solutions, may involve superglue.

2. Skips. When you are a cobblestoned city which has been built to a medieval streetscape, where do you put waste skips?

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Here. You hide them together behind a medieval wall, where only tall tourists can spy them

3. Cash. It is particularly difficult to use a credit card in restaurants. Instead of touch and go between a card reader and a micro chip there is human interaction. The waiting staff have a bulging wallet attached to their hip, or secreted in the front pocket of their apron. Cash only. It feels olde worlde, which I am going to entitle “quaint”.

4. German words. Ok nothing odd about German words in Germany. Except that I have  noted  the consequences for eyesight and the human mind. I have spent moments performing research to confirm my intuitive observation that German words are long. And the answer is yes. They are, on average, 30% longer than English words.

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To support my point I attach a photo of German words. See how long they are? I am sure you will agree that they are quite lengthy.

When we first arrived in Nurnberg we needed to find our hotel. We discovered difficulties we had not experienced in other countries. We found it very difficult to read street signs. We thought that they were not sufficiently large to accommodate all of the letters in the German street words. Consequently, they cannot be read from a distance by persons whose first language is not German, such as myself.

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German words have 30% more letters than English words. So signage must be set on a panel that is on average 30% larger than for the same sign in non German cities. This would enable equivalent font sizes to be used. However, I would be encouraging of using an even larger font size to more clearly seperate all those letters that are being poured into the construction of a German word.

The difficulty we experienced in reading these signs did not seem to be shared by local people. I can only conclude that years and generations of exposure to all this lettering has developed the eyesight of local speakers. That eyesight is now far superior to that of we infrequent visitors.

My second conclusion is in relation to the learning of new languages in later life to frighten away dementia. The German language has 30 percent more letters so learning German over other languages must be more challenging to the mind. Therefore it must be more effective in augmenting pathways within the mind and supporting the elasticity of that mind. That is, more effective compared to say learning English or Spanish or French. My hypothesis, pending grant applications, is that learning the German language is more effective in keeping you “sharp as a tack” in later life than learning any other language (well except those that are character based or use a different alphabet)

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