We’re on the eve of Epiphany. The Three Kings are coming to town. Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar are rock stars in this part of the world at this time of the year and tonight is their big gig. Tonight’s the night all the kiddies get their gifts or their coal if they haven’t quite made the grade behaviour-wise. There are parades all over Spain I understand and the one here in Barcelona is somewhat of a doozy. We’d heard about the parade and been looking forward to it since we arrived in Barcelona and had appropriately slept in to refresh our weary bones and strengthen our combined resolve for the night ahead.
We would undertake a leisurely stroll from our apartment along the Via de les Corts Catalanes where we were pleased to find a craft market underway and even more pleased to encounter a Churreria serving a fine and potentially sickening range of Churros and Churros-based products. Naturally we ordered a cone full and waited for the next batch to cook. Sadly, these donut-like, fried extrusions are only sold by the quarter kilo – oh well. We continued along the market thrilled to see little bowls of crap for sale at nearly every stall – for a few euros more you could purchase a large bowl of crap. I guess this has something to do with the little crapper that locals sneak into their Nativity scenes, but I wonder whether it would need to be declared at customs?
We walked on into the Bari Gothic and the Rambla before stopping in a quaint little Placa to eat pasta and quiche, which sustained us on through a few (thousand) more shopping streets until we found some more specific information on the route and timings of the parade. Into a nearby market, we decided to purchase a chicken to cook for dinner and Pip some rovello mushrooms to experiment with. Chickens in the window here are wholus-bolus – not cleaned – so the man went through a routine similar to the one the wabbit lady went through yesterday. Chop – head gone. Chop – feet gone. At this point, he started to wrap the chicken and rattled off some Spanish to which we responded with vaguery and he, kindly, he made gestures that indicated he would commit hara-kiri for us. Oh – remove the CHICKEN’s guts! Yes please. Slice – chicken opened. Rip – innards removed. Delicate cut – some gland or other whipped out. Chicken wrapped and bagged and we off to the vege stand. Every thing is harder without language. Even buying a spud. The vege stand was one of those daunting market stands where a lady is sat in the middle controlling the flow of money in exchange for produce. Do we touch the asparagus? Do we help ourselves to spuds? These are not straight forward questions in foreign countries. We waited till instructed to touch the asparagus and the spuds and then strained our ears to try and gain some semblance of the machine tune numbers the lady was about to spit at us – you can’t just proffer €20 notes for everything, eventually you have to understand a bit. The rovello mushrooms are brown and the underside is flecked with green, like blue cheese, but you mustn’t handle them too much or they turn green and you wouldn’t want to pay €16.50/kg for a green mushy. Pip bought two (they’re quite large).
We were now packing a number of bags some containing chicken and we had to choose whether to stay out or go home and then come out again for the parade. This was a decision that could only be made over wine and beer in a delightful little bar in a pleasant, tiny Placa, entertained by a pair of groovy boys with a guitar and a soprano trumpet and a repertoire of 70’s standards. We had wine. We had beer. We had coke. We hadn’t decided. More drinks – this time with some cheese and bread – would help us decide. In Barcelona, cheese means Manchego. If the menu or blackboard says ‘Queso’, read Manchego. I’m sure they sell it in singles. The cheese did help us decide because it was now too late to go home and come out again. This we knew because little lanterns with candles in them had appeared on our table.
We had made the important decisions watch the parade as it passed the top of La Rambla in front of Placa Catalunya – surely that would a quiet place to see it. We got there at about 6:45pm and took up a position about 8 in from the front. The crowd grew and grew. At 7:30pm, we spotted some movement at the far end of the Placa, but that was simply more police – it was apparently their night too. Eventually the parade appeared and crept towards us. Lights and design and costumes were fantastic. Lollies being catapulted into the crowds, which by this stage had become a huge crush – and remember we were toting a chicken and “gently does it” mushrooms. The parade took about an hour to pass and was only halfway along its route – there would be some tired monkeys on those floats by the end. Glad we saw it, but as we rolled along with the crowds into the Metro afterwards, that old soriness was welling up the back and ankles. Pip still cooked the chicken which was uncommonly delicious, perhaps due to a good pummeling in the crowd, but not the mushrooms which did not seem to enjoy the parade as much as we did. We will see if they recover for tomorrow.
Dinner at 10:30pm is reasonably late even for us, so bed was most welcome and I, for one, slept the sleep of a rock, and not one being tumbled along in a glacier.