Palau, Pintxos & Famous People Pooping
Barcelona, December 2018
Nine times out of ten when we return to Canada from Limoux, we spend a few days in Paris. This time, we decided to visit the Christmas markets in Barcelona and fly back from there. We go to Barcelona often, and love the place, but this visit was special.
Abandoning Gaudí, we toured the Palau de la Música Catalana, where the first question the guide asked us was, “What modernista architect did not design the Palau?” All smile. "Gaudí!"
The Palau is a fine example of Domènech I Montaner’s vision. It is Catalan proud, but not parochial. In the main concert hall the statuary/decorations are, on the left a celebration of Catalunyan musicians, and on the right a celebration of international music greats.
Encircling the stained-glass roof are the images representing Voxalba, the Palau’s all woman choir.
Both inside and outside this art nouveau modernista masterpiece, quirky beauty abounds.
Oh, and I was gently chided by the guide. She pointed to a series of busts and asked, “Who is the most famous?” “Pablo Casals,” I confidently replied. She smiled her answer at me. “You are right… and wrong.” And so I learned that correctly he is to be called by his Catalan name ‘Pau’. As with Pablo, it is translated as Paul, but Pau also means ‘Peace’ in Català. Cool.
By now, it was noon and lunch was calling. Plaça Nova, a short, fascinating walk through the wonderfully labyrinthine Barri Gòtic, hosts the biggest Christmas market.
More importantly, it’s home to Bilbao Berria, our favourite Barcelona Pintxos house.
The Basque-inspired Pintxos (tapas with sticks in them) adorn a forty-foot-long bar. Serve yourself. They count the sticks when you’ve finished.
This more expensive special tapa/pintxo plate, plus three extra pintxos each as shown above, plus two big glasses each of a very nice Rioja set us back only Can$30 per person.
And So... Over to the Market.
"What’s in your Nativity scene?"
Mary, Joseph, the Christ Child, assorted animals and wise men, right?
Possibly not a figurine of someone crouched with his pants down.
At least ten of the stands in the Plaça Nova Christmas market featured Caganers, the traditional Nativity scene figure of a Catalan man pooping.
Not to have a Caganer in one’s nativity scene is considered unlucky. Normally hidden discretely in the corner so’s not to upstage the Sagrada Familia, a Catalunyan, wearing the traditional farmer’s garb: black pants, red hat and red sash, goes about his job of fertilizing the earth to ensure the success of next year’s crop.
The tradition has morphed, though, over time.
Now Caganers are also celebrity collectibles. Just about every famous figure has been represented in Caganer form.
Locals tell you it’s about reminding all, prince and pauper, of our shared humanity. You’ll recognise diverse humanity here in this panel.
In this final photo, I feature our Canadian Prime Minister (turned around courtesy of a kind stallholder) bare-assedly dispensing crap for all to see.
I shall refrain from making a political comment here.
So, Jesus, Mary, Joseph and… Pau?