Here’s the plan. I don’t think it’s too outrageous or is reaching for the moon.
I’ll rent a bijou bohemian flat on La Rambla, near to La Boqueria Market. Ideally it will have pale blue wooden shutters, tall ceilings, faded & cracked plasterwork and an ornate wrought iron balcony. Each night I’ll lounge against the ornate balcony with a glass of absinthe in my hand whilst I look enigmatically down on the La Rambla fashionistas strolling to and fro between sexy little bars and Arctic cool restaurants.
During the day I’ll partake of something sinful that has whispered my name from one of the stalls in the Boqueria Market before anarchically buying random and mysterious looking ingredients with which to create something brilliantly creative and artistic to devour for dinner.
Once my elbow has become acquainted with every single tapas counter and my wallet has given paper presents to each one of the food stalls I’ll leave Barcelona – mission happily accomplished.
That was the dreamy plan I concocted whilst wandering wide-eyed, juices flowing to the point where my mouth needed bailing out, through the hustling and bustling La Boqueria Market.
I knew about its reputation – of course I knew about its reputation – but to expose your senses to it is something else altogether. IT IS A GASTRONOMIC WONDERLAND.
I wanted to eat everything. The experience of actually being in this revered food shrine made me dizzy – probably because my head was spinning like a frenzied top trying to absorb the sights, sounds and smells that bombarded me from every enticing aisle.
A zillion food stalls (…or at least a lot), each one displaying things that belonged in my mouth – immediately.
La Boqueria Market not only lives up to the hype it surpasses it, inspiring foodies for 800 years since it began life as an open-air market outside of the city walls. Over the years it has displaced a convent (hence its other name St Josep), seen rival traders fight to display their wares and has swallowed up other city markets as it became bigger, better and ultimately one of the best markets in the world. Its steely design makes it one of Barcelona’s Modernisme attractions, so not only does it cause foodies to go weak-kneed, it woos architectural aficionados and culture-seeking travellers as well.
It is visually exciting – salt fish counters I’ve seen a million times and stalls with hanging jamons are about as Spanish as you can get but in La Boqueria they fit snugly as sideshows in an exhilarating gastronomic circus. The intensity of colours at a juice kiosk is saturation overdose; a chilli jungle of a stall made me think of the vibrant excesses of Mumbai whilst one of my favourites was a pie palace whose floppy pastries could easily have been discarded sailor hats from a Jean Paul Gaultier advert.
Ultimately my visit to La Boqueria Market didn’t sate my appetite to see it. For a start, it was around 3pm when I zigged and zagged and zagged and zigged through its food-laden halls, some stalls having long since been abandoned. And most of my fellow zigger zaggers were tourists like me.
I want to see, hear and feel the market as it’s breathing in the early morning air at a time when traders and ‘real’ people are bartering for La Boqueria’s booty.
But that’s not the main reason I feel deprived of an authentic La Boqueria experience. Having just lingered long over lunch at La Mar Salada, I had no hunger at all. I should have been delirious with desire at the prospect of nibbling at atmospheric tapas stalls, but I had absolutely no appetite whatsoever; the tantalising treats might as well have been locked away behind steel grills.
I exited La Boquera without trying a single morsel – it is a culinary crime and I’m ashamed to admit it. I have to return.
Anyway, I have this plan…
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+