In Barcelona, we decided to join a free walking tour. Free walking tours are a great way to learn some of the history of the city you’re visiting. The guides work for tips, but they usually don’t heckle or force you to give them money. The free tour we went on was hosted by the Travel Bar. They have tours daily, three times a day, and each tour lasts around two hours.
Our humorous tour guide took us only around the Raval and Born neighborhoods, starting with the Jewish Quarter. The streets here are very narrow, and the Jews in Barcelona – as well as in the rest of Spain – had to face the criticisms in a country which, by 1492, was entirely Catholic.
We also visited the Plaza de Sant Felip Neri, and the walls of the church still have scars from the bombings of the Spanish Civil War.
After that, we went to Plaza Sant Jaume, where the government buildings are located. Every year, a competition is held in this square, where teams make human towers. Apparently, the top is comprised of little children, and hundreds of people come to watch and act as support for the towers. Our guide showed us an amazing newspaper article with a picture of a small boy tumbling down the top of a human tower into a sea of people below.
Near the end of the tour, we saw where Picasso first went to school. His father didn’t know the school was located in the Red Light District, but we can only imagine that Picasso got some interesting inspiration. There is paint on the doors today because of a protest, where students threw yellow pain on the school doors.
With time left to spare after the walking tour, we took the metro to explore around Plaça d’Espanya before finally walking down to see the Magic Fountain. From October to April, the Magic Fountain has a show every half hour from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM. We arrived slightly before 7:30 PM. Although there were lots of people crowded on top of the overpass, there was plenty of space in front of the fountain. We didn’t have any expectations about the show and were pleasantly surprised. The fountain did its routine with colorful lights, and a music selection which reminded us of our childhood. For most of the 30 minutes, we shamelessly sang along with songs by The Backstreet Boys, Smash Mouth, Oasis, and more. The times for the show differ after April, with later start and end times.
After a fun show at the Magic Fountain, we wandered around the Poble Sec to find a place to eat. As we were passing stores, we saw a poster advertising a tapas tour. Sadly, the dates of the tours had already ended, but the poster listed the restaurants featured on the tour. We looked at the outside menus of a few of the places listed, but ultimately chose El Rincón del Cava because it featured tapas for €1.
When we walked in, we could see that the restaurant was very much a tourist destination. The walls were covered with pictures of their customers, most of whom looked to be students. The irony was that, despite displaying its popularity with travelers, El Rincón del Cava was deserted when we went at around 8:30PM at night. There was only one other customer. Nonetheless, we were willing to try the food.
The discounted menu has no descriptions, just pictures, so we had to ask the bartender about some of the dishes. In the end, we ordered three tapas: tortilla de patatas (€2.70), pequeño bombos (€1), and empanadillas (€1). The tortilla de patatas was solid, and we appreciated that it had already been cubed up for us to eat with our toothpicks. The tortilla also came with bread smeared with tomato sauce and then drizzled with olive oil. The bread was too soft to add any depth, and the flavor of the tomato spread was so weak that it lost out to the olive oil.
The pequeño bombos were fried, meat-filled balls on top of a slice of bread. To be honest, I found the bread unnecessary, but we figured that it was a traditional presentation. The filling of the fried ball reminded me of what you would find inside a beef taco.
The empanadillas, as the name implies, were tiny versions of empanadas. They were filled with a cream-tomato sauce. We were surprised to find that they were so tiny, deceived by the picture in the menu. The filling was nice, with the tomato giving a hint of sweetness.
The food at El Rincón del Cava was pretty standard. Although nothing tasted horrible, the food wasn’t exactly mind-blowing either. With such cheap prices, though, one shouldn’t expect too much. If you’re visiting Barcelona, I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to visit El Rincón del Cava.
El Rincón del Cava
Carrer de Blasco de Garay, 53
08004 Barcelona, Spain
Travel Bar free walking tour
Tours daily at 11:00, 13:00, and 15:00
Meets at Travel Bar, Carrer de la Boqueria 27