From our friend in Barcelona: perfume and shoes

In her final report from Barcelona Kavel Rafferty visits two little museums.

You could walk past the Museu del Perfum hundreds of times without noticing it, which since 1961 has been situated in the back room of the Perfumery Regina on the busy Passeig de Gracia in central Barcelona.
Entrance is through the shop, via a short corridor leads to the exhibition room which is large and understated, a large room filled with hessian backed glass cabinets. Cabinets are packed with every type of perfume and scent bottle imaginable. There are fine examples of both antiquarian perfume vessels and hundreds of bottles charting the development of brand identities of major designers and perfume producers.
The collection consists of over 5,000 individual bottles, from large scale advertising props, 'on tap' perfume dispensers used in old perfume boutiques and tiny sample bottles. 
And then there’s the decoration: gilded fonts, candy colours, pattern, jewels, ribbon, bows, packaging and printed papers. All delightful in their own way.
A few of my favourites were the more kitsch novelty bottles: a vintage green telephone; fancy frocked ladies in all their finery; silver birds and strangely gruesome glass heads. 
There is a five euro entry fee, which is well worth it for the sheer volume of examples. The staff leave you alone to wander around without pressure in a gallery or museum. You can easily lose an hour or more examining all the different bottles.
Museu del Perfum, Passeig de Gràcia, 39
Monday to Friday: 10.30am-8pm; Saturday: 11am-2pm

The gentleman on the door of 

Museu del Calçat, a

 one-room shoe museum, must be well into his eighties, but he’s very sprightly and friendly. He offers a selection of small scribbled notes with various dates for each cabinet, which don’t always make things much clearer. I sneaked a few photos although photography is not strictly allowed – he gently told me off, but I don't mind as he called me señorita, that hasn't happened in a long while.

The collection contains many originals dating as far back as the 17th century as well as reproductions of earlier footwear. The collection includes tools, patterns, leather samples, illustrations, all kinds of shoes large and small from around the world. It's no V&A, but has some lovely exhibits and while slightly shabby is utterly charming. The tiniest 'shoes' in the collection are a pair carved from two olive stones, the biggest (with the accompanying last) made especially to fit the Columbus statue in Barcelona Harbour. Other unusual footwear includes black bridal shoes, peculiar to Cataluña, jewel-encrusted heels for dance shoes and intricately embroidered white leather children's shoes.

Museu del Calçat, Plaça Sant Felip Neri 5
Tuesday-Sunday: 11am-2pm

You can see Kavel's illustration work on her website.
And for more Barcelona, don't forget to pick up our map.

Posted in Barcelona, Illustration, Kavel Rafferty, Museums

From our friend in Barcelona: Els Encants Vells

A trip to Barcelona's grimy, exciting and intermittently rewarding Els Encants Vells flea market with Kavel Rafferty.

Els Encants Vells, I mistakenly thought this to mean 'market of old charms', which sounds delightful, but even if it were true might be stretching it a bit these days. 

The name actually relates to the time of the plague in Barcelona when the poor would sell the property of the dead, shouting 'en cantes' the prices outside the city walls. The original market dates back to the 14th century, making it one of the oldest markets in Europe; it was moved to the site near Glories in the 1920s to clean up the Saint Antoni area for the Universal Exhibition of 1929.

As with many markets, Encants has a mixture of new and old, from mountains of second-hand books spread out on blankets to phone unlocking services. The more permanent stalls around the edges tend to be new; household goods, electrical supplies, flamenco dresses, big pants and fabrics. In the centre are the grottier junk stalls; old paint, records, magazine, 'antiques' and collectibles, but really you could pretty much come across anything. You’ll need to dig around a fair bit, and you need good balance too as sometimes you have to climb over stuff to get to the back of the stalls. Amid all this bustle you'll find women selling platted garlic for a couple of Euros.

Every 10 to 15 minutes recorded messages are played over the Tannoy, in Catalan, Spanish and a strange American/English accent, mostly reminding you to take care of your bags. Along with this reminder to watch your belongings, are the shouts from stall holders todo barato (everything cheap), which is ironic as I find it a little over-priced, you really do have to barter hard. Ladies should beware of the onion rubbers 'a frotar la cebolleta' as my friend Arantxa describes the older gentlemen who rub up far too close to women, when they think they can get away with it.

Don't let any of this put you off, in general there’s a lively, exciting atmosphere. Most markets have s seamy aspect and this one is little different in that aspect to my past local of Brick Lane.

Work started recently to move the market to a modern, covered 25-metre marquee, just across the street but somehow I think this will ruin the feel. I'm not sure a flea market should be too clean – organised chaos should rule.

Els Encants Vells, Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday. I usually give Saturday a miss as it can be pretty heavy going with the heat and crowds. It opens at 7am with auctions, the market proper starts around 9am fizzles out by 2pm.  
Metro: L2 Encants / L1 Glories 

You can see Kavel's illustration work on her website.

And for more Barcelona, don't forget to pick up our map!

Posted in Barcelona, Illustration, Kavel Rafferty, Markets, Shops

From our friend in Barcelona: a quest for mushrooms

In which Kavel Rafferty ventures beyond Barcelona city limits into the woods, in search of fungi.

They love the mushroom season here, there’s even a prime time television programme about it. Ever since I moved to Barcelona four years ago I’ve pestered my friend Ricard to take me wild mushroom picking. At last the day came, and a few weeks ago I received a text message inviting me to the woods.

It was a bright autumn day and after a strengthening cup of coffee four of us set off on a two-hour drive into the mountains and a small town called Vic. We drove along small twisting country roads until we located the exact spot for good collecting. Ricard began young, picking mushrooms as a child with his dad and uncle, so I had total confidence in his knowledge of bolets (that’s Catalan for wild mushrooms), something which is essential when dealing with fungi a proportion of which can make you very ill, and some may even prove fatal – stories of which Ricard told us along the way.

My three companions made a curious sight, grown men with wicker baskets picking their way through the woods, avoiding a tremendous number of cow pats and peering into the undergrowth. And peer you must, mushrooms are hard to spot and edible ones thin on the ground. I found some pretty ones, some huge ones, some ugly ones and a fairy ring of evil ones, but very few that were edible.

We finished the foraging with a decent haul of almost three kilos of edible bolets, mainly Pinetells and Rovellons the most common of the wild mushrooms found in Cataluña, and a plan to meet later in the week for a mushroom feast.

We drove back though small villages and stopped for lunch in the village of Perafita, where 10 euros bought us three courses, accompanied by a rough red wine sweetened with casera and beers, which seemed ample reward for our labours.

I'm not suggesting anyone goes picking wild mushrooms alone or without guidance, but it's so lovely to see the Catalan woods and mountains, so different to what you expect of Spain, that if you get a chance to see venture outside Barcelona, then take it. And if you don’t, find a good restaurant that has bolets on the menu for a delicious taste of the Catalan forest.

You can see more of Kavel's work on her website.

And for more Barcelona, don't forget to pick up our map!

Posted in Barcelona, Food, Illustration, Kavel Rafferty

From our friend in Barcelona: B for vermut

Illustrator Kavel Rafferty returns with another report from her adopted city of Barcelona, where the vermut flows like wine.

Some of my best Saturdays in Barcelona have started with a vermut at noon, leading to a long lunch in a local restaurant. This vermut is a dark herbal fortified wine much loved over here, known to most of the world as vermouth. There’s a light version and more commonly, a darker, sweet one, both are usually served with small tapas, olives or pickles, the rich sweetness of the wine contrasting nicely with salty accompaniments.

Some take their vermut with ice, lemon and a couple of olives, others prefer to make it into a longer drink 'con syfon', and an old fashioned soda syphon is normally left on the bar for you to help yourself. As delicious as it is, we advise you to go easy: just enjoy the rosy glow of one or two glasses. But if things do go too far, I have yet to find a better hangover cure, the botanicals used to make vermut seem to posses some kind of magical restorative effect.

Although there’s plenty of industrially-produced vermut for sale here, if you ask for a vermut 'del grifo' or vermut 'de la casa' these will more than likely be made locally in one of the small villages outside Barcelona. And remember, in Spain, the v is pronounced with a soft b.

Below are three recommendations for places to enjoy a glass or two of vermut and some food. It’s worth remembering that if you ask anyone in Barcelona, they’ll have their own favourite place. Good food and drink is an obsession here, perhaps that’s why so many traditional bars survive with their Formica tables, chipped tiles, trad bar ware and grumpy waiters.

At the top end of Park Güell, the tables on the pavement get busy but they’re the prime spot, even in the colder months – on one occasion I sat comfortably outside in the January sun. The food is basic but good and generously served.
Carrer Ctra. del Carmelo / Muhlberg 1, 08024

Quimet y Quimet
Family-run and an institution in Poble Sec, with standing room only. It’s in quite a few guide books but locals still go there and mix happily enough with tourists. The food is amazing: we had a plate of cheeses (combinat de fromatges) and then a variety of smoked fish (combinat de fumats) with homemade crackers and bread last time we went. It can get very hectic, and it's not a bargain, but it's worth it.
Carrer de la Poeta Cabanyes, 25 , 08004

Cal Papi
This bustling bar is often busy and can get very hot, but the tapas are great, staff are friendly staff and it always has a nice atmosphere. It’s worth staying on for a lunch if you can get a table, and then walking it off on the beach at the end of the street.
Carrer de l'Atlàntida, 65, 08003

You can see more of Kavel's work on her website.

And for more Barcelona, don't forget to pick up our map!

Posted in Barcelona, Bars, Food, Illustration, Kavel Rafferty, Restaurants

From our friend in Barcelona: El Búho

Throughout November illustrator Kavel Rafferty will be reporting from her adopted city of Barcelona, exploring its hidden corners and its idiosyncrasies. The series begins with a neon owl, battered but unbowed.

In 2007 most of the defunct neon signs in Barcelona were demolished, but this owl, which had become such a well-loved symbol of the city, was saved. He’s known locally as El Búho in Castellano and in Catalan as El Mussol, and he dates from the 1970s, built by advertising and signage company Rètols Roura. In his prime, lit up in glowing neon, he must have looked amazing.

The poor old thing had his luminous eyes knocked out a couple of years ago in a storm and he was starting to look very sorry for himself, battered and forlorn. Thankfully Barcelona council, along with the Municipal Institute of Urban Landscape and Quality of Life and the advertising company Verona Comunicació, started a joint restoration project last year and he now has his mesmerising yellow eyes back, so he's looking a little more healthy and back to his unblinking self.

All these years on he stands perched above the buildings where Avinguda Diagonal meets Passeig de Sant Joan, just five minutes’ walk from my studio, and not too far from the more famous Sagrada Familia. And El Búho seems a much more fitting mascot for Barcelona and Cataluña than Gaudi’s church, keeping a watchful eye over the city’s inhabitants. 

I'll be leaving Barcelona in three months, moving down south to Valencia; one thing I'll really miss about this city, apart from all the fabulous friends I've made, is this funny fellow.

Viva El Buho!

You can see more of Kavel's work on her website.

And for more Barcelona, don't forget to pick up our map!

Posted in Barcelona, Illustration, Kavel Rafferty


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