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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Vinçon has a graphic design business and naturally they design their own bags for the shop.  Here is a selection of the bag designs over the years – the first started in 1972.

In case you just joined, check out my two earlier posts about Vinçon’s shop in Barcelona, selling small design products here and furniture here.

According to their web site:

“the firm’s graphic designs have been constantly evolving, its packaging being the most characteristic element. Vinçon bags are part of the iconography of the city, and have turned into cult collectable items.”

I like the fun design of 1985 and the illusion of 1988.

Well, with a design like the one in 1992, it must have been quite unforgettable. The 1995 design is created by the artist who made the famous piece  “I shop therefore I am.”

The bag even captured history.  Goodbye peseta 2001 – the euro started circulation in 2002.

Cute, simple and relevant.

The most current design 2011 … “I came, I saw, Vinçon.”  We certainly did that on this trip.

We saw some of the bags framed and hung on the walls in the shop. To see all the designs, go their website here.

While we were touring Barcelona on one of those hop-on-hop-off tourist buses, we stopped here for a quick lunch when we were changing bus from one route to another. This restaurant is located just outside the historic Poblenou cemetery and opposite the church that was used as a multi-denomination place of worship for the Olympics athletes.

This neighborhood Poblenou was an industrial area until they re-gentrified parts of it (renamed as Diagonal Mar).  In the few blocks that we explored, we saw factories with workers in overalls having lunch in groups.  We were a bit shy to go into those restaurants as there were no menus, so we came to this restaurant which had menus clearly posted. There is a tourist menu on the left with pictures – greasy fried egg, sausages, fried potatoes …

On the right is the menu of the day from which we ordered.  The set menu offered one dish out of three courses.

  My first course was Gazpacho Anduluz, which was the first one of many I had since we landed.

The food is not fancy but it is solid – which is that you would expect from a non-touristy, working class neighborhood.

Dessert was crema catalunya (Catalan Creme Brulee) and flan (creme caramel).

This is a view down the street from the restaurant.  One of Barcelona’s landmark, Torre Agbar is just up the street.

A closeup of this landmark. Click on the photo below to get even closer.

This is a continuation of an earlier post about Vinçon.  Now, we go upstairs where Vinçon sells furniture, indoor as well as outdoor.   The outdoor pieces were shown in a patio at the back.

The patio is a tourist destination in its own right as it offers an unique view of the back of Casa Mila. As you can see, it is much tamer than the front (see earlier post about Casa Mila here).

Loved the mosaic-tiled floor.

Some showrooms include a bay window or a covered veranda that faces Passeig de Gràcia and lets in natural light.  It felt very cosy and lived-in.

I said I would compare Driade in Milano with Vinçon in Barcelona in my earlier post about Driade. I am completely undecided … Driade has the more dramatic pieces while Vinçon’s are more user-friendly.  Driade is smaller and its layout more confusing. Vinçon has a wider range of mechandise and more spacious showrooms.  There is however some je ne sais quoi with Driade, possibly a boutique feel, while Vinçon is an emporium.  If I can afford it, I will buy from both !

I had wanted to buy this kind of book storage for a while … saw them in Design Within Reach in the US.

Orio in El Gòtic, Barcelona – it is in the middle of a busy street (C. de Ferran 38), the place looked touristy but it was patronized by locals, the happy hour-after work crowd.  Lively ambiance, a perfect place to mingle and meet people. Two couples, one young and one old, shared the other end of a long table with us.  It looked like a meeting for the first time of either the boy or girl to the other’s parents.  Too bad we cannot understand what they are talking about.

To get the tapas, just go up and help yourself to as much as you want. But you are required to keep the toothpick which holds the tapas together, because the restaurant use the number of toothpicks to calculate your bill.  Honor system in a restaurant !

We sat in a section of the restaurant where we could order off a menu and also take the tapas from the bar.  I did not know the place served food from the Basque region until I looked it up online.

Free appetizers.

A waiter was shucking oysters at the front of the restaurant – that’s what got our attention.

We ate the following from the menu plus some more:

Here are some of the tapas on the counter:

Nuts, cheese and red wine  … mmm

There was one store that I knew I must visit in Barcelona and that is Vinçon.  Many years ago I visited it and it made a long lasting impression on me. On this visit, it surely did not disappoint me – it had all the good stuff and many more that which I did not know existed.  For example, a foosball table featuring members of KISS (and other celebs unknown to me) against FC Barcelona !

The store has three floors, the top being a showroom for large furniture pieces, the street level and lower level sold smaller pieces and other designed products. I will cover the top floor later.

They appear to stock the entire range of famous brands:  Pantone, Moleskine, etc.

They also featured our beloved Lafuma zero gravity chair.  Some of you will remember those chairs, we are still using them in Lausanne.

They also stocked Lampe Berger’s full range of home perfume.  When Sue told the saleslady that our lamp is not functional because we lost a piece during the move, she gave us a replacement for free. What service!  But we did not buy any perfume because it is highly flammable and we had limited luggage space.

Vintage toy robots

Vitra miniatures

CCCB (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona) is apparently one of the most visited exhibition/art center in Barcelona.  Wikipedia summed up my impression of CCCB very nicely:

… the Centre’s core theme is the city and urban culture. Its success is based on quality, its rather eclectic approach, attention to a broad cross section of publics and the unique way it addresses issues with the aim of linking the academic world with creative processes and citizens in general.

Located next to the city’s museum of contemporary art (MACBA), this is one of the venues that we could visit with our Articket BCN pass. I recommend all visitors to buy this pass as soon as possible. Not only did it save us a little bit of money, it saved us time. It allowed us access to a much much shorter line at several museums – so you can waltz pass the crowd like a VIP.

When we got to CCCB, it is kind of late.  So there was hardly any one but it is also because the entrance is underground.  The center courtyard is kept free of anything except the ramp leading down to the entrance adding an air of minimalism to the symmetrical glass facade.

One side of the courtyard has been renovated. Citing Wikipedia again:

with a 30-metre high prismatic volume, presenting a spectacular glazed façade that projects into the courtyard at the top. With its interplay of reflections, this new feature becomes a mirror of the surrounding rooftops and a prime lookout point over the city.

The reflection is quite magical since you are on the ground, yet you can see beyond the walls and assume a much higher vantage point.

When we stood in the middle of the mostly empty courtyard, it felt like we were in Christopher Nolan’s 2010 movie Inception (remember ? Leonardo di Caprio messing with people’s dreams ? It was a good movie).

A brone sculpture above one of the entrance to the courtyard.

From the inside of CCCB, looking out onto the courtyard:

We saw an immersive and artfully-presented exhibition about a literary figure and the Italian city of Trieste (La Trieste de Margris”).  To me, it is a rather obscure topic but the exhibition was so well put together that it kept me interested.  I found this official promo on Youtube.

Japanese-Peruvian restaurant in Barcelona ?  Yes, Komomoto. We stumbled upon it while wandering around El Born.  The restaurant shares the same facade with a hotel which we entered by mistake and was greeted with a wall of Fornasetti plates.

There is a door which opens into the restaurant.   One of the walls is covered by notes, photos, etc. for travellers and staff  … it really looks like a canteen of the hotel.

The dining room is minimally decorated.  The guests share benches and long metal tables.  The wood and rust on the tables lent some warmth to the room.

Nobu popularized the idea of mixing Japanese and South Amercian foods.  Cerviche is one of my favorite foods.  I bought the cookbook  – “Nobu Miami” and even tried a few receipes.  The food here is definitely interesting.  We are no judge of authenticity but it tasted good to me.

The paper mats tell the stories of how the Japanese settled in Peru in the 1800’s with blurry black and white pictures – the research is too thorough – it smelled too much like a themed-restaurant.

This is meant to be a type of tempura but it was in our collective opinion a disaster.  Thick batter and overpowering brown sauce.

Overall, the food is ok and inexpensive.  I really enjoyed their spicy fish soup.

Sue did not like any of it.  I found a review of the restaurant in Metropolitan Barcelona just now.

Soft-shelled crab rolls.

In fact, the restaurant is opened by Grupo Tragaluz which owns a chain of restaurants with different themes in Madrid and Barcelona.  Towards the end of the dinner, a blond guy came around and offered to show us some magic tricks with coins and rings.  He claimed to be a corporate magician who was hired to entertain guests at various restaurants owned by the group.  We were impressed both by his skills and the company’s unusual marketing gimmick.  He went to the other end of our table and showed the guests there some amazing card tricks involving a cell phone.

Casa Mila is one of the two most recognizable landmark in Barcelona, the other being the Temple of La Sagrada Familia, both by Antonio Gaudi.  Some might even argue that there are three, the new addition being the Torre Agbar by Jean Nouvel.

When there are so many books and other media coverage about about Gaudi’s architecture, especially Casa Milà, there is really not much left for me to say here.  If you use Wikipedia, I recommend the Catalan version which contains much more information than the English version, for example, I borrowed this 1912 plan by Gaudi of the building. Google translate worked well to help read the entries.

While we were there, an exhibition relating to food is going on inside the building.  There were volumes of books about food and Ferran Adrià in the shop.  Didn’t have time to see it.

Casa Milà has a well-known nickname – La Pedrera “The Quarry”.  Apparently, it was a term used to mock the building form when it was first constructed around 1910.

I would like to think the design of Darth Vader’s helmet is based on these chimney forms, which in turn are based on Corinthian masks. Apparently, one of the building’s innovation at the time (circa 1910) is an underground garage.  If the rooftop has stormtrooper faces, I wonder what it looks like below the building. Could there be a undiscovered Gaudi destination ?

There is another view of this spot where the Temple of La Sagrada Familia is framed within the arch. The number of people queueing to pose in front or wanting to pass through meant at least a 10-15 minute wait. No thanks.

The entrance is guarded by two giant statues – this being one of them
The back of the building viewed from the backyard of Vincon.

Our first meal in Barcelona was at Piscolabis which claims to make the tapas dish you ordered fresh from scratch. It has a very tourist friendly menu in multiple languages and numbered pictures – almost as good as the Japanese plastic display sample dishes.  Click the photo to get a full screen view and zoom in to check out the types of tapas on offer.  We somehow missed the #27 Cannelloni foie gras, #24 Hello Kitty pancakes with boiled ham and cheese, and #39 Tuna tempura chunks.

This is their standard way of serving bread during a tapas meal.  The orange stuff is a thin layer of natural tomato paste. The bread is very holely and crispy around the edges.

#61 Black rice with allioli sauce.  Very tasty.  Our favorite.  The pan is quite small, in case you are wandering.

#26 “Super Bravas” potatoes – Sue and IT’s favorites, they had it several more times during the trip but never better than the dish below.  Note that this is “Super Brava” which is different from #25 “Brava” potatoes.

#50 Fried eggs with Iberia acorn ham – the best part for me is the not-too-scrambled still runny eggs which is a nice contrast to the salty ham.

#31 Grilled asparagus with melted brie and truffle oil – sounds and looked fantastic ?  Well, it did not taste bad but just not as enticing as the title suggests.

Iberia ham, …  here are some ready-made tapas –  “Montaditos”.  I have a lot of problems with color balance on these pictures.  Hope they do not look too purple on your monitor.

Piscolabis is the first restaurant we ate at after we rendez-vous with IT.  The restaurant is next to her hotel –  The Praktik which she raved about – “5-star interiors at a 3-star rate”.  I did not see the room but the location of the hotel is definitely 5 star – at Rambla Catalunya no. 27 between Passeig de Gracia and Diagonal.  The hotel is in the same building as the restaurant, which according to the restaurant web site is known as Casa Climent Arola, “a modernist building whose architect is the Catalan Francesc de P. Villar i Carmona.” I will try the hotel next time when I visit.

Piscolabis is owned by a restaurant chain.  The picture menu gave the impression of a rather pedestrian dining experience.  Well, we were very happy with all our dishes and the vintage and slightly industrial decor is fresh and modern.

We were the only patrons in the restaurant as it was noon. The Spaniards do not eat lunch until 2:30pm. It is true.

Piscolabis claims to be a special tapas restaurant.  They cook the tapas only after an order is placed.  There is no ready-made tapas here and so it is supposed to be super fresh.

Giant assorted mushrooms, silvery sardines … etc.  The mirror above the food is very effective at showing it off.  I have no idea what those brown balls are to the right of the photo.

Photos of what we ate will be in the next post.