Monday, 25 January 2016

Pleasures of Mataró

Mataró is one of those places where you go with little or no expectations at all and you are blown off your feet. In no time you fall in love with this little Catalan town. Being situated in the ribs of Barcelona, you can hardly believe that beauty and charm knows any other address than Passeig de Gracia or Eixample district. In fact you can hop on any regional train from Barcelona heading north along the coast. The journey will stick your nose to the windows as you swish along the coast line where all the small towns pawns their golden sand beaches, marinas and sailing clubs and neo-colonial architecture. Your day dreaming stretches only 30 km and ends once the train stops in Mataró. In fact this very bit of railway that you have traveled is the very first railway in Spain opened on the 28th of October 1848. Another interesting curiosity of this place is the fact that it was the starting point of the marathon competitions during the Barcelona Olympic Games of 1992!

Start With "i"

As soon as you start your stroll you realize that it is a small town with a provincial touch, where everything is at a stretch of a hand, where people are friendly, ready to help you and time flows at a slower pace. I sort of like that. My first stop was at the tourist promotion office on the main walking street (La Riera). After living over a year in Barcelona, the warm and friendly approach of the lady working there made me wow. She listened to my interests and needs and immediately gave me 4 maps and a list of the best restaurants. Here you can get a free audio-guide or if you pop in during the weekend you can join one of the many thematic free guided tours of the town. 

The Sweet Street

The La Riera looked like an Italian corso where high window shops blend well with beauty centres, pastry shops and chocolateries. Unio has a slight 70s, retro style but the chocolate pralines with almonds, hazelnuts or truffles are to die for!

Baroque Fruits

Leaving behind the swanning scene of the town, I plunged into the heart of the old town. Suddenly the Turn-of-the-Century and Classicist architecture peels off into Baroque. An organic food shop in Carrer Nou street makes me say "Gosh!": above the beautifully displayed organic food the walls and ceiling are covered with XVIII century original frescoes! I think it was the most beautiful food shop in the world I have ever seen in my life! 

The Religion of Modernismo

At the end of this charismatic street opens a triangular piazza where among the old lamps raises the Basilica of Santa Maria. The interior is elegantly illuminated and like a veiled voice invites you walk in and reflect on the beauties of life. Not for long as behind a Vth century early christian tomb stone there's the entry to a real Paradise: Capilla de Sacramento decorated in beautiful blend of Byzantine and Art Nouveau styles (1892)! Everything here seems to be so modern, gentle, vegetal and done with such a refined taste - from the lights, the golden mosaics, the powerful paintings to the mosaic floor finished in 1903.


Little Drink in Little Square

If your "wow"s did not dried out completely, try going down the Carrer de Santa Maria. Little boutiques, gourmet cheese shops, more organic food shops will all tempt you to stop at least to admire their windows. 

On your left opens the "Market of the Big Square" (Mercat de la Placa Gran), a picturesque little square surrounded by classicist facades of early 1800s and in the middle there's a miniature market with two faces of stalls. The cosy, human size of the square and market invites you to sit down and have a bite and sip a drink. 

Art Nouveau & Treats

Once you fueled your batteries stop for a sweet bite in the lavish "La Confianza" shop (1896) built by the Mataró born architect Puig i Cadafalch. He was considered the last Modernista (Art Nouveau) architect and among his landmark projects in Barcelona are Plaza de España and Casa Amatller situated to the left of Gaudi's Casa Batlló.

The Italian Connection

Further down, the street opens in a sort of balcony where an elegant colonnade façade embellishes the former fish market (1841). From here, Carrer de Barcelona due to its Baroque lining and design it recalls the Italian pedestrian and shopping streets with loads temptations. It ends at the San Sebastian Chapel and the Church of Santa Anna. 

The Beginning of Gaudi

Apart the beach, the sailing harbour, the technology university campus, Mataró has interesting Roman ruins, a textile museum and a modern art collection hosted in Gaudi's first project: the Gaudi Nave (Nau Gaudi). While still a student, due to his personal contacts with the social movement leaders from Mataró, Gaudi decides to do something innovative for the local workers' association, a nave with wooden arches that will become the germ of his future projects. If you want, this nave has been the Big Bang of a new constellation and architectural movement.

Useful Links:

Cultura Mataro:
This tour's map: click here

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Gnam Gnam Casablanca Style

One of the best food experiences while in Casablanca (Morocco) is to be found in its Central Market. Surrounded by bright white Art Deco palaces, this market is the heavens for the freshest fruit, vegetable and above all fish and sea food. 

Top international chefs come here not only to buy the best ingredients for their masterpieces but also to enjoy a unique culinary experience: eating fresh fish prepared in the simplest way: grilled with plenty of fresh lemon zest. If you want to do what locals do, just follow the tip bellow.

Go to the main hall of the Central Market, pick your choice of fish and sea food that you believe you can handle on your plate and hand in your stuff to one of the waiters at the terraces that surround the market in the circular yard. The grilling will cost peanuts and you will eat like a king. Bon appetit!


Marché central, Boulevard Mohammed V, Casablanca 20250, Morocco