In Barcelona we spent a morning trying to find the Herboristeria Del Rei. This gloriously old place is tucked away in a little side street off the Plaça Reial, and can only be found by removing all the iron from your pockets & turning thrice widdershins (okay, so not exactly. But a detailed map & the address won't make it any easier to track down, it's the sort of place you can only glimpse out of the corner of your eye under the midday sun). It is the first Herbalist shop in Catalonia, opening in 1823, and then renovated in 1860. It hasn't changed much since then, from its glass roof to the beautifully carved shelves that are lined with bottles & jars. If it looks eerily familiar, it's because it was the perfumers shop from the Tom Tykwer film 'Perfume: the story of a murder'
The shop was run by a very lovely gentleman who was extremely patient with me and my terrible Spanish. The shop is a herbalists dream - wooden drawers & jars filled with bundles of dried herbs, bottles of oils, tinctures & herbal wines & piles of hand made soaps & lozenges. In the center is a statue of Linnaeus, the smutty minded botanist who gave us Binomial nomenclature, without whom the lovely gentleman & myself would have had a much harder time communicating with each other. As we both know our botanical names we quickly understood each other, and MikeyFox watched with amusement as I sniffed and snuffed and nibbled my way through handfuls of herbs, and managed to discuss medicinal properties & flavours in a clumsy mix of English, Spanish & French.
I left with a bundle of soaps, teas, honey throat lozenges & bundles of hierba luisa (Lemon Verbena), tilo (Linden) & menta (mint).
A simply wonderful place, and the closest I'll get to what it feels like to step outside of the tardis and into another century.