It’s another perfect, spring day in Barcelona. I slept through the night for the first time. My head is no longer fuzzy from the travel and time change. And it has finally hit me. I’m here!
I arrived a little after noon on Thursday. I checked into my hostel, met a nice girl named Katy from Seattle (it’s a small, small world we’re living in). We ventured off to Park Guell, one of Antoni Gaudi’s many creations that pepper the city and never fail to inspire. I was running on no more than two hours of sleep and seeing Barcelona through the thin, gauzy veil of sleep deprivation. I think it made the view from the park all the more beautiful – the city spread out below, with Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia in the foreground and the Mediterranean beyond.
After exploring the city for the entire afternoon, we ended up at a tapas bar down the street from our hostel. “Quisiera una copa de vino tinto y un plato pequeno de olivas.” Some wine and olives to kick off my first dinner en Espana, por favor! We started with pimientos con queso – little sweet, red peppers stuffed with a soft cheese. Then came thin slices of sausage, a plate of local sheep’s cheese, big salads with warm goat cheese and pumpkin seeds, and toasted bread with ham and honey. Simple, clean flavors and so good.
Yesterday I explored more of Barcelona. Walking up La Rambla to Mercat de la Boqueria, a large covered market brimming with stalls selling fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses, fish, chicken, olives, nuts and candy. I wandered around and bought a little sack of mixed olives, a pancito integral (wheat roll), fresh mango and salted almonds, then sat in the sunny square in the center of town and ate. I popped into a bookstore and bought Easy Learning Spanish Conversation with the verb tenses listed in the back that I so desperately need to know. Bueno! Then headed to La Pedrera, another Gaudi creation that was an apartment building for some of Barcelona’s most elite families in the early 20th century and is now a museum with great city views from the roof. From there, I wandered down to the sea and walked along the pier just as the sun was setting. The sky was pink and blue and perfect. I looked back through the tops of the bobbing sailboat masts, camera at the ready, and my battery died. I took that as my cue to get back to the hostel. I checked email and found a message from Anais, the former exchange student of our family friends, the Sinclaires. She would meet me at the cathedral at 8pm, wearing a red scarf. It was exactly 8pm when I read her email! I ran down the street to a phone center and called her cell phone. I apologized for getting her email too late and we arranged to meet in an hour, same place.
I took the subway a couple of stops, walked through the narrow alleyways of el Gotic in the center of the city, and found Anais and her red scarf near the main door of the cathedral. She couldn’t have been sweeter. She took me to one of her favorite restaurants. It’s run by an Argentinean violinist who has some of his violins on display in big glass cases. We sat outside under a big heat lamp in an ancient alleyway and ate salads and pizza and talked and talked. Anais is studying to be a singer. She lives in a studio not far from the cathedral with her boyfriend. She just saw “Vicky Christina Barcelona” the night before and was offended at the way Woody Allen portrayed her city – “pan con tomate” was the only phrase uttered in the film that had anything to do with Catalan culture (which is thoroughly interesting and rich…more on that later). After a delightful dinner, Anais’s boyfriend and friend met us. Edwin, the boyfriend, told me that there’s a building in Barcelona that is similar to the Space Needle in Seattle with a rotating restaurant at the top. “Ahhh”, I said, “Is it cheesy too?” No one had any idea what “cheesy” meant. It took me a good ten minutes to explain. “It’s corny. Do you know corny? No? Hmm. It can also be used to explain a guy. He flirts with you and says things that he thinks you want to hear, but you know exactly what he’s doing. That’s cheesy.” And then Anais said, “Si!”, she understands. “The Argentinean guys in Barcelona are all very cheesy! La Rambla, the main, touristy street in the city is cheesy!” Bueno! We’re all on the same page. And with that we walked to a smoky, dive bar not far from my hostel for a La Estrella beer. It was past 1am when I said goodbye to Anais and Edwin. Anais invited me to attend the first half (Edwin comes for the second half) of a six hour opera this afternoon. How kind of her! She also lent me her Bicing card. It’s the local bike rental system where you scan your card, ride for no more than a half an hour and leave it at another Bicing station. I have yet to try it, but I’m envisioning getting completely lost. “Donde esta la estacion de Bicing, por favor?! Donde? Habla mas despacio, por favor…” So, more adventures to come. Off I go to the opera…