Monday, June 13, 2011

Barcelona, Spain (May 18 - 21)

Balmy and beautiful Barcelona... what more can I say? Rambling countless narrow winding streets near La Rambla I saw more picturesque squares than I had ever imagined. Across the square is a seafood restaurant called Cal Pep. There is no menu, and there are only a few tables in the back. The rest of the patrons line up nightly to have a seat at the bar. To order, converse with the bartender/server who will recommend dishes based on what you want, as well as more that you may not need. House white accompanied molluscs cooked with pork bits, "special" mushrooms,  ...
Cal Pep
To the left, a couple from Vienna, Austria received a whole white monkfish, which was de-spined and plated in front of them by the server. I would probably swap the mushrooms for that fish if I'd known. To the right, first a large group of spanish-speaking asian people knew exactly what to order and squabbled over the bill, then a couple from Toronto. In line, a very language-challenged lady from the States condescendingly ordered wine which she jabbed at from a ripped-out page of a travel magazine very loudly and slowly to the server in English, who pretended not to know any. She did succeed in getting what she wanted, which turned out to be the delicious house white.

A large park with a hill on it near the waterfront unexpectedly had a botanical garden and I enjoyed taking pictures of the cactus flowers. A picnic lunch there with fish from the sea while planning a similarly marine dinner to cook at the kitchen-equipped hostel (one hot plate for ~200 hostellers plus microwaves). I rescued some wine by turning it into a sangria, after buying what could have been one of every fruit from a market stall.
Me in Parc Monjuic

Botanical garden

Cactus flowers

Nisperos, a new fruit I've never seen. Could be put in Sangria

Sangria and seafood pasta dinner

Wine in supermarkets is cheap (in MOST european countries... see switzerland) by our standards, and ranges from bottom of the barrel litre tetra packs for 1€/1.5$ to presumably higher quality ones upwards of 40€ which I didn't look at too closely. You can probably guess where the wine that needed rescue stood. The wine bought in Madrid had a cork, which wines are wont to do. As a result, it was 6€ cheaper to buy a screw-top wine than a corkscrew. The screw-top wine was in the beer section.

Oh by the way, I'm currently under the English Channel on a train.

In the kitchen, Robert from Australia extended an invitation to go drink in a park and sleep with scandinavians. Instead had a chat and wandered to the "magic fountain" with Suzanna and Anna from Germany. Anna had studied spanish in Barcelona, and explained the rift between the spanish and the catalonians. Apparently it is hard to ever be "one of us" catanlonian by adoption.

Magic fountain

Magic fountain, me, suzanna, anna
Magic fountain

Me and magic fountain
Still, the owner of a nearby restaurant where we had dinner with David from Australia and Federico from Belgium was friendly enough! Someone at the door invited us to sit at a giant table but the waiter gave us our own table in the back of the restaurant. In the front, most (older) people were playing dominos and not eating. A large group occupied the table we initially sat at. The waiter disapproved of all our menu selections, which were tapas a la carte, and not the Menu del Dia, and refused to understand our request for tap water, instead supplying a fizzy sweet tonic water, possibly for mixing with the vino de casa? (After going through Spain and Italy, my minute knowledge learned on the fly of both languages is hopelessly tangled up.)
Clockwise, Graham, Gigi, Federico, David

On the grittier side of Barcelona are tons of backyard gardens of hovels, and graffitied walls abound. This was near the Torre Agbar, a colourful glass tower which defied photography.
Torre Agbar and graffitied truck


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