Jan 11 2008

Welcome to Barcelona!

Published by at 7:18 am under Barcelona,Spain

Barcelona! We had been including the city in our agenda since Day 1 of planning this trip, but my excitement about our visit had been growing over these past four months. It seems that every seasoned traveler we meet says the same thing: “You MUST see Barcelona.” And as if that weren’t enough, my parents and sister unexpectedly bought plane tickets to Spain, and would meet us in Barcelona to ring in the new year. After four months with hardly a familiar face but each other’s (undermining exception #1: The Mooneys, undermining exception #2: Mr. Ross), we were both eagerly awaiting this mini-reunion.

The oft-discussed plan was to meet my family in the Barcelona airport at the time of their afternoon arrival. But due to some faulty bus station information (thanks Lonely Planet!) we managed to arrive at the Barcelona airport about thirty minutes late. Back in the land of cell phones, this setback would be negligible after a quick phone call to update the parents on our status. But since neither we or my parents were carrying cell phones overseas, I could envision nothing but catastrophic consequences as we belatedly made our way to the airport. Without a way to call one another, how would my family know what had happened to us? Surely they would assume we were not coming to the airport after all, and attempt to find our rented apartment on their own. Without a knowledge of Spanish, they would be unable to locate the correct address, and become stranded somewhere between the airport and the city outskirts. They would have no means of withdrawing euros from an ATM, be unable to hire a taxi back to the airport, and, at dusk, be robbed by gypsies. With no remaining recourse but to adopt the mentality of their colorful tormentors, my strange and inevitable fate was to lose my family to the intoxicating gypsy lifestyle of inner Barcelona.

The family in Placa Catalunya, BarcelonaAs it turns out, Fate had other plans. We arrived at the airport to find that my family’s plane had arrived a little late anyway, and we had no problem spotting my shouting, jumping mother in the arrivals terminal. But still: how did people DO things like coordinate travel before cell phones? If you were forced to carve out an adult existence in the pre-cell phone, pre-internet dystopia, I applaud your hard-knock life.

Since my family had just taken three back-to-back-to-back flights, and Brittany and I had just endured a 24-hour bus ride from Prague, our newly formed fivesome quickly made our way to our rented apartment in the neighborhood of Gracia, and took a sensible nap to prepare for a full evening of sightseeing. Haha! That would be a twisted reality. Since the only thing we all like more than sleep is food, we unanimously decided that the first thing we should do in Barcelona is eat. Which should be followed not by a sensible nap, but by sleeping through the night. We therefore prepared for hibernation by stuffing ourselves in a neighborhood restaurant. The main thing I remember about dinner is that Abby (my sister) ordered something in Spanish that turned out to basically be a french fry sandwich. Needless to say, gastronomical expectations for this city were quickly set high.

Barcelona Living Statue: skeleton bicycle men!The next morning, we decided to spend our first full day in Barcelona strolling down that famous promenade, Las Ramblas, and exploring the adjacent Barri Gotic, or Gothic Neighborhood. We started our Ramblas walk in the city’s main square, Placa Catalunya, where we knew the next evening’s New Year’s Eve festivities would be centered. We made our way all the way down Las Ramblas to the harbor, and the most impressive sights on the journey were not pieces of the city’s famous architecture, or its lively markets. Without question, that distinction belongs to the living statues and street performers who define the length of the promenade. Their creativity knows no bounds, from the bicycling skeleton men to the most impressive Edward Scissorhands impersonator I could imagine, to Abby’s personal favorite, an elephant rider who aims to steal kisses from the ladies.

Columbus points the wayAt the harbor end of Las Ramblas, a towering Christopher Columbus statue dominates all that dare surround it. Barcelona propaganda tells us that it was here that Columbus received his commission from Ferdinand and Isabella for the errant voyage that would wind up in America. With outstretched arm, the likeness of Columbus points directly out to sea, and, presumably, the New World. But due to the alignment of Barcelona’s harbor on the coast, it turns out that Columbus’ confident finger is actually pointing more closely to Libya. Oops! One supposes that those in charge of the project thought it would look silly for Columbus to be pointing overland to the west, and since no one’s actually nerdy enough to investigate whether the statue is aligned 100% accurately, Barcelona elected for the majestic orientation seen today. I find the entire fiasco amazingly appropriate, since if there’s one thing Columbus is not known for, it’s an accurate sense of direction.

It was also on this day that we discovered the almost-too-good-to-be-true Spanish dining phenomenon known as menu del dia, or menu of the day. Spaniards take a mid-afternoon lunch as their big meal of the day, and restaurants cater to this preference by offering a several-course menu del dia, for the palatable price of 7-10 euros a head. We found that the menu del dia typically includes a first course (salad, soup, or pasta), a second course (meat, fish, or pasta), a dessert, and an alcoholic beverage of your choice. The same menu selections at the same restaurants would cost you three times as much in the evening, so we didn’t need much convincing to quickly adapt to eating giant seafood meals at 2:00pm.

And while I’m on the subject of wining and dining, let me advise all who will come after me about that refreshing concoction known as clara. Clara = cerveza + lemon soda, and it’s sold in just about every bar and restaurant in Barcelona. We found that the key to making or breaking a clara is getting the cerveza:lemon soda ratio just right, so feel confident in the clara chemistry in those establishments where the bartender can clearly be seen guzzling clara on the job. It’s here that you are in the hands of the true masters.

Next time: a very merry New Year’s Eve! (OF DEATH)

NEXT: Barcelona Beatdown! »



7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Welcome to Barcelona!”

  1. Ben's Momon 11 Jan 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Was I shouting AND jumping? That just doesn’t sound like me.

  2. Allisonon 11 Jan 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Hahaha! I love the last line.

  3. Commercial Tap Houseon 11 Jan 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Your own little slice of Barcelona awaits you at the local watering hole when you get back to Richmond. Back in the states, the clara is also known as a shandi. The only person to ever order it here is David, and he orderd it in the “wee” size.

  4. Abbyon 11 Jan 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Ahh…the french fry sandwich. It was so typical.

  5. Davidon 11 Jan 2008 at 6:13 pm

    hehe…gotta love the wee shandy.

  6. Rub (aka Rubadub)on 13 Jan 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Just incase I haven’t mentioned this yet, I’m SOOOOOOOOO jealous!!!! BTW, love your blog!

  7. listas barcelonaon 21 Nov 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Valuable info. Fortunate me I found your site accidentally, and I’m surprised why this twist of fate did not took place in advance! I bookmarked it.

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