Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Living as the Spanish Do

These pictures were taken during the trip we took with my brother and sister-in-law to Barcelona in March. The four of us were wandering, which we did a lot of while in Barcelona, and happened upon this tapas bar around the corner from the beautiful Santa Maria del Mar. Let me just say, sometimes the best things happen to those who wander.

I'd been wanting to visit the city since I was 20 and drove through it on the way to catch the ferry to Palma. I hung out of the car window, soaking up the sights as my French maman sputtered at the drivers around us under her breath.

So my family indulged me, and dusting off my university Spanish, we rented an elegant flat in the old town, just off the Plaça Sant Jaume. It was beautiful, in the center of everything, and incredibly noisy. People filled the street beneath our balconies, laughing and carousing until the garbage truck came through at 3:00 a.m. and blessedly swept them all away.

We arrived in the afternoon, wading through a marathon to reach our flat, where we rewarded ourselves with a nice glass of Spanish red. We found dinner at a nearby restaurant, crowded with folks from all over, ate dinner and collapsed.

Being good travelers, we decided that while in Spain, we should live as the Spanish do and eat every two or three hours. Some mornings we went to the cafe across the street; some mornings my brave brother struck out alone in search of caffeine, God bless him. The ladies at the cafe didn't love on him, he speaks no Spanish, but hail the conquering hero, he came back victorious with coffee, warmed milk and pastries.

Each day we'd talk about what to do and then sight see until was time for the traditional mid-morning snack of a grilled ham sandwich with a beer. I am, for the record, hugely in favor of that tradition. I found it's really impossible to be a vegetarian in Barcelona, the ham is too good. Is there a classification for vegetarians who eat fish and ham? Yeah, I know, that would be "not vegetarian."

Anyway, a bit more wandering, and it would be lunch time! And lunch was a variety of courses, served with wine, leaving us ready to go back to the flat for a nap. A short nap though, as who would want to miss the 4:00 churros and chocolate? The chocolate is like melted frosting. Mmmm.... And get this, you're supposed to dunk the churro into it. Oh man alive.

All this eating pretty much forced us to walk in order to both ward off a sugar high and work up an appetite for tapas, which are served two hours later. We chose from a selection from the bar, ordered a beer, and continued sampling until we were full. Actually we were only supposed to take a few, to stave off any pre-dinner munchies, but we wanted to try a little of everything while we were there. So we did, paying for our tapas at the bar on our way out.

By this point in the day, we'd have had a beer at 10:30, wine with lunch, a huge dose of sugar, more beer with our tapas and our pace slowed considerably. Which was pretty ideal for popping our heads into churches and finding plaças that were tucked betwixt the buildings, rewarding us just for looking.

In a tiny, oddly-shaped square by the Plaça del Pi, we found a perfectly Spanish restaurant where we ate two of the five dinners we had in Barcelona. They were pleased to talk about wine with us, and we ate stunningly well. Lamb in a jammy, meaty sauce, fresh seafood pasta, and an incredible plate of Spanish ham left us content, but somehow still able to spend the rest of the evening watching street theater with a gelato in hand.

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal last weekend about selling your house and retiring to travel around the world. I'd love to do it for a year, with family and friends visiting as possible. I could happily spend months exploring Barcelona alone. But I'd have to keep wandering. Because the way they eat there, if I were to stop, I'd weigh too much to fit anywhere but in the cargo hold on the flight home.

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