Friday, June 12, 2009

En Espana

We walked into the bookstore opposite our hotel one day and felt like we'd come upon a cave of wonders. Only thing is, most books were in Spanish, so there was that little hurdle. Still, the smell of thousands of volumes, some dusty with age, was a delight in itself.
Also a delight was the textbook-perfect old gentleman, sitting there like he was born one day miraculously in the middle of these 10,000 books on a small street in Barcelona. We diffidently asked him the price of this marvelous old newspaper from 1942 and he barked the answer at us. Then we browsed for half an hour more and when we went back he was sitting there ready to wrap it up for us.
Two people have asked us why we have this framed at home. Why? Because it is INEXPLICABLY COOL, that's why. Also, it is our one and only souvenir from Spain. So it deserves a prominent place in our castle.
Price: 3 euros.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Barca and bocadillos

May 16

When you open the big, heavy door to our hotel (each guest has a key) you enter this grand marble hallway with some grand marble stairs up ahead. Oddly enough, there's also an elevator that looks incongrous- but it's for the residents of the other floors of this building, they live here and there's a row of mailboxes in a corner. This adds to the illusion that we're actually locals here.

We walked all the way down to the water after breakfast. A slighly uninspiring waterfront, this section at least, a bit industrial looking. And we found a lovely plaza that we later came to know as the Placa Reial- a beautiful big plaza with a fountain in the middle and a graceful ochre yellow building to one side. It's lined with rather touristy cafes and restaurants, but with this heavenly sunset, the palm trees and a 400 year old fountain, who really cares if there are tourists? Speaking of the sunset, it got dark only after 9pm. Having got used to the tropics of namma Bangalore, this is a nice change especially because the light at this time of year is so very pleasing.

There are several Indian boys walking around selling fat red roses for a Euro each. There are also Indian boys walking up and down the Rambla, which is the main avenue, selling beers that they swing in their hands and whispering "I get you anything you like." Er. We see one Indian restaurant by the waterfront, the inevitable "Shalimar" or something like that.

For dinner, we ended up back on our street at the tiny cafe where two people couldn't go down the stairs side by side. I virtuously ask for orange juice, (large), but because I'm a low talker and my Catalan is laughable, the barkeeper serves me a beer (large.) When he brings the beer, I understand why he looks so approving- J has asked for a small beer. Ha, ha. J tucks heartily into one of those sandwich things they call bocadillo; kind of like a six inch sub, stuffed to bursting with cured ham and cheese. Real paisa-vasool, these thingies.

Very very early the next morning, I heard a football riot- people running, glass smashing, police sirens, and finally an awful series of loud pops that I finally figured were rubber bullets. In the morning we talked to our hotel guy and he confirmed that these riots are common in these parts. Football is serious stuff. To end the discussion, he helpfully added, "Barca lost, you see!" We nodded, as though we knew full well not only who Barca lost to, but also the win-loss average, the star striker, and future prospects of blessed Barca.

Monday, June 01, 2009

These boots are made for walking

BarcelonaImage via Wikipedia

May 15
J and I are so dizzy with delight, I actually think one of us is going to fall down into the street from our hotel balcony. And it's not just some street- it's a little alley opposite an art gallery and an art bookstore, directly adjacent to Barcelona's famous La Rambla. We can spend all day and most of the night just hanging out in this balcony and watch people walk by. Until, that is, we realize that the entire city waits and we need to get going.
So we do. J is seriously impressed at how much I can walk. Huh! I snort, what you thought?
Give me little cobblestoned alleys, fountains, Placas, churches, gelaterias, blue skies and fantastic architecture, and I will outwalk the nearest camel. Suffice to say that Barcelona provides all the elements, in good quantities. Our first dinner in this city is at a busy little tapas place where we eat gorgeous grilled shrimp, salty sardines with basil pesto, and the famous chorizo sausage. And, let me add, they serve Sangria by the litre here. I knew there was a reason I feel so at home.
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To begin, let me say that I am going to be writing about my long-awaited trip to Spain because only words can create magic, one word is worth a thousand pictures, and taking pictures while you travel shows that you're a tourist and not a traveler, and it cheapens the whole experience of being in a foreign land.

Or, J and I lost the camera on our last night in Barcelona and I will just have to shut up and write.
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