Monday, January 2, 2012

Barcellona: A City I Could Live In

Happy New Year everyone! So I just got back from a fantabulous 5-day trip to Barcellona and I freaking loved it. Didya miss me? Well, now it's time for me to account for my whereabouts, and I think these days were spent very well indeed.

Everything went smooth from the start. Despite some slight nervousness on the flight, as Vueling seems to be going with the flying sardine-can model with their airplanes, we arrived intact and the hostel was found quite quickly. It amazed me how warm it was when we got here, not that it was that cold in Rome but my GOD it was clear blue skies and sunshine all 5 glorious days. Getting there we had the nicest girl imaginable give us a free map and tell us all the places we needed to go, so we left our bags and headed straight for the first place I really really wanted to see - the Aquarium.

It was a little expensive, as all aquariums are, but it was 100% worth it. Gorgeous rays, enormous sand tiger sharks and huge moonfish swimming above your head, sea dragons, amphibious fish and PENGUINS! Hilarious horny waddly penguins! Need I say more?

The thing that struck me most about the city was the architecture. It was like being in a fantasy world, and Parc Guell especially was like Alice in Wonderland. Gaudi' is now my new favorite architect. I happen to have a soft spot for the Pan`s Labyrinth/Big Fish/Tim Burton style, and this place felt like I was stepping right into one of those worlds. They have a thing for contrasting primary colors here, and after growing up in Rome where we tend to go for the gentle pastels, not to mention no shortage of white marble, it was both unexpected and welcome to see such a contrasting yet nonetheless beautiful style. Everything is crooked and dark while at the same time fun and vibrant, and the people often match the Gaudi modernist style. That's right I'm talking to you, old bald guy in green tights top hat and Truman Capote glasses, old lady with sequins jacket and enough bling to put Lil Jon to shame, cool bartender with fishnet over-the-thumb sleeves and makeup on one eye, you rock!

Barcellona is not the city for you if you have a problem, either physical or psychological, with walking pretty much everywhere. The metro is great and works wonders, but you just need to walk around, and we did more than most. I wish I had one of those ankle monitors that told you how far you've walked, but considering that we were on our feet pretty much 11 hours everyday, not including time spent sitting and eating, I'd say we walked a whole hell of a lot.

Which brings me to my most important point. Eating. The food was fucking fantastic. For Italians, especially for ones from Rome, you've got nothing if you don't have good food. And we`re not interested in spending a million dollars for a little canape, that`s not indicative of the food a country has to offer. We want to know what the locals eat. We want to try it all, even the junk food, because eating what the locals eat is an integral part of the traveling experience. We want to know what it's like to be a Barcellonian when we visit.

Well, Barcellona did not disappoint. We needed a little time to find our footing, especially with figuring out how tapas works. Apparently any asshole with three olives and a cracker will call himself a tapas bar, so the first night we wound up eating a slice of quiche in an underground art bar which was delicious but not exactly enough to call a full dinner. The second day we wound up in a restaurant for lunch in the Gracia, which is supposed to be a really nice area for little lunch places, but the only other guest there was the biggest cockroach I have ever seen in my entire life. It was just scuttling along the floor, stopping every few seconds to look around, and the face on it was like it had stepped out of a cartoon. Only when it disappeared under a table did my shock ferment into disgust and we quickly got the hell out of there. That night we found what we thought were tapas in the Barri Gotic. You get a plate, pick whatever you want from this enormous line of different novelle cuisine looking scrumptious mouthfuls, and at the end they count the toothpicks and bring you the bill. Fucking dangerous. Amazingly delicious, but extremely dangerous. We had to seriously contain ourselves and leave still a tiny bit hungry to avoid winding up washing dishes in the back to pay the bill. Turns out those were pinchos though, not tapas, so the search continued.

And then we discovered Elisabets. Oh my gentle Mithras. It was right off the Rambla in El Raval, and it was exactly what we were looking for. We got the tip from Lonely Planet, and we walk in to find a bustling bar-restaurant with tiny tables and no nonsense waiters. The place was packed and the menu was tiny, all in Spanish, without even an explanation of what the dishes were in Spanish underneath them, just the names of the dishes. The waiters are running around and barely have time to take your order let alone hold your hand through the menu, so what are we to do? Order randomly and see what happens! Six plates of randomly ordered tapas later and we were blissing out. The most amazing stuffed mussels I have ever had. These huge balls of mashed potato and meat breaded and fried and covered in mayo for some wonderful junky goodness, spicy sausage with garlic bread, we waddled out of there like we were in our third trimester and payed half of what we paid at the pinchos place. So this is what tapas is. I approve.

So yes, I loved it. The fact is that Spain has a lot of the same problems that Italy has. They have the highest unemployment rate in Europe, they have significant problems with Government corruption, on paper it doesn't make a good case for itself if you're looking for a new country to move to and start a life. But fuck it, they know how to live. It's calm and laid back, you see people who enjoy what they have while they have it, there is an energy there that I can totally see myself getting in to. It's weird, artsy, liberal, hot and sunny, what's not to love?

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