Braving Barcelona

I am inspired to write this story because I’ve been fondly remembering it and then Sherpa decided to make paella for dinner tonight. Most often, if you ask someone who has been to Barcelona tips about the traveling there, you’ll be warned to watch your wallet. Apparently Barcelona is known as the pickpocket capital of the world. I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories. And I just Googled “pickpocketing rates Barcelona” and got 1.5 million search results. So when Sherpa and I spent a few days there, we were hypervigilant of my purse and his wallet.

We had to be even more careful when we split up for a few hours. He wanted to try gambling at the casino, and I just didn’t feel like going back (yes, we’d tried to go together the day before and they wouldn’t let us in to the table games area without passports). So, after a long hike through Parc Guell, then wine tasting, then more Gaudi tourism at the Gaudi house, then a long hike to the Miro Foundation, we parted ways on the subway. We wouldn’t be able to communicate because we assumed he wouldn’t be able to get wi-fi in the casino. We agreed to meet across town at the restaurant where we planned to have dinner in a few hours, Tapeo (which was recommended to us by the woman working at the wine shop we went to, Clos Mont-Blanc).

As soon as he was gone from the car I was like a crazy drone spy, eyeing up everyone, yet trying to pretend I belonged. Do I look Spanish? Do I look like a student? I wondered. Of course I didn’t. I looked like a 31-year-old American tourist, trying not to freak out in the Barcelona subway. I had a death grip on my purse. I made it to my stop, Fontana. I got off and walked, crazy drone spy, back to our hotel. Leg 1, SUCCESS.

Not long after I got back to the hotel, my phone buzzed with an email notification. “At casino, bored, ready to head to dinner! :)” So, I got ready and headed back to the subway. CRAZY DRONE SPY! DEATH GRIP ON PURSE! NO ONE CAN ROB ME, I AM THE SMARTEST TOURIST ON THE PLANET.

Sherpa considers letting his guard down at El Xampanyet.

I got off at my stop, Jaume, which I was already familiar with because we’d walked around the neighborhood the day before to go to the Picasso museum. I started walking to the restaurant, amidst a sea of people, and about 4 blocks from the restaurant I see walking down the street a Sherpa, walking and staring up at the street signs, looking confused. It was just the funniest feeling to run into him in the street in Barcelona. Also it was pretty funny to be watching him while he had no clue I was there. I stepped in front of him so he had to stop and recognize me, and it was quite a reunion. LEG 2, SUCCESS.

We started our night with cava at El Xampanyet, which was a really fun cava joint full of locals having a drink before dinner, and then we had dinner at Tapeo right across the street, where we had amazing wine and tapas.  Here are some of the things we ate/drank: Toro (a local Spanish red wine), pork rib with honey mustard, sausage and beans, tomatoes and fresh cheese with olive oil and balsamic, lentils, chocolate mousse, vanilla creme brulee, and great Spanish coffee. The owner, Chris, was English and we had a great time chatting with him, too. We were also glad to have someone English-speaking to relieve some stress about gluten-free dining. He was very helpful.

So, that’s that. We spent several fun-packed days in BCN and did not get robbed. We were lucky, but I hope that our vigilance actually had something to do with it.


Hola de Barthelona!

This is a completely amazing city. The only complaint we’ve had is about the driving. The number of mopeds and motorcycles here has to at least equal the number of cars, and they’re completely out of control. Once we managed not to kill anyone getting to the hotel, things perked up immensely. We have been really enjoying the Spanish wines – I hate to admit it, but I think I prefer them to French wines.

We are staying in a more residential neighborhood called Gracia, but the metro is at the end of the block and gets you anywhere in minutes. Dinner last night was in our ‘hood at a place recommended to us as local. The owners actually asked, “Why did you come here? Usually it is just people from Barcelona.” They also happened to have a brother who lives in Lancaster. Small world. Oh, ad before dinner we stopped somewhere and had grilled snails, which you pull out of the shells with a little wooden skewer. The first one or two were a little jarring texture wise, but then they were good.

We had a hilariously raucous night out with two girls we met while wandering around after dinner – one Argentinian and one Irish – who had lived together in Barcelona and were having a little reunion. They showed us to Quatre Gats, and we were among a great, friendly crowd of people from all over the globe.

Today was a touristy day, interspersed with tapas at regular intervals. We even ha out sketch done on La Rambla, the big main drag where the center of the road is a wide walking area with street performers and florists and other vendors. Like people selling baby bunnies.

Anyway, here’s our photo. It was actually really fun to see the reactions on people’s faces as they walked by during our little portrait session.