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.

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European Vacation With a Sherpa

I can’t believe it’s actually happening. I haven’t been to Europe since celebrating New Year’s there in December/January 2001/2002, more than ten years ago. And the last visit was really an incredible blur for some scary personal reasons.

And THEN, my ex husband did not want to travel to Europe with me, because I am fluent in French and he felt he’d be lost while I was having a grand old time using my French. Or he couldn’t get off work. Or some junk like that. Everything was an excuse. So there went a bunch of years. And then I spent a few years doing the divorce thing and getting my financial feet under me.

Now excuses are a thing of the past! Sherpa and I both love to travel and we saved up and I am now counting down the hours to my first real French coffee and French baguette and French cheese (the list goes on) in ten years. It’s been an incredibly stressful few months, so much so that I have hardly remembered that I even had a blog. So I haven’t shared my excitement here yet. But maybe I’ll be able to blog while we’re traveling. We’ll see.

We are renting a car. I learned how to drive a stickshift for this purpose and I am terrified. I’ve been using http://www.livemocha.com to brush up on my French. Sherpa has been practicing with me. We’ve been going over phrases while we cook and eat dinners. I say things and he tries to translate to English.

“Je ne peux pas conduire cette voiture,” I say. (I can’t drive this car.)

When he finally figures it out, he says, “No, you just don’t WANT to drive the car!”

One more funny Sherpa story to leave you with before the journey begins: I was reminded and amused by our age difference last night as I was organizing music to bring on the trip. He says, “Make sure there’s a lot of good upbeat driving music…

[wait for it]

… like the Cranberries.”

Eh bien, on y va!