My only exposure to Barcelona before this week was watching the 1992 summer Olympics on TV. However, when they screwed over Sylvie Fréchette I swore I’d never step foot in that god-forsaken city. They messed with the wrong national treasure. No one was as graceful in the pool as Mme. Frechette. No one. Don’t even get me started on so-called “co-gold medal winner” Kristen Babb-Sprague. Her egg-beater was a joke. The only gold medal she should have been awarded was the one given to the sychro swimmer for sloppiest split-arm scull. Am I right, folks!? I’m not going to get into it. It’s too upsetting. Suffice to say I swore off Barcelona. I was vaguely aware that it possessed “such a beautiful horizon” as noted by Freddie Mercury in his song which became the official theme of the 1992 Olympics Games:
In fact, ever since first hearing that song as a 12-year-old, someone could not mention Barcelona without me singing in my head, “such a beautiful horizon.” So I got curious. What’s up with the horizon in Barcelona? Is it that much better than the horizon in say, Minot, North Dakota? To make an accurate comparison, La Belle Fille and I spent a week vacation in Minot before boarding a plane bound for Barcelona. We were determined to get to the bottom of this controversy.
Now a trip to Europe would not be complete without a stopover in the delightful hub of Frankfurt. I come to Frankfurt airport for the connecting flights to more popular European destinations, but I stay for the mini casinos and 3′ X 5′ smoking rooms (sponsored by Camel). Thinking she would be fooled by the conversion rate and fueled by her hubris, I offered La Belle Fille one euro to spend 1 hour in one of the smoking tanks while we waited for our connecting flight. She declined. Talk about lame.
Finally, we were off to Barcelona. As a final treat, we enjoyed one of these puppies on the plane:
After arriving in Barcelona we managed to get on a bus and find our hotel without much of a problem. If you know La Belle Fille and me and our propensity to get lost, that’s pretty impressive. You could have sworn we were Lewis and Clark reincarnated as we made a beeline across the city to our hotel (I’d be Lewis, of course, because Meriwether is a badass name for an explorer).
Our hotel was tops. The hallways looked like something out of a science fiction movie:
There was also a sweet pool on the roof.
By the time we arrived in Barcelona we had already been warned by several sources that we should be careful of pickpockets. Prior to leaving on our trip we had watched an episode of “Scam City” about the scourge of bandits roaming the city, both of our guidebooks provided similar alerts of these crooks, and upon updating our Facebook statuses that we had landed in Barcelona we received a few advisories from friends that we needed to keep an eye on our wallets. After being told by the hotel receptionist that they had been having “trouble” with guests getting their items stolen in the streets and that we would be required to leave our key at the front desk whenever we left the hotel (so it wouldn’t be swiped by a fingersmith) we pegged our chances of getting robbed at between 80 and 90%. Amazingly, we were able to stave off thieves. It’s quite amusing to see paranoid tourists roaming the streets with their backpacks strapped to their chests (which, I suppose, makes them “frontpacks”). It looks like they are transporting invisible babies.
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia which is kind of like an autonomous state within Spain (they have their own flag, language, and government). So I think many folks in Barcelona consider themselves Catalans as opposed to Spaniards. I think. Maybe. I would have endeavoured to learn more about the Catalans but I was too busy being suspicious of them. Despite being preoccupied with crippling fear that I was going to be mugged at any moment, it became clear that the Catalans seem to love a few things:
-motorbikes and scooters (and look out because they will not stop if you don’t have the right of way as the pedestrian – they will actually speed up!)
–Messi (he may be the only soccer player residing in the country)
-mayonnaise (where’s the ketchup?)
–French bulldogs (I’m not even joking when I say half the dogs seemed to be Frenchies)
I was surprised at the relatively low number of English speakers in Barcelona. My usual refrain when being served in a European restaurant did not go over so well: “Greetings foreigner! I come to your land to immerse myself in your culture. Henceforth, we shall be speaking the international language of English. However, I will roll my r’s and incorporate a few simple Spanish words into my English sentences, so as to make it seem like I am semi-fluent, even though my Spanish consists of about 5 words I learned from Sesame Street 20 years ago. ‘Senorrrrrrr, I would like the ham and queso sandwich with a glass of agua, porrrrrrr favorrrrrr!’ You shall respond with ‘Si!’ and we’ll all pretend I placed my order entirely in Spanish.” Unfortunately, my rundown was met with a lot of “¿Qué?” and confused looks from waiters who simply didn’t have the time for idiotic Canucks. So we resorted to pointing at things on the menu and hoped they were tasty.
I think La Belle Fille was most excited about the food in Barcelona. She is a nut for tapas. And as it turns out, you can’t swing a French Bulldog without hitting a tapas restaurant in this city. Problem is, you can’t hit any other type of restaurants in this city, even if you had a super-powered t-shirt cannon, but instead of t-shirts, it shot out French Bulldogs for miles and miles. Point is, tapas is the only option.
I have concluded that “tapas” must be Spanish for “snack food with random condiments.” Scanning the English menu of a tapas restaurant in Barcelona is like reading a list of culinary mad libs:
“___________ (main snack) with __________ (condiment #1) and ____________ (condiment #2)”
The result is a whole lot of randomness such as:
–fried squid with pickles and mayonnaise
–hamburger with salad and sundried tomatoes
–frankfurter with spicy sauce and caramelized onions
–grilled tuna with cheese and peas
–ham with ham and ham (they love ham)
Okay, there’s also paella. Catalans be crazy for some paella. One evening, I even tried to order a duck dish in a restaurant (“Si senor. Muy bueno.”) and I was brought black squid ink paella. It was good, but that was my 4th paella in 7 days. It was not duck.
There was plenty more food to enjoy and plenty more sights to see. This was only Day 1 of our trip! Zoinks!