Barcelona – Such a beautiful horizon… Barcelona – Like a jewel in the sun

I stayed up until wayyyyy late updating my blog, the day before I left for Barcelona. I thought it would be a cool thing to do – write about things as and when they happened. And then my holiday got crazy busy.

And at some point, when I got some time off, I had a little comment from @unrudhshastry about the little mistake I made about the MontMartre and the church. And then, I thought I’d wait until I had time, to write the posts.

I know I could have had more fun in Barcelona. I was with two girly girls who couldn’t stop bitching about work and gushing about their boyfriends – the latter was fairly enjoyable. They sunbathed on the beaches of Barcelona (Bogatell on the first day, Barceloneta on the second) in their bikinis and I sat around in shorts and a swimsuit because the beaches had too many people and I can be body shy a lot of times.

I would’ve loved to be there with someone like S. Because Barca is the kind of city you’d want to be at, with your best friend. Therefore, I spent a hundred and forty euro buying two Barca jerseys for two people, him and K. And I hope that some day, we can do this.

The evening we landed, we dined at a place called Cal Pep – it’s a favourite among the locals. They queue up at 7:15 pm because the first orders start at 7:30 pm. We got there at about 7:45 pm. We were told it’d be 20 minutes before we could get seats at the bar. We waited sixty.

We settled down and Xavier, the main man behind the bar asked us what we wanted. We asked if we could have a menu. He said no. *awkward* And then he asked if he could recommend food for the evening.
Of course.
Next question: All meat ok? Pork? Sea food? Beef?
Yes.
Next: Five tapas or six?
Five, please.
Next: To drink? Wine?
Yes.
Red or white? Red, please.

Ok. Wait for your little surprise then. The girls are nervous.

First up, batter fried fish. Crisp and salty and just what one might need to start a dinner like this. Most tapas bars in Barcelona serve pan con tomato too – fresh bageuttes sliced in half, toasted just a little, and smeared with juice from fresh, ripe tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil.

The wine was a local red wine from what seems like a place called Calificada. It was called Unarge, if I remember correctly. I’m a sucker for red wines. And it’s not like I know them very well, but I seem to like Cabernets. This was bliss. Next up, in the food, was mussels, served in a very simple herb and garlic sauce (that I eventually figured was a very Catalunian recipe) and bits of bacon. The bacon and olive oil and herbs and garlic made some muy delicioso dipping sauce for our bread.

Third was a mix of clams and fried squid. What Xavier brought for us next was so dangerously good, I was glad I didn’t have an interesting boy around me that evening. It looked like a big, fat pancake. It was made with mashed potatoes, a ton (and I mean it) of garlic and bits of bacon. And now you know why I said the bit about it being dangerous and the bit about the boy, right? I guess there’s something about saving the best for last because he brought us some fish he had just pulled out of the oven. The fish, it was merlan, I think, was cooked with whole cloves of garlic which had been browned to perfection in the oven, some fairly hot dried red chilli peppers and the magic herb sauce.

Dessert was an eclair followed by a creme brûlée kind of something, both of which were so indulgent, I wish I’d stopped at just dinner to savour every element of those five tapas we had ordered.

We shelled out a good 120 euro for the meal – very expensive, but worth every cent I paid. Of course, we left the man a nice tip and swore we’d come back the next time we were in the city. With our first meal at Barcelona being par excellence, we had already set the bar for what people served us that weekend.

We stayed at a studio apartment in a street called Calle Canuda, right off La Ramblas, the main street in the city. We paid 375 euro for three nights for three girls, that’s a hundred and twenty five per head, forty-ish per night and not all that expensive if you come to think of it. The local market was three and a half hops away from where we live. So that’s where we headed Saturday morning. Breakfast comprised fruits that we bought for a euro as soon was we entered the market. We, then, ended up buying some Serrano ham, some dried sausages and some cheese, which we ate at a pretty square where a whole bunch of artists sat around and sketched people and a summer weekend in the city. Lunch was Sangrias and the sun and book reading and the Bogatell beach. Dinner was fairly early, at a place called Cerveceria Cataluna, another favourite among locals. This time, we had to wait only about 15 minutes, preferred having some beer and paid some 45 euro for dinner. This was also my first time eating cuttlefish, whole.

The tapas menu was shrimp, croquettes, clams, batter fried fish and fried/salted green chillies.

The girls went clubbing later that night, got very drunk, lost a phone, got hit on and had some silly stories the following morning. I stayed in and read a book. I can be boring, sometimes.

Sunday morning was a late brunch, two girls nursing their hangover, some sight-seeing and some beach. I ate pasta with squid ink for lunch. It was like spinach in my pasta. Really dark. And fairly tasty. I will admit that I had my fair share of giggles every time I went to the bathroom over the next couple of days.

Parc Guell was not as interesting as I had imagined. Possibly because we had a tough time getting around because of the lack of good direction and partially because I was wearing flip flops, and what we got there was almost hike-like. I couldn’t take as any pictures as I might have liked to because there were just so many people, I couldn’t get the entire structure in a single frame.

Late evening, we hung out at Barceloneta and binged on some ‘consistent’ food to help the girls with their hangover – more sangrias and lots of nachos, served with guac, cheese, sour cream, pick de gallo… the whole deal.

Monday morning, was a quick stop over at the market for some last minute shopping for spices for the mothership and more tapas. The tapas didn’t disappoint. We sat around the bar and picked our seafood and veggies and saw the chef toss them onto his grill, one after the other, douse them in olive oil, throw in some of that secret herb and garlic sauce mix thing, stir and toss around, whip onto dishes and voila… That morning, we had some large shrimp, scallops and razor clams (which are far more awesome than regular clams in that they taste more fishy and are just a tad more chewy). That, and pan con tomato. And no, who drinks coffee on a Monday morning at the market place in Barcelona? You drink red wine. That meal was a little over 70 euro. Though nothing can beat what we had at Cal Pep, this brunch at Universal found it’s little place in my heart.

Now, here’s the strange thing. I studied Spanish for a couple of years, several years ago. That weekend, I found myself in a country where I *could* understand the language without trying too hard. And it dawned on me only after I got out of the airport at Barcelona. At the en of my three day stay, i figured I had all the nouns straight and got around pretty well. It’s the verbs that screwed me over. Time to brush up those Espanol skills when I get home. The Spanish in Barcelona is not the Spanish they teach you at a language class. Sure, it’s similar. But what you hear here is Catalunian. What you’d here in a city like Madrid, on the other hand, would be Spanish. Catalunian uses a lot more x’s in spelling, hence ‘ch”s, I’m pronunciation. Xavier, instead of Javier… Chavier instead of Havier, for instance. Yeah, it’s interesting. That’s about it.

Barcelona was sangrias and tapas.

Barcelona was walking around town watching people play hangs at squares, enjoying elderly couple break into a dance accompanied by music outside a church, running into stores called Krishna Souvenir or Rama Souvenir, whole spices, very hot men and very little sight seeing.

Barcelona was a bit of introspection, a little bit of realizing that people do some really awesome things in life, they jump out of planes, they hike through mountains in Corsica, they kite surf in the Mediterranean Sea, they deep-sea dive in the coral reefs of the Sinai peninsula, they ride horses in Southern France, they visit different countries, they live life to the fullest.

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