Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hola from Barcelona!

We arrived in Barcelona about 24 hours ago and have settled in nicely. We're staying at the Gat Xino hotel for the next week, and while the room is small (there's about 2 feet of space around the two single beds pushed together) it's clean and bright. The walls are a bright white, the floor is black, and the curtains are lime green. We have a narrow balcony with full sized shutters. The bathroom is a decent size and painted a bright lime green. We're on the third floor overlooking a back street which is a lively neighbourhood. We had to wear ear plugs to sleep because we could hear a myriad of conversations from the open windows across the way--a distance of about 10 feet. It's interesting to look up and down the street to see the many different ways that laundry is hung to dry. Some people have suspended shower curtains over their balconies presumably to add a little more privacy as well as protection against the elements (probably birds and rain).

It's partly cloudy today and the temperature feels about 20 degrees or so--just right for sightseeing--as it was yesterday. We got to the hotel around 11 AM after a bit of backtracking on the train (we missed our stop and had to get out at the next one and take the next train back) and finally the metro. Once we got our bearings above ground, we walked straight to the hotel which is not too far off Las Ramblas, a major pedestrian thoroughfare in the old city. Our room wasn't ready until 2 PM so we spent the next little while walking around the streets and back alleys of the neighbourhood. We aren't too far from the Sant Antonio Mercado, a market that is frequented more by locals than tourists. Lots of inexpensive clothing and the most popular booths were full of thin Asian cottons and scarves worn in several layers. We stopped for lunch and I had a delicious potato tortilla (omelette) and Lloyd enjoyed a huge "hamburguesa" of ham, egg, bacon, cheese and all the trimmings.

Our room was indeed ready at 2 PM and we thankfully went to bed for a nap, finally rousing at about 6:30 or so feeling much better! Out for another walk and ended up at a tapas bar for supper. The barman spoke no English but motioned us to the back to look at the pots bubbling away on the stove, and I chose a potato/garbanzo stew which was delicious. Lloyd pointed at a variety of tapas and ended up with roasted green peppers, veal cutlets and a veggie tortilla. All washed down with a couple glasses of vino blanco (me) and cerveza (Lloyd) accompanied with delicious bread. While the beer was served as a single bottle, a carafe of white wine was on the table and we were charged for what was consumed. While there are innumerable bars and restaurants--some obviously catering to tourists and others are more neighbourhood affairs--we would go back to this place and see what they have on offer another night.

We've just finished a breakfast of coffee, cereal (museli type), toast, ham and cheese. The bread was delicious. It's wonderful to be in a country that respects its bread! We've noticed lots of bakeries--they seem to be just as plentiful as the bars, restaurants and fruit/veggie stores.

Finally, one of the best discoveries yesterday was a textile artisans fair which is on until June 12th just off the Ramblas. I stopped to chat with a woman who was crocheting jewelry from wire and she very proudly showed me all her work while saying that everyone exhibiting there had made their goods--nothing was a cheap import from Asia! I plan to go back and have a better look at everything.

In my next posting I'll try and post some images and won't talk about food quite so much! But as you can tell, I'm already impressed with the food--it's met my expectations so far. We're going to head out shortly to explore some more of this great city.

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