We spent four sun-soaked days in Barcelona over the weekend. Ironically, after a few weeks of battling really cold winds in London, the newspaper headlines just before we left were “London to be hotter than Barcelona at 17C!”
As an aside. I think the Brits’ obsession with their weather to be one of their most endearing qualities. Every weather fluctuation is hyperbolic… “It’s the COLDEST winter we’ve seen yet, we’ll have temperatures lower than in the Artic circle!” or “This weekend, London will be hotter than EGYPT!”
I’ve been to Barcelona before, but it’s a first time for my husband. Although I wanted to smugly be able to completely assimilate like a local, and show him how its done in Spain…my woeful sense of direction and memory meant that I was almost as clueless about where things were and how things operated. The three Spanish classes I took that one semester during grad school had only equipped me to order “un cervesa, por favor” and to know that ‘jamon y queso‘ is the most common sandwich you’ll find.
I do like to think that my natural lisp helped me blend in a bit with the locals, who charmingly pronounce their ‘s’ sounds as ‘th’.
Barcelona’s appeal is a combination of good weather, friendly people and surreal architecture. It can be slightly unnerving to turn up on a Sunday, when most shops are closed, to find hordes of equally confused tourists milling around wondering what to do with themselves in the absence of places to spend their foreign money. But hang in there, it gets better.
We were lucky to escape the Sunday-long siesta by spending half a day at the FC Barcelona stadium, Camp Nou. It was a pilgrimage for my football-mad husband, who insisted we get there three hours early to soak in the atmosphere. I’d actually highly recommend going at least two hours early for a match. You get to see happy families out in matching jerseys and indulge in extreme football consumerism at the Nike store (i.e. doggie football jerseys and player endorsed snacks). But expect to only get non-alcoholic beers at the stadium (or pack your own).
Being a complete football noob, I have to admit that Spanish football really does look beautiful on the field. Every shot on the goal is a strategic dance. Every defensive move a well-coordinated block. We had a lot of fun. The sun was shining, FC Barcelona scored 6 goals to 1, and we were part of a Mexican wave – twice.
The only downside to our Barcelona trip was the food. Sure, Spanish food can be magnificent. I love grazing, so little plates of tapas is pretty much my idea of a perfect meal. BUT, when food is bad in Barcelona, it can be disgusting. A wrong turn into a dingy diner turned our vision of delightful little plates of tapas into a microwaved portion of unappetizing (and oddly pink) meatballs as well as an uninspired wedge of Spanish omelette. As in all cities, beware of the tourist traps. Specifically, La Rambla, in this case. Even the main market there, La Boqueria, was dissapointing. What should have been tasty street food ended up being overpriced, over-fried and non-too fresh meat.
We did however, find a gem of a place if you’re in need of some affordable and really good tapas. But I need more material so I’ll save that for the next post…