Monday, July 5, 2010

Barcelona, Day 1

Okay.  Whew.  You must know, gentle reader, that I am really anxious right now, and my writing might be a bit, um, weird.  I’m getting used to walking at least five miles a day, and all this sitting on a train business is proving to be a bit rougher than I’d hoped.  I’ve already had to delete several nonsensical and sing-songy introductions to this post.

What?  You can’t imagine what they were like?  You want me to tell you?  Really?

When I was seventeen, it was a very good BAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRCEEEEEEEEELOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNAAAAAAAA Sitty of Dhreams, Plaise of Gudness, Basstyun of Fuds Eckstrwordinary, unto mine hearths be us most whelcome.

See?  Anxious.

I slept very well on the night train, but awoke very nervous that the attendant who had taken our passports, tickets and Eurail passes had done so not for the border crossing, as he claimed, but to copy and steal them in the night.  He gave them back to us after breakfast.  Later, when we got off the train, the same man helped us figure out what the hell next train we were supposed to be on.   For some reason everything was in Spanish.  I felt bad for doubting him.

The problem with Catalonia is, everyone already has to learn Catlan, Spanish, and French, so pretty much nobody takes the time to learn English.  Barcelona is, in case you didn’t know, in Catalonia, where they speak Spanish.  I had two goals for our visit to Barcelona: eat paella, and see loads of Gaudi.  Paella is a rice dish, traditionally prepared with saffron in a giant pan, that the competitors on Top Chef are forever screwing up.  Sophie and I sort of think that Tom Colicchio has completely made up his requirements for Paella, which are that the bottom be crisp and the top be tender, while all of it is, of course perfectly cooked and unburnt.  Gaudi was a modernist architect who made his home in Barcelona, and his works are scattered throughout it.  Most famous is the Sagrada Familia, which looks like a regular Cathedral with a bunch of wax people stuck to it that has begun melting in the heat.  But really, it’s super awesome, and I love Gaudi and I was very excited to see it all.

We began by checking into our hotel.  As has been a theme throughout our trip, we traded a central location for greater luxury and were staying a bit out of the city, right next to the Sants railway station.  It turns out that Barcelona has a really fantastic metro system, though, so we were really glad to have made the trade off.  What makes it so much nicer than the Paris metro, you might ask?  The cars are air-conditioned and no one got stabbed while we were there.

Being a sort of stupid person, I thought that maybe I could find an affordable Catalan restaurant in the Michelin guide that I brought with me for lunch.  The Michelin guide does have a little symbol, “Bib Gourmand,” that supposedly signifies food which offers an excellent value.  But it’s sort of like buying diamonds half-price.  You’re still buying diamonds.

Anyways, post-nap we headed to La Tertulia, which was conveniently a few blocks from our hotel.  And lo and behold, paella they did serve!  Except it was sort of a fancy version where they served the grilled seafood and rice separately, and the waiter convinced us that we could absolutely not share one portion, because in order to properly enjoy a paella you must be literally drowning in seafood (The seafood itself is not drowning for obvious reasons.  It is already dead).

The seafood was, however, super fantastic.  It is hard to beat fresh, well seasoned, grilled seafood.  I continue to be amazed that something so terribly grotesque can taste so fantastic.

“Ah, so I just pop the head off of the alien-from-the-sea, then?  Is that it?  And then I suck out its insides.”

I don’t think that I will ever really enjoy tearing the tiny legs off of shrimps.  But I do it because I would rather tear them off than put them in my mouth.  The rice, Sophie mentioned, tasted like fancy Rice-a-Roni.  But in a good way, she assured me.

For dessert, La Tertulia had a five-page menu that started with sweets, moved on through wines, dessert wines, brandies, and whiskies, and ended with cigars.  I find the concept of an apres-manger cigar menu to be hopelessly badass.  “Si, caballero, I have eaten the heads off of these tiny animals from the sea and now I will put the smoke of the true patriot in my lungs.  I am el Generalissimo.  Arriba!”

Sophie and I ordered the Greek yogurt with kiwis and strawberries.  God help us.

After lunch, we began our architectural walk of the city.  We started with Sagrada Familia, which I already mentioned is Gaudi’s most famous work, and ended with Parc Guell, which is his largest.

By the time we got to the park, we were really tired and thirsty.  There was a café, and we picked up some ice cream and sat outside.  Then a really cute pigeon wandered up next to us and sat down.  I took about a million pictures.  I think it was my friend.  I am hopeless.

It has been mentioned in a previous post that Sophie did not sleep well on the train to Barcelona, and was a little bit zombified the next day.  I think that Parc Guell, with its near complete lack of straight lines, may have further addled her zombie brain, because soon after getting there all she wanted to do was go home and sleep.  That was okay, though, because as everyone knows, zombie is catching, and I was starting to feel the effects myself.


  1. That brown stone building with the white roof is pushing my uncanny valley buttons... it's like Disneyland, if Disneyland were a real place, and meant to be scary (as opposed to being unintentionally terrifying). Strange.

    Also, congratulations on the engagement!!! I'm thrilled for you two.

  2. I would be impressed if the seafood were indeed drowning, seeing as it lives in the sea and pretty much can't drown.

    To paraphrase Eddie Izzard, that leaves a lot of questions about the Biblical Flood. What about all the evil fish? How were they smote (smitten?) ?