Tag Archives: Barcelona

Spanish Holiday Part Cinco: Part of the Boys of Summer Series, Traveling to Fill Your Spirit

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So sorry to leave you all hanging for a few days.  I have been busy working on a novel and living like a Spaniard (up early, nap in the afternoon and out late).  You may want to hold off on the Sangria as we will be switching to Cava in a few minutes as we gaze into the eyes of a younger man and stick our toe in the water to test the temperature….

A front desk person gave me directions to the Sant Antoni metro station which is a short two blocks away.  I got on a train and emerged at the Placa de l’Angel in the Bari Gotic the oldest part of Barcelona. The first thing I did was go to a pastry shop and purchase a salami bocadillo and a pastry.  At this point hunger was a motivation but also culinary adventure.  Bread used to be an important part of my diet until almost two years ago when I discovered a gluten intolerance  that causes various physical and chemical issues in me.  My friend, Michele Humlan, a chef with a similar condition told me that European’s process their flour differently (Europeans leave their wheat un-genetically modified which keeps it less glutenous than wheat grown in the States) and that it might be fine to eat bread in Spain.  So eating a crusty bread, for me is a foray into an unknown world filled with fear.  Would it really be OK?  Was this going to make me feel like crap?  The cultural aspect of this experience is important as well.  The bacadillo is a staple in the Catalunyan diet.  They adore ham in any form and it is common to see people eating these sandwiches for breakfast, a picnic or for a snack at any time. I really adore this type of sandwich and the crusty baguette type bread from which it is made. I have missed it terribly as I have yet to discover a palatable gluten-free version.   Throwing caution to the wind, I decide to simply revel in the crunch of the crust and the way it gives way to the soft airy soul of the bread.  I allow the tastes of the salami cheese and butter to dance on my tongue giving each taste bud a turn to experience the combined sensation of texture and flavors.  After the first fanstastic bite, my “movil” rings, it is Kirana,  “I have just taken my first bite of real bread in two years. I am never leaving Spain!” I tell her.

After a brief “Welcome” chat with Kirana and the full demise of my bocadillo, I start walking to take in the sights and smells of the Bari Gotic.  Unknowingly, I head west on Libreteria to the Placa Sant Jaume, the home of the Barcelona Ajuntament (town hall). There is a band playing in the square and many people dancing the sardana which is the Catalan national dance.  It looks a bit like Greek dancing with people holding hands in a circle doing a little series of steps and walking from side to side.  Apparently this happens throughout the town especially on Sundays and people of all ages participate.  Catalans study this dance as it has many versions and they like to make statements about being different from the rest of Spain. It is while watching the sardana that Ricardo calls.  He decides we should meet at the Placa de Catalunya.  He googlemaps from his computer and gives me direction to go down Carrer Ferran to La Rambla and up to Placa Catalunya.  On the way I stop at an adorable little shop called La Boheme at Ferran 49.  It is small but bursting with colorful T-shirts, handbags, jewelry and other accessories.  Barcelona attracts youth from all over the world and much of its local fashion is dedicated to bright colors and slim styles for twenty-somethings.  I purchase two really cute typical Barcelona style T-shirts that I have seen young women wearing for my daughter which the shop keep neatly wraps as a gift.

Carrer Ferran is loaded with cute shop and small tapas restaurants.  The streets are narrow and cobblestoned affording one the essence of an ancient place.  La Rambla by contrast is a wide walkway going dividing two streets like a big median strip with pedestrians tourist shops and newspaper stands.  La Rambla is famous for performance art and pick pockets.  Crowds of tourists walk up and down this main thoroughfare. During the day tourists delight in the people dressed like statues, magicians and street dancers.  At night La Rambla takes on a dark side with prostitutes, drug deals and guys that walk around selling “sexy” beers.  Ricardo told me to meet him in the center of Placa Catalunya where there is a giant star set in marble.  He is late but the evening is grand.  Many people meeting and greeting in this central spot.  Children laughing as they chase pidgeons.  Lovers cuddling on benches.  I wander around looking at the statues, enjoying the fountains and just people watching.  When Ricardo finally arrives, we hug and kiss on the cheek then he kisses my other cheek and says, “two kisses in Spain.”   I wonder what the evening will bring without reading too much into this extra kiss thing.  We start walking.  Ricardo is a football fanatic- football as in soccer.  One of his favorite teams is playing in an important match tonight and he tells me we are going to an Irish bar to watch the game.  Not exactly what I had in mind for my first night in Spain but I am open for whatever.  Somehow it fits.  I always end up in an Irish bar wherever I travel.  At least the first night I am there – and not once from my instigation.

We go to the bar (I forgot the name- sorry) Italy vs Brazil is on the wide screen flat panel television on one side of the bar which has three separate bar locations.  We attempt conversation in between goals over a pitcher of the most disgusting sangria (still mystified why we ordered sangria in an Irish bar) ever created on the face of the earth. It was obviously from a mix and for tourists which happens a lot in the bigger cities in Spain.  If you want the real deal you must make sure to ask how they make it.  It should be red wine, some fruit juice or orange liquor, fruit, maybe brandy but however it is made it should be real and not some sticky nasty red dye infused manufactured crap. But I digress…

Brazil wins and we proceed to the bar in the back for Sunday night kereoke.  This area is filled with twenty-somethings from all over the globe singing kereoke, mostly in English which is the language used by tourists to communicate.  A Dutch duo of girls dominate the evening singing ABBA songs, Ricardo does a great version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody,  a guy from Mexico City sings “Ring of Fire” and Ricardo and I do a duet version of Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life”.  At about 11:00pm we head out for tapas.  My young companion is not the restaurant guide I had hoped for but we do manage to find bar stools at a tiny tapas place –literally a window of a four table spaced restaurant that serves mostly to about fifteen tables outside in this courtyard type area.  We order Cava, the typical drink of Catalunya and some tapas all of which were fabulous but most memorable was the melt-in-your-mouth carpaccio with olive oil and fresh arugula.  The evening is balmy, the food wonderful, the Cava is flowing and the conversation turns to expectations of our upcoming stay in Sitges.  Not able to get much of a handle on what his expectations are I decide to cross a line and to observe his reaction.  We toast Barcelona and over our flutes I lean in to give him what I think will be a kiss that will make him weak in the knees for the purpose of catching him off guard.  Our lips meet and the tables are delightfully turned.  This man has true talent- a gift even.  He is hands down the best kisser I had yet encountered and I am undone.  He is definitely willing to cross whatever lines there might be and then some much to my surprise, delight and…. horror.

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Spanish Holiday: Part Quatro (part of the Boys of Summer Series)

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This is the fourth installment of a story I wrote about the zen of traveling.  I am using it for DBC blog posts as part of the Boys of Summer Series but also to inspire single people to follow their dreams and dare themselves stretch a bit. After all, that is what living is all about stretching and growing, right?

Two weeks later I am on a flight to Barcelona. A paid off credit card in hand and the prospect of a local and possible state wide stories negotiated.  The day before I go, the SARK quote pops up in my daily reading. This quote brings the realization of physical travel contributing to the mystical experience of the spiritual journey.

This is the quote:

“I am much more comfortable staying put spiritually.  If I allowed myself to travel, where might I go?  I believe it involves the ability to put comfort aside, and boldly investigate new spiritual territory”  SARK

I fly Delta to New York from National Airport in Washington, DC then onto Barcelona from there.  Every airline seems to do things differently so I will go into a few things to look out for when using this particular airline.(Please note that this story was written in 2009 and things may have changed.)  Things that are bad:  there is no power for electronics in Economy but there is in Business Class.  I did not know this and had a deadline to make with another story I was writing and the battery on my laptop died out in the first hour of the flight.  A steward said he would take my computer up to Business class and never returned.  When I asked another attendant she said she would investigate the situation she agreed to and also never returned – during an eight hour flight!  Things that were good:  The food was edible.  The flight was on time even though we spent more than an hour on the tarmac waiting to fly out. There was a reasonable selection of movies and the entertainment was free.

Upon arrival at Prat in Barcelonca I realized that I had left my hotel address at home and had no way to retrieve it because although I had purchased an international phone service through AT&T I did not get a technology package. (Good tip here: If you have an iPhone make sure to turn your “Fetch New Data” setting off so you don’t get charged for all that international data transformation which can be really expensive.  You should also set a “Passcode lock “ on your phone to prohibit any misuse of the phone that could result in a costly bill.)  I looked for a Wi-Fi space in the airport which I was told by my AT&T representative would work for free abroad but a code was needed to which I had no access.  I ended up waiting for thirty minutes for the airport information booth to open where a lovely young woman supplied me with the address for Market Hotel (Passatge Sant Antoni Abad, 10, Barcelona).

Since I had no idea where to go I was forced to take a cab rather than cheaper modes of transportation of bus or train.  Since it is Sunday morning and I have not slept in nearly twenty-four hours (I lack the blessed ability to sleep sitting up in a cramped airline chair.) I decide to just check into the hotel and get a little sleep before going out to see some of the city in the afternoon.  Market Hotel is so named in honor of the San Antonio Market which is about two blocks away.  Though the hotel website claims it is in the heart of L’Eiaxample area of Barcelona according to my guidebook it is actually in El Ravel.  The hotel is known for its restaurant which has a separate entrance on Compte Borrell.  It is a bit difficult to find the hotel entrance which is located around the corner on a side street that more resembles an alley way.  The hotel décor is contemporary Euro-Asian.  Rooms are minimal chic and quite comfortable but like most European hotels, the typical room is tiny by American standards.  The first room I was put in was so small that access to one side of the bed was completely blocked by a small waste basket that just fit in the space between the side edge of the bed and the wall as the double bed sat in the center of the wall.  The other problem with the Market Hotel is the noise which is the result of two issues.  The interior of the hotel boasts tall ceilings and large heavy doors for rooms and other access.  Keeping with its minimal look there are lovely hardwood floors in the narrow hallways where the guest rooms are located.  The sparceness and lack of any artwork or carpet to help absorb sound coupled with the apparent habit of Catalunyan house keepers to let doors slam themselves shut makes the hotel very noisy.  Its location next to a construction site and the sounds from its own construction work (a fifth and six floor being added) keeps the noise levels at cacophonous levels from early in the morning until late at night.

 

If you can get past the noise it is really a great deal.  There are few affordable esthetically pleasing hotels in Barcelona and even fewer in convenient locations in the city.  Just bring earplugs and something to help you sleep if you are a member of the light sleeper club.

Exhausted after twenty-one hours of travel and no sleep in more time than that, I was able to get in about two hours of decent sleep as my room was located across the hall from the house keeping room and staff were constantly banging doors and other equipment for hours.  I awoke conveniently before Spanish lunchtime which is between 2:00 and 3:30pm, showered and asked the front desk staff if I could switch rooms.  They were very nice and accommodating.  In fact all of the staff were friendly and helpful. The front desk staff in particular go out of their way to help guests find restaurants, provided directions and arrange for tours, cars or whatever.  English is the standard tourist language which makes it easy for Americans.  My second space in the Market Hotel was much bigger featuring a large bed with floor to ceiling beams for posts a space where I could work and a dressing area with big picture windows on two sides. Once settled into the new space, I decided to get lost in the city just to see what would happen.

Spanish Holiday (part of the Boys of Summer Series) Part Dos

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This is the second installment of a traveling to fill your spirit story I wrote for myself about a trip to Spain I mad 3 summers ago. It is included in this blog because hopefully it will inspire my single mid-life sisters to get out and do things that scare them or at least are fun because it makes us more aware and alive.  To read part Uno, click here.

 

Remember I was just contemplating why I should not go to Spain and visit the young, enticing Ricardo while he is studying Spanish for the summer….

But then the wheels start turning in my head. Julia Cameron author of the “Artists Way” says that one way to unblock ourselves as artists is to allow ourselves to have small pieces of our dreams if we cannot fully realize our dreams immediately.  I want to live in Spain but I cannot arrange that immediately therefore isn’t it better to have one week in Spain than no time in Spain at all?  Wouldn’t Julia tell me to go for it?  And what about that creative block stuff?  I stopped working on my novel about three weeks ago, finding one excuse after another not to work on it in the mornings when I had supposedly carved out time to write.  Maybe I need a little dream indulgence magic to get it going again.  I am also at a place in my writing career when it is time to expand my audience from the 60,000 that read the weekly paper to which I regularly contribute.  A new angle is needed since I am committed to them in terms of the types of stories I write.  Then there is the spiritual aspect to traveling that feeds my soul and puts me in the ultimate “the-Universe-will-provide-what-I-need” mystical state of being.  I long to see the world and I’m not going to see it making excuses and staying at home.  I am at the middle of my life and the days of traveling comfortably are becoming more limited with each passing year.

Then it hits me.  What if I can write a story about my trip?  A story that can be sold Nationally?  Then if I can find the money to go I can write the expense of the trip off my taxes as a business expense.  Great!  But what to write about?  Where will the money come form?  I am not going to depend on a 24 year old party animal to make my trip to Barcelona worthy of National publication.  No, there must be a better angle.  I decide that if this trip is to come to fruition the Universe will provide a way.

A few days later I am in my Thursday afternoon yoga class with my teacher, Nora Pozzi.  Nora is cool.  She is from South America and speaks Spanish which opens up a lot of opportunities for her.  During an asana while listening to her Latina accent my heart jumps.  There is a yoga studio near Barcelona where Nora went to teach the previous year.  I told her then that I wanted to go there to and teach yoga but there were the problems of: A) I am not qualified to teach yoga and B) I do not speak Spanish.  The link to Nora (and ultimately me) is the woman who owns the yoga center is from Richmond.  Maybe I could get a local or statewide commitment for a story about her initially then sell a bigger story about the center and yoga to a national publication.  Karmic inspiration- YES!  I ask Nora for the contact information for Kirana Stovers at Integral Yoga Barcelona.

Now that I had the story angle I needed to find the money to go.  As an untried freelancer there would be little chance of me selling this story ahead of time much less getting someone to pay for it.  Not impossible mind you but given the short time frame  (it was May and the time to go on the trip was June) not likely even for someone with my chutzpah to sell it.  How is the Universe going to swing this one?