Thursday 5 January, 2006


Filed under: Claire's Entries — claire @ 6:19 pm

Very early boxing day morning Jim and I headed out of Lille without an ounce of dread for the 12 hour drive that lay ahead. And why would we were going to Spain!! Plus we were well prepared, viamichelin was making sure we didnt get lost, xmas left overs ensured we wouldnt go hungry, xmas presents supplied the soundtrack and the wonders of podcasts and a snazzy attachment in the form of a cassette linking the car system to our mp3 meant we had radio national and jjj on tap. And by taking turns driving a nap was always on offer. I remember when I was younger, on road trips, stopping at the servo for petrol, a wee, a sausage roll, twisties and a diet coke, maybe some snakes to share. And no Im not talking family roadtrips here, cant imagine mum letting me eat any of that! Anyway I remember wondering what went on with the oldies sitting in their cars eating sandwiches from home. Fast forward and there I sit, not so old but with a tea towel on my lap eating sandwiches from home as Jim sprinkles salt on his lunch from a little foil pouch I made up. Well as Jim said we are very daggy!

By 10pm that night we are settled into the very groovy yet inexpensive hotel and ready to hit the streets of Barcelona. No fear of having to rush to a restaurant before the kitchen closes, we were in Spain and things were only just getting started. Jim and I headed to a restaurant recommended by the cool male at reception and immediately decided it was a good decision when we enter to be hit by a buzzy crowd of Spaniards, relaxing decor and a very appealling menu. First thing that grabs our attention is how cheap everything is, especially the wine and then its the large group of young spanish women next to us having a xmas celebration, exchanging gifts and exchanging spanish in a completely intoxicating manner. But that was Spain, the whole trip, completely intoxicating and very insistent that you join in. Some cities are patient and let you discover them in your own time in your own way, others try to discourage you preferring to leave their charms hidden from tourists, while some make an audience of you while they perform. I found Spain very welcoming and very inclusive.

Our too short time in Barcelona was spent walking, sightseeing and eating and with not much sleep. When we finally get around to putting our photos on flickr you see all the wonderful sights we saw and some of the wonderful food we ate. To be honest when we looked at our photos when we got home we were both a little disappointed, sometimes you get lucky and the experience is captured just as you would like and other times not, but I hope our memories wont fade. I’m not a big one for clothes shopping when on holidays but I would of liked to have given it a good bash in Barcelona but with so little time I couldnt justify time spent in Zara or Camper no matter how cheap and fabulous the clothing and shoes were. Camper shoes were still somewhat pricey anyway, but Zara was amazing, at least half the price than here in France. Mind you we did find time to go cookbook shopping, we had a recommendation for a specialist store that sold to restaurateurs and would have a few in English. It took a little time to find the store which had a very cute feature, rolling pins as door handles, but is was worth it as the book appears very user friendly, contains all the classics and was a good price. A lot of our meals were eaten at the large covered market off La Rambla, markets are always a priority visit for us when visiting a new city, and this one offered one of my most favourite things. Cafe stalls amongst the food stalls! I cant even explain to myself why this gives me such a thrill but it really does. After visiting Adelaide with Sarah I swear I contemplated moving there just so I could partake in this fabulous activity on a regular basis. While we drank cafe con leche with to die for pastries at 9 in the morning, the fish mongers next to us, who had been up for hours, downed a beer and meatballs, I suspect not balls made from meat but the balls of an animal!

I will confess to falling off the Spanish culinary wagon on one occasion, we were headed to a restaurant we had noticed earlier in the day, but were just way to full to even squeeze in one more Tapas. On the way we passed a very attractive Japanese restaurant, being big fans of Japanese and not having it available to us in Lille we just couldnt resist. It was packed with who we assumed were locals, jammed in on communal tables eating fabulous looking dishes. After taking a seat we soon realized that in fact tourists outweighed the Spaniards. On one side of us were two women who looked and sounded Scandinavian, on the other were a young heavily pierced British couple, of which the female should be banned from sitting at communal tables unless she promises to stop asking inane question to her boyfriend like what do you think is my best feature. She also should learn to recognise the signs that her boyfriend wishes she would shut the f*@# up and do so instead of persisting with the line of questioning and then when he is mute with embarrassment offering up her suggestions! Each person on the table was either starring at her or him but silently asking the same question Why?! Well except Jim who was only attentive to the very good Gyoza and the strangeness of the salty tasting mineral water that is particular to Spain.

The architecture of Barcelona is compelling and heavily punctuated by Gaudi and his mates, though very quiet and graceful pockets can be found hiding throughout. I would very much like to visit again, but if this is not possible it does not matter I’m grateful to of gone at all. Friends who have visited in Summer said they couldnt imagine what Barcelona would be like in Winter and nor us in Summer, but I imagine Barcelona would be amazing at any time of year.

1 Comment

  1. It sounds wonderful – I haven’t been to Barcelona yet, but it’s on my list. Everyone who has been there raves about it 🙂

    Next time you’re in Paris (do I say this EVERY time i make a comment?), I can take you to a specialist food bookshop, called, quite appropriately, La Librairie Gourmande. Excellent stuff with a nice range in English. 🙂 And I can introduce you to the ONE street in Paris that houses the only REAL japanese restaurants in this city 🙂 (the rest of them are sushi/brochette clones).

    Comment by Katia — Saturday 7 January, 2006 @ 8:04 am

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