Sunday, May 1, 2011 | Barcelona
MY LAST DAY in Barcelona. My last day in Spain. A bit after 7:30 tonight, I’ll get on a high-speed train that will take me to Geneva, arriving around 6:30. From there I’ll take a local train to Friburg, where my friends live. I’ll spend three and a half days with them then hop on a plane to London, where I’ll spend the night at the home of some longtime friends then, finally, fly home Friday evening.
I’m going to miss Barcelona. It’s a wonderful place. I haven’t seen a tenth of what I probably should have seen, and I likely haven’t seen a thousandths of the city, which means I have not seen its grittier, poorer side. I read yesterday that Spain has an unemployment rate of more than 21 percent. That sounds incredible, and judging by all the people shopping furiously yesterday, it doesn’t make sense.
But I guess, Spain, like the United States and other countries, is really two separate countries. One where there live those who are paying the cost of their leaders’ bad economic decisions, and one where those who are not affected by economic downturns live. They do a good job of keeping them separate here; I’ve only seen a handful of street people, beggers, during my stay, and waiters and shopkeepers have become pretty good at shooing them away quietly, lest they bother our sensibilities.
BARCELONA IS ALSO interesting in that there is another language spoken here, in addition to Spanish. In fact, most official signage are in Catalonian. On my way here I read a letter to the editor in a Barcelona paper by a Madrid resident, complaining that she couldn’t get anybody to speak Spanish to her whenever she visited, so I was a bit concerned that I might have problems.
I needn’t have worried. Every person I spoke to here was willing to speak in Spanish to me. And, in fact, more than anywhere else in Spain, there was a tendency to want to speak to me in English. It’s a strange and pretty language and if you listen closely to it, you can make out what is being said. That is, if you know Spanish. I haven’t studied it that closely, but it seems to me as if it’s a crossbreed between French and Spanish.
I DIDN’T DO any touristy things yesterday, unless you consider shopping touristy. I guess I should say I didn’t do any sightseeing, although without even trying, I ran into another Gaudi building and gawked at that for a while.
I had a great dinner, though. It was the first really nice, relatively pricey meal I’ve had on this trip – and it was a restaurant, called Bar Marfil, with an Asian, not Spanish influence. I picked it purely by accident. I was hungry and tired and this place’s outdoor area looked enticing, so I sat down without even looking at the menu. I’m glad I did. The food was great. For an appetizer I had some scallops, the most-tender, juiciest scallops I have ever had, in some sort of Japanese sauce. My main course was chicken with green curry sauce (I must learn to make green curry sauce!). The wine was a Spanish red, Disco, by Ribera del Duero. Smooth. And for dessert I opted for flan with ice cream. I forget what flavor ice cream, but it was some Asian fruit. The flan came under a small tent made from a palm leaf of some sort, and I can see why: that thing was so light (and delicious) that they were probably afraid it would float away!
IN ADDITION TO the ties and other stuff I bought yesterday, I also bought two pieces of art (I always try to buy some inexpensive art object on every trip): a print by an English artist who lives near here, and a small acrylic painting by a Haitian street artist. The painting was so new that I had to wait for some of the paint to dry before I could take it with me. I love them both and I can’t wait to get them up on my walls. I just hope I can get them there without damaging either of them.
SO THAT’S PRETTY much it for Barcelona. I don’t know what I’ll do today. I have to check out of the hotel at noon, so I can’t wander off too far. I want to be able to come back here and freshen up a bit before checking out. I’ll think I’ll just do what I enjoy best: roam around and see what new surprises await me.