Catalonia Holiday, Day 2
After the sheer spectacular joy of Day 1 – with its scrumptious food and happy encounter with the New York Ska Jazz Ensemble – I knew Day 2 would be foolish to try to compete. So I set foot from my hotel room and just plunged into the city streets at random, with no purpose but to explore.
Losing yourself in a city is an art form. Keep a map in an inside jacket pocket, but only use it in absolute emergencies. Take time to stop and admire everything. If a shop or park or garden looks interesting, spend ten minutes with it. Most importantly, when presented with a choice of streets or paths, always choose the direction that looks the most fun.
And so I wandered. Wandered by an extremely large statue of a cat…
…an erotic restaurant…
…and onto the waterfront.
After all that danger, there was simply no better retreat into safety than a little sandwich bar staffed by a guy with a beer, which specialized in some funky Italian kind of sandwich whose name started with “p.” My sandwich had country ham, mushrooms, and brie:
The rest of the afternoon was devoted mainly to Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s most famous avenue. Indeed, it clearly once was one of the greatest streets in the world, with a tree-lined central pedestrian zone and tall, gorgeous buildings running along the sides. But Las Ramblas (in fact, La Rambla, but different blocks are named after different people) is not very interesting anymore. It is dominated by tourist traps, including stands selling Hola! magazine, jewelers, puppetry vendors, and an enormous cast of street performers. Some of the street performers are really creative:
But many of the street performers are boring, and quite a few are actually hilariously bad. A whole block is given over to people who draw your picture in ten minutes. There also seemed to be a special zone for multiple amputees. Numerous immigrant men walked around each block with little plastic gizmos in their mouths that made them squeak when they talked, hoping some moron would want to buy his or her own such stupid gizmo. If anything, it was the really bad performers I liked the most. They underscored the silliness of the whole Rambla experience.
La Boqueria, a street market, was closed on this day, because it was a national religious holiday – Epiphany, celebrating the arrival of the three wise men with gifts for Jesus. Not surprisingly, this is the day when kids get their presents, and as one person told me, it’s “a kids’ holiday.”
That night had something interesting in store, though: my first Spanish tapas experience…
As always, you can click the pictures for jumbo versions.