My Wild Arrival in Barcelona

The taxi driver was quiet but heavy metal blasted out of the radio in Spanish. Then “Back in Black” by AC/DC came on, which brought up fond memories from high school. Then a song in Spanish; up next — “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by The Police. I tapped my foot while the taxi driver drummed the steering wheel with his palms.

And Barcelona was unfolding on all sides of me. It was 8:45 PM Thursday night.

Earlier, after I’d gotten my checked luggage and made my way to the taxi stand, I had shown the driver the address of the bed & breakfast. He nodded his head — yes, he knew it. We drove for about 40 minutes.

He pulled over and stopped in a busy high-rise area. I looked around but couldn’t see the bed & breakfast. “Is that it?”

He pointed at a glass-fronted entrance. “There it,” he said in broken English.

I paid him the fare (33€) then he unloaded my luggage. As he walked back to the driver’s side I told him, “Your music?” I gave him a thumb’s up. He beamed and put both of his thumbs in the air, then drove away.

I walked inside — it was a high-energy place loaded with people. Since the B&B serves food, I thought — hmmm, I hadn’t expected a full-fledged restaurant downstairs…

Nice.

The woman at the front asked me in Spanish if I had a reservation. I hesitated and she immediately switched to English. I smiled appreciatively and nodded my head yes. I pulled out my passport since she was having difficulty understanding my name. She said, “We don’t have a reservation for you.”

I said, “… I called the owner from the airport — for the bed & breakfast?”

She said, “This is a restaurant.”

I gave her a cracked face. “The taxi driver said…”

“But…” she motioned toward the street.

She opened the door and I dragged my luggage back out and she walked me over to a huge wooden door. She pointed at a bank of buttons then pressed one. The loudspeaker came on, she spoke into it in Spanish and soon the door opened. I thanked the woman and she left.

The guy took my bags. I warned him — they’re heavy. We went up two flights of stairs and he asked me about my reservation. I showed him my passport, and he said, “But no reservation in that name.”

I told him, “…but I called the owner from the airport. He’s expecting me.”

He asked, “Which place?”

“Barcino 147.”

He said, “This isn’t Barcino 147.”

I smiled weakly. I tried to gather my thoughts. “… this is the address… I copied and pasted it directly from the website.”

He asked if I had a phone number; it showed in my Recent Calls. He telephoned and spoke in Spanish. When he hung up, he said, “You should be another place.”

I started laughing. I don’t know why.

“The owner comes for you,” he said.

I put my hand on his arm and thanked him profusely. He smiled and said, “Be quiet.”

I think he meant something like “no problem.” But it struck me as funny. (From this point forward, if someone thanks me for something, I know what I’m going to say.)

My phone rang — the owner said he was already downstairs waiting for me.

I pulled my luggage down the flights of stairs. The B&B wasn’t far. He handed me off to a young Chinese woman named Quynh, pronounced “Quinn.” She explained how the place was run. Finally, she said she would take me to my room. “You have mini-suite.”

Oh. Cool.

We got into a tiny elevator and went up to the 6th floor. My luggage was larger than she was, but she insisted on rolling it for me. She opened a door and I saw a beautiful room. I thought — nice. Sweet. Then she took me into a large kitchen, and said this is where breakfast is served. And I realized that this wasn’t part of my mini-suite at all.

And then I remembered my first experience of being at a bed & breakfast in New Mexico in 1985. Michael and I had decided to go to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Back then, it lasted three days and featured 100 huge hot-air balloons ascending at once — quite a sight. Today, it’s the largest festival of its kind in the world with more than 500 balloons going up each morning during the ten days of the festival.

Anyhow, Michael had found a bed & breakfast for us and I couldn’t wait! I had never stayed in one before.

But when we arrived, it was like a bedroom in someone’s home. We closed the door and we could hear the other guests in their room and in the hallway. It felt like staying at a stranger’s house. I looked around. The room was cute, but small. I felt… cramped. I didn’t like the lack of privacy.

I remember telling Michael: “I hate it.” Fortunately he laughed. He knew I was making a joke and telling the truth all at once. I determined then that I would never stay at a bed & breakfast again.

But (ack, ack) that was a loooong time ago, and I had forgotten.

So Quynh opens the door to my room, and it’s about 10′ X 10′. Quynh is very pleased. She said, “This is best room. It silent. It the mini-suite.”

There was a closed door, and so I waited for her to open it. I thought, that must be the entrance to the living area.

It was the bathroom. She said, “You lucky — you get your own bathroom. That what come with mini-suite. All the other people…” She pointed down the hallway. “They’re sharing one bathroom.”

IMG_5072
It is adorable.
IMG_5073
This is the best I can do as far as a second photo. The room is so small I can’t get a second view. No closet, no place to put my monstrous luggage…

I would include a photo of the bathroom, but there’s not enough room in there for me and the camera at the same time.

Sooo…..

I asked Quynh if there was a restaurant close by. She suggested I go to El Nacional about three blocks away. I wasn’t sure I could find it, but she said it was open really late and they had good tapas.

Once she left I unpacked what could be accommodated in the room (one sock.) I laid down on the bed — it was very comfortable. I opened the window and a fantastic breeze blew in, and I knew everything was going to be okay.

I had skipped breakfast, had a small lunch — it was now 11 PM and I was famished.

I hoped I was in a safe neighborhood. And off I went. The streets were bustling. I found the restaurant relatively easily.

It was huge — and so cool — with hundreds of people inside. I stood in line then the hostess seated me.

IMG_5076
It goes all the way back, as far as you can see in this photo. It may be the largest restaurant I’ve ever visited.

I ordered a glass of Fortunato — it was crisp, dry, with the taste of grapefruit and apple. Delicious.

IMG_5077
Some of the light fixtures are antique bird cages with the bottoms removed.

Every table around me was filled; people were having a blast. I felt like I was floating in a glorious sea of Spanish.

I ordered a plate of grilled bread with olive oil and a salad with three kinds of cheeses including manchego and a goat cheese that was the best I think I’ve ever had — smooth and creamy but with that unmistakable tang of chevre. And toasted walnuts.

IMG_5080 2She brought tiny Spanish olives. I ordered a focaccia with melted mozzarella and loaded with rocket (arugula) — one of my favorite greens.

It was a fantastic meal. And I ordered another glass of Fortunato, which I lifted in the air and said, Salut. I had been in the city for a couple of hours and already three people had been kind enough to go out of their way to help me out.

Hello, Barcelona. It’s nice to meet you.

5 thoughts on “My Wild Arrival in Barcelona

  1. This one made me laugh out loud—“Be quiet”!!!—and cry all over the same thing, their incredible kindness and generosity. Thank you, Bart.

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    1. I spent six weeks in Finland last summer with a carry-on and a shoulder bag. But for this trip I convinced myself that I needed — I needed — certain things with me. Important things. Like shoes.

      But now I see that my experiment in Limited Luggage is definitely the way to go. I brought the big luggage with me, and I’ve been dragging it up narrow stairways and carrying it back down for weeks.

      It’s a learning process. That’s what I’m going to tell my hernia doctor.

      Bart

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  2. Bienvenido a Barcelona! May all your adventures turn out so well. Have always wanted to spend time in Barcelona. Sorry you had to leave Paris! Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

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    1. Hi Dierdre,
      I was saddened to leave Paris. When Bill and I return, I’ll put St. Denis at the top of our list. I had hoped to see it but the time ran out.
      As to thanking me for sharing my travels: Be quiet.
      🙂

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