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…


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.”

It is adorable.
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.


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.

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.

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.


  2. Oh, you silly Americans and your voluminous luggage. 🙂
    Glad you’re having a wonderful time!


    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.



  3. 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.


    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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