Barcelona (June 1, 2013)

Trip log, part the first. Jetlag, architecture, serendipitous chamber music, and tapas.

In Munich on our layover we are sitting next to what I think is a football team. Some of them are wearing well-worn lederhosen. “I think Germans are too earnest to be hipster.” “My new punk band is going to be called Post-Ironic Lederhosen.”

We got passport stamps in Munich but weirdly just sailed out of Barcelona airport without seeing anything like passport control – guess that’s an EU to EU thing. As we feared, vending machines (like the one dispensing bus tickets) don’t take US credit cards without PINs. Fortunately Eric got one that does work here so that’s convenient, and most restaurants and shops will take non PIN cards. We took the bus and a train to our flat, were oriented by our host and went out to explore by way of buying me a Spanish SIM. Now I have data everywhere which is a little disconcerting since I’ve never had cellular data in Europe before. I’ll have to be careful I don’t spend time falling into the internet when I could be being here.


the small “street” our flat is on.


The staircase inside.

Sadly, the big market right next to the flat closed at 15:30, and is closed Sundays, so we have to wait until Monday to explore it. We got basic provisions and spent some time exploring, stumbling across the Music Palace on our way. (Pictures of which will have to wait until the next time we wandered by it.) We have tickets to see Flamenco there Wednesday and I can’t wait.

The neighborhood we’re in is a warren of tiny back alleys with shops, and also lots and lots of closed security grills with graffiti. I can’t tell if more of them are shops that are open at other hours, or if there’s just a LOT of unused real estate?

Wandering down the street, I stopped to peer into a shop with violins in the window, and then realized that what I saw in the back wasn’t a video of a string quartet on a screen, but a string quartet on a stage in the far back of the shop, rehearsing for a concert tonight. And not only was it a string quartet, but the fifth member of the ensemble was a renowned bassethorn player. Eric went in and geeked out with him about his instrument, and we planned to return to the show at 20:00.


Holy cow?

Some more wandering brought us past a likely-looking bar/restaurant, which proved to be an amazing find. We had a little table in the open window looking out on the street — behind us was a set of comfy miniature leather armchairs, and a small fireplace full of pillar candles. The decor was perfect, and the food was almost as good — we had salads with duck “ham” (prepared like Iberican ham) and crisped brie (strongly reminiscent of the deep-fried cheese with honey at Dali), and a really good foie gras terrine. Thus fortified, we took our groceries back to the flat and went back out to the concert.

The concert was (from what we could gather) a period performance of Mozart’s clarinet quintet (bassethorn, and the string instruments had gut strings and no chin rests), but instead of just performing the piece, the clarinet player (who was quite a character) was telling this elaborate narrative about it. In between each movement he’d have the quartet play little excerpts of the next movement with dramatic narration. It was a great pity the entire thing was in Spanish and I understood maybe 1 word in 10 or 20. Sadly jetlag and a redeye was also catching up with me, so I was not as attentive as I would have liked. But it was still awesome. Also, the shop owners passed around Dixie cups and then came around and served everyone cava or red wine, and two types of cheese and olives.