Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Free Beer On My Head......A Farewell To Barcelona, Spain

As we sat down in the tiny restaurant the waiter approached with menus and we ordered drinks to get us started.  The little place was decorated with pottery, tiles and had signs written in some other language on the walls.  As I looked around at the dark skinned men all wearing beards and facial hair I realized that I was the only female in the place.  The men who appeared to be East Indian all hovered around tiny tables chugging down beer or coffees for a mid-day reprieve from life.



Hole In The Wall Moroccan Restaurant
 
Inside

 And  More
 
 

We glanced over the strange menu and when the waiter returned Clyde questioned him in Spanish as to what type of food this place offered.  His reply, "Moroccan," which began to make sense as we looked over the odd menu.  Playing it safe I ordered a Diet Coke while Clyde asked for a local beer.  The waiter returned with a can and glass of ice for me along with a bottle of Estrella Damm for Clyde.Founded in 1876 by August Kuntzmann Damm, Estrella Damm beer is the oldest in Spain. "Estrella" simply means "star" in Spanish and seemed to be the star of all beers seen throughout Barcelona.

Since we were hungry we carefully studied the menu placing orders when the waiter returned.  I chose an "ensalada mixta" for only 3 euros and Clyde ordered chicken for around 7 euros.  Typically for lunch we share a meal and I order a side salad to add some extra.  Here in Panama "ensalada mixta" or mixed salad is just your basic small, green salad. which is what I'd expected there.

Front Case Of Veggies And Pita Bread....Yum!



After ordering we noticed an elderly women walk by with bags of groceries, apparently heading into the kitchen to fulfill our orders. She was the only other female in the place besides myself.  I was constantly reminded by this tidbit since every time I looked around the room I seemed to have the attention of the male patrons.
Heating The Pita Bread


When my salad arrived I was shocked at what I saw.  It had the usual lettuce and tomato but included red cabbage, piles of shredded beets, shredded carrots, shredded ham, tuna, and a generous portion of both black and green olives. It was a whole meal salad and to think, for just 3 euros (equal these days to 3 dollars). Clyde's meal included two large pieces of chicken, flavored yellow rice, a large serving of green beans with peas alongside a large pile of green olives.  The inexpensive food was delicious and as the elderly female cook poked out her head Clyde yelled, "muy bueno Senora"
which brought a smile to her face.

My Salad.....3 euros!
 
 
 
Once again we'd walked out of the touristy areas into a neighborhood called "El Ravel." Clyde with a map in hand was determined to see every part of this beautiful city.  Since both of us prefer to see life as it "really" happens when visiting a city, El Ravel would deliver.  The colorful mix of characters on the streets included those from Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Romania and Morocco just to name a few.  We saw men dressed in long gowns, women with dots on their foreheads wrapped in layers of fabric, bohemian looking hippie types and so many more.  Streets were lined with shops and restaurants of different ethnicities with various smells permeating our nostrils.  Residents hung out windows clipping laundry to squeaky clothes lines that hung above our heads.

Neighborhood Of El Ravel in Barcelona, Spain
 

Laundry Day?


Little Boutiques


 Notice The Balconies With Coverings

 

El Ravel is situated between two of Barcelona's popular markets The Boqueria on the touristy Las Ramblas and Mercat Sant Antoni, off the beaten track. The later one housed a whole lot of stuff from clothing, meats, produce and restaurants inside large buildings that went on for miles. We enjoyed the authentic charm, historic buildings, colorful people, along with multi-cultural flair in this neighborhood just slightly off the well worn tourist tracks.

Mercat Sant Antoni.....Large Market




Back to pounding the pavement for us we stopped at Cathedral de Barcelona, a pretty old church.  Once inside the dark, Gothic looking walls were a stark contrast to any of the other churches we'd visited.  A bit creepy as we could almost feel the presence of souls that had passed through these walls throughout the centuries.

Gothic Cathedral Nearby Our Apartment


Dark, Wooden Interior






Walking along La Rambla once again we stopped to take photos with a few of the many street artists.  Living statues lined one end of the boulevard startling passerbys as they came to life with their antics.

Street Artists.....Living Statues On La Rambla

Apparently A Dragon......With Creepy Long Fingers
 



He Roped Himself......A Clyde!


Since this was our last full day in Barcelona we decided to head over to the beaches for a look since it was a bit too chilly for a swim.  Barceloneta Beach is the closest to reach by foot with plenty of things to do. Although there were some people sunbathing and even a few crazies in the water we opted to stop at a beach front café called "Pantay" for a cup of coffee. I was wearing a long sleeved, button down cotton shirt underneath a fleece jacket.  Since I was too warm once seated I removed the jacket and placed it on the back of the chair.  Clyde removed his jacket and sat it on a nearby chair prior to ordering us two coffees.

Pantea.....Beachfront Cafe
 
 
Barceloneta Beach, Barcelona, Spain
 

The restaurant was packed with all types of people enjoying wine, beer and snacks overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. A few minutes later I felt a presence behind me as someone reached over and put a cup of coffee in front of Clyde.  Just then I heard a loud spill in back of me and expected to feel the warmth of coffee dripping nearby.  But instead I felt something cold on top of my head that poured down my face.  My bangs were dripping into my eyes as the horrified wait staff ran to my recue with blue and white checked tablecloths which they wrapped around me like towels.  I grabbed one and wiped the cold beer off my face, trying to smile when all I really wanted to do was cry.

The Owner I Think.....Trying
To Comfort Me After The Beer Incident
Notice The Tablecloth Towels




Our waitress ran over and handed me her navy, pullover hoodie with the restaurant logo on the back. She said, "you'll be cold so here, put this on."  Together we walked outside to the ladies room where there was a long line.  She explained to the first lady in line that I needed to get in there immediately to take off my wet clothes and they nicely allowed me through. When I came out holding my shirt and wearing the hoodie the waitress approached me saying, "before you go I need this back, so don't leave with it."  "Don't leave with it, " I said....."how am I supposed to leave then?" Not only did we have a mile or two to walk back to our apartment but the fleece jacket covered in beer was my only coat.  I knew I'd have to wash it out by hand and it would take a few days to air dry, leaving me with nothing warm to wear.  After all I thought it was the very least they could do to give me a sweatshirt as it would also serve as a nice souvenir of Barcelona. 

The waitress and another man who I presumed was the owner apologized profusely, assuring us that the coffee would be free  Again the very LEAST they could do.  Customers throughout the restaurant tried not to stare at my dripping body but surely must have been thinking, "thank God it wasn't me!" The waitress came over and offered us a special apple cake dessert free, which we gladly accepted. When she came back she presented us with only ONE with two forks.  REALLY?.....How damn cheap can this place be?


Our Compensation.....One Free Dessert To Share
 

I was sitting in a puddle of wet cargo pants, a wet bra and underpants along with a wet jacket and all they can offer us is a free piece of cake to share?  When it came time to leave Clyde suggested that we just get up and leave with the hoodie on. But the waitress watched as we walked toward the outside bathroom once again and ran after us screaming, "don't leave with my shirt.....pleeease."  So she caught us and escorted me to the ladies room again, making sure that she got her sweatshirt back.  Thankfully Clyde had a jacket too and that's what I ended up wearing back to the apartment with my wet hair stuck to my head looking pretty horrible. Beer is NOT something that I enjoy drinking but perhaps it will make for a nice facial and hair condition?

Back at the apartment Clyde helped as I washed the beer out of my fleece jacket.  Since he has larger, stronger hands he was able to squeeze more water out of it.  I also had to hand wash my pants, underwear and shirt and we hung them out on one of our balconies in the fresh air. After showering and drying my hair I put on two fresh layers of shirts as we headed out to find me a jacket. We walked for 20 to 30 minutes to the El Ravel neighborhood again to find the large market Sant Antoni that we'd been to earlier. Along the way I checked out other small boutiques and even thought of a touristy sweatshirt that said "Barcelona" on it but all were pullovers and I preferred a zipper.  By the time we made our way to the large market once again some of the shops were starting to close. I found a red jacket with a wrap around belt that I liked but didn't quite understand European sizing. The clerk came over to help handing me a jacket that just happened to fit perfectly, so we bought it for 30 euros.

Policia On Horses
 

Picking Up Recycle Bin......But Only The Yellow One Today


Each Recycle Bin Was For Something Different
All Of Europe Seemed BIG On Recycling

Dogs Went Everywhere With Their Humans......Some We Parked Outside Of Businesses While Their Owners Ran Inside......But Other Shops Allowed The Dogs Inside, Even Restaurants and Bakeries
 

Police Bikes


Busy Corner Outside Our Apt. Window In Barcelona
These Posts Went Up And Down As The Traffic Light Changed
 

Bombers.....Or Firefighters in Barcelona.....Being A
Retired Firefighter Clyde Couldn't Resist Taking These Photos

More Bombers....Perhaps A Catalan Word
Since The Spanish Word For Firefighter Is Bomberos
 

A Man On A Mission To Find A Mermaid
But These Have No Arms?
 


The next morning we had to checkout of the apartment by 11 and packed up my wet clothes in a plastic to take with us. We made our way over to the end of Las Ramblas where we boarded a bus bound for the cruise port. Disembarking the bus at the port and embarking on a cruise ship would be the next leg of our adventure.

One Of Three Balconies In Our Barcelona  Apartment
 

Truth be told, the real reason that brought us to this part of the world was a Mediterranean cruise.  I'd been wanting to do one for years and after two friends took this exact cruise last summer my mind was made up. On Saturday April 25th, 2015 we climbed aboard the Norwegian Spirit for a 12-night cruise of the Grand Mediterranean. Over the course of the next two weeks we'd hit ports in France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Spain where we'd started out. Stay tuned for more adventures of our exhausting itinerary and life at sea as two gringo's from Panama learn to party like Norwegians......along the gringo trail.





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