Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Monday, December 11, 2017

What Freddie and Montserrat sang

Barcelona was the first place I ever saw in Spain. I thought it was brilliant. I've been back several times since. I like it less now than I did at the beginning. Two or three visits ago we got a lot of "You're inferior because you're not Catalan". We had several instances where people wouldn't speak to us in Castellano Spanish and on just one occasion we couldn't get a menu in a restaurant in Spanish or in English - Catalan or nothing. Obviously enough we left. I think it was the visit after that where the town looked so scruffy and it smelled like one giant lavatory.

So what about this time? I'd expected quite a lot of signs of the Independence debate but it wasn't particularly obvious and the publicity for the elections on the 21st were very standard. Otherwise, well it's a decent sized city so it's busy, it has a lot of traffic, it has a lot of bikes and wizzy forms of transport. There were thousands and thousands of us tourists. The prices were a shock of course, they always are whenever we leave home. There was also an element of being tricked all the time. We weren't really tricked because we knew what was happening but the set price meal without drinks meant that the drinks were going to be overpriced. A non alcohol beer in Pinoso costs 1.50€ and we were charged 4.50€ several times when the drink went with a meal. We breakfasted somewhere where there were set price offers. None of the menus showed the price of a coffee so I guessed that the croissant and coffee offer was probably a cheaper way of getting a second coffee than simply asking for another drink. Based on the loud complaints from a group of US women on another table I guess I was right. An odd thing was the table service. On no occasion did we ever get our orders at the same time. Both Maggie and I were on the receiving end of twenty minute waits after the other one had been served. It didn't seem to depend on the style either - Maggie's late salad was in a  pretty traditional place whilst I had to wait ages for a smart version of sausage egg and chips in some trendy tapas place owned by a Michelin starred chef.

I felt very 21st Century when I ordered a non standard taxi using some application on my phone but it was a complete faff and the fare didn't strike me as a particular bargain either. There were lots of interesting businesses and retailing ideas though I can't recall one at the moment. Nice range of fashions as well - lots of clothes that we country folk don't see in the flesh so often - I kept thinking of a programme I'd seen on the telly about Influencers and their Instagram accounts. We saw a place called el Nacional; not knowing what it was we just walked in anyway. It was a sort of enormous restaurant and bar complex. We think it was just one business but one area was a champagne and oyster bar, another was for ice cream, there was a ham and cheese area and so on. Full of lights too. I imagined someone pitching that idea to a jaded bank manager.

We did lots and nothing at all. The big thing was going to the Sagrada Familia - somewhere that both Maggie and I have visited once or twice before  - but not in the past twenty five years! We walked Christmas markets, went on cable cars, went to the beach, did just one exhibition and went to the cinema. It was one of those cinemas that were common in the 1970s where some huge one screen place had been carved into several smaller cinemas with screens not much bigger than modern day tellies. There were so many stairs that I was breathless by the time I got there! The entrance to theatre 5 was weird - it was underneath the screen. Actually that was something I noticed in Barcelona. So many places with stairs - it must be murderous for people with reduced mobility. Stair lifts are all well and good but they must turn going to the toilet into something that requires meticulous planning if you are a wheelchair user.

So good fun, nice to be in an exciting busy place but nice to get back on to the train and listen to the Catalan change to Valenciano as we came home.

1 comment:

Myriam said...

Well,... Barcelona is my city. I moved out because I was fed up of this same old boring story: independence. Everytime I go back, every month or so, I find something new I don't like. You are so right in almost everything, but there is left a little bit of the old Barcelona if you know how to look underneath and escape the massive turist invasion. Avoid the centre. Wander around other neighborhoods, Sants, San Gervasio, Pedralbes, Sarrià,... Or take the train in Sants Station and go to Sitges, for example, only 20 min. from BCN and wonderful. Avoid fancy restaurants or tapas bars or oyster bars (they are traps for turists). Look for daily menus including drinks! Almost in every bar there are breakfast with fixed low prize. Anyway, it is a difficult and shitty time these days....
But don't be so glad to go back to Valencia! It is much worse. :)