Finally to finish the chapter on Barcelona. The day after the concert, Laura and I woke up late and strolled through Las Ramblas, the Central Market and just took it real easy, avoiding any tourist spots (apart from the two I just mentioned, of course). We had a great lunch at a little Italian place and walked into and quickly out of a number of upscale shops, full of beautiful things our meager allowances don't allow us to enjoy.
While exploring, I was struck by how little Spanish was written and spoken in Barcelona. It's so very different from Madrid, the home of the Monarchy, it feels like a different place all together, not the Spain I've come to know. It wasn't just the beach that was different, it was the people, the culture and the lack of all things Spanish... it was it's own thing, no bullfights, no Spanish flags, no photos of Rey Carlos and Reina Sofia like you see in many shops and bars in Madrid.... muy curioso. There is a real distaste for the Spanish language, Catalan is used everywhere. Laura said she hasn't improved her Spanish as much as she would like for that very reason, people aren't inclined to speak Spanish, they've embraced their own dialect. It is a very isolated culture and language that, like many other regions in Spain, tries to distance itself as much as possible from the capital where the monarchy dwells.
That night we hit the bars with some of her friends, all great people. There is a different breed of bars and restaurants in Barcelona, they're all so inspired and original. Some are kitschy, some sullen, others bright and colorful... there's a wide variety.
So, on to the reason why this entry is titled what it is. I made it a point to spend at least one day at the beach. That day turned out to be Sunday. Laura and I picked up some bikes at a "bicing" bike stand near her house. Bicing is a public transport service that Barcelona residents pay about 20euro/year to use. These bikes are not meant for leisure but rather for getting from point A to point B, you can therefore only rent them for a couple hours at a time. Introduced just over a year ago, it has become an extremely popular mode of transport, they are making streets more bici friendly and adding stands all over the city... the good weather and flat landscape doesn't hurt either.
So, Laura and I mounted our bici's and rode a couple miles along the boardwalk in search of the perfect beach. The nudey and appartently gay beach was the most tranquilo of them all. It was a really sunny afternoon and we just layed out with magazines and met some of her friends, spending the afternoon counting and comparing weiners. A pretty unusual day.
We returned home after a few hours and cleaned ourselves up for dinner, then we met up with a couple friends of hers to eat at a Japanese buffet restaurant and hopefully have a bit of sushi, something I still hadn't tried in Madrid. Now when you hear the words "Japanese buffet" you don't exactly think quality, at least I don't, but is was far from what I expected. The tables of the restaurant are placed alongside a conveyorbelt that transports little tapa-sized plates of food... from sushi to wontons, seared mushrooms to shortribs. F-ing delicious!! We got there right when they turned on the belt and started plating the food so everything was hot and fresh. Quite a find. I have to do some research in Madrid for a similar restaurant.
It was seriously the perfect vacations. Thanks Laura!!