Okay, okay...so I lied.
I started to write this post as I sat in a sidewalk cafe on the Via Laietana, sipping caffe con leche
We had a great time exploring the beautiful city of Barcelona, soaking up the culture, atmosphere, wine, eating delicious food, practicing our Spanish, and taking lots of photographs. Did I mention soaking up the wine? We did...lot's of it. The guy in the picture can verify that. He's our friend Omar, the bartender at our favorite tapas bar. You can't really see it too well in the picture, but he's sticking his tongue out.
As often happens on my business trips, I found myself in some interesting situations...including some encounters with gypsies...so I will have some interesting stories to share over the next few weeks...or whenever the hell I get around to it. But for now, here's some of the observations I jotted down while basking in the Spanish sun:
- The city of Barcelona is quite beautiful and very cosmopolitan. The architecture is an amazing blend of classical European and ultra-modern. Many claim the city was reborn as a result of the Olympic games in the 90's.
- The temperature was damn near perfect (60's to mid-70's) the whole time we were there. The sun and a proliferation of palm trees and wild parakeets gave the place an almost tropical feel.
- The people were quite friendly and appreciated our efforts to speak in Spanish. One thing that took us a bit to get used to was that their Spanish didn't sound or look exactly like the Spanish we were familiar with. Turns out that the official language of Barcelona is actually Catalan, though everyone speaks both Spanish and Catalan and many street signs are written in both languages. Catalan, when you see it written, looks closer to French than it does Spanish. That was actually helpful for me because I know a lot more French than I do Spanish, and I was able to use the combination of languages to figure out what things meant. The tricky part was that people sometimes used a combination of the two in a single sentence.
- The Americans are easy to spot. There are six things that give us away: first, we don't make much of an attempt at speaking Spanish; second, we weigh about 40 pounds more than everyone else; third, the way we dress gives us away...overweight men wearing white knee-high socks with shorts and brown shoes is not very European...kind of sticks out in a crowd; fourth, we order Budweiser (without using a word of Spanish) and bitch when told it is not available; fifth, we frequent the many Starbucks located all over the city, where everyone, of course, speaks English; and sixth, we are looking for places to eat lunch at noon and dinner at six...lunch in Spain never starts before two and dinner never starts before nine or ten.
Thankfully, I don't fit the weight stereotype. I did, however, try to look like less of a gringo by rolling my white knee-high socks down to my ankles (like some elderly women do with their stockings) and by substituting the local wine for the Bud. And my wife wouldn't let me set foot in a Starbucks. Oh yeah, I even spoke Spanish. Unfortunately, it didn't work...they still had me pegged as a gringo. Maybe it had something to do with the Yankees baseball cap and Redskins jersey.
- After the Americans, the Brits, Dutch, and Germans are the next easiest to pick out of a crowd. They are as big as the Americans but tend to dress a little more inconspicuously. They also travel in larger groups.
- The Italians and Scandinavians are on the slim side, as are the Spanish, and, Scandinavians excepted, it is more difficult to tell them apart.
- The French are also on the slim side, but you can pick them out easily because their noses are constantly held upward at a forty-five degree angle and they refuse to speak Spanish.
- A lot of people smoke. Many of the twenty-somethings actually roll their own cigarettes...something I haven't seen since the 70's. Actually, in the 70's it wasn't tobacco people were rolling.
- Piercings and tattoos seem to be the de riguer body adornements for the under-35 crowd. Pierced lips, tongues, and metal protrusions on each side of the mouth and randomly placed about the face are as commonplace as backpacks. I know tattoos and piercings are common among that age group here in the US...but over there it was pretty extreme. After a few drinks one night I offered to treat my wife to a tattoo and lip piercing...I took the kick in my ass as a definite 'no'
- There are more motor scooters and motor bikes in Barcelona than in any city in Europe. People park them handlebar-to-handlebar on the streets and sidewalks.
- I have seen more happy-looking dogs here than anywhere else in the world. They trotted happily alongside their owners, and I swear they were all smiling. I have made this observation both pre-wine and apres-wine. My wife has confirmed this as well.
That's all for now. I'm in Atlanta this week, it's almost 8:30, and I've yet to have my
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