Sangria with single-serving friends

Friday, September 25, 2009

It’s been an odd few days. The last time we spoke I was blissed out by the magnificence of the Sagrada Familia and generally getting my mojo back. Since then things have been up and down, and I’m now on my 3rd overnight train (and the most comfortable one so far*) on my way to Granada to see the famous Alhambra Moorish palace.**

But back to Barcelona… the morning after I had my little epiphany at la Sagrada Familia, I woke up and it was Day 100! I went out for an early-ish run and then headed to La Bouqueria Market to find some breakfast. I love a good market, and La Bouqueria might be my favourite one so far. I didn’t manage to get very interesting breakfast, but that's because I wasn't really paying attention. If I had been I would have realized that “huevos fritos and tostados” might sound exciting, but really it’s just fried eggs and toast. Nonetheless, the café con leche was good and the orange juice was freshly squeezed on the spot.

They take their ham seriously here.

After the market I headed to the Picasso Museum. The guidebooks warn that this museum is primarily focused on Picasso’s childhood and early career, so if you’re looking for a lot of paintings of people with both eyes on one side of their face, you’re in for a disappointment. I found the museum interesting, but I had trouble really connecting with any of the work. I finally decided that “my” Picasso – the one I’d take home if offered the chance – was "El Passeig de Colom". But really, it didn’t hold a candle to my Monet at the Musée D’Orsay.

However, running, market-ing and Picasso-ing were just a warm-up. The big event for Day 100 was the Spanish Cooking Class I signed up for when I checked in to the hostel. It sounded like lots of fun, and the woman at the front desk said it was popular. For only €18.00 you got some tapas, sangria and paella, so really it would be hard to go wrong. It turned out that the “class” part was pretty minimal. There was no Food Network-like kitchen, and there were no aprons and there was no chopping or peeling or stirring. But there was a chef from the restaurant who demonstrated how to mix sangria, and then we got to mix our own pitchers. It was fun, especially since I ended up sitting with a load of young and friendly Australians and New Zealanders (no surprise, they really get around, and are always chatty).

It was also fun because there was a LOT of sangria ingredients provided so we were able to perfect the recipe through much trial and error (“Hmmm…. maybe a bit too much brandy in that one… next time let’s try a bit more red wine… ok stop adding fruit, the fruit is taking up way too much space in the pitcher…).

Libby, Jason and… er…. sorry. Also: a fresh pitcher of sangria, and some paella. (To Rob H: Look - people! See, I am listening.)

The chef demonstrated how to make paella in a huge pan, and he was fun in that bossy chef kind of way. Mostly though, I just hung around with the kids and had fun talking. After we ate we hung around more, and we drank more sangria, and the kids proved to be perfectly charming when we got talking about everyone’s age (it was Jason’s 22nd birthday the next day). They decided I was about 27. Did I mention they were nice kids?

The paella… really, it turned out to be a minor player in the evening’s events.

At some point a guy came around trying to sign people up for a day of kayaking and snorkeling up on the Costa Brava the next day . Considering all I had on the agenda was another museum, and the cost was a reasonable €45, and we were well into our 4th or 5th pitcher of sangria, I signed up on the spot. I mean if I could surf in Ireland, surely I could snorkel in Spain.

But that, as they say, is another story. Let’s leave it with me and the charming but hard-drinking Aussies, and talk about kayaking another time. Suffice it to say that I managed to extricate myself before it got too late, and before I started drinking sangria straight from the pitcher through a straw. And my semi-inebriated navigational skills once again delivered me safely to my bed. Maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I need to have a couple of beers before I attempt to use any map.

Stay tuned for the kayaking report.***

* And one in which I find myself in the unfamiliar role of translator. The woman in the couchette across from me speaks Spanish, Italian and French. The woman in the couchette under her speaks English and Japanese. Therefore my English-French is the common denominator. It’s cool.

** There’s just one small hitch – I don’t actually have a ticket to get into the Palace, and when I tried to get one online they were sold out. Apparently September-October is the busy season. No problem though, I have Rick Steves in my corner. Rick assures me that I have several options. I can either get up early and stand in line – the ticket office opens at 8:00am, and you generally have to be in line by 7:30 to get an entry ticket for that day. Or I can pay through the nose for a guided tour booked at one of the fancy hotels. Or – and this is likely what I’ll do – I can go at night! Rick says “If you’re frustrated by the reservation system… late-night visits to Alhambra are easy (you never need a reservation – just buy your ticket upon arrival) and magical (less crowded and beautifully lit). The night visits only include the Palacios Nazaries… but hey, the palace is 80 percent of the Alhambra’s thrills anyways.” Rick, don’t fail me now.

*** Spoiler: I survived with all body parts intact and unsprained, strained or otherwise mangled, so kayaking and snorkeling were really more fun than surfing.****

****Also stay tuned for news about the huge festival in Barcelona that just happened to start the day before I left. And the report on my health, which has taken a sharp downward turn since I felt the tickle in the back of my throat on the overnight train. Yup. I had to happen sooner or later – I’m getting sick.


Mitch said...

I am sure that there is some sort of vitamin C in all that sangria... stick to that.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know that I'm willing you to get better! But you could try some Vitamin C too!

Post a Comment