Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Barcelona Observations

While I continue to work on the detailed stories of our trip to Barcelona (a long time coming, but I shall persevere!!), I thought I would share some observations that I jotted down throughout the trip in my ultra-trendy faux-moleskin notebook that I carried along to document things while sitting on planes, trains, and automobiles. Here we go, bullet-point style:

  •  On our second day in Spain, we hit up some stores to replenish our clothing supplies due to the lost luggage incident. One of the things I noticed pretty quickly is that the Spanish are much more laid back and informal than the people in Peru are. Everywhere we went, we were greeted with "hola!", which I only hear in casual settings in Peru. I think the very prevalent Peruvian service industry is trained to be more formal and offer up a "buenos dias!" when greeting you. I don't think we got a "buenos dias" once during our trip. Using "hola" seems to make the human interaction more personal.
  • On our first night in town, we hit up the Born neighborhood for a late dinner and we immediately noticed that we seriously under-dressed. Shorts and t-shirts were definitely inappropriate, but what was I really thinking? I guess I wouldn't go out in a hip-part of Manhattan at night for dinner in shorts and a tee, but in Spain they did it up nice with slacks, nice shirts, and a lot of white. It was a reminder that in urban environments, you must dress to impress - even if you're married ;o) .
  • Speaking of dinner that night, I quickly realized that people eat late! We went out at about 11:00pm and every place that we walked by was so crowded that we couldn't even walk in in our shabby clothing. Then again, it was a Friday night, so I suppose that might of had something to do with that fact. But I guess Spain has a reputation for late dinners and drinks anyway due to the sweltering heat during the day. Maybe that's more relevant in southern Spain than in Catalonia, though. It was almost contradictory, however, that the subway stopped running at sometime around midnight. 
  • Wine is very cheap in Barcelona! In fact, I found most things priced very reasonably regardless of what we were buying. Maybe after spending so much time in New York I've gotten used to overspending when it comes to drinks and food. I think that might actually be true too, now that I think about my time in Germany as well, where the beers were very cheap relative to what we pay here. But, anyway, the wine was pretty good to my non-developed palate and at 3€ a glass, you really couldn't go wrong. Likewise, the tapas were great in Barcelona and could be surprisingly cheap, depending on where you go. It's like a buffet - all you can eat, you just pay per item. One of our favorite spots was around 1.50€ per tapa, which was quite a deal when you consider that you fill up after about six of them.
  • Barcelona was surprisingly cosmopolitan. There was a strong contingent of Africans there (mostly selling fake designer purses and watches, shockingly ;o) as well as some elements of South Americans. Erika said there were quite a few Bolivians there, although we didn't really come across many South Americans. Catalonia is known for having a robust economy, which I guess would draw people from around the world to move there. Erika and I certainly felt the pull!
  • The style for the younger generation is similar to what I envision Argentines being like - shaggy and hippy-like. Beards, overgrown and unkempt hair, and hemp necklaces and bracelets were the norm among the hipper crowd - and they were everywhere that we went. 
  • It's so ironic that local produce is so trendy in the United States when the plethora of markets in Barcelona (and the rest of Europe, and the rest of the world?) would find it ludicrous to sell anything but local, seasonal produce. In New York, we think that it's great that we have access to wonderful green markets and Whole Foods. But in reality, it's really difficult for us to live that kind of lifestyle with companies like Walmart going "local" and putting those "local" farmers under intense price pressure!
  • The subway trains in Barcelona, which were surprisingly clean (again, maybe I'm jaded by New York's), actually wait for you! We were about halfway down a long staircase trying to catch a train, when it closed its doors. We slowed down and waited for it to pull away when all of the sudden the train reopened it's doors and waited a good five seconds longer for us to run and jump in. Five seconds! How outrageous!
  • I had heard that sometimes people from Spain had a superiority complex when it came to Latin Americans and I was interested to see how they would treat Erika with her Castellano Spanish accent. The reality was that they didn't even react to her accent and, in the odd circumstance that they used a different word in Spanish than she knew (such as at our local market when talking to the deli meat specialist), they would laugh and joke together about the different words and would take interest in her words. 
  • The shoes. Ohhhh, the shoes. One thing I really regret is not taking advantage of the reasonable prices in Barcelona and buying some hot Euro-shoes. They really had a nice urban flair to them and were totally unique compared to what I have here in the states. But, with my shoe rack already overloaded, I couldn't justify spending the $80 on them. Oh well, next time!
J. Riley, just a taste of what's to come!

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