For a few days after our flights to Sydney and Tokyo were cancelled, I was feeling really claustrophobic. I know that’s weird. I was stuck on a huge island, not in a little plane like I was supposed to be, but still. I felt like there was no way off the island and if there were an emergency at home, I wouldn’t be able to move. It was unsettling. I felt like I really needed to get off this island, just to prove that I could.
Once the flight ban was lifted (approximately 1 hour after our flight was supposed to take off… thanks SO much) we started thinking about ways that we could salvage a little of our holiday time. We discussed a drive around Southern England, which sounded lovely, but the weather was cold and rainy and that didn’t fit in with my bizarre need to leave the country. Instead, we ditched this small island and the rain for a few days in…. sunny Spain!
I have wanted to visit Barcelona since my junior year in high school. That’s when Senora Denegri, my high school Spanish teacher, first showed my class photographs of La Segrada Familia, the still-under-construction cathedral designed by Spanish artist Antonio Gaudi. I thought those photos looked weird and wonderful and have since dreamed of seeing La Segrada Familia for myself.
You know how sometimes, when you’ve built something up in your head, or you’ve dreamed about a certain trip / meal / person for so long, the real thing is a bit of a let down? Yeah, Spain was not like that. Barcelona was better than I thought it would be. See, I knew about the gorgeous weather and the amazing modern art and the world-famous architecture… but I didn’t know about La Boqueria.
La Boqueria is the large food market in the centre of Barcelona. It’s jammed full of the most delightful mix of tourists from Ohio, warily eyeing the live razor clams on display, and ancient Spanish women, haggling over the price of the peppers they want to buy for their dinner. There are grotesque butchers cases full of tongues and brains and ears, right next to stalls selling nothing but lurid coloured sweets and jars of candied fruit.
Interspersed throughout the market are tiny, cramped tapas bars where you can wedge yourself in next to 1000 other people and have a quick beer and a fortifying plate of freshly grilled calamari or steamed mussels, to give you the energy to tackle the rest of the market. We had lunch at one of these places and it was one of the best meals we had in Barcelona. Little plates of fresh seafood, bowls of grilled peppers, bread to sop up the juices and great big mugs of beer to wash it all down… it was the kind of lunch that you wish would last all day. The kind of lunch that makes you understand the thinking behind a siesta.
We spent five days walking around the broad avenues of Barcelona, sitting in sunny cafes, eating dinner in local places where we ordered off of menus in Spanish and hoped for the best. It wasn’t Australia or Japan… it was something different and all-together wonderful. Sometimes when life throws tomatoes at you, you just have to make gazpacho!