So obviously I never got to ride on a cute Frenchman’s sport bike in the darkness of the night on the romantic Barcelona streets. One day though, one day I’ll fulfill that dream.
What I did do was wake up the next morning in the L’Eixample district and power walked through the maze of pretty streets in a desperate effort to find something to eat, nothing caught my eye, and being too lazy to walk any further, I hailed a taxi back to the Gothic Quarter and stopped by The Benedict for breakfast.
GO HERE FOR BREAKFAST! I got some scrumptious pancakes paired with a mimosa…or two. The restaurant is quite packed during the weekends over breakfast/brunch, but since I was dining alone, I didn’t have to wait and was attended to up at the bar. There was great service at The Benedict, which like I said, is uncharacteristic in Barcelona.
After getting ready, I found the nearest Metro stop and bought an unlimited pass for the day. Honestly, at some points, I had no idea where I was and I couldn’t have been happier. I ventured out to El Poble-Sec in the Sants-Montjuïc district, and you do get a more “authentic” Barcelona out that way. The Gothic Quarter is a bit of a tourist hub and the neighboring areas are always bustling and loud, but in El Poble-Sec, life moves slowly, siestas exist, and English is hard to come by. The same could be said of the remainder of the Sants-Montjuïc district of town near the Plaça de Sants Metro stop, which is where I stopped for lunch that day just as every restaurant was closing its doors for siesta.
I walked quite a bit on foot through Sants and met incredibly nice people. Over and over I happened upon numerous restaurants that were closing or in the process closing for siesta until Bar Bodega Bartolí was sighted in the distance and people could be seen dining from the window. I don’t speak any Spanish and felt like a terrible ignorant American trying to get away using English most everywhere, but still did it. The owner briskly greeted me, I asked if the restaurant was still open in English, he didn’t understand me and brushed me off. Just like that. I was stranded so I resorted to asking via Google Translate, he still didn’t understand and didn’t really spend time trying to understand so he ignored my presence. My stomach was crying out for food so I was determined to eat at that restaurant. This is when Victor’s father saved the day. A tall and handsome gentleman who was dining with his young son approached me at the door, said he spoke a little English, but not very well (he was lying, it was excellent) and translated my message to the owner. A nice waiter finally seated me and ordered my food for me.
I never got Victor’s dad’s name, but I did speak to both him and Victor during my meal. He had Victor test his English out on me. I was able to discern that Victor was 7 and like most everyone in that region, a Barcelona FC fan. When I disclosed my allegiance for Real Madrid Victor just stared at his father in horror. They booed me and I loved them even more. The food wasn’t remarkable, but definitely hit the spot. It was just enjoyable speaking to this Spanish stranger and his adorable son. The cute Spanish stranger dragged his exit out to keep talking, I managed to snag a few pictures with Victor, and the stranger gave me a kiss on the cheek and off he disappeared with his son.
What a perfect lunch. I spent the rest of the daylight hours stopping at random and various Metro stops, but clearly, nothing would live up to Victor and his father.
So prior to this trip, I did not know Couchsurfing was a website, just a thing people did informally on the couches of friends. I joined CS a month before leaving the US and made it clear that I wasn’t looking to “surf couches,” but meet people who live in the city and enjoy showing others around. And please, half my suitcase is dedicated to JUST hair products and this head of hair likes to sleep in a bed all to herself. The CS community is actually really cool and I love the idea and concept of it, but high maintenance life just doesn’t lend itself to sleeping on couches. Fortunately, on CS there’s an Availability filter when searching for hosts in cities and one of the options is “Wants to Meet Up.” I gave it a go and read the reviews people had written about meeting with or staying with certain people and reached out to a few. This young musician, Pablo, had fantastic reviews and truly just embodied the CS spirit of showing a visitor how a local lives without the frills. We decided we’d meet up when I arrived in Barcelona.
Pablo invited me out last minute to a concert in a hip part of town, Gràcia. He patiently waited for me outside the Metro stop, but I got lost one time too many and told him to carry on without me. I’m hopeless on the Metro. Eventually, I made it to the venue and saw a throng of policemen and cop cars on the small street where the concert was being held. People were quickly dispersing or being cited. Turns out the concert was illegal and Pablo’s friends invited him to play in it and they didn’t have the proper permits and the neighbors called the cops and the city sent the most insane number of policemen to break the concert up. An overdramatized mess. I never got to hear them play live, but I found Pablo in the herd and he grabbed his friends and we made our way to this tiny tavern in the Gothic Quarter. I had the best time sitting there laughing and drinking with these strangers. I cannot for the life of me remember what was discussed, but Catalan, mixed with their Southern Spanish accents, mixed with English, mixed with a concoction called “Panther Milk” that flowed freely made for a lively evening.
I innocently asked what “Panther Milk” was and everyone shrugged and said, “We don’t know, it’s a secret native to the region and we just drink it!” So I drank along with them and boy was it good. I had an 8 am flight bound for Rome to catch, but that wasn’t stopping me.
I still chat with Pablo and am so fortunate to have been able to meet such an intellectual, generous, heart-warming group of people thanks to him and I cannot wait to visit them once more. He and his friends are unbelievably talented musicians and you should check out their music. Their recording organization is affiliated with that video so it should lead to other musical talents. My first CS experience was a memorable one and I already have several people in Ireland willing to show me around like a local when I go in July. If you’re on a budget and can’t really afford hotels/hostels and/or are an open spirit, I suggest giving CS a try for a place to sleep! Very rarely do I come across a negative review of a host. Take a leap of faith!
P.S. I did make it to the airport on time despite having plenty of Panther Milk still in my system.