Thursday, August 7, 2008

Espana, oh wait, it's Catalunya - Cadaques and Barcelona, 18-21 July 2008 (Written 3 August 2008)

An early start from Toulon, started off by the lovely Anne-Laure, and I was on my way. A smooth, although slow run down to Figueres. The majority was with one ride, an elderly trucker from Portugal, who took me from Aix-en-Provence all the way to Figueres. One of my best hitching experiences, we cooked together at a truck stop in the South of France; a true Portuguese man, meticulously dicing and chopping and preparing everything with such care. He was extremely kind, and curious, and shared everything with me…as he left me in Spain, he made me take the rest of the bread and juice with me because he claimed I would not know when I would have my next meal (let’s not forget we’re in Western Europe…no shortage of food availability by any means) I had communicated with Enio and knew that there were buses at 7 and 8pm from Figueres to Cadaques, so I decided it was better for me to take this option rather than try to hitch to Cadaques – I was unsure of how much traffic there would be headed that direction, and I’d heard nightmarish stories of hitching in Spain. As I was walking towards Figueres town, a Moroccan guy stopped and I jumped in. I just asked if he could take me to the bus station in Figueres and he asked where my final destination was; he said he didn’t know where Cadaques but he could drive me there. Hmm. Wasn’t sure what to think. So as we sped off to the bus station, time was ticking, and of course it was Friday at 6:40pm, so even in sleepy Figueres there was traffic…I missed the bus. Finally, after forcefully making sure he understood there was no payment of any sort involved, I said he could start me on the road to Cadaques. I got in touch with Enio again and it turned out that he was headed up from Barcelona to Cadaques and had just passed through Figueres. Sheer luck, and we were able to arrange a pick-up/drop-off point just north of Figueres for me. It worked out wonderfully. Minutes later, I was showered with kisses and hugs from the 3 in the car, the Catalan Enio, Argentinean Gernan, and Mexican Amilcar.

The windy road up to Cadaques is gorgeous, breathtaking, and definitely induces carsickness. Switchback roads with green rocky cliffs, tantalizing views of blue sea, and finally, the glimpses of the white town finishing at the water. A lovely stay in town, lazing at the beach and visiting Salvador Dali’s old house in Port Lligat…

We arrived back in Barcelona on Saturday night and went direct to Taina, a steakhouse where Enio used to work and I polished off my 500 gram entrecote and helped out with a few others. Yum.

Sunday was mole poblano at Amilcar’s mother’s house – definitely a treat I hadn’t been expecting – and dinner at Gernan’s restaurant, which was a mouthwatering array of tapas ranging from steak tartare to tuna tataki with guacamole, hummus, calamari, and a huge pot of arroz marinero, seafood rice that I think most people would love, but of course I could barely stomach. No worries though, because there was plenty of wine to wash it down.

Between meals, we visited much of Barcelona by foot, and the city reveals itself to those that wait. It was my third time in Barcelona, and I have to be honest and admit that if it wasn’t for Enio being there, I would probably not return to the city. Spain is one of the countries where despite my fluency in the language, and compatibility with many cultural elements, I’ve never felt drawn to it. However, I recognize the definitely unique ambiance and the sheer beauty of the place. It’s a city where all the senses come alive. Old buildings with laundry hung out the windows; the stench of gutters in the street; graffiti; winding alleyways; it’s this mysterious yet strangely familiar place.

Monday was my tourist morning. I left home at 8am and walked, walked, walked. From Enio’s house near Plaza Catalunya all the way to Parque Guell, which is Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece in the city. I passed his other famous works, Casa Batllo and La Pedrera, on Passeig de Gracia, and I was yet again astounded by his genius. There is a reason why millions of tourists visit Barcelona each year. The fantastical mÈlange of colors and animals and shapes and nature and function and form and reality…

Passing by the Sagrada Familia, the unfinished massive cathedral that stands out against the city skyline…I was just in time for my lunch appointment with Amilcar. We went to a tiny bar, absolutely crammed with people, where bottles of cava are 2 euros and there is a dizzying array of sandwiches available; lomo con queso, and chorizo…mouthwatering.

Later in the day Enio and I went to La Boqueria, the enormous market located just steps away from his house, and I was thoroughly impressed. I would say that it’s the best food market in Europe that I’ve seen in terms of variety of produce and products from all over the world available…we meandered until I had my final Spanish dinner, and off I was to the airport.

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