Friday, October 07, 2005

Barcelona, Here I Am

I am sad to report that the once notorious Ramblas (the Ramble) is no more. Anything you may have heard about it is a distant memory, a bit like the tales of Times Square in New York back in the day, which was only a few years ago. The meandering street that once was lined with dive bars and hookers plying their trade has been covered with bright tile and turned into a pedestrian walkway lined with souvenir shops and over-priced street cafes. There is even a Burger King. Damn, I got here too late.

All is not lost however. Just as in New York where if you walk a few blocks from Times Square into Hell’s Kitchen and find places like Siberia, Bellevue, and the Holland Bar, here you can walk a few blocks off Ramblas and find a warren of streets and squares and all kinds of watering halls. Didn’t see any hookers tough, but the smell of ganja did waft through the air on occasion.

I wouldn’t recommend that you start off your day of bar hopping with most of a pitcher of sangria, but that is what I did. The Mysterious Chinese Woman and her equally Mysterious Sister (must run in the family) decided they wanted lunch and I was feeling a bit peckish too. We found a square a few blocks away from Ramblas and sat at a nice sunny table where we ordered a variety of tapas and a pitcher of sangria. Mysterious Sister doesn’t drink, wine that is, and Mysterious Chinese Woman only drinks a bit (alcohol probably interferes with her ability to go poof). I, however, having no mysterious abilities to be compromised, consumed the bulk of what proved to be a surprisingly potent potion. I then set off upon my journey.

847) Taxidermista



For some reason I forgot to take a picture of this place. Probably still recovering from my lunchtime libation. Instead I included the picture of the Mysterious Chinese Woman and Bar Man having our Sangria. In fact, we may actually have had our lunch outside Taxidermista before I went in for my drink. This is one of a number of bars and restaurants that ring a square named Plaza Reial and is very reminiscent of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. Despite the name, no stuffed animals were in sight. I was hoping for at least one more bull head on the wall. I don’t think Barcelona has the same rules about serving up tapas with your drinks because the surface of the bars tend to be larger and not overly taken up with trays of food.

Although there are a number of outside tables, the interior is larger than most, or at least most that I have seen in Madrid. There is a decent sized curved bar with eight bar stools. The bar top is heavy inlaid wood, somewhat rosy in color, with a black front. There are two silver beer stations, each with four spigots with unmarked black handles. At least one of them poured Scrumpy Jack Premium English Cider. Sitting on one end of the bar were two large tin pails. One held a short stuffy cactus and the other a tall, strange looking plant of some kind.

The back of the bar sported a large espresso machine and you could look between the metal shelves into the kitchen area. Above almost everything is a narrow shelf holding a single row, but fairly extensive, collection of liquor. Above that was a panel of mirrors.

The front of the bar is made up of floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the square. There is a stairway opposite the bar that leads down to a darker area with brick walls and additional tables. This is a good place to stop into and it is only a block or so away from the Ramblas.

I had a bottle of Moritz, the local beer.

848) Acoma



Meandering down one of the side streets off to the side of the square was this small bar and internet cafe. It had a somewhat Southwestern theme to it. I say somewhat because, in addition to the Southwestern Indian artifacts hanging in the front, there was an Alaskan totem pole in the back room. A young woman holding a baby was begging just across the street. This is something I often see in Mexico, although the women there are much older, but the first time I have seen anything like this in Spain.

There is a curved wooden bar with two silver beer spigots. The wall behind the bar is partially dark brick and partially blue painted wood. To the very left of that are light paneled shelves holding liquor and glasses and there are mirrors above the shelves. A large flat-screen television is playing VH1.

Acoma is right across the narrow street from Pension Dali so, if you stay there, be sure to drop in. They have a fly zapper in here and there are a surprising large number of flies in this area. I don’t recall seeing any when I was in Madrid. Actually though the flies did provide one service. We had originally planned to have lunch at an outdoor place on the Ramblas but before we could order the flies drove us away. Good flies.

I had a small glass of red wine.

849) Travel Bar



I must have stumbled upon the back-packing youth crowd on this street. Kind of a trippy place with a very friendly bartender named Liam.

Liam, Another Friendly Bartender


Like Acoma, English seemed to be the prevailing language and everyone seemed to be just passing through. There a lot of hostels in this neighborhood so I guess that must be part of the attraction. Everyone was friendly and the bar offered up a bar hopping tour later at night. That gave me an excuse to pull out my card and tell them what bar hopping was really about. A good time was had by all and many drinks were purchased for Bar Man.

There is a nice old wooden bar in here with a brass rail and lots of wooden bar chairs. Four silver beer spigots sat on the bar. Orange walls behind the bar and a bluish gray mural depicting old passenger planes and cruise ships on the wall opposite the bar. A large globe hangs from the ceiling and flags from various countries adorn the walls. There is a large screen television in the back showing soccer and there is also free internet access. This is a comfortable, cluttered place that would be well worth stopping into if you are passing through Barcelona on the cheap or if you just want to meet people who are. That is always fun because they like to swap stories about their travels.

There is a good-sized outside court area with tables and chairs and umbrellas and it was quite crowded.



I focused on San Miquel beer with a few glasses of red wine thrown in for good measure.

850) Taller de Tapas



Right around the corner from Travel (in fact they share the courtyard) is this small bar. Quite nice with a good-sized wooden topped bar with a dark wooden front. It is L shaped with the short end against the narrow windowed front. There are about a dozen metal barstools with round black seats. They don’t seem to be compelled to give you food whenever you order a drink in Barcelona and so much less of the surface of the bar is cluttered with trays of tapas. They do have a fair selection here though, but you have to order, and pay for, them.

The walls, other than the one opposite the bar, are a combination of old stone and brick. Opposite the bar the wall is paneled with mirrors upon which are written the list of tapas available. Behind the bar is a plain set of shelves holding liquor and glasses, the requisite espresso machine, and two beer spigots. Hanging over the bare are large, truncated cone-shaped shaded lights.

Bar Man’s lack of command of Spanish led to him ordering a small bottle of wine instead of a small glass. This coupled with the Sangria for lunch and my last three stops is starting to take its toll. I have a long walk back to the hotel and dinner later tonight. It is nice sitting here though, listening to the accordion player in the courtyard. Very nice, very old world, very young crowd.

I had a small bottle of red wine.

851) El Pinar



Making my way back to the hotel I spotted another little bar in a back street and felt compelled to pop in. A nice place with a marble-topped bar with a front that looked like a bamboo curtain. There were large black barstools. Big posters for Godzilla (Civilization Crumbles) and Young Frankenstein adorn the wood paneled wall behind the bar. To the left are large pictures of B.B.King, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker on the wall that went well with the jazz playing on the sound system.

There is, of course, an espresso machine behind the bar and shelves of liquor along with racks of bags of snack food. Just to the right of the bar is a strange set of prints, mostly black and white, of what looks like a circus ring, a chair, and, perhaps, a performer in the middle and a silver, modern looking building silhouetted against the moon in the background.

Cone shaped yellow-shaded lights hang over the bar and as daylight fades and the city grows dim it would be very easy to settle in here for the long haul. I am also somewhat lost, but must find my way home.

I had but a small glass of red wine this time.

852) Cal Pep



This is where we had dinner. It is a packed place and you have to stand in line and wait for a place to open up so that you can sit at the bar and eat. It is always, to me at least, amazing how one place, above all others in the neighborhood, gets so famous that people will stand in line to get in. The Mysterious Chinese Woman’s Mysterious Sister said the place had been written up in a few magazines, including Food And Wine.. In fact, that is why we were here. What do I care, I am here for a drink, and by golly, I will get one. I did walk by an Irish bar on the way here that I would have liked to have stopped into, but I guess I will hit that on the way home.

After waiting for a fairly long time to get three seats together I upset everyone standing in line behind me by insisting that I have a beer before we ordered our tapas. I had to kind of chug it down though. We then tucked into our tapas and had a bottle of Cava, of which I, of course, drank most. The tapas were, I must admit, very good. And it was fun to watch the waiters and the guy who organized the mayhem do their thing.

The bar has a nice marble top with a tiled front with soda-fountain type stools with gray, round seats. A loud clanky place with shelves of food and a large, hooded oven behind the bar. Bottles of liquor and wine are above cooler behind the bar. There are three beer spigots but one of them serves up some kind of lemonade or something, maybe for making a shandy.

This place reminds me of a very small restaurant in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota. That place didn’t serve alcohol though, mostly pancakes. But people would stand in line for an hour to get into the place. I never thought the food there was quite worth the wait and I really don’t think the food here was either. Not that it was bad, just not worth a wait in line of well over half an hour. I don’t think the Mysterious forces that brought me here had a place quite like this in mind either.

I had a glass of Estrela Damm and the majority of a bottle of Cava with the meal.


853) Paddy´s Lane



Just around the corner from Cal Pep, I spotted it on our way) was this truly delightful Irish bar. The two Irish bartenders Eamon and Aidan, were a riot and we chatted quite a bit.

Eamon and Aidan, The Chatty Bartenders


Then a woman from San Francisco joined the conversation and on and on we went. By this time MCW and MS had disappeared into the night and so, with no supervision, I drank what I can only say were numerous pints of Guinness.

This is a classy looking Irish bar with Beatles music playing in the background. The lamps above the bar are like oversize ship lanterns. The bar and stools are dark wood. Behind the bar are shelves of dark red wood and smoky mirrors.

The ceiling is beige with large, turquoise blue squares, like framed pictures. The walls are partially stone and the rest are sponged in a kind of a sunset orange and peach. The floors are wood. There are couple of televisions over the bar, but they were turned off. Black and white pictures on the walls were of Irish ladies and musicians. There is a cozy niche in the back with round bar tables and chairs. Looks like it would be a nice place to have a drink an chat a bit with your mates. A glass case in one corner contains pictures of good times at the bar, holiday parties, and soccer game celebrations. There are also a few photos of U2. All and all a very comfortable place and one, I am sure, I will visit again.

When I rolled out of the place it must have been close to three in the morning and I had no luck in getting a cab. The streets were still fairly crowded though and so I decided to walk back to the hotel, a couple of miles away. I had been in the area before though so I found my way okay.

I had, as I mentioned, numerous pints of Guinness.

A good day, seven bars (and much more to drink) making 853 for the year and leaving 147 to go.

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Alex said...

Very interesting article.
I had visited Barcelona in 2000, so it was time visit it again one more time. This year I toke a week for holidays and we went to Barcelona to visit a friends and relatives there. The experience was amazing and I found the city more fascinating than I remembered it. Finding a nice centrally located accommodation is no easier than any other great city, and so I am very fortunate that my wife's cousin Luisa has one with a view to Sagrada Familia.
It's a cosmopilitan city with a lot of wonderful places to visit and enjoy. Its inhabitants are very friendly and helpful and they're very pleased to help you giving some information.
I really like this fascinating city.

Tito said...

I know that the foundation of Barcelona is the subject of two different legends. The first attributes the founding of the city to Hercules 400 years before the building of Rome, and that it was rebuilt by the Carthaginian Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal, who named the city Barcino after his family, in the 3rd century BC. The second legend attributes the foundation directly to Hamilcar Barca.
Also I liked that there are many parks and beautiful beaches. A great number of these buildings are World Heritage Sites. Especially remarkable is the work of architect Antoni Gaudí, which can be seen throughout the city. Many buildings, churches and hotels in Barcelona have an original and amazing design and architecture.
Barcelona has a Mediterranean climate, with mild, humid winters and warm, dry summers.
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