Monday morning starts a little hazily, probably as a result of Anke's delicious Baileys-style cocktails that we were drinking into the early hours of Sunday morning. It is still technically the morning after, as 3 hours sleep in a cheap and cheerful youth hostel in the centre of Camdon doesn't really count as a good night's sleep.
There are last minute preparations to be made, before I head out. Water the plants; check passport; learn Catalan; decide what we should do for this upcoming week... I didn't manage to do everything on my list before heading to the airport, but at least the plants didn't feel neglected.
I found out in the airport that politics is about as taboo as talking about the ethics of food, and the best thing to say about nationalism when surrounded by foreigners is nothing. Hypothesizing what would happen if lightning struck a plane in middair seemed to lighten the mood, until torrential rain delayed our plane from taking off.
And then we were off!
There weren't many hours left in the day by time we'd settled into our awesome apartment in the middle of Gràcia, so we didn't stray far for our first round of Estrellas, followed by some food from a place called Ugarit. There seemed to be a reasonable selection of Middle-Eastern-style food here, including falafels and cous cous, and I ended up with a wrap filled mostly with houmous, which is what you get when trying to stress how much you don't want any other sauces, "only houmous". The free shots of beer was a nice touch.
We were all up bright and early in the morning, which was a nice change, and the first port of call was the supermarket for some supplies. We'd decided to do a bit of cooking in the apartment, to save on money, and also to accomodate my taste buds, which I definitely appreciated. It was either that, or drag my friends to a vegan restaurant (of which there are plenty in Barcelona), and have them complain about "organic tasting" or "bland" food, or worse, go to a regular restaurant, where I would inevitably get given genuinely bland and organic-tasting food, or simply food I couldn't/wouldn't eat. Cooking at home was definitely the best option, although I was slightly concerned about how much they really cared, when one of them decided to get some unsuitable pasta, saying it was probably OK because it didn't have pictures of eggs on the packaging like the others...
After depositing some extremely heavy shopping, and a quick mid-afternoon snack to keep us going, we headed back into the city making our way from the fountains at Catalunya Square to the Gothic Quarter.
Barcelona is a beautiful city to walk around. Each quarter has its own personality, and to me, the Gothic quarter is exactly how I imagined Barcelona to be, with its narrow cobbled alleys snaking their way around old churches, unique architecture, cafés and bars. Amongst the plethora of artisan bakeries, delicatessens and pharmacies, there just isn't any need for supermarkets. Buying from these tiny shops is a much more tangible experience than self service in a supermarket, or worse, internet shopping.
We walked all the way down to the port, and all the way back on La Rambla, stopping off along the way for refreshments, including beer at a microbrewery. Wearing my big clunky boots may have seemed like a stupid idea in Barcelona, but at least this long walk left me unscathed. One of the others with less sensible footwear wasn't quite so lucky, and by time we got back I was thinking we might have to amputate his foot, or at least feed him some beer, to ease any pain. The second option seemed to be more favoured, and went well with the spaghetti we'd thrown together for dinner.