Here I will account for everything we ate in Europe, well, most everything, well, at least the interesting things.
This installment takes Carol and I through Barcelona on our way from England to France. We hadn’t yet joined up with “the gang.”
Our EasyJet flight arrived in Barcelona well after 9 in the night. By the time we had checked into the Hotel de Quatro Nacionales at #44 Las Ramblas, it was after 11. Carol and I were tired and hungry. Las Ramblas, the sprawling tourist street of Barcelona, was dark and relatively unpopulated and a brief rainstorm was blowing by. We saw no welcoming lights, other than the lights of a SUBWAY sandwich place and a sports bar across the street. Imagine that, our first meal in Barcelona was Subway sandwiches and vodka tonics. They did the job.
Hotel de Quatro Nacionales
A continental breakfast was served on the Principal Floor of the hotel. We learned that in Spain, the Principal Floor is the floor above the Ground Floor and below the First Floor. The breakfast room featured one of those coffee machines that spout forth when you push the button for one of 8 coffee or hot chocolate concoctions. None of them are French Press, but the coffee wasn’t bad. Croissants (real ones), rolls, toast, butter, jam, and fruit are available. Life is good.
Wednesday Lunch 1
Placa Reial, Barcelona
After a long morning walk to the waterfront on Las Ramblas, then back through Barri Gotic with little streets and nice shops, not unlike the old city of Montpellier, but nicer. We got back to Placa Reial, the lovely square behind our hotel, for what we thought was lunchtime.
We sat at a few places before we settled at Cerveccria Canerias, one of about 20 tapas joints and shops ringing the plaza. We ordered Olives, Calamari and Russian Salad.
The olives were good, green, pitted. The calamari, just OK with a batter, thicker than I like. What th’ hell is Russian Salad, you might ask? The mooshy kind of potato salad with peas and carrots mixed in. Now that we know, we won’t have to order that again.
Placa Reial — Great!
Cerveccria Canerias — Not so great.
Wednesday Lunch 2
La Boqueria Market, Barcelona
Well, I think of all the markets I’ve ever seen — Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Paris, Montpellier, Los Angeles, Ferry Plaza in San Francisco, I don’t know if I remember markets in New York or London. Anyway, this one is bigger and better and its hams and fruits and candies and vegetables are prettier and more elegantly displayed than anywhere. And the fishes and shellfish — amazing. There are shops of only organ meat. There’s a shop with just birds, with a huge glass case of them, hanging fully feathered, and a woman dressing small birds with a small knife and a large scissor.
Counters are arrayed on one side, near the front, where one can sit on a stool and order market food prepared for them. Women on stools ate sardines and other small fish while at their side a man in a bright blue blazer was fingering lovely shrimp.
All the delectable food on display made us hungry, we just had to sample.
To the side of those counters, tables were arrayed in groups with different color tablecloths for each vendor. We sat at a place called Petit. I wanted ham of some sort. I got up to look at the food displays (couldn’t read or understand the menus posted) and an English-speaking woman said, “What do you want? You can have anything you like.”
I pointed out bread slices with a slice of fried ham on each. “How many?”
“Three.” I then pointed at sautéed mushrooms, and then the Padron peppers. “Oh my, that’s good!” The Padron peppers were as Andy Griffin of Mariquita Farm described their preparation — seared with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. YUM. Too many for me to eat, Carol picked at them. What a find! We’ll have to bring the gang here when we’re back in a week or so!
After the market, Carol went for a shower and I went back to Placa Reial and ordered a liter of beer.
“Holy Moly, that’s BIG.”
In England I had become accustomed to ordering a pint, my metrics got confused. Nothing to do but start drinking and write about our arrival in Barcelona. The writing got done as the beer was consumed down to the bottom of the handle. Enough.
Traveling to Montpellier
After our hotel breakfast, we were off to Montpellier, France for a few days at son Brian’s house. As it turned out, we took the bus instead of the train.
Just across the border, somewhere in France.
Our bus stopped at a roadside Cafeteria for lunch.
I had a ham sandwich.
Carol had a Chicken Salad sandwich and a fruit yogurt thing.
How exciting is that? But it leads to a general observation — my eighth grade English teacher would call it a “glittering generality” — The food in France is good, no matter the place or the price. I can’t say the same about Spain or England — or the good ol’ USA, for that matter.