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Saturday, August 28, 2004


Dispatches from Old Europe

For three days and nights it rained without cease, and I had enough. So I went to Barcelona. (This means I miss the fortieth year of the Notting Hill Carnival, but I went to years 35 through 39 and they were no big deal. Pleasant enough if you happen to be in the neighborhood and like rum punch)...

As you can see from the previous post, I have never been to Spain before. Some random thoughts:

In Barcelona they all speak Catalan, which is basically Spanish spelt differently, and with a vaguely French accent. Coming from Scotland, I recognise this set-up. At school they taught us that "Scots" was a language all by itself, and not just English spoken with an accent. Nowadays in the US they say the same about "Ebonics".

The Catalans all speak regular Spanish as well, of course, but that doesn´t mean they will let you speak it. I´ve been having these bizarre conversations with waitresses where I will same something like "un cafe por favor" and they will reply in English, then I will reply in (approximate) Spanish and they come back in English... The only people who are willing to speak any Spanish to me are the Germans. Who are everywhere.

The tapas is lousy. Really lousy. (I know it´s not a regional speciality, of course, but still they could make an effort. Chips in tomato mayonnaise is not "patatas bravas", wherever you are. If the English can cook tapas, anyone can).

The city is full of "Irish pubs", which serve Guinness of course. Most of the Irish pubs seem to serve Beamish Stout as well, which surprised me. I don´t think I´ve ever seen Beamish Stout in a bar in London. Or in Dublin, for that matter.

There are a few things about this city that are just weird. Not weird in a bad way, but more in a sort of "HUHHHHH????" way. For instance, the book vending machines on the subway platforms. Or the way one hundred people will stand in line to get into a restaurant. (Ever heard of reserving a table mis amigos?)

More from Barcelona later, after I´ve had the chance to sample the famous nightlife...

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