A tale of three cups


Between 5.30 and midday yesterday, we did enough to fill a day.

We had a light breakfast at Il Caffe de Francesco. That’s the place mentioned in my first blog in Barcelona and until then the only place we found real loose leaf tea. I had a Mango tea and Lady D. enjoyed the same Darjeeling I’d had in the first blog.

Thus fortified, we headed to the Gothic Quarter, which it must be said is phenomenal. I did my usual trick of neglecting to take as many photos as I should as I drank in the sights and sounds.

It starts with La Catedral, which is amazing in a number of ways. I could have taken any number of photos, but here’s ones that occurred to me.

First, this chandelier. It’s pretty incredible. But the thing that occurred to me is “Would such a chandelier really support Errol Flynn’s weght?”. I wasn’t convinced.

Like all churches, this one was a great example of architecture and money-making. The streets around it were lined with beggars – not funny ones like Eric Idle in Life of Brian, but ones that might shout at you. But the best bit was the “light a candle” scam, where you put an “offering” of some Euros in the coin slot and a electric candle lights up, as per this picture.

These guys might believe that God will provide, but they are most definite that God is providing via your wallet.

All the sculpture and architecture was fascinating, but I have naughtily added one of this statue, which to my mind, is what that film about the priest with Linus Roche in it was based on.

We wandered and wandered inside the Gothic Quarter, hoping for a glimpse of the Roman wall. But it was not until after we passed through the gates at the bottom end that we found it, and walked back along the outside, tracing the old city boundaries. Amazing stuff.

Like every three hour walk in 30+ degree heat, we rounded it off with a visit back to our hotel room for a rest and recharge.


Between 1:00pm and 3:30pm yesterday, we did enough to fill a day

We decided to go to the Parc Guell, built by Gaudi, so we headed off in search of a bus. We found the bus stop, just as our bus left. Never mind, there is the Txapela Taberna next to the bus stop, so we sat down and ordered some drinks. The busses run every 10 minutes, so we skipped the next one and headed off, refreshed.

The two young ladies we sat next too were from Sydney, and between us we decided that we’d just jump off the bus when everyone else did, as we weren’t sure of the stop.

That plan worked and we got off in the right place.

I’m sorry to say the 39 degree heat, the complete lack of any toilet facilities, the fact that it is built on the side of a hill that even a donkey would only consider if it were strapped to the back of a mountain goat and the fact I felt like I had been dragged behind a horse from Timbukto that morning all combined to mean that we only spent about an hour and a half there. The Parc Geull deserves at least half a day of one’s time.

Mainly because Gaudi was a stark, raving lunatic who managed to turn his dreams into reality.

No matter how many times we utter the word ‘genius’ and diminish its meaning, when you come face to face with Gaudi’s work it is genius that stares you in the face. None of my pictures do any aspect of the place justice, but here’s one of three musicians.

These guys were incredible. They were playing a flamenco inspired take on classical music, there was some Vivaldi, some Brahms and that piece that we Australians pinched most of the tune of Waltzing Matilda from.

There were musicians scattered all over the place. It was fantastic. But I was overheated and feeling not so great, so a taxi back to the hotel was the answer.

We got back to the hotel, and there was a bit of a scene.

The day before, a misunderstanding with a sign had meant that our room had not been cleaned and made up. When we left at 8am, we had put up the sign that said “Please clean my room as soon a possible” in various languages. At our midday break it had not been done, but we had seen that the housekeeping trolley was only a few doors down.

We got back hot, sweaty, cranky, somewhat tealess and in need of a shower and a nap to find that we had no fresh towels etc: we were a bit fed up.

I had words with the staff, who all assured me that it was not their fault personally, but that they might be able to perhaps do something about it if it was our lucky day. In the end I gave them half an hour to fix it, and we decamped back to Ill Caffe del Francesco for another tea. I had their mint and green. delicious. More mint than gunpowder.

Then finally back to a now clean room for a shower and rest.


Between 5:00pm and midnight yesterday, we did enough to fill a day.

We headed off in search of good tapas. Sunday nights here there are often a lot of places closed, and it is the more tourist-focused places, like the dodgy Kenyan-themed Obama that was neither good enough nor bad enough to warrant a mention a few days back. This time, we got it right, as we went to Cuidad Condal, which is a Filipino-run gem. Absolutely fantastic.

Our original plan was to them stroll along the wide avenues of La Gran Via, but a wardrobe malfunction saw us return for what was likely to be an early night.

Or not.

Lady D conceived a mad idea to head out again at about 9pm for a walk. It was a great idea.

For the next three hours, we strolled La Rambla, an amazing mix of pickpockets, families, drug deals, florists, prostitutes, souvenir stalls, con men, restaurants, bag thieves, police officers and everything else you can image. Except there is no need to imagine it.

We found the Placa Real, which will no doubt feature in a future dining experience, and wandered back into the tiny, narrow winding streets of the Gothic Quarter, which take on a life of their own at that time of the night.

And then, we found this: A pile of tea jars. In a  little vegetarian restaurant where no-one spoke English – Spanish was a stretch, I think.

“Te Negra, por favor”.

We ended up with two scalding hot takeaway cups of an Assam. In polystyrene cups. No matter. We loved it. And arm in arm, we wound our way back through the pickpockets, families, drug dealers, florists, prostitutes, souvenir stalls, con men, restaurants, bag thieves, police officers to the Passeig de Gracia, and from there back to base.

I can’t imagine getting more out of a day. But there’s always tomorrow, I remember thinking as I drifted off.



8 thoughts on “A tale of three cups

  1. Donkey on the back of a mountain goat, you say?

    That was some beautiful imagery Robert, but I hope you’re not advocating goat abuse.

  2. I suppose I needn’t feel sad that we didn’t travel anywhere this summer, I can just enjoy your travel posts. Can’t really put into adequate words how much I enjoy reading them. Even though I don’t know the area you’re describing (my only visit to Barcelona lasted about 20 minutes a good many years ago) – I can picture the atmosphere from somewhat similar places I have visited.
    I don’t mind the candle slots – although I prefer the ones where your money actually buys you a real candle to light. I think the upkeep of such churches and cathedrals is hugely expensive, and this helps a little. Besides, real candles add a bit to the solemn moment.
    Not sure what is going on with that statue or who Linus Roche is, or what movie you mean. Should I know this?
    Well, then I also didn’t know about Antoni Gaudi, but I do know a little more now.
    As to the towels, I get it, you’re paying for a bit of cleaning. But a towel you’ve used for one day doesn’t sound like the biggest disaster ever. Well, things worked out in the end, so that’s good.
    Love thinking about your late evening stroll. There’s so much to see at that time in a place like that.
    Thanks Robert for sharing. Oh, I nearly forgot! How could I? The tea…happy you found some you could drink. Even though, the thought of drinking it out of styrofoam cups is quite terrible to me.
    Waiting for more…

    1. @Jackie, at two showers a day in 40 degree hear and a hotel suggestion to throw towels in a heap on the floor when you want them changed, you’d be amazed how important it seemed.
      And good tea from a styrofoam is still miles better than bad tea in any form.

  3. I am not sure I would invite you to visit the city I live in (wherever I might be living) but I must agree that this different guided tour is quite unique.

    For the hotel, see my comment on the hot water before 7:30AM 😉

    And the cherry on the cake of this really nice city trip with you was your “te negra”. I can see you ordering it in Spanish with your Australian accent in Catalonia main city (for your record, té in Spanish is masculine, therefore it is a té negro (or verde, blanco…)

    Again thanks for sharing this with us.

  4. Well, you’re certainly packing in the sight-seeing. But so far seem to have had limited success with tea. Do hope you managed to find a kettle of source of hot water in the hotel at least.

  5. Good thing you didn’t raise too much of a fuss over the un-cleaned room. Housekeepers have been known to leave “surprises” for people that are yellers.

Comments are closed.