Beach Blanket Bingo in Barcelona
In Arabic, ‘rambla’ apparently means ‘river’ or ‘stream,’ and in when the Moors ruled Spain, they named the stream through the middle of ancient Barcelona, ‘Rambla’. Over time, the name has evolved, and now that old riverbed is called las Ramblas. Its an apt name, for even now, centuries after the stream dried up, it is still awash in a new flow: people.
Flowing from the main plaza of the city, to the ocean, the Ramblas, is the heart of Barcelona’s people-watching scene, for day or night, rain or shine, a torrent of walkers, gawkers, locals, tourists, talented performers and talent-less bums crowd the beautiful tree-lined avenue.
Jingmei and I found this human river early on a Monday morning, when it was only a trickle of half-asleep workers and bleary-eyed tourists, when we fell off the train from Madrid. Jingmei immediately set up camp at a cafe while I started of in search of a room for the night. In my hectic pre-planning, I’d expected a crowd in Madrid and space in Barcelona. Actually, the opposite is true in August and I ran around for an hour before we landed a spot in Pension Dali.
From there, we instantly went to Barcelona Time. That’s a late rise, a big lunch, an afternoon on the beach, an evening nap and a night of food and fun while Ramblas people watching. Oh, and our grand plans to see a bullfight and a flamenco dance fell to Barcelona time too, we kept planning on seeing them manana, which of course never came. We did get organized enough to see Barcelona’s great architecture, with Gaudi’s creations really impressing Jingmei and I.
We stared in awe at his apartment buildings, wondering how hard it would be to live there. Not only would it be a fortune to buy one of the units, but tourists would also gawk at you 24/7. We both agreed that when we won the lottery, we would love to live in Barcelona, but not in one of those fishbowls.
The city is very cosmopolitan, with an amazing Mediterranean flair. Jingmei was particularly happy with the food. In France, she was not impressed by the cooking, even going so far as to look for Chinese restaurants, but in Spain, she fell in love with paella.
For four days straight, she ate paella for lunch and dinner, switching between the four or five different types that most restaurants served. Only after I forced her to finish a rather large plate of the saffron-spiced dish, did she reach paella saturation and decide to join me in my tapas consumption.
Jingmei also joined me in my pursuit of a good tan, lying out with me each afternoon in the sea of seal-like sunbathers, and by the end of our trip, enjoying her rich tan. Now she is no longer a tiger shrimp like in France, she is dark enough to shock her classmates in England and toss out her Chinese “whitening” cream. I did try to get her to go local, and tan topless, but the best I could do was a round of bikini tucking each time to maximize her tan while preserving her modesty.
Maybe next time…