Spain

Oh Barcelona!

It was some coincidence that as I was sipping some home-made sangria last week and TV-surfing, there was a 30-minutes series on ‘Ports of the world’ on Arte (my go-to-channel for travel & culture combined with listening to some french!) and that evening’s feature was Barcelona!Barcelona ship

That evoked some strong memories of my 3 days in Barcelona a couple of years back. While everyone who visited the city had raved about it earlier, on Night 1 we found our way to the hostel through narrow alleys with hoards of Asian (Indo-Pako-Bangladesh, yeah yeah we are everywhere) owned stores and tons of women in skimpy flashy outfits trying to get our attention (not so much mine but that of my male buddy!). And this was right off the famed ‘La Rambla‘!

But I suppose Barcelona is one of those cities that grows on you with each passing day. On Day 3 as we left for the gorgeous city of Valencia, I was already wishing that I had more time to explore and discover the Spanish capital. A vibrant city that appeared to be grappling between the much-wanted siestas & late night fiestas and a plummeting economy that was resulting in unemployment.La rambla

Here are some images that partly represent the city:

1. Food

Vegetarian food was a shocker! Yes, I was aware that Spanish cuisine primarily dealt with meat but I was hoping that I would have at least one veggie option in Spanish eateries with the warmer climate and all. That was totally not the case and while I won’t complain, I had to live off patatas, eggs and of course sangria.

food

Note: Visit the chaotic and somewhat-inexpensive street mercado near La Rambla if you ever visit Barcelona to see and savour the wonderful selection of vegetables, fruits, chocolates and creepy-crawlies fresh off the coast.

2. Gaudi

Gaudi is omnipresent. Gaudi is Barcelona. Or as the locals would say, Catalonia.
gaudi

3. Art & Entertainment

One thing that city is not short of is colour. Quite a contrast from northern Europe and its grey-beige-blue atmosphere. There are performers around every nook and corner in touristy areas and some of their petit-spectacles are amazing.

ART barcelona colour barcelona

Spend an hour or so listening to some of them play spanish music off the guitar. Amor! Amor! Amor!

Enough said.

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Categories: Spain, Travelogue | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Once upon a time in Andalusia.

I came. I saw. I fell in love.

With Granada.

I loved both cities in the Andalusia region – Granada and Seville. It was hard to choose between the two. But with deeper introspection, Granada won me over. An affair that lasted just 2 days.

I have never been to Greece but the first image that comes to mind is white-washed houses infused with blue set atop hills alongside bright colourful flowers. Granada looked like that. But with orange trees ofcourse.

We reached on Christmas morning after a tiring overnight bus journey. The hostel was the first positive sign. Quaint and home-like with wonderful staff around. Then started the walk to nowhere. Through narrow alleys, trudging uphill, running downhill, encountering a few souvenir shops, seeing families in their festive best coming out of IMG_4085churches laughing. And inhaling the cold air fragranced with the smell of citrus. I should have seen it coming.

Amidst this, a chance encounter ensued. Being Christmas, I sincerely hoped someone would invite us to eat, perpetually hungry and food getting the better of me as always. So here’s what happens: the road forks into two, we pause, ponder a bit and then decide to take left for no particular reason and walk along. 5 minutes after, we pass a house, with an old man drinking beer at the porch. He acknowledges with a “Namaste” and I smile, impressed. Then follows a question in Hindi. And then “Ungaluku Tamizh theiryama?” (do you know Tamil?). Okay Ol’ man, so you now have my full attention. And before I knew, we were invited to his “Cave”. A cave in the real sense of the word. Turns out our 70-year old Mexican friend got the ‘calling’ in his heydays and went to India, co-founded Auroville, lived a spiritual life for a few decades serving people and now settled cosily in the caves of Granada with a beautiful LemonsPorsche for company. Oh, and did I tell you he happens to be the cousin brother of Carlos Santana. How ‘Smooth‘ is that?!

Funny how fate takes its own course. Here we were, almost skipping Granada from our itinerary as it was stretching our budget. The BEST hostel stay was here, albeit a night. A bartender who served a super Polish dinner for us. Interesting people I met – a physicist couple from Slovenia. A gay couple. An american who didn’t know why he was doing an MBA (and thats not something I intend delving into, mind you). The Alhambra ofcourse. Along with perfect weather in a region that is otherwise known to have rainy season this time of the year. And finally, a great 24-but-acts-like-34 travel buddy.

Hasta la vista, Granada mi amor.IMG_4093

Seville helped with the transition and pain of separating from Granada. Another city with culture & traditions that it fiercely protects. The flamenco dance was definitely the stand-out event of the stay. Another chance conversation with Mr Antonio Banderas from Israel while cooking at the hostel, and the next thing is we are invited for a free show. I went along, being a tad suspicious, but returned that evening totally overwhelmed. The dance moves, the passion and the way the band and audience were deeply involved for those 45-odd minutes is something that will forever be etched in my memory.

IMG_4096Muchas gracias España. I was waiting to see you for many years and you didn’t disappoint me at all.

My 2 cents:

Barcelona: Well, you cant go to Spain and not go to Barcelona. So go!

Valencia: For a way-too-beautiful drive along the coast from Barca. For Paella. And for all the good looking men (and women!), to put it mildly.

Granada & Sevilla (Andalusia): Beyond Recommendation. Bliss.

Categories: French chapter, Spain, Travelogue | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

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