It’s 9:15pm by the time we were finally ready to head out - fresh, clean and not atrace of the four-hour wait in Schipol's crowded departure lounge. Luckily, the evening was still young in Barcelona.
It was even luckier that a festival was randomly happening in the neighbourhood. As soon as we stepped out of our building, we heard a drumming noise and found a crowd and an ensemble about 100 metre away. . Drummers were wearing bright yellow t-shirts and dancing energetically to their own rhythm.
Suddenly, firecrackers popped and sent sparkles spiralling. Somehow the noise was more intriguing than concerning, so we moved closer to the centre. Emerging from the smoke was something that looked like a dragon crossed with a rhino.
Before I knew better, the firecrackers went off again. This time, I had to run away. A smoke blanket descended on us, and the gun powder smell was intense.
We stayed for two more bursts of light before going on a food hunt. Since we had been eating early - the Dutch way, we were starving at nearly 10pm and settled at the first restaurant, sitting on a small square. At the edge of the square, a stage had been set up but no band yet to be seen. We ordered some red wine and our favourite tapas dishes. They were not the best wine and tapas we’ve ever had, but we relished the beautiful, warm evening in Barcelona.
The band came on at 11pm, attracting a crowd dancing salsa, rumba, and cha cha cha all around us. I was moving with the music but too shy to leave my table.
When the restaurant got too busy for the waiters to bring us more wine, we left for a wander. Ian found another band on a smaller stage five minutes away. He enjoyed their music but I started to give way to tiredness and jumped at his first offer to go back.
We only went out again at 1pm the next day, and immediately found a street full of pincho restaurants. If you are unfamiliar with Catalonian cuisine, pincho or pintxo are small snacks, most commonly a toothpick-size skewer with a piece of toasted bread combined with cheese, meat, or vegetables. Washing down some pincho with a glass of lager is definitely a must-try.
After lunch, we attempted a lazy walk to the centre, but didn’t make it too far since everything from the sun-baked air to the sleepiness of the streets called for a siesta. We took refuge in a garden cafe. It had comfy cushions and an alcove structure that caught all the breezes. Ian took a nap while I scrolled through online articles about Barcelona. When a new group came in and ordered a drink looking a lot like sangria, I thought siesta was probably over, thus the time to move on.
We dropped a pin on the map for Passeig de Gracia, and leisurely made our way there. It was a long walk past many narrow side streets and busy squares. The roads kept opening up wider and longer until we reached the promenade. All shops were closed because it was Sunday. With the spotless floor-to-ceiling glass, we could see all the luxury inside. Outside, homeless people took their place. Though their clothes were not so ragged like they were newly homeless, it’s hard to ignore the opposite worlds on both sides of the see-through glass.
Just when Ian announced that he has fed up with walking, we arrived at Casa Batllo - a masterpiece by the local architect-extraordinaire Gaudi. The intricate patterns on the facade are overwhelming. I could not imagine what would wait for us inside if we passed through the long queue to get in. In the queue for people coming out, an Asian girl was surrounded by policemen, both in uniforms and plain clothes. Her voice was quite broken but I could hear her telling them about losing her passport. I was sorry for her and did not at all feel like I should come into where she just left.
We kept walking on the promenade till we became too hungry. Ian found a tapas place nearby, La Flauta, and we were in. According to Foursquare, the restaurant is extremely popular and you need to book. We were lucky to get a table since we showed up a lot earlier than standard Spanish dinner time. When we finished eating at around 8, the queue outside was absolutely mad - despite being a pretty fancy restaurant there was a waitress in the entrance calling names to a huge crowd - with a microphone. It all seemed understandable because the food was great. In addition to the normal tapas, we drank a whole bottle of Rioja and stuffed our face even more with two of the most amazing desserts ever.
Since we ate too much, again, we decided to walk it off and check out the famous La Rambla. However, we soon remembered we didn’t like crowded places. Turning into a side street, Ian found a church that he thought was the famous Sagrada Familia. It was not, but this street performer made it well worth the mistake:
His show finished at 9:15, so did our first 24 hours in Barcelona.