I woke up in a panic several hours later. What time was it?! Did we really just waste an entire precious afternoon? No, it was only about 4:30pm; we had time yet. Still groggy and less than fully operational, we forced ourselves out of the bed and made our way back down the stairs and into the bustling city below. We headed back over to Las Ramblas to continue the tour we had begun earlier, but in much greater comfort without the ~30lb backpacks in tow.
The famous street had completely transformed since we walked it around 11am. We’d experienced a ghost-town when we’d first arrived but now found ourselves elbow to elbow with tourists. We headed down to the harbor and practically had to swim through schools of people to get there. At the end of Las Ramblas, we found ourselves greeted by a 200-foot Christopher Columbus monument. Thanks to our handy guidebook, we learned about the irony of this monument as it was upon discovery of the “New World” that Barcelona fell into a 300-year economic slump, since trade routes were shifted west and away from the Mediterranean. In fact, it only began making a recovery ~150 years ago. Sadly, the monument was at a far too busy intersection; with all the cars zipping by and tourists flocking around, it was difficult to get a close look at the details and symbolism of the monument.
We crossed a busy highway and wandered over to a nearby park just off the harbor. It was so peaceful and nice to sit and rest in the midst of all the chaos and stimulation, especially near the end of such a long day. Apparently others had the same thoughts, as there weren’t many empty grass patches to be found; people were sprawled everywhere, picnicking, reading, napping, and lounging. Realizing we were hungry, we consulted our guidebook before ditching the park and once again headed back up Las Ramblas, this time to Taverna Basca Irati for our first experience with a tapas bar. On the way, we passed the famed human statues/street performers. They were incredible and had truly mastered their art. These weren’t like the amateur ones we had seen in San Francisco a few years back; these were beautiful and elaborate, the masters of their craft. Having been warned of the presence of pickpockets anywhere crowds were gathered, Jesse and I only lingered a few seconds before continuing to the tapas bar.
Taverna Basca Irati was a welcome sight; we were famished. The bartender was incredibly helpful and pleasant. He spoke many languages at at least a conversational level: Español, Català, Français, Italiano, and English. It was ridiculous and made me slightly embarrassed. I was scraping by with what little Spanish I knew, but was nowhere near conversational and had a very difficult time keeping up with the string of words coming from the locals’ mouths. Anyway, we consumed a glass of white wine, red wine, and several tapas, all of which were delicious. The tapas were fun and full of flavor. I think I tried my first anchovy that day, as well as several mystery ingredients. Most were delicious and it was fun to let the flavors explode in my mouth. Even the house wine was stellar! Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed our tapas experience. At the end, we turned in our plate of toothpicks and he counted them to tally our cuenta (1.95€/tapas).
After settling up, we were off to explore more of this rich city!