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After two planes, an 8 hour layover in London, and 24 hours of total travel time, I have arrived in Barcelona.  Yesterday was a blur, I having been crazy enough to put my 8-hour layover in London to good use by spending a few hours with my friend Jackie, who lives there.  We had a lovely lunch in Notting Hill and spent the afternoon walking around her ‘hood, stopping to taste-test the red velvet cupcakes at a bakery called The Hummingbird Cafe (quite good, I must say, but still can’t beat Sweet Mandy B’s).  We made our way to Hyde Park and Kengsington Gardens, whereupon it started to rain.  Ahh the delightful English climate.  To escape the elements we had a very civilized afternoon pot of tea at a teahouse in the park called something like the L’Orangery.  It felt very British with it’s pristine white, solarium-esque dining room.  I tried the Darjeeling.


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Now having safely made it to Barcelona (don’t know how, I had to force myself to stay awake on the tube ride back to Heathrow for fear of waking up four hours later somewhere in the English countryside or maybe the neighborhood Ali G pretends to come from), I psyched myself up for my two days alone that I would have before joining the group.  Exhausted from my travel days, I fell asleep at my chic boutique hotel but woke up at 6 am.  Successfully falling back to sleep an hour later, I awoke again at 3 pm!  It was at this point that I  sorta freaked out a little…but then I told myself that it’s OK, I have nothing to do today, and I could use the sleep.  As excited as I was for this adventure, I started to feel a little overwhelmed.  The first thought that came to mind was, “what’ll I eat?” The TimeOut Barcelona guidebook says most restaurants stop serving lunch around 4, and by the time I was ready, it was too late.  So scrapping my earlier ambitious plans to go to the Sagrada Familia, I decided to visit the famous (but supposedly touristy) Els Quatre Gats cafe, haunt of the one and only Picasso.

 

Where Picasso used to hang

Where Picasso used to hang

 

Thus fortified with tortilla española (Spanish omelette) and a capuccino, my spirits were further buoyed when the waiter complimented my Spanish.  He also gave me a bottle of sparkling water gratis.  The food was pretty good and the bill was surprisingly inexpensive for a cafe that gears to the turistas.  After aimlessly wandering around the Barri Gotic or Old City, I decided to visit the famous espadrille store La Manual Alpargatera, which I had read about in a number of places as being the place to buy espadrilles.The famous espadrille storeI should say that I haven’t always been a fan of espadrilles.  I used to think they were kind of, well, ugly.  Something about shoes in the cork/jute/bamboo/ whatever family kinda turn me off.  But after envisioning myself wearing them with some sort of high-waisted wrap skirt and a carefree expression on my face, I decided to check this place out and buy a pair.  After taking a look at the dizzying wall of espadrilles,Wall of espadrillesI approached the old lady behind the counter (not pictured) and asked to try on a pair.  Since I didn’t know my shoe size in Spanish measurements, I attempted to explain this to the woman.  She didn’t seem to speak any English and although I am eager to practice my Spanish, I tend to get nervous when talking about anything specific such as shoe size or style of espadrille.  For some reason no one suggested that they measure my feet (and I didn’t see any shoe measure-ers), so I ended up trying on 5 pairs, each time trying on a new pair one size larger.  Because of our communication difficulties, I didn’t inquire about all of the different styles that they had to choose from.  I ended up finding a nice, simple pair of navy espadrilles with a ribbon tie for €15 (or $23 more or less).

Et voila!

Et voila!

Tomorrow I may try to go to the beach and the Born neighborhood, which is supposed to be “hip and cool.”  Or I may end up sleeping ’til 3 again.

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