Regardless of the planning or attempted sleeping on the plane, I always arrive in Europe blearly-eyed, grumpy, and hungry. When we landed in Barcelona, and realized that our transfer service hadn't sent the car, I became even grumpier.
Thankfully the car arrived within 15 minutes after calling to inquire (and they didn't charge for the trip), and we were off to Hotel 1898 in no time, with only slightly more grump than before.
Fully expecting the room not to be ready, we planned on checking out La Boqueria, the rightfully famous market on Las Rambla, and getting something to eat. When the fella at the front desk told us that the room was in fact ready, I could have kissed him. We settled in and cleaned up a bit before heading off for our first meal of the trip.
La Boqueria certainly lives up to its reputation as being a kick-ass market. The scope and size of the place overwhelms. You could shop here for every single meal of your life and never run out of options. The fish selection alone is enough to make you go googly-eyed. Add to that fruits, vegetables, meats upon meats, cured hog legs upon cured hog legs, prepared foods, and various tapas bars tucked away, and you have an experience that could keep you busy for days.
We weren't here to shop, unfortunately, so off we went to see which of the tapas bars had the least oppressive lines. Bar Central was our first stop, as it had come up in my searches quite often. It had obviously come up in others' searches as well, as people were 3 deep at the bar, waiting for seats. I wasn't about to get involved in this dance at this point in the trip, so we pressed on and ended up at Bar Clemen's, over there in the corner of the market. There was no need to queue up behind people as there were two empty stools with our names written alllllllll over them.
The fella serving us spoke a little bit of English. We found that people overall didn't speak as much English in Barcelona as they do in, say, Paris. Some were quite proficient. Others seemed to understand less English than I do Spanish, and that's next to nothing. But this never should be a concern, as long as you have hands and can point and gesture. Unless you find yourself at an unmanned toll booth and have no idea how to get out. Toll booths were the bane of my existence.
We ordered only a few dishes, as these weren't exactly the "small bites" that one might imagine when thinking of "tapas."
First out where artichokes. Lightly fried, sprinkled with big fat pieces of shaved salt. If our first bite of food in Spain was any indication of things to come, it was going to be a good trip indeed. Really freakin' excellent, we thought, especially considering it was a vegetable. We spent the remainder of the trip looking for artichokes on menus.
I really wanted tripe, and out came this large bowl of tender tripe in a tomato-based sauce. Quite good if not a bit too filling. I really wanted to order more dishes than we did, but I wasn't going to waste food, and ended up eating just about the whole bowl, as I'm a fat prick.
I did have some more "room" for the gambas. Large, head-on prawns cooked with olive oil and herbs. This is a classic Spanish preparation. Simple. Pure. And exceptional. We came to learn that the Spanish (and French) apparently do not cook the hell out of shrimp as they do here in the US.
Wine was standard issue "vino blanco." I didn't find much need to get too involved in wine lists. Every glass of wine that was poured for us was quite good, usually local, and reasonably priced. We should have gotten carafes, though, when they were available, as the value would have been a bit better. Live and learn.
Rather than stumble through the rest of the day, we headed back to Hotel 1898 to relax a while. We had no idea the hotel had a rooftop pool/bar/deck with awesome views of the city and suitably fruity and fun cocktails. Imagine how thrilled we were to see that we wouldn't have to nap in the room, but rather on a large, comfy couch, in the sun, surrounded by drinks with straws. More on the hotel and the ensuing sunburn later (click me).
Clemen's Boqueria : La Rambla in La Boqueria : Barcelona, Spain