delectable pintxos

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Yesterday we swapped Sunday for Monday as a day of rest. J hasn’t been sleeping or feeling well, so we hung out at O’s place for the morning to let her recuperate a bit. We actually ended up learning a bit about the country that your average vacation wouldn’t have taught us. O’s mother walked J to the local chemist/pharmacy where J had blood drawn, and then a few short hours later they gave her the results of her bloodwork. It didn’t tell us much more than we already knew, but it provided enough information that educated guesses could be made.

When she felt up for it, we took the train into Barcelona. I had my stomach and heart set on pintxos from La Tasqueta de Blai. The pintxos this time were different from the set I saw a few days ago, and I had just as much fun this time experimenting with new flavors. We sat on a cushioned sofa sharing one side of the table, which gave us a perfect view of the bar and the sincerely adorable woman behind it. She had an intricate tattoo just above her collarbone, and a green streak through her dark hair. She called out friendly greetings to everyone who walked in, did a little dance to the music playing over the speakers, and once fumbled a dish she was washing and gave us a wide-eyed smile of relief after she caught it.

When we finished our meal of pintxos, we walked aimlessly around the pub’s neighborhood. J checked out shoes, and then I suggested we check out Casa Batlló, because Gaudí’s work was by far my favorite thing about Barcelona last year. I stopped in an open-air fruit store and found three staff gathered around the register as if it were a campfire. I asked the nearest one, a woman with a hesitant frown, where Passeig de Gràcia was, but she only blinked and turned immediately to her coworker sitting on a low step. She gave him a brisk gesture and stepped back, and the younger man, chuckling, stood up and said, “You want to go to Passeig de Gràcia? On foot?” in English. Relieved, I said, “Yes, please,” and he gave me directions in broad, sweeping gestures, smiling amiably. He said it would take about thirty minutes if we took our time, and that sounded more than doable.

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As we walked I gradually recognized the street we were on. I’d meandered onto it a few days ago, so I knew where we were headed, and before long the giant fountain and circle of traffic that make Plaça d’Espanya so prominent came into view. J pointed out the late time and we decided to give Gaudí a miss for the day, settling instead on gelato in the former bull-fighting arena-turned-shopping center.

It was miraculously delicious.

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An hour or so later we left the arena and found the world transformed. Everything was cast into shades of burnt orange, giving the city its romantic glow that I love. Last year, I was told by my B&B owner’s Barcelona-born girlfriend that the street lamps are the color they are because of light pollution concerns. Also, most of them have metal caps on top to prevent light from streaming up into the sky. As a result, you can see a reasonable number of stars at night.

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J and I, armed with a few groceries from the organic store, headed back to O’s place.

She and her parents were kind enough to show me how to cook a type of rice dish made from bomba rice that was surprisingly easy to make. Olive oil, salt, garlic, ham, rice, and the happiest me in all the land.

Today, perhaps, a Gaudí day!

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