I woke way too early this morning, but I slept well in the big ole bed in Madrid.
Yeah, yeah I could’ve slept until ten or eleven, and maybe I should’ve since the trains ran late today. At least the Madrid to Barcelona ones did. There are three lines that travel these tracks. One of these is contracted by the French rail company Ouigo. Well, it was one of those French trains that apparently knocked out overhead power lines all the way which forced all going in that direction to be delayed, mine included. But miracle of miracles we left only ten minutes late and before you could finish reading the childrens book “The Little Engine That Could”, a trip to the potty, one three car foray to the cafe bar and a quick chat with Milton, my Venezuelan Seatmate and United Nations human rights assistant director (I meet the best people), we had arrived in Barcelona Sants station.
I prevailed upon Milton to extricate my suitcase from the overhead bin then we all piled out into the sauna-like tunnel and crept toward the escalators. I managed to locate an exit and the taxi stand only after momentarily getting lost – was it the sweat dripping in my eyes? Probably. That’s my excuse anyway.
May I say right now that I may have gone to heaven. No, the taxi did not crash. No, I was not injured getting out of a taxi. But I did find my way to the Hotel Margot House, a small (really small – only nine guest rooms) boutique inn on the second floor of a very old building on Pasea de Gracia. Unless you knew it was there you’d pass it by. That and there’s a McDonald’s next door which makes the whole idea kinda crazy. But looks can be deceiving!
The instructions to gain entrance to the Margot were as follows… Think of your favorite spy movie. 1. Locate the keypad to the right of the door. 2. Push the following 003, then hit the symbol of a bell. 3. Wait til you hear door click. 4. Enter quickly. 5. Walk up three steps. 6. Enter through next doors. 7.Step onto landing. 8. Go toward elevator. 9. Push call button then Enter. 10. Push PP. then Exit. You will be met by concierge. And so I did all that.
Entering this hotel is like entering someone’s very nice home which also resembles an art museum with comfortable chairs and sofas and tables all tastefully arranged. It felt like I was home (minus dogs). I was directed to my room. The king sized bed resembles a giant rectangular marshmallow. I kicked off my shoes and plotzed there after the concierge had shown me the bathroom where one could, were there a table, paddles and balls, play an active game of ping pong. “Too bad I’m only here one night” I thought. I rested for what seemed like moments but had actually turned into a hour or more. Obviously I slept. I looked around at the art on the walls…all the walls. Heaven. I finally got dressed to explore but first looked at the map. Casa Batllo across the street? OMG! Fundacion Antoni Tapies around the corner? Yes! I threw on my shoes, grabbed my phone and purse and galloped down the hall faster than you can say Gaudi three times with exuberance…But not before I asked for a dinner recommendation close by. Hunger for food and art compelled me to take the suggestion without question. Exiting the building I turned right and dashed past Mickey D’s with nary a sniff or glance.
Food first. Enter the tapas bar called Vinivinto. Sit. Order mineral water con gas. (Drink most of bottle) Order pescaditos (eat half the giant plateful -who knew it would be so much?) and sautéed asparagus with mushrooms (eat all, yum). Listen to the three American flight attendants on my left, led by the obnoxious one to order plate after plate, bottle after bottle, getting louder and louder. Karens should be on the no fly list.
As fate heard my plea for balance two young men grabbed the table to my right just as I heard, “Would you like dessert?” Asked the server of me, calling back my attention to the serious matters at hand. “Crema Catalana?” “Si!” “Okay, Uno para me, por favor!” I giggled. I can be such a child when it comes to dessert, especially one of my favorites.
I sat back, waiting with apprehension, my inner dessert critic wondering how this particular custardy goodness might measure up to the others in my memory. In the meantime I engaged in conversation with my young neighbors who as it turned out were from California and Washington, having served in the military together. In their early twenties and looking more or less fresh off the metaphorical boat, we spoke about travel (simultaneously eating spoonfuls of the dessert) and how it was expanding their world view. I found it a tad depressing to learn that neither felt particularly interested in the politics of our own country, considering they had gone to fight on behalf of it. I gave them a small lecture on the importance of research into our country’s history as it related to world history and how we get the government we deserve…blah blah blah. Gratefully I noted they were interested and not merely being polite. I also told them a bit about Gaudi’s contribution to art and directed them to see the apartment idling just a hop and skip away. Perhaps at least one or two seeds got planted into their young brains.
I paid my bill and left to cross the street and gawk at the building myself, so Amazingly different than the others on the block. I sincerely believe the guy had lived under the sea…Atlantis maybe? I grabbed a nearby bench to people watch while admiring the tiles and curves and thoughtful design but soon decided to take a walk around the block, stopping briefly to snag a pix of a wonderful light fixture in the building next door.
Window shopping in Barcelona is wonderful. Door to door you can discover pastries next to shoes, followed by travel agency, then cafe, then butcher, etc. It is a veritable paradise for the eyes and occasionally the nose – it can be disastrous for the wallet and waistline. The latter being the case for me, forgetting the recent (though smaller than I had hoped) crema catalana, I happened to stop at an irresistible ice cream display. “Uno bola de cafe y uno de chocolate negro por favor” rushed out of my mouth before I could stop myself.
With cone in hand, ice cream dripping down my arm, I slowly licked and continued my walk back to the hotel. Along the way I met a Brazilian woman, now living in Barcelona. We chatted in Spanglish and my limited Portuguese. It was a lighthearted banter, mostly about shoes and pastries, two subjects women with taste must have. We parted ways in the next block, just in time for me to see the Antoni Tapies building, one of my favorite structures. Was I drooling over the building or was it the ice cream dripping down my cheek?
By the time I reached the Margot I had managed to pitch the remnants of messiness and wipe away the traces of dietary indiscretion on my face and hands with a sanitizer cloth. Did I care? Not really, but I don’t like feeling sticky.
I’m now in my room, getting ready to make plans for my visit to Barcelona’s Polo Club. Then I will hit the marshmallow with a force only known to those who love s’mores, and melt away into dreamland.
Bye for now.