Wednesday, July 30, 2014
“Reunited (and It Feels So Good)” – Peaches and Herb 1978
It is great to wake and find that Rich is right here with me. We have lots of adventures waiting for us in the city. Breakfast/coffee is taken in our apartment and then we strike out on our own. I am the designated navigator, banker, planner, etc. Rich’s claims his motto is “no para mi” – “not for me.” He plans on just going alon for the ride. I will let him ease into this transition before he must pull his own weight.
We head of in the direction of the sea making our way down the huge Passeig de Gracia (where all the big designer stores are) and ending up at Plaza Catalunya (beginning of tourist central).
A stop for coffee is in order. Somehow we manage to stop at the same cafe where I was just a couple of days ago. It is a great place to people watch. I flex my Spanish skills and order our coffees, but I am severely deflated when the server asks us to pay right after he serves us. It is Spanish custom never to present the check until requested. When I was here before I had to ask for my check. I felt very “un-touristlike.” Today is a different story. The server puts the check directly on the table and gives me an expectant look. I stare directly back at him with an incredulous look on my face and say “Ahorra??” (now?). He fumbles a bit because I think I called his bluff and he retorts “No me importa.” (Doesn’t matter). Yeah, right. I slo-w-l-y count out the change and place it on the table.
Strolling directly down Las Ramblas is kind of fun because there are so many people out and about. We end up ducking into La Boqueria (where Janel and I met Tony Bourdain a couple years ago). We love looking at all the beautiful produce, meats and seafoods.
All of this food tourism is making us hungry. A decision is quickly made to continue on down to the sea and find somewhere for lunch in La Barcelonetta on the water.
There are a couple of cafes down on the sand. We settle on a shady table under an umbrella at Xup, Xup. The setting is outstanding and the food is good.
A lunch of anchovies in olive oil (I thought I only ordered one plate, but they brought two…) a whole grilled Turbot the ubiquitous Pan con Tomate, and two “Jarras” of cervesa. Perfect for a lunch on the beach.
At one point during our meal I notice that Rich’s is watching something on the sidewalk and his eyes are bugging out. He can’t believe what he saw. I turn around quickly and catch a glimpse of the back of a twenty-something blonde girl wearing nothing but a bikini bottom! Yes, this is Europe. Yes, we are beachside. But she is literally promenading down the sidewalk! Rich decides to start an experiment to see if this is the norm (all in the name of research…). The same girl comes by a couple more times. We only spot one other subject and she is an older lady. Then Rich decides to check out the action on the beach. There are several topless women here and there, but they are ON THE BEACH – not walking down the sidewalk. The experiment is tabled until further research is available.
After a long, leisurely lunch it is time to make the rather hot walk back to our apartment for a much needed nap (Rich is showing no signs of jet lag – amazing). We stroll through some of the old quarter and admire the buildings.
By the time we finally arrive “home” I am hot, sweaty and in dire need of a nap. Thank heaven our apartment has A/C!
Janel has secured dinner reservations tonight at one of the hottest tickets in town – Pakta. Pakta is a restaurant run by the brother of Ferran Adria (of El Bulli fame). Albert Adria (whom we met a few years ago at his restaurant “Tickets.”) is trying out a new concept – Nikkei Cuisine Nikkei is a fusion of Peruvian/Japanese cuisine. We are all eager to see what it is all about.
Rich and I make the 10 minute walk to Janel’s place. She has already warned us that there is a lot of commotion going on directly outside her front door. The Fiestas de Gracia are coming up in a few weeks and the neighborhood is busily preparing decorations and floats. Somehow her front entrance has become construction central. It is driving her crazy (and rightly so).
A short taxi ride later and we arrive at the door.
There are only two choices at Pakta – two degustation menus: The Fujiyama and the longer Machu Pichu where you are presented everything that they offer. Which did we choose?
Dinner started with shared Pisco Sours all around followed very quickly by a wonderful bottle of Cava. Then, we made our way slowly through the menu. The servers are all extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Each time they bring out a new dish, it is described in detail and we are instructed how to eat it. All of this is done in a sweet, playful manner.
Every dish is a delight for the eyes and the palate. We eagerly anticipate each new offering.
After every course, the entire set-up is completely changed. New plates, new utensils (chopsticks, forceps, etc) are expertly placed. If you happen to move something, it is quietly put back in place. We are Feng Shui-ed out the wazoo and the three-hour meal flies by. The portions are presented in such a way that you are completely satisfied, yet not stuffed. This was not just dinner – it was an experience.
Two nice bottles of white wine are easily consumed along with our meal. This goes along completely with our idea that when you have 3 persons one bottle of wine is perfect. The fact that we are now 4 has created a huge dilemma. One bottle is not enough and two? Well, let’s just say we manage to suffer through it. When it is mentioned that we have actually had THREE bottles (cava and 2 whites) we are all quick to agree that “Cava doesn’t count.”