Spending my Birthday with my girlfriend would be the best way to turn 39, so even though I ‘d just visited Barcelona in January, I flew back on February 28 to spend a few more days in that beautiful city. Escaping the cold weather in the Netherlands was a good reason too :)
I’d been a bit under the weather the week before but felt I was doing better as the weekend came closer and on Saturday I got in my car at 7am to drive to Eindhoven, from where Transavia would fly me to Barcelona. KLM wanted about 800 Euros for a return ticket and Transavia 85, so no hard choices there. And whether you fly from Eindhoven or Amsterdam doesn’t make much difference. Only in getting there as the public transport system in the Netherlands is Hell to get me from Assen to Eindhoven. So I used the opportunity to give my lovely Alfa Romeo GT a proper ride.
The flight was quick and once I got my luggage I found M. waiting for me at El Prat. We took the Aerobus into Barcelona, dropped of my luggage at the apartment and then went for a few much needed espressos. And there are lots of really good places in Barcelona for good Espressos (muy cargados y cortitos!). I can heartily recommend Gorilla in Gracia, terrific location and great coffee too. As evening fell, we walked to Hotel W along the beach and saw the waves crashing in the moonlight. Behind the hotel is a space where you can sit and enjoy the view. Both day and night it’s highly recommendable. Especially when there’s a dog behind you giving skateboarding a go.
As midnight came we entered the cocktail-bar El Paraigua where Wax & Boogie was playing and we celebrated the beginning of my 39’th there. A terrific start!
Next morning we started with a breakfast and espresso (I have honestly not reached my tax for one day yet and boy do I try). The sun was shining, we were enjoying the streets and walked around a bit until M brought me to a plaza where there was a dance on. They set up some speakers, have a playlist with swingjazz and blues, a few dancers from the group and everyone who wanted to join could step in any time. It’s organized by Gracia’s division of Swing Maniacs and it was brilliant to watch. Unfortunately I am rhythmically disabled, so I had to give it a pass (although M tells me that after I have a Duvel and a Voll-Damm I do have some moves, but that’s all a bit fuzzy to me). The dancing lasted until 2 pm and we wandered onward to the Barcelona Museum of History where you can view the ruins of Barcino, from the time when Romans ruled this area. With wine cellars, churches and death-faces. An interesting visit.
As evening fell we visited the Sagrada Familia to see it’s lit features reflected in the pond of the park. A truly beautiful sight when the lights come on. We got there well in time and found a really nice spot to enjoy that for a while.
As the closing act to my Birthday M had a concert in mind, but it was a bit early so we first had a beer in Michael Collins, a pub near the Sagrada Familia. An Irish pub, with football on the telly and blokes screaming at the players. In the back it was a bit more quit and it turned out that the French Adeline -who moved to Barcelona via England- was about to play a concert there. She played some great covers and had a bunch of fans that no-one knew (including Adeline) wildly cheering for her. Maybe they had a few to many lagers.
Anyway, it was time to move on to the concert in Jamboree. I wanted to be kept in the dark as long as possible and so didn’t find out what was going to be on until I was actually in the venue. And M choose the Barcelona Big Blues Band for me, hooray!!! She knows me so well :) The band had special guest Blas Picon on vocals and bluesharp and the concert was simply fantastic. Steaming, swinging blues. I loved it. Apparently the Barcelona Big Blues Band does this thing regularly with guest musicians so I’ll keep an eye out for my next visit to Barcelona. Love these discoveries.
As I also really wanted to see a bit of the Spanish countryside, on Monday we had planned a fieldtrip. We were not alone, hoards of little school children were on the metro too. It really was cute to see, but much more fun to find out they weren’t coming with us all the way. We took a train to Montserrat and then a cable car into the monastery area. It is a breathtakingly beautiful location and dead-silent (not including the panting woman who barely made it up the starts to the cable car and nearly died starting the mountain-walks). We walked around there for a good deal, visited the praying-area with the Black Maria and the monastery itself. The choir that usually sings just happened to have a vacation, so no singing today.
Back in Barcelona after a good meal (I hardly ate anything all day as the restaurants at the monastery were closed) M took me to Jazzman cafe where yet another concert was played, JazzFive this time, playing a bunch of really nice Jazz standards.
Tuesday morning began with the sound of horses and carts riding through the street. It’s Sant Medir and it’s celebrated all over Gracia. There are dozens of parades going on with marching bands followed by horses and either horse&wagons of vans and they’re throwing candy to the spectators. Weirdly in this street that was mostly older men who still eagerly grabbed every candy possible, but when we got out and saw the parades in other streets luckily there were lots of children too, toddlers even. When the parades are over, the streets are filled with crushed candy and even our shoes had an extra sticky layer to the soles.
We found a museum where a motorcycle-exposition was on, including some very old Ducati’s, Moto Guzzi’s and what not. Loooooooooove it (and I’m 39 now, in a year I’ll want a motorbike for my midlife crisis anyway). We then went on to the beach (because how can you NOT visit the beach in Barcelona?) and then for our last evening we went to the Harlem Jazz Club where they had an open-mic blues swing evening. Chino & The Big Bet served as main band and everyone who signed up, got his or her (terrific girl on bluesharp) moment in the spotlights. A good turn-up in the audience and a great night. Not sure what happened after that as this was the night with the Duvel/Voll-Damm incident).
Next morning was the day of my return, however there was no denying it anymore, I had a fever and I had it bad. So we took it kind of slow, M saw me off at the bus stop and all I can remember from the flight back is two hugely irritating Dutch women behind me in line at the airport talking non-stop about absolutely everything: places visited, places to visit, camera settings, what you need to take off at custom gates and what you could leave on (apparently earrings need to come off and rings don’t), the amount of luggage allowed, what to take as carry-on luggage and what to put in your travel luggage and (honestly) one of them mentioned that she travels with her dirty linnen in a plastic bag! And I DID NOT NEED TO KNOW THAT! On the flight my head got worse and worse, but I shot a few photos anyway. Somehow, thanks to Ibuprofen, I made it home again and that was my very splendid Birthday party in Barcelona! On to the next vacation!
For full sets on the concerts check out this blog-entry.