Friday, March 23, 2007

The Big Easy

One of the nice things about living here is that going out and enjoying yourself is so easy.

It's the hassle factor in London that always bugged me; ordering an expensive cab and wondering if it would turn up, factoring in the unreliability of public transport to get to a film on time or locating and paying through the nose for car parking.

Here the public transport works, taxis are cheap - it's hard work to pay more than €10 from mountain to sea - and the city is littered with huge and cheap car parks. Indeed car parking is that much cheaper following a new law which makes it compulsory to charge by the minute - it's often up to two hours in London. So we picked someone up today from the airport, parked for 20 minutes and paid a grand total of 27p.

And you can get into the best bars without being vetted, negotiating bouncers, being a member or being presumed to be a criminal and having your credit card kept behind the bar.

Last night I went out with some Catalan friends and ended up at the Ideal Cocktail Bar (Aribau 89) which forms a neat triumvirate with my established favourites here - Boadas and Dry Martini.

All are heavy on the wood, the leather, the barmen in white jackets and bow ties who know one end of a cocktail shaker from another. And very fine gin and tonics they mix too.

It rounded off a truly lovely evening which was to celebrate the promotion of one of my friends across government departments.

The cocktails followed one of those great Catalan pica-pica suppers of manchega cheese, serrano ham on tomato bread, small fried fish, patatas bravas and steak and chips, all dished up in the middle served up at La Moreneta (Cartagena 234) which is well worth dropping in on if you are near the Sagrada Família.

Bicing in Barna

There's a great new initiative launched in Barcelona today - Bicing.

It's a municipal scheme to encourage bike usage. You pay €24 a year for a card which allows you to unlock a bike from a fleet of what will eventually be 1,500 bikes sited at 100 stations around town.

You then pay 60 cents an hour for two hours and €3 an hour after that, all charged to your credit card. It's €150 if you don't bring it back within 24 hours at which point you might as well keep the thing and spray paint the Bicing logo and keep it.

How cool is that?

Cricket is more popular in Barcelona than football

Well some aspects of cricket and some aspects of football.

The papers here are covering the Bob Woolmer murder in reasonable depth. And why not? It's a cracking story on any level and there is indeed a sizeable Pakistani community in Catalonia. Of course they have to fill in the back story about what cricket is and how Pakistan losing to Ireland was like Barca losing to some stiffs from the 4th division.

Meanwhile the Football Story That Died through Lack of Interest is the England v Andorra game being played here at the Olympic stadium next week. Around 13,000 fans will be in twon apparently and will be joined at the stadium by some 400 Andorra supporters and a handful of neutral residents.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Nose news is good news

Thanks for all the calls and emails re the nose.

Which gives me the chance to use the headline above. It is much better now and the steristrips bandages should be off in a couple of days.

Another blissful weekend ahead of the cold spell now making its way across Europe which should bring us more snow in the pyrenees. highlights:

- a first visit to the wonderful Museum of the history of Barcelona. A wonderful
collection of the ruins of what was Roman Barcino. Beautifully laid out if a
little too large.
- Seeing the Arctic Monkeys live. Yes we were probably the oldest people there but nothing wrong with that. There were some 3,000 people younger than us going mad at Razzmatazz. Great music though as Sarah says, nothing that the Clash weren't doing 30 years ago.
- Going to the beach today at Casteldefells with friends for a truly teriffic paella at Patricio's, one of the moste emblematic beach restaurants in these parts. No booking for the outside tables so you get there at 12, grab some seats and read your papers
until they start serving at 1.30. worth every minute of it.

- ah yes. Football. 8-1 and 8 great goals at that. Four for United and four for Barca. Even better, as we speak, Real Madrid at home are barely scraping past Nastic 1-0, bottom of La Liga by some distance and with a man sent off. As one disgruntled fan puts it on the bulletin board in a rant directed at Madrid manager Capello:

fuera!!! fuera!!!! fuera!!!! yo ya saco mi pañuelo blanco delante del pc!!!! jajajajaja

'Out! Out! Out! I have my white hanky out (the traditional F*** off sign in Spain) and I'm waving it in front of the PC'

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I've been a bad blogger

Mea culpa. the last two weeks have been a void filled by travelling, getting a very nasty virus, friends visiting and some deeply depressing football by Barca.

One door closes and the next one slams in your face - that sort of thing. And literally in my case yesterday when I walked full on into a glass door and broke my nose. Blood everywhere and now feeling very tender with ice packs etc etc.

Immensely cheered last night my Messi's third, last gasp goal, which secured a vital draw in a hell for leather, harum scarum classico against Real Madrid, a game in which the two managers saw fit to dispose of their defences.

But the sun is shining and Ben scored his first goal for his futbol sala team so there is much to be happy about. More soon.