We arrive by plane from Brussels and the place looks just like my original home (San Joaquin Valley, California). Since I speak enough Spanish to get by it feels great to be there. We book a hotel for a couple of nights and then go to the nearest café for dinner. I get the menu…hello!...you’re not in Spain, you’re in Catalonia…they have their own language, which sounds like Spanish (or Castellano, as they call it) but ALL the words are different. I can’t read a word of the menu and my Spanish isn’t good enough to ask the waiter to translate from Catalan to Spanish. At least the waiter was kind enough to speak Spanish; a lot of the older folks would only speak Catalan. Given the history of the place, they're a bit touchy about their language and culture, rightfully so. Anyway, I’m reduced to pointing and not having a clue what I or the kids are ordering. The entrée comes: an egg, on a bed of rice, topped with ketchup…at least it’s recognizable. I’m thinking this must be some weird dish specific to this café. The next day as we're walking through this fantastic medieval city, I notice the entrées lined up at the café windows, and they all serve ketchup/eggs/rice--a local favorite.
One thing I thought very cool about the place is that the people, teenager and adult alike, promenade along the downtown streets before dinner (which isn't served until about 8). They are for the most part well scrubbed, well dressed, and a delight to watch, which is the whole point, I guess.
We were there during the Christmas holidays and I also noticed all these shops with signs that say ‘Bon Nadal’, which means something like ‘good birth’ in Catalan. So, I’m wondering, if they have so many maternity shops, where are all the infants? It takes me a few days before I realize that it’s the Catalan equivalent of Merry Christmas. Yep--just another dumb tourist.