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Travel Not Tour - by Liv Hambrett

First Pair of Knockers out ... Spotted

May 21st 2008 00:43
On the plane from Paris to Barcelona, I closed my eyes and imagined Spain. The sun, sangria, sundresses, brown skin and bare feet. Sweating profusely in my I-Have-To-Wear-5kg-Of-Clothin g-So-My-Luggage-Meets-Restric tions outfit, I envisioned the beach and me on it, and endless mojitos. I had to. There was no air conditioning and I was desperate.

Barcelona was our first Spanish city and, according to the Lonely Planet, the most un-Spanish of them all. A heady fusion of old and new, with a lean towards the new and chic, Barcelona bustles as much as it siestas, it parties as much as it sunbathes, sprawled in the scorching summer sun. Our neighbourhood, Gracia, was a charming riot of boutiques, lolly stores, Middle Eastern restaurants and tapas bars, all jammed together on narrow tree lined streets overlooked by flower pot filled balconies. It was small enough for us to become local, and perfectly positioned for a relatively short stroll into the city.

It really is impossible to spend any time in Spain and not become completely and utterly relaxed about life. Sangria becomes your breakfast juice, but that's ok because you don't wake up before midday anyway (the magic hour. Drinking before midday is just sad.) And you don't wake up before midday because you don't go to sleep until late, because around about 4pm you have a siesta anyway. What else are you supposed to do? Everything closes down, you have nowhere to go but back to sleep, whether it be in bed, on a sunlounger on your balcony (until you are informed it is inappropriate in Spain to sunbathe on balconies) or on the beach. And if you are on the beach, it is so bloody hot and the walk there has resulted in being so parched, it makes absolute sense to have a refreshing glass of sangria, particularly when supermarkets sell it in handily packaged juice-like plastic bottles.

The beaches, whilst definitely the best anecdote to the blistering Summer sun, are city beaches so they are certainly not the most beautiful going around, especially to beach snob Australians. And they are not for the non-nudist-embracing either, as most women tend to eschew the other half of their bathing suits. You can easily separate the Spanish men from the prudish Anglos, if not by their skin tone, then by the simple fact that the Anglos are the ones who actually blink an eyelash ... and/or peel off their clothes to reveal pallid limbs and skip to the water yelling gleefully the now immortal line, 'first pair of knockers out ... spotted!'

Much to Leni's (who we were reunited with after her Paris jaunt ended a few days after ours') disappointment, we didn't eat any Spanish cuisine (save for tapas designed for the western palate in the form of mini hamburgers) but instead frequented a Middle Eastern restaurant, Equinox, where our loyalty won us star treatment and special post dinner treats, invita la casa (I really hope that means 'on the house'). We did sink to an all time culinary low, however, with the decision to patronise an all you can eat for 9.95 salad bar. The four of us transformed into frenzied, plate piling animals who, despite the buffet being completely and uninspiringly limp, pressed on in a ghastly and mortifying display. At some point, the haze of beast-like desperation suddenly cleared, revealing us, with embarrassing clarity, for what we had become. The saddest of the dining world ... all you can eat, Homer Simpson style, scrooges.

To get the full idea of what Barcelona is really about, you simply have to ramble. Whether that be purely along Las Ramblas, past the brilliant shopping, street performers and artists, sidewalk cafes and paella restaurants, all the way down to the port with its imposing Christoper Columbus statue – or through the winding backstreets where can find the best (and often the cheapest) tapas bars, gelato stores and the lesser known boutiques where the annoyingly attractive Spanish girls find their annoyingly chic outfits. Due to the unveiling of a new Frugality plan, unveiled mid-Barcelona, that involved shunning public transport, the four of us did a lot of walking. Including the daily 12km round trip walk to the beach, done in suffocating heat, most often with towels draped over our burning forms, as our spindly legs (made spindly by excessive walking) zigzagged this way and that. If frugality wasn't enough to drive the Spindle Leg Walking Plan, the appearance of the aforementioned annoyingly attractive Spanish girls and their bambi legs was. Whoever said Spanish culture appreciates 'real women' obviously overlooked the period in which the country jumped on the spindle bandwagon and bred out things like thighs and hips. We were ten times more 'real' than any Spanish women I saw and I blame the tapas entirely.

As tradition has come to dictate, our final night in Barcelona was a large one and, due to the benefits of Equinox loyalties, a cheap one at that. Like Pied Pipers, we skipped down the main drag of Gracia, gathering Equinox staff, Antoine the crazy tapas man and anyone else who wanted to join five sunburnt and delirious Australians (the 5th being a new European Jaunting co-star, the perenially glamorous Jeff-Originally-From-Sydney-N ow-Works-In-London) in Sangria and Spanglish.I awoke the next morning, two hours after we went to bed, unable to walk due to a rolled foot, which rolled in a spectacularly uncoordinated manouevre whilst gadding about gathering people. Hungover and hobbling (me), we made it to Barcelona station only to miss our train. Not because we were late (miraculously we were early) but because we were in Spain. No Need To Hurry is the country's motto. Thus it was four sorry girls who boarded a very warm bus for four hours, with only an empty lolly bag between them ... in case of emergencies ...


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1 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by Cibbuano

May 21st 2008 02:45
ah, English tourists, yelling out the word 'knockers'. Sounds like paradise.

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