After arriving in Barcelona, we spend a few days just hanging around, doing a few bits and pieces on Audiobus, wandering around the town of Calella nearby. It’s all slightly eerily quiet, but quiet is just fine with us.
On day three, my friend and partner in Audiobus Sebastian arrives from Germany to spend a week with us. He’s booked a bungalow thing conveniently right beside us, and we welcome him with a couple of beers. It doesn’t really feel like meeting someone for the first time, as we’ve spent so much time talking and video-conferencing as we’ve worked on Audiobus together — and Sebastian warned us in advance that he is 15 feet tall, so we were ready, there.
We settle comfortably into one of our discussions about economy and politics, which Sebastian so enjoys Dropping The Knowledge about — Sebastian, the world-filter, who absorbs all this stuff so effortlessly and hands out the neatly-packaged results to those of us who don’t have the natural tendency to pay attention to that sort of thing. Quite convenient, really (although that boy does so love the doom and gloom!).
Katherine whips up a delicious meal of leftover quinoa patties I’d made the night before, as baguette-burgers with salad and homemade chips, thereby beginning a week of culinary bliss that Sebastian proceeds to take to great heights.
The following day we walk down into Calella along the foreshore in the intense Mediterranean sun, seeking out a local pescadería (fish shop), with barbecue plans courtesy of Sebastian. We pass a couple of nudists letting it all hang out on the beach, and laugh at the contrast between Sebastian and my quick eye-aversion, and Katherine’s rapt, direct-staring, glasses-donning attention (with effects varying, of course, from “ooh!” to “eeeew“, to “oh god, my eyes, my eyes“).
The shop’s closed — we’ll never get the hang of European closing times — so we decide to hang out in Calella until opening time. With fond memories of granitas in Italy, we grab a couple from a local gelateria which turn out to be disappointingly chemical-tasting (which was nothing compared to the fluorescent industrial sludge Sebastian managed to pick), and make our way to a beach-kiosk café for a while.
Some time later (and with a false start when I, quite typically, misremembered the opening time and guided us back to the shop an hour early — cue absent-minded-professor jokes), I’m haphazardly reciting a memorised Spanish phrase asking for some fish that would be good for grilling/barbecuing (“podemos tener un poco de pescado para asar?”). We’re presented with a few sleek bodies which are gutted for us as we wait (thank god, we say). Sebastian, unused to such a huge array of fresh seafood in central Germany, feels sad in this “hall of death” (laughter).
A few “gracias”‘s later and rather a long trudge home on sore feet, Sebastian lights the barbecue and we watch him wrap the fish in foil after rubbing it with salt inside and out, to place atop the grill. (Sebastian: You’re big hypocrite wusses! At the market: “Haha, dead fish! *laugh at the scaredy German guy*” Pre-Barbeque: “Eww, dead fish, I’m not gonna touch that with a six foot pole. Let the Germany guy prepare it!” Post-Barbeque: “Mmmm, dead fish, feels so good in my mouth”)
Quite a long time later we flop down, exhausted, at the table and peel open the aluminium foil packages. The fish is perfectly cooked, and — take a bite — unbelievably sweet and tasty. It’s the best fish both Katherine and I have ever tasted (Sebastian looks smug — he was right about fish in Spain).
The following days are spent sitting around and talking, usually with a laptop and a couple of iPads in front of us, discussing and playing around with various aspects of Audiobus, while Katherine sets up her art supplies at the table on the verandah.
I tweak a few features while Sebastian runs through a bunch of tests for Loopy, which need to be run through before I can release the update, after which we can submit Audiobus to Apple for review — the harrowing moment of truth, where we discover whether Apple are going to approve the last six months’ work, or (scary, but much less likely) put it to death.
There are another couple of barbecues, with sausages, mince and bacon discovered in the supermarket (“supermercat“) below — these are all delicious and deeply satisfying, and enjoyed with quite a lot of cold beer.
For our final night, we take the train into the city, and walk through the maze of Barcelona’s Barri Gotic and El Born areas — a labyrinth of narrow canyons, surprise little squares with cafés and restaurants — guided by (of course) The Cartographer to a tapas bar my Barcelona-dwelling friend from Uni, Hayden, recommended to us: Bastaix.
Bastaix is a funky-feeling little place with tables set up in the cellar downstairs, all rock walls, soft warm lighting and quiet jazz. We ask the friendly waitress to bring out enough for the three of us — whatever she recommended — and she proceeds to produce some of the tastiest food we’ve ever encountered; a serious contender for the top culinary experience so far for me, I think.
There are spicy olives and crisp toasted baguette slices with garlic to rub on each slice, cubed and spiced potatoes with creamy aioli; an assortment of chorizo and salami slices; a very tasty salad of rocket with well-aged balsamic vinegar, pine nuts, raisins, apples and parmesan slices; a soft, melty cheese with sun dried tomato; little spicy red chorizo sausages brought to the table flaming; pink, marinated sausages served with onions, and our favourite, an absolutely spectacular flavour sensation: caramelised goat cheese (crispy on the outside, smooth and runny on the inside, deliciously tasty and salty), served on a bed of grilled, marinated red pepper, and grilled with honey. We laugh incredulously (then order another serving).
It goes down with a wonderfully crisp white that our waitress produced (a 2011 Blanco Hacienda del Carche, for future reference), and we top it off with another flavour sensation that the waitress produced from off-menu: Little pieces of toast with dollops of dark chocolate ganache, topped with salt crystals and olive oil. Holy crap.
After we recover from that experience, we head back out into the night and walk back past tapas bar after street side restaurant after wine bar, full of pretty young things (and the obligatory guys playing dejectedly with crappy toys and sidling up to passers-by trying to sell them).
We bid farewell to Sebastian as he hops in a cab to take him to a hotel close to the airport for an early-morning flight, and we begin the long train-ride-then-walk home.