Saturday, November 20, 2010

On the road again: Barcelona, day 7

Wow did my flight from BCN to JFK suck. Whatever I caught--my current best guess is the ill-advised hot-and-sour-cat soup at the Chinese place in Figueres--hit me hard last night and then today as well. I've been able to get down maybe 150 calories--and then only for a few minutes; you don't want the details.

My fever comes and goes, I shake periodically, and my stomach constricts in pain frequently. So, I'm writing this entry from a JFK Admirals Club, and I'll be crawling into bed as soon as I can after I get home.

I'm sure I'll be fine in a day or two, with luck even tomorrow, but right now I feel as bad as I've felt in a very long time.

No more cat soup for me.

Friday, November 19, 2010

On the road again: Barcelona, day 6

A very late bedtime and a very gray morning and early afternoon led to a very lazy final full day here, and that was just fine with me.

The middle of the day included a long time roaming Gaudi's Casa Batllo, which was simply amazing.

Dinner was at ABaC, a Michelin two-star restaurant. The food was excellent, but more on that later.

The reason for the short entry is that I have felt sick all day and now have a rather noticeable fever, so I'm going to crash. More later, when, with any luck at all, I will be back to normal.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On the road again: Barcelona, day 5

I'm still processing the elBulli meal, but here are a few key tidbits to tide over those interested in it:

* They served 38 courses, most of which were just a few bites.

* The restaurant seats 40 guests; 45 chefs were working in the kitchen.

* Ferran Adria was supervising.

* I couldn't get a firm handle on the size of the wait staff, but in the room where I was, 20 guests were eating, and at least ten servers were working.

* My first and second favorite dishes were his first and second favorites, as I learned after the meal.

* No music was ever playing. The sounds were of people talking, laughing, gasping, exclaiming, and generally being amazed and amused.

* When I told Adria, via the interpreter, that the meal had touched both my heart and my mind, he smiled, bowed slightly, and in English said, "Good. Correct."
More will undoubtedly follow.

Roses, the closest town, was insanely beautiful, a place straight out of a James Bond movie. How pretty, you might ask? Check out these shots from the room's two balconies. (As always, you can click on a picture to see a bigger version.)

The rest of the day went to a strange Chinese lunch and then multiple hours at the Dali museum (excellent!) in Figueres, a lot of work, and a very fine dinner at Alkimia.

Now, more work.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On the road again: Barcelona, day 4

Behind me in the blackness in the photo is the Mediterranean, its waves beating a slow rhythm on the shore.

My sense of luck and of somehow not quite deserving to be there, as well as my dislike of having my picture taken, account for the expression on my face.

To my left stands the door inside El Bulli.

Inside was the most amazing meal I've ever eaten. I'll write more on it in other times, but as I said to Chef Adria after dinner--yes, I got to chat briefly, via an interpreter, with Ferran Adria--the meal touched both my heart and my mind. I have a lot to process--and not just in my stomach.

I feel very, very lucky for having been able to eat there before Adria closes the deservedly famous institution.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On the road again: Barcelona, day 3

Jamon Iberico de Bellota is a wonderful thing indeed, and as I did my last time here, I'm eating small amounts of it each time I get the chance. Today, this taste treat was part of both my meals, lunch and dinner, and I loved every little bite.

A big chunk of today went to more time with the works of Antoni Gaudi, about whose art I've written before. Suffice to say that once again I found La Sagrada Familia amazing, a work of genius, and deeply moving in many ways. The singular vision behind both it and Parc Guell, which I also revisited today, always makes me think hard about creativity, great works of art, and, of course, my own pale attempts at creation. Gaudi was almost certainly more than a bit of a loon, but he saw the world differently from everyone else and, as Hunter S. Thompson once said of another, he stomped the terra.

Tomorrow brings the dinner at El Bulli, the event that transformed this trip from desirable to mandatory. I'm not looking forward to driving the crowded Barcelona streets or the single-lane country roads that lead to the restaurant, but I am quite excited about the meal itself--which I'll be sitting down to eat in about 17 hours.

Hot damn!

Monday, November 15, 2010

On the road again: Barcelona, day 2

I wish I could sleep well on planes. I really do. I can't manage it, though. The best I can do is awkward, uncomfortable, and unsatisfying dozing. Thus, when we landed this morning, I'd eaten the dinner and breakfast (both serviceable), watched a movie (the recent remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, which I didn't hate the way most critics did), read (Matt Hilton's latest novel), and done some work.

To my great happiness, customs and luggage pick-up and immigration and the cab ride all proceeded without a hitch, so in relatively short order I was in my hotel, the W Barcelona. It and the lovely Hotel Arts Barcelona, where Scott and I stayed, stare at each other across the water like two champions preparing for battle. I love them both. From the outside, the W, with its amazing architecture and isolated location, exudes the rock-star-hotel vibe. It continues that feeling when you get inside, with a stunning lobby, bordello-red hallways, and impeccably designed and outfitted rooms.

After a nap and some work, we headed into the city for a long stroll down Las Ramblas and dinner at a restaurant we chose at random for its menu and look. Our choice proved to be wise, as the meal was very good. Highlights included the Iberico Bellota ham and the thin bread with brushings of oil and tomatoes that I've come to love, wonderful croquetas, and the cheesiest risotto I've ever tasted.

Tomorrow, some research, some work, some touristing, but now, some sleep.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On the road again: Barcelona, day 1

Well, really, there is no Barcelona for me today. Instead, I'm heading there and will arrive tomorrow after the usual fly-all-night trek. Still, the trip is ultimately to Barcelona, so that will be the title for these entries.

At this red-hot moment, I'm sitting in the JFK Admirals Club enjoying their free water, Diet Coke, and carrots. I do wish for Coke Zero and a broader selection of snacks, but I find such complaints hard to make, sitting as I am in the lap of airplane lounge luxury. I am living a life of such greater affluence and experience than the teenage me would ever have believed possible that I feel ashamed whenever I utter such complaints.

Speaking of teenagers, I have two, and I both like and love (there is a huge difference, of course) them greatly. It helps that I am stuck at 16 on the inside, which means that both kids are now aging past me. (Of course, I don't know yet what their internal ages are, so perhaps we'll end up close.)

Two recent interchanges, one spoken and one in email, should serve to illustrate why I enjoy my time and conversations with them so much. Each is silly, of course, but in a very different way from the other.

The first is a snippet from a recent conversation with Scott that began after Rana observed that he was clean-shaven.

Scott: Yes, I shaved. In fact, I shaved a lot more than my face.

Me: I prefer to wax mine. Very smooth.

Scott: Nah. Shaving is better, because you can shave "THUG LIFE" into your pubes.

Me: Excellent point.
The other is a recent email exchange between Sarah and me.
I am emailing you because you are the most sensible of the family when it comes to proper dessert policy. Scratch just released its holiday menu and having spent so much time there this semester I kind of want to share how delightful their food is with you guys (although it is definitely expensive). Is there anything that catches your eye? If so, I could order and pick it up - if not, I'll just bring a couple donut muffins back with me.

I’d have to vote for at least the Vanilla, Mexican, and Apple pies, as well as the Pecan and Gingerbread cakes.

Of course, I’m holding down the quantity to try to be sensible, as always.

I’m so proud that you have inherited this great sensibility.
None of these desserts, by the way, are for the Thanksgiving holiday. These are the pre-holiday desserts, the safety desserts to ensure that the holiday goes well. It is only sensible that we get them.

It should be abundantly clear to anyone who knows me that yes, these are indeed my children.


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