Monday, February 20, 2012

from Barcelona, my gift to you

Towards the end of our stay in Barcelona, we discovered a bar named D-luz near our hotel, which specializes in "gintonics", which is what Catalonians call "gin and tonics."  These gintonics were very creative, using only gin and tonic water for fluids but adding a bizarre-to-the-American-eye assortment of solid ingredients selected to complement each of a large number of gins.

Over the course of a couple visits, between the two of us the Sober Husband and I got through every gintonic on the menu, a feat which the inordinately handsome metrosexual bartender congratulated us upon enthusiastically.  My favorite of these gintonics was the one that seemed the strangest to me, and here is how it was made for me:

Take a large, sturdy stemmed glass (like the one in the picture above).  Slice up some fresh strawberries and strew many of the slices in the glass.  To the extend you can pound them without breaking the glass, do so with whatever pounding implement you have on hand.  Add a lot of ice to the glass.  Pour in a shot of Tann's (a Spanish gin I had never heard of before).  Next, gently insert a grooved pouring-stick into the glass (I dont even own such a thing, but am determined to acquire one).  Pour Schweppes tonic over this stick, so that not a single bubble forms due to some physics concept which the Sober Husband immediately grasped.  Fill glass to top.  Give it a little stir with the grooved pouring-stick.  Take a generous pinch of chocolate sprinkles, the ordinary kind which you might put on a child's ice cream cone, and add to the glass.  Que aproveche!

Friday, February 17, 2012

the artisanal cocktails and costumed children of Cataluña

Last night we stopped by a bar around the corner from our hotel, a bar specializing in "gintonics", which is what Barcelonans call that alluring mixture of gin with tonic water.  However.... this bar had shelves and shelves of gins, and the owner had created a special "gintonic" around each gin.  The only fluids involved were gin and Schweppes brand tonic water, so technically these were gin and tonics.... but.... I HAD A GIN AND TONIC WITH MUDDLED FRESH STRAWBERRIES AND WITH LITTLE CHOCOLATE SPRINKLES IN IT, like you'd put on an ice cream cone.  AND I LIKED IT.  There were gintonics with pomelo, with nutmeg, with little sticks of licorice...  The Sober Husband had one with fresh apple slices.

A big TV screen behind the bar played the local version of old-MTV-when-it-played-music-videos, but without the sound while instead American pop music blared.  This was disconcerting.  A crazed gin genius spent a very large amount of time making our cocktails, and his assistant spoiled us with countless dishes of amazing olives and nuts.

All I know is that when I am back home, I am buying some chocolate sprinkles from the ice cream section, and I am putting them in my cocktails, and no one will stop me.

Today we took a road trip to a seaside town an hour away, to see some remarkable Roman ruins and a cathedral which features ancient Catholic art portraying rats staging a funeral for a cat, who comes back to life.  Heartbreakingly the cathedral closed just as we showed up, at only 2:00, and we were despondent and walked about sadly with our heads down.  "Tancat, why'd it have to be tancat?" we complained, having just learned the Catalan word for "closed" that day [a big part of the Roman ruins were also "tancat"].  Then we came upon a parade.  It was a very big parade, composed exclusively of very small children and people who were presumably their parents and teachers.  The parade had a large section of children dressed as "construction workers of tomorrow", lots of mice, a lot of little wolves accompanied by Red Riding Hoods, and then, most fascinating to me, the parade ended with a group of very little children dressed in the local street cleaning uniforms.  We were enchanted, and our hearts, so disappointed by the tancat-ness of the cathedral, lifted.  "It reminds me of how when I was studying Russian, we learned how to say, 'ever since I was a small child, I dreamed of being a collective farm worker'," I said.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

todavia en Barcelona

 Bonding with the pigeons of Barcelona.

 Contemplating the majesty of the gothic cathedral of Barcelona.

Back to the pigeons!  They loved me, and I loved them.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

En Barcelona: day II

Most of our day today was lost to jet lag.  We didn't leave the hotel until after 3:30 p.m.  We had a parental-guilt inspired lengthy reunion with Iris uber Alles over video (little Lola being too busy baking brownies with her grandmother to come to the computer).

Today I took Anton for a surprise walk, telling him nothing and making him follow me, when we ended up at La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's big unfinished cathedral. He freaked out in ecstasy at the crazy architecture inside. It was a big success on my part in planning a surprise outing. I spent over 135 euro on a scarf (but a really amazing scarf, a crazy beautiful black and gray scarf) and a more realistic 5 euro on a pair of gloves. IT IS REALLY FREAKING FREEZING HERE, SO MUCH COLDER THAN THE GUIDEBOOK SAID IT WOULD BE. I AM SO COLD. Tomorrow I plan to buy a winter coat and take a walking tour of the Modernisme architecture.

We saw thee of Gaudi's most famous buildings today (inside of one, I bought the 135 E scarf, which is truly fabulous). Our own hotel, the Casa Fuster, is a masterpiece of Modernisme.

 In the evening, we took advantage of our fancy suite's two person bathtub with jets, which allowed us to warm up after our walk to La Sagrada Familia.   Afterwards, we slipped down to the hotel's bar, which is a mix of Dr. Seuss and Gaudi, where the drinks were extremely expensive but also very generously poured.  We longed for the children to be present, as any middle-aged parent would.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

en Barcelona

It's 9:07 P.M. in San Francisco and 6:13 A.M. local time in Barcelona. I'm wide awake while the Sober Husband sleeps peacefully. I'm drinking weird not-available-in-US sodas from the minibar which cost me 5 euros apiece, and I will regret that when check-out time rolls around, but I can't resist, and chatting online with Iris. The internet allows near-constant parent-child communication, at least with one child. The other child is too busy playing board games with her grandmother to come to the computer to say hello to her absent mother.

We were exhausted when we got here last night, but we walked around for a long time and went to a restaurant/bar inhabited by Barcelona hipsters, all wearing gray sweaters & glasses with heavy frames. I have not seen another American yet apart from my own husband. We ate "natxos" (I will forever spell "nachos" that way) and the best olives and drank a lot of a local wine.

 My Castilian Spanish only goes so far here, as everything is in Catalan. Today my goal is to go find some of the Gaudi buildings and drink more Fanta Limon, my favorite soda from when I studied in Madrid as an undergrad.

I am feeling like a plutocrat in our hotel; the Sober Husband always wants to stay at 5 star hotels, and we got upgraded to a suite for no apparent reason. I think we could afford to take more vacations if we stayed at crappy hotels -- my ex and I used to stay at the worst places, including notably a hotel in Mexico with bedbugs and one in Paris with roaches and horrible stains everywhere which was so filthy that at one point I had a freakout -- but I have to admit that this suite is fucking fantastic. We have four small but luxurious rooms and a huge balcony which makes me want to get a megaphone and shout things at people going by. "This is where I will give my speeches," I said to the Sober Husband when we discovered our balcony. "Just like Franco," he said approvingly.

Thursday, February 09, 2012


Lately we've been loving the food truck craze.  Our family's favorite food truck is Señor Sisig's, which provides Mexican food with a Filipino flavor.  We are all dying to try the Creme Brulee truck, which we have seen occasionally parked down at the gas station at Castro and 18th Street but only when we were all too well-fed to stop for creme brulee.  And then on a recent date night, the Sober Husband and I caught sight of Eire Trea, an Irish-Eritrean food truck, shut down at a parking lot.  We can only dream of what it has to offer...  I paced around its exterior impatiently, but there were no menus in sight.  Colcannon wrapped up in injeera bread?  I can only dream.

Monday, February 06, 2012

"children just want their parents to be happy"

I brought home a laminated street map of Barcelona, which I was very happy to find as soon the Sober Husband and I will be traveling there for our first child-free vacation since procreating nearly 13 years ago.  Little Lola spat at the map and said she was going to cut out the part which showed where our hotel was (so presumably we wouldn't be able to find our way to our reserved room).

Earlier in the day a child who shall remain unnamed picked a fight with me because I refused to go into detail about something I'd done.  "I don't have any secrets from your father, but I can from you," I noted.

The child's face settled into firm disapproval.  She spat out, "He thinks it's okay for you to do anything that makes you happy!"  Clearly I need a different authority to answer to, one less permissive than my spouse.  I should settle under the yoke of my child overlord.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

depressed depressed depressed

Life has no flavor or joy for me (and I'm not even a football aficionado).

I'm slogging my way through "Los Detectives Salvajes" by Roberto Bolaño, currently on page 520, and enjoying only one out of every fifteen pages or so.  How did this become an international blockbuster?  And why did I devote so much energy into obtaining a copy in the original Spanish?

I'm having that horrible feeling again, that I myself am so profoundly unlikeable by my basic nature, not through anything I do or say.

And of course being in a funk like this is asinine.  I have a lovely, lovely life.  Only a horrible person would be unhappy in such a delightful set of circumstances as mine.  The only thing which makes sense as kickstarting this funk is that I had to give up my three foster kittens yesterday, the last from the season.  The vet at the city pound joked with me that the head of my rescue is also at loose ends, given that it's a drought year so there's no good skiing to be had and that we don't have newborn kittens yet.  Crazy cat ladies, maybe it's our time of the year to be down.