I have known Barcelona for many years, I saw it grow and clean itself up, from before the 1982 FIFA World Cup to the Olympic Games, until yesterday. And in this cleaning up, the disappearing of dog shits from the streets and of paper serviettes from the floors of the cafés, the town’s transformation into an international capital where high end brands compete for a shop window on the Passeig de Gràcia… yesterday I found a piece of my childhood memories, the town portrayed in the comics by Carlos Gimenez, which I discovered more than thirty years ago on a Sunday morning at the Mercat de Sant Antoni.
The world has changed, friendships that once used to appear and vanish in the distance and over time, are now maintained in a strange and impersonal place that is called facebook where you read their posts at night, so I read the post of a friend that I haven’t seen for twenty years and that maybe I won’t see anymore, which recommended Celler Ca La Paqui, so my colleague and I decided to go there, and became enthusiastic and decided to see also other places recommended by this #amicoblu, who has a blog – mededebebe.com i.e. moviment de defensa de les bodegues de barri – and who with the sentence “think global, drink local” devotes himself to sip vermouth and protect small and traditional Catalan cafés. Rarities, little jewels of a daily life that is disappearing. We didn’t have much time, so we visited only three of them: Celler Ca La Paqui, La Bodega d’en Rubén and Bar Bodega Montse.
Sitting at the counter of these “bodegas” we have learnt the art of vermouth accompanied with traditional tapas such as tortilla de patatas but also morro de cerdo, molletes de Pringá... I had a chat with Rubén (La Bodega d’en Rubén) as if I came from Barrio Xino too, helped by the fact that I am a friend of the blogger – who is a regular customer – and I come from South America like the manager and some of the female customers of the café. We began to talk about our lives, sipping vermouth after vermouth, taking our time, and I was adopted at once. During the breaks when Rubén had to serve drinks to his customers, who in a relaxed but steady way kept on ordering, I looked around and listened to the lives of the other people and dreamt of a place like this where I could go sometimes, even alone, near my home, where I could sit and interact with those strange characters… The prostitutes of the carrer Robador went in and out between a client and another to drink a cold beer and have a chat and a little rest, or carried their beer outside and sipped it at the door in order not to overlook their work. A man was steadily watching TV. A woman with long hair streaked with gold and Andalusian air was listening to a man sitting in front of her – probably a fibber – as he gesticulated and offered her a drink.
Two fat and dark women were sitting at a coffee table with a man as fat and dark as them who was offering them some gin tonic, which they accepted telling him that they were not interested in having other affairs.
I found myself close to the real life I had only read about, but that had always fascinated me. It was like being in the Catalan version of the café in Irma La Douce.
In this esquina, de Barcelona, I left mi corazón.
La Bodega d’en Rubén
Carrer d’en Robador, 33
Bar Bodega Montse
Carrer de l’Arc de Sant Agusti, 5
Celler Ca La Paqui
Carrer de Sant Joan de Malta, 53