Although I am utterly intrigued by it, Barcelona is not an easy place to understand.
We took our girls out for a walk along Avenida Portal de l'Angel yesterday morning around 10 am, in search of breakfast pastries and coffee. As we walked, Raf said, "Check out the guy on my left." As I craned my neck (to the right; sometimes it takes me a moment to process directions), Raf said, "Oh, you gotta be kidding me. You don't see that guy? Quick!" When I turned to the left, I caught a glimpse of an older man, shirtless, with the tattoo of a pair of underwear on his groin/buttocks region. That wasn't the odd part, oh no. *That* was swinging proudly in the front. (You read that right: not only was he naked and "wearing" a tattoo of shorts, but he was hanging like a bull. Raf couldn't stop talking about it. "If I was a short little guy with something like that, I'd probably walk around naked, too.") Of course, Emme saw it, too, and said, "Looks like a big
hot dog swinging around."
That goes into the "Something I've Never Seen Before" category.
Our hotel, the Hotel Neri, is a newly renovated 13th century palace, a tiny jewel box within the Gothic Quarter. It surrounds a quaint, charming fountain-centered plaza called the Placa de San Felip Neri, which is touted in several guidebooks as an oft-overlooked but important gathering spot. I've read that Antoni Gaudi attended the church there, and in non-summer months a school uses the square as its playground. The interior of our rooms is beyond gorgeous and the windows with their crystal-chain curtains beg to be opened. However, the plaza is sort of a hobo village at night (for Barcelo-bo's) and Raf and I watched, spellbound, as an old drunk hobo disrobed and bathed in the fountain while tourists stood by, captivated as we were. He splashed and smoked an old cigarette and reached for a blow-up raft that he'd probably brought as a makeshift air mattress. It was still light outside, not quite sunset time. Hobo bath time, apparently. Later that night, when Raf and I went down to have dinner at the acclaimed and ultra-posh hotel restaurant downstairs, I could see the fountain and its inhabitants clearly from the window by the bar, but no one seemed to even care that there were hobos outside, just went on with their meals.
Full of surprises, this Barcelona.