When I started this blog a couple of years ago, I was living and working in Barcelona, Spain. It was a glorious place and a glorious time. I genuinely loved living there, my wife and I have some very happy memories. We're about to have our first child, a boy, in just under 2 months - we haven't got a name yet, but it could have so easily been Pedro...
Sadly, circumstances conspired against us. Sad family circumstances which still echo through our lives on a daily basis - nothing else could have dragged me away from such a beautiful place, such amazing weather and such interesting people, architecture and culture. However, that doesn't stop me from taking the piss.
Catalan is just one dialect of Spanish, spoken widely in Barcelona. Catalans can be quite patriotic about Catalonia, if not dogmatic. Sometimes they are fiercely anti-Castillian, i.e. the rest of Spain. When my mother visited us one week in May, there was a big Catalan rally in town, the idea being that Catalonia was for the Catalans, and the rest of Spain could sod off, or that's the essence of it at least. I'm sure there were high politics involved along the way.
Mrs. N Senior stood and watched the hordes of squat hairy men gruffly shiffling down the main strip, understanding nothing on the signs - Catalan is unpronouncable and untranslatable at the best of times - but wanted to convey support. "Viva L'Espana!" she shouted, something she'd read on a T-shirt or something I guess... the somewhat secular crowd were not impressed. I bundled her into a taxi and we made a swift exit.
Later in the evening, we went to a tapas restaurant, "Tapes Gaudi" on the Avinguda de Gaudi, just near the incredible Sagrada Familia - if you don't know it, look it up, book a ticket to Barcelona and go, it's amazing, and worth the trip alone. Tapes Gaudi is not. The service was poor, the food expensive, and a general let down to the area and the people. A cynical attempt to rip off tourists who could get that at the KFC just down the street. (Yes, the most beautiful cathedral in the world has a KFC and a Burger King within 20 yards).
What Tapes Gaudi IS worth going for is the menu. No, not the taste, but the translation. It is in Castillian, Catalan and English-ish. I stole a copy, I was so impressed, and it still reduces me to tears on occasion. My favourite has to be "Boquerones en Vinagre" - nothing wrong with that in Spanish, the English "Vinegar big holes" leaves a little more to be desired, or maybe less.
So, wondering exactly what Boquerones en Vinagre actually were, we went back to the flat and used Babelfish to look it up. Babelfish dutifully replied that they were in fact "Vinegar big holes". Hmmm... I wonder how they translated that menu. I genuinely hope they never sort the problem out, I rather like it.
[Boquerones are anchovies by the way, and no, I never did try it, I'm pleased to say.]