Another lifetime ago I was a swinging London gal. I lived and worked there for three wonderful years, and loved every minute of it. I still hold an enormous fondness for the City, and its people. But my real love rests with two gorgeous women I was lucky enough to meet living in the same apartment block as me – Joyce, a single lady at the time, and Sue, with hubby Stuart and baby Jack (since then Joyce acquired a husband, Cedric, and Sue and Stu added the lovely Lizzie and Alice to the family).
I have kept in touch with these wonderful women over the past 32 years. We celebrated my 50th birthday with a girls road trip to the South of France, and we have now celebrated my (and Sue’s) 60th with a crazy weekend in Barcelona, together with our boys, who bless them, just went with the flow and let us girls have a fabulous knees up, in a fabulous city.
Pete and I arrived at the perfect time – lunchtime – on Friday. They had already installed themselves in our Air BnB apartment, only to find that the sheets had definitely seen better days – and, to add insult to injury, there was only 1 wine glass, 1 cava glass and 3 tumblers (2 of which were Nutella jars) for the 6 of us. Sue went into action with the managing agent, and of course by the end of the day we had brand new sheets, a new set of tumblers and a free bottle of cava. Do not mess with The Dowden!!
We dumped the suitcases and headed over the road, literally, to a tiny (and I mean tiny) tapas bar called Quimet y Quimet (Poeta Cabanyes,25) considered by many to be THE best tapas bar in Barcelona – and it was opposite our apartment. How good is that! We squeezed ourselves in, and two and a half hours later emerged – having talked, laughed, eaten and drunk non stop.
How the staff cope in those cramped conditions, and keep track of what people order, is beyond me. One of the ladies ran the show with a firm hand, and it all seems to work like clock work.
Back to the apartment for a brief rest before we set off to find the temple to jamon we had discovered last trip – Reserva Iberica. In we piled and gleefully ordered 2 platters of jamon, a plate of Catalan tomato bread and a bottle of cava. Happy days. The jamon was like nothing we have tasted – it had been aged for 50 months; one platter was from pigs from the North, the other from pigs from the South and they tasted quite different, but both were delicious.
Entree done and dusted we headed back in the general direction of the apartment (which was in Poble Sec) to find somewhere for main course. We found a little restaurant serving typical Catalonian food, all red & white gingham table cloths and old photos on the wall. A bottle of Rioja was ordered, food sorted, perfecto (even if Stu did end up overdosing on sausages!). It was then a short stagger back to the apartment.
Bit of a slow start the next morning (surprise, surprise) but we had a plan – brunch at the Mercat Boqueria. And what a brunch it was, fabulous food at El Quim de la Boqueria. Again, jam packed, guys busy busy behind the bar, numerous people in the party ordering at different times – but, it all worked. We sampled a wonderful squid & egg dish, sautéed wild mushrooms, oxtail ragout, stuffed squid, and potato tortilla. All yummy, yummy, yummy. The time clicked over very easily, but people were hovering for our stools, so we decided it was time to move on.
Kiosco la Cazalla (Carrer de l’Arc de Teatre) claims to be the smallest bar in Barcelona. It is a hole in the wall and a couple of stools, but boy it makes a mean Mojito, and plays some groovy music. Two mojitos later, Sue and I were dancing up the laneway, feeling no pain.
I had to have a lie down in the afternoon, overwhelmed by the bonhomie as I was. Pete and I then threw on some glad rags and raced up to Placa Espanyol to meet Norm & Dianne ( his brother and sister in law) who by chance were in Barcelona for the night on a whirlwind bus tour of Europe, what are the chances?! We had a drink with them on the rooftop bar of their hotel before hoofing it back to the Old Quarter to join the others for dinner at a restaurant Sue had discovered on her wanders during the day – a free drink plus a guitarist, what more could you want?! Especially when the guitarist played Delilah and we sang along with gusto. Food was edible too, so bonus. An amble home through the Barcelona streets saw us home about 11.30pm.
Sunday was our last morning together – breakfast of a jamon & tomato bocadillo, fresh orange juice and a cafe con leche at the little place at the corner of the street, all for 6 Euros a person. A good start to the day, followed by a bit of sightseeing before all meeting at Casa Delfin (Passeig del Born, 36) for a late and long lunch. It was terrific – fabulous staff, really good food and a warm and welcoming environment. Perfect.
When we finally emerged we sent the boys off to watch the Rugby World Cup at a nearby Irish pub, while we three girls spent the last couple of hours together. We ended up at another Barcelona institution, Els Quatre Gats (Montsio,3,bis), where we were served by an absolute hoot of a waiter and next thing we know it we (well, Sue and I anyway, Joyce was more sensible) are ordering gin & tonics, and watching the ‘boss’ and his gin making performance – chilling the glass,the addition of spices, then orange peel, then the slow pouring of the tonic down the swizzle stick so that the bubbles are not broken (!). Worth every cent. Chin chin.
And then our wonderful time together was over. Joyce & Cedric headed into the sunset, and we were four. This morning, we left Sue and Stu after breakfast and made our way to the airport. The Dancing Dowdens would leave sometime after. Here’s to our next time ladies, what fun we had. XXX