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The Spanish intermission

June 28, 2016

I flew from Fes (Morocco) to Barcelona on a Tuesday and back to Marrakech (Morocco) on the following Monday. Yeah, yeah, I’ve been asked already. It made sense for the airfare, alright?

Barcelona was a very living-there kind of experience, probably because we were staying with people who actually, well, lived there. We ate tapas, biked around the various neighborhoods (in San Francisco style, my first question to Gaby in each new neighborhood was, “Is it being gentrified?”), ate gelato, ate more tapas, hung out at local bars and BSed with local people. We all got haircuts from two hip German ladies who owned their own salon and went to European music festivals in their free time. I bonded about rock climbing with Alejandra, a friend of Gaby and Natalia’s, and joined her at a climbing party at a gym owned by Chris Sharma, one of the world’s top climbers and definitely the chillest famous person I’ve ever shaken the hand of.

And then there was Cadaques. If Barcelona was our slumbrous staycation in a gorgeous foreign city, Cadaques was our all-play-and-no-work full-throttle weekend chillout destination. Eat, sleep, repeat.

We did do plenty in Cadaques. Befitting the light hedonism of the weekend, it makes sense to group them by the senses:

Things seen:

  • One fish, two fish: My first scuba trip abroad abroad after recently getting my scuba certification in Monterey. The gruff dive-shop owner looked at us like we were wearing tutus on our heads when we came in on Saturday morning asking to dive, which I later discovered was his default expression with other human beings. The rest of the crew, however, was friendly and helpful. I was paired with Jenna, a college student working the boat for the summer, who patiently gestured to me to stick my hands out in front of me and calmly gain buoyancy as I flailed my arms around attempting to not destroy all the coral around me. By the end of it I was a buoyant enough diver to play kelp pong with her hovering a few feet above the coral beds.

    Some highlights included several schools of variously sized fish, a smattering of starfish on a vertical wall covered in gorgeous red vines, coral and kelp, a tiny school of nearly a hundred little translucent ‘skeleton fish’ (or at least that was the name I made up for them), and these little sea straws with beautiful red sea anemone bouquets that would suck themselves back into the straw as you moved your finger towards it. Unfortunately I’m not yet buoyant enough to attempt underwater pictures.
  • Dali’s house: Salvador Dali had his studio in Cadaques from 1930 to 1982. His house, while interesting, is somewhat disappointing in its homey bourgeoisness—no melting beds or sentient toilets. There were a handful of good curiosities, including a small cage where Dali kept a pet cricket, and his working areas and art supply storage areas are interesting in their own right, though unfortunately both roped off. His backyard fountain waterworks had more of quirky interest, including some Warholesque Firellini tire advertisements and a fountain surrounded by toreadors.
  • My first 5-bounce rock skip: Tom is a good hand at rock skipping so while we waited for admission to Dali’s house I apprenticed under him in the ways of skipping rocks. I’d never done more than 1 before. Expert tip: it’s all about getting low and parallel to the water.
  • Storm clouds coming in off the pier near Dali’s house: Dali had good taste in living locations. His house was surrounded by hills with winding embankment walls and a large beautiful cove, one of the most inviting snorkel locations I’d ever seen. As Sergio and Natalia dropped off Gaby and Tom at the bus to return to Barcelona, I paddled around looking at little mountains of sea plants, transparent little globular creatures who bubbled around on the seafloor, and the occasional bunch of chasable fish. As I pulled myself back onto the pier the skies were turning a dramatic black and the winds were freezing my cojones off as I ran back and forth for warmth.
  • The statue of liberty with two flames: ‘Nuff said.

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Things heard:

  • Dali’s crazy egg room: The star attraction of Dali’s house was a perfectly spherical room that produced a bizarre acoustic illusion—standing in the center of the room, it sounded like the people meters away on the other end of the room were talking directly into your ear.
  • Gangsta’s paradise on the radio: My first time hearing this song in years—if you don’t count the time I heard it on the radio a week before in Cambridge.
  • Cadaques dancing music: A large band of about 20 people were playing in Cadaques’s central square on Sunday, accompanied by people performing a slow repetitive dance holding hands in a circle and moving back and forth. A kind of dance you might accidentally fall asleep doing. If you’ve ever seen the 1970’s television show The Prisoner, it’s like you wandered onto the set while the town band was playing.
  • Church bells every morning and a large thunking noise which might have been a cannonball on Sunday: They really wanted people up for church.
  • More cannonballs: We happened to be in our Airbnb when Barcelona beat Seville in the Copa del Rey soccer finals. Cannonballs appear to be Cadaques’s equivalent of fireworks.

Things eaten:

  • Shrimp carpaccio and razor clams (La Sirena) – These long, thin, fingerlike clams as was shrimp carpaccio were delicious and weird enough for me to devote a whole post to them, neither of which I’d never encountered.
  • Catalan stew (La Sirena) – This rich, thick, spice-and-buttery stew included three kinds of flaky white fish, all of which were tasty in their own way and almost indistinguishable by sight. The large prawns in the mix topped it off nicely.
  • Roasted chicken and potatoes – A simple meal, but my God was it tasty. The roasted chicken was dripping with delicious grease and melt-in-your-mouth skin, while the potatoes were done in South American-style (according to Natalia, half the workers in Cadaques were Bolivian), halved and themselves succulent with oil. A half a cup of mayo and I was a happy sailor.
  • Cream puffs – After eating the aforementioned roasted chicken meal and following it up with these fresh and delicious local cream puffs, all of which on a beautiful sunny patio overlooking the whitewashed houses and blue waters of Cadaques, you could’ve killed me right there and I would’ve had no regrets.
  • A brunch plate of salmon, Spanish ham, nectarines, and cheese – Couldn’t resist a little morning splurge.

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  • Compartir – Compartir was born of former employees of El Bulli, which pioneered much of microgastronomy. From appetizers of salmon roe, crab, avocado and apricot cream plus cod croquettes with honey foam to entrees of catalan-style monkfish and a kitchen-sink lobster looking like something out of a Picasso painting, this meal easily lived up to expectations. And it ended with hazelnut soufflé. I’ll say that again: hazelnut soufflé.

 

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