We went to Barcelona last weekend. They talk funny there. Not funny-interesting, either, like,
“These cookies taste funny Malcolm, what did you put in them?
Chili powder and macadamia nuts.
I found the language spoken in Barcelona to be hilarious. Instead of the “S” sound they make a “TH” sound, making comic gold out of otherwise uninteresting sentences (“For thith reathon the Thpanith Empire wath thaved from dethtruction.”) Are you kidding me? I would watch C-Span all day if it sounded like this! (Thee-Thpan!) Most people sound like they have a handful of ham in their mouth when they talk, and I loved every minute of it.
Why do they sound that way? Usually, it’s because they have a handful of ham in their mouth! Only, it’s no ordinary ham. While it’s called ham, it’s totally HINO (Ham In Name Only.) They call it jamón iberico. I call it Porcstasy.
The ham in Spain, the really good stuff, comes from special pigs with special legs that forage around the forest eating special acorns. They lead very pampered lives up until the point at which they are slaughtered. Those special legs are then left to cure for up to four years. (!) After curing, they are brought to a market and stuck in a special vice where artisan butchers slice off paper-thin portions one customer at a time.
One savory sample and your eyes roll into the back of your head while you exclaim, Mary Conchita Alonso Elizabeth Mastrantonio! The acorns give the jamón iberico a truly unique flavor, a rich nuttiness that even the Koch brothers can’t touch. The icing on the ham (mental note: invent icing for ham) is that it is surprisingly high in the mono-unsaturated fats that are actually good for you, meaning that each delicious bite makes your mouth, heart and colon all smile. With so much going for it, we enjoyed quite a bit of ham during our trip.
The main non-ham related reason we were in Barcelona was to watch a soccer match for Malcolm’s birthday. It was supposed to be a slaughter: Malcolm’s soccer idol, Lionel Messi’s FC Barcelona squad was up against one of the cellar dwellers of the Spanish League. It turned out that Messi and several other stars on the team were out due to injuries, meaning a) Malcolm was really bummed at not seeing his hero play, and b) I was excited because the tickets were a lot cheaper. That probably means that I am a bad person, but as long as it’s only “probably,” I am fine with it. The home team still won 4-0 and Malcolm had a great time. He will forever be able to say that he got to watch FC Barcelona win on his birthday, and that is pretty cool. Later, after the game and dinner, Malcolm ate an entire dessert sampler by himself. He had quite the birthday, and will probably be talking about it non-stop, until he starts planning his next birthday (next week!)
By far the highlight, sightseeing-wise, was the church designed by Antoni Gaudi. It’s called Sagrada Familia, which translates roughly to, “You are not going to believe this nutty fucking church.” With it, Gaudi seemed to turn science, art and reality on their respective heads. You walk around looking at everything in/on the church and wonder what happened. It all just looked so … weird. (I imagine it’s the same sensation Lady Gaga’s OB-GYN has during her annual pap smear.) After we left, the three of us just let out a collective, “Whoa.” to what we had just seen. I think I liked it, but I couldn’t tell whether I actually enjoyed the aesthetics of it or just appreciated the different-ness. I loaded some pics to follow the post in case you are interested in seeing some more. Gaudi was an insane genius person.
It seems like we spend the rest of the weekend asking our tour guide stupid questions. We didn’t know who defeated the Romans and the end of the Roman Empire. We didn’t know Spain was neutral during World War II. We couldn’t understand why, if the foundation behind the construction of Gaudi’s church was devoted to Joseph, the church didn’t have more Joseph statues. (The Paul society will be erecting fat-faced statues in every house I ever lived in, I guarantee you that.) I wish you could have seen some of the looks the guide shot us, they were quite amusing. There were times when she contorted her face in disgust at our ineptitude that she looked like a baby excreting in its diaper. The good thing about hiring a guide, though, is that you are paying them to answer all your questions, even the dumb ones. Our guide earned every cent.
When confounding the guide became old hat, we ate. We had a few unhammy meals, and they were pretty awesome. We had delicious paella, outstanding tapas and, after a trip to the Picasso Museum where I proudly announced, “I don’t get it,” we had a proper Spanish lunch. Lunchtime in Spain is a 2-3 hour saga in which the entire country shuts down to enjoy a multi-course meal. I thought it was for sleeping, evidently, it is for eating! Our Comida included the best pork dish ever. Pork shoulder was cooked in pork fat for several hours until until it had the consistency of pulled pork, then it was topped with some crispy pork skin and served with mushrooms and a red wine reduction. To eat it was to feel the sensation of hugging a pig in heaven. Malcolm and Amy had a delicious fish cooked in a thick layer of salt. I don’t remember the dessert because I was in a wine-aided bout of porkphoria. Our lunch lasted 2.5 hours and it made us miss our intended tour of some additional sights. We didn’t cram some more touristy stuff in because we’d rather eat than tour. Period.
You’d think that with all these cool experiences, though, that we would have been the toast of the town. Instead, we were hated in Spain with the fuerza normally reserved for members of the Inquisition, Franco’s secret police and people who don’t like soccer. People would ask us in questions in Spanish or English, and, after giggling about the “TH” sound thing, we’d respond in French. Then we’d correct it to English, translate it into shitty Spanish and then back to English. Then we would try to hide. This is a very difficult way to conduct simple business and generally made things intolerably difficult for everyone involved. We were not popular.
After trying so hard to learn the French way of doing things for the past month and a half, we found it very hard to switch gears. I have to admit, when we got off the airplane in Paris, and were welcomed with, “Bienvenue a Paris!” it was a welcome relief. Barthalona, you are thuper to vithit, but Parith ith where our home ith.
Here are some more Gaudi pics: