VEGAN VENTURES ACROSS THE POND PART III: BARCELONA

The last leg of my trip, it all terminates in Barcelona—a choice city, where the party starts at two in the morning, and prostitutes and pickpockets are just as much of the city’s cultural repertoire as Picasso and Ghadi architecture.

When I first stepped off the shuttle bus that took me from the airport to the center of Barcelona, I was struck by the heat. London and Paris had been tepid, always cool enough for a sweatshirt, while Amsterdam constantly chilled me with its and refusal to quit raining. Barcelona on the other hand seemed like a tropical island with its high temperatures from dusk ‘til dawn, and palm trees that protrude from the pavement of the city’s streets.

My hostel sat in a courtyard that bordered the infamous Las Ramblas—a nauseating tourist trap of a street. Lining the sides of Las Ramblas are shops stocked with kitschy paraphernalia and obnoxious shirts that cater to the lowest common denominator. Cutting the street in half is a strip of pavement designated for kiosks, street performers, street vendors, and at times, three card monte games played for €50 Euros a hand.

Eatin’ on the Cheap (again)

Although I did my best to budget throughout my trip (see eating lentils on Paris sidewalk in rain), I still knew my savings were wearing thin, so I returned to my old friend, fallafel. Fortunately for me, Las Ramblas is blessed with two Maos falafel chains. I made great use of them and dropped €5 Euros for a sandwich packed with as much salad, hummus and tahini as I could fit, many times for breakfast lunch and dinner.

For snacks or mid-morning hangover meals, I sometimes bought a stale baguette and an avocado. During my twenty-two years in the U.S. I rarely ate avocado, except when I ordered guacamole on my burrito. In Barcelona my newly acquired friends and hostel roommates, who also happened to be vegetarians, introduced me to its merits, notably its health benefits.

In Massachusetts, the imported avocado appears puny, shriveled, and overpriced, but in Barcelona it is a common commodity sold cheap and ripe at any market. Besides a delicious taste, it has numerous health benefits. According to Health Online Zine, it controls blood pressure, helps keep your heart healthy, regulates blood sugar levels, increases nutrient absorption, and for those of us who sometimes do not adequately pack on the pounds, it helps with weight gain, “The avocado has 200 calories for 100 grams. Due to the high amounts of calories, avocado is a best diet for people who want to gain weight. Avocado is a healthy source of calories, unlike many other calorie-dense foods that may contain excess saturated fats and sugar.” Wow!

Juicy Jones

The walls of this hippie-esque joint, were painted a vibrant pink, blue and green, slightly messily but obviously with the intent of portraying a fun and carefree atmosphere. The main seating was a metal bar with stools that served as both the place to eat and the place to serve food. Cheery lounge music from the earlier half of the twentieth century intermixed with humming of blenders and the sounds of passerby tourists.

Juicy Jones ‘s name was fitting; much of their menu was comprised of different fruity concoctions. I chose manzana kiwi. For lunch I ate a tofu sandwich, which came with two thick and slightly hard pieces of bread, a generous portion of well-prepared tofu and an excellent spread. Also on the menu were other bocadillos (sandwiches), tapas, desserts and milk shakes.

Cat Bar

I like to think fine vegan food comes to you when you are ready for it, and sometimes you need to stumble upon it by accident, to make it that much better. One evening while I tramped about the city and bounced from one bar to the next exploring streets and neighborhoods, I walked past a bar and noticed the word vegan on the sign. I immediately inquired the hip couple sitting next to the entrance what the address was of where I stood. “I’m vegan and I want come back here tomorrow,” I explained. They handed me a piece of paper that said “Cat Bar” at the top and towards the bottom had a tiny map showing the establishment’s whereabouts—right off Via Laietana near the Jaume metro stop. Perfect.

The next day I did return and was pleased to see a simple menu with a fine selection of dark and hardy beers. I ate an excellent vegan burger with fries for an affordable price, along with a heavy brew that acted like the metaphorical cherry on top. To make the meal even better I ate with a fellow American and vegan. He was a landscape architect from Portland, Oregon (the second vegan from Portland I met in Barcelona) and he was in Spain to rock climb; supposedly there are rock faces over the ocean where you climb and then fall into the water. He made good conversation and had no qualms in discussing his hard line stance towards eating local, eating earnest, and his approval of direct action.

The end of the trip had come, signified by the ATM telling me there was no more cash to dispense. I slept in the airport the night before my journey home, sad that my first cross-continental adventure had come to a close, but happy to come home to a girlfriend, friends  and a city I did not need a map to navigate. Cheers.

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