Friendships in Barcelona

Posted on October 12, 2014

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For the many times that I have been to Barcelona, it was always primarily to visit my best friend Manel.  But with each trip I find more reasons to come back as I start to build familiarity with the people I meet and the people who makes each visit worthwhile.  Let me tell you the story of why I keep on going back other than the one that got me started loving Barcelona as I do now.

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1. Making New Friends

I met Pere Pagà at Vilafranca del Penedès the first day I started photographing for Catalonia’s Castellers. Manel and I planned for everything how to photograph the human towers but what we cannot really plan for was having a different vantage points to capture the towers in different perspectives.  Most of the images I have taken shows the towers from the street level.  As I was waiting for the collas to start, I was milling among the crowd when Pere approached me and started a conversation about my camera.  Just like any questions I get for anything photography, I think I talked a mile a minute about the camera and Pere and I hit it off really well.  When the collas started signalling the start of the festivities, Pere invited us to his home that happened to be in the same street as where the castells were going to be built.  Suddenly I found a new vantage point that gave me the banner picture of the Catalonia’s Castellers exhibition.  It was such  priceless meeting so to speak.  When I was back in Barcelona this year, I have to come back and say thank you once again: for him letting me take that priceless picture, for him designing my posters and for him taking the time to meet me for a very long lunch with his family.  There is no question I felt so welcome with him and his family.

2. Family lunches, Catalan-style

Each time I visit, I get invited to have lunch with Manel’s family.  I always have regrets not to insist learning basic Catalan.  As I ride that elevator, a tinge of guilt of not doing my homework washes over me but it dissipates right away as I am warmly received as I walk through the door.  Lunches tend to be a really long affair as it comes in four parts, a bowl of warm soup or an appetizer, a rice or noodle/pasta dish and the main dish which has always been fish each time I come and lastly the dessert. For that past visit,  the lunch was a promise of gazpacho, fideua and monkfish filet with pineapple.  As we go through all the good food, I often get more than most of them and they justify it by saying I don’t get to eat it as often as they do.  At the end of it, I am always so stuffed, it would last me through the evening, I don’t have to have dinner.  Each time, I sat there contented, thinking I wished there was a way that I could translate my love of food and how much I appreciate the effort of  preparing such a good meal.  I wish I could express all the questions I have in my head as I taste the food and ask for the recipes and techniques that make them all authentic somehow when I get back to Toronto.   Ah maybe next time, I have to insist to learn Catalan more.

3.  Familiar face at my most favourite foodie trip in Barcelona, Bar Boqueria

For all the good food that I experienced in Barcelona, I find the one that I cannot do without is the tapas bar, Bar Boqueria way back at Mercat De La Boqueria.  A small kitchen in one of the stalls in this very popular market, I enjoy each minute that I spend  sitting in the bar, popping delicious morsels into my mouth.  Since I often come there, I figured that one of the people at the back of the bar is actually Filipino. I always have thought of him as a Kuya, or older brother in Filipino.  It added to that comfort that he’s always there to hand out my favourites each time I visit. He has a no-nonsense way about him, straightforward and swift to serve that gratification always came in just a few short minutes.  The last time we were there, I asked for a recommendation and he said instantaneously, seafood.  So I then agreed when he recommended calamares, thinking it would be the usual deep-fried rings of goodness.  What came was a full grilled calamari, swimming in olive oil and garlic.  Not my usual but the dish was such a delight!  All good things really do come with the simplicity of the food, all fresh, soft, pliant and tender.  Kuya just managed to add another dish to my long list of tapas to eat next time I come back.

There are countless stories that I could tell but it is just not possible to put everything into words.  I just know I would keep on coming back.  I would miss it too much if I stay away too long.