That’s the official name I guess, but taxi drivers just say Barceloneta; it’s a little triangle of Barcelona enclosing Port Vell, the Old Harbor. It’s not fancy but it’s nice, and it’s not like any neighborhood I’ve stayed in before.
I had a decent Airbnb on Carrer de Grau i Torras — gotta love those Catalan names. I assume Carrer means something like “alley”; here it is.
My tiny flat had a washer but no dryer, because everyone’s balcony has a little clothesline. This was a thirteen-day trip so I needed to launder, and remembered my Mom telling me that you put the shirts on the outside and the undies on the inside so as not to be vulgar.
Did I mention it isn’t fancy? I landed at seven-PM-ish and was glad I’d accepted the Airbnb pro-property-manager’s offer of a driver, a cool Bolivian named Omar. By the time Omar and I had found the right carrer and The Guy With The Key and got me in it was nine-PM-ish. I was hungry and thirsty and lacking a Spanish SIM, but in Spain that’s no problem because everything’s open late. An hour’s walking around yielded milk, Special K, and fruit for breakfast, and a store with Móvil on the sign outside sold me a nice Orange endless-data SIM for €15, plus the welcoming Móvil dude (who was simultaneously helping a burqa’d lady in Arabic) took care of getting me onboarded. It was so nice being the tech-clueless yokel helped out by someone friendly and competent that I threw another €10 worth of voice minutes on the account just to be nice, but then I ended up needing to do a telecon later in the week, so serendipity all around.
Of course in Spain you can’t have a SIM without having your identity established, and unfortunately I’d left my passport in the Airbnb, but fortunately if you’re willing to recite a plausible letters-and-numbers passport-number combo to the Móvil dude he’ll take your word for it. I even gave him my real passport number, then wondered why, after all there might have been an opportunity for anonymous æsthetic terrorism.
I mostly only got to walk around Barceloneta at night, and the pictures I took suggest it’s all seedy and poor.
But it isn’t. The flats-with-balconies lifestyle encompasses a variety of demographics; this for example fronts on a nice square and suggests that the places inside are pretty pleasant.
I liked it; there’s visual wealth in every direction.
It’s a beach neighborhood; one time when I walked by the sea after dark, a big black guy was running a bootcamp fitness thing on the sand in American-accented English. Looked like healthy fun.
Also, it’s kind of a party zone; restaurants everywhere. Since I was attending MWC where I didn’t actually know anyone, I ended up having a couple of solo dinners. Which wasn’t terrible, actually.
Just like here in Vancouver, competition is tough and a lousy restaurant just isn’t going to make it. In the example above, the salad was fresh but unexciting, the fries were way above the world average, and as for the fish, they had three kinds on special, and my Spanish wasn’t good enough to recognize any of ’em, but it was up to asking the waiter which was best; he recommended this and wow, it was excellent.
The other night I ate alone I was tired so picked the closest place. The TV there was showing the Champions League, ManU vs Real Madrid; my table was next to the bar, and at the bar was a pulchritudinous Mancunian ESL teacher whose boyfriend worked at the restaurant. Pretty soon I was her fútbol friend and thus the restaurant’s too, and the evening turned out OK.
It’s a nice neighborhood, I unhesitatingly recommend it.