There is no place like home and nothing more comforting than a hot cup of soup, especially when you are sick as a dog. Let me rewind and tell you about our recent (November of 2010) almost disastrous visit to Barcelona, Spain.
I asked my wife to join me at the end of a business trip to Barcelona. My mother-in-law was in town and she was nice enough to agree to look after our children. I made my hotel reservation at the new W Hotel Barcelona or as the locals call it Otel Doble Ve. Things started great. I have the dubious honor of being a Platinum member of Starwood Hotels which include W, Westin, and others. So I was upgraded to a suite with the view of the Mediterranean, “Wow” lighting, remote controlled curtains, rain forest shower and more. I looked forward to my wife arriving to town.
In the mean time, I went out during the night time to case out good restaurants to impress her. I found a great tapas place called Cerveceria Catalana in the fashionable Eixample district. I also discovered few other great cozy places in the area of La Rambla. So when she arrived in mid-week, I was filled with excitement and was restless to hit the streets and take her around town. We first went to Cerveceria Catalana and ordered numerous glasses of Rioja and countless montaditos (piece of bread with various toppings). After a few hours, we hopped into a cab and went to La Rambla. We started at the beginning of the street and slowly strolled down, watching the crowds, the street vendors, and the old buildings that hug the street on both sides. Almost at the end of the street I spotted one of the side streets that I had located out earlier in the week. We walked into the narrow street and quickly went into another Tapas bar.
After few more glasses of Spanish red wine and more montaditos, we decided to head down further into the street. Time was 10PM and the street looked more deserted than earlier. You could still see all of the shops and restaurants that were open. We passed by few young Americans and locals going or coming back from other Tapas bars. We also detected few young guys hanging out in the middle of the street and decided to head back out to La Rambla. Two of the young guys caught up with us and started to speak to us English about some Flamenco show that we could go see for free. In one hand they had what looked to be free coupons. Unbeknownst to us, their other hand was busy trying to pick pocket whatever they could find in our coat pockets. We noticed what they were up to and fought them in the middle of the street. In the end, we hit them hard, but they ran away with one of our BlackBerries.
We tried psychologically to bounce back up from this incident. But it was hard. We went out to dinner with friends. What else but to eat Tapas of course. Those delicious montaditos started to look mundane and repetitive. We started to talk about how the Spaniards/Catalonians needed to eat more legumes and vegetables. We consumed considerably less wine and food. There was the traditional Patatas Bravas, sliders with foie gras and of course Pan con Tomate. We hurried back to our hotel room since my wife had already started to feel sick to her stomach.
No sooner than we got back to our hotel, she became sick to her stomach and frequently visited the bathroom until the next morning. We stayed in the hotel room until 6PM before we could venture out the next day. We visited few of the landmarks and walked down the famous shopping street Paseo de Gracia. All of a sudden, I started to feel sick with muscle aches and a general discomfort in my stomach. We went back to our hotel and I spend the night and the next day, mostly in the bathroom or horizontal on the bed. We calculated that stayed in bed for 16 hours straight.
In bed and sick, we started to watch TV. The only English channels available were BBC and CNN and to our surprise we found out that the air traffic controllers of Spain were now on a strike and that the air space to Spain was completely closed off. So now we were sick and unable to take a plane to get back to our kids. I felt really bad for the striking air traffic controllers when I found out that the government was trying to cut their annual salary from $475,000 to $250,000. Yes, you read this correctly. Air traffic controllers in Spain are making $475,000 while the Prime Minister of Spain is making $150,000. The average salary in Spain is $20,000 with a 20% unemployment rate. Loco!
We started to say “what more can go wrong with this trip?” If we could only have some soup, we could surely feel better and less lethargic. I told my wife, Turks love soup and I know a nearby Turkish restaurant. Let’s go and have lentil soup with lots of lemon juice. We got into a cab and arrived at our restaurant only to find out that they were the only Turkish restaurant in the world not serving any soup. We asked the not so friendly owner where we could find vegetable or chicken soup to make us feel better he looked into our eyes and emotionlessly said, “nowhere.”
Disappointed we left without eating anything. To our left was a mini market. Surely they sold some Asian soup we thought. And indeed they did. We bought 2 Cup of Noodles and fresh bread. Went back to W and asked for a large pot of hot water. We ate our cup of noodles and felt 100% better. The next day, the skies were free for travel and everyone was back to work. We went to the airport at 4AM in the morning to catch our flights back to DC. When we arrived at home, a large pot of Chicken Noodle Soup was waiting for us. We came to a few conclusions on this trip. As nice as it is to get away sometimes, we promised to never leave on vacation without our kids. We were glad to be back home with them and we were no longer Soupless in Barcelona.