I’m a bottle of wine, several razor-thin slices of Iberico ham and one digestif that tastes like burning tires into my afternoon recovery and I am still not emotionally prepared to discuss the heartache involved in finding La Manual Alpargatera, the century-old purveyor of espadrilles deep in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I really should’ve written down the address and not relied on the kooky idea that everyone would be as excited as I was about a sandal shop that’s been around since Wilbur Wright showed King Alfonso XIII the intricacies of his fabulous flying machine.
Alas, that was my first mistake.
My second mistake was a classic Southern one: relying on the kindness of strangers.
The anti-tourist sentiment in Barcelona is somewhat justifiably strong, and although I understand the feeling of having your city ruined by monied interlopers (does anyone remember how cool Austin used to be?) I am pretty much the ideal tourist, so I was surprised that the chill in the air came from the residents, not the weather system.
I mean seriously, I’m friendly, respectful, I speak the language (okay I speak Spanish not Catalan, but for an American that’s not half bad), I not only know, but actively care about how many weeks Carles Puyol, the questionably-coiffed captain of their beloved football team was out with an ugly elbow injury and I always, always differentiate between Catalunya and Spain. Plus I’ve got a big rack, and you know those things are accepted more places than Visa.
Xavi (left) and Carles Puyol could have had a V8.
Thankfully we ran into The Nicest Woman in Catalunya, proprietress of a little specialty food shop near the spectacular Palau de Music who not only laughed with us when she heard the completely awful directions one Barcelona denizen gave us, but drew us a map, and invited us to dinner if we were ever back in town.
We trekked the approximate six million city blocks back to the little shoe shop, located down an appealingly dark alley, spied the hundreds of colorful handmade espadrilles in the window and with a song in our hearts and euros in our pockets grabbed the door handle only to find it was closed.
Defeated, Hot Latin Boy and I slumped into a cab to go back to our hotel for a little siesta and liver damage a few minutes after 4:00. It was then, dear reader, I opened a minimized window on my laptop to discover the shoe shop wasn’t closed for the day. It reopened at 4:30.
I might try my luck again tomorrow if I’m still capable of self-ambulation, but I’ve got a little flamenco shop I want to visit to buy fans for the women in our dance troupe, and I figure I should start drawing a map right now. And also wear a minimizing bra. I tell you, these things are useless.