Tuesday, November 13, 2007
An American in Barcelona
Remember Tom? The gregarious American stockbroker in his sixties who has been taking Spanish with me and the other girls. Tom is heading back to the U.S. today with his lovely wife, Linda.
The girls and I were heartbroken on Tom's last day. Tom has been entertaining us for an entire month with his good humour and enthusiasm for the language. He first learned Spanish in Mexico 37 years ago, inspired by his friendship with a schoolmate whose family spoke only Spanish. Having found it difficult to keep up the language in Oregon, where he lives, Tom decided to take classes during his month long holiday in Barcelona in order to recuperate his former facility.
Tom was very fond of saying that he was learning "mucho más que español" in our class. And, it's true, between Vanessa's vivid descriptions of carnaval, Bodil's passionate defense of animal rights, Irena's interesting take on organic food and our occasional digressions into boys and sex, a man can learn a little. Whatever he learned, it's clear that Tom fit in perfectly with the girls and that we will all miss him very much.
As for me, I couldn't let Tom go without asking him out at least once. I was a little nervous because no girl likes to be rejected. But, as they say in Spanish, hay que intentar. After class last week, I walked out with Tom and spoke to him in English for only the second time since we’d met. I suggested that Tom, his wife and I go for dinner. Tom seemed interested, but he didn't say yes right away. He had to discuss it with Linda. Clearly, the man had read the Rules somewhere along the way. I walked away somewhat crushed, but still hopeful.
The next day, Tom put me out of my misery. He and Linda were available on Sunday. Perfect. He suggested that we also invite Angels, our tiny shining star of a teacher. Even better. I would make the reservation for four.
Because it was Sunday, we were somewhat limited in our choice of restaurant. Most places in Barcelona are closed on Sunday evenings, if not all day Sunday. And so, we chose Pla (c/ Bellafila 5, 93 412 6552, reservations strongly recommended, see The (Personal) Best of Barcelona). Tom and Linda, who had done a very thorough gastronomic tour of Barcelona in their month here, hadn’t had a chance to go and I had good memories from my last visit. Tom proposed that we also visit La Vinya Del Senyor (Plaça Santa Maria 5, 93 310 3379), a well-stocked wine bar in the Born, for a glass of wine before dinner.
The evening passed in a flash, as the best ones do. We started outside the beautiful Santa Maria del Mar church (pictured above) in front of La Vinya Del Senyor with a bottle of Tom and Linda’s favourite Spanish wine (Tom will have to remind me of the name again; I've now forgotten it twice). Then we walked the few blocks over to Pla and had a great meal. The starters stood out: pineapple carpaccio with steamed prawns; salads of baked queso de cabra, roasted red peppers, dandelion and arugula perfectly married with a beet and balsamic reduction; and a plate of beautifully shaved idiazbal and manchego cheeses with a tomato and rosemary oil marmelade. Those and the banana tarte tatin with pineapple icecream that we all shared. Mmmmm.
There's nothing like first getting to know people that you truly like. We talked about learning languages (for a change, Angels practicing her English instead of Tom and I our Spanish), Spain, Barcelona, life histories, life plans, and countless other things. Tom and Linda gave me their list of Barcelona favourites (Comerç 24 (c/ Comerç 24, 93 319 2102), Gaig (c/ Paseo de Maragall 402, 93 429 1017) and Cal Pep (Plaça Olles 8, 93 310 7961) were at the top). Tom, the perfect gentleman, treated us. He said he wanted to do so to thank Angels for her attention in class and to support the Barcelona Food Girl.
Thank you, Tom, for everything. I sincerely hope that we’ll keep in touch.