Heaven, I'm in heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
And then, of course, there's the "cheek to cheek" business of the Irving Berlin classic, but I never get to that part when I'm singing the song in my head these days. "I'm in heaven" is on a permanent loop.
Indeed, heaven is the luscious slice of bliss that is currently Barcelona: cotton candy cumuli bobbing on periwinkle skies, whispering oak canopies shading the grand boulevards, terrace gardens erupting in flower, choirs of birds singing the city awake, a heat that hasn't lost its kindness, and a slight breeze ruffling the scarves that cling stubbornly to Barcelona necks despite forecasts of a balmy 25C. It's the kind of ephemeral perfection that leaves one wandering the city in a bemused trance hoping that the reverie never ends.
Actually, the best part is that it's only just beginning. Tourist invasion aside, spring and summer in Barcelona are an absolute wonder and, whether you're a hardened Barcelona resident or a wide eyed visitor, I recommend celebrating their glory with a picnic.
Your picnic need not be elaborate. You can make do with a couple of sandwiches and a bottle of wine or maybe even a cava if you're hoping to get lucky. Throw in a brownie or a punnet of strawberries or perhaps both and you have a veritable feast. All you need to worry about is the blanket as I'm about to take care of the rest.
In terms of ready-made picnic supplies, Barcelona abounds with bakeries and food shops to cater to your every need. In a pinch, try the sandwiches and cakes at the Eixample's Mauri Pastelería (www.pasteleriasmauri.com, tarts and croquettes of all kinds are a particular treat)) or at Garriga (c/ Consell de Cent 308, tel. 932 157 215, the plum cake (in Spanish, "ploom cake") is particularly delicious); more elaborate take away plates and generous American style desserts at Born Cooking (www.borncooking.com, excellent if you're missing carrot cake or chocolate chip cookies); a variety of ready made dishes, including traditional favourites, at Pim Pam Plats and its sister restaurant Pim Pam Burger in the Born (pimpamplats.com); delectable baked goods at the recently opened Atlanta bakery (c/Princesa, just off of Via Laietana, beware of the baffling lack of reasonable take away containers, particularly as there's nowhere to eat inside) [NOTE 17-08-2009: Atlanta closed as rapidly as it opened; in its place, and under the same name, you can now find a women's clothing store]; wine and just about any canned product at the Eixample's Colmado Quilez (Rambla Catalunya 63, tel. 932 158 78; in a nod to old timey redundancy, get the cashier to total your purchase, take the receipt to the woman at the door to pay and return with the stamped receipt to pick up your purchase from the cashier); and, if you're feeling a little more hands on and up for adventure, anything and everything at the spectacular Boquería Market (www.boqueria.info).
Ferreting out the perfect location is also a breeze these days. Some of the best picnic spots in Barcelona can be found on the steamy beaches with their buzzing boardwalks and chiringuitos (venture past Barceloneta and Puerto Olympico for fewer American teenagers); on the shady slopes of Montjuic--best experienced while watching an outdoor movie with your picnic dinner (check out www.salamontjuic.com for this summer's movie schedule, screenings start June 29 and continue to the end of July); amid Ciutadella Park's tree-lined hive of activity, whether during a concert (the Musica Classica als Parcs concert series is scheduled for Thursdays and Fridays at 10pm in Ciutadella and Turo Parks between July 2 and 24, 2009) or an impromptu juggling rehearsal; within the idyl of Gaudi's Parque Guell (brave the crowds at the entrance and on the fabulous tiled terrace and make your way to the rustic aqueducts lined with alcove benches); and, if you're in the mood for a subway ride (Mundet or Valldaura metro stops on the Green Line (L3)), lost in the childish pleasure of the the living labyrinth in the Parque del Laberinto de Horta. For more information about Barcelona parks, gardens and beaches check out the Parks and Gardens portion of the City's website at www.bcn.es/parcsijardins.
Oh, and one more thing, if you're lovers, or maybe even if you're not, take along a book of the now deceased Mario Benedetti's poems, as Felipe and I did this week, and select a few to read out loud over a glass of wine on the grass.