Wednesday, September 05, 2007

barcelona > amsterdam > london

We left Barcelona one day early. Nicky was jonesin' hard and after a couple of brutal days of work, we wanted to get out of Spain. Work officially ended around Midnight on Saturday when the final table of the EPT Barcelona was complete. A former chess whiz and world class backgammon player from Denmark who turned to professional poker in the last couple of years won 1.1 million Euros for a couple of days of work. Not too shabby.

After the tournament ended, we raced back to the apartment in El Born, dropped off our gear, and headed down to the local bar called The Rocks. One of the bartenders was a good-looking Spanish guy with a perfect American accent and the other bartender was a petite girl with a nose ring who did not wear a bra and she'd ask me "Uno mas?" every time my Carlsberg got low.

We were pretty shitty when we stumbled out of the bar and immediately bought cans of Estrella from a guy with a backpack who sold them in front of the Santa Maria del Mar church. Aside from being a pickpocket or purse snatcher, one of the popular local jobs was to sell cans of beer to people in public squares. Their sales increased substantially once the bars closed. It was sort of like a scene at a Phish concert, with multiple vendors hawking beers for 1.50 Euros.

Late night, I lost a few throwing things prop bets. There's narrow alley that separates our apartment building and the building across the way. Small balconies pepper the old buildings and the bet was to see if I could toss little pieces of a baguette and make it stay on various balconies without falling below to the street. I managed to miss the easy ones and nailed the one balcony with the highest degree of difficulty.

That's when I was offered free money to piss off the balcony. I needed to get unstuck. I whipped it out and let loose. After consuming a fair amount of beer, my tank was loaded and ready to go. I managed to water the spider plant belonging to the woman next door and almost urinated on a couple of people as they walked down the alley below. One of my favorite past times is public pissing and it was a sheer pleasure to get paid to do something I'm passionate about.

We woke up late on Sunday. We rolled out of bed between 2 and 3pm and went to a tapas restaurant around the corner. Within a few minutes of waking up, we were back on the horse drinking Sangria. I ordered a few items that I'd eat like ham croquettes and the potatoes with spicy sauce. Nicky went nuts over the prawns.

After the meal, we walked up the street to the Picasso Museum. There was a special exhibition of photographs by Lee Miller, who took various pics of Picasso over the years.

The Picasso Museum was free and very crowded. It was inspiring and I forgot that Picasso started painting in his early teens and worked into his late 80s. His body of work is phenomenal.

We wandered around Bari Gotic and took pictures before we walked up Las Ramblas one last time and sat in a cafe to drink and play Chinese Poker. We watched the street artists make fun of people as they walked by. We hit up the Irish pub around the corner from the apartment and drank while we watched the Barcelona-Bilabo football match. After that, we drank more wine at dinner at a cheap Italian joint.

I drank a lot in Spain. Beer. Wine. Sangria. I also drank coffee a lot as well, something I rarely do.

On Monday morning, we fled Spain for the comforts of Amsterdam. It was about 15-20 degrees cooler in Holland and I missed my old stomping grounds. I could sense that Nicky was happy to leave Spain and get back to the coffeeshops in Amsterdam.

We arrived in Amsterdam around 12:30 and had about 29 hours before we were supposed to fly to London. Hijinks ensued. Monday and most of Tuesday in Amsterdam was a blur.

We hit up the Harlem Cafe for lunch. They serve funny sandwiches with funky names like the Franky Goat to Hollywood, which is goat cheese, peaches, and honey on a baguette. Their bacon, cheese, and mushroom omelete is the best in Amsterdam.

We arrived in London a little late due to a minor flight delay. The flight was about 45 minutes. We were too lazy to take the train from Heathrow to our hotel near Trafalgar Square. It's expensive to take cabs in London. Since it's technically a business expense, we went for the 60 pound cab ride which is more like $120 US or $60 each. I'm glad that we did because I was able to get a quick view of the surrounding area as our cabbie fought traffic.

The hotel room is fairly large for London standards. We have free wifi which is a blessing. The room is super expensive but it's still cheaper than what other people are paying. It's very close to the Empire Casino (about a five minute walk) and close to a tube station as well.

I told Nicky to get a recommendation for a local curry house. Of course, she comes back with Veeraswamy, which is a high end Indian restaurant located on Regent Street. It was very swanky, yet overpriced. That's the one thing I missed about Spain... the cheap yet good food.

We met Owen, Johnny Mushrooms, and Benjo at a pub near the casino before we called it a night. When I got home, they had a George Michael video on one of the music video stations. It was finally confirmed what I always suspected... that George Michael has his very own channel on British TV.

I have a work meeting at 3pm today and on starting Thursday it's back to 18-20 work days for the next ten straight days. Oh joy. In the meantime, I was given a comprehensive list of things to do by buddy Bartley, a London writer who was kind enough to email me suggestions.

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