Wrapping up our trip after Menorca was about seeing folks we haven’t seen for a while and catching up on what’s trending. In Barcelona, we had a great meal with Pep and Eulalia at their flat in a traditional manzana before going out to see the city from up high and the fountain of lights at Mount Juic..
We had a great traditional meal that featured another of Kenny’s childhood food memories. This time it was a fried small salt water fish fillet that was very much like small fried smelt in both preparation and taste. In addition, we had a wonderful anchovy that was lightly salted and marinated. Served on toast with traditional fresh tomato puree and roasted red pepper, it was a classic example of how to bring together several distinct flavors that create a complex marriage which hits all the right complimentary notes. It was a delicious sampling of the Catalan style and it was all wonderful.
The trending topic for dinner was about the current push for independence. With recent elections reconfirming an earlier referendum supporting Catalonian independence, there was a real sense that something was going to happen in the next year to move closer to that reality. While not everyone favors such a change, it would appear that a strong majority want some type of autonomy.
The next afternoon, we had a great lunch with Xavier and his son Pau. It was a chance to catch up on family news and enjoy yet another round of wonderful dishes, including a lobster paella and a few traditional tapas. Pau was a young teenager when they visited us in Hawaii and now he’s finishing up college. Of course, independence from Spain was again a part of our conversation. We remember the last time we spoke with Xavier, independence was something that was being talked about, but things have moved a long ways since then.
Barcelona is a place we have been to before. Since then and now, its popularity as a tourist destination, according to our friends there, has created a city that sometimes seems to overflow its capacity to handle it all without impairing the quality of life of those that live there. This is a theme that Hawaii has had to address on a regular basis over the years. In both places, the latest challenge has been the explosion of unregulated short term housing. If an owner of a flat can rent short term to a tourist for ten times the money, what incentive is there to make space for local residents.
In Barcelona, the opinion was that it was creating a cost of living increase that the average resident could not keep up with. Tourists readily pay more for less and it makes it harder for residents to enjoy their own city. As costs for the major attractions in the city continue to rise because of the crushing demand, the residents visit them less. While Barcelona is still a wonderful city to visit, one does wonder how long before the depth of its richness is reduced to a worn path from one tourist trap to the next.
Thames and Tow Straps
We left the next day for an overnight in London, catching up with some friends there. There are some places in London that will surprise you with their shire like qualities and we are fortunate to have a friend who lives in such a place. Tucked into a green garden on Thames, it’s a cozy nook that captures the spirit of a different era. A few rounds of whiskey and some lively chatter on the heels of a lovely meal at the neighborhood pub was the perfect tonic for the long journey home.
That long journey went from long to epic with one quick snap of an airplane tow strap. We heard it snap just as they were pushing us off the gate. That set in motion a lengthy and mandatory inspection process that delayed our departure by nearly two hours, setting up a chain reaction at LAX. Although we arrived one hour before our connection to Kona was due to depart, the customs labyrinth at LAX includes a gate that you must be towed into, a jet way that leads back to the tarmac, a bus that transports you to another location, and a series of check points and corridors that ensure you will spend nearly an hour to clear customs, even with our global entry fast track.
The final result was that we already rebooked to travel the next morning to Honolulu and then on Hawaiian Airlines to Kona. To their credit, American Airlines knew this from the time we departed London and had a hotel and meal voucher with our tickets when we deplaned. An overnight at an airport hotel wasn’t our first choice, but it did have a few silver linings. We got to adjust to the change in time with some good sleep, we would arrive into Kona refreshed and in the day time instead of late at night, and we would be able to shop before heading home. All in all, fair enough.