“My cousin wrote back…she wants to meet for lunch!”
“Your cousin? The one in Barcelona you haven’t seen in 40 years?!”
“Yep, here is the address of the restaurant we are going to meet at.”
Look at map…”Are you serious? If I remember correctly, that’s the not so great area of Barcelona. It’s full of warehouses and loading docks”
“That’s what she said…”
That’s generally how the conversation went with my mom when she made plans to meet up with this mysterious cousin I had heard much lore about but never communicated with, let alone met. But she made the plans so I simply used Google Maps to figure out how to get there and silently thanked God it was during the daytime.
So imagine my surprise when we come out of the metro and walk into…basically the Brooklyn hipster neighborhood of Barcelona. Sidewalk cafes. New shiny buildings and shopping complexes. Sidewalk markets. Street performers. A giant Ferris Wheel. And lots and lots of expensive sailboats. Where the heck where we?
Turns out we were in Barceloneta. In the early 2000s, Barcelona began a building project where they moved the port, and turned the old warehouse, low down area of Barcelona into a new and exciting neighborhood of Barcelona. I was astounded. I didn’t feel like I was in the same place.
Right by the Barceloneta Metro was the Museo de Historia de Catalunya (Catalonian History Museum). It is a massive 3 floor structure that houses an excellent collection of exhibits that show the history from the Stone Age to now. I spent a lot of time looking at and trying to understand the Franco era, something I had heard a little about but knew little about.
One of the nicest features of Barceloneta was the new boardwalk and beachfront area. They expanded the beach front so there was so much more space in front of the Mediterranean. I had come to a small beachfront where I used to sit in front of the water and think. But this was at least a mile of Boardwalk that went right to the clean beach where everyone was out enjoying the unusually balmy October weather.
We ended up eating at Pez Vela, with a table facing the water and had an exceptional paella. We spent two hours drinking wine, chatting and laughing with my mom’s cousin M, as she told us stories of making her way in Barcelona and raising her sons on her own. My mom and M caught up on 40 years, and I was excited to meet a new family member who was so sweet, caring and kind. After eating all the food and drinking all the wine, we finally had to give up our table, but we weren’t ready to give up her company. So we walked the boardwalk and street markets again, soaking in our company and agreeing to meet one more time.
As we finally had to say goodbye to her, we looked around at the vibrant, fun neighborhood. Apparently there is always something new to discover in a city you love. And that day, I got to discover two.