No Money, No Heat, No Clue, No Problema: A Family’s Introduction to Spain

In November of 1998, my husband and I were pining for travel. We had traveled across the US together with our son, but had yet to experience foreign travel together, a shared passion that sparked initial interest in each other during our first meeting. We were low on cash, but filled with the desire to travel regardless and decided on three weeks in Barcelona, Spain. As we had both lived in foreign countries during their low seasons, we knew that we could score a good deal on airfare and accommodations with the added benefit of mingling with more of the locals than tourists.

After several international phone calls, we settled on a little pension without meals, whose name escapes me now. It was located in the heart of the city on Calle de Aroles in a quiet courtyard, right around the corner from Las Ramblas, the central city’s main drag. The entrance to the alley was flanked by McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken sitting right on Las Ramblas. Our pension was fairly priced at what equated to about $85 a night in 1998. Although we were surprised to find that the heat had been shut off for the low season and that we were to share a community bathroom, the location was supreme as it was central to all of the excitement of the city, yet was set far enough away from the main street to give us a bit of peace. When the first weekend set in, we found that not only did we find this place to be a good location, but so did the many Spanish weekend partiers that rented rooms by the hour. This led to a somewhat uncomfortable explanation of the noises our then five year old son heard on the opposite side of the wall next to his bed.

Although we are not regular patrons of either establishment, McDonald’s and KFC did serve us well for two reasons. The first is that they were great points of reference wherever we were located in the city. The second is that since Internet use was not yet a part of our everyday experience, they both sustained us in our first two days as temporary residents while we perused better eating options around the city. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that McDonald’s did serve a decent and decently priced cup of Spanish-style coffee. We soon found that a combination of Mc’D’s coffee with a sausage sandwich from Mercat de La Boqueria across the street for breakfast and Menu del Dia for lunch, the largest meal of the day, satisfied both our hunger and desire for good Spanish food nicely.

Meandering aimlessly around the city, we enjoyed watching our son play with the local kids in the park and took in the sights of famous museums, and enjoyed Spain’s version of Christmas complete with skinny Santa in an orange suit. I look forward to returning to see what other surprises Spain has in store for us.

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