“Do not worry about crime”, said our landlord, smiling, “there are murders in Barcelona, but normally they are… how is it… crimes of passion?”
“A man loves a woman,” he explained, “so he kills her. Or sometimes, a Morrocan will get you. Look out for the Morrocans.”
It was sage advice, but lovers and Morrocans aren’t the only criminals in Barcelona. There are also some complete idiots trying to get in on the act, as you’ll find out from Christina’s blog entry (below).
The shops in Barcelona are a similarly diverse bunch. Billions (yes) of people come here to go shopping, and there are almost no supermarkets, so the independent shops seem to do alright. There are mask shops, puppet shops, candle shops (chandlers?), ham shops; you name it, they've got a shop. There's a coat hanger shop. There are also quite a few independent toy shops, and a magic shop or two (which sell equipment for creating illusions, rather than magic itself, although I suspect if you knew the secret code, the old man in the magic shop in El Born would give you the power of invisibility, or the power to speak to animals in their own languages.)
The thing about going into a charming old toy shop is that it makes you realise you’re an adult. As an adult, you look at a charming old wooden toy car and you think, wow, that is so special. What a timeless, precious image of the innocence of youth. Whereas any normal child would look at it and think, that is a shit car.
There is also a shop around the corner called Happy Pills. It’s a pick ‘n’ mix shop done up to look like a pharmacy, and you put your sweets in a pill bottle before putting a prescription-ish label on it that says something like ‘Against Mondays’ or ‘Against the Unbearable Lightness of Being’. I would like to show you a picture, but I scoffed all the sweets I bought before my camera could turn on. Then I ate the bottle. This is pretty sweet, though:
An eight foot-high church organ, made entirely from chocolate, at the Museu de la Xocolata.
Last Saturday, Will and I were on our way home from a stressful afternoon looking at a cocoa-based sculpture of Homer Simpson at the Chocolate Museum, when we were the victims of a shambolic attempted robbery. As we walked through the tiny cobbled streets of the Gothic Quarter, a man stopped and us and asked which street we were on. The first problem with this was that we were all standing under the street sign and secondly, he had a map so it wasn’t really too difficult to work out. But we gave him the benefit of the doubt and asked him where he was trying to get to. He told us the Sagrada Familia - which we were nowhere near – then asked where we were from, offered a handshake to Will and told us he was Portugese. Again, a bit suspicious considering his very un-Portugese fair hair, pale skin and milky blue eyes.
Enter crook number two, a staggering, crumpled-shirted man masquerading as a police officer. At least I think that’s what he was supposed to be: our landlord had warned us about this kind of trick where pickpockets pretend to be law enforcers by showing some ID, asking tourists to produce documents which they then scarper with along with their money. I’d imagined such a criminal might hire a fancy dress police costume, or at least wear a shirt. But this guy was no Tosh from The Bill, he wasn’t even as good as Horatio from CSI Miami.
"We've been watching this guy," was his opening line, delivered with the kind of woodness that Keanu Reeves would be ashamed of. He then briefly wafted his ‘ID’ card at us which looked a lot like a library card or his Blockbuster video membership.
You’re probably wondering why we were still standing there, but this all happened more quickly than it looks written down. The ‘police officer’ then asked the first man to produce his passport - actually, scrap that, the first man had already got his passport out before he was even asked, so it was obviously a well-rehearsed routine. At this point, the charade became too much, so like a disgruntled audience, Will and I hurried off with all our belongings intact.
Giants are common in Barcelona; the locals pay them no attention.