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August 21, 2008

Woody Allen's Barcelona

Barcelona
Gaudi's Barcelona.
Photo: Concierge.com

by Julia Bainbridge

Woody Allen's Barcelona is a lot different than mine. In his latest film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which I saw last night and adored, he coats the city--Gaudi funhouses, gorgeous gardens, and all--in a honey-colored glaze that tempts you to "lick the screen." (P.S. I am officially in love with Penelope Cruz.)

When I was in Barcelona in 2001 there was romance, yes, but also a less-than-golden tint to the whole thing--more like a rusty metallic one. My Barcelona involved a robbery at knifepoint.

Don't be alarmed; it wasn't all that scary. Let me explain.

It was the summer after high school graduation and Elena, Dinah, and I were European country-hopping before September reared its textbook-filled head. Our days in Barcelona were few but packed, and on our last night there we decided a hotel room wasn't necessary. Hey, our train to Madrid was at 7 a.m., we were young--we planned to keep our things in a locker at the station and stay out until sunrise.

And it was a fantastic idea. We spent all day touring the city and all night cruising around with a bunch of rowdy Australians, Germans, and Spaniards we met at a backpacker-friendly bar. There was dancing, there was sangria, and there were tabletop soccer chants that promptly led to our being escorted out of said bar. We didn't care: Our party people were fun and foreign (and in their 20s)! It all ended at about 5 a.m. by a fountain in some plaza; one of the Spaniards strummed his guitar and we all rocked back and forth, chiming in when we felt moved.

When it was time to move on, we Americans bid our one-night-only pals good-bye and headed toward Las Ramblas, where we'd hop on the subway to the train station. I noticed a couple of men following close behind us, so I told Elena and Dinah to keep it moving. As soon as Dinah's hand touched the railing that led down into the metro, though, the men sprinted toward us with knives, cut off Dinah's purse--passport inside--and ran.

We ran, too, chasing them down narrow, winding, unfamiliar Barcelona streets in the dark. Alas, we were no competition. They lost us in minutes, and we lost our sandals from pounding against the cobblestones. We only noticed this once we returned to Las Ramblas and found our shoes paired together and placed gently in a row. Our unlikely saviors? A couple of ladies who worked (if you know what I mean) the streets. They also happened to speak perfect English. They calmed us down, gave us the number of the police station, and instructed us on how to move forward.

Needless to say, our entire time in Madrid was spent searching for the American embassy and acquiring a new passport. The whole time, I dreamed of Barcelona and my new fondness for those women with "hearts of gold."

Further reading:
* Oh, Penelope
* The Barcelona guide
* Check out some clips from the movie
 

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