Click Here for Barcelona Story Part I
As our taxi pulled up to the hotel on La Rambla, we could barely contain our excitement! There were stalls, shops, tourists, locals and street performers as far as the eye could see. Stepping out onto the tree lined street, we felt its energy rush through our veins...now this was what we were expecting! Equally impressed with our hotel's lobby, there were marble floors and walls, a towering floral centerpiece tastefully positioned atop a large pedestal table and precisely lined luggage carts sitting idle by the door. We were instantly greeted by the gentleman behind the front desk.
We checked in, exchanged pleasantries, then rolled our bags (past the shiny carts) onto the elevator and off we went. After a shaky ride, the doors finally opened and (as if transported to another planet) the grandiose decor had changed. The green carpeting smelled moldy and cigarette haze blinding. There was a cerveza machine right outside our door and haggard looking people meandering down the hall. (All of a sudden the vacancy and amazing room rate made perfect sense.) Novice American tourists we felt swindled, duped and frankly, a bit embarrassed. The lack of accommodation planning on "the male's" part, left me second guessing myself... maybe on this trip, there would be no engagement.
As we cautiously opened the door to our room, we were greeted by more of the same. There was a brown vinyl couch with cigarette holes on the seat and a small TV with dirty duck tape wrapped around its knobs and antenna. The bed was outfitted in faded sheets with red and green flowers and accessorized with a flat, stained pillow missing its case. The people next door were engaged in a hostile verbal exchange (the only time during our trip we were relieved to not have a complete grasp of the Spanish language). The lone, small window to our room was missing a screen and precariously propped open with a rusty metal bar. There was an angry cat screeching down below. For the life of me, I can not remember the bathroom.
Despite our dissatisfaction we couldn't stand the thought of drudging our bags around to find another hotel, so we both agreed we'd make do for one night. After all...we had so much to see and do, the plan was to spend all our time out and about. We'd only return late that evening to carefully cover the bed with our coats and precisely rest our heads 'just so' until morning. Begrudgingly, we left our bags in the room, locked the door and went about our way. A subtle look of disapproval to the guy behind the desk, we walked outside of the 'phony lobby' and were once again taken aback by the beauty and charm of Barcelona.
Our first stop would be down to the waterfront restaurant to sit outside, enjoy some cerveza, share a traditional Spanish dish and map out the rest of our trip. We took in the scenery and people gazed our way down La Rambla. An unusually warm February day, we ended up sitting on the waterfront for hours, caught up (as usual) in eating, drinking and conversing. I was so happy to be there but one thing consumed my every thought.... If there was a ring, he never would have left it back in that room. If there was a ring....it most certainly had to be on him......but where?
Spanish-Style Garlic Shrimp with Ham and Bell PeppersGourmet, February 1992
2 pounds large shrimp (about 28), shelled, leaving the tail and the first joint of the shell intact, and deveined
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
8 garlic cloves, sliced thin lengthwise
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 pound thick-sliced cooked ham, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/3 cup Oloroso Sherry
minced fresh parsley leaves for garnish if desired
slices of crusty bread as an accompaniment
Rinse the shrimp and pat them dry. Sprinkle the shrimp on both sides with the salt and let them stand between layers of paper towel for 10 minutes. In a large heavy skillet cook the garlic in the oil over moderate heat, stirring, until it is golden and transfer it with a slotted spoon to a small bowl. Add the ham and the red pepper flakes to the skillet and cook the mixture, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the ham deepens in color. Add the bell pepper and cook the mixture, stirring, until the bell pepper is softened. Add the shrimp and sauté the mixture over moderately high heat, turning the shrimp, for 3 minutes. Add the Sherry and the garlic and simmer the mixture, stirring and turning the shrimp occasionally, until the shrimp are just cooked through. Transfer the shrimp mixture to a heated serving dish, sprinkle it with the parsley,and serve it with the bread.