A week ago I went to visit my friend in Costa Brava, Spain and we took on Barcelona for the day. Forget about tourist buses, Barcelona FC and La Sagrada Familia - we decided instead to treat ourselves to the city's hidden luxuries. 110 euros seemed to disappear from my pocket without a word of warning...and without the aid of any thieves either. The day began with a two hour coach ride into the city at 8.30am after only five hours sleep (the cava and mojitos from the previous night were beginning to haunt us and we were feeling slightly zombified).
First off, breakfast. We're talking freshly squeezed orange juice, freshly baked croissants and dashing waiters who call you "guapa" (beautiful). While I was hoping for a string quartet playing on the roadside or even just a talented harmonica player to drown out the beeping horns of yellow cabs, all we got was a loopy Spanish woman singing in dubious English into a megaphone, trying to scrounge money off the tourists as she serenaded them. I was tempted to pay her just to shut up.
We then waltzed in and out of shops on the high street, flicking through the sale racks and averting our eyes from the hideously expensive dresses and shoes we only wished we could afford. While trying on clothes I soon came across the depressing realisation that in Spain (unlike in the UK), I'm actually a size medium, not a small...I think I'll start trading my morning croissant for some ice wrapped in cucumber and a cube of cheese for lunch.
We then arrived at the Hotel 1898 (nothing short of deluxe), christened right there on Barcelona's most famous street: Las Ramblas. The elevator seemed to ascend seven floors up to the roof-top with not so much as a lurch or rattle. The magnificent view of the city was accessorised by our six euro glasses of mid-day cava with their bright red strawberries which clipped the horizon in a stunning array. We looked out towards Barcelona's world-trade centre, their very own "Gerkin" and the Olympic village which put the city on the map in 1992. With the sun shining, the parasol blowing gently in the breeze and my fingers wrapped around a chilled glass of cava, I felt every inch the star.
We then walked down Las Ramblas - lined with street performers, florists and artists showcasing their celebrity paintings - getting closer and closer to the gigantic statue of Columbus with his finger pointing towards the Americas. Tourists were grouped en masse around the central monument with their upside down maps and quizzical expressions. We then hailed a taxi and continued our journey in ultimate style, cooling ourselves with hand-fans on our way to the W hotel. W, for wonderful, overWhelming...as we waltzed in through the doors and were greeted by the staff I couldn't help but feel like I'd entered a parallel universe. The room rates range from 250 euros a night for the "Wonderful room" to 11,000 euros for the "Extreme wow suite". You know you're in the right company when someone from the latter invites you to wine and dine with them one evening...
While I wanted so much to fit into my surroundings, I couldn't help but feel slightly like a cartoon character in a period drama. But with our heads held high and our expectations grand, we paced along the marble floor towards the Salt Restaurant, cradled below a gorgeous cream canopy. My friend's mum had called up the restaurant to book us a table for a 3 o'clock lunch and explained how we were journalists so we needed the best table in the restaurant. On arrival, the manager greeted us and showed us to a table with an oh-so-chic charcoal grey sofa, overlooking the entire restaurant with a stunning view of the Mediterranean beach (marred slightly by the topless brunette hosing herself down beneath one of the beach's fresh water showers.) However, this seemed to greatly please the group of Dutch men eating beside us who spent more time drooling into the bread basket than eating its contents.
We pretended to discuss an article we were writing for our various newspapers, our back stories perfected with a fine tooth comb. I was supposedly writing for the International Herald Tribune - the food section, all the way from Paris. A month too early perhaps, but it made our charade all the more exciting. The only thing lacking was a pen to scrawl down our thoughts on the corner of a napkin. #vintage. We were beginning to take ourselves too seriously as we held our menus with intrigue, trying not to order the cheapest dishes (we didn't want to be mistaken for phonies.) I went for the yellow gazpacho, followed by a tuna steak with saffron risotto. All I'm saying is, when someone puts a purple flower in your soup, you know you're special.
The cocktail menu was staggeringly expensive so instead we decided to share a twenty four euro bottle of cava which took us two and a half hours to demolish. The aspiring journalist within us described the restaurant ostentatiously as we tried to exude an unique level of intelligence. But we had to be careful - the waiters all had a fine grasp of English. In our amusement, we decided to create a back story not only for ourselves, but also for the waiters serving us. The manager of the restaurant who was dressed in a smart suit was about thirty years old. We had this awful premonition that despite his manly good looks, good dress sense and devilish charm, he was in fact a sex addict. One of those men who you can't help but fancy, fall deeply and passionately in love with, idolise to the extreme...but who is secretly a misogynistic bastard that sleeps around with the entire female population. Our fun and games were definitely at his expense. But it made the cava taste just that little bit better.
Finally, after a meager tip of two euros (we'd already spent forty each on the meal), we headed towards the beach. The view was sensational. Every inch of sand seemed to be taken up by white-breasted women and men clad in man-thongs. The sand was silky, perforating our skin with a creamy coating of dust. We overheard the conversation between two Hispanic teens playing volleyball, discussing their latest conquests. As I basked under the sun, covered in lashings of factor 30 outside a hotel which boasts the company of Madonna, I felt totally in Vogue.
Watch this space.