|EAT TAPAS! - Spanish nosh, in case you didn't know.........|
|The Hotel Arts is a monolithic construction of steel and blue-tinted glass. The top 6 floors are given over to luxury two-storey apartments with their own private access and an exclusive drinking club, called rather imaginatively, 'Le Club'. These segregated floors are for the more discerning guest; the kind of client who desires a little more privacy and that extra special touch; the class of patron whose requirements might include the city-wide knowledge of a dedicated team of concierges, all capable of carrying off lead roles in the 'Stepford Wives' with ease.|
However, more luxurious than fresh flowers and fruit delivered daily, more indulgent than Egyptian cotton sheets and chocs on the pillow, our VIP visitor is blessed with the pleasure of negotiating the most complex and confusing system of lifts in the history of hoteliering.
Upon arriving at the hotel, the weary traveller must take a lift to the hotel reception on '1', where they are ushered towards a separate set of elevators down the hall and around a corner. In this lift, it is necessary to insert a special key to gain access to the private floors on '34' and above. Once there, a team of beaming 'apartment concierges' (smiling so hard one imagines they must each be clutching a needle between their buttocks) direct our guests around another corner to yet more lifts which will eventually take them to their final destination on '36'.
What with all the sliding doors and button-pushing, clearly a week at the Hotel Arts would provide even the most theatrically-disadvantaged guest with the skills to star quite convincingly in an episode of 'Star Trek'. But all this is more than worth the hassle for a room with panoramic views of the Mediterranean, a fully stocked bar and a bathroom the size of the Presidential suite in any London hotel.
And so, to this home-away-from-home come Alan and Hepzibah, enjoying time away from computers, websites, questions about Emulator trees and begging letters for promo. copies of records that won't be released for another 4 months........
Their first introduction to the Catalan pace of life is marked by valiant efforts to hook up Alan's new computer and log on. Unfortunately, after 2 hours, the hotel's team of 'highly trained computer technicians' who whizz in and out of the room and rip up half the 'phone sockets, fail to bring about a result. However, internet access or no internet access, having not eaten all day, Hep drags an extremely vexed Alan out to dinner only to return and discover that his beloved G3 Powerbook has vanished without trace.
|Obviously here in Spain, once one's surfing the web, one shouldn't have to stop for anything because the G3 is eventually located, set up on a small table in the upstairs toilet, connected to a wire sticking out of the wall that someone has accessed with a mallet. Now call me a cynic, but I wouldn't have put reading one's e-mail and irrigating one's colon in the same bag.|
|The following morning, fully rested and in fine
fettle, Hep and Alan head off to do something that will become part of
their daily routine for the next week: Lie in the sun for a couple of
hours and play 'Spot The Nationality'. And what a great selection there
is on view this first day:
A Danny DeVito look (and sound) alike who spends 2 hours trying to pull a bleached-blonde, big boobed fellow septic in the way that all good Americans should: LOUDLY !!!
"Shaaaaaay, you from the United Shhhtates too? How long ya in town? Shaaaaaay, don't ya just love Yoooo-rope. What's ya room rate? I bet mine's more. I do gotta suite....." etc. etc.
She seems quite impressed and makes it clear that he'll definitely get a result as long as he continues to be so charming.
Also present is a party of middle-aged Scandanavian weekenders. The largest and most unpleasant finds 'dive bombing' his mates particularly amusing, much to the annoyance of the surrounding guests who hadn't banked on starting their day with a demonstration of how much water is dispersed when a 10 ton walrus is dropped into a 20 x 20 swimming pool.
There's a smattering of Germans, most of whom
have been camping out all night to secure a sunbed and of course, the
obligatory topless stunners who are never real hotel guests but models
drafted in from a specialist swimming pool agency to make everyone else
look, and feel inferior.
For the most part they are h-u-g-e and either the hue of an alabaster statue or a poached lobster. All wear a pained expression that makes it clear that revealing their bodies to a pool-full of bronzed foreigners is just about the most horrific and tortuous thing they will ever be required to do for King and country. They dither about like moths round a light bulb, desperately wishing there was a queue they could stand in for comfort, too embarrassed to ask for an extra towel and sweating profusely in the midday sun (cue Noel Coward). But, like all good Brits, the stiff upper lip prevails and eventually the essential ladies summer holiday item - the sarong - is removed so each lily-white, orange-peel pitted thigh can be fully exposed to the scorching heat and gaggle of sniggering onlookers.
|After surveying the scene
for some time, Hep and Alan are excited to spot a shining example; a fellow
countrymen who's just as imposing in real life as he appears on the telly
- 'Big Ron' Atkinson, football manager extraordinaire and coiner of such
immortal phrases as:
"Beckham's coming in for a Buddy Holly on the back stick."
|He's accompanied by his wife (resplendent in leopard-skin
bikini, designer shades and dripping with gold accessories). Well, I say
'wife' because Ron's head was buried in 'The Sun' while she kept a very
beady eye on the topless young floosies who were posing by the pool. More
"Atkinson coming in for a lot of stick from the chubby dolly."
Now if one doesn't know Barcelona, there are some 'must visit' places:
The weird and wonderful buildings of Modernist architect Gaudi- built at the turn of the century, considered grotesque by the 40's and earmarked for demolition until some Absinthe-fuelled hippy in the 60's decided they were "far out, man".
The Olympic village and port area where the seafood-lover can gorge himself on the freshest catch of the day while spending the afternoon watching svelte Iberians saunter past.
And of course, La Rambla - Barcelona's equivalent of Oxford Street where gullible, naive tourists can wander past locals pretending to be statues in 100 degree temperatures, purchase a chicken from a selection of caged birds or have their bags snatched by a14 year old who's seen one too many Tarantino films.
Facade of the Casa Batllo
Alan and Hep, always eager to pack in as much as possible when they venture out into the big, bad world, make a point of experiencing all that the city has to offer although they could do without the mugging bit - not that the little bastards get anything. As soon as danger threatens, Alan's very loud and English "Fuck off" deters any really serious attack, not to mention his steel toe-capped paratroopers that ensure at least one of them leaves the scene with the words 'Made In England' imprinted on his arse.
On the steps of the Olympic stadium
On the first Saturday of their visit, arrangements are made to meet up with Rosa Torras, one of the collaborators on the forthcoming Recoil album. Alan wants to run through some lyrics with her before hitting the town, so the concierges are advised to direct her to his room.
Alan, Rosa, Rose, Hep and Luis
|As expected, it takes 45 minutes after Alan and Hep are told that "Miss Torras has entered the building" for the poor girl to reach the top floor. Unfortunately, there's little exhibitable photographic evidence of this epic night out, thanks entirely to the glut of appalling shots taken on Alan's new digital camera.|
After an absence of 4 days, our follically-challenged casanova is back in the pool working on another conquest. Alan and Hep later conclude that he obviously felt obliged to leave town for a spell because of a rival in the 'I'VE GOT A REALLY LOUD AMERCIAN ACCENT AND I KNOW HOW TO USE IT' stakes. This one's a wrinkly octogenarian dressed in obligatory tartan slacks and white plimsolls, and appears to be quite a match for the bald eagle because she couples the skill with another essential 'American abroad' trait: Interrupting complete strangers conversations and giving them advice they don't need.
Finding themselves entrapped in an elevator with this person, Alan and Hep begin to discuss the evening's entertainment:
"Where shall we go for dinner?"
"Oh, I don't know......what do you fancy?"
"Well let's have a look in the TimeOut guide, perhaps they can suggest some........."
Suddenly mid-sentance Alan is stopped by the
"Well bugger me - Tapas! Now that's a
good idea. I've been here 5 days and noone told me anything about Tapas!"