Ever since I turned 18 and left small town Nebraska for Spain, I’ve become a bit of a nomad. I’ll always be a red-blooded American but when people ask, “Where are you from?” it gets harder to answer with each passing year. So, to compensate for this lack of real “home” I’ve collected a short list of places I return to when visiting a particular city. In DC, it’s the Old Ebbit Grill. In Rovijn it’s the Puntalina. However, of all the places in the world, one place towers above all the rest and feels as much like home as sitting on my couch. That place is La Bodegueta in Barcelona, Spain.
Resting on a nondescript corner in the Eixample area of the city, la Bodegueta is, to me, one of the best places on earth. I’ve been there probably 20 times and am only blogging about it now because I want to do it justice. But this deed has shaped up to be as difficult as, say, writing a post entitled, “Why I Love My Mom.” Where do you start?
I’ll start with a short description: La Bodegueta is an old wine bodega down a few steps on the aforementioned corner. But it’s much more than that. It’s the place where I was reminded that it’s not “el menu,” it’s “la carta.” It’s where the big earthenware jug on the bar holds olives that seem to magically appear. There are the shelves of wine on the wall that seem one bottle short of completely collapsing under their own weight. There’s the gritty, smoky, dusty whole of it. Yes, it’s one of the greatest places on earth.
As soon as you walk in, you’ll see the tile floor and short tables that seem to be from a time when Europeans were really short. My wife discovered Pimientos de Padrón here. We tried them on our first visit and we’ve had them every other time they’ve ever been on a menu (or carta) anywhere. There are the heady cañas, endless glasses of dry red wine and the zip of sherry to round out the meal. This is where I get to hear a wine described as “la hostia!” Yeah, stuff like that makes me pretty happy.
Finally, there’s the matron saint of La Bodegueta. I won’t tell you her name because it’s not my place, but if you go, you’ll recognize her. I bummed a Marlboro Red from her a few years back when looking for the perfect end to a long, caña soaked tapas extravaganza. We struck up a conversation. Since then, I have made it a point to pay her a visit every time I’m in Barcelona. She embodies everything that La Bodegueta is. She now knows everyone one in my immediate family by their first name. I consider her a friend. That’s hard not to like, too.
I’ve had the incredible good fortune to visit this place with my child, wife, parents and brother. One time I even got to visit with all but one of them at once. It’s a place where I go and inevitably end up taking stock of my life. What has changed since my last visit? What will I be like the next time I come? Who will be with me?
It’s little pit stops like these in the middle of life that make you savor the passing days; places like the Bodegueta make that possible.
They say you can never go back home. Maybe, but as long as La Bodegueta exists, I’ll be pretty sure that I can get awfully darn close. I’m pretty sure that having been there, my mom would agree.