Episode 4 – Barcelona – A City You Can Fall in Love With (III)
When you are in Barcelona, do not forget about La Rambla – the street where action is. Do spend some time to go through the narrow streets around that area and you will run into some pleasant surprise.
Off the side streets of La Rambla is an older part of town – namely ‘Old Town’. There are numerous hostels and inexpensive hotels within that area. You will constantly see youngsters entering and exiting these buildings with their luggage on wheels. Some of them travel with just their back-packs. This reminds me of the 70s when university students wanted to explore the world. They would take a year off school and travelled in Europe for the experience. A lot of them travelled light and they chose the most inexpensive way of travelling – thumbing – hitchhiking. It is exciting so long as you watch out for danger. Those days are long gone now, but the basic explorer spirit still lives on in the younger generation.
We found the old town. It was just 2 streets over the main drag and we had been asking people of all walks of life for directions. The streets were winding and narrow. They looked like the back door of houses. We ventured on and we came across a small shop. I smelt food. I poked my head into the shop and I found this tube like deep fried donut sitting on the shelf. There was a young man inside the shop with an overhead machine that compressed a liquidly batter into a well of fat. The batter was so light that it floated to the surface of the oil immediately. When the tube like donut cooled down, a sprinkle of icing sugar was applied to it. I tasted it. I closed my eyes. I must remember the taste and smell of this heavenly morsel. I found churro – the Spanish version of donut.
The Spanish people love to dip this churro in hot chocolate and eat it as breakfast. Later on, I was told there were stuffed churros as well. Some were stuffed with cheese, olives, and vegetable fillings. The variety is many.We walked to the old town and found an old church and a bazaar for local artists. I finished my churros and my inside still asked for more. It costs 3 for 1 euro. I ran back to the little shop. The young man was surprised and mostly felt appreciative that he gave me a whole bag of churro for the same amount of money. I thanked him for his hospitality but my mouth was filled with food and I could only mumbled some noise.
Following the narrow streets, we stumbled upon another little tapas bar. This place has a very narrow entrance and there was a crowd waiting to be seated. Some of them just purchased the food and started eating at the islands. I vaguely remember this is the tapas store that had a write-up in one of the travel journals. I walked inside. It was a long and narrow store. The food counters were in 2 tiers, but on the food counter were all different varieties of tapas and tidbits a personal could imagine. The presentation was excellent. The colours were tempting and the smell was incredible. The aroma of fresh coffee, baked goods and grilled food just took my heart away. I needed my fill. If I ignore the old town, I would never discover such heavenly delights.
All through the narrow streets, you can find clothing stops run by mainland Chinese people. 90% of them are from Wenzhou. They bring in merchandize that are cheap and they sell them with a low mark-up margin. They want volume to substantiate the revenue and they are very successful in doing so. Once that formula works, shops of this nature is spread out all through Europe. We see them in Barcelona, Granada, Seville, Madrid, even in Lisbon. They contribute rather strongly to the local economy.
Another interesting business concept appears in our eyes. Ballerina shoes are just normal walking shoes with a definite style. It has a cross band at the front that divides the tip of the shoe. The band and the tip are usually of different texture and contrast. The idea is simple but if you can recruit all the colours in the colour spectrum, mix them with whatever texture you can secure, then the combination becomes immense.
We walked into this old shoe store and all we saw was shelves and shelves of ballerina shoes with different colour and texture. The store was packed with people. I was intrigued. Here we are looking at a business that sells 1 single product. Not only do they survive, but they prosper. This shoe store had been there for 3 generations and it is still going strong. It created an image. If you want ballerina shoes, you come to this store, period. Here you will find the pair that fits your fancy for sure. They manage to sell the shoes from $50 to $70 Euros. The customers consist of both locals and tourists.
If you have an idea for business, you should go to Barcelona and take a look at this shop. Incredible, it is!