Today an interview with Bill Sinclair Spotter for our Barcelona cityblog. We met Bill in Barcelona in 2008 in his own local bar Pep’s!
Can you tell us some more about yourself?
I work as an English teacher, translator (mainly medical and media texts), IT product tester, and as an occasional city guide.
I’m also so very handy with a paintbrush and a bag of tools … I even repaired the windows in my very local local bar – Pep’s. They call me Bill the Drill. I enjoy reading, writing, visiting galleries and museums, cinema, walking in the hills, good company, good food and drink.
How do you like being a Spotter?
I enjoy being a Spotter because I love the city and want to share its pleasures with everyone. I enjoy helping visitors have a good time when they’re here.
A good friend of mine was having a drink in one of my favorite restaurants, Can Josep’s, where they don’t speak any English, when a group of English-speaking Dutch tourists walked in. It is very much a local restaurant, there are no hotels in our barrio so it’s rare we see visitors in there.
The restaurant owner asked my friend to help them order their meals. My friend asked them where they were staying. “But that’s miles away,” she said. “Yes,” they said.”But we had to come when we read about it in Spotted by Locals.”! My friend, and the restaurant owner, were suddenly very proud to know me. At the end of their meal they asked my friend to tell me how much they had enjoyed themselves. Also, an English couple somehow managed to track down my personal email address and sent me a very kind note thanking me for my tips.
Because the city is endlessly fascinating. There has not yet been a day since I’ve lived here when I haven’t discovered something, or a place, or some detail, new to me.
The architecture isn’t as wonderful as it is because of the buildings but because of the details: the tile friezes, stonework reliefs, beautifully made doors, lovingly molded and painted ceilings, the stained glass and ironwork, even many of the elevators are very special.
The range and quality, and affordability, of the many varied restaurants here is fantastic. The people are a diverse mix and can be really good fun to be with.
What is a must do when you visiting Barcelona?
- Take a whole day to stroll from Passeig de Picasso right through to the very end of Carrer Nou de la Rambla, stopping off and taking as many diversions as you can.
- Find a good lunchtime restaurant and have a menu del dia. There are hundreds of restaurants which offer lunchtime menus for between 7 and 10 euros.
- Stroll to the top of Paseo de Gracià, passing Gaudí’s Casa Battló and La Pedrera, the design store Vinçon, and cut through the gardens of Palau Robert and stroll down Rambla Catalunya calling into Colmado Quilez, the delicatessen, on the corner of Calle Aragón on the way back to Plaza Catalunya.
- Buy a T-10 public transport ticket for 7,30 euros – this will give you 10 journeys on the excellent public transport system.
- A visit to Parc Güell is a must. Take the 24 bus from Paseo de Gracìa.
- If you’re a foodie then you must visit, and eat, in, say, six of the city’s markets, not just the well-known Boqueria.
- Perhaps forego paella and try fideua instead.
- Call in for a drink at Bar Pastis, Bar Muy Buenas, Bar Rouge, La Penultima, Café de la Opera and the Pipa Club.
- Sneak into the Ateneu and have a coffee or a drink in the garden.
- Have a snack at Quimet i Quimet, Úbeda, Bar del Pí, and Rueda.
- Watch the castellers and, if you can, you must definetly experience a correfoc.
And there’s always the beaches.
What’s better to avoid?
Resist the temptation to eat or drink on a terrace on the Ramblas – it’s usually a rip-off.
Join the herds of drunken loutish Brit, American and Dutch revellers in and around Las Ramblas at 1am.
Which prejudices about Barcelona are true? Which ones are not?
That there is a lot of petty street crime. Sadly, this is true, I’ve been pickpocketted twice in four years. Be especially careful on the metro yellow line – line 4 – between Barceloneta and Verdaguer, on Las Ramblas, the streets around Plaça Reial, Plaça Espanya metro station and the beach.
Visitors are often told that Catalans are rude and refuse to speak Spanish, let alone English.
Not true – most Catalans are, by nature, helpful and considerate people and they will speak Spanish (and even a little English, if you’re polite and patient!).
Barcelonins are, justly, very proud of their city but sometimes the regional government, who generally do a good job, gets carried away and falls into the trap of believing its own propaganda. For instance, it’s not enough for them to create a new Natural History Museum – it will be the best museum of its kind in the world – according to them, bigger and better than the Natural History Museums in London and San Francisco. Their puffery is often embarrassing.
What do you know about Barcelona what no tourist will know?
- That Barcelona has more private detective agencies than any other city in Europe.
- That Barcelona is now the Mafia’s main business center for dealing with imports of cocaine from South America.
- That 50% of the 15 tonnes of sweets given away free during the Three Kings’ Parade (Cabalgata) on January 5th are suitable for celiacs.
- That I’ve bumped into the great Irish, Nobel prize-winning, poet Seamus Heaney twice, on separate occasions, in the old city.
- That Pascal Maragall, the former President of Catalunya, and who, when Mayor, brought the Olympics to the city, stood shoulder-to-shoulder next to me all through the inauguration of the new Plaça Montalbàn.
- That the very well-known American singer-songwriter, Jackson Browne, lives in Gracià for at least six months of the year.
Can you describe a perfect day in your city?
My perfect day in Barcelona would begin with an early morning jog along Paseo San Juan before the rush of traffic drowns the sound of birdsong. Then I’d enjoy freshly squeezed orange juice (without the sugar they always give you!), a café con leche and a pastry on a terrace, followed by a visit to a museum or art gallery, or the Ateneu.
Then I’d visit one of the city’s 43 markets for a bit of shopping, and maybe a snack. Then I’d meet up with a friend for a long, lingering lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. After lunch find another spot for coffee. Then I’d do a bit of window shopping, probably call into in Vinçon, and La Pedrera next door. Then I’d take a stroll, or chill out for while, in one of the city parks or gardens. I might bicycle back home. In the evening I’d go to my very local local Pep’s for a drink and tapas aperitivo before setting off across the city to a restaurant I’ve not tried before.
After dinner I’d go to Verdi cinema and watch a good movie and, on the way home, call into a good lounge bar, meet with friends who would insist on taking me to a new place they’ve discovered for cava or a cocktail. Finally, as I wend a different way home, I’d call into a churreria for hot chocolate and churros.
Is there something else you want to share?
Barcelona works as a great city to visit largely because of the hard work of the street cleaners, rubbish collectors and public transport staff. If I could I would give all the street cleaners and rubbish collectors a day off and invite them all and their families to a fantastic party in one of the city’s parks and have everyone else clear up their mess by way of showing their appreciation. And, if I could, I would give every public transport worker a day off and pay for them to have exclusive use of a taxi all day.
Follow this link to read the other Spotter interviews.