Friday, a friend who had a child last year and has been hidden in a nuclear bunker ever since called me up to go out to have drinks with him and another friend who was in town for a conference. Despite this requiring a walk from my neighborhood of La Ribera/Mercat del Born to the top of Raval/Poble Sec, I agreed and set out amidst wicked thunder and a threat of June rain that quickly turned in to very real June rain.
The drinks part of the night was almost faster than the walk to get there given that the visiting friend was dying of jetlag and after a “crazy” night of two tipples, I headed back to my hood which meant crossing Raval (pictured above), Les Rambles, and Gòtic at 1:30 in the morning. It’s not really that I ever fear for my safety in Barcelona. Yes, violent crime is most definitely on the upswing given that the economy continues to sink to new lows. But, you don’t get that sense of “any one of these people could kill me at any moment” that you do when say, taking the Bart in from the San Francisco airport.
There is however a sordid parade of petty vultures looking to take down the unwary on Les Rambles. For starters, I’m not sure how I feel that Francophone African hookers now see me as French and give that “ksssssk” sound to get my attention, but they’re there. Then there are the, “Excuse me, do you speak English” guys. These are probably to be avoided more than the hookers because they will most likely rob you. They aren’t lost tourists (you can’t get lost on Les Rambles) and they aren’t asking for dining recommendations. They want to distract you, thinking that you’re drunk and can have your wallet easily lifted. Then of course there are the legitimate thieves who own restaurants on Les Rambles and have someone out front to try and lure you in if you are actually a tourist in need of a “recommendation” of where to eat.
This all dies away once you enter Gòtic and keep heading out of the center. I’m unsure as to why Les Rambles became the hot spot for tourists that it has. Sure, it’s a nice promenade, but it’s not much more that once you discount the overpriced bars and restaurants, alongside the crafty thieves and hookers. Yet, year after year, visitors flock to it and it remains the same.