It starts in line at La Bodega del Sol. I’m clutching a bottle of Ca L’Arenys Guineu IPA Amarillo. Why? Because it’s delicious and has a fox on the cap. My friend next to me has found for herself some obscure Danish artisanal microbrew, carefully chosen from a vast selection. La Bodega del Sol is a peculiar place, masquerading as a convenience store, but specializing instead in beers from all over. Really it’s more of a bar though, doling out bottles of beer for 3-3.50€ a piece, to be consumed 3-3.5 meters off premise. Approaching the steps we scan fellow plaza-goers for someone with an open bottle and ask for an opener. “No lo tengo, pero damela,” says one random man, pulling out his lighter and snapping off my cap. “Gracias.” This is Plaza del Sol by night, the ideal spot to catch up with a friend over cigarettes and a beer (or two or three) any night of the week. The place has an onda that is hard to put into words. It’s alive. There’s a refreshing lack of gimmick or pretense. It’s not any “kind” of place. It’s neither hipster, nor bougie and you don’t need to be in any particular mood to enjoy it. It’s just there, conveniently, a big open space with steps to sit on, cheap craft beer and an addictive vibe that results specifically from this lack of gimmick. It’s kind of like being on one big balcony at a communal friend’s house, bitching about bosses and boyfriends, while enjoying the night air.
At 10 a.m. the morning after, Plaza del Sol is still snoozing. We’re sitting outside at Joali, gazing affectionately at the place as it begins to move, as its eyes flutter and it stretches its limbs to get ready for the day. I hear shutters rolling up and keys jangling, then the clatter of metallic tables and chairs gently scraping the asphalt as they are dragged out into the open. Not long after, the local characters begin to appear. The older gentleman who sometimes paints outside Mucci’s, to my left. That pencil-thin crazy lady with her big shaggy dog at the helm of the plaza, playing captain to this ship. And then that strange group of vagabond musicians wearing what looks like cloth just glued on. They carry cases but never produce the instrument inside. The air of confusion that surrounds them is palpable. A group of 50-something-year-old’s arrive and sit at the restaurant across from us. They’re clearly still drunk and seeking a nightcap or perhaps a strand of hair from the proverbial dog. What they get instead is crazy lady’s dog, running up to beg for the stale bread that just arrived at the table. They brush him off rather indelicately, causing his crazy owner to come yelling. Drama ensues and it’s better than a soap, the perfect story to watch unfold. We’re slightly hungover too, without the energy to do most things. But this…. This we could do all day.
At one point our tortillas francesas arrive. If Plaza del Sol were a sandwich, it would be a tortilla francesa – simple, easy and immensely satisfying in a way that is difficult to describe. Like the plaza itself, I’ve enjoyed it on dozens of occasions, yet will never get tired of it. Like the plaza itself, closing my eyes and thinking about this sandwich now makes me smile nostalgically. It comes sliced in half. Two slices of baguette-shaped bread, airy on the inside, with tan, crunchy, almost reptilian scales covering the exterior. The soft side of each slice is rubbed generously with tomato, which hydrates the thing slightly and offers a delicate touch of natural sweetness to balance the salty filling. And between the two slices of tomato-rubbed crunchy bread is the fluffiest, juiciest, most hangover-friendly, bright yellow omelet, folded over itself to achieve the perfect girth, with melted cheese oozing out of the side. The flavor is so gentle, but the textures so absolutely perfect. The crackle and crunch of the bread, then the slick tomato-licked underside, the moist and spongy egg and the bursts of warm, velveteen cheese coating the mouth with each bite. As I chew, I zone in and out, salivating, my face awakened, my throbbing head slowly easing back into its normal state. The first half soothes my raging appetite and before I embark on the second, I take a sip of my cafe con leche, and then some Vichy Catalan bubbly, whose signature salinity feels as perfect as everything else about this experience.
Wordlessly I lean back in my seat to stare up at the skinny, light green house on the corner. Its pinkish balconies are basking in the glow of the sun, which has finally made an appearance over its namesake terrace. A sigh, a laugh and on we go, talking about the night before. After two and a half years spent living in Barcelona, Plaza del Sol became my place, the one I miss the most and where I feel the most at home. It will forever be the very first place you’ll find me when I visit.