Day 10: Black Market Beer Outside the Fastnet Pub

by Eli Hodapp

When I first got to Barceloneta, I wandered around the area and everything here fits in more or less except for a single Irish pub called The Fastnet. There’s seafood restaurants up and down the street facing Port Vell, a bunch of little markets on every street corner, a couple kebab places, and this pub. I was never really sure why anyone around here would go to an Irish pub when there’s so many better options nearby, and it’s that exact curiosity that lead me to walking through their doors last night.

The Fastnet is about as stereotypical as it gets when it comes to Irish pubs. It looks, sounds, and smells exactly how you’d imagine. Everything is made of wood, everyone there is speaking English, and that distinct humid smell of beer hangs heavily in the air. I wandered in, and took a seat at the bar. I was immediately greeted by the bartender, and ordered a pint of Guinness. Because, really, what else do you order at an Irish pub?

Before my beer was even finished being poured, the other people at the bar were engaging me in conversation. This time of year, there’s almost no tourists around so the only people who frequent The Fastnet are ultra-locals who go there every night. The person sitting next to me introduced me to everyone else sitting at the bar. There was Shane, the owner, his wife who I believe is named Linda, an old extremely proper looking Finnish woman named Tula, a British guy named Jim and his Swedish girlfriend Emily. I was introduced to some other people as well, but these were the people I spent the next few hours talking with.

Jim seemed especially interesting, as he works as an engineer aboard a mega-yacht that’s currently tied up in Port Vell. His employer is an ultra-rich Turkish man who only uses the yacht a few times a year, but employs a full time staff to keep it operating. Apparently, most of the year the crew just sail around on their own, going wherever they feel like, and always keeping the ship ready if the owner ever wants to use it. That seems like a really cool life. Room and board is part of the deal, since he lives on the ship, and it seems like he spends the off time where his engineer skills aren’t needed just drinking at The Fastnet.

I ended up staying there until they closed, having tons of great conversations, sharing my life story, and hearing everyone elses. I didn’t really know what to expect when I walked in, but making half a dozen new friends, feeling totally welcome, and encouraged to come back wasn’t in my mind. It was such a good time. I totally love self deprecating British and Irish humor too, and everyone constantly trolling everyone else made the night that much more fun.

On the walk back home, I was met by not one, but three different black market beer sellers. Now, I’m not sure how true all this is, but I’ve had three different people tell me three very similar things, so I’m either taking it as truth or a very convincing urban legend. The deal with the black market beer sellers that stand on every street corner selling cans of beer for one Euro is that they’re part of a elaborate gang of Middle Easterners and Africans.

Allegedly, someone in these gangs arranges travel for people to come to Barcelona from whatever their country of origin is. From there, they start at the bottom ranks as the obnoxious people that walk into every restaurant trying to get people to buy roses. Once they’ve proven themselves as a rose seller, they move up to peddling beer. Move enough beer, and you might eventually get your own Supermercat corner store. I’m not sure when they gain their freedom from the gang, or if they ever do, or if “gang” is even the right word for this organization. Regardless, it’s just something interesting I learned about Spain.

Today I decided that since I finally have pants that fit me, maybe I should get a belt that also fits me since wrapping a 38″ belt around some 32″ pants leaves a silly amount of excess leather dangling to the side. I wandered to H&M, but along the way challenged myself by seeing if I could find the bars I went to in the Gothic quarter a few days ago during the day. Sure enough, I made it there with little issue. I really have no idea where this heightened sense of direction came from, but I like it. I guess that’s what happens as soon as you stop depending on GPS for absolutely everything.

What’s more interesting, is that when I walked back from the bars at around midnight, it was exceedingly creepy. The streets of the Gothic quarter are narrow, filled with blind spots, and not very well illuminated at night. It’d basically be the perfect place to get turned into a vampire, or get killed by some Jack the Ripper-like serial killer in an overcoat and top hat. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened to me yet. Anyway, during the day, this area is a hive of activity. There’s cool little jewelry shops, shops selling clothes, and everything else you could ever think of opened in these tiny streets. It’s such a change from what it’s like at night, where the only people out are the ones standing around outside bars smoking.

I made it to H&M, and the one near me is one of the more elaborate locations I’ve been to. Most H&M’s feel like being in some kind of futuristic dance club, and this one was really over the top with even more flashing lights and massive screens than your typical H&M. I found a belt, bought it, and made my way back home to start the American business day.

Oh also, I woke up this morning to a text message from my sister saying that my Dad is doing substantially better, even from his improvements yesterday. That’s a relief. No word yet as to when he’ll be able to go back to my Grandparents’ condo, or make his way back to Chicago, but it’s good that he’s making progress.

I’ve got some cool plans for tomorrow, but really don’t know what to do tonight. Maybe I’ll find some new bars to check out, as if there’s one thing that Barcelona isn’t lacking in the slightest it’s places to drink beer at.