Each morning, by 7, there would be a line out the door of the bakery across the street. Forn de Pan. People would be rubbing their eyes and skimming La Vanguardia for whatever scandal the king was getting into. The customers would walk out with bags of baguettes or pastries for breakfast. Bars would turn their lights back on around the same time. The usuals would pop on in and order an espresso and talk about how they slept, over a plate of eggs and red sausage and baked beans.
That seemed to be the only option for breakfast throughout Barcelona. Really sweet. Like a dessert. Or really salty. Like a dinner. There didn’t seem to be an inbetween.
My morning routine palate started to miss the treat of those bagels my mom would drive an hour away to buy. Where they had lines as long as those for the croissants across the street. Where were the bagels in Barcelona? Any small bakery I came across, I stopped in and browsed. I’d take my time and hold up whatever line there was. I’d walk out with a chocolate croissant.
Even my boyfriend who was abroad with me was searching around. He lived on the other side of the city. His own grocery store. His own local bakery with a line out the door. Even the bars that opened for breakfast didn’t have anything on the menu.
Our search couldn’t stop. Each and every day we continued the search, leaving early for class and wandering around finding new shops to explore.
Our satellite campuses were on the yellow line. One was at Guinardó. There was a mini mart with avocados and other fresh vegetables and fruits in plastic crates. The back had a wall of prepackaged bread like Pepperidge Farm, Sara Lee or Wonder Bread. But no bagels in a plastic sleeve.
Further down the yellow line, off of Girona, there was a café next door to our other campus. All the other students went there for coffee and crowded the shop because of its convenience. There was a large island in the middle of the café with baskets spread around filled with assorted baked goods. But only pastries and loafs of hard crusted breads that could beat like a weapon. We left with a coffee and walked back to the metro stop, heading home in defeat.
We soon found advertisements of Dunkin Donuts. Or Dunkin Coffee as it’s known there. The ad had a large cup of coffee with the logo and a bagel, stuffed tight with cream cheese, right on a poster down in the subway. Conveniently placed, there was a Dunkin Coffee at the Universitat cross over from the red to purple line underground. We eyed up the stand. The shelves were covered in donuts. We asked for bagels. We explained we saw an advertisement. Dunkin Donuts was a staple of my bagel diet back home in the United States. But I should remember, this was Dunkin Coffee. And Dunkin Coffee does not carry bagels. Great advertising. We got on the yellow line and made our way to the Girona campus.
Every day the teenage students that went to school nearby would stand outside in a large pack and skateboard around and share their lunches of chorizo baguette sandwiches wrapped in tin foil. One particular group was crowding just at the foot of the metro entrance in the way of the escalator.
I could see a girl head inside the store that they were also crowding around on their lunch break. She came back out with a coffee and a baguette. We never noticed the bakery, every day on our way to class. The sign up top in yellow capital letters read FORN DE PA PASTISSERIA. We put out hands up to the glass to cover the glare and looked in like children at Christmas eyeing toys.
Baskets were filled with assorted breads, just like the café down the street by class. But there, in a basket filled to the top, were the holey rolls that we craved to put in a toaster and brown to the point of being a crouton. We opened the door fast almost hitting one of the teenagers crowded around. A little woman behind the counter poked her head out and asked what we wanted. We pointed to the basket of bagels. We said we wanted them all. She went over to basket and again asked how many. We looked her straight in the eyes. All of them. Every one.
We ignored the fact we had class, already late, and prepared to eat bagels. We took the metro back to my apartment. Went upstairs and cut the first one in half and placed it in the oven to toast. It came out brown and sounded crusty, ready to break. I got out a butter knife. And realized we had no cream cheese.