Monday, January 26, 2009
From my travel experiences, some of the best finds are often off the beaten path, tucked away like hidden diamonds in the rough. Such was the case with Can Paixano in Barcelona, Spain. Although unmarked from the street, this wild and locally-loved cava bar is easy to find if you let your ears lead the way.
The scene inside Can Paixano is always bustling.
Known as "The Champagne Bar" (cava is Spanish for champagne), Can Paixano is a small, rustic bar decorated in true Spanish style with large dried ham hocks hanging from the ceiling and towers of cava stocked on the shelves along with other assorted ingredients and goods.
Located in the old fisherman district near some of the city's most popular public beaches, Can Paixano is just a short distance from the Barceloneta metro stop. Plan to arrive early in the evening, as the bar tends to fill up by 7 p.m. leaving little room for standing, let alone squeezing your way to the counter to place your order. Being elbow-to-elbow with strangers in this rambunctious atmosphere is just half of the fun. And the other half? Two words: cheap champagne.
Can Paixano Cava comes in five varieties.
With the most expensive bottle ringing in at a little more than five euros, Can Paixano cava is easy on the wallet but not lacking in taste. Unlike many cheap American champagnes that can carry sickly sweet intonations, their cava is dry and delicious coming in several varieties to choose from including selecto (select), rosado (pink), cava extra (semi-dry), brut (dry) and brut nature (dry natural).
Don't expect to buy by the glass either. Their cava is most-often sold by the bottle, and it's compulsory that you purchase two sandwiches with each bottle of cava that you order. My Spanish equivalent of a ham and cheese sandwich turned out to be quite tasty, although be forewarned their cheese selection includes a few fragrant ones, in case this isn't your preference. If you find yourself on a second bottle of cava, I recommend trying out one of their desserts.
In other words of wisdom to be shared with all who intend to make an evening visit to Can Paixano, remember the following:
• Politeness doesn't pay. Be prepared to use elbows to make your way through the crowd to the prized counter spots near the bar. If you're able to snag this space, be prepared to fight to keep your spot.
• Use the restroom before entering the bar.
• Stay close to whoever you're with so that you don't get separated in the mob.
• There's probably an 80 percent chance you'll have to shout your order. Even if you only have a very basic knowledge of Spanish, you should be able to communicate your order (i.e., Necessito una botella cava selecto con dos bocadillos de jambon y camembert por favor.) If all else fails, just make a drinking motion and point to the cava (expect to be laughed at if it comes to this).
• The Spanish word for toast is Salud! Quite literally this means "health" or drinking to your health.
• While Can Paixano closes at 10:30 p.m., plenty of beach bars and clubs are close by so you can continue your festivities unfettered. At 10 or 11 p.m., many people in the city are just finishing their dinner and are starting the night, which means that it's not uncommon for Spanish clubs to stay open until 5 a.m. or even 8 a.m. before partiers head home from the fiesta in hopes of catching a later siesta.