Blue flame over absinthe
Awesome bars,  Favourite places

Turning back in time, drinking absinthe in Marsella

This place  is a regular hang out for me and one of my group of friends.

This bar is situated in a very interesting place in Raval. The first time I walked in this street, I could not believe my eyes and got pretty shocked. Well you see because there was a line of prostitutes standing around. A parallel universe for me being used to years of a confortable and cosy world. Of course, workers of the night are present in every city. Just that when you plan to spend a night out and to have fun with your friends, it is a harsh reality that pops in front of your eyes.

Anyway, passed the first moment of shock, I follow my friends into the building. And here we are in Marsella.  Apparently, it is the first bar in Barcelona and as such the oldest bar in the city. It is pretty old alright. The place has kept a feel of 19th century, not that I am that old to remember… Everytime I come, it is always crowded with groups of friends, lots of expats and tourists. They all mix up here, all cool and young. I like the atmosphere. It gets into me. This is how I would imagine a bar where French poet Arthur Rimbaud would go for a drink, hang out with Verlaine, get inspiration or just relax. It has mirrors all over the walls, old style inscriptions, shelves of really dusty old bottles, a peeling ceiling that would not mind a layer of paints. Also the colour of the walls (in my head yellow/golden) gives the room a bohemian feel along with the cristal chandeliers.

Also everytime I come, the place is full and all the tables busy but somehow one always frees up magically when we enter. The waiter would place us and then ask for the order. “6 glasses of absinthe please!”  Yes, absinthe …hence my reference earlier on to Arthur Rimbaud as well. I suppose a place like this would lose all of its magic with normal bar drinks such as G&T or beer. Our drinks arrive. 6 glasses of golden liquor, 2 bottles of water with a pierced cap, sugar and fork. Like in many things we do, there is a ritual to follow. Firstly, I soak my cube of sugar in the alcohol and then burn it. This I believe is to improve the taste of the drink, quite strong and bitter. I like watching the blue flame taking over the sugar, taking life and slowly fading away. Then I pour the water in the glass until the drink is a clearer yellow. The real technique implies that the water is dripped on the sugar cube. I suppose again that like this the sugar dissolves easily in the drink and one would not have to toss it like I do when-I-put-sugar-in-my-coffee as my friend notices.

Without being a connoisseur, I believe that this is not the best absinthe in the world. The ones I tasted wandering in the streets of Prague had a much sharper and refined savour. But I still enjoy it. And before my lips even touch the glass, I already know that this one treacherous drink. At this moment I sip it but I keep in the back of my mind that tomorrow will be one day of a strong headache and probable hangover…All the more that I find myself betting with another friend of mine about who is going to drink faster each of our second glass. What has got into me? Absinthe in one go… At least, I won – a chicken curry dinner cooked by him. Hopefully A. will remember it when he sobers up … He does not admit defeat though and challenges me with a 4 vodka shots drinking competition so we head towards the bar. The barman turns his back on us and completely ignores A.’s calls. It is time to close and pack up. Thank God, I am saved by the bell!

Marsella – C/Sant Pau 65, El Raval, Barcelona

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