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Adventure in Barcelona

June 15, 1986|RUTH S. BRITTON | Britton is a Los Alamitos free-lance writer.

BARCELONA, Spain — At 6:30 p.m. on a hot summer day my husband, Alex, and I were two weary travelers, trudging our way back to our hotel on the Ramblas.

We were also hot, grimy and hungry. We had spent the day walking through all of the floors of the Picasso Museum, La Ciudadela Park with its modern art museum and its beautiful fountain, as well as the many unusual streets. It was quite enough for one day.

Because it was the workday rush hour, we decided that it would be more feasible to walk back to our hotel, about two miles, rather than use public transportation or a taxi. Besides, we rationalized that the view would be pleasant along the waterfront.

Leather Goods on Display

On the way we glanced at many store windows displaying beautiful leather goods. Our priority, however, was to return to our hotel, the Hotel Manila, and into a shower. So we viewed the leather articles as aesthetic items and on we walked.

But as we approached the statue of Columbus, turning onto the Ramblas, a young man handed us a brochure advertising a leather factory, Creaciones NOMAR. There is no shortage of leather factories in Barcelona. I was not interested in buying any leather goods, nor did I have the energy or inclination to even mildly consider trying anything on.

The young man was persistent, and stated that the factory was only a few steps away.

Alex convinced me to investigate. The young man led the way. We turned down a narrow street I gave Alex a questioning glance. He smiled and nodded his head to continue.

Arrive at 'Factory'

We walked into a dark foyer of a dreary-looking building. No. 3 Jose Anselmo Clave, climbed up two flights of stairs in the dim light, and arrived at the "factory." Presto, the lights were turned on. The factory was loaded with what appeared to be thousands of leather jackets, beige, purple, brown, black, red, etc.

Alex and I laughed. We would never consider such an adventure back home in Southern California. Speaking excellent English, a personable young man approached us. His name was Luis. He had me try on jackets.

I am 5 feet tall, weigh 98 pounds and have been relegated to shopping for all of my clothing in a petite specialty shop. Although the factory had many jackets hanging on racks, I had doubts about my being properly fitted.

We all laughed as I stood in front of the mirror. Although Luis had selected the smallest jackets in the shop, I looked like a little girl playing grown-up in her mother's clothing.

Eager to make a sale ("business had not been good that season"), Luis said that alterations could be made. I responded with a definite negative.

Luis was undaunted. They would make a jacket for me. We explained that we were leaving Barcelona in two days. An older man suddenly appeared with a tape measure around his neck.

Ready in Two Days

Luis introduced him as his father. He started to take my measurements and stated that a jacket would be ready in two days. Seeing my doubtful face, Luis assured me that if I didn't like the finished product, ". . . the jacket stays here."

Alex said, "What do you have to lose?" I was still dubious. I responded, "How could anyone make a jacket to fit me in two days?"

I insisted that we leave, convinced that we were wasting our time. We were left to find the way out of the maze by ourselves.

Back on the Ramblas, Alex said to me, "You blew it. You missed an opportunity to have a jacket made just for you. Where else could you have this done, especially at such bargain prices? I repeat, what have you got to lose?" He was right, of course.

Back we trudged, through the narrow street, up the creaking stairs to the factory. Fortunately, it was still open. Luis greeted us warmly.

I sheepishly related that I had reconsidered. Luis' father completed his measurements. We selected a style and color. I agreed that we would return in two days. To Alex I stated that I still fully expected to return home jacketless.

Returning for Jacket

After two more days viewing flamenco, Mountjuich, Montserrat and the famous Gauidi architecture, we returned to our leather factory at our appointed time.

The little beige jacket awaited me, along with Luis and his father. Still skeptical, I tried it on and posed in front of the full-length mirror. To my pleasant surprise, it was beautiful and a perfect fit.

All of us broke into smiles. The maker had not only duplicated my dimensions and made a stylish jacket but had captured my personality in leather. The jacket was "me!"

Every time I wear my Spanish jacket I am reminded of that episode in Barcelona, the factory, Luis and his father, the leather craftsman. Incidents such as this are part of the pleasantries of travel, the unexpected happenstances of exploration.

(The jacket cost about $100.)

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