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Back to bars

Bars and restaurants have reopened-well some of them have. You do feel for them as it’s been a case of long closures since March followed by a joyful summer of back to normal, then a slow decline to eventual returned closures in late autumn. Current Covid related rules say that cafes can only utilize 30% of interior space which equates to being uneconomic to open for many.

The sight of empty cafes, bars and restaurants is made even stranger when you consider how much they’re a part of daily culture here. No one lifts an eyelid or is bothered by seeing someone having a cana (small beer) or a ‘cigalo / carajillo’ (small black coffee with brandy) at breakfast time.

Sure, there’s plenty who’ll prefer a coffee too or an ‘infusion’- herbal tea. I should also mention the cup sizes here aren’t as big as ones you’re used to in the UK/USA.

People nip in and out of these places all day long. Early starters often pop in for their 1st breakfast (esmorzar), and again later in the morning for their 2nd esmorzar-nice.

I’ve used my local ones extensively in the past as a handy place to conduct my one-to-one English classes. In all parts of Spain the outdoor culture is ingrained and the norm.

Personally I can’t figure out how they can survive if they only charge about 1.70 euros for a coffee. I suppose it’s a numbers game and many are open long hours, from 7am to 9 or 10pm. That wasn’t always the case, many local to me have been taken over by new Chinese owners who stay open for much longer. 

It’s also highly competitive as there’s so many here. The enticing offers include a coffee and a ‘mini’ (a very small piece of baguette with a simple filling of cheese or ham) for 2.50 to 3 euros. 

By the way these are prices in the more residential areas of Girona. The newer, trendier cafes in the old town which cater more for the uber cyclists have a coffee menu more akin to what you’d see in a Starbucks or Costa Coffee if you’re from the UK. Fair doos, you pay a tad more, get a bigger cup and it’s not bad. One place even lets you leave your bicycle inside.

The one, continual general gripe I have is how tepid the coffee is when it’s served. So much so that I have to ask for ‘leche caliente’ Spanish for warm milk. I never order tea here, it’s just too weak and is served as a herbal tea, with a cup of hot water/tea bag or in a tiny teapot. Don’t expect to find a large mug of sweet tea with milk.

Only time will tell who keeps going and stays afloat, what appears a saturated marketplace somehow always finds its own equilibrium.

N.B. In Catalan milk is ‘llet’ which sounds like ‘yet’, ‘amb’ is with, sounds like ‘umm’ -so join it all together to make ‘cafe amb llet’-coffee with milk.