18 December 2008

Shop hopping

It's a pity that Christmas "spirit" is largely accumulated through the ritual of shopping, crazed buying, urgent purchasing. But there are some elements of Christmas shopping that I really enjoy: the lights, the window displays, the decorations, the wrapping paper and ribbons.

So far this year most of my shopping has been stress-free and online (thanks to timely Christmas lists from my family), but yesterday I ventured downtown to see if I could finish off my USA purchases--but not without deciding, first, that I would try to concentrate solely on independent shops and boutiques instead of the big department stores (even if I did stop to admire the huge lighting display on the facade of El Corte Inglés!), and second, that I would try not to feel any pressure to buy gifts. If I don't find something I like, no biggy. We'll figure it out.

The first goal was more easily accomplished. In the end, I did feel urgency, an urgency tinged by a desire to buy something in one of these local stores instead of, say, at the airport or on Christmas Eve. And it is a more time-consuming and frustrating way to shop: you're never sure what you'll find or where.

But I had a fantastic time wandering around the little shops of the Barri Gótic, especially Carrer Avinyó and the back streets of the Born. I saw a ton of bright, fun, Barcelona-style handmade or locally made clothes, lots of great little crafts and designy items, and a good selection of books, second-hand/vintage jewelry, and funky art. I ate my favorite falafel, bought coffee beans and spices at Casa Gispert, tucked away on the stone flank of Santa Maria del Mar (while drooling over their foodie gift baskets), considered some great vintage furniture at Gotham (we still need a coffee table!), found some bird ornaments too adorable to pass by at the gift shop of the Textile Museum, and at last, bought my Christmas gifts, nicely wrapped up by two French girls.

All the stores here do gift-wrapping as a matter of course, which I find very charming, but it always presents me with a dilemma. I love wrapping gifts myself--in fact I carried wrapping paper from Brussels to Barcelona for that purpose--but variety is nice too, and some of the stores do a lovely job. To find out, though, if the job will be lovely or crummy, they need to wrap it first... and then I feel bad undoing an already-wrapped gift! Plus, it's hard to show the Mister what the gifts we're giving look like ahead of time.

Anyway, now that these Christmas gifts are (almost) done--still a few details to be gathered once in the US--there remains another round of presents, for the Mister's family for Kings on January 6! The fun never ends...

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