LeBar: The Barcelona Laundry Cafe

LeBar barcelona

"Ah yes, there's a place just around the corner" "I'll write it down for you" the friendly Spanish hostel worker said from the front desk. He slid me a card on which he'd written "lebar". I thanked him even though he'd clearly misunderstood. I was looking for a place to wash my clothes, not my sorrows. With a pack filled with laundry, I entered the breezy Barcelona streets.

"Surely there's gotta be a laundromat around here" I thought. "Lavandaria", I translated the word. No Wi-Fi, no maps. I roamed without direction. Through a window, not far, I spotted a stack of washers. Above, a neon sign read “LeBar”.

On one side, a stack of steel drums, and on the the other, a chic cafe with contemporary decor. Lofted ceilings, and massive windows supplemented the industrial light fixtures which draped. “Laundry Bar” spelled out in an elegant tile mosaic entryway. At the back counter, a selection of snacks and drinks, and a welcoming face.

"She might be the best one yet" I wrote about the charming barista who served me a San Miguel caña after assisting with my clothes. I snacked on "chips" and guac, while watching the bubbles and passersby. The sun poured in from outside. The people were all smiles. I closed my journal, folded my clothes, thanked the barista, then headed for the park. With its ambiance and offerings, LeBar made the chore of laundry feel more like a treat.

BlaBlacar to Barcelona

Effortlessly, she toggled between Spanish, French, and perfect British English, with bits of Russian in-between. While piloting her yellow Nissan Juke through the French Pyrenees, Carmen charmed us out of our seats. Out the window, castle Foix, rustic villes, and rugged peaks. But, as my second BlaBlacar journey progressed, jammed into that tiny back seat, I began to feel sick.

No, it wasn’t so much the motion, as the ever-impending doom of our fate. “This is my first time as a BlaBlacar driver” “This is actually my boyfriend’s car”, Carmen’s charm quickly turned to alarm. With each incline, the engine redlined. “I don’t know why it keeps doing this when I put it in low” she said.

At a hairpin turn, she jumped into the other lane. Like a formula one driver, blindfolded and drunk, no, wasted, she went for a near fatal pass. The oncoming traffic swerved, and the horns echoed into the canyon, that we very nearly launched toward. “Woo, sorry about that.” she said, then carried on with Aymeric, the Spanish douche, to my left.

Dressed in a matching track suit, with a “just do it… later” phone case, the Spanish frat boy was twenty minutes late. In the car, he seemed unaware of the dangers of the madwoman behind the wheel, instead opting to persistently flirt with the stuck-up Parisian girl up front.

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“Barcelona 137km” a sign read. My stomach filled with dread. “We may end up down there” I stared very seriously at the bottom of another cliff.

A river carved out a canyon. The shadows danced through the trees. I cracked the window. The crisp mountain air offered a slight sense of relief.

Through Burton, a tiny mountain town. And finally, through a quick border checkpoint. Accelerating into turns, and down steep grades. Constantly fidgeting with the dash. “Barcelona 100km”. About an hour left.

“Northwestern Spain looks like the American Southwest” I noted on my phone. Forested peaks turned to piles of rock and sparse, shrubby trees, as we exited the Pyrenees. More than once, we passed an ancient fortress city.

As the roads flattened out, I exhaled a massive sigh of relief. “We may actually make it” I said in my head. At a roadside café, we stopped for a bathroom break, and Carmen bought us coffee. “It’s called a cortado.” She said. “It’s very popular here in Spain.”

With the red brick of Barcelona on the horizon, Carmen highlighted several must-see sights. “Guard your valuables” she warned us of potential pick pockets. One by one, she let us out. And after two of the most terrifying hours of my life, I emerged into the Barcelona streets.

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