Actor and all-round legend Larry Lamb meets the locals in Barcelona on his Mediterranean Cruise Mates adventure.
Like me, you probably know British actor Larry Lamb best as Archie Mitchell, the no-nonsense cockney geezer he played in Eastenders. You may also know him for his portrayal as Mick Shipman, Gavin’s loveable and down-to-earth father in Gavin & Stacy.
What you probably don’t know however is that Larry speaks five different languages and has an immense passion for travel.
The actor recently put his Español to the test and found himself in his element when Thomson Cruises challenged him to take part in their ‘Cruise Mates’ adventure, sailing to Barcelona on their gleaming new TUI Discovery 2 cruise ship to meet and connect with the locals.
Who, not Where. Connecting with the Catalans
Larry’s experience beautifully illustrates something I’ve always firmly believed: that it’s not just about where you travel, but also about who you meet along the way that leaves the biggest impression.
Interestingly, Larry’s challenge to meet locals was inspired by a recent study by Thomson Cruises and Yale University. Results proved that British travellers that make up to five new connections with people from different cultures while on holiday can be up to 10% happier than those who make no connections at all.
Following the Flow
Following a tip off from his taxi driver, Larry’s first port of call was the bustling Boqueria food market on Barcelona’s iconic Las Ramblas boulevard.
Here he got chatting – in mighty impressive Spanish, I may add – with local legend Juanito Bayen. Wearing his signature waistcoat and dicky-bow, Juanito has been running Bar Pinotxo (Pinocchio Bar) for “60 or 70 years” and is famous for serving up hearty Catalan cuisine at bargain market-stall prices.
Flamenco, Palaces and Centuries of Tradition
After a feast of pulpo (octopus) with farm-fresh green beans, Larry followed Juanito’s recommendation and ambled over to the ancient Baroque Palau Dalmases for live flamenco.
Funnily enough I was there myself just a couple of weeks ago and was swept away by the candle-lit romance of this noble palace, which dates back to the 15th century. I was deeply moved by the performance and am not at all ashamed to say that I spent much of the night holding back back the tears.
Larry got talking to dancer Christina Blanco Eslava and guitarist Rafael Cañizares, who expressed their passion for performing, celebrating and performing the ancient art of flamenco.
“When you start dancing, there’s something that fills you inside,” explained Christina. “It’s the same if you dance, sing or play the guitar. It’s a feeling you cannot hide.”
With their regular percussionist absent, the two flamenco stars invited Larry to accompany them on the cajon, a sort of wooden box used used in flamenco to produce all sorts of snappy sounds and rhythms. Like his Spanish, Larry’s musical skills were surprisingly good.
“I have been lucky enough to travel the world during my career, meeting a diverse group of people from across the globe, but I’ve never had the opportunity to experience a cruise. After spending a week on TUI Discovery 2, I learnt that cruising really is an incredible way of seeing the world, meeting new people and broadening horizons,” Larry said about his experience.