If you’re brave you can view our photos. Warning: do not view when hungry!
Please don’t make us leave! Maybe I should stay and get a job at the Mercat Santa Catarina with the boy who sits on his Facebook page all day. Our flight left the Barcelona airport at 7 am, so we had to be there at 5, which means our car came at 4:45, which means we got up at 4. This is where being a triathlete comes in handy—I am pretty good at jerking awake, grabbing all my stuff, dragging myself to the start line, and slogging through a long race.
Once we got to the airport and dealt with the uber-cluster that is Lufthansa, we settled into our first of 3 airplanes for the day. The 22 hour journey home gave me a long time to reflect on our trip.
Favorite Activity: canoeing the Dordogne, seeing the Tour de France
Favorite Meal: La Recreation in Les Arques with the Hinckley family
Favorite City: tie between Cadaques, Spain and Beynac, France
Favorite Hotel: Hotel Casanova in Barcelona
Favorite Purchase: a necklace with handmade ceramic beads
Funniest Moment: I said (in Spanish) to the hotel maid in Cadaques, “I have trouble understanding your Spanish.” She said (in Spanish) “That’s because I’m speaking Catalan.” Then she said (in Spanish with great enthusiasm), “How’s Obama?”
Favorite Museum: Dali museum in Figueres was my favorite museum, but the Cezanne Picasso exhibit in Aix-en-Provence was my favorite exhibit.
Most Annoying American: At one point in France it was John. I was getting a little tired of translating. We were outside a restaurant and I was describing every item on the menu to him: rabbit with mushrooms, roast chicken, grilled calamari, etc. It went on and on and I was so tired of reading menus to him every time we ate. Finally I finshed and he said, “Thanks! It’s in English right over here, but you did a really good job!”
So all in all, a great trip. The flights home were fine. John and I are both gifted with being able to sleep on the plane. I usually fall asleep as soon as the plane starts its taxi to the runway.
It was a little hard getting off our 8.5 hour flight and onto a 5.5 hour flight. But that’s what it was. I called Autumn from DC, and she offered to bring the dogs and dinner to the house. Cindy and Larry offered to bring a 6 pack. So we got home, and there were our kitty, our dogs, our friends, some food, and some refreshment. I can’t tell you how happy that made me. Perhaps the most meaningful part of a trip is coming home to people you love.
When we woke up this morning we were moving pretty slowly. Is it possible to have too much fun, food, and festivities on a vacation? If so, I think we were butting up against the limits. So we took it slow getting ready for our day—our LAST day of touring. Day 18 would be one long day of travelling.
One pressing thought was presents. Did we buy enough? There were lots of people who helped us make this trip happen, and we wanted to make sure to bring a little something back for them. So we decided we would take the subway to the waterfront to look at the Mediterranean one more time, then walk up through El Riberia for some good gift shopping.
Years ago the waterfront had been one of the seedier areas of Barcelona, but the city soaked a lot of money in it for the Olympics, and we were really impressed with the infrastructure there at the beach—a huge boardwalk with lots of restaurants.
We were also pleased that the population at the beach was so varied. There were lots of seniors sunning and playing games in the sand. An example of this was the four 70-something men in speedos playing some type of racquet-less tennis game. It was about ten AM, so we figured the kids were all still in bed.
After touring the waterfront, we walked towards the Mercat Santa Caterina, where we were told by our Cinc Sentits waiter we would find a gourmet foods store where we could buy some ******** to take home for some friends. Sorry, can’t tell you what it is until the presents are delivered! As you know, I have never met a market I did not like. And though this was much smaller than the Boqueria, I got that same “market” thrill I always do. Maybe I should work in a market some day? They really make me happy, probably because of my interest in whole foods/local foods movements.
So we found the gourmet foods store, and as we walked in I noticed that the young clerk was reading his Facebook page. I thought that was pretty funny. Then a really loud, really big American man came in like a dust storm and started demanding (in English) to taste a bajillion different olive oils to find the one $10 bottle he would take back home with him, all the while exclaiming that California has the best olive oil in the world. This was one of those moments I was glad that everyone we met in France and Spain thought John was Scottish and I was Norwegian. Despite the drama, we found what we came for, then realized all this shopping was making us hungry.
There was a Tapas place nearby that was in the blogs and guidebooks, but hadn’t made our top list of “must-go” meals. But it was close, so he headed to Taller de Tapas. The prices were good, so we ordered a lot of food. Let’s see. Potatoes with eggs and chorizo, paella, grilled squid, tomato and anchovy salad with beans, and salt cod fritters since we had not tried them yet. The food was good, but I think we had been very spoiled throughout the trip so it was not a “wow” meal for us.
We went back to the hotel for a little rest, then headed back out to complete our shopping. That night we had our tasting dinner that was included with the package. It was at Mexiterranean, which was a fusion restaurant combining Mexican and Mediterranean flavors. John commented that it was a good “gateway” meal to get us back home. We started with drinks in the bar (also part of the package) and I told the bartender “make something fun.” That he did! We had strawberry mojitos, which were so refreshing and had a nice level of sweet and fruity taste.
The rest of the dinner went like this: tapas trio with ceviche, bruschetta, and chicken torta; sea bass with guacamole; Iberian pork with ancho chile; and gasp! a brownie with ice cream. The waiter was nice enough to bring me Tiramisu instead because my second least favorite food behind lima beans is brownies. I hate brownies. The tiramisu was good though. So this was a fun dinner, and a good way to end the trip since we could walk upstairs and go straight to sleep.
This morning we decided to do the Barri Gotic walking tour from our book Barcelona day by day. We walked two blocks to the Universitat subway station, switched lines at Urquinaona, and got off at Jaume I. We headed straight to La Catedral, but we decided not to pay the 12 Euros to go in. It was very pretty from the outside, though, and I’m certain it was just as lovely inside. I liked the Barri Gotic, more than La Rambla for sure. There were lots of tiny stone walkways lined with boutiques and restaurants, with a church, museum, or Roman ruin tucked here or there.
But the real thrill for the day was our 2 pm reservation for lunch at Cinc Sentits, the restaurant that I really wanted to try. The reviews all said that the chef created cutting-edge fusion food, which happens to be my favorite. I was smart enough this time to ask for a copy of the menu so here goes:
five spiced “Marcona” almonds
cantabrian anchovy and fig batons
house-marinated gordal olives
maple syrup, chilled cream, cava sabayon and rock salt
porcini cream and micro greens
PAN SEARED SCALLOP
sunchoke puree, onion escalivada reduction
IBERIAN PORK JOWL
green apple risotto, rosemary, pistachios
transparent gazpacho, fried bread
36 hour sous vide, carrot, beet, parsnip
pink peppercorn ice, pickled watermelon peel
APRICOTS FROM THE MARESME
chamomile ice cream, pistachio cake and streusel
My favorites from the tasting were the mushrooms and the pork jowl, but everything was delicious. In comparison to the meal at Hisop, I have to say I liked Hisop better because every single course was a hit. At Cinc, I was not a huge fan of the watermelon (though it could be said that was a “freebie” since it was really just a palate cleanser). I think the flavors at Hisop were just a little more supising too. I did love our meal at Cinc Sentits. The transparent gazpacho was so interesting because somehow the chef packed a lot of tomato flavor into a clear broth.
What would you do after a lunch like that? Siesta! We went back and had a nap, then got up to enjoy the cool evening with a walk around the posh shops along the Passieg de Gracia. We ended up at Velodromo, a new tapas bar that was recommended to us by our waiter at Cinc Sentits. Still full from lunch, we ordered 6 oysters and monkfish. I have to say that monkfish may have been the dark horse of the trip. I did not have high expectations because the place had a “bar” quality and I thought I would get “bar food.” But we asked the waitress what to order and she said monkfish and it was so tender and tasty.
We walked home in the beautiful cool air. Perhaps all of this wonderful food is curing me of my “attack reaction.” I felt happy and safe; even well cared for.
Well, it looks like that’s it for the running. I feel guilty because my friend Christina ran every day while she was in Barcelona. But she’s a better woman than I am! We’re walking so much each day that my feet really hurt. I have a physical therapy session planned for August 4 to deal with my arch pain. So I need to lay off the AM jogs. I thought about wearing my GPS to log the miles we’re walking all day, but let’s just call them 5 milers. I think we’ll be okay.
We got up without an alarm (thank heavens) and went downstairs for the first of our breakfasts at the hotel. It was so nice to have a carafe of coffee after weeks of the café allongé we had in France, which is basically espresso but brewed with more water. We also had croissants, egg pie, and fruit.
Then we took our first adventure on the subway. Here I had my second “attack reaction” of the Barcelona trip, which I attributed to still being a little uptight over being attacked in Marseille. We were buying tickets at the machine when a man came up behind us and said “What is the problem?” I’m not sure where in my mind it made sense that he might rob us, but for a moment I was terrified. Soon I realized he was recommending that we buy a different type of ticket that would give us a discount. I decided to take this as a life lesson: always prepare yourself for kindness.
The first “attack reaction” had happened the day before when John stopped in a store just for a moment as I walked 2 blocks back to the hotel. At a stop light two men in front of me turned around abruptly and said, “Hablo anglais?” I clutched my purse and prepared to lie. I guess I nodded a little because one of the men said, “Oh thank goodness. We’re lost! Do you know where La Rambla is?” That’s when I realized they were two American college kids—not low profile pickpockets. I sure hope that after a few theft-free days in Barcelona I’ll be back to normal. I have traveled with composure in much more dangerous places.
So we took the subway, which was clean, efficient, and fun! I love trains. It was about the 100th thing on the trip that made me want to move to a new city. We got to the Sagrada Familia, where we paid 12 Euros to get in (I’d like to know who wrote the rule that everything in Europe costs 12 Euros). I am not even going to try to describe this to you. The best thing I can tell you is go pay your 12 Euros and see the thing. Gaudi was killed by a tram car before the building was finished, and then many of the plans were destroyed in the Spanish Civil War. But to visit this place is to live for a short moment in Gaudi’s brain, which is as strange and brilliant a place as I’ve ever been.
We continued the Gaudi tour by walking down the Passeig de Gracia where he has several buildings, all the way down to the Boqueria. Have I told you lately how much I love markets? If I had only seen the Boqueria, my trip to Barcelona would have been worth it. Our first stop was at Pinoxto, a tapas bar teeming with people even at noon, which is well before most people eat lunch. We ordered two dishes: squid with white beans, and garbanzos and blood sausage. So delicious. Then we walked around the market some more. There’s nothing more exciting than the artisanal cheeses, the colorful fruits and vegetables, endless varieties of meat and fish. I don’t even need to buy anything to enjoy a market. It’s a gift to simply look. We made our way to the second recommended tapas bar in the market: El Quim. We ordered the seafood platter and thank heavens we did. This is certainly one we would love to recreate at home: razor clams, mussels, fish, shrimp, oysters.
Back at home it was time for a nap, and then massage appointments. I thought about asking Javier to spend all 45 minutes on my feet. I didn’t, and the massage went well anyway. Then John came in for his massage, and I sat outside in the courtyard listening to a person practicing the clarinet in a neighboring apartment as I lounged in a hammock staring at the blue sky.
That evening we went for dinner at a tapas bar John read about in the New York Times and was dying to try. We got there at 8, but we had to wait about 45 minutes to get a seat. It was so worth it. We had eggplant with molasses, olives, potatoes bravas, and olives with anchovies. We walked home and read for just a bit before falling asleep.