This summer my mom came to London again, which meant that we could leave the kids and get away for a quick weekend.
How flat-out lucky are we?
We were thinking we could get away the second week in July, and this time we had our eyes on Spain. Neither of us had been yet and it was the obvious choice.
That makes it easy enough – Barcelona it is!
Our pre-trip research began and ended with watching the Barcelona episode of “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having.”
That show told us everything we really needed to know – which is what to eat. And where. The host – Phil – is charming and fun and I’m pretty sure he’s our friend now.
Rich booked our flight and hotel, and we were on our way.
Goals = Tapas, Sangria, and Paella.
We arrived at our beautiful boutique hotel. Great job honey.
Then we went straight out to explore the “La Boqueria” market. It was within walking distance of our hotel and it did not disappoint.
Oh my goodness.
Fruit. Meat. Fish. Cheese.
Fruit again. Laid out in beautiful, eat-me-right-now fashion.
It’s well and widely known that I’m a *bit* of a fruit extremist.
So naturally, I’m all up in this place.
How can I make this my life? I want to eat all the fruit within eye shot. I will work for them, and they can pay me in pineapple and cherries. And I’ll never be sad about anything. Or – I could move in! Just roll myself out a sleeping bag and sleep in the aisle. And everyone would be like, “What happened to Emy?” And Rich would be like “I lost her to the fruit. She has become a recluse inside the market and can no longer be reasoned with.”
Heart times a million with La Boqueria.
I peeled myself away from the fruit section and we made our way to the meat and cheese.
We had some cheese, the famous Jamon (ham), and had some fried seafood.
Then, because that wasn’t enough – we located our final destination inside the market = a restaurant called El Quim de la Boqueria. The place that our *friend* Phil had recommended to us. And at first, we couldn’t figure out how to get any food. There were, like, 20 barstools around the workstation. And every single barstool was occupied with a human – eating, and mostly leisurely drinking and chatting. Then beyond that, were maybe 40 other people just standing around… with no rhyme, reason, or purpose. So we watched for a while. We almost dropped it and left. It wasn’t making any sense. When one of the lucky diners got up, everyone wiggled their way toward that empty barstool. And whoever got there first was the winner. Like, grown up musical chairs. No line. No one in charge. Free-for-all for empty seats.
Once we understood how to play, we were ON IT. I circled. Rich and I were both servers for several years. In those years, we honed a special skill – not often used, but now suddenly crucial to our existence. This special skill is knowing when people are close to being done eating. I positioned myself between our two likeliest candidates. And wouldn’t you know it, candidate number one was finished within minutes and our butts were on those stools. Thank you very much.
We tried our first In-Spain “potato bravas” with croquettes and then moved on to the prestigious squid omelette.
It was also here that we had our first In-Spain sangria. Hello!!!! It was like glug glug glug glug SO GOOD.
We wandered around, down the main shopping area, Las Ramblas.
We found the Sagrada Familia. Obviously awesome. We didn’t feel the need to go inside because the outside is an experience in itself. I read through my guidebook while we walked around it and we appreciated it even more.
The streets of the city are chill and green.
I love a good set of doors.
AND when a city takes time to make it’s manhole-covers a work of art all on their own.
Here is a typical Tapas menu.
During the days – because we’re us – we went to the beach.
Barcelonetta Beach one day and Platja de la Nova Icaria Beach the other.
The first was a fun-music-party scene.
The second was quiet, peaceful, and surprisingly well equipped.
Along the beach – one of the main items being sold was “beach sheets.” I decided I should have one and I could probably get it back into my luggage somehow. Worst case, I would just have to wear it as a blanket scarf.
I carefully perused the offerings and then bargained for my choice. I enjoy a good haggle.
Look at that! Pretty AND Functional.
And might I note that at BOTH beaches – quiet and calm or music-party. Most of the women were topless. I actually would’ve liked to have had the children with us for this. Especially the boys. The European attitude towards nudity is something that I support. Listen… it’s just boobs. Americans can be so weird about it. When you are there – it’s not like people are running down to the sand ripping their clothes off and screaming “I can’t wait to get naked!” It’s so casual and non-sexual. I’m not sure you can understand it until you go there. No one is oogling or judgmentally staring. In my humble opinion – it’s good for boys, and men, to have a realistic expectation of a woman’s body. The images of women that young boys are exposed to are confusing. When they enter the dating world, their girlfriend’s body isn’t going to look like a brushed-over supermodel. More importantly, they shouldn’t expect her to.
I’m not about to go make a flash card set of tasteful-naked-women pictures or anything. I’m just saying – I would argue that exposure to occasional, casual, non-sexual nudity at a young age satisfies boys’ curiosity in a healthy way.
Anyway… that’s enough of that.
If you’re wondering whether or not I joined in…. welll… all I have to say is “you only go around one time” or “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” or whatever cliche thing you would like to insert here.
We liked the beach at night too.
Rich even risked his life by purchasing, and drinking, a mojito from a guy just walking down the beach. As in, this guy wasn’t with a resort or restaurant or anything. Just a dude with a box-lid-turned-tray of drinks he made… himself… I guess. Rich is like, “It’s good.” and I’m like “I’m sure it is. But one of us has to return home to the children, I’m not drinking that.”
Speaking of drinking… that’s leads me to eating….
We had Potatos Bravas and Sangria with nearly every meal.
We were like “Well…. we better try THIS PLACE’s bravas.. and their Sangria. You never know…. It’s better to be thorough with something like this.”
We tried a different version of Tapas. This type is called Pinchos, and these are little concoctions stacked on top of little pieces of bread – each stuck with a little stick. You go along and pick pieces you would like. It’s quick and casual; more like snack time. Then you just pay according to your sticks that are left behind. This one was tough. There was no English and minimal staff because we were there at an odd time. We ordered Sangria and just did our best.
We LEGIT had no idea what we were eating.
THEN we went to this place, called Tapeo – a recommendation from my Rick Steves guide book. I definitely knew what we were eating and it was delicious. So good I barely got a picture. Sangria was the best here.
Probably our favorite meal of the whole trip.
I don’t know if that was our favorite.. because this was also our favorite:
Chringuito Las Sardinitas is the name of the restaurant. It sits right on the beach.
The previous meal was favorite non-paella and mussels meal.
And this one is our favorite paella and mussels meal.
This place had been recommended to us by a friend – who told us to go here if we wanted good Paella. And I was like “I DO want good Paella.” We sat down right as the restaurant was opening for lunch. And the waiter was like “Paella takes 20 minutes and the chef who makes the Paella won’t be in for another 15 minutes.”
I was like… “Well we came here for it. I guess we are waiting for the man.” And I mean…. we’re sitting on the beach, no kids yelling at us, suns out, cold drink. Waiting is not going to be an issue for me.
Paella man earns it. He deserves to be waited for.
Our *friend Phil* recommended we go here for the hot chocolate. Even though it’s summer, it’s still a thing here. And it’s a thing specifically in this cafe. Phil NEVER steers us wrong, so we did as we were told and reported here right when they opened for the afternoon. And we weren’t the only ones.
You dip and then you eat and then you drink.
Sweet but not too sweet. Creamy and smooth, but still light. Deep flavor, but still familiar.
Delicious is an understatement.
I think I had to rest my head on the table for a second.
If I lived anywhere within a throw of this place I would be in major trouble.
Because it was cheap too.
Also on the cheap treat scale, was a little beauty called a “Farto.” They were being advertised at 5 for $1 and we were charmed by the name so we had some. And they were also just a prefect little treat. Not too much of anything, just right perfect where they need to be.
The only thing I have left to add is how easy and convenient public transit is in Barcelona. Especially out to the airport. In some cities there are multiple airports and train lines that run out to them. And in some cases, the airports are far from the city center.
Not here. Barcelona isn’t too big, and the airport is close to downtown. You can just hop on the public *air conditioned* airport transfer bus for like, $5. Equipped with power adapters and luggage racks. The entire trip took 25 minutes. IT WAS AWESOME.
Thank you, Barcelona, for this.
I found the smoking culture in Barcelona to be horrendously disappointing. I’m not sure why – STILL – Europe is stuck on smoking. They are super careful with their food laws and regulations, but smoking is still heavily part of life. Barcelona was especially bad for this. While having one of our meals on the beach, a French couple right next to us smoked THE ENTIRE TIME. Like, three cigarettes each, in the span of our meal. By the end of our trip, I had learned if we wanted to limit our smoke exposure it was better to ask for an inside seat. But… that….. SUCKS for us. I want to eat outside with all of the cool kids… So, whatever on that.
I would also note, that I was a little surprised at the prices here. I hadn’t expected them to be quite so high everywhere. I know Barcelona isn’t necessarily known for being a “budget” type city but it doesn’t have a really expensive reputation like London or Paris or Monaco. I guess my expectations were just a little off. Lesson learned.
Other than those two things, I found Barcelona to be charming and cool and definitely delicious. Every bit as much as we had hoped it would be.
I would be happy to return again, if only to visit the fruit market alone.
Where we stayed: