Barcelona Barcelona Barcelona…
The taxi ride: from two points of view
Alice’s version – We jumped into our taxi and the “fun” started.
Smillie pulled out his best language skills, of which he has none. He tried to communicate with our driver in his “foreign language accent” where we wanted to go. Not having much success with his accent, he moved to plan B and raised his voice (you know Smillie thinks most “foreigners” are hard of hearing and thinks if you yell they will understand) and added a lot of hand gestures (just in case he couldn’t hear), tried some pointing (not sure why), and finally just showed the driver an index card with the hotel address in Spanish! Thank God he didn’t have to pull out his map and try and give him directions. After that, we had a nice safe ride to our hotel. The driver was great, the best we have had on this trip, and he actually didn’t have a death wish!
Smillie version: We jumped into a taxi, I let him know where we were going and off we went without an issue. Unfortunately, we ended up in what must have been the slowest taxi driver in all of Europe! I wanted some tapas, a glass of wine, and dinner and this guy could not find the *#^!%*@ gas pedal. If the speed limit was 80 kilometers an hour, he went 60, if it was 100 he went 60 and if it was 30 we could have walked faster. I was about to jump in the front seat and take over when we finally we arrived at our hotel, starving, after one of the worst taxi rides in Europe!
Our hotel in Barcelona was in the heart of the city on La Rambla, a tree-lined pedestrian mall, popular with tourists and locals alike.
After we checked into our room overlooking the La Rambla, we dropped our bags and joined the tides of people on a quest for dinner. We headed toward the harbor and the Christopher Columbus Monument. The street had an interesting collection of humanity. As we walked we kept an eye on the tapas bars, potential dinner locations.
It must have been 9:30 or 10:00 and after a full day of sightseeing in the Costa del Sol, a flight and a turtle for a taxi, we turned our sights on dinner and found Casa Guinart on the corner of La Rambla and the Boqueria Market.
Casa Guinart specialized in fresh market cuisine / tapas. Being on the tourist path and not finding a seat outside, we entered with low expectations. Jackpot is all I can say. From the moment we opened the door, we knew we made a great choice. Maybe we simply had fallen in love with Barcelona already and this was our first date with the great city or we were just starving. Either way, it was one of those places where, as soon as you sit, you realize you’re in just the right place at the right time with the right person.
We found ourselves seated on two bar chairs with the chefs cooking just in front of us, like in a Sushi restaurant – the spot could not have been better being able to interact with the chief, but the upstairs seating looked good too. Everyone in the place was in a good mood, the servers, the cooks and the other patrons, which just added to the night.
We started off with of great glass of Rioja and the sautéed mushrooms, fresh and perfectly prepared, and a good-sized portion for “tapas.” Next were the razor clams of which the cook actually walked me through how he cooked them. They were outstanding. Alice went for the scallops and won the dish of the night award. They served them on a bed of mix warmed greens. Butchering a line from Seinfeld, well actually Teri Hatcher, they were fresh and spectacular! We just kept eating and drinking our way through the menu. We drooled as we watched the other dishes being prepared for the other guests. Next trip I am going to have the Grilled oysters and the salted prawns.
Our first full day in Barcelona was split 3 ways – Sightseeing, Beach and Eating.
After a breakfast of fresh coffee made in a French press (black tea for Alice), cheeses, meats and a few too many mini-baguettes at our hotel, we set off to the Museu Picasso, the only Picasa museum created while he was still alive. The museum (the building itself) was something to see. The collection is housed in 5 adjoining medieval places on Montcada Street. The exhibit was just ok, it was not the Hotel Sale in Paris (Musee Picasso).
Park de la Ciutadella
was one of those “glad I saw it, even though it wasn’t on my list” places. I have to give this one to Alice – She wanted to see the fountain and it was gorgeous.
We exited the park through the entrance (typically) – the Arc de Triumf. It was very similar to the structure found in Paris but made out of brick with a Moorish twist.
We worked our way through the back streets and alleyways of the Gothic quarter, admiring everything from the remains of an old Roman wall to two great Gothic style churches, the Cathedral de Barcelona
and Santa Maria del Mar that was in the middle of a wedding. As we made our way back to our hotel, we did manage to make a few stops for a little tapas and something to drink along the way, believe it or not, well maybe a lot to drink.
Come to find out, like all good families in Spain on a Sunday afternoon, we made our way to the beach and its boardwalk (by taxi saving Alice’s feet) for a glass of chilled wine and some Paella. When we arrived, the restaurants, cafes and bars were packed, but we had a reservation. We enjoyed our Paella while watching the foot traffic, soaking in the sounds of the beach and smelling the intoxicating salt air.
We found ourselves in about the half-way point of the beach and decided to make our way down the boardwalk toward the new sail shaped W Hotel (A great hotel if you do not want to be in the city center).
Located at the southern end just after the busiest beach section, unbeknownst to us at the time. We found a small piece of real estate on the beach and settled in for an afternoon of sun and sand. At one point I woke up and a woman had made camp next to me.
When I say next to me, I mean next to me, she was literally on my towel, can you say spooning (the Spanish have no concept of personal space) – by the way, in this case it was not an issue for me either! Around 7:00 we left the beach and made our way to the W-Hotel before heading back to our hotel through the back streets of Barcelona. Once again we experimented with different bars, sampling the tapas, enjoyed several cold beers as we traversed the streets. Next up was dinner, yes it is about 9:30 or 10:00 at this point.
After a walk up the La Rambla in the opposite direction of the beach and a lot of discussion and map reading we found the restaurant we were looking for, but ended up at one just across the street from our hotel – long story for another blog post. The highlight was a grilled cheese – They piled a combination of 5 cheeses
directly on the grill. We then watched as the 5 distinct flavors and texture transformation and fused into the foundation of our meal. The cook added a slice of bread on the melting cheese concoction and then more cheese before a second slice of bread. He expertly flipped and finished off one of the best grilled cheese sandwich I have ever had.
Day two in Barcelona: Sightseeing, Beach and Eating
With our breakfast behind us, we made our way by taxi to Sagrada Família.
Quick tip – Pre purchase your ticket via the internet the day or two before to avoid the lines.
If you have time for only one sightseeing outing in Barcelona, this is it! La Sagrada Família is something simply different.
completed, the highest tower will be more than 50% higher as those that we saw. It is kind of funny that something that is still unfinished still attracts millions. Pope Benedict declared it was a “real church” back in 2010, not sure what it was before that!
After another taxi ride to a disappointing market that I cannot remember the name of (way too clean and organized for me) we made our way back to La Rambla and another market, Boqueria. This one was full of people, a maze of stalls, several café/bars and lots of confusion and a diverse selection of foods to sample. We had a few things vacuum-sealed for the trip home, a much better option than airplane food, even when traveling in the front of the plane!
The sun was high in the sky and the beach was calling our name. What we gave up for time on the beach was Guell Park – A must see and a big miss on our end. The other mistake was not taking the time to see Tibidabo Mountain. It looked to have a great view of Barcelona. I like to think that we didn’t miss anything, but simply saved a few things for our next visit.
Without regrets we made our way to the beach and the busy marina area built for the Olympic sailing events. This section of the beach/boardwalk was Port Olímpic, surrounded by bars and restaurants. With a back drop of an eye-catching giant copper Fish (Peix) sculpture and two-towers now luxury Hotel transformed from old Olympic housing. From our spot on the beach you could see the Teleferic cable car that connects Montjuic to the port via. This was something we opted to skip too as it sounded like a Spanish made tourist trap left over from the Olympics, just my two cents, but it is my blog.
By early evening we made our way back to our hotel once again meandering through the Gothic Quarter with its small streets and medieval feel before passing through Placa de Sant Felip Neri – one of the most historic squares in Barcelona with its 18th century Baroque church. We checked out the many cafes, bars and pedestrians as we made our way to a much needed shower and then dinner.
Our last night in Barcelona we had dinner at this great restaurant just off La Rambla and around the corner from our hotel – No map reading required. (Exit the hotel door, turn right and it is on the left as you enter a small square. We lucked out with a great table for two outside in the little Square. Everything was great, but the eggplant with honey is a must!!!
After dinner we hit the roof deck and bar of the hotel across the street from ours. If I was to do it all over again and someone was paying for it, this is where I would stay, the hotel Nunez Navarro.
We stumbled back to our hotel, more from exhaustion than anything else and tried not to think about our flight the next morning now only a few hours away.