Monday, December 22, 2008


As earlier advertised, I just spent 3 marvelous days in Barcelona visiting my two friends, Tesse and Stefan, who're studying there this year.

Absolutely everybody I talked to about Barcelona before I went is crazy for the city, and raved about how beautiful, gorgeous, and amazing it is. And it turns out, I wholeheartedly agree. I fell in love with the city at first sight. And first taste.

I spent three days wandering around, taking pictures, and eating. It was wonderful.

Barcelona is an interesting city partly because of it being Catalan, and not really Spanish at all. I wasn't really aware of this, but Spain has 4 official languages, and 3 areas inhabited by people who would really call themselves something quite other than Spanish (Basque Country and Galicia being the other two). Barcelona is pretty much the capital of Catalonia, and the language is a mixture of French and Spanish.

It's such an old city, but there's a lot of new mixed in, which I guess you could say about a lot of cities. In Barcelona, it shows itself in the narrow streets of the old town which are just too narrow for cars, which is the most amazing thing. Coming from the craziness that is New York traffic (even as a pedestrian), the long strolls we took around the old town were a welcome change for a few days.

The first night, we wandered over to "La Champagneria", the bar famous for being jam-packed at all hours of the day, for their 70 cent cava, and most importantly, their simple and straightforward tapas. My friends explained that there are the fancy tapas places, and then there are the traditional ones, where you can tell how good they are by how much garbage there is on the floor. (Meaning the staff is too busy serving people to stop and clean up). Utilizing this scale, this place was phenomenal. It's also super-cheap. Apparently, they haven't raised their prices for decades.

We each got a glass of cava and a sandwich (beef, bacon, roasted red peppers, the works, tasty, but greasy as hell... the combination of it and the magnitudes of cava we drank were probably the origin of our extreme queasiness the next morning) and found a small place to stand among the (it felt like) hundreds of other people jammed into the small place. What was really amazing, though, was the ham and chorizo we tried later. They sure know how to smoke a good ham...

My second day was designated as the Gaudi day, and we went all over town looking at all the wonderful buildings and city spaces Gaudi has contributed to Barcelona (and is still contributing: his enourmous cathedral, Sagrada Famiglia is still being built, and is nowhere near being done). I don't know much about architecture, but I've been looking at buildings all my life, and this guy had quite the fantasy. He certaintly wasn't a fan of straight lines, and his work really defines the city.

The first night was rustic tapas; the second was fancy, or at least as fancy as we could afford. We sat down at a restaurant, Lonja de Tapas, with a bottle of wine, and kept the food coming. We had patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy paprika and garlic mayo sauces), mushrooms with aoili, toasted bread with diced tomato sauce, roasted camembert in a dark berry sauce, smoked tuna with macademia nuts, chicken satay in a sesame sauce, tender pork bits with a mango jelly formed like a square, then topped it off with cheesecake with pistachio ice cream and a green tea olive sauce. I think the descriptions can speak for themselves as far as how yummy this meal was.

I used to think tapas was a weird way to eat, because you never really have an entire meal. Now I love it. There's nothing better than sitting around with good friends, some wine and taking your time tasting all different kinds of foods.

On my last day, we went for a walk by the beach in the sunshine before heading around town to do some Christmas shopping, which turned out to contain a lot more eating than actual Christmas shopping... We stopped every now and then to try something new.

We got chocolate raspberry tarts from a chocolateria and sat down on a bench to devour. They were so rich and yummy!

We went to the food market and got some olives to munch on. These were seriously the tastiest olives I've ever had. I don't know if I can ever go back to the boring store-bought kind again. I'm realizing that there are so incredibly many different kinds of olives, and all have thier unique taste. Olives are something I've never really given much thought to before, but now I'm hooked and am craving the ones we had in Barca. They had everything at the market: fresh fruts and veggies, dried chorrizo, cheeses galore... Everything was supercheap and mouthwatering...

Finally, we went to Granja de Chocolate for some churros dipped in warm chocolate, which was heavenly... The chocolate was really rich and would've been too rich to have on its own, but dipping the churros in it was out of this world.

After churros, we hurried home to meet up with a few of Tesse and Stefan's friends, who came over and made dinner for us! One of their friends is Italian, and he made a pizza di patatas, I think he called it, a baked mashed potato, cheese, and sausage caserole. I got to try out my Spanish that night, which mostly came out as French, but I think I gave it a decent try.

The trip was incredible; Tesse and Stefan were wonderful hosts, I ate a ton of amazing food, and I am now madly in love with a new city...

Barcelona, baby!

No comments: