This summer, October (I have a flexible definition of summer)
I’m off to Barcelona with a blogging friend, LaCroix, from Seattle
As the excitement ramps up to amber risk level I’ve been gathering advice from people who know Barcelona. Here’s some awesome suggestions from a London friend who’s in love with a person that lives in Barcelona:
- Day trip – Montserrat: Things to do: wander around and admire the shapes that inspired Gaudi, listen to boys’ choir, see the Saint, take the funicular to the top and check out some of the walks once at the top
- Day trip if you’re renting a car – Cadaques and Port Lligat, book well in advance to visit Salvador Dali’s house. Drive all the way up to the most Eastern point of the Iberian peninsula (Cap de Creus) and have a coffee/beer/snack at the top enjoying the amazing views.
- Montjuic – check out the Olympic Village during the day, pop in to Poble Espanyol, an open air museum and enjoy the distinct style of the Spanish regions. An absolute must are the ‘magic’ fountains (Thurs-Sun 2100-2330, buy some beers or cava beforehand to enjoy the show!) between the National Palace and Placa Espanya.
- Eating at the market. Les Cuines de Santa Caterina – this is a general google search. Looks like your Lonely Planet guide should have the details. I’ve only ever eaten at the ‘bar’, not the restaurant part. Quite a trendy place, definitely a step up from the traditional tapas bars, yet located under the market roof. If you want to experience the basic market eating check and love fresh seafood out La Paradeta located in Born. Check out opening hours if you decide to go.
- Things you should eat/drink: I am not talking your usual tortilla/paella stuff (btw sangria is widely regarded a tourist drink, try it if you wish but don’t be deceived – in my 4 years or so I maybe drank it….1 time with the locals).
- Cruasanes de crema (mini croissants with custard filling), at one of the bakeries around town. I get mine from Moli Vell, perfect with your afternoon ‘cortado’ – a popular afternoon coffee (cortado means coffee cut with milk).
- Another thing to try at the bakery is Ensaimadas. It’s a Mallorcan thing, when I first tried it I thought nothing special, but if you find good quality ones they’re divine
- Pintxos – Basque thing. Get a few on your plate and then pay by the number of ‘toothpicks’ left from the pintxos (also known as montaditos). The fun is in hiding a few toothpicks and paying less
- Pulpo a la gallega – from what I’ve seen the locals eat pulpo as if it was chicken in the UK
- Pebrots de padron – one of the tapas – tiny green peppers. The fun starts when you get a spicy one!!!
- Ensalada rusa – this is a mediterranean version of the typical Russian dish (Russians have it for every big occasion, so I was surprised to find it made its way into Spanish cuising), one of the tapas
- Jamon – ranging from industrially fed to acorn fed pigs, make sure you’re ready to appreciate the highest jamon category
- Pa amb tomaquet (bread with tomato) – typical fresh Catalan bread ‘rubbed’ with tomato (sometimes garlic) and olive oil, probably the most Catalan thing you can find, they use tomato and olive oil like non-Catalans would use mayo or butter
- Paella – OK so you should of course try paella, but make sure it’s good. Don’t go for the €10 per person type restaurants. We investigated over the weekend and for quite a central location Kaiku seemed good. Silvia’s relatives have been coming here for years (when Barceloneta was still a fishing village) and it’s got sea views and it’s close to the beach and everywhere else. There’s another restaurant close to Barceloneta bearch – Can Costa but the reviews are not as good. Apparently quality paella is freshly made, on charcoal or wood, uses fresh ingredients and good stock, for that be prepared to pay €25 and up. The cheaper ones are often re-heated from frozen. If you’re sharing a paella between two you probably won’t need starters (unless very hungry)
- Go up Las Arenas a bull ring refurbished into a shopping mall (lots of Catalans are against bull fighting, as a. they see it as cruelty b. bulls are a symbol of Spanishness). The facade was lifted up several meters (quite incredible) and you’ll get great views of Barcelona (L’Eixample and Montjuic)
- Spice up your Gaudi day by popping into Vincon a designy shop two steps from La Pedrera – great for window shopping experience or buying stuff for Wendy House
- Read The Shadow of the Wind and visit some of the landmarks mentioned in the book. They even do the shadow of the wind tours. You’ll find lots of historic drinking/eating places mentioned in the book like Els Cuatre Gats (the four cats).
- Have a drink in hotel Barcelo Raval to chilled jazz music and then go up to the roof terrace to enjoy the night views
Interestingly, barrios (neighbourhoods) like Raval and Barceloneta close to the sea tend to be the poorer ones, as they used to be fishing villages, old buildings with no lifts. The further up ‘the mountain’ you go in Barcelona, the posher. Watch your bags at all times when on the beach and in crowds of people. On the Barceloneta beach literally attach your bag to yourself as thieves can grab it and run. Take minimum cash and documents when you’re out. If you’re vigilant chances are nothing will happen, but I’ve had all my documents, cards, mobile and money stolen once
How fabulous to be given such thorough and thoughtful advice from a friend. Excitement levels have definitely reached amber!