Posts Tagged With: Spain

Barcelona – The Food! (Where to eat in Barcelona)

Churro being dipped in Chocolate

As usual, I was excited about the food options available to us while in Spain.  Tapas!  Paella!  Wine!

And once again, with the exception of the wine, my expectations exceeded the reality.  Not to say the food wasn’t good – it was!  We just had few outstanding meals.  I don’t know if my taste buds just haven’t been receptive, or if I’ve become a serious food snob, but I’ve been really hard to please lately.

The worst meal we had, by far was at Montserrat.  We ate at one of the cafeterias there, and it was…really not very good.  If you go to Montserrat, either bring a picnic, or pick up some food from the vendors that line the road leading to the monestary.  We really should have taken our guides advice on that!  Once you get there, you’ll pass 7-10 stalls that stock cheeses, jams, and some other food items.  We ended up buying a Manchego cheese and a Rosemary goat cheese, both of which were wonderful.  You can get samples, and decide what you like best.  And like I said, definitely consider buying some things here and having them for lunch.

We had a lot of mediocre meals, mostly at restaurants along Passeig de Gracia.  Our fault for simply sitting when we were hungry, rather than look for better options off the main drag – don’t make our mistake!

We did have some good meals, though:

La Pepita – this is a little (emphasis on little) tapas place just on the edge of the Gracia district.  It got wonderful reviews on TripAdvisor, and we kept trying to go, but every time we went it was jam packed with people and there was a long wait.  I’m not sure if they take reservations – worth a try, though.  If they don’t, try going at an off-time.  We finally managed to get in on one of our last days in town, and the tapas, wine, and service was wonderful.

Famen – Oh, my.  This counts (still, five months later) as the last meal I ate that blew me away.  We arrived at the restaurant early, Spain time – about 8:15pm.  We were the only ones in the restaurant for most of the meal.  I had narrowed my menu choices down to two, and asked our lovely waitress which would be better.  She recommended the ox with calvados apples.  When it came out, it was stacked – the ox, topped with the apples, topped with…something, I wasn’t sure what.  I took a small bite of the unknown substance to figure out what it was – and went to heaven.  It sounds disgusting, I know, but it was pure, crisped fat.  I’m talking eyes rolling back in my head, moaning, good.  A bit of the fat, a bit of the apples, and a bit of the ox, eaten in one bite…ooooohhhhhhhh.

9 Reinas – Stephen is a steak guy, but Finnish beef is nothing to write home about.  So when I saw there was an Argentian Beef restaurant in Barcelona, I made reservations (you need them) as a special treat for my husband.  Let’s be clear, this is not the place to go for local flavor – this is a white tablecloth steak restaurant, with prices to match.  We ordered two different cuts, and Stephen’s was far superior (and more expensive) than mine.  It was not Ruth’s Chris, but it was a nice steak for my poor steak-starved husband.

Toyo – If Stephen is a “loves steak can’t get good steak in Finland” kind of guy, I’m a “loves sushi can’t get good sushi in Finland” kind of girl.  While I can get it in Finland, I have to drive an hour or more to get it, so it doesn’t happen very often.  When we travel, though, I hunt down sushi places.  On one of our last days in Barcelona, I was looking for a sushi restaurant – but the first two we went to were closed (I think it was a Sunday).  Toyo, however, was open, so we chanced it.  Turns out, this place has a sushi buffet type set up, one with the little boats or a train going around in a circle.  We grabbed a couple of empty seats and started grabbing dishes as they came around.  It was a good chance to get a lot of variety for a very low price, and the sushi was great.  Aaaaannnddd…this was the last time I had sushi, as I soon found out I was pregnant…  (I think they have a full Japanese – aka cooked – menu, but you might want to check.)

Thai Gracia – yet another night of wandering around, looking for something open without too much of a wait, and just saying “Screw it, let’s go here.”  Thai food in Barcelona – why not?  While I can’t remember what I had, I can tell you it was wonderful thai food, if you’re in the mood for it.  And since it’s another thing we can’t get around these parts, it was good. One memorable part of the evening – Stephen shoving a carrot into his mouth, then discovering it wasn’t a carrot but a thai pepper.  He was hurting!

La Gran Cantonada – I mentioned this place in my “Day Trip” write up – this restaurant is in Casteldefels, about a 15 minute train ride from Barcelona.  We had a pitcher of sangria and split an order of Fideueada before heading to the beach.  Good food, good wine, lovely service.

Pitcher of Sangria

If you can, I highly recommend stopping at a few of the small shops and grabbing dinner like the locals.  Some cheese, cured meat, bread, and wine  – best dinner ever.

See more of our Barcelona trip:

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Barcelona – Day trips

Part 5 of our Barcelona trip!  We spent 10 days in Barcelona, which provided plenty of time for a couple of day trips.

We decided to head up to Montserrat, about an hour’s drive north of the city.  I had read about the mountain and the Benedictine Abbey there, and that it was an experience not to be missed.  The photos I saw didn’t really interest me, but I figured we might as well take the trip – and then follow it up with a nearby Cava winery. In the end, I’m so glad we went.  Montserrat was beautiful, very worth the experience.  It was cloudy on the drive up, and the top of the mountain was invisible or only partially visible a lot of the time.  But the clouds cleared out just after we arrived, and it was a beautiful, clear day.  We hiked along some of the trails, then went to the abbey to hear the boys’ choir sing.

day trip, Barcelona Spain

Montserrat hidden in the clouds

Barcelona Spain day trip

Montserrat and the Abbey, once the clouds cleared out.

day trip from Barcelona Spain

Sculpture at Montserrat – our guide said it was the stairway to heaven, or something like that.

The abbey is the home of the Virgin of Montserrat, which is housed in glass but has an orb that you can touch.  There were about 300 people in line, so we skipped that, but I was able to get a pretty good shot with my telephoto lens.

Day trips from Barcelona Spain

The Virgin of Montserrat, one of the black Madonnas of Europe.

After a few hours at Montserrat, we went to a Cava winery.  It was in a beautiful old house and we got to taste several samples.  I bought a bottle and brought it home…then found out I was pregnant.  We’ll celebrate the baby’s birth with cava from our trip!  🙂

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I desperately wanted to go to the beach while we were in a warm climate, but I had heard the beaches in Barcelona weren’t very good.  Instead, we decided to take the train to Casteldefels, which would take about 15 minutes.  Except…the train we got on was like an express train, and didn’t stop in Casteldefels…or any other place for over an hour!  When the train finally stopped, we hopped off, got on a train heading back to Barcelona, and crossed our fingers.  This time, we were able to get off in Casteldefels – good thing, too, as we were starving by this point!  We stopped at a restaurant near the beach and had Fideuada (kind of like paella, but with short spaghetti-ish noodles) and some sangria – so refreshing.

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Day trip from Barcelona Spain

Beach at Casteldefels

The beach was lovely, the water cool and refreshing, and the sun warm.  I was in heaven.  🙂

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Barcelona at Night

It’s a different experience, walking around Barcelona at night.  Some photos:

Barcelona, Spain

Sagrada Familia at night

Barcelona Spain

Stained glass on Sagrada Familia, lit up at night

Barcelona Spain

Spire at Sagrada Familia, lit up at night

Barcelona Spain

La Pedrera at night

Barcelona Spain

Casa Batllo lit up at night

Barcelona Spain, Gaudi

Casa Batllo roof lit up at night

Barcelona Spain at night

Lit balconies on a building along Passeig de Gracia

 

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Barcelona Post #3 – random architecture

Both Stephen and I really enjoyed the architecture in the city – we were both constantly pointing and saying, “Look at that one.”  I especially loved the pretty balconies and stained glass windows.  Here’s a sampling of what we saw:

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Architecture, Barcelona Spain

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Barcelona Spain

Architecture Barcelona Spain

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Barcelona Spain

Unique door handle

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Agbar Tower

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Former bullfighting arena

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Barcelona – Part 1!

View of Barcelona from Sagrada Familia

Oh, my gosh, Barcelona.  I had heard wonderful things about it, but I hadn’t expected to love it as much as I did!

We arrived on a Friday night, and left on a Monday morning, giving us nine very full days there.  Not that we truly filled those days – we definitely took it easy!  We rented an apartment while there, so we took our time in the mornings and enjoyed an afternoon siesta each day.  It was super relaxing, and a “vacation to recover from the vacation” wasn’t needed.

We didn’t plan out much for the vacation – we just knew we wanted to see the main Gaudi sites, plus the architecture of the different parts of the city, and take a couple of day trips outside of the city.  So the first day, we headed out to the Holy Grail in Barcelona – La Sagrada Familia.  The line for tickets went around the building (and that’s a big building!), so we decided to buy tickets online and come back another day.  In fact, that’s a pretty good rule of thumb for almost anything you want to do in Barcelona!

We had planned our vacation before we checked the events calendar, and it just happened to coincide with the end of La Merce Festival.  I read a little about it, and then checked out some videos online.  And then, I couldn’t wait to check it all out!!  Human towers, Catalonian dancing, fireworks, parades…Oh boy!  We decided to forego the correfoc (fire run) for fear of getting burned, although I admit I would have loved to have gone!

Barcelona Spain

Gigantes Parade, La Merce Festival

Barcelona Spain

Gigantes Parade

Barcelona Spain

Gigantes Parade, La Merce Festival

Barcelona Spain

Catalonian Dancing

La Merce Festival, Barcelona Spain

Building a pyramid (we saw some towers, but as you can see by the heads in the way, taking photos was difficult!)

La Merce Festival, Barcelona Spain

Topping out the pyramid – a kid (but at least he’s wearing a helmet!)

We strolled through the City Park (Parc de la Ciutadella)…

Barcelona Spain

Fountain at the City Park

wandered down by the beach…

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

took the funicular, then the cable car, up to Montjuic Castle (really a fortress, with old cannons and amazing views of the sea and the city)…

Barcelona Spain

Montjuic Castle

View of sea from Montjuic

View from Montjuic

walked over by the National Palace (which looked much cooler from far away than it did up close)…

Palau Nacional Barcelona Spain

View of National Palace from Montjuic

Barcelona Spain

National Palace – fun fact:  The Palau Nacional was built as a temporary building over 3 years for the 1929 International Exhibition in Barcelona.  They were going to tear it down after the exhibition!

checked out the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion (the polar opposite of Gaudi)…

Barcelona Spain

Mies van de Rohe Pavilion

Barcelona Spain

Mies van der Rohe Pavilion

On our last night, we finally made it out to the Magic Fountain, which was the fitting end to our vacation.

Montjuic, Barcelona Spain

Magic Fountain – Thursday-Sunday, starting at 9pm.

Magic Fountain, Barcelona Spain

Magic Fountain, Barcelona Spain

Magic Fountain, Barcelona Spain

*****

I have five or six more posts on Barcelona in the works, including a whole post on Gaudi and a whole post on the food, which, let’s face it, is the most important part of vacation!  Oh, and a post about our day trips to Montserrat, Casteldefels, and a Cava winery.  Stay tuned for more.  🙂

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