Thursday, September 15, 2011

BARCELONA TRIP REPORT...(LONG!)

OK! here it is...finally...got some time to write my review...I'm not a writer by any means, so please excuse any mistakes and feel free to correct any errors I might make along the way...and ask any questions you may have.



#1: NO PICKPOCKETS!...I'm not saying it doesn't happen (I'm sure it does...but its not like they make it out to be...at least for me) I didn't even feel I needed my money belt. I wore a purse across my chest with a zipper, my money & credit cards and ID were inside in a pocket with another zipper and my hand sat naturally on my purse the whole time...I must have secured it very well, or looked very poor! ha ha because never, ever did I see or experience any attempt of pickpocketing.



#2: Shoes: i guess I'm not used to wearing very flat shoes...because my heals were hurting the whole time...I'm also not used to walking (lets be honest) :)



#3: Food: WOW! most places unbelievable!...the only exception (and I know Gigi's is going to kill me for this! so, I'm sorry i betrayed the "Foodie" code) but on Sunday I couldn't do another step...I skipped Paco Meralgo and I ate a quick early dinner (before going to Casa Batllo Nights) @ Tapa Tapa (which was horrible to say the least, but the service at least was good, with a very nice waiter that kept flirting ;)



#4: Best Sight: well, of course Sagrada Familia!!! I'm not lying when i say that the moment I got inside, I had tears in my eyes!...how could someone dream sooo big!! it was incredible, beyond belief...I'm not one to wonder for hrs in 1 place, but this deserves much more time that i could give it (I spend about 2 hrs there looking for all the symbolism.



#5: Taxi Drivers & People: soooo Nice!! taxi drivers very honest, kind and did not drive me around...maybe cause i had a map and a smile! People were beyond nice and kind and always willing to help...mad conversation with anyone and everyone I could...so as a solo traveler, BCN is the perfect place!



Day 1:



OK, so I'm here! After many months of planning I can’t believe I’m in BARCELONA!

It took 3 flights-California-Atlanta, Atlanta Paris, Paris-Barcelona.

I flew with Air France on Premium Voyageur class. Which I don’t know if it was what I expected. The seats were much bigger, larger personal area, better service but I guess I was expecting more room between seats next to each other, and the seats did not look new, or did the space. I thought that Premium Voyageur was a fairly new class. Nonetheless, it was light years better than squeezing into those economy seats! Way better and the fact that you have your own separate line at the airport for check-in and even passing through security was a lifesaver. The food from AF was very good, better than other airlines, but still airline food. Premium Voyageur does not get 1st class meals; they are the same as Econ. So that was a bummer. However, the salad with edamame and corn was delish! And the raspberry chocolate cake, as was the champagne of course! They give you an amenity kit just like the one for business class, which you know how cool it is to receive free stuff! So I was in heaven! It included: socks, a sleep mask, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, Clarins moisturizer, and a few other things. Very nice. I haven’t received a kit like that since I flew Aerolinas Argentinas back in the day when they used to come to LAX and I had no wrinkles! That was light years ago!

CDG (Paris) was difficult to navigate, and hard to find help when you need it. Nonetheless, I make my connection with flying colors! (get it…flying) ja ja! OK its like 7:30am… The flight from Paris to Barcelona felt like at any moment, I should start praying! ... it was so turbulent!... and anyone who knows me... can just imagine my face... I went from very pale to green!  I was so excited, not just for Barcelona, but my life! Yey... i made it! wooshh!

So I get to my B&B in the Eixample area…which I love! It’s the BarcelonaBB on Mallorca & Girona.

My room is amazing, which a nice big window overlooking Mallorca, High Ceilings, the whole apartment itself is very nicely decorated, I love to feel like you are taken back in time. This place is like that. The decor very well thought out, super, & I mean super clean throughout. A little patio, seating area, computer area, bathrooms and rooms. It has a bit of an antique feel to it, but with modern conveniences. Kiku the owner is beyond nice….and very charming…

OK, on to my day:



Took aerobus to Placa Catalunya, and a taxi from there to my BB, the taxi was like 7 euros. Pretty good. Very very nice talkative driver. Even pointed out some things. Great 1st impression of BCN people.

Met Kiku and he showed me my room and the house, we did the formalities, I paid, got my keys to the house and after we chatted a bit I was on my way to Gelonch for lunch (my 1st must go restaurant).

I had made reservations with BCNRestaurants.com- no good!

I got all the way to gelonch, rushing in the heat & horrible humidity may I add, only to find that they are on vacation until the 6Th!! What’s up with that…but…but…I have a reservation..??

Gelonch website does not state they are on Vacation, and neither did BCNRestaurants.com, in fact It let me go through with the reservation. Anyways…very very disappointing.

So, tried to find my way to the Metro…which I eventually did. I bought my 10T tickets from the machine (very easy) even for me, 2 day sleep deprived and still going strong! …Kiku mentioned that he truly admired my stamina! Very nice compliment… 

Got off at Ciutadela/Villa Olympica…and did not have a clue where to exit from…anyways…I got to the waterfront, took some pictures and walked off…thinking I would eventually find the touristy area: you know, the one with all the vendors trying to sell you stuff..and a million people fighting for the same spot of land as you…but I Never did!

I kept following the waterfront, thinking I would find the Barceloneta…but I didn’t…and by the waterfront is kinda boring, but nice….boring until I found the nudist Beach" Gigi" mentioned during her trip!

And girls, I mean full on Naked! Even men…100% naked…it was a complete shock to see not only young, but old men letting it all... and I mean all hang out! ja ja.   I could not stop staring at them, I admit…of course, hidden behind my dark shades…! Jaja

By this point, I had walked about 1 ½ miles OMG! Still no lunch... but what a view.   I refused to eat just anywhere…



I found a nice Argentine Lady that lives in BCN that helped me find my way back…I took the bus to get to the Shops in MareMagnum.

Once there (which is also hard, as you are not sure which way to go and at this point, im sooo exhausted every step counts) I find the Botiga Shop and buy some Souvenirs for my son…I got him the big backpack, a nice water bottle (made of aluminum) in BCN team colors very nice for 6 euros…the backpack 36 euros…and bought some other things…but the Jersey was 99 euros…too rich for me!

As I was leaving, I found a little café called something “Sweet” right outside leaving the Maremagnum…I got a nice ice cold cava & a plate of ham croquetas…which where actually, nice and creamy inside, bits of ham…although not much, but they really hit the spot… Not sure if that was a proper Foodie combination, but I loved it. Maybe because it was hot & I was exhausted, but the nice bubbly ice cold cava and the creamy & crunchy croquetas were exactly what I needed. After that I headed to my BB for some relax (what Yesi…relaxing on Vacation???) OK, I actually wanted out of the heat & humidity…I confess.

I got to my BB, Kiku was there, and made me a Very nice, strong coffee…Thanks Kiku, wonderful Host!

I told him about Gelonch…he laughed and said that its typical here that they don’t let you know…

He asked me about dinner…I told him “Quimet & Quimet” He was surprised I knew about it, I said: TA! Baby…Thanks guys!

So….Got cleaned up, fresh, showed…really again to eat!!

Walked to Passaig de Gracia, found a Starbucks to buy my sister the cups she collects but all the Starbucks are out! ..so I head to the metro…get off on Paral Lel and find Quimet really quickly!

Yes!!! Lets get this ON!!!

Quimet was busy, but I managed to squeeze in and found a spot by the bar.

I got a nice dark beer recommended by the bar lady and the 1st montadito is ordered: The Salmon with the yogurt, honey and balsamic…OMG! Delish!! I could have eaten so much…but they are very filling. I also ordered the Red Roasted pepper with Cabrales and a few other goodies on top. Then onto the Cheese plate with homemade jelly think, chestnuts (she gave me extra because I told the bar lady how much I loved them) and I got a little plate of bread to go with the cheeses…which were delicious!!

Oh, and another beer, this time light.

All in all, I paid 16 euros…very very good price…I regret not trying more things, but I was so full!!

Walked back to the metro (feet hurting so much at this point, since I’ve walked at least 4 miles today in flats-and I think I was not meant to wear flats, my feet hurt much more…

Anyways, on my was getting lost as I try to get back to my BB I find a Starbucks about to close, that has the Barcelona café cups (set of 2) You know that size for the expresso, but a bit larger, still not a gigantic cup like the one I was looking for, but they were very cute, they say Barcelona starbucks on it…they were like 8 euros for the set…bingo! I buy them, and scratch of one thing off my list.

Get to the BB, meet the lady staying next door to me, she is also traveling solo! We thought maybe we can sight-see together…I was so tired, we decided to chat at breakfast…but I have a schedule to follow, so not sure if it will work out, but maybe we’ll meet for coffee.



Ok guys, this is the end of day 1 in BCN!

Day 2:

Again, waking up early, during vacation seems to be the common theme, so, as such, I woke up early, had breakfast with the others in my B&B, which by the way is wonderful, and I'm very happy I stayed there. Did I mentioned that already?...sorry, it truly deserves mentioning! Btw, Kiku was a wonderful host!...of course I recommend him and I will most certainly stay there next time in BCN.



I have to confess, just in case something I write, does not come out right, I am writing this on my laptop, on my seat, from my Air France flight from Paris to Los Angeles (11hr flight) thank you!...did I mentioned I am petrified of flying, and as I am writing this, I am trying to finish my 2nd (little) bottle of red wine, after some yummy carbs, and champagne, only to see if I can take the edge of my fear!

I honestly think the writing is working better than the alcohol!  but at least I’ll sleep during the rest of the flight! Jaja



Anyways, onto day 2 of BCN!

Went early in the morning to the Boqueria…I’ve been reading and seeing pictures about this place for months, so, to see it, in the flesh, was very cool!

I really didn’t buy much….I did take loads of pictures…specially the fruit stalls, they look amazing in my camera…I tend to like tighter shots (as to not have other things interfere with my main subject)…so the close ups of the fruits (specially the gorgeous figs) look amazing…I cant wait to post them for you guys.



I bought figs: 2 larger sized ones (kind of bluish looking) at least in my pictures), and 2 black figs, which the owner of the fruit stall did tell me the black figs would be much sweeter, and they were!

I wanted to try Pinxo, but I had reservations at Cinc Sentits, and no way was I going to ruin my appetite…I’ve been waiting very long for this… I did try the Xuixo's ...(Yummy pastry with cream inside....but these are special!) ...

As I exited the Boqueria, I managed to buy some very inexpensive Pimenton (smoked-agridulce)…it smelled wonderful, and I regret not buying more, honestly) oh well! … I also bought a paella mix (I know, it’s a foodie no-no) I know you are suppose to do the mix yourself, but this one smelled wonderful, and the prices were beyond cheep, so why not, right?



Took the metro to Cinc Sentits, and as usual for me, got there early (afraid I would be late and miss the reservation)…so I walked around the neighborhood for a bit….went inside a small grocery store…and guess what!....I found my perfume that I have been searching for!....If anyone remembers me asking in the Madrid forum about Anoux perfume!....Well, Happy to report, I found it! …more on that later!



Went back at 13:30pm, and was seated right away, the service was wonderful, and I have to say, the wine sommelier was not pushy at all about the wine paring, or anything, for that matter…I did joke that if I had the wine paring, I would not be able to finish my itinerary!...he laughed!



I did like the shot of maple syrup with the crème anglaise on top …it was less sweet than I thought it would be, which was a good thing, I thought I would be too indulged in the sweet, to later savor the other dishes, but no, it was a perfect balance…



Other dishes followed, and they are as much in order as I remember them…sorry



• 1st course: spiced almonds, green olives stuffed with garlic and little sticks of (mil hojas) that I can’t figure out ( they were tasteless to me) I didn’t see the point…

• Cinc’s take on Pan am Tomaquet- tomato sorbet with bread croutons and garlic foam…I thought It was appropriate for the warm weather, and very tasty.

• The Olive Oil Tasting: so, this one for me was a filler course- the 2nd olive oil, the tasty, more expensive, green one, was very good, and the bread (I chose the olive bread, appropriately so)

• Coca de Foie Gras: this was my favorite dish! …the top of the Foie was crispy and caramelized, and the sauce was wonderful…the foie was creamy inside…just what I wanted, and the main reason I chose Cinc…was to try this dish.

• Caramelized scallop with artichoke pure: This dish was an eye opener for me, because I ALWAYS leave the inside of the scallop, because its not really cooked all the way, to me, it always tasted funny, (as in not good) but im glad I always give food another chance, because this dish made me a believer…it was wonderful, even the middle (which is my least favorite park)…I loved…and well, the artichoke pure, how can you go wrong with that…wonderful dish…finished with a crispy Jamon Iberico de Bellota on the side.

• The following dish was some sort of salmon, but it did not look pink at all, although I know that there are salmons, not necessarily pink…but it was pretty forgetful dish…

• Caramelized pork: very tender meat, crispy crust, wonderful dish, totally outshined whatever else was in the dish…port for me tend to be gamy…so it was a wonderful surprise…and when I mean crispy crust…I mean it…soooooooooo good!

• Cheese course: It was good, not great, I mean, they were not cheeses who’s flavors were outrages, or out of this world, but they were good, and the accompaniments for the cheeses were on the spot.

• Pistachio cake, Pistachio paste and raspberry sorbet: very good combination….loved that the pistachio paste, was not too sweet…it tasted very much like in its natural state just better…I never thought the combination would be good…specially not being an icecream fan...but it was tasty.

• The famous Catalan Combo: Bread, olive oil & chocolate: amazing dark chocolate ganache, thin layer of very fruity olive oil, breadcrumbs, tiny bit of salt…decadent and amazing

• They end the meal with a bombon and a few other bits that were good, but forgettable.

Overall impression: very good, although did not like the fact that the olive oil tasting was not part of the “tasting menu” it is charged separately, and squeezed in between courses so you think it part of the menu…other than that, the service very attentive and good… (I had decided against Comerc24 due to the inconsistent reviews).



After a very happy tummy walked a block or so and took the bus back… (always asking for directions, and people very very nice and always willing to help.

Made my way to the Gothic QTR which was amazing…saw the cathedral (hard to find your way in that maze…I wish I would have had more time…because getting lost is part of the fun…but I was on a missing to find……….FORMATGERIA LA SEU!...After some more getting lost, I found it! Katherine was very very nice and talkative (I love to talk as well, so it was a good match)…I told her about Gigi and that she had told me about this place…(Gigi…Katherine says HI!)…sampled some amazing cheeses as we chat.

After a bit, and some great advise from Katherine, I decide on my 1st choice for cheese (I was buying a whole wheel)…I choose the cheese “EL CASCARRAL” and Katherine tells me Gigi chose the same one! What a coincidence! It was my favorite from the start!

Along I went with my cheese… sightseeing some more as I make my way slowly to the metro to go to Tickets & 41 Degrees (I had reservations @ 8pm)

I got off At parallel instead of Liceu…so I walked a lot more than I wanted too!...but I found it, saw the funny guy in the front, and he found my name and I was In!

(FOR THE REVIEW OF TICKETS, PLEASE SEE MY OTHER POST) You can also look at my pictures in my blog





But I will say I had the best time at 41 Degrees, made some new foodie friends and had the best drinks of my life…and the snacks were much more fun than tickets…and very yummy…But don’t get me wrong, Tickets was great…I even got to see Albert Adria right in front of me instructing some of the chefs on a dish…as I watched!

Left 41 Degrees about midnight (we really got into comparing notes with my fellow other foodies sitting next to me) and it was a perfect night.

Got to my BB for some much deserved R&R!

Day 3:
Today I got a late start…I really needed some sleep! Had breakfast at my B&B…and by 10AM walked over (4 blocks) to Sagrada Familia…(bought tickets online) which was great because there was a lot of people buying tickets in the line…

So many tour buses…hard to get a nice picture of the whole church…but I managed…

Went inside and almost cried! It was amazing!... I had the audio tour which really help…but half the time I was in such “awe” of the whole thing, it was hard to focus on the audio! Saw a plaque on the sealing that said “MATIU” my sons name is Matthew, so I thought what a wonderful idea to take a picture and enlarge for his room… the picture was amazing…as were all the other 100’s or so just of SF! Its really important to read up before you go to appreciate all the symbolism…thanks to all whole responded to my question about that!


About 12:45 I decided to go to LA PARADETA, you pay by how much the seafood weights and they only cook it a couple of ways. I had some little sea horse creatures (but I can’t remember the name!), some very nice fish…all very good…but I overestimated how much it all was…as It was more than what I wanted to pay…and definitely more than I could eat! But it was very fresh, quick and yummy!



From there, I walked over to Passaig de Gracia…there was no line at “La Pedrada” so I go and wait in line a few minutes, buy my ticket and go in…

I knew this would not be my favorite house, and it wasn’t. It was amazing, don’t get me wrong…but I was waiting for tonight to see Casa Batllo to compare…nonetheless, the roof was amazing (my favorite part of the house).

Didn’t spend much time there…I did however buy some amazing earrings in the shape of one of the doors (very Gaudi earrings) in silver and turquoise! Awesome! LOVE SHOPPING…Gaudi style…

From there walked about a block and took the #24 to Parc Guell and spend lots of time there exploring. I didn’t know it would be so large! …it was very hot and I don’t think Ive ever drank so much water! But the water, the walking and the humidity is making my skin amazing! So I don’t mind at all! Ha ha



From there…I walk…a few blocks which seems like miles (again, feet hurting) and took the bus back to Placa Catalunya…I walk some more…(Placa Catalunya is not my favorite place so I walk along Passaig de Gracia…waiting for 9pm to go into Casa Batllo…


This is where I decide I just cannot walk another step (and decide against Paco Meralgo) because I had to take the Metro and walk some more blocks and my feel could not bear it! (I could have taken a taxi, but needed more $$...and being Sunday…the banks were closed, so…If I used the ATM and the machine decided to eat my Card…I’d be moneyless…so I ate at TAPA TAPA

Let me just say: Please Don’t …the Pa’am Tomaquet was sooooo bad and the ham croquetas were average at best…but the service was very good, quick and the servers were kind.



Finally almost 9pm, I go across the street to get in line for Batllo Nights, I make friends with 2 Catalan Ladies and we were chatting away…even hang out all evening…they were very nice… (No GummyBears)! Ha Ha! They had a kind of Chex Mix….! Better than GummyBears!

I really loved loved this house! I got to tour it and take pictures with no problems, had 2 glasses of Cava and spend a lovely evening…after that, I took off to my B&B to pack….tomorrow is an early train to Madrid!



Barcelona was beyond incredible! …amazing and I really need to go back to experience some more amazing sights and food!




I will be putting more pictures on my blog tomorrow…

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