By the time we left Italy, I was excited to see a new landscape and taste some new cuisines. Don’t get me wrong, Italy is by far one of my favorite places in the world, but there’s only so much bread and pasta you can eat before you start questioning your purpose in life.
We flew out of Rome to Barcelona, and we were instantly impressed by the scenery of the city, the sunshine, and the happy energy around us. There were people around, but because we were visiting in the off season, we were lucky not to have huge crowds everywhere we went.
We checked into our hostel, Mambo Tango, met our new roommates for the night, and went out to see what we could find. The weather in Barcelona is unbelievable. The sun is shining, the air is warm, and there is always a little breeze to cool you off. Ok, so maybe it isn’t always like that, but it was the most of the time we were there so that is how I’ll picture it forever, and that is fine with me. We spent our first afternoon venturing around to little shops, seeing the different neighborhoods, and trying to find the best spot for dinner.
One great place we came upon was La Boqueria, which is a massive covered market off the main street, La Rambla. The market is so big, you could spend hours stopping at each stand to see what they have. For our first visit, we only bought fresh fruit juices and walked around, but we planned to go back another day to grab some more goodies.
(we stopped for tapas somewhere in there too, I mean at 1 euro a piece how can you go wrong??)
Walking around Barcelona, there was a tattoo shop on every corner, art galleries on every street, and a lingering smell of weed everywhere we went. We found out later that Marijuana has been semi-legalized in the city for residents, a rule our Brazilian roommate seemed to have gotten around because our room was basically a fish bowl. Weed smoke and all, it was fun to be a in a city where the art culture was so strong (there were so many different partially-shaved haircuts, I knew I would never be cool enough to really fit in).
For dinner, we decided to stop at Arume because of its good reviews and cool atmosphere. We were set on having some sort of paella, and had found Arume through our search. I ordered the seafood paella, and Ashley ordered a dish called “duck rice” which was essentially a duck paella. Both were delicious. The seafood was clearly fresh, with the rice having the perfect balance of soft pieces and those crunchy pieces that peel up off the bottom of the pan.
We were exhausted from our flight, so we headed to bed relatively early, something most people in Barcelona did not do. I should really call this blog, “The Snoring Chronicles” or “How to Share a Room with a Snorer Without Killing Them.” Luckily, I had purchased ear plugs on our way to Barcelona, hoping to save myself the frustration of another night of being jostled awake by a snorer*, but this guy was so loud that two of us even started laughing. Our Canadian roommate, my hero, got up and actually shook the snorer and said “You are snoring so loud!!” It worked momentarily, but the only option was really just to get up.
*I’m sorry if you are a snorer reading this, I know it’s not your fault*
Anyway, day two started off with a classic hostel breakfast of white bread, butter, jam, and strange coffee (which I am 100% thankful for because it is free!). Mambo Tango even provided apples which was a nice surprise. We decided to take a free walking tour around the city, something that a guy at the hostel suggested.
The tour was about two hours long and covered most neighborhoods of Barcelona with some history and fun facts thrown in. Our tour guide, who was wearing a Red Sox hat, seemed to be as excited as we were to have fellow Bostonians around. He explained that he was born in New York, raised in Boston, but spent every summer visiting family in Barcelona where he learned the native language (Catalan not Spanish), and now lives in Barcelona full time. He even graduated from UMass Boston, which was a weird coincidence. He was funny, informative, and when I told him I went to UMass too, he said, “Amherst right? You look like an Amherst girl.” Gotta love Massachusetts.
After finishing the tour, Ashley and I were starving so Antonio, who we had met at our hostel, brought us to Can Paixano, a tiny little bar and restaurant that makes homemade cava and delicious food. The space is standing room only, and patrons just squeeze their way to the counter to order tapas, sandwiches, and of course endless bottles of cava (Spanish champagne). The menu was all in Spanish, so Antonio ordered for us: one plate of what he called “hot dogs” but were more like the most delicious sweet and salty sausages ever, one plate of croquettes which were cheese and hot and amazing, and three pork sandwiches that I honestly couldn’t tell you what was in them. All I know is Antonio handed me a bottle of a slightly spicy, red sauce and said “put this on.” I was in heaven. We finished our bottle of cava, bought two more to take back to the hostel with us (at 3 euro a bottle, how could we not?), and thanked Antonio for showing us such a delicious and fun local spot.
Now, since we had local, authentic Spanish food for lunch, we figured it was the perfect time to keep our streak going and find the best Indian food in Barcelona. Seriously, why hasn’t Food Network picked me up yet for a travel show documenting where to get the best Indian food around the world???
Anyway, I found Moti Mahal through a quick online search of Indian food in Barcelona, and when I saw a review for “the best butter chicken I have ever had,” I knew we had to go. We ordered butter chicken to share, rice, and onion naan. The picture of Harrison Ford on the wall solidified our decision immediately. Seriously, he went there! The food was delicious and exactly what we wanted.
Our third day in Barcelona may have been my favorite. We woke up, ventured to the market where we bought bread, meat, cheese, 14 euro worth of chocolate (oops), and headed to the beach. With scarves for towels and books in our hands, we were set on enjoying the sun before giving in to the coming fall/winter. The weather was beautiful, with temperatures in the 70s, barely a cloud in the sky, and a little breeze coming off the water. There were people in bathing suits all around us, and even people in the water swimming. We were in jeans, but you really could have gone either way. It was perfect.
We had our picnic, read our books, I took a little nap, and basked in the sunshine. I even got a sunglasses tan on my left temple so that is a success.
Chocolate hedgehog: worth every penny.
Feeling refreshed and revived from the salt and sun, we went back to the hostel to clean up and get ready for our night on the town. We enjoyed free sangria at the hostel, then went to a few bars and a club to experience Barcelona night life. Calling it a night at 5am, people around us couldn’t believe we were done (rookies), but we said our goodbyes and I waddled back to the hostel with my eyes half closed.
We woke up on our final day in Barcelona exhausted from the night before. We needed something, something we were almost too embarrassed to admit. We needed Dunks. We had seen it on our bus ride into the city, and laughed about the name. “Dunkin Coffee? It’s Dunkin Donuts duh!” I even made a joke about how the city probably put one in so that people from New England would consider visiting. It wasn’t until I rolled myself out of bed on that morning that I had to confront who I truly am: a masshole. I needed an egg and cheese bagel and I needed it now. Luckily, Ashley had the same idea before I even mentioned it, and we found ourselves with a tray full of Dunkin before we knew it.
Anyone who has been to college will sympathize with me here, sometimes it’s either get dunks or face hang over death for the rest of the day. We had to do it for our own survival. It definitely wasn’t the same, but it was enough to get us going for the day. We had planned to walk a little more of the town, take the Metro to Park Guell, the park where you can experience Gaudi’s architecuture, and get ourselves ready for our seven hour bus to France the next day.
We decided to have lunch before heading to the park (our tickets were for 5pm), so I looked up restaurants near our hostel. What came up was a review for “the best pizza I have ever had” and I was sold. You don’t say no to pizza on a hangover day.
As we walked through the doors of La Pizza del Sortidor, the all male table sitting in the front just stared. A man jumped up to seat us, gave us a menu, and asked, “How did you find us?” Clearly they hadn’t had many tourists in their shop before. We laughed and explained, and ordered a pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, and arugula. It was unbelievable.
Sorry Italy, these guys in Barcelona know what’s up when it comes to pizza. Clearly they loved us as much as we loved their pizza because they even sent people in from the street to see us, taking pictures of us and everything. It was probably the closest to fame we’ll ever get. Delicious pizza and a confidence boost? What more could you want?? They sealed the deal with a free shot of limoncello, and we were on our way to Gaudi.
I wasn’t kidding about the pictures:
It had started to get cloudy on our way to the park, so we were only there long enough to see the view and the major attractions. Walking miles in the rain isn’t really my idea of a good time so we chose not to risk it. The park was beautiful, filled with plants and trees, and of course tourists. We walked around, reading about the history of the land and Guadi’s work and admiring the whimsical architecture. If you’ve never seen Gaudi’s designs, look them up. They are unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
We got back to the hostel around 7pm, wanting something light and to be out in the city once more before leaving early the next morning. We wandered around, and stumbled upon a little tapas restaurant that we chose based on the two large cakes sitting in a display at the front of the dining room.
We ordered red curry chicken wings, roasted potatoes, and a piece of each cake (carrot and chocolate Guinness). The two German women sitting next to us kept staring, clearly impressed by the amount of carbohydrates on our table, but we ate it all proudly. One of them was definitely jealous because she soon called the waitress back over to order the same potatoes we had (I hope you enjoyed your kartoffeln, lady!).
Barcelona is definitely in the running for being my favorite city we’ve visited. I’ll be back again someday but for now, Adios!
Next we’re on to Marseille and Cassis! Will French macarons be as good as my own? Will I ever learn how to pronounce a French “r” without choking myself? Is there any money left in my bank account? Stay tuned!