This post should be called “Will travel for food.” Forget the prospects of visiting Gaudi-designed landscapes, or swimming along pristine beaches, or wandering around medieval villages. All that’s well and good, but what drove me to spend two weeks in Catalonia was the prospect of lingering over long meals of gambas a la plancha and pulpo a la gallega, drinking cold cava and eating plenty of ice cream.
My trip began in Barcelona. Sola. I worried about how I’d pass three days alone- that I’d go crazy with loneliness or attract weirdos, but none of that happened. It was actually really nice to be on my own schedule, to see exactly what I wanted to see and eat when and where I wanted to (sort of… more on that in a minute). I made the obligatory visit to the Sagrada Familia on Saturday, and visited the Parque Guell along with what felt like most of the rest of Barcelona on Sunday. I shopped the rebaixes (sales) at the Corte Ingles, and went for a run along the Barcelona waterfront. It was lovely.
Clockwise from top left: Sagrada Familia, another religious icon,
best grafitti, Plaza Calalunya
It seemed though that Barcelona contained few actual residents. It makes sense, in a way. What to do when a good portion of the world invades your city? Go on vacation. That’s what I’d do. But I don’t own a business, and my country isn’t in the midst of an economic crisis (yet). Time after time I made my way to a restaurant that friends and acquaintances told me not to miss only to find it shuttered. “On vacation.” “Closed.” “On siesta.” Seeing this story in the New York Times didn’t completely surprise me.
examples of my failed attempts
I had a forgettable meal on Sunday evening, and otherwise subsisted mostly on pintxos, the Basque version of tapas, so-called for the little toothpicks stuck in each one. When you’re finished eating, the waiter tallies up the number of toothpicks on your plate so they know how much to charge you.
Of the three restaurants I visited Saturday night, only Euskal Etxea was open. I squeezed into a spot at the bar, ordered a glass of vino tinto and picked a few pintxos to try. For some reason the ones that looked best to me all had tiny fish on them- mostly anchovies and sardines. They were wonderful, not fishy at all, and piled on top of fresh, crusty bread. I should have just stayed right where I was and eaten all night. Instead, I tried two other tapas bars, neither of which was as good. The following day I discovered Bilbao Berria, which was nearly as good as Euskal, and very hip looking.
Though I adored wandering the rambling streets and sipping cold drinks at outdoor cafes, I was ready to leave Barcelona when I did. For my next visit, I’m thinking September or October would be optimal. The city in July is hot and crowded, and after three days I was ready to do like a native and head to the beach. Which is just what I did… but not before seeking out Barcelona’s most famous market. More on that tomorrow.