It’s been a whirlwind week and a half and, because of that, I’ve fallen a bit behind on my blogging. Let me start at the beginning—two weekends ago. Matt was supposed to work that weekend, so we didn’t really make any plans. Friday night, however, he came home with great news—he was off for the next two days and Monday was his day to work the late shift, so we had a bit of extra time on the backend.
We decided it would be great to have one last beach weekend and researched where we might go. We settled on Narbonne (a town off the Mediterranean coast in south France), but when we woke up on Saturday, a different idea popped into our heads: Barcelona.
We first went to Barcelona in 2013. It was the departure point for our Mediterranean cruise and we booked an extra night there on the backend of the trip to explore. Barcelona is a very large and beautiful city and we immediately fell in love with it. Unfortunately one day isn’t nearly enough to see everything, so we promised we would go back someday.
Well, someday turned out to be that Saturday. We did some quick last minute planning and booked both a hotel and a food tour, then packed our bags and headed south to Spain.
We were fortunate on our drive and didn’t hit any traffic, so we made it to the city in about four hours. Our initial plan was to walk from our hotel to Sagrada Família and tour the inside as we didn’t have a chance to last time. So after checking in at the H10 Universitat (and downing a quick “welcome” glass of Cava), we made our way to the basilica—sweating profusely in the late August heat.
That plan turned out to be not so well thought through. By the time we got there, most of the tickets were sold out and the only ones left were too late (our food tour was booked for later that evening). So we hopped the train down to the beach to regroup over a cocktail and snack. The combination of the sand and surf, plus the adult beverage helped cool us down and think more clearly and we opted to book tickets for Sagrada Família for the next day.
We still had a food tour ahead of us, so after the cocktails we headed back to our hotel to clean up. We’d read there was a rooftop bar at the H10 Universitat, so we headed up there for one more quick cocktail before heading out to meet our tour group.
Our starting point was Casa Milà (also known as “La Pedrera” which means the stone quarry). This building was constructed between 1906 and 1912 by Antoni Gaudi. In typical Gaudi style, the building was designed in a unique and fantastical fashion that would likely be approved by Willy Wonka himself. It is an UNESCO Cultural World Heritage site and you can read about its interesting history on the building’s website.
Our tour guide, Josh, was friendly, funny and very knowledgeable about the city. As we walked he told us stories and explained why the city was designed the way it was. We were visiting bars in the Eixample district of Barcelona. This area was built with wide avenues, large blocks and buildings that conform to a grid pattern.
Our first stop was for seafood tapas at La Bodegueta Provença. We were taken to a long table in the back, where we were poured glasses of white Catalan wine and dined on small plates of anchovies, octopus and fish cakes.
Towards the end of the first stop, the wine and less empty bellies meant everyone was starting to open up. We learned that in our group, we had three expat couples, one couple from Texas and two guys from Russia. It ended up being a fun little group.
After the seafood was done, we made our way to Colmado—a bar specializing in its own, homemade vermut (a.k.a. vermouth). This bar was cozy (like one we’d be a regular at on Friday nights) and we sat around barrels that had been converted into tables.
Now if you’ve never had vermut (or perhaps didn’t realize you sipped it in your Manhattan), it’s an aromatized wine. Sugar, herbs, roots, flowers and spices are added to give it additional flavor, but the alcohol content is still the same as wine. We enjoyed Colmado’s vermut (which you can only buy there) over ice with a slice of lemon. It was almost like sipping on Christmas.
The food there was equally warm and comforting. We enjoyed roasted artichokes (which are supposed to help your liver counteract alcohol), Manchego cheese, two types of sausages and a thick and hearty meat stew with thick chunks of carrot and potato.
After this food and two rounds of vermut, the group was really starting to warm up and it was time to head to one of the top tapas restaurants in Barcelona—La Taverna del Clinic.
The atmosphere here was much more posh and refined and the service was impeccable. We were sat at a long table in the middle of the front of the restaurant and immediately were poured healthy glasses of a Spanish red wine.
Soon, course after course of food was brought to our table, starting with Spanish ham and tomato bread and moving on to their version of patatas bravas (which are mind blowingly good—and have won major awards), toast with sausage and quail eggs, octopus, pasta, fish with lentils and a beautiful sorbet dessert.
The wine cave at this restaurant was beautiful and stacked floor to ceiling (the ceiling towering at least ten feet above me) with bottles of wine. I was one of the lucky three who got to sneak a peek at this and the restaurant’s pristine kitchen.
Well, after our third meal we were all happily stuffed and ready to make our way back to the hotel to collapse in a food coma, but not before we picked up bottles of vermut to take to France with us. So we said our goodbyes to the rest of the group and Josh walked the few remaining of us back to Colmado where Matt and I stocked up on a couple bottles of their spiced wine.
As I mentioned, the tour in San Sebastian set the bar really high, but this food tour was extremely well done and, if you find yourself in Barcelona, I recommend giving it a try. We did make it to Sagrada Família the next day, but I’ll let you digest the story and photos from this post and save the basilica for a different day.