Monday, August 6, 2012

Barcelona Vacation

I haven't forgotten about posting the details of our European vacation. A mini trip back home to Georgia got in the way of my blogging, but I am back in full force again!

Barcelona Day 1

After our overnight train ride, we arrived in Barcelona at around 8:30 in the morning. We caught a cab and soon arrived at our hotel, which was right in the middle of the historic district. One of my favorite parts of Barcelona is that they have designated most of the smaller streets as pedestrian-only streets. How wonderful to walk around without fear of being run over! And since the buildings were tall (four or five stories), all of these little side streets were completely shaded during the days. Aaaah, nice.

The first day we were able to check into our hotel room early and already get settled in. Then we headed out to explore the historic district. We visited the Barcelona Cathedral, marveled in the Gothic architecture, and even took in some Catalan dancing circles in the plaza in front of the Cathedral at noon.

For lunch we tried some local fast food from Pan and Company. Little did we know that residents of Barcelona actually speak Catalan as their first language, and not Spanish, so we had a bit of difficulty translating the menu. Dustin ended up with a steak sandwich, and I had a ham sandwich, complete with a little side salad. European fast food is so much more healthy than American fast food!

We met up with a Discover Walks group in the afternoon, which led us on an informative tour around the historic district. We learned about some crazy tidbits in Barcelona's history, such as them knocking down the city walls in the middle of the 19th century because of the terrible disease from living in such close quarters, and building Las Ramblas as a shopping boulevard linking the historic district all the way to the ocean. We saw some beautiful mosaic tile stories which could be found all over Petroxil street near our hotel.

That evening Dustin really wanted to watch the Italy vs. England soccer game, so we stopped into perhaps the last restaurant with a spot in front of the TV. We tried our first tastes of some standard Spanish tapas: Pan amb tomato (crusty bread with a thin tomato sauce on top), Calamari (yum), and then some American-style barbecue chicken wings because Dustin was seriously missing his favorite American bar foods after six months of deprivation.

On the way back from our dinner, we decided to check out a small little Hostel bar called the Hostel Paris. It was only about a 6-minute walk from our hotel, and ended up being our late-night spot every night while in Barcelona. We loved trying tapas, sipping on sangria, and watching European MTV late at night.

Barcelona Day 2

Today we went on another Discover Walks Tour. This one was focused around the Modernista architecture of Gaudi. We saw lots of gorgeous buildings and learned some quirky history about neighboring buildings adding details over the years to try and make their building the taller of the two.

After the tour, we hopped aboard the double decker tour bus to see some of the sights of the city without having to punish our feet. That sun sure was hot and toasty though!

We stopped off at the mall so Dustin could pick up a pair of shorts, and then we lunched at a little Italian restaurant. The canneloni there was so delicious! Mmm wish I could have an order of that again right about now!

Later that night we tried to eat dinner at a popular restaurant, La Cerveceria Catalana. The place was absolutely packed, and we couldn't even find standing room in the bar. After waiting out about fifteen minutes of the ninety minute wait, we decided to try our luck elsewhere. We wandered down a couple side streets until we found a little wine bar. We tried patatas bravas (homestyle fried potatoes topped with a spicy sauce and creamy sauce) and then had dinner and a rich chocolate mousse for dessert.

Barcelona Day 3

We treated ourselves to a Spanish breakfast on this morning. We visited Granje Dulcinea down the street from our hotel for some churros con chocolat. The churros were delightfully crispy and light, while the chocolate was unbelievably thick and creamy. It was like a mug of melted Hershey's bars. I only tried a couple sips until I realized it was more of a dunking beverage. So decadent!

We spent the morning taking in the beautiful architecture of Parc Guell, which was designed by Gaudi.

After doing some walking around the city, we made our way to a wonderful tapas spot. Quimet & Quimet was a standing room only little spot. They had a few barstools and the spot could only fit a max of fifteen diners standing. We decided to be daring and let the server just pick three popular tapas for us. We were served some fancy mini open-face sandwiches. One was yogurt with honey and smoked salmon (my favorite), another had roasted red pepper, olive, and anchovies (Dustin liked), and the last one was pate with balsamic and onions. Mmmm, they were so tasty and definitely a step outside of our comfort zone.

We made a day of visiting the castle atop Montjuic, but I accidentally stepped into a puddle on the way to the metro station. We went into a small streetside bar to get a napkin and a quick drink, and ended up witnessed what could have been a scene from a Spanish telenovela. Let's just say an older gentleman who had been "overserved" yelling in Spanish at the servers, and finally loudly reminding the owner that he had known him for 18 years, and his mother had known the owner for twenty years. It was quite entertaining.

At this point, we got back to the task of heading out to Montjuic, taking both a funicular and cable car to arrive at the top of the mountain. The views were breathtaking, but the sun sure was blazing!

That night we ate at Kaiku, a little beach front restaurant known for their giant and delicious paella for two. It was a romantic evening, and we even sampled gazpacho for the first time, courtesy of the chef. Dustin was totally a fan of the gazpacho!

We strolled along the beach for a little post-dinner walk, and then found our way to an Irish pub for a couple drinks and English conversation. We caught a cab back, made some more friends at our favorite late-night bar, and then finally made it home to our hotel, exhausted after another busy day.

Barcelona Day 4

Our last day in Barcelona we just chilled. We talked, played some iPad games, and relaxed. Having two weeks of sightseeing in Europe really keeps you busy, and a day to just lounge around with my hubby was much needed. That night we went out to our favorite bar to watch Spain play Portugal in the EuroCup. Spain won!!!

Barcelona really went down as our favorite city of the trip, and I would love to see more of Spain if we ever get back over there again! The last portion of our trip was Italy, which I hope to post soon.


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