Day: January 7, 2014

Ben’s view of Barcelona

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Arriving in Barcelona, we returned our Fiat 500l diesel after more than 1,000 miles of driving since Granada.   We were back in a city with public transportation in abundance.  Gone are the sparsely populated roads and relaxing pace.  Barcelona is a big city with swarms of cars, buses, taxis, pedestrians, and lots of scooters.

One of the palaces we saw on our first drive through the city.

Our apartment was on the 6th floor of a condotel located in the heart of the city center.  We were one block away from the famous pedestrian street “rambla de Barcelona” and only a couple of blocks away from the historical district called Barri Gotic with the Cathedral and old Jewish Quarter.  This historical area with its ultra narrow streets and alleyways was almost exclusively for pedestrians for dozens of blocks.  We have continually found it so impressive in all of the towns, but especially the larger cities, that the most vibrant and busy shopping and restaurant zones are without access by car.  They could have developed the best shopping in the newer areas with easy parking and delivery, but they always select the historical areas.  These areas have so much more character and charm than a typical shopping mall.  We typically wander these areas staring at the buildings and storefronts – most from the 14th century – fascinated at the tenure and history that they have lived.  There is a formula to the streets.  Every few blocks of narrow alleys, the “carrer” opens up and there is a plaza where the sun comes through and people can gather.  There are usually café’s in the plazas and frequently temporary vendors selling their merchandise.

The pedestrian walkway of La Rambla

Our apartment also was conveniently located around the corner from the Apple Store of Barcelona.  The store is only one of a handful of Apple stores in Spain and it is a giant. With three floors and hundreds of people inside, it was packed.  Susie had been searching for such a store since the Alhambra in Granada.  She decided to see what was harder, the screen on her iPhone or the 11th century stone walkway.  See photo for the answer.  After making an appointment ahead of time, we dropped off Susie’s phone and they had replaced the screen in two hours.  Good as new (except for the cracked camera lens).

cracked iphone
The result: 13th century stone wins. 

We did most of the requisite tourist duties such as Gaudí’s buildings and the Sagrada familia along with the historical buildings, Cathedral, and a couple of museums.  But what seems to stand out most in my mind is the food.  We have been traveling this “jamón” crazed country for 6 weeks now.  We, as a family, have been eating meat less and less.  Being in some more isolated towns such as the farmhouse in Angles for the past few weeks, we have started to eat at home almost exclusively.  We will grab a pastry or a coffee while out, but our main meals have been home cooked.  In Barcelona, we were finally treated to some excellent flavors.   Thanks to Trip Advisor we found a wonderful selection of restaurants to choose from.  We went to a really cool Indian street food restaurant called Surya for dinner one night.  The food was amazing.  They served traditional Indian spices but in a more Spanish type of preparation.  For example, we had a tapa of Indian Tortilla.  Tortilla is a Spanish style omelet with potatoes.  Surya adds Indian spices to it and rolls it up and served traditional Indian chutneys alongside.  My mouth just watered remembering it.  We also found a small global chain called Maoz that simply serves falafel.  You choose whether you want it in a pita or a bowl.  That’s it.  They hand it to you and there is a buffet of toppings that you can add to your falafel.  It is pretty much a standing room only place, but you can make your way back to the toppings as many times as you wish – we wished a lot.  This was the best falafel I have ever had and the toppings only amplified the flavor.

The gothic cathedral next to the jewish quarter. 

We only had a few days in Barcelona, but we enjoyed the vibrancy and the feel of the city.  Susie and I ran along the beach one morning and were impressed with the well-developed facilities and the ancient port that had all been spruced up for the Olympics back in ’92.   We are passing back through Barcelona for a night at the end of this week before flying out to Italy.  We are already debating whether we go back to Surya or Maoz.  If only there were a Taco Temple to solve our problem.