Sunday, 2 November 2014

Barcelona

I've cracked the perfect holiday. I had fun on the others but there's always been a small niggle stopping them being 100% perfect. Pre-2012, it was the people. Amsterdam, I was in a strange and floopy place and didn't read travel guides. Prague to Rome I was too broke for the indulgences I like most. I was ill in Berlin, stressed about the house in Budapest. Morocco had sleaze ball men, New York was freezing. You get the picture. But Barcelona in October 2014 was perfect. I was relaxed but not dreading the return. I spent and lived well but without going over budget. There were only positive experiences, both with my companions and with the place. And the weather was glorious. Our b&b was perfect and had quite literally thought of everything. The breakfasts! Muffins and seedy bread, posh cereal and juicy juice. It was a little home away from home. (#cliche) 

We headed out to the Barri Gotic when we'd left our stuff. We walked with a short stop at Granja Mabel for some cheesy chips - delicious but essentially drunk food. Then through the parc ciutadella to the quarter where we headed into the somewhat overshadowed Barcelona Cathedral. We were ready for another drink (or four) by this point so headed to Placa Reial. Pretty place to watch the sun go down if you can avoid feeling guilty and depressed from all the beggars. 

It was time for dinner at El Vaso de Oro, an intimidating galley tapas bar. It was full of Catalan speakers and it was difficult to understand what was going on in all the commotion. We had fishy croquettes, savoury and moist. The peppers were simple - dry and charred. The tuna was a little too dry for my liking, almost cloyingly so. Squid tasted as recently caught as squid from a port town should. We craved something sweet so went to Negro Carbon for some uninspiring drinks and boring pudding. The savoury food looked good here and the atmosphere was a young antidote for the age and tradition of the last place. 

The next day involved lots of metro trips. First, to the Sagrada Familia so we could feel silly for not having pre-purchased tickets. Then to the Parc Guell for a climb to a view. We headed back to town with weary legs - to El Xampyanet for cava and, as always, tapas. The cava, on tap, is the best I've had. And all the fish was so fresh - pungent boquerones, moreish olives, fluffy chorizo omelette. We also had some massive, crunchy sweet prawns as well as tangy tomatoes smarttered with herbs. We then went to the Picasso museum. At this point, I think we're all tired of Barcelona walk through, don't you all agree? Let's just do the rest of the food. 

Tapas 24
We wanted something less traditional having spent a couple of nights in Barceloneta already. This was reminiscent of all the places in London which don't let you book and insist that you queue. The beauty of the Spanish eating so late is you can turn up at 8 and grab the last non-queuing table. The bomba was my favourite - all the beauty of a croquette with a cute little savoury heart of lamb mince. Or was it the mcfoie? Cannily named to pick up on the fact that burger with foie gras combines salt and sweet just as fast food does. The rabo de toro was so heady and dizzying. The tomato bread helped to cure the headache that could be induced.

Bar Pinoxto, La Boqueria
La Boqueria market is a phenomenal place to visit, imbued with all the smells and colours that any self respecting food market would have. I picked Pinoxto on the recommendation of a blog and we feasted. Chickpeas and salty pork - great match. Sloppy vegetables were a miss rather than a hit. The sole was basically almost alive it was so fresh - lightly dressed with olive oil and a balsamic salad.

L'Escriba
After all those small plates, we wanted a paella. We debated at length on whether to go here or to a place a little further along the shore. We picked here because it's only 15 minutes walk from where we were staying. We wanted different styles of paella which I fear affected our meals. I had the mountain - replete with almost alarmingly salty pork contrasted with juicy seafood. The seafood alone I was less keen on, they needed a touch of lemon or something. Both dishes needed that extra touch of freshness or acidity - I think the quantities may have been too strong because we had individual paellas. It doesn't really work.

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