Touring and Tapas in Barcelona
Wednesday, 15 October 2014
As you already know, we went crazy for Gaudi in Barcelona. But alongside our Antoni escapades we also squeezed in some touring, tapas and a half day of relaxation! We like our travels a little jam-packed and crazy, if you couldn't already tell...
Barcelona is a fantastic city to wander through. The main roads are cool and cosmopolitan whilst the narrow side streets are full of character and history. There is a real mix of architecture and style that makes Barcelona an exciting city that features both the old and the new. Before I get onto the touring in Barcelona, I want to show you just a couple of shots of the diversity that Barcelona has to offer.
Barcelona's Arc de Triomf stands over a long stretch of pedestrian road.
We strolled past people JOGGING in 35c heat (!!). This part of Barcelona has an almost Los Angeles like feel about it.
Then we turned down a side street and were greeted with imaginative, colourful graffiti. This city keeps you on your toes, for sure.
But I'll tell you about the touring now.
Meet Leon. An incredible London-born guide who now lives and works in Barcelona after falling in love with the city. His style of touring is enchanting. He is energetic, informative, funny and so creative. This tour was one of our favourite things to do in Spain. If you want to bag a spot, then visit Sandemans and book yourself a place! Sandemans offers free tours and at the end of the tour you can leave a tip for your guide.
I want to take you along for a little of our tour, Leon showed us some truly gorgeous spots and incredibly interesting sights.
After cleaning, it has only recently been uncovered. It's a fee to go inside but is a beautiful sight from the outside if you'd like to admire. It's well worth a wander past.
Just opposite the Cathedral is a rare piece of Picasso street art named El fris dels Gegants. Apparently it depicts a Catalan festival that involves a human tower, which a child climbs then holds up 4 fingers. It's a funny one, hey?
Leon took us onwards, showing us beautiful churches including this one with the fabulous rose window.
And this modestly designed Catholic church.
We wound through beautiful, narrow side streets.
Stopped for a lunch of champagne sangria and sandwiches for lunch.
Then we headed down to Columbus' Column (who incidentally is the only Columbus statue not to be pointing towards America, but to Algeria, as the Catalans refused to fund his voyage).
And our tour finished with Leon in Downtown Barcelona. If you get the chance to get on one of his tours, I urge you to do it. I can't imagine a better person to have introduced us to the city. As we were in the area, we had a quick wander up La Rambla, but it's nothing too special and full of tourist traps. However, the living statue street performers are worth a look if you fancy it!
So after a couple of busy days of touring and sight-seeing, we found ourselves with a free morning. J proposed the (frankly crazy) idea that we might like to lie on a beach for a couple of hours, to unwind you know, as I hear people do on their travels.
We walked down to Barceloneta, the beach most convenient for the city.
I have to say, it wasn't the best beach. Very busy and full of merchants trying to sell drinks, clothes and even offered a massage to J... The sand was kind of dusty and it was hard to switch off with so much going on around.
But we got to read our books, catch some rays (read apply factor 30 and sit in the shade) and do a little chilling. If we had more time though, we would've caught the train up the coast to a quieter, more natural spot. But you live and learn to allocate more than 3 hours for a little relaxation!
Once we dusted all the sand off ourselves, we still had one important thing to do in Barca. Sample the tapas! I had big dreams of snagging a table at Quimet & Quimet or Tapas 24, both of which has fantastic reputations for tapas.
However I hadn't factored in that lots of restaurants close in Spain on a Sunday and Monday, the days we were looking for lunch. Sadly my choices above were unavailable and I had to start my tapas hunt over. Eventually we settled on Taller de Tapas, a tapas chain. The food is good, as is the atmosphere and location but I desperately missed a sense of authenticity and tradition. However it's great for dipping your toe into concept of tapas.
You can sit inside at the highly polished bar, complete with smiling barman
On one of the long wooden tables
Or outside in the plaza under a canopy. We like a little fresh air and people watching, so opted for seats outside.
We poured carefully over the menu, eager to make the right decisions from such a vast choice! We ordered all at once and each dish zipped out of the kitchen once ready.
First up, Patatas Bravas with garlic mayonnaise and spicy paprika sauce. Fried potato was not what I expected... It was tasty, but a little strange.
The sizzling prawns cooked in a clay pot with chilli, garlic and mountain herbs were much more satisfactory. Arriving at the table literally sizzling, smelling delicious and looking ever so tempting.
Quickly followed by the small fish catch of the day, fried and served with lemon. This is one of my favourite dishes. Thoroughly smothered in lemon juice, these little fish are utterly moreish.
But the highlight of the meal, by far, was the pot of sizzling artisan Astorga chorizo braised in Asturian cider. They were delicious, melt-in-the-mouth morsels of flavour. Rich and smokey and slightly addictive! I wish we had bought some Spanish chorizo home with us, it was just to die for.
We rounded off our meal with grilled green asparagus with walnut dressing. Crunchy asparagus, nutty dressing and a light and delicious way to finish lunch.
And after that last mouthful, we headed to the train for the last stop on our adventure. I've got one more Spanish blog post coming your way and it's full of Madrid madness. Stay tuned!