Last time I traveled to Barcelona I was 18 years old. I had no knowledge of Gaudi, no passion for food, and no limit to the amount of clothing I was willing to purchase from the stores in Barri Gotic.
Ah, how times have changed. This weekend I was back in Barcelona, excited for Casa Batllo, hungry for tapas, and completely uninterested in buying anything I couldn’t eat immediately.
Four days in Barcelona is enough to see a lot of what the city has to offer, but it’s also enough to make you realize how much you leave unseen when you go. I was able to visit the Fundacio Joan Miro, Parc Guell, the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila, and the MACBA contemporary art museum. But even with all of those checked off my list, I still didn’t make it to some of the other highlights, including Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, which topped my list but was closed for the week for the conference my boyfriend was in town to attend.
Surprisingly, four days in Barcelona is also enough time to get into habits. For example, after discovering the foodie heaven of the Mercat de la Boqueria, I went back every day for a breakfast of fresh mangoes and fruit juice. Wandering through the stalls of spices, meat, mushrooms, candy, fish, and all kinds of other goodies was the perfect breakfast treat. That said, I may have enjoyed it more than others, including the rogue crayfish that climbed over a towering mountain of clams to attempt suicide by jumping off its seller’s counter. Poor thing.
Four days in Barcelona is also enough time to experience some of the city’s best cuisine. My boyfriend and I started off on Friday night with a quick tapas dinner at Txapela, where we enjoyed creamy croquetas, tiny hamburgers, and good Spanish wine.
Our culinary tour de force continued on Saturday, when we had more tapas at Tapac 24, then a great Valentine’s Day dinner at Bestiari with my boyfriend’s coworker and his girlfriend. With the cava flowing all evening, we enjoyed everything from mushroom risotto to chocolate souffles as we marveled at how we had forgotten what the sun looked like after being in London for so long.
Sunday we enjoyed fresh foccacia for lunch, then more Spanish cuisine with friends at Santa. I ordered the tapas selection for dinner, which included such amazing dishes as steamed broccoli with blue cheese sauce covered in walnuts, smoked salmon and cream cheese on toast, foie gras with quince, and prawn tempura with mushroom aioli.
Monday we ate well again. I started off with a solo lunch of avocado salad with sardines—the sardine part being an unfortunate accident resulting from me cutting the waiter off with a hearty “si!” after he uttered the sacred word “guacamole”—followed by fried egg yolk topped with langoustines, pine nuts, and crunchy bits at Bar Mut. In the evening I was lucky enough to be invited to join my boyfriend’s business dinner at Bestial. There we feasted on tapas and pizza followed by spinach ravioli in a blue cheese sauce. Now that I’m home, none of my pants fit.
The real highlight of Barcelona’s culinary scene, though, was not actually a fixture of Catalan cuisine. No, it was a tried-and-true American institution. It was Dunkin Donuts. No, wait. It was Dunkin Coffee, the upscale Catalan name for the American tribute to saturated fat. Anyone who knows my boyfriend knows that ice coffee at Dunkin Donuts is his version of heaven. Needless to say, we visited almost every franchise of this lovely pink-and-orange mecca in the Barcelona metropolitan area. And now I know the Spanish word for doughnut, because I ate no less than three of them. It’s rosquilla, if you care.
In desperate need of a place to digest all the food we kept eating, we had to indulge in some of the city’s nightlife. On our first night we enjoyed the comforts of our hotel’s bar, but were a bit unnerved by a photographer who busied himself taking photos of us while we sipped our Rioja. We later overheard him telling another couple that the photos were for a newspaper. Apparently he didn’t feel the need to let us know. Or ask our permission. Strange.
On the following nights, we left dinner around 1am and we and our friends headed to the clubs along the beach or the swanky lounge at Hotel Omm. After downing more wine and fancy cocktails and catching up with old friends from places as far away as Seattle, my boyfriend and I went home exhausted every night.
Between meals, snacks, drinks, museums and sleep, we had some time to walk around the city. The beautiful architecture of the wide boulevards and the tiny narrow streets of the old neighborhoods make Barcelona one of the most aesthetically pleasing cities I’ve ever visited.
My boyfriend and I spent hours each afternoon walking through the maze of streets and shops in hectic Barri Gotic and El Born. We wandered up and down the wide boulevards of chi chi Eixample, where several of Gaudi’s other-worldly buildings stand, and we basked in the sun on the hilltop of Montjuic and the waterfront playground of Barceloneta.
We wanted to stay forever, but my digestive system is already glad to be home. Maybe in another few years I’ll spend another four days strolling along La Rambla, and maybe by then my tastes will have changed again and my pants won’t be so tight when I get home from Barcelona.