A Mediterranean quirky mix of gothic and modernist architecture, Barcelona is Spain's cool cat. Following the infrastructure makeover necessary to host the 1992 Summer Olympics, Barcelona boasts two miles of new seaside city beaches and carefully designed buildings that integrate seamlessly into the centuries old architecture and modernist influenced skyline.
To my delight, one of the highest rated Barcelona activities on Trip Advisor was a cooking class. Included in the day was a trip to the eight hundred year old Boqueria market. A fascinating culinary journey in which our Catalan chef explained the intricacies and history of Catalan cooking. We learned the differences in the pricing of tuna, blind tasted various Spanish hams and unanimously picked the best to be none other than the jamon Iberica that could be left hanging for years, handled finger-like razor clams that receded with our touch (yes, they were alive) and stared at the bull penises and horsemeat as the chef explained the traditions of cooking with these proteins.
At the cooking school, we prepared Gazpacho de Fresas (strawberry gazpacho), crema Catalana (more or less a flan-like dessert), and Mar y Montaña, a tasty stew that included meatballs and seafood. As a bonus, a Spanish t.v. station interviewed the chef and our family and filmed the class for a lifestyle public television segment. Stay tuned, as soon as it airs, we will link the segment.
It is hard to be in a hurry in Spain. Lingering during meals with just one more glass of wine and a mid-afternoon catnap are part of the experience. During our ten day journey, we left the city only twice. Time must be carved out for a trip to the Dali Museum and a long afternoon exploring the nooks and crannies of the beaches along the Costa Brava. Do spring for a knowledgeable tour guide for this trip. Understanding the history behind Dali's work and a local guide managing which beaches to visit and where to enjoy the best views makes a long day seem short.
Hands down, the highlight of our stay in Barcelona was a walking tour with Catalan native Gabriel. All a bit skeptical when he suggested we begin at 10:30 a.m. and end the day around 5 p.m, these seven hours proved to be some of the very best during our stay. Leisurely and patiently, "Beli" explained gothic Barcelona's transformation during the industrial revolution. New wealth created opportunities for artists and architects such as Gaudi, Picasso and Dali to explore modernist thinking. So enjoyable was Gabriel's company, we invited him to continue the conversation during dinner at a restaurant he carefully chose in El Born, the medieval barrio and artist center of the city.
During our ten day stay we left the city limits twice. The second time was a day trip to Monserrat, the stunning Benedictine monastery built in 880 and home to L'Escolania boys choir dating back the the 15th century. Plan your visit to include their Gregorian chanting in the Basilica of Monserrat.
The most romantic day of the year in Barcelona is April 23rd. Our adorable walking tour guide, Gabriel "Biel" Mascarb, explained that Díada de Sant Jordi is the Catalan equivalent of Valentine's Day. A 12th century legend has it that in a romantic act of bravery, St. George slays a fire breathing dragon and saves the life of the kingdom's beautiful princess. Barcelona celebrates the knight's courage with a festival in which a man presents his girl with a single red rose and the girl reciprocates the adoration with a book she loves--a wonderful celebration of love and literacy.
Next Valentine's Day, consider sharing Spanish tapas, Cava, carefully chosen books and a table perfumed with red rose petals with your loved ones.
08001 Barcelona, Spain
La Rambla, 58, ppal. 2
08002, Barcelona, Spain
Carrer de Santa Teresa, 1, 08012 Barcelona, Spain
Calle des Flassaders, 44, 08003, Barcelona, Spain
BARCELONA WALKING TOUR -- The highlight of our stay in Barcelona was a walking tour with Catalan native Gabriel. We were all a bit skeptical when he suggested we begin at 10:30 a.m. and end the day around 5 p.m. These seven hours proved to be some of the very best during our stay. Leisurely and patiently, "Beli" explained gothic Barcelona's transformation during the industrial revolution. New wealth created opportunities for artists and architects such as Gaudi, Picasso and Dali to explore modernist thinking. So enjoyable was Gabriel's company, we invited him to continue the conversation during dinner at a restaurant he carefully chose in El Born, the medieval barrio and artist center of the city. To contact Biel directly, email him: email@example.com.
CHURROS & CHOCOLATE -- Hunt around for your favorite churros y xocoa shop. DULCINEA in Carrer Petitxol, 2, Barcelona is a good one.
BASÍLICA DE LA SAGRADA FAMILIA -- Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013, Barcelona
PAPABUBBLE -- There's something about a trip to Papabubble that turns anyone into a kid in a candy store. Namely because, well, we are. Aside from offering treats in just about every flavor imaginable, live candy shows offer a glimpse into the magic-making process.
XAVIER COLL CONCERT -- By accident we ended up in front of the Basilica Santa Maria del Pi just minutes before a guitar concert began. Xavier Coll plays a variety of historical guitars and shares the history of the guitar in Spain with his audience.
LOISAIDA -- A unique, retro clothing store for men and women with antiques and vintage items scattered for sale throughout the building--Carrer Flassaders, 42, 08003 Barcelona.
Traveling with a large family often requires two hotel rooms. With a son leaving for college in the fall, and only a few precious weeks left to enjoy his company, I wanted all of us to stay together. Each of the Majestic residence suites (R71 & R72) has four bedrooms and sleeps eight people. A small kitchen, outdoor patio and washer/dryer make this a perfect alternative to traditional hotel room and a more affordable way for a large family to travel together.
VICKI CRISTINA BARCELONA