The second country on our list was Spain. We had only had two full days there so we stayed in Barcelona. We knew we were getting in pretty late so we opted for a hotel over an AirBnb- the Chic & Basic Hotel in El Born.
Highly recommend both the hotel (which was super funky, and lives up to being both chic and basic) and the neighborhood in general. We were close to everything and again did a ton of walking. About 5 minutes from the Arc de Triomf and maybe 10-15 from La Rambla. After the crazy hills of Lisbon it felt good to walk around in a flat city, and one day we did almost 15 miles.
Our first morning we walked to Mercat de la Boqueria, the famous market in Barcelona. I could have spent hours in there. We had our sights set on breakfast at Quim, one of the stands that was featured on I’ll Have What Phil’s Having (the earlier iteration of Somebody Feed Phil). They do fried eggs with any topping imaginable, and the GS was really looking forward to eggs with fois gras.
IT WAS CLOSED. I’m actually still not over it. Apparently Europeans just take extended vacations and shut down their places of business for weeks at a time.
We were starving and being indecisive and finally got empanadas at a different stand that were so regular and then we were mad that we had a bad meal. However, during that interaction the girl asked me in Spanish if I wanted them heated up and I understood her and said yes and the GS was very impressed.
Then we set off wandering toward La Sagrada Familia. My besties the Lees gave us a Gray Malin photograph of this for our wedding so we were excited to see it in person. It is crazy impressive but what we didn’t realize is that in order to go inside you have to buy tickets way way ahead of time. I think we got there at noon and were told the earliest we could get in was 6:15 PM. So we took a picture of the outside and called it a success.
We had a late lunch at Bar Canete, which I highly recommend. They have an open kitchen and we sat at the bar and enjoyed some very delicious tapas: anchovies in oil, croquetas, unbelievable grilled calamari, and “la bomba” pictured below which was like a Spanish version of arancini.
More wandering. Barcelona was very different from Lisbon- obviously it’s a lot bigger, but there are parts of it that feel like any other large US city and then all of a sudden you’re wandering through back alleys in the Gothic Quarter and it’s so magical.
We took a tapas tour that evening which was really fun. The food itself was kind of regular but our tour guide was really cool and fun and we made friends with some Canadians in our tour group.
We stopped at the Boqueria (no complaints from me about being back there) for some jamon and cheese.
We also got a sample of torrone/turron, which is kind of a nougat-y dessert that they had in a bunch of flavors. Coconut was the best.
And then tapas at two different restaurants. At one place the tapas were all laid out and they said the idea is that you just pick what you want and then pay at the end based on how many toothpicks are on your plate. I feel like America is too dishonest for that method.
Fun fact we learned on our tapas tour: these faces were added to point in the direction of where the sailors might be able to find some… love at the right price.
That night we went to Black Lab Brewhouse. They had live music and a really good session IPA.
Day 2 began with me trying to go to a Body Pump class and being told that all the classes were cancelled for like 3 weeks because of vacations. What?! No fried eggs AND no Body Pump?
Walked back and the GS and I went to Nomad Coffee for some nitro cold brew. It was stupid expensive but very delicious, and in this cool random alley. They also sold cold brew in flasks which we loved.
Then we grabbed breakfast at a Buenaventura Cafe. It was kind of a regular American breakfast (I had avocado toast), but the food was good and they had free WiFi. We did some research on public transit and hopped on the bus to go up to Park Guell for another attempt at seeing some Gaudi architecture.
Same thing as Sagrada Familia- no tickets for many many hours. However it was still 100% worth the trip because Park Guell has to have the best view of the city.
From there, we took the bus down to the beach. It’s crazy how close the beaches are to the city center. We walked along the water for a while and then were starving so we stopped at Barnabier for lunch- I was jonesing hard for paella.
We had the special paella of the day (cod and vegetables) and it did not disappoint.
We walked from there all the way back to our hotel to regroup. Then I made a second (successful!) attempt to get to Body Pump at a different gym. I had done an Attack class in Lisbon and had so much fun that I was trying to do one in every country. I don’t speak a word of Portuguese or Catalan, but was able to get through both which was pretty cool.
Hopped back on the bus (we actually preferred the bus to the metro in Barcelona) and headed to Brewdog. Of all the places we went in search of craft beer, Barcelona’s scene was the most established. At one point I said I felt kind of guilty going to these breweries because it basically felt like we were back in Baltimore. But at both (we went to Garage Beer Co next) it seemed like all locals there and not American tourists. It’s cool to see this movement really taking off in Europe.
We weren’t super hungry after crushing paella for 4 at lunch, so we just got snacks at both breweries.
Somehow we got on the wrong bus when we tried to go back to the hotel, so once we figured it out we just hopped off and figured we’d get on a different one going in the right direction. We happened to get off at a stop where there was a random street carnival going on. So naturally we ate serendipitous churros smothered with Nutella.
We ended up walking most of the way back. Seriously could wander around that city forever we loved it so much.
The next morning we got up and got all packed up for our flight to Naples. We wanted to grab coffee before taking the metro to the airport and Nomad is closed on weekends (how is this possible?) and most of the other places didn’t open until 9. Europe is not the place to be an early-rising-coffee-drinking individual. But we got one last taste of jamon on croissants and headed to the airport!
Two days there was not nearly enough but I think we walked close to 30 miles in that period so I’d say we got a good feeling for the city. The GS said he could live there so I guess that means we’ll be back!
Up next… Italy.