I couldn’t believe it as we took our seats on a large 767, that by this time the next morning… we would be walking the streets of Barcelona, then having coffee and tea at a local cafe while people watching. Our fight left LAX at 7:05am Thursday, which meant a 3:30am wake up call so we could get ready, head to Brett’s parents house, and pick up his 2 younger brothers Stephen and Casey. We were early of course to the gate, but it gave us time to leave a Facebook update or two, and stand in line for 30 minutes waiting for Starbucks. I spent most of the time in line peering back at Tabatha from Salon Takeover as she sent emails from her blackberry. She’s very pretty in person, and very blonde!
The plane was huge, but looked like something out of the early 90’s. Airlines have really gone downhill over the last 5-10 years. I remember a flight on Northwest to Hawaii with my dad and brothers before the Airline declared bankruptcy that was amazing! We had a 3 course lunch and drank guava juice while watching a movie on the big screen… not anymore. None of it mattered though… we’re going to Spain!!! “Woo hoo!” -Vicky from Real Housewives. I have to admit I was a bit nervous at first… The longest flight I’ve ever been on was about 5 and a half hours. We had a layover at JFK, and a 9 hour flight to Barcelona from there. The goal was to sleep as much as possible on the second flight. So we would have energy for the day when we arrived in Barcelona. I tried to dress comfortably for the long flights, but knew we wouldn’t be able to check in to the hotel right away so I crammed in some concealer, mascara, and gloss so I could keep myself presentable when we got off the plane.
The first flight was a breeze, and thanks to my dad, we were able to take a couple sleepers and get a good 4 or 5 hours in on the way to Barcelona. Once we got there, collecting the luggage was fairly easy. The signs were confusing so we just followed the other people we recognized on the flight until we saw the baggage claim. I tried to jot down a few notes in my journal so that I could practice my Spanish just in case. I love the idea of traveling and trying to immerse yourself however possible. I’ve learned Spanish off and on through my life, but hardly get to use it at home so I end up feeling like I have to learn all over again whenever we take a trip where I know I’ll be able to use it. Let’s be honest, there are many advantages to using Spanish if your able… better pricing, more communication, and an amount of respect and appreciation I feel is given by the locals in the area. When you think about it, Americans are the same way. When people move here, we expect them to know the language. I picture it being the same in other parts of the world. Mexico is this way, and I assumed that Spain with all its history would be too. Plus, I think part of me has this fantasy that if I travel and am able to use enough of the language to get by, I’ll be able to experience another level that others might not be able to. During our honeymoon, we were able to have lunch outside of the resort in Puerto Morelos: a small fisherman’s town just a bus ride from our hotel. La Playita Restaurant came recommended from the snorkeling instructors as a local spot that serves delicious conk ceviche, and local beers you can enjoy while listening to a jukebox and wiggling your toes in the cool sand. An experience I’ll never forget, and one we wouldn’t have known had we not been able to communicate with Alberto our instructor.
As we collected our baggage and headed downstairs, we knew we needed to look for the Officina de Turismo. I took a backseat initially while the guys collected directions. We hit a detour when we headed for signs posted marking the train or tram that would put us where we needed to go. We needed the passes that had been purchased ahead of time so we could take the tram. The office however, is a counter that’s located about a ten minute walk away from where you pick up the tram. Once we got the passes, we went back to the loading dock, and took it to the Gracia stop and walked 4 or 5 blocks to the Hotel Balmes. The hotel was in a great location, on the north side of downtown Barcelona and just 2 blocks west of the main street Carrer de Catalunya. The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful. It only took moments to find the reservation, and locate 2 rooms that we could go ahead and check into. It was nearly 11am by the time we got to this point, so we were able to check in and take showers before hitting the street to find some lunch.
Once we regrouped, we walked down Carrer de Catalunya in search of a place that had outdoor seating where we could relax and have a drink while we people watched. We decided to try Cafe y Tapas. We later found this restaurant to be as common as a Corner Bakery or Fast food place in the US. They had a large selection for their menu which included sandwiches, tapas, coffees, and desserts. They also have an “express” version of the restaurant called Cafe y Te. (I need to figure out how to add an accent on here…) I ordered un brochetta de pollo y cordero con verduras: chicken, lamb, and veggie kabob, and un baso de vino blanco: a glass of white wine. The guys got baguettes ibiercos: baguette with cured ham and cervesas: beers. I’ll say it now and I’m sure I’ll say it again. The food in Spain is on a whole ‘nother level!!! Compared to the US, every meal in Spain is like a gourmet experience… We couldn’t help but notice that the locals walking by were all in a hurry, and incredibly well dressed! Men mostly wore suits or slacks and button ups, while the women had leather or structured jackets, tunic length tops, leggings and high heeled boots with scarves. The weather would be to cold to not have a jacket, but we definitely felt a bit out of place with the fashion, and wished we had rethought our packing options. I noticed a place next door to the restaurant that looked like a great place to grab coffee and a pastry called Il Fornaccio, I think… They’re another chain covered in green awnings with gold lettering. Their menu was posted out front and filled with types of coffees, pasteles, bocadillos, and canyas: pastries and sandwiches.
Full and happy, we returned back to the hotel and waited for Brett’s parents to arrive. They took a later flight that gave them a layover in London, and put them at the hotel around 8pm. We all met in their room, caught up on the days events, and hit the street to walk to a nearby restaurant. Although there were a lot of taverns and coffee places, it took us a little while to find a restaurant before we stumbled on Cinco Jotas or 5J. When I first saw the logo my jaw dropped… “Jota” was a curse word I learned growing up that people would get smacked for using in the US. Here was a perfect example of some of the differences between Spanish and Hispanic languages. Cinco Jotas in Spanish translates to five pigs, but up until then I’ve only heard puerco when referring to pic meat… Once you entered the automatic sliding doors and approached the busy but elegant bar you could see why. To the left of the bar, several cured pig legs hung behind locked glass. There was also a cutting counter to the right of the entrance in the corner where two women stood slicking the meat very thinly and plating them for the tables as they were ordered. The servers ran around quickly, and we didn’t notice a manager right away… Stephen found the manager at a computer and left our name. Our 10 minute wait turned into a 20 minute wait, but when Stephen approached the manager, he was not only apologetic, but brought out a bottle of Cave (sparkling white wine)! We toasted outside as we waited for the table and were sat quickly after. Most of the food was listed in Spanish, and our waiter was very limited in Spanish. I translated what I could, but when he didn’t understand one of the boys questions he quickly grabbed the manager, who ended up finishing our service. Even with the bustle of the restaurant, the food was well worth the wait! This was by far on of my favorite meals while we were in Spain. I’t was so good we came here a second time the night before our flight to Madrid. After recommendations from the manager, we chose to start with Ibierco: cured meat served with bread and drizzled with local olive oil. You’ll find it in just about every establishment and it’s delicious, although I think the guys got sick of it after a while. I loved it and want to research Spanish markets in LA or OC so that I can get it in the future. The cured meat isn’t salty like one might expect having had prosciutto which would be the only comparable I could think of. We also split an order of calamari and a bottle of white wine. For entrees I ordered a melon and ibierco salad with asparagus and a strawberry vinagrette that was out of this world. Casey got a 4 course special designed by the chef that was both beautiful and delicious. Casey just finished chef school last year and I was so happy to have someone with us that also shared a passion for food.
Stuffed and happy we left and walked down the road towards the hotel and decided to say goodnight to the parents and look for some nightlife so we could see what the vibe was like. Roxy was a club nearby, but if you go make sure you have dress shoes because they wouldn’t let the guys in with tennis shoes. Instead, we found a local bar that seemed small when you entered, I wish I could remember the name of it but I forgot to write it down. After we ordered a drink we walked to the back where the room opened up to a large bar with two pool tables and some high tops with both Spanish and Amarican hits playing in the background. The crowd consisted of ages ranging from 20-45 huddled in circles around tables and the bar. Brett’s brothers decided to head off after the first round of drinks while Brett and I stayed back to have another. I enjoy music and dancing as it is, but being in that environment and surrounded by everything really made me want to get up and join in! There was a group of 10 or 15 people in a large circle by one of the pool tables that looked like they were having a great time. Brett grabbed another drink and I looked up how to ask someone if we could dance with their group on my Spanish translation app (corny I know). When he got back we both agreed they looked like they were having a great time, gave each other the “ok ready?” look, and approached the group. I saw a girl on her cell phone and introduced myself. To our surprise most of the people spoke English! They all worked downtown close to La Boqueria (the giant outdoor food market I wanted to see) and some of them studied at the Universities also. They came from all over, Columbia, France, Iran… and were a great group of people around our age. We danced and had a great time. They even invited us out the following day to watch the big Soccer game where Barcelona faced Madrid the next day. We didn’t end up taking them up on the offer, but it was really great that they offered. The music started to break after about a half hour so we walked back to the hotel around 2am and crashed.
What a way to start our time in Barcelona… We couldn’t wait to see what tomorrow would bring!
I hope you enjoyed this first chapter. I’ll get the next out as soon as possible:)
In the meantime, here are the photos from this chapter…
Lots of Love,