Barcelona

Just as the rainy winter weather was approaching Germany, we escaped to the warmth of Barcelona for a long weekend in October. Colorful and quirky, we stayed in a traditional apartment in a residential area of the city with a balcony to enjoy our breakfast and a view of the neighborhood church. We didn’t exactly count on the 24/7 kids block party that occurred at the church all weekend, but we still managed to get in some quality siesta time.

Our first stop in the city was to Park Güell, one of Gaudí’s most expansive works. It was quite a hike to get to the top of the iconic park, but worth the view.

The most memorable part of our trip was a group cooking class in a traditional Catalan apartment overlooking Plaça Reial. We started by roaming the crowded La Boqueria market, admiring the speciality cured meats and fresh fish. Even though we thought we were visiting the city during shoulder season, it was clear by the overcrowded market that Barcelona is always in tourist season. Next, we were served various tapas by a true Catalan chef, who spoke very little English and needed a translator to explain how he created the tapas. Traditional Serrano croquettes, patatas bravas, spanish-style garlic shrimp, calamari, roasted octopus and Manchego cheese were only some of the amazing dishes we tasted. The chef then helped us prepare a paella full of fresh fish and vegetables (and in the process accidentally threw out my special family ring – no worries it was recovered in the trash after a few panicked moments!). For dessert, Corey took the lead on creating the famous Catalan cream, a delicious fluffy foam that reminded us of a really good chai tea latte.

We spent most of the weekend wandering the many interesting districts of Barcelona. In the Gothic Quarter, we browsed the various boutiques and galleries and took a quick look at the city’s Cathedral. Our B&B host recommended seeing the Basilica Santa Maria del Mar, which we found to be a stunning example of medieval Gothic architecture. We also visited the Picasso museum, where there was a great selection of his early paintings but not as many cubist examples that the artist is universally known for.

Almost every night we walked to the El Born district of the city to sample the delicious plates at different tapas bars. We fell in love with the neighborhood and bought a 3D photo collage from an eclectic art gallery to remember it by.  One night, we learned how to prepare Spanish-style toast with fresh garlic, a ripe tomato, drizzle of local olive oil and sprinkle of salt. The next night, Jon got to try the European delicacy of beef cheeks.

The main event was a trip to the Sagrada Familia, where we ended our tour of Barcelona with mixed opinions. Jon was in awe of the impressive architecture and unique way they manage to filter light from the stained glass windows but Corey didn’t think being inside the church evoked any religious atmosphere. We took a quick elevator trip to the top, where the view wasn’t quite as impressive as we expected. Overall a very interesting architectural wonder by the city’s most famous man, Gaudí, but not exactly what we expected.

When we had our fill of tapas (if that’s even possible), we visited the harbor to try a fantastic Mexican restaurant recommended by a friend with refreshing margaritas and some tasty ceviche. We found the statue of Christopher Columbus pointing to the New World (ironically in the totally wrong direction) before heading back to rainy Düsseldorf.

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