We are so excited to head south to beautiful Spain. The flight is short, sweet and over sprawling green fields and snow capped mountains. We land an hour or so later than expected, due to a delay out of Paris and catch a cab to our accommodations; Hotel Gaudi . It's on the edge of La Rambla district, a tree-lined pedestrian street that stretches 1.2 kilometers. The cute boutique hotel is tucked amongst little shops on a picturesque cobblestone street and sits directly adjacent the famous Antoni Gaudi designed Guell Palace.
There’s just something about coming back to a coastal city that makes me instantly more relaxed. The temperature is thankfully a little warmer than France but still buttoned up in our peacoats, we venture across La Rambla and find a spacious paved courtyard bordered by several tapas restaurants. Choosing the warmest and coziest looking one tucked in the far back corner, we order octopus Catalonia style, bruschetta fantastico, steamed mussels and tomato bread plus a few hot toddies. We only meant for it to be snacks since I had dinner plans to hit Los Caracoles (an extremely old & iconic venue that I’d heard so much about) but the tapas were so big we ended up leaving completely full. Instead, we walk the historic streets of the Gothic district and fall completely in love with Barcelona. The nooks in the labrynth of streets all leading to delicious treasures were exciting and the graffiti, plants and people that decorated the way were just as charming. The art and liveliness of this place feels festive and contagious.
We wake up again off schedule at 4 am but force ourselves to lay back down until 7ish. We pack our bags feeling forlorn that we only had a day and a half to experience this amazing city. Determined to find a cappuccino we set out along the maze of streets around La Rambla. We find a little place along a side alley and get two drinks para llevar (To Go). Walking a bit deeper we finally come to the The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, often simply referred to as La Boqueria. It is a large public market and one of the city's foremost tourist landmarks. At first it’s a little awkward being the first people in while most vendors were still setting up their goods for display. We wander the stalls as all sorts of delicious foods (fruit, veggies, seafood, candy and chocolates) are strategically arranged to elicit a visual and olfactory need to buy them all. Within minutes it becomes a vibrant happening mercado. First we grab a simple but delicious jamon y queso (ham and blue cheese) hand pie, sharing it bite for bite. As it’s hot cheese drips down our chins, we spot a fresh seafood bar. Patrons choose from the seafood on display and they cook it up fresh on the spot. Choosing the caracoles (snails) in tomato sauce and baby octopus in a lemon cilantro sauce we have no regrets.
We take our time as we savor the delicacies and enjoy the bustling environment around us. On the way out I buy a few beautiful truffles and chocolates that resembled art more than food. Did I mention I’m in love with Barcelona? Practically crying for more time we gather our bags, check out and take the taxi off to the port. We get on the boat we'll be calling home for the next week and await our departure to our next stop; Morrocco.
photos /// Keith Ketchum Photography