Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Barcelona In Review

Where We Stayed:
- Damas Studio in Al Born District (Apartments in Barcelona)
This apartment was SMALL. But perfect for us considering we were only there for 2 and a half days. It had completely modern fittings, and a lift (a bonus when you have bags the size that we do!). The best part: we were right in the heart of things! We only caught one taxi the whole time we were there, and saw so much of the city. The area all around us was packed with bars, shops, museums, churches and restaurants (you're going to need ear plugs at night for this one), but you save so much in transport fees because it is all right there on your doorstep.

Always start by exploring the area right around your house - we found the best bars and shops just a couple of feet from our apartment.

Price: 100 euros a night.

What We Ate:
Don't expect more than a croissant and a coffee anywhere. And lots and lots of pastries. We were a little more concerned for our waistlines and bought mini yoghurts and bread for toast as a quick snack before leaving the accommodation and then grabbed something on the way.

- Samoa (Pg. Gracia)
What, paella? Again? Yes please. Delish. We found this one on our way back from exploring everything Gaudi. A few minutes from La Pedrera, it lived up to our high standards. The gazpacho was cool, delicious and refreshing and the paella was scrumptious (though not as good as the best.meal.I've.ever.eaten)
- Senyor Parellada (37 Argenteria Rd)
Mmm...a Michelin star restaurant, 2 minutes away from our house. Can you ask for more? Husband ate paella (again) and I had the lamb. It was melt-in-the-mouth, fall-off-the-bone heaven.

- La Cantonada (Carrer de Montcada)
Our first night in Barcelona we wandered the alleyways - if this sounds dodgy, its not. It feels like 90% of Barcelona is made up of tiny alleyways, which overflow with people, sounds and smells. As long as you don't turn down the empty ones there is always something to behold. This little restaurant pulled us in on night one. We ate paella (surprise, surprise!). We made friends with the delightful Americans at the table next to us, and drank mojitos. Wow, what a spot.
- Attic Restaurant (La Rambla)
Night two in Barcelona saw us once again wandering the streets. It's a perfect way to build up an appetite and to stave off dinner for as late as possible. We explored the Gothic Quarter, and finally happened upon the Attic Restaurant. It reminded us of home. We were enticed by the terrace overlooking the main road - two floors up. It was light and breezy, and perfectly ambient. The wine was refreshing in the heat, and just what we needed. Unfortunately the food was not. Husband's teriyaki chicken was 'worse than a ready-meal' (his own words), and my hamburger tasted like it had come out of a box. Frozen. Do not eat here.
- Gallito (Passeig del Mare Nostrum 19 - 21)
On the beach front! Just under the W Hotel. This place was right up my alley. Beautifully decorated, rustic but fresh, packed full of plants and wonderful hanging lampshades, we really enjoyed our evening here. The cocktails were to die for, and the food was yummy. (I unfortunately ordered badly so wasn't super over the moon about my grilled chicken and veggies, but Husband's burger was out of this world. Next time I'm getting tapas!)

Generally speaking, rule of thumb, if the restaurant is busy its a good one to try.

Prices: This takes a lot of budgeting. If you're going out to a restaurant for a proper lunch or dinner don't think you're going to get away without spending at least R300 (30 euros) per head. And that's a starter to share, a bottle of wine, a main each and no dessert. Expect to pay more if you want more. I would recommend planning one big meal a day, and then grabbing a delish salami roll from the local deli.

Another great idea? You are not required to tip in Europe (or at least in the cities we went to), so maybe try eating your starter, main and dessert at 3 different restaurants.

What We Saw:
- Al Born District
Just wander the streets. You cannot go wrong.
- Gothic Quarter
Stay away from the edges. Delight in hidden courtyards, piazzas packed with restaurants, and the most interesting people you've ever seen.
- La Sagrada Familia
Gaudi was a genius. This building is nothing like anything I've seen before. The detail is mind-blowing, the scope is mind-blowing, the scale is mind-blowing. I just wanted to walk around and around and around. Don't miss this.
- Park Guell
Gaudi didn't stop there. You'll know this park from 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona'.
- Cathedral de Barcelona
Completely worth the R60 (6 euros). I'll post pictures soon. The best cathedral I've seen thus far.
- The beach front
Why not?

Yes please. A mix of the boutique stores and high street fashion shops had me over the moon. Especially since the summer sales were on! Look out for interesting art shops with collectibles and creative stuff (not the curio shops!)

Go Back To:
Our list for a return trip to Barcelona is infinite. We did not soak in nearly enough of this city in the time we were there. It was so amazing if I could go back and do it all again I would. Next time around I want to go into the La Sagrada Familia. I also want to spend longer at Suaida (Al Born District) - Husband and I had a martini there one night on the way to dinner that was life changing. Oh.em.gee.

The Best Advice:
Ask the locals! A surprisingly large amount of people in Barcelona speak English and are very happy to help. When we were unsure about where to eat in a certain area we just popped into the nearest store and asked the shop assistant. The receptionists at the Apartments in Barcelona office were also very helpful - offering good advice about the local restaurants and museums.

Another good bit of advice? If you only have a limited amount of time in Barcelona (or even if you have a longer time), don't kill your feet. We walked so much on the first day there that we could barely move for the next few days. Grab a taxi - even if it seems like a short distance. An even better idea? Try out the 'hop on, hop off' buses. They're everywhere, and go past all the major tourist sites.

See my pics from Barcelona here, here and here.

PS More pics coming soon!

Do you have any suggestions of places we should add to our list for next time?

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