Our last day in Spain began bright and early. The Astronomer and I grabbed breakfast at the train station—a flaky croissant for him and a ham and cheese sandwich with a tall cup of orxata for her—before leaving Girona for the town of Figueres. The simple fare was just what we needed to get us through the morning.
We arrived in Figueres an hour later, slightly groggy, but also very excited. We penciled in a half-day in the city to visit the Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dalí, a museum designed by the artist to honor his hometown. Home to hundreds of Dalí’s original works, the museum is a must-see for anyone visiting Catalonia.
On our walk from the train station to the museum, we encountered a portrait of Dalí reflected onto a mirrored cylinder. It was definitely one of the coolest and most innovative public art pieces I have ever seen.
In true Dalí fashion, the museum’s facade was a spectacle. I couldn’t decide which element was more visually arresting—the giant eggs teetering around the perimeter or the gold Oscar-like statues holding down the fort. Or maybe it was the sky-high trees that were perfectly coiffed.
Continue reading ‘Last Day in Spain: Breakfast in Girona, Lunch in Figueres, Dinner in Barcelona (a side of Dalí, too)’
After days of indulging in stick-to-your-bones traditional Catalan fare, The Astronomer and I were ready to sample some of the region’s modern cooking. We hoped to visit Albert Adria’s Bar Inopia and Carles Abellan’s Comerç 24 to satisfy this portion of our culinary itinerary, but we were turned away when we visited. A note to travelers similarly guided by their stomachs: you’ll have to arrive early to get a seat at Inopia, and for Comerç 24 you should make a reservation several weeks in advance. It’s also best to visit the city on Tuesday through Saturday to avoid limited restaurant options.
Fortunately, a great dining alternative is never far away in a food-centric city like Barcelona. After a bit of research, The Astronomer suggested that we head to Santi Olivella’s Cata 1.81. Slightly larger than a shoebox, Cata 1.81 is a pioneer of modern tapas. The restaurant is also known for its stellar wine collection and market-influenced menu.
The dining room is bright white with even brighter orange accents. I loved that every table was carved out in the center to create a sturdy well for wine bottles, decorative floral arrangements, and even the bread basket.
The Astronomer and I were served a mountain of olives during our two and a half week stay in Spain, but none tasted as delicious as the ones served here. The language barrier kept us from getting the full story on how they were made, but we had an inkling that soy sauce was the secret ingredient that took off the olives’ characteristically briny edge.
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Bar Pinotxo came highly recommended to The Astronomer and me by an army of trusty folks. From our college teammate Duncan to our food blogging friend Charles to our handy dandy guidebooks, everyone had the nicest things to say about this place.
Located in the wonderland that is the Mercat de la Boqueria, Bar Pinotxo is a fourteen seat tapas bar specializing in hearty Catalan cuisine. It’s the most famous of all the eateries inside the marketplace and is constantly buzzing, from six in the morning until it closes sometime around three in the afternoon.
On both of our visits to Bar Pinotxo, The Astronomer and I had to wait fifteen minutes for two of the coveted metal stools to open up. Although I would have preferred to have my name jotted down on a sheet of paper and then called out when my seats were ready, the hover-behind-diners-that-are-sipping-espressos strategy worked out quite well.
The food here is truly fabulous, but it’s Bar Pinotxo’s amiable owner that keeps diners coming back time and again. Always decked out in a pressed vest and dapper bow tie, Juanito Bayen made sure that we were well fed and well taken care of every time we pulled up a stool. Because the bar has no written menu, it was up to Mr. Bayen to suggest to us what to eat. He sells the daily specials in the same simplified manor as international flight attendants—”pescado or carne?”
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After a glorious day spent exploring Antoni Gaudí‘s Park Güell [Check out the complete set of photos on Flickr], The Astronomer and I headed to Taverna El Glop for a classic Catalan dinner. We had initially planned to dine at its sister restaurant Nou Glop, but showed up too late for the manager’s liking and were turned away. The Spanish may like to dine late, but the window to indulge is oftentimes quite narrow. This may bode well for locals, but for for two kids lazing the evenings away on holiday, not so much.
While Nou Glop was winding down for the night, Taverna El Glop was very lively when we arrived at half past ten. After placing our beverage order, a bowl of complimentary olives was set before us. By the way, glop means to “swallow” or “gulp.” We did a lot of both this evening.
Between The Astronomer and me, we polished off a humongous pitcher of Cava sangria (10.75€) with our dinner. Considering how seldom we drink day to day, this was quite a feat! I absolutely adored the sparkly and refreshing sangria. Truth be told, I don’t think I went a single day in Spain without sipping on some local bubbly. Ah, the good life.
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While the Spanish practice of supping quite late might shock some out-of-towners, The Astronomer and I were well prepared for the local lifestyle. Back home in Los Angeles, work is followed by running, then preparing dinner, and finally sitting down to eat around half past nine. For us, it was a pleasure not having to change our natural way of doing things while on holiday.
After landing in Barcelona and getting in a quick workout, we heeded my brother’s advice and Metro’d it to Tapas 24 for dinner. He visited the city less than a year ago and had a terrific meal here after reading about it in the New York Times. “Get the bikini sandwich,” he advised. “It’s ham and cheese on white bread with black truffles. It is really, really good.” Done and done.
Tapas 24, also spelled TapaÇ24, is the least formal of Chef Carles Abellan‘s four restaurants in town. Here, the decade-long El Bulli alum prepares simple tapas with a unique twist. The small and brightly lit room was packed and smoky when we arrived. After a five minute wait, The Astronomer and I snagged two seats at the bar with a full view of the open kitchen.
Since it was our honeymoon and we love living on the edge, The Astronomer and I indulged in two glasses of fruit juice to start. I assure you that I requested a shot of something hard and potent to be added to mine but was refused by the bartender—these juices were meant to be enjoyed on their own. The mango (5€) one was thick, not unlike a lassi, and smooth going down. The berries with mint (5€) was refreshing.
Continue reading ‘Tapas 24 – Barcelona’