A LONG APRIL WEEKEND IN BARCELONA

To escape the April showers of the UK, my first mini-break of 2014 saw me take a 2 hour flight to the city of Barcelona.

Ok, I admit it. I had done little research or prep prior to this trip. I hadn’t packed a pocket guide. Hadn’t scoured travel blogs. Hadn’t even searched #barcelona on Instagram. Shame on me. And to add insult to injury to my dear ‘Barca’, it was a toss up between here and Venice for this long weekend.

The final decision to book Barcelona was based on one thing alone. The desperate and pining ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ of friends whenever I mentioned the possibility of a trip.

Now, I had the added bonus of realising an ex-colleague of mine has lived in Barcelona for a year. Upon arrival, she winged over her mega list of things to see, do, eat, drink. It was a hefty sign that she loves it in this city. And was better than any official guide I could have purchased.

You know there’s a beach and lots of historic buildings to sightsee at (which you absolutely must check out…don’t forget to go see the geese that live at Barcelona Cathedral too), so this post is a little new in style in that there are 5 things I would like to cover;

  • You can be vegan in Barcelona
  • Coffee is taken seriously in Barcelona
  • Gin and tonics are ACE in Barcelona
  • There are 2 festivals in April in Barcelona
  • Some good eateries I visited in Barcelona

Enjoy. And credit to my pal who recommended so many of the places and activities below. If you go to Barcelona soon, just yell ‘LISA’ and am sure she’ll be only too happy to come and find you to point you in the right direction.

 

VEGAN BARCELONA

Husband and I have been practicing a vegan diet this New Year. He is much stricter than I, I am leaning more towards being a really, really good vegetarian, but nonetheless having a new way of eating adds an increased level of consideration when planning some time away. Google had led him to create a mini shortlist of places to check out but it was only when we rocked up, asked my pal and did some more investigating on foot that we stumbled upon an array of places to line our tums. Here are some:

  • Teresa Carles – by FAR the most interesting vegetarian restaurant I have ever been to and my fave foodie place in Barcelona. The menus are so brilliantly considered. Breakfast menu is served until 2pm daily, lunch menu also kicks in at noon though so if you time it right the choice is awesome. Over two visits I tucked in to La Copa Chia ( chia seeds with almonds, coconut milk and seasoned with fresh fruit), the pizza (artichokes, pistachios, mushrooms), a bit of the husband’s lasagna and a muffin. Drinks wise, I glugged down their ‘Virus Killer’ juice (lemon, pear, ginger, honey). Utterly delicious and every mouthful felt like the chefs were truly caring for you and making you that bit more nourished.
  • Blue Project Café – “…is a gastronomic space that incorporates an ecological philosophy and socioeconomic ethics”. Indeed. Whilst you can sit down and eat, the day we stumbled upon this we were in need of a little snack so I had a chocolate cookie.
  • Veritas Supermarket – a supermarket well stocked in vegan, vegetarian and other alternative diet ingredients.
  • The Markets – in general, markets like Mercat de la Boqueria on La Rambla have a few choices of stalls where you can buy fresh juices (I had Watermelon and it was wonderful) and fruit. Boqueria also had one vegetarian stall that also sold freshly prepared vegan options. I had a vegan paella takeaway and the dish was a huge mound of scrumptious food, including falafel. €10.

 

COFFEE IN BARCELONA

Before Barcelona I was a coffee fan. Post Barcelona I’m a GOOD coffee fan.

Over our 4 days, we got into a way of life in the district of El Born where we were staying. We’d wake and our first stop would be El Magnifico just moments away from our apartment. Recommended to us by my pal, we were warned that we might get told off if seen tipping sugar into our coffee. It ruins it. This is high grade stuff you know. And we did. Husband asked firstly for soya milk (first scowl), then….oh god….caramel syrup. The guy serving us point blank refused. And this made me like El Magnifico even more. It’s a coffee establishment wholly concerned with making and selling really good coffee. Simple. And their morals lead to a shiny reputation. There is always a queue. A few seats in and just outside the shop allow for one or two (usually oldies with their espressos) to stop a while. But generally you are in and out. No messing.

The coffee manages to be almost sweet without any added artificial help and it certainly puts a more spritely spring in your step.

Yes, El Magnifico was visited by us daily.

We really wanted to try Nomad too but it was closed when we decided to.

The one other place we tried was Satan’s Coffee Corner  in the Raval area. Confused at first as the place is situated in a bike shop, the set up is very modest yet boasts a Starbucks sign that they’ve tinkered with to read ‘SATAN’ instead. One barista behind the counter, a minimal menu and a couple of places to sit. This place doesn’t do soya milk, so husband went for an ice black coffee and myself a hot one.

We watched as the barista measured the ingredients with focus and happiness, almost overjoyed when we placed our order. Really excited about making coffee. My husband asked questions and he was able to sharply answer. Like what the optimum temperature the water should be so as not to ruin a hot coffee.

Maybe because it was a black coffee, but this one seemingly blew my face off.

THAT’S JUST THE TONIC

Not one to willingly opt for a G&T back home, there’s something about being away and again hearing one or two peer recommendations that sways you.

Served in large globe glasses, the gin and tonics here are just swell and really refreshing after a day pounding the streets.

We tried our first out in Collage Bar (really cool, small and with a fab graffit/art mural wall just outside that is linked to the bar). I opted for the fruity one with strawberries floating around. Our second was in the Gracia area at a bar called Woody. We let the barman decide a range of different Gins to use and the results were just yum.

My Barca pal recently had her own Gin and Tonic designed for her in Barcelona – read all about that here.

FESTIVALS – BUT HOLD THE WELLIES

Who knew that in April over a long weekend we’d find ourselves at 2 festivals?

First up was the Earth Day festival in Parc de La Ciutadella “…A celebration of citizens, activists, non-profit organizations, artists and musical performers from different places, all concerned about the environment”. Now of course, this played right into our animal loving, vegan/vegetarian hands. We darted from stall to stall trying culinary delights for hours. We got there around 11am and it was sleepy. Come 2pm the place was buzzing. Groups of like-minded people had set up camp, were singing and dancing and encouraging everyone passing them to do the same. It was free, innocent and riveting.

And second up…was the April Festival just out of town. Feria de abril is a weeklong flamenco festival that follows in the aftermath of the city’s mega Easter celebrations. At this top event in April, you lucky things can expect a showcase of all things Spanish with horse riders, fun fairs and good times galore! You’ll find this in the Parc del Forum in the Diagonal Mar area of Barcelona. Other highlights include paella dishes that are the size of a small car and a Ferris wheel, offering some of the best views over the city.”

It. Is. Mental. The site is lined with tents that we think represented different regions of Spain that housed rows of tables and chairs, a bar each and a stage where older ladies dolled up in their finest flamenco dresses dance.

My husband summed it up perfectly; “we’ve crashed a Spanish wedding”. It honestly felt like that too. Looking around, we were definitely the only tourists. Others got it. We were bemused. But we had wine, shimmied around awkwardly and…left.

A fab experience. Real Spain. True traditions.

FOOD AND DRINKS

By no means an extensive list, here are some other places we ventured and you might consider if you have a few days in sunny Barca.

  • 7 PORTES  – having been around since 1836, it remains one of the most loved and prestigious restaurants in Barcelona. There was a queue when we got there at 10.00pm (we hadn’t booked) but we were soon seated after around 15 minutes. If you go, take a good peek around as each seat here has a little gold plaque behind it with a name etched in of people of note who have visited. I was sat in the sit of the big lady herself, Monserrat Caballe. The food was expertly created and full in portion size and the addition of a pianist charming. A treat of a night out.
  • HOTEL 1898  – yes a hotel, but we didn’t sleep here. At my pals instruction, we headed here one evening (prior to the 8.40pm sunset) for one thing only, rooftop drinks. We went to the lift, pressed 7 and up we whizzed. Rose wine, evening sun and a mighty fine view of Barcelona.
  • HOFMANN PASTRIES  – award winning pastries, croissants, muffins and breads. I opted for the raspberry croissant (this day I was vegetarian) on our way to Earth Day. It oozed raspberry gloop from the centre. Luscious.

 

 

 

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