After exploring Toulouse with Mom and Phil for a few days, we all took a train to Barcelona for the weekend. I feel certain that I inherited by love for food and wine from her, so I was eager to devour our way through town.
Devour we did…
5 months ago, Daniel and I visited Barcelona for the first time and I feel like it was our crash course introduction. We only had a few days there so we did all the big sights and accidentally fell into a few touristy restaurants. This time, I was hoping to have a more authentic visit. Fortunately, our airbnb host left us with a bevy of personal recommendations. The other benefit is that Mom is a roaming, homing device for good food.
As soon as we got settled, we set off to find the first of many recommended tapas bars – El Vaso de Oro. This restaurant was the embodiment of tapas culture. It was located on a quiet street off of Barceloneta and had a very unassuming exterior. We weren’t even sure how to enter at first. But once we did, it was like walking into a friend’s home where their entire family is cooking dinner for you.
The place was narrow and had no tables so we bellied up to the bar and ordered beers. From here, we had a front row view to the preparation of food and antics of the barmen. We instantly felt welcomed and like we had made a marvelous decision. El Vaso had a menu, which we consulted at first, but then we just started pointing to and ordering the things being cooked in front of us – shrimp, grilled foie gras, meat brochettes…and all washed down with El Vaso’s own beer. It’s as much a cervezaria as it is a tapas bar. Full and happy, we stepped back into the sunshine of Barceloneta and strolled along the harbor.
One of the best parts of the trip was having such a big place to stay. It became a nightly tradition to re-group after “disco naps” and have a few drinks before going out to dinner. And what a view from the balcony!
The next day, the tapas tour continued. This time, we weren’t working from a recommendation, but rather the extreme need for food that comes on hard and fast when you’ve been sightseeing all day. The tapas gods were smiling on us because we followed our noses to this jewel.
El Asador de Aranda is a former Michelin starred restaurant located in the mansion-lined hills of Sant Gervasi. The exterior is just as much a treat as the food inside – the modernista villa was renovated in 1903 when it used to be owned by a community of Dominican friars.
Dinner here is quite pricey, but the lunch and tapas menu is insanely affordable considering that it’s the same quality fare they offer in the evenings. We were greeted by the waiter with glasses of the house cava and the experience only got better from there. We ordered dish after dish and in the end, we were treated to complimentary digestifs.
After lunch, we hitched a ride on the graffiti-covered funicular to the top of Tibidabo mountain, where a church and small amusement park reside.
The view from up here provides an impressive panorama of the city below. But you can go even higher. Climb the towers of the church and stand up there with Open-Arms Jesus!
This was one of those heights that instantly puts your back against the wall and makes your legs shake a little. “Jesus take the wheeeel…”
That evening, we had a lot of fun planned. Drinks at the terrace bar, Alaire, and a flamenco show at Tarantos. The flamenco bar was located in Plaça Reial, a party spot located off of La Rambla, and is one of Barcelona’s oldest. It’s a really affordable way to watch mind-blowing, authentic flamenco.
Before the show, we veered slightly off the tapas route and went for straight up Mexican food. Ocaña DF is the bright, eccentric sister restaurant to Ocaña, both located in Plaça Reial. The hostesses are drag queens and the tequila is good!
The next day, we visited Gaudi’s Casa Batllo. Colorful, trippy, and full of architectural mysteries.
We then went to one of Barcelona’s newest markets, Mercat Santa Caterina. Renovated in 2005, it has a wave-shaped, ceramic and wooden roof that shelters all of the stalls. Inside, you can find the typical marketplace atmosphere – chatty, busy, colorful, happy! Dan and I bought some candy ropes.
The rest of our day was spent lazily walking through the Gothic Quarter. We ate more tapas, shopped for gifts, had some gelato, and gawked at buildings.
For our final evening, we met up with Daniel’s former colleague who now lives in Barcelona. She took us to a jazz bar for dinner and drinks and we had a wonderful time catching up amidst the music.
Full of tapas and a ton of new memories, we all headed back to Toulouse. I feel so lucky to have experienced this city with my favorite people. See you again in April, Barcelona!