This summer, I spent a few days in Barcelona. Of course, any trip of mine is always highlighted by the many restaurants I visit. In Barcelona, I ate at these 6 outstanding tapas bars, each offering a different vibe and a different attitude. Bar Mut: Must try: The egg yolk carpaccio and the grilled octopus Tasca el Corral: Must try: Chorizo al diablo (flaming chorizo with agua ardiente), Manchego cheese and cider. Set del Born: Must try: Pata negra ham and the special way they prepare patatas bravas Segons Mercat: Must try: Beef filet with port wine and foie sauce Bubó: Must try: The desserts from Bubó pastry and chocolate shop next door! Tickets tapas bar: Must try: Everything! http://willtravelforfood.com/2011/08/17/tapas-bars-barcelona/
Like going out for tapas, taking a trip to Spain means you'll get a taste of everything. Travelers love the warmth of the Spanish people, not to mention the warmth of the climate. From the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, in the north, to the Moorish and Catholic traditions in the south, Spain is a fantastic mix of modern and classic.
- San Sebastián
This is a beautiful sunset at the rooftop of Casa Mila, one of the many work of Antoni Gaudi. It was said that the Ventilation towers inspired some designs for the movie Star Wars.
One of the best place to go for a little of everything local, or tapas-style shopping, is the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, Spain. They are always busy. Whether you are looking for ham or oysters, fresh fruits or desserts, coffee or wine, they have it all in a beautiful setting.
Make sure to sample some hot drinking chocolate in Barcelona. I chose a mug from Cacao Sampaka, a gourmet chocolate shop where you'll find all sorts of delightful dessert concoctions. The rich, velvety drink is nothing like American hot chocolate. It's thick, a bit spicy, and not too sweet. Dunk churros or melindros, a spongy, cake-like cookie traditional to Catalonia. http://eatrepeat.blogspot.com/2012/12/barcelona-kiosko-universal-cacao-sampaka.html
The staff of Madrid's Chocolatería San Ginés might be a bit brisk, but they more than make up for it in taste and atmosphere. Over a century old, take a few turns off the main "calle" and follow the pink neon sign to the small elegant interior. You'll be rewarded with a steaming cup of drinking/dipping chocolate and perfectly crisp-yet-delicate churros.
Gaudi's work always amazes me. It's hard to believe and remember sometimes that most of his work was actually done in the 1800s! It looks so modern, or what I think of as modern! I was really impressed by the rooftop of La Pedrera! I felt like every and any picture I took there looked incredible. For some reason this building really reminded me of some of the architecture/dwellings in Eastern Turkiye and other parts of the Middle East. These structures almost remind me of the ferry chimneys, and the walls of this building also somewhat remind me of something like the dwellings in Mardin. Gaudi uses so many different elements from different cultures/styles, and from nature. Almost everything he has done is somehow based in nature. This building itself looks incredible, but when touring the museum I was shocked to see how many models Gaudi had made. The models themselve seem impossible, and that they would take a lifetime, and yet he made so many....and he of course made the life size scale of his visions as well! I was and will be forever impressed by the work of Gaudi.
As food writer Jonathan Gold "warned" me before we went to San Sebastian, "the pintxos bars in the old town are among the best in Spain." Although you can't feel any sense of competition--the convivial spirit spills over from one bar to the next, and there are certainly enough customers to go around--you can see it and taste it. Every spot crafts its small-plate specialties to perfection, and a few, like Zeruko, above, take their pintxos into otherworldly realms of avant-garde food architecture. For pure satisfaction (amazing warm pintxos cooked to order) and neighborhood ambiance, we kept returning to Astelehena and La Cuchara De San Telmo, both recommended by AFAR contributor Lisa Abend. But nothing beats Zeruko, http://bit.ly/HbvQQ0, for a visual spectacle and experimentation with ingredients and presentation.
I've seen plenty of images of works by Spain's famous architect Antoni Gaudí, but nothing prepared me for the impact of seeing them in real life. My friend Matt surprised me and led me to Casa Museu Gaudí (the Gaudí House Museum) late at night and had me close my eyes until we arrived in front of the spectacular building. In the dark, it glows like Skeletor's castle or something out of a Tim Burton movie. The museum was the home of the trippy, modernist architect for the last 20 years of his life and was built under his direction. Inside you can still see pieces of furniture the artist designed and walls are covered with his drawings.
When in Madrid, I highly recommend to visit Circulo de Bellas Artes. The views from the rooftop of the Fine Arts Circle is breath taking. Buy a ticket at the reception, speed up to the roof and stand by the feet of Goddess Minerva. Highly recommended during sunset with a glass of wine in hand.
This is Mark Bittman's favourite sandwich ever: a flauta d’ibéric jabugo at Cafe Viena on La Rambla in Barcelona. I can attest to the fact that it is one of the best sandwiches I've ever had! The ham is just delicious and the bread is crispy without being too hard. Just perfect! http://willtravelforfood.com/2011/08/17/tapas-bars-barcelona/
Palau Güell is an early Gaudí masterpiece, designed for his longtime benefactor, Eusebi Güell. The mansion, one of Gaudí's first big projects, was recently restored and re-opened to the public. The centerpiece of the building is the amazing ceiling/skylight and a rooftop full of chimnies. Palau Güell is worth the visit if only to see some of Gaudí's early genius, especially his interest in turning something functional (a chimney!) into a magical work of art. Though less popular than Gaudí's more famous Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, and Casa Mila, prepare to wait in line. When I visited, tickets were sold for entrance every fifteen minutes, seemingly based on capacity. Buy your ticket at the window before joining the queue. Audioguides are included in the price so don't forget to pick one up on your way in.
Madrid's multi-level Mercado San Anton is a sight to be seen. Rows of gorgeous produce, local specialties, Italian deli favorites, briny seafood and locally-farmed meats line the perimeter of each floor, each stall more enticing than the one before it. Even better, its high tables and counters make it well-suited for a quick bite and glass of wine. For a relaxed sit-down meal, head up to the restaurant on the rooftop terrace and finish off the evening with a drink in the lounge.
As you enter Barcelona's famous Mercat de Sant Josep de La Boqueria from La Rambla, one of the first stalls you encounter is Tocineria Marcos, purveyors of Iberico ham (upper left in photo) and a stunning array of other cured, cooked, and fresh meats. It's just one of the dazzling displays of delicacies in this, the most famous of Barcelona's 40 or so food markets. (Another favorite, and slightly less touristed, is the beautifully remodeled Mercat de Santa Caterina, short walk away.) La Boqueria dates back to 1217; a pig market was conducted here starting in 1470; and the current metal roof was built in 1914. There's no better place to shop for a taste of Catalan culture.
On any visit to Barcelona, a trip through the city's charming Gothic Quarter shouldn't be missed. You'll find everything there from historic buildings and fun shops to entertaining street performers and delicious restaurants like this one. I love how people in Barcelona linger over their meals, enjoying their food and company. Plan to spend a whole day in the Gothic Quarter, and take the time to enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the quarter's many outdoor cafes. Often the best ones are tucked away down small alleyways, so make sure not to overlook these off-the-beaten-path cafes - they're delicious.
Our hotel was a few feet away from Bubó chocolate and pastry shop and we must've stopped there about 5 or 6 different times while staying in Barcelona. The desserts are outstanding and the chocolate covered salted macadamia nuts make a perfectly delicious souvenirs to bring back home. http://willtravelforfood.com/2011/08/17/tapas-bars-barcelona/
Located a short drive out of Barcelona, Montserrat Monastery is a must see while in Barcelona. Try the honey and fig cakes. There are many tour operators that offer this day trip from Barcelona. Take your time and hike some of the trails. The views are incredible!
I have raved about this small boutique hotel, Karia Bel, located right on the Aegean Sea in the town of Bozburun, Turkey. This hotel was a holiday home from the mid-80's until 2009 when Beliz, the owner of the hotel and daughter of the man who built the original house, created Karia Bel. It is heavenly. The sun deck is the gathering point for the guests. Breakfast and dinner are served here (and are included in the price). Beliz is a fabulous hostess who will treat you like family. Her staff are amazing, seeing that you have everything you need. I stayed there 3 times over the course of 3 months. Beliz and I are now friends. It is the best place I have ever stayed. The perfect blend: unpretentious, simple elegance, natural, peaceful. If I were to pick a place and call it paradise, this would be it.
We knew we’d be eating and drinking our way through Barcelona. And, with relatively brief interruptions to take in the mind-bending exhibitions at the Picasso and Miro museums, and to be equally astonished by Gaudi’s and modernisme’s stamp on the city, that’s exactly what we did for a week in October. (Our week was also broken up by a two-day jaunt to San Sebastian. But we stayed true to our modus operandi as we ate and drank our way through that beguiling Basque city as well.) We had expected to make a steady diet of tapas and vino tinto (red wine, or vi negre in Catalan), bocadillos and tinto, and, in San Sebastian, pintxos and tinto. What we didn’t expect was to discover a wine bar unlike anything we’ve encountered in northern California and to spend an evening there sipping vino (we stuck to our tinto regimen) drawn from a cellar holding more than 3,500 bottles from around the world. We were tipped to Monvínic by Jeff Koehler, a food writer (Rice, Pasta, Couscous) and occasional walking-tour guide who lives in Barcelona. Jeff had been spot-on with his recommendations, taking us to the best place to dip churros into chocolate and whipped cream (Granja La Pallaresa), as well as the tiny shop where virtually all the churros are made for the local cafés; making sure we ate lunch at the tiny Pinotxo tapas bar in the La Boqueria on La Rambla; and suggesting we immerse ourselves in the old-school atmosphere and Menorcan gin and tonics at the El Floridita–like bar called Boadas. Jeff sent me a link to writer Jay McInerney’s 2010 Wall Street Journal blog post, which asked, “The Best Wine Bar in the World?” I’m certainly not the one to give that title to Monvínic. For one thing, the service was uneven: one sommelier provided copious details about the unusual and reasonably priced Spanish reds we sampled by the half-glass; another delivered a different round with nary a word nor smile. However, Monvínic’s sleek interior, novel innovations (you browse the wine list on an iPad-like tablet; you can indulge a passion for vinology in the impressive research library), and wide range of wines and Catalan cuisine (we shared a cheese platter and an elegant cod dish from the wine bar menu; the full-scale restaurant in back seems well worth a visit) added up to another one-of-a-kind experience in a city bursting at seams with them. C/ Diputació, 249, Barcelona. +34 932 72 61 87, monvinic.com
Quimet y Quimet served the most original pinxtos we found in our trip around Spain. Just walk up to the counter, stand on the sidewalk, and let the bartender / barrista serve you whatever he or she thinks will be good. And it will be. That's some roasted red peppers, some cream cheese, some onions, some olives, some caviar, and who-knows-what-else in that picture! Oh...and the Cerveza Especial of the house was so amazing, we wrapped some bottles in bubble wrap and brought 'em back stateside!
One of the highlights of staying in Placencia, Belize is the easy access to several beautiful cayes on day trips. Laughing Bird Caye is less than an hour away and offers great snorkeling and relaxing on the soft white sand oasis.
Great all-day dining option. This place was recommended to us by many, even the bell boy at our hotel. The food is very good and their specialty is tapas, Waiters are friendly enough and it's usually very crowded but there are plenty of seats with high turnover of patrons. This place gets busy after 9pm and for lunch (after 12.30am), so if you don't want to wait around for a table, go early.
When in Granada I highly recommend visiting one of the Moroccan tea houses in the Albaicin. I have visited many but have two favorites that I return to repeatedly. “ La Teteria del Banuelo” is situated away from a main road and is a bit of a haven when you want to get out of the heat and away from cars and sidewalks full of people. It is decorated in soft earth tones with beautiful antique plates from North Africa, a fountain, and singing birds. My other favorite is a bit more of a walk but I think this makes the tea taste even better and I always feel welcomed when I walk in the door. This Teteria is on the corner of Cuesta del Chapiz and Camino del Sacromante. This tea house is like entering a beautiful desert tent, the walls are draped in panels of rich colored fabric, the celling is painted a colorful elaborate pattern, and the owner always makes you feel welcome. Besides Tea there is also great food to be had in the tea houses from Almond and Date desserts to Lamb Tahini and cucumber pepper salads.
La Boqueria Market's fruit juices, on La Rambla in Barcelona, are a must for breakfast. The variety of fresh fruit is unbelievable! Mango-coconut strawberry was my first flavor experience and being that those are my favorite flavors, it was hard to beat. I tried dozens of other combinations including carrot-ginger-lime and a dragon fruit blend as well! Fresh, sweet and satisfying, a to-go cup of fresh juice from La Boqueria will give you the Go-Go juice to start the day right.
I love practically everything about Barcelona! It's a city that's a feast for the senses. Say what you will about Gaudi and his creations but seeing them elicits in me this inexplicable awe and wonder. Parc Guell is one of my favorite public parks I've ever been to. The mosaic benches are beautiful and a perfect spot for a chance meeting with locals and fellow travelers. And the view of the city is quite remarkable.
Monasteries, Modernista buildings, lush green spaces, and historic cemeteries are tucked away into hidden corners in and around Barcelona. In the city proper, visitors can spend an afternoon snapping shots of gorgeous funerary art at Montjuïc or Poblenou cemeteries. Barcelona’s beautiful Labyrinth Park is hardly a secret but it’s far enough from downtown to discourage many tourists from making the trip. Just outside Barcelona, in Sant Joan Despí, there’s a bevy of Modernista buildings designed by Gaudí disciple Josep Maria Jujol. One of the most noteworthy, Torre de la Creu, is located just steps from the main train station.
Valencia is famous for its horchata, or tiger nut milk, and Llinares Ice Cream serves a respectable version of the drink. But the daring come for outlandish ice cream flavors, from glazed doughnut to potato omelet and fresh anchovies in vinegar. Plaza de la Reina 6, 34/96-391-7466; Calle Archiduque Carlos 17, 34/ 96-384-5592. Photo by Jassy-50.
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