Barcelona and Valencia wrap up (long)
This is pretty long and I'm sure I'm still forgetting stuff but wanted to get this posted since I've been back for 2 weeks. Not as successful as many other visitors but some good stuff. We started with a side trip to Pineda de Mar, just an hour north of Bracelona. So many beautiful beaches on the ride up (and surprisingly, naked men) and in the town itself of course. Checked into the Stella & Spa (which had a great breakfast) and walked over to Restaurant Diagonal for their lunch for 11€. T was very happy with his stuffed pepper, paella and beer, I wasn't so lucky. Fish soup was fine, sardines were tasty but so bony and I didn't know if there was an easier way to eat them (pic below), they looked mangled. Some cake dessert was just okay but the service was very sweet explaining everything to us, even tho we were the only two non Spanish speaking people in there. That evening was a relaxing drink at Moloko on the beach (the first of many mojitos), chicken and beef doners from Estrella de Mar and pool at the Dutch bar Eet Café Soestdijk. Hit the flea market after breakfast, wandered around and another set menu at Marisqueria where I asked for tostada con tun & anchoas but got fried calçot which I was happy to try (had never heard of them til reading this board) but I didn't know what I was eating til after the fact and re-reading the menu. Not sure how they completely misunderstood my speaking and pointing. Then I got fish a la Valencia expecting a white fish with an interesting sauce but was served more whole fish, fried this time and less bony but not as tasty. Crème brulee was good although a bit too bruleed, really needed to know Spanish there. A drink that nite at the Aqua Promenade whose bartender was a bore, another more exciting doner at La Casa del Kebab then a music festival at the Hotel Koppers which was fun.
No sunny day to waste time til our train so a quick flea mkt, cafe con leche at Can Comas and on to Valencia (via Barcelona). Hotel Venecia was a great location, walked up to try Bar Pilar but it was too crowded so we got a drink at a bar in the square closeby where I got my only Sangria of the trip (could never figure out the name, had a cool cellar vibe) then yummy food at Escalones de la Lonia, split croquettes, grilled squid and a pork and egg dish. Plans were foiled when we discovered the subway closes at 10:30 even on a Sat. Next morning we hit the flea market, grabbed random food and yet another doner (my last) at Amigo then hit a couple rock bars. Saw the big market (pic), Museo de Bellas Artes and stopped for a relaxing lunch (w/ free wi fi) at Pan de Queso where 6.50€ got you a choice of fresh roll w/ cheese and another item, choice of croquette, a big glass of wine (or beer or soda) and a coffee. This is not a deal you'd find in Boston. The guy working there was very nice, the sun was shining on the patio, it was good. Also really enjoyed the bakery Moltto in the Plaza de la Reina, great choice of baked goods, sandwiches and empanadas.
That nite was supposed to be our nicer meal so we headed first for a nicer drink and ended up at DB Drinking & Fooding on c/ Almirante Cadarso. Bar Code was the original destination but this place across the street looked so old and opulent, we had to go in. The girl said mojitos were her specialty so we had yet another (I didn't have a proper martini or other cocktail the whole trip). Dinner at La Mala Vida on c/ Conde de Altea was not good for me. T. was happy with his veal, they didn't have Serrano ham for him to start and suggested patatas brava which I thought were just fair. My lamb was a huge disappointment, very salty and tiny little chops with barely any meat, a pain in the ass more than anything else. Super nice server who had lived in Boston and gave T an after dinner drink on the house. Last nite we got a drink and played pinball at the bar Glop then decent salad and pizza at La Vita e Bella around the corner from the hotel. With another nice server who gave T another after dinner drink on the house. Damn, why was I not drinking?
Took the train to Barcelona on Wed., Tom didn't feel well but rallied that nite starting with drinks at Rockarolla where nice people worked (but drinks surprisingly cost more than 'nicer' places). We grabbed what we thought would be a cheap sandwich/pizza slice but this place on the Rambla was a bad deal. Ended at Hell Awaits, lots of metalheads there after a show. Thurs. wandered down to Barceloneta and lunch outdoors at Cavamar, a 3 course meal for about 12€ which was pretty good all around and couldn't beat the location and weather. That nite was the "travel agent" dinner which I had posted about looking for suggestions. We first went to the apartment of a friend of a friend where some Dutch people were also visiting, that was nice, a stop for a quick drink at Mussol on Diagonal, a pretty modern restaurant where the bartender was super nice and a short hop to Hisop which was a great meal.. As I'd mentioned, I had hoped for a bubbling atmosphere at this meal but that wasn't happening (which I knew). However, the service was great, professional but friendly. We ordered a la carte and they bring out couple tastes to start, razor clams and a whitefish w/ strawberry sauce which sounds weird but was very tasty. We split the app of grilled squid and blood sausage (pic), very nice. I got lamb again and other than being rarer than I like (but I know it's the way people like to serve it), really liked it. T enjoyed his veal (again). We had a mojito sorbet before dessert of chocolate and bread ice cream and beer and foam. It's not on their online menu and I obviously don't remember specifics but all those flavors were in one dessert and worked relatively well. I thought the woodwork had an Ikea feel to it but overall, really enjoyed the meal (although T said he could go for a doner). About 110€ including one wine, two beers and a port. We walked down to the bar Barbara Ann to end the nite.
We got a drink on the roof of the Barcelo Hotel then tried to eat at Bar Ramon but even tho only about 4 people were seated at 9:30, they couldn't take us so we missed that universally recommended place. We walked around and ended up at a dive for a huge mojito (and only 3.50) then came upon Can Lluis on Reina Amalia where we had a pretty nice meal with a home cooked feel. T started with Serrano ham then grilled mussels, I had a nice sautéed fish w/ grilled veggies dish. Got a bomba and croquette at one stall at the market with a nice guy working but the pinxo of sausage and bread one day (displayed like a bouquet) may have made me sick, or the package of fruit for one euro. I felt kind of miserable the last 12 hrs in town so no last meal in Barcelona and had to drag myself out to do anything, ended up at the bar Crusader listening to metal music with the bartender and one other guy there. The whole trip, I felt like I barely enjoyed the tapas experience plus I tried for sangria a couple more times but they wouldn't serve it in a glass and when I was on my own, I didn't want to order a half carafe. Grabbed various gelatos and pastries throughout, but it wasn't quite the food revelation that most people have.
This is a great round up and has given me plenty of ideas of where to head (or not)! The first time I went to Barcelona, I pretty much lived on falafel. The second time I went, I vowed I wouldn't do that again, but both I and my boyfriend were struck by crippling shyness and sought refuge in nutritious and tasty, but terribly familiar falafel. Just gazing in on beautiful tapas and other eateries.