BARCELONA…ENGULFED IN CATALAN COOL VIBES
Over 20 years of tantalising, vibrant , hot Catalan rich culture , Spain seduces me back time and again to Europe’s finest Mediterranean city of Barcelona, saturated in history, the arts, culture, host of the 1992 Olympics, it really doesn’t get much more exciting and refined as this. So cast away the maps, iPads, iPhones . Submerge yourself by getting lost, exploring the endless possibilities of delights. Breath in deep and live in the moment.
Whether you are a single traveller, couple, family, every day this city entices you to it’s leafy tree lined boulevards and lanes festooned with a fascinating cafe culture. Quirky imaginative boutiques, interiors that are refreshingly stylish and practical are abundant.
I always get amazed watching the lucky weekday business folk who take their lunch break dinning at one of the many eateries overlooking the pristine Barceloneta Beach, the Frank Gehry iconic gold metallic fish sculpture, Barcelona’s skyline signature shimmering and reflecting in the mid heat sun. For those seeking refuge from the mid heat, the cool calm interior of the Arts hotel is always a satisfying way for the discerning visitor to mop their overheated brow in plush surroundings.
This city boasts endless fascinating ‘must do’s’, locals are charming, laid back, helpful and as I discovered on this trip taking out my best friends son Amine…uber child friendly.
It is utterly impossible to list all my favourite suggestions of places to visit as the choice is utterly endless. Also they meet such a high standard and ‘spoilt for choice ‘ takes on a new meaning. So here are a few pointers that I hope will entice you to visit one of the worlds most charismatic destinations.
If you are like me and a foodie at heart, this region of the country will tantalise you to some of the most mouthwatering scrumptious flavours. Explore the markets and if you have self catering facilities, then try Bacalla Salat. Salted cod , eaten locally over the centuries. Break up the fish into flakes and sprinkle over a salad using giant sun drenched intensely flavoured Montserrat tomatoes.
For the more adventurous try Tripas, pig intestines, sublime in a Catalan traditional dish cap i pota, washed down by a local vineyard Cava such as Gran Juve y Camps Brut Grand Reserva
Cargols a la llauna an oven backed snail dish is certainly an acquired taste but the sauce is rich, full of the flavours .Secret recipes have been passed on for generations, guarded by grandmothers who keep their secret close to their bosom. Get a piece of bread and wipe clean your dish and savour the treats of the Mediterranean lifestyle.
But you don’t get better at sampling such delights then having your own local chef to give you a personal demonstration . I catch up with my darling friend Daisy who educates me on local produce and cooks up a storm at her home.
For those seeking a stylish location to dress up ( although this isn’t a requirement) and savour a mix of exquisitely presented dishes, beverages in chic surroundings, then head of to El Nacional
It’s the perfect destination to impress for a client meeting, soirée with friends. Or as my outrageous best friend Moyra cheekily tells me, “A swish discreet location for Oysters and wine from the Penedes region when Iam being charmed on a date by a bronzed, curly haired, hazel eye local Spanish gentleman!”. Well you don’t get a better tip then that….”Reserva para dos”!
For Opera, the fine vocals at the Palau de la Musica are a must. However let your ears be enchanted to a spiritual level at the small chapel of Santa Maria del Pi that hold small concerts.
The list and quality matches any other city globally, however for those who have a nose for key notes in fine scents, visit Museu del Perfum. Ok it has to be the smallest and weakest narrated museum I’ve ever been to, a sort of after thought at the back of a perfume retail store with sales staff showing little enthusiasm. However it is extraordinary as the styles of bottles from the finest Haute couture houses from Balmain to Dior and back through time to the Roman Empire. Take note the Faberge style eggs made of Mother of Pearl that open to reveal the scent bottles… a sure way to to create intrigue on any ladies dressing table.
From sun drenched Monserrat tomatoes to Monserrat. This is a vertigos paradise as the monastery is perched precariously on rock faces with stomach churning sheer drops. An hour from the city, we drove there. The winding route is beyond fantastic and nature boasts mountains made of giant smooth round like boulders emerging from pine forests on a white knuckle ride road.
Friends told me that a great option is the train up the mountain. This is meant to be breathtaking. Further up from the monastery is a venicular train, literally scaling a sheer rock face. However, the last thing I would want to hear over the intercom is , “Folks, by chance has anyone got any brake fluid”?! The whole location is an exceptional example of mans achievement. Exploring the monastery, witnessing the Black Madonna surrounded in gold guilt almost hovering above the alter with an array of hanging individually crafted lanterns is humbling. The sheer scale of everything amongst the giant rocks is impressive. Yes it is full of hoards of tourists, but it is a pleasant spectacular scenic day out, well managed and not a drop of litter to be seen.
La Fiesta de Gracia
This is a city that boasts an endless array of festivals from small religious processions to this jaw dropping, visually surreal event in the Gracia district. As “travel luck” presented itself to me, coincidently it so happened to be on whilst I was visiting. What is marvelous is you can bring kids and it’s a fun family dayout with a great party atmosphere, live bands, and loads of tantalizing vendors selling cocktails. But what makes this festival quite magical is the community aspect. Various neighborhood residents join forces and theme their road by decorating it to an exceptional standard. Creativity goes into overload and their imagination using recycling objects is very commendable.
This year the Japanese theme won, my favourite too.
What makes the displays remarkable is you walk through them in a tunnel like manner and a lot of the elements float above you in a profusion of colour, textures and shapes.
My firsts visit was at night, the displays are at full force when illuminated. The next day, I decided to re visit to capture a daylight aspect. A good choice as you captures the real charm of the neighborhood. Most business are open and you get a true flavor of the talented local artisans. I stumbled into a shop, like an over excited magpie, drawn to the fascinating riot of endless buttons perfect for my millinery. Most of them hand made to order for clients.
I chatted to the charming owner Victoria Ibars. On walls were framed artistic button displays, some made of cracked ceramic, wood, you name it , she will create it, for information please visit: Victoria Ibars
I walked endlessly, peeking through residential windows as I passed by. I observed the close, warm family and community spirit. From Grandma, to her grandchildren. Embracing, laughing, eating, hearts endlessly giving. Yes, I feel this is what is the core to this city. The family and community are the concrete foundation to Barcelona, one of the world’s most loveable cities.