Barcelona was the first stop in our latest adventure.
Over the next three months we will be travelling to Granada, for Hayden and Andrea’s wedding, then on to the White Villages of Andalusia, down to Gibraltar and back north to Madrid. From there we fly to Nairobi in Kenya to start a two month tour of Southern Africa.
Barcelona seems to have become our second home and we are here to relax and acclimatise ourselves to the last warm breath of the northern summer.
It’s also a great opportunity for me to get used to my new Olympus camera, without the stress of missing any vital shots in new places.
Barcelona, while very familiar to us, is also constantly changing, so there is always something new to see and do.
Much to my delight the craft brew phenomenon has come to the city. There was in fact a craft Brewhouse right next door to our Air B&B in Raval. Ølgod has 30 taps, on a long white tiled wall. Surprisingly 25 were active, pumping out a variety of local and imported brews, with many from Denmark. Which is not unusual given that it’s named after a Danish railway town.
The ones I sampled were very good.
Barcelona has traditionally been the home of the big beer brands. Local brews such as Estrella and Moritz dominate while other European brands like Amstel, Heineken and Stella Artois satisfy the tourist tastes. It was exciting to see a move towards craft beers.
Over the first couple of days we had a number of déjà vu moments visiting familiar sites. We took the RENFE up to Badalona and had tapas in one of the temporary beach restaurants or Chiringuitos.
To get our legs ‘match fit’ for touring again we walked for hours around the city. Up the Rambla, through the Gothic Quarter to El Born and back from Gracia where the annual street festival was in its final days.
Looking for a completely new experience we took a return trip on the Port Vell Aerial Tramway to Montjuïc. The funicular isn’t new as it was built in 1931 and offers spectacular views over Barceloneta Beach, Port Vell and the city. We took the tramway from the Port to Miramar, which is halfway up the hill to Montjuïc.
After our funicular ride over Port Vell we walked along Barceloneta Beach towards the casino and the giant sculptural fish by Frank Gehry.
Barcelona has always been a creative city.
From the grand, Gothic inspired, Art Nouveau architecture of Antonio Gaudy to the small businesses, creating interesting and original craftwork.
We discovered Camino, selling handmade Spanish shoes and clothing. Effecto Limón making quirky dresses and bags all built around zips. And the Barcelona Duck Shop that has hundreds of different designs of rubber bath ducks.
We bought ‘Bat Duck’ a masked avenger version for Bruno, Andrea’s nephew.
Barcelona seems to be about two hours out of kilter with my body clock, or more probably what I’m used to.
Breakfast doesn’t start until ten or eleven, while lunch is at three and dinner isn’t till nine.
In keeping with the locals we walked down to Born and had a late lunch in one of the many outdoor restaurants close to the old market.
El Born CCM is a museum, where the ruins of 1700 Barcelona have been unearthed below the market area.
I get the feeling that Spanish dining times will become the norm once we reach Granada.
Following the plan to do something different while in Barcelona we took the funicular up to Vallvidrera Superior. This is a high point in Barcelona and has some spectacular views of the city and port. Overshadowing the sleepy hillside village, on Tibadabo Hill, is the Torre de Collserola or Collserola Communications Tower. Built for the 1992 Spanish Summer Olympics it stands 288.4 meters tall. It was designed by the British architect Norman Foster.
Kate, Mark, Alex and Sarah arrived in Barcelona and we had arranged to spend a few days with them before heading to Granada.
They would follow a few days later.
Sarah and Alex had arranged for us to go on a tapas tasting trail. This started in the Barceloneta district and then proceeded to El Born. We visited a mixture of four tapas bars and restaurants, each with a distinctly different style of tapas.
The first was La Bombeta, a bar that has been credited with inventing the bombeta. A round, deep fried ball of potatoes and minced meat, served with a garlic and hot chilli sauce.
Next bar was Jai Ca, which was predominately seafood. It was a local place and our group of tourists stood out.
Next was my favourite, Cerveceria el Vaso de oro, a gastro pub serving their own craft brews – meat was their featured food.
This quaint establishment, with its long narrow bar, was brewing its own beer well before the craft beer revolution.
Our final stop was at Tapeo AMB Daniel Rueda, a very Catalan establishment. Here we were served a variety of dishes, including Ox Tail and a Catalan variation of paella made with noodles, not rice, and squid ink.
Next stop was Granada, this is Andrea’s home town and where Hayden and Andrea will be formally married.