After two nights in Provence, it was time to take a break (although who really needs one?) and make our way to the location that would add 14 hours onto our total amount of hours we spent on the road. Barcelona.
Yes it was out of the way, 7 hours there and 7 hours back, but it was a trip we all wanted to make, Mum, Tim and I had never been to Spain and Dad hadn't been in over 10 years and was keen to see how the place had changed.
And of course eat all the food. Hello jamon!!
So after another lovely breakfast with Catherine and Barry, we hit the road.
The landscape was relatively plain between France and Spain, although we went through truckloads of tunnels. Mum thinks we must have gone through more than 50 and tried to count on our way back to France, but lost count after 20 or 30.
There were a lot of tolls though. And some nice views of the ocean...at a distance, but for whoever wasn't driving, we ooh-ed and aah-ed while trying to peer out the window at the little glimpses of turquoise. Dad wished we could have driven along the coastline itself, but navigating the little shoreside cities would possibly have doubled our time getting to Barcelona...next time...
After swapping drivers 3 times, unremarkable croissants at a French motorway stop and finding wifi at a gas station just after the Spanish border, we were in Barcelona! The main streets were wide 4 or 5 lane monstrosity's with cars everywhere. Was a bit lame driving at 50 km's after speeding along at 110+ km's for so long...
And in contrast to the big main roads, there were lots of tiny little one way streets...which cars somehow managed to squeeze through. Mum and I had the pleasure of trying to find the carpark for our hotel, while Tim and Dad checked in with the luggage, by following our gps instructions, which resulted in lots of yelling, nearly bursting into tears, a bit of road rage and having to reverse before being able to make it around the excessively tight corners. But we found it eventually and it was nice to leave the car alone for a few days!
We stayed in 'Just Style', very modern apartments, ours had two bedrooms, a generous sized living area with a sofa bed and a neat little kitchen, all very modern and very conveniently located near two fairly big train stations. I also liked that it wasn't quite in the heart of the tourist centre, it was a much more relaxed part of town.
Once we settled in, we went wandering. I hadn't really done any research in where we should eat, other than to visit the Marke Bouqueria (which we did the next day...which you will see soon!), so we just had a nice evening stroll down one of the bigger streets seeing if we could find something to eat.
Although we naturally couldn't resist popping into the plethora of meat stores with jamon legs just dangling in the windows.
We eventually passed by Portonovo Silvestre, which lured us in for a peek with it's inviting warm timbers, and sweet little Pintxos all sitting along the top of the bar at the front of the restaurant, and then led us to a table at the back of the restaurant with an exceptionally friendly waiter, Jonathon, who kept us entertained all night.
Jonathon was incredibly generous and started us off with some complimentary nibbles. Dad couldn't resist getting into them even before I took my picture! They were a bit hard, which made them great for chewing, but also absolutely delicious, savoury and a bit fatty. Mmmm.
This is what we got served as bread. There's olive oil, a brush of tomato (or something along those lines) and it's sprinkled with salt. Oh my goodness. Yum. So simple and so delicious. And to our delight, we got this all over Barcelona when we sat down for meals. Who needs a little dish to dip olive oil in when you just get it just pre-saturated?!
We decided to try some ham croquettes, so we just ordered two. Jonathon gave us a third one. We ended up ordering another full order of six. They were exceptional. The best croquettes I've ever had in my life. They were beautifully hot and crisp around the outside and just so soft and delicious on the inside. I want to explain how they tasted better, but I really can't. They were so moreish (obviously). Mmm. I still dream of them....easily one of the highlights of the night!
Of course being in Spain, we had to have Sangria.
A selection of cured meats (which included another helping of the freebies we had earlier) and a couple of slices of manchego cheese, which was just the perfect sharp contrast to the saltiness of the meats. I was amazed at how generous the portion was!
I think this was calamari...I don't really remember this dish that well, obviously not one of the memorable ones of the night!
Urgh, look at how thick and glorious that asparagus looks?! It was so tasty, I loved the char on it and although it was drowned a bit in olive oil, it was still so good.
Mum wanted to try 'Grandma's secret' seafood soup, which was loaded with seafood (obviously) of all kinds and beautifully aromatic and intense. It was such a rich broth, not as thick as the one we had in France, but definitely just as flavourful.
It makes me realise how much I have to learn about food yet when mum orders stuff that I've never heard of before. But I suppose she's been reading her Gourmet Traveller for many more years before I ever got so involved with food!
These are padron peppers, they're green, fat, a bit contorted, not spicy, they were a little chewy I think from being fried, but otherwise easy to bite through and just...yummy.
You think we've eaten a lot so far? We probably have. But we still needed a paella, and what other one would you get, but the paella negra?
Which usually results in smiles like this.
It looks disgusting but is absolutely beautiful. I honestly think anyone who passes up the chance to have a pasta, risotto or paella with squid ink is crazy. There's just a flavour of the sea, that you don't get without it, so freaking savoury. I was enamoured with how black it was, not a hint of a white rice grain to be seen amongst the lovely dark charcoal colour. It almost looks bottomless since the pan is black too! The texture was perfect, soft but not mushy or sticky and just seasoned perfectly. And did I mention there was truckloads of seafood in there too? Yeah. Loved this.
Can you believe we managed to finish it all?! I think after a day on the road eating not much else but chocolate (and a croissant), we could fit more in our stomach's than usual!
We were absolutely rolling in our chairs. Food coma's were coming on and although we wanted to try the creme catalana, we just had no room.
No worries says Jonathon our extremely excitable waiter (we taught him the different terms to call mum (ma'am) and me (miss), amongst other things), and he decides to bring us a digestive and dessert. We groan and concede.
With aplomb Jonathon shows up with 4 little glasses and what looks like a very cold Patron bottle of something very yellow. I couldn't quite pick up what our digestive was called, but it was freezing cold, very alcoholic and quite refreshing. It's amazing how much it really settles down a stomach that's feeling bloated with food, true to it's name I suppose. I actually quite liked it.
And you know, in case we didn't have enough alcohol, our homemade cake was just drowned in...something sweet. I can't remember if it was rum or something else. But it was just intoxicating, but a perfect note to end the night on.
We were all quite grateful that we had a bit of a walk home afterwards, the cool weather, the digestive and a bit of physical activity helped settle the heaving stomach down, although it did feel excellent to have a nice warm tummy as well.
One night and I already liked Barcelona a lot. Our meal cost a grand total of...85 euro. I kid you not. Food this good, this cheap?! Unbelievable. Maybe I should consider moving...this meal is still so memorable in my mind.
Carrer de la Creu Coberta, 37