Europe 2017 – Barcelona, Part One

November 12-15

Montpellier to Barcelona

Montpellier to Barcelona

The four-hour ride down to Barcelona went smoothly and cost 43 euros for the two of us.  Using Flix Bus had been an unanticipated bonus for travel in Europe.  It’s low fares and expansive route system, coupled with fairly modern, clean, and comfortable buses, while not quite as nice as riding on the train, provided a very economical alternative.

barcelona-nord-bus-station

Barcelona Bus Terminal

After our arrival at the Barcelona bus terminal, we used a taxi (9 euros) to get to our Airbnb lodging for our three-night stay (293 euros), a two-bedroom updated apartment about a 15-minute walk from the Ramblas.

Front RoomWe would come to really enjoy this property’s new Ikea kitchen and bathroom and its location in a vibrant neighborhood with variety of eating and drinking establishments and a market or two nearby.

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

We went through a check-in process with the agent for the property and made arrangements with them for a taxi the morning of our departure as we had an early flight and, with the amount of luggage we had, didn’t want to mess with public transportation.

Finished, I went a couple of storefronts down the street to a small market to pick up supplies for breakfast and a bottle or two of wine.  We spent what was left of the afternoon relaxing in the spacious front room before heading out to find something to eat.  It being Sunday we weren’t optimistic about but found to our delight that that didn’t seem to matter in Barcelona.

Beer Bock

The Bar at Beer Bock

A few blocks into our rambles we came upon a bustling craft beer pub, The Beer Bock S.L  and decided it looked worth a visit and we weren’t disappointed, ordering a few nice beers and a couple of items off of their simple menu.  Here is my review in Trip Advisor:

A Very Good Craft Beer Experience

Throughout our travels in Europe one gets used to drinking 5% lager, the dominant style of beer served everywhere. Thus, it is a treat when you stumble on a place like this, 20 or so draft beers, good food, friendly service. Stop in for a treat.

Beer Bock 2

Tables at Beer Bock

We had breakfast in our suite the next morning and set out walking towards the Ramblas.  Having visited Barcelona in 2014 and done an extensive amount of sightseeing then, we had no set agenda outside of a couple of items on our must to-do list.  One of those would occur that night when we would participate in our first cooking class experience with Barcelona Cooking.

Placa Catalunya

Placa Catalunya

Just before we arrived at Placa Catalunya, the main square, so familiar to us from 2014 as it was where the stop was located for the bus we took to and from our campground we dropped in at Il Forno for a morning snack of coffee and an apple tart.

Morning Snack

Morning Snack

Properly refreshed we started walking the length of Las Ramblas to the harbor, stopping along the way to locate the address for our cooking class and hit a couple of souvenir shops as we searched for some last items to take home with us.

The Harbor

The Harbor

We reached the harbor and then walked along the shoreline in search of a restaurant, Milk, that Jessica had recommended.  Enough time had passed since our mid-morning snack for the stirrings of hunger to make an appearance and we knew that dinner was still a long way off, so when we found the place, we were lucky to find two seats available at a small table.

Burger at Milk

Burger at Milk

Milk is known for its breakfasts and burgers and since we’d not had the latter since the odd version we’d encountered in Astorga, we decided to split one.  As we dug into the burger and some of the best potatoes of the trip, we acknowledged Jessica’s great taste, and both agreed she is our favorite daughter.

Narrow Streets

Narrow Streets

Finished with lunch, we wandered the streets nearby and then made our way north to Parc de la Ciutadella.  Created in the mid-19th century, this park was the city’s only green space.

Castell dels Tres Dragons

Castell dels Tres Dragons

It’s 70-acres of grounds include the city zoo (once home to the albino gorilla Snowflake, who died in 2004), the Palau del Parlament de Catalunya, a small lake, museums, and a large fountain designed by Josep Fontserè with possible contributions by the young Antoni Gaudí, who at that time was still an unknown student of architecture.  Fontsére aimed to loosely make it bear resemblance to the Trevi Fountain of Rome.

Fountain in Parc de la Ciutadella

Fountain in Parc de la Ciutadella

We continued out of the Parc and up the wide central promenade of the Passeig de Lluís Companys to the Arc de Triomf, built by architect Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas as the main access gate for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair.  From there, it was a long hike to the apartment and some wine and relaxation before we made our way back to Las Ramblas for our cooking class.

Arc de Triomf

Arc de Triomf

Curiously, in all of our years of traveling we’ve not taken a cooking class.  We gave one to our son-in-law Kris not long ago when he and Jessica visited Siena, Italy.  So, we had no idea what to expect.  Long story short?  We’ll do it again in a heartbeat.  Our chef and instructor for the evening, Lalo Beltran, after introducing himself asked each of us to do the same.  We were a mixed group primarily composed of other Americans.

Set Up to Cook

Set Up to Cook

He opened a couple of bottles of wine to get us started, explained what we would encounter that evening and off we went.  This was a hands-on class and with some instruction we all jumped in and handled some aspect of each dish.  Our menu consisted of five dishes:

  • Crema de Calebeza – Butternut Squash and Pear Cream Soup (As good as it sounds)

    Crema de Calebeza

    Crema de Calebeza

  • Tortilla Espanola – Spanish Omelette (the ubiquitous potato quiche found throughout Spain)

    The Tortilla

    Tortilla Espanola

  • Pan con Tomato – Tomato Bread (Spanish bread spread with garlic and tomato and toasted)

    Portion of Tortilla and Pan

    Portion of Tortilla and Pan

  • Paella Valenciana – Valencian Style Paella (Chicken based paella)

    The End Result

    The Paella

  • Cream Catalana – Catalan Cream (Like Crème Brulee)

    Creme Catalan

    Cream Catalana

Joanna at Work

Joanna at Work

With getting to know each other conversation as a background, and a decent quantity of Rioja to help us along, preparation and cooking went smoothly.  Before we knew it, everything was ready and starting with the soup and tomato bread, we worked our way through each course, restaurant quality food we had brought forth.

Paella Cooking

Paella Cooking

At the end of the evening we stacked all of the dirty dishes and equipment to be washed (we got off the hook on that one), were advised the recipes for all of the dishes would be emailed to us and bought an apron as a souvenir before saying goodbye to the group and heading out into the night for the walk back to the apartment.

Our Great Chef

Lalo the Chef

Our time in Europe was drawing to a close and with one day left we had plans to make the most of it with a visit to one of Antoni Gaudí’s finest works, Casa Mila, the last private residence designed by him and built between 1906 and 1912.  We’d really enjoyed Barcelona during our last visit in 2014 and it had lost none of its charm.  Our last day would be a good one.

Fortress and CathedralLinks

The Beer Bock: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187497-d7112012-Reviews-The_Beer_Bock_S_L-Barcelona_Catalonia.html

Barcelona Cooking: https://www.barcelonacooking.net/en/

Il Forno: https://www.facebook.com/ilfornobcn

Milk: http://www.milkbarcelona.com/

Parc de la Ciutadella: https://www.barcelona.de/en/barcelona-parc-ciutadella.html

Arc de Triomf: http://www.barcelonaturisme.com/wv3/en/page/1211/arc-de-triomf.html

 

 

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