Day 7 – Barcelona

Our last day in Barcelona – what a great vacation this has been – from eating to sightseeing to learning new cultures and improving (slightly) on our language skills – we truly had a great time.

Having been to Park Guell a few days earlier, but unable to gain access to the section with Gaudi’s architecture, we returned in the morning. The tour, which takes about an hour, weaves through beautiful ceramic and stone work, a trip through the gatekeeper’s home and through a beautiful garden.

Afterwards, James and I headed toward the Picasso museum, in hopes of finding lunch. It being Sunday meant that the tapas place I had identified was closed (despite Google saying otherwise). But this was perfect, because across the street was a small shop called Tapeo – it was crowded (even though it was a bit early for Spanish lunch) and we took that as a good sign. With just two seats at the bar, James and I had the best tapas meal since we arrived.

We shared Iberian ham ribs with a honey mustard sauce, oxtail, grilled leaks with an olive paste on top and tortilla de patatas y chorizo (no we didn’t order patatas bravas this time). This food was phenomenal and I wanted to order more, but we also needed to save room for gelato.

After lunch we sought out said gelato down the street. It was amazingly delicious. I had vanilla with candied macadamia nuts and double chocolate. James had caramel flan and terrone.

The Picasso museum is entirely dedicated to Picasso – and takes only about 45 minutes to walk through (though if you do the audio tour I’m sure it could go on and on). We breezed through, learning about Picasso’s early years (he was painting when he was 12/13) and saw the transformation of classical art to modern art. It also happened to be free museum day, which shame on me for not knowing and buying tickets ahead. But hey, at least we beat the two hour line!

The rest of the afternoon consisted of packing and cleaning up the apartment. I made a tortilla with the remaining potatoes, vegetables and eggs we had purchased for the week for breakfast the following morning. Around 6:30 p.m. we headed down to Barceloneta, where we’d be having dinner.

Barceloneta is the famed beach I mentioned earlier – with huge crowds. Clothing was optional.

We walked the length of the beach down to the W hotel and then ended at Costa coffee (where had you been my entire vacation?! You had real iced coffee!), where we sat on their deck, enjoyed the free wifi and waited until our dinner reservations later that evening. With sporadic internet at our AirBnb, this was heaven.

For dinner we went to Merendero de la Mari, at the suggestion of our AirBnb host. He claimed they had the best paella in Barcelona. Having just attended a cooking class (for traditional Spanish paella), my expectations were low. I decided to order arroz negro – the only paella I had not tried in Spain. This is made with squid in and served with seafood.

Oh. My. God. It was the best thing I had eaten on the entire trip. The paella came with a garlic butter/lard concoction to mix in. I wish I could have eaten the entire thing, but alas, I couldn’t fit it. (James had a ravioli dish – he clearly missed out).

Thanks Spain – you’ve been great – but I am so glad to be writing this final blog post from the comfort of my own bed! Adios!

Day 6 – Barcelona

Beach day! The hope was that today would be lazy, less walking and more lounging. We certainly lounged, but I’m not sure if we succeeded in less walking. By the end of the evening, we had put in 9 miles. Ah well.

James and I started our day by waking up late (well, we forced ourselves out of bed at 9 a.m. aka 3 a.m.) and puttered around the apartment for a bit. We left mid-morning for La Platja de Nova Icária, a beach that is next to the Olympic port, and slightly more out of the way than Barceloneta – which boasts huge crowds. We settled under an already set up umbrella (later to find out it was eight euros to “rent” the space – James paid, he loves umbrellas at beaches). The beach itself was nice enough for a city. The water was, well let’s just say I went in it to say that I went in it, but in no way shape or form would I put my head under. There was a lot of floating debris, including some less desired items that resulted in a group of British women screaming obscenities. The people watching here was superb.

This hat, while ridiculous, saved my life and shoulders from a burn. Long live the hat!



After a few hours, we packed up in search for some lunch. The golden rule in Barcelona is that if you are near a tourist attraction (such as the beach) or on Las Ramblas (their main strip), the food will be frozen and overpriced. So we moved inwards and found a nice little cafe, alongside shops and fruterias (a real place that sells fruit! Not just a word they make you learn in Spanish class!).

I ordered sangria, and was given about 20 ounces. Water? Oh about four ounces or so. I ordered the tuna belly salad and roasted vegetables with a tomato sauce. James had bacon asparagus risotto and a seafood stew. We ended the meal with mocha mousse. This was an incredibly lazy, lounge worthy lunch, taking nearly two hours. A little tipsy (me only), we headed back to the apartment where I proceeded to take an unexpected nap.

For dinner we had arranged to attend a cooking class with a tour of La Boqueria market. We were joined by six additional Americans, one Canadian and 19 Australians. The evening was incredibly enjoyable and we were forced out of our comfort zone and had to make conversation with complete strangers. One of which who was Scarlett Johanssen’s doppleganger. At least in my opinion. I don’t care what James thinks.

To start, the chef took us through La Boqueria and purchased the seafood we would be using in our paella, as well as meat and cheeses for the tapas. We stopped at a juice stand for a quick refreshment (watermelon juice for me, kiwi pineapple for James) before heading to the kitchen. Here we made our own tapas. For those who eat gluten, it contained a piece of bread, rubbed with a tomato, drizzled in olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, and then topped with a piece of manchego cheese, Iberian jamon and an olive. I wrapped my cheese and olive in a piece of ham and called it a day. Until I spotted mini chorizo sausages and just ate those by the toothpick full.

Shopping for seafood

The class itself was super informative, and a lot of fun to learn how to cook traditional Spanish paella. We were also taught out to make Spanish sangria (the secret recipe lives in my brain and involves a Spanish dash of this and a Spanish count of that).

We walked with the group to a nearby bar, and then parted ways to enjoy a quiet rest of our evening.

Day 5 – Barcelona

This is city is just amazing. If I spoke Catalan, I would move here in a heartbeat.

James and I have been struggling to wake up in the mornings – something I am attributing to jet lag because 8:30 a.m. in Barcelona is 2:30 a.m. back at home. We somehow manage and then at 11 p.m./12 a.m. we aren’t quite ready for bed, but force ourselves to go to sleep.

We had tickets for Gaudi’s house at the Park Guell for 10 a.m. – which meant pealing ourselves out of bed and fumbling around. We were running late so turned to Google to share with us the fastest route to our destination. Google noted there was a quicker route (2 minutes less!) if we got off a different subway stop. Great! We start heading for the Park and suddenly come to the most massive hill – a San Francisco like hill with stairs built in at places because it is literally too steep to climb without.

I’m not sure if we made it there any faster. The energy we put out to run up this massive hill – was it worth it? Gaudi’s house is cute and situated in the center of the Park, which was built in the early 1900s. He moved there with his sick father and niece to be away from the city and be able to oversee the construction of the park. The park however, was a failure, as only two homes were built on the land, and eventually the project shut down. The place was still fascinating and so we will be going back on Sunday to explore another area we didn’t get to due to crowds.

In case you’re wondering – Gaudi lived surprisingly simply.

Afterwards, James and I headed back to the apartment to cool down and decide what we wanted to do for lunch. Almost everything was closed until 1:30 or 2:00 p.m., and we had to be at la Basilica de Sagrada Familia at 2:30. We opted to head to la Boqueria market – since we only ran through the day before. It did not disappoint – I had a cone filled with cheese and Iberian ham, along with some delicious paella and cut up pineapple. James shared in my cheese and ham, also purchased pizza (because we’re close to Italy right?) and enjoyed a strawberry mango juice. Satisfied, we headed towards la Basilica.

La Basilica de Sagrada Familia is hands down one of the most amazing places I have ever been. The church was designed with Gaudi’s whimsical touch, from the palm tree ceilings, the stained glass, the statues and more. It is an absolutely fantastical experience (even if you aren’t religious!). We were just in complete awe, and spent three hours looking up at the ceiling with mouths agape. We toured the Nativity tower, which provides a fabulous view of the city to the water, and then proceeded to make our way down a never ending spiral staircase.

If you ever find yourself in Barcelona, I highly encourage you to visit.

Afterwards, we headed back to the apartment to rest until dinner, which was at Montjuic. To get there, one must take this crazy subway car that climbs the side of the mountain. I am just thankful I didn’t have to walk. The restaurant was a recommendation from a former coworker. Reviews on Google were OK, but she swore by it, so we decided to give it a go. The place (called Xalet de Montjuic) was amazing. It boasted the most beautiful view of the city and the food was delicious.

James and I shared patatas bravas and grilled octopus. I had salmon with bacon, gorgonzola and tomato jam. James had duck confit with a citrus cake.

From the restaurant, we headed to the Magic Fountain. This lived up to its name. Using colored lights and music, the fountain puts on shows all night long. It was better than fireworks. I sat entranced for nearly 40 minutes, before finally saying goodbye.

Day 4 – Barcelona

The train ride from Madrid to Barcelona was uneventful – with a few quick scenes of the countryside and near the end, of the ocean. We arrived in Barcelona, hungry and ready to move our legs. From the moment we stepped out of the subway and onto the street, I was in love. We arrived at our AirBnb around 1:00 p.m. and the host graciously met us, shared a few restaurants we should try and pointed us in the direction of the nearest grocery store.

After stocking up on provisions (you know, eggs, cheese, wine…) we set off to enjoy a tapas filled lunch at La Catalana. We ordered patatas bravas, tortilla de espana, California ensalada (clearly this came with avocado), pescado frito, manchego queso and roasted asparagus and mushrooms. When you order cheese in Spain, they deliver cheese – and a lot of it.

I already ate a piece before taking this. So much cheese.

Stuffed to the brim, we continued on our walking tour of the city – taking in Las Ramblas (think of the Mediterranean equivalent of Time Square), a quick run through El Mercado de Boqueria and finally down to the water. On our way back, I suggested we take an alternative route, since one only needs to see Las Ramblas once. We ended up in an area with cute shops and stumbled across a store entitled 2 Pugs. This was fate. We found ourselves in a cute shop filled with geeky scifi and movie reference, pop art and a very excited salesman.


We returned to the apartment, changed and embarked on a journey to Aire de Barcelona – an authentic Turkish bath experience. There we spent 90 minutes lounging in six different types of baths (salt, Jacuzzi, Turkish, warm, hot and cold) until our fingers and toes were pruned. While not as amazing as Blue Lagoon, it was a great entry to the city, and a nice relaxing way to work off the 30+ miles we had walked in Madrid over the course of three days.

Turkish baths.

We slowly made our way back to the apartment, and cooked a very late dinner of gluten free pasta with fresh peppers, Iberian ham and cheese of course.

This all being said – I love Barcelona. I could spent an entire week (or two!) here – walking, taking in the beautiful architecture, eating cheese, drinking wine, lounging, bathing… the list goes on and on. If I could understand Catalan, it would be even better. But for now I’ll remain 50% fluent in Spanish and one day I’ll learn how to say “amb Gel” (which means on ice).

Day 3 – Madrid

It was our last day in Madrid – and unfortunately we hit a few bumps in the road related to forgetting tickets and being hangry. But we’ll get to that later.

James and I left the apartment and headed to el Templo del Debod – a temple that was gifted from Egypt to Spain in the late 1960s. From what I could understand (remember I’m only 50% fluent in reading Spanish!), this had to do with Spain helping to preserve or conserve some artifacts. The temple is on the outskirts of la plaza de España, and is situated on a reflection pool. A man outside is screaming “AGUA FRIA. TENGO AGUA FRIA.”

Visitors are actually able to go through the temple, which was a nice surprise. The rooms are small and cramped, which also means hot and smells like BO. We were intending to go to Goya’s burial site (which boasts infrequently seen frescoes) when I realized I had left the tickets to a cable car attraction at the apartment. We opted to take the train back, and made a quick pit stop at el Mercado de San Martin.

I don’t like ordering from butchers in America, I don’t know why I thought I would like doing this in a foreign country in a foreign language. Overwhelmed by the prospect, and not quite knowing what I wanted to make for dinner, I left in a huff and headed to a MASSIVE big box store a few blocks from where we were staying.

First, I found a Starbucks. This seems silly, but the coffee here is espresso and nothing is iced. Ordering meat at a market? No way. Ordering coffee and chai tea latte? Yes please. (And no this was not done in Engish – though I did manage to butcher con hielo for my coffee so it ended up being hot. This was fine; I was in a massive store with AC blasting).

Let’s discuss this store. You walk in to a Macy’s style layout – perfume and makeup counters, purses, clothes, the works. Another level is full on gourmet grocery store, another is a regular grocery store with a butcher and cheese shop. There is a pharmacy and a Starbucks, and their equivalent of a Target. Everything you could possibly need is there. We went to the grocery store and picked up provisions to make dinner. Afterwards, as we walked back through the Macy’s like store, I discovered the Longchamp section.

Longchamp in New England is a thing. I don’t know why, I’m sure it is elsewhere in the country, but it’s part of being a “Basic Boston” and I absolutely adore my giant black bag that can hold everything from my laptop, 1L water bottle, a change of clothes, extra shoes and everything else a purse needs to contain. I’ve had mine for a few years the bottom has started to wear out. I know I can pay to get this fixed, but the entire bottom is literally sprouting holes, and when pens stick through them, they write on my shirt. I also don’t have a backup for when this would be fixed, and so here we were – in Europe – with access to bags that are literally half the price that they are in the U.S. because of the amazing exchange rate and the lack of importing overseas.

After dropping the groceries off at the apartment, we headed to Gonzales de Queso, which is a famed cheese and tapas restaurant and a place I’ve been eyeing since planning this trip. They weren’t open. This was tragic. I did what I always do when I’m hangry – I shut down (sorry James!). We eventually found a tapas place near el Museo de Sofia Reina and devoured patatas bravas, paella and a roasted red pepper dish with tuna.

El Museo de Sofia Reina is… a modern art museum. It’s interesting. We’ll put it that way. There were however, many Picassos and Dalis, and some of the sections were actually interesting. Others – well lets just say I have a hard time with some modern art. I can paint a canvas blue and glue a stick to the bottom too. The museum is known for housing Guernica – one of Picasso’s masterpieces. There was a significant amount of articles from the U.S. in the 60s and 70s, outlining the different museums that once featured this painting.

Afterwards, we finally made our way back to the cable car ride. We were incredibly hot by the time we found it and proceeded to load into a small, no air-conditioning car built in the 60s that precariously wheeled its way across the city of Madrid.

We were so sweaty.

Out of my comfort zone? Oh that doesn’t even begin to cover it. This was terrifying – but the views were pretty spectacular. I thought if I could do the London Eye then of course I could do this. I guess the difference is, I didn’t fear for my life on the London Eye.

For dinner that evening, I made rosemary garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed peppers, mushrooms and arugula, and steak.

Afterwards we headed over to “The Roof,” a rooftop bar in the Hotel ME. The views here are spectacular, and it was a nice way to end our time in Madrid and help even out some of the bumps we came across throughout the day – even if I did spend a ridiculous fee for a glass of wine.

Day 2: Madrid

Day 2- my birthday! We started out the day by eating breakfast in bed (and enjoying the beautiful view and not quite too hot air that floated in). At around 10 a.m., James and I headed to the Parque del Retiro, home of the crystal palace. It was another 100+ degree day, which meant seeking out shade and rationing water.

The park itself is beautiful, and a pleasant oasis from the heat of the city. We strolled around, found the crystal palace, among other monuments, and took a page of the public yoga practitioners book and went barefoot in the shaded grass.

The crystal palace

There was an art exhibit going on at the same time which included a man meditating and laying around under the sheet tent behind me.


Overcome by the incredible heat, we eventually sought refuge in the Prado museum – which is filled primarily with religious works of art, because this is Spain afterall. Around 12:30 we started to fade and sought out the museum cafe where I proceeded to order dos tortillas de patatas, uno cafe con leche y uno te negro. Nailed it. Minus the fact that I forgot to order James milk for his tea, but we’ll take what we can get!

After being revived by refreshments, we tackled the rest of the museum and then headed to Celiocioso – the only gluten free bakery in Spain (or least the only one I found!). Their specialty? Cupcakes. I of course ordered more than I could eat, and picked up half a loaf of queso pan (cheese bread!).

We headed back to the apartment for siesta – which everyone seems to take seriously here. So I enjoyed my cupcakes with some bubbly while soaking my feet in the bathtub. The only true way to enjoy siesta.

James and I had tickets to tour the Royal Palace at 5 p.m. The security here was questionable. No one looked at our tickets. I set off the metal detector but the guards let me through when they realized I could only speak un poco espanol. Much different than our experience at Buckingham palace which required multiple scanners and check points.

The palace itself is insane. Each room was gorgeous. Over the top of course, but everything had a theme and was planned out very well. Almost every ceiling had a fresco. Art work was tasteful. The dining room was breathtaking, with a table that sat 130 individuals at a time.

After the tour, we headed over to Corral de Moreria, a famed flamenco spot. I was not expecting much in the way of dinner – this was a dancing establishment afterall. Boy was I wrong. The food was fabulous. We both ordered a tasting menu and had gazpacho, sea bass, lamb and chocolate. They brought me a whole pitcher of sangria which I barely made a dent in.

When we left around 10 p.m. the sun was still out. This is just so weird to me. How do people function here?! Clearly they don’t go to bed as early as I like to.

Day 1: Madrid

We made it! And to continue the tradition I started on my honeymoon, I’ve decided to blog our way through Spain as well.

The trip really started on the plane to Madrid. Departing at 5:40 p.m. in Boston meant arriving in Madrid at 6:30 a.m. local time. The last red eye I took with James was painful. Typically if I don’t get enough sleep, I’m the monster. When James can’t sleep on a plane we reverse roles. But this plane ride was extra special, because two rows in front of us – there was a two year old and an infant. Let’s just say that I was unaware that a child could literally scream for six and a half hours without breaking or working themselves up into eventual slumber. By the time the crew served breakfast (a mere three hours after dinner), I never hated a baby so much in my life.

We arrived at our apartment around 8:45 a.m. After being let in by a colleague of our AirBnb host (who spoke about three words in English – asleep, tired and no) we crashed into a wonderful two hour nap. This AirBnb is gorgeous and perfectly located. A studio apartment with a miniature kitchen, AC, beautiful view and full sized bathroom is perfect for our time here. 

After waking up around 11:30 a.m. we got dressed and headed out to el mercado de San Miguel – a famed tapas market a few blocks from our apartment.

Ordering tapas in Spanish, with a gluten intolerance was slightly overwhelming, but we came across some vegetarian paella and shrimp gazpacho – making my day much better – given that I had not eaten anything since 7 p.m. on the plane. James ordered “tres oysters.”


Completely melted at this point (it was about 100F), we found a grocery store, picked up some provisions and headed back to the apartment for siesta. We ventured out again to buy James a belt and shorts, both of which he left on the floor at home. But this okay because James loves clothing from Europe. Something about them that makes shopping tolerable.

Around 5 p.m. we headed over to the Real Madrid stadium for a tour. I would like to preface this by saying I am not soccer fan (though I have nothing against soccer). This tour was amazing. Attendees start by walking to the very top (painful) to be greeted by an amazing panorama view of the stadium.

This stadium holds 85,000 people. This is almost three times the size of Fenway park. And almost 20,000 more than Gillette.

We continued on our tour to see practically every trophy the team ever won (hundreds? maybe an exaggeration but there are a lot of them), soccer jerseys and shoes from 1910s and on, ridiculous holographic books that you can turn the pages on, a stream of gold confetti as the backdrop of the bigger trophies and more. When we thought the tour was over, we were surprised to find ourselves now on the field, on the benches that this team sits on when they aren’t playing. Benches? Oh you mean Audi sponsored memory foam THRONES. Yeah those.

It was really bright out.

The tour finished with the player’s locker room which contains a hot tub, spray shower stall and massage tables.

We had two hours to kill before dinner. I was starving, so we decided to do a little tapas hopping. Sadly, the kitchen of the place I chose was closed but I was able to order myself a glass of wine and water. Keep in mind I hadn’t had anything to eat since my shrimp gazpacho and it was around 7. We found a park and watched dogs play fetch in a fountain until our reservation at O’Pazo – a seafood restaurant.

Many of you told me that I would be fine, that everyone here speaks English. Let’s just say I am really glad I spent six months using Duolingo because I would be screwed (although I haven’t yet been able to ask… cuantos elefantes comen arroz?). I fumbled through ordering dinner – an English menu was only slightly helpful since most of the waiters didn’t speak it! I asked for a glass of rose. Or at least I thought I did. Wine here is so ridiculously inexpensive, that when they brought over a whole bottle, I was completely not ready for it!

To make me feel less like a lush, James had about an inch in his glass for show and tell. I took this sneaky picture to document this.

I was unable to drink it all.

For dinner, we shared a warm asparagus and tomato salad with a vinaigrette, grilled sole and grilled sea bass, and a side salad. Full to the brim, we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant, only to find that the sun still hadn’t set at 10 p.m.