I really only have so much time to experience Barcelona, regardless of the fact that I only have three weeks left in Spain. I’ve been feeling this way from the very beginning – that every single minute in this fabulous city has to count, has to be packed with as much life-experience and sight-seeing and eating (especially eating) as is possible.
Living over an hour away by train, and working like crazy at Alicia during the week, I unfortunately only have the weekends to explore Barcelona. But I’ve derived a pretty effective two-step system for squeezing the most out of this incredible city during the small amount of time I do have.
Step 1: Always take the earliest train in and the latest train out. This means I leave Manresa at six o’clock, and then I’m usually on the nine-thirty train back, which is the absolute last train offered. It’s a shame because it makes it tough to stay for dinner. Most restaurants open for dinner no earlier than half-past eight! (A lot of customs surrounding meals are very different here, actually. lunch is later than we’re used to also, usually between two and five. At this time most of the shops and businesses close for a few hours, to observe the siesta, while people eat what’s commonly the most substantial meal of the day.) Anyways, this nine-thirty train and these late, late dinners lead me to the next step in my system:
Step 2: Eat two (well, let’s say multiple – on certain days two would be an underestimation) breakfasts and lunches. This is such a discovery! A fail-proof system! I’ll ease into breakfast in a quaint cafe for some coffee and say, a croissant with marmalade. And then I’ll wander the streets for a while, taking in the sites, until I stumble upon another little place for act two, perhaps a cafe con leche (coffee with steamed milk, mmmmmmmm) and a cinnamon-sugar crepe. For lunch I usually stick to a fabulous sandwich of some sort and then a variety of tapas, or vice versa. It’s really a flawless plan, and it’s been working like a charm.
Last weekend I achieved near-perfection with breakfast. Both times! My first stop was to a little bar within the Boqueria market. With all the hustle and bustle of the opening market surrounding me, I pulled up a stool to a counter lined with truly gorgeous selections 0f fresh, colorful food – all made with ingredients from the nearby market stalls. Old men behind the counter split their time between taking orders and grilling up drool-worth plates of local fish and vegetables.
I’ve never really been one for breakfast foods at breakfast. Early in the morning, I’ll usually opt for a cheeseburger over pancakes. (FYI: Pancakes are best I think at times hovering around midnight.) So on this particular morning, I just couldn’t resist a savory option – the seafood mixed grill. Huge pink freshwater shrimp. I messily ripped off the shells, savored the sweet tender meat, then thoroughly licked every last finger. A delicate fillet of grilled white fish, simply excellent with a vibrant touch of fresh parsley sauce. Quick-seared baby squid, its hollow shape encapsulating a delicious sauce of briny juices that bursts in the mouth the with first bite. Huge fresh sardines, with shiny silver skins, tender bones and deep pink flesh. Long and slender razor clams, with a squeeze of lemon, a heavenly blend of briny, citrusy sweetness.
Oh my goodness, It was all so delicious, I could have eaten it for breakfast, lunch and dinner that day. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I still had Breakfast Part Two to take care of.
The fates must have been smiling down on me that morning, because my next breakfast spot proved to offer an an equally sensational experience. Having already satisfied my savory tooth, I now felt an urge to indulge in something sweet. My choice of indulgence was easy: Churros and Chocolate, a typical Catalan treat of long twists of sweet fried dough and a cup of the thickest, richest hot chocolate imaginable.
I’ve been a quest for the perfect Churros and Chocolate since I’ve been here. And on this extraordinary morning I found it. The hot chocolate was velvety smooth, dark and rich and bitter-sweet. So comforting and just achingly good. The churros were fresh out of the hot oil. Hot, crisp and golden with sweet, doughy insides. Sprinkled with sugar, they were delicious all by themselves. Combined with the chocolate, they made for true luxury.