We were quite taken by the juxtapose sides of Barcelona. On one hand it is a beautiful historic city where you walk next to a wall built in the Roman era and on the other hand you go into a restaurant that is creating some of the most innovative dishes today. Barcelona is a must visit city for anyone who loves history, art, architecture, amazing food, and friendly people.
I'm sad to say that this is my last post about our inspiring week in Barcelona. In the next few days you'll be able to download our free 2019 Barcelona City Guide.
New spots in Boston MA
Traveling in 2019 to:
Road Trip with stops in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida
Bar Harbor, ME
Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas Cruise
On Friday evening, we first came across the festivities when we ran into The Laias (Giant figurines) by accident after dinner. We followed along for a little while marveling at the unique giants and the loving attention given to the figurines, the performers wearing and dancing with the figurines, as well as the musicians.
The next morning we ventured to Passeig del Born for Trobada de gegantons infantils. This event was a parade of the Laias as well as figurines and musicians from multiple schools around Barcelona. It was absolutely lovely watching the children's creations as well as the children happily playing music, dancing, and waving to the crowds.
Valentine's Day may not be a big deal in Barcelona but we still enjoyed an amazing dinner and each other's company. The minute reservations became available we reserved our table at the two Michelin star restaurant Disfrutar. Disfrutar also happens to be the number 18 restaurant on the World's 50 Best list. The night of our reservation we checked in and had our coats stored for us. The staff showed us through the restaurant and one of the owners welcomed us inside. Not to compare them to Enigma but both restaurants have this special touch and it was appreciated.
Our table for two had a view of the entire restaurant. The decor is bright, airy, and has the relaxed feel of being on the coast of the Mediterranean. From the sommelier to the servers, to the restroom staff everyone was friendly, helpful, and had a smile on their face. Throughout our meal I appreciated how the staff orchestrated delivering plates as well as removing plates. I don't know if other's would have noticed or if they would have been annoyed but I was happy to see the staff waiting nearby and using slight motions to ask for help, and always two servers at a time.
To start our meal I enjoyed a glass of Cava while Greg tried a glass of red vermouth. Rather than over ordering by enjoying a wine pairing we selected a bottle of El Bandito Cortez 2014. For our meal, we decided to go with the Disfrutar Classic. Our meal was filled with bold flavors, hot dishes, cold dishes, and a variety of textures.
A few standouts from this meal were the frozen passion fruit ladyfinger (bright, cool, and sweet), the black cauliflower with coconut lime bechamel (deep cauliflower flavor with a bright touch), hare and foie gras bonbons (unique, flavorful, and great texture), and the chocolate peppers with oil and salt (creamy, sweet, chocolaty, and a touch of heat).
I loved this meal but it contained a lot of dairy (I took several Lactaid pills throughout the meal). Our meal was delicious and offered a few surprises but it felt heavy and we ended the meal feeling on the full side. I definitely need a nice walk back to our hotel after this meal.
I completely understand all of the accolades that Disfrutar has received. The level of service, quality of ingredients, and bold flavor combinations are all outstanding. Disfrutar is another must visit restaurant!
I have been a fan of Ferran and Albert Adria for a long time and was crushed when El Bulli closed. I was beyond thrilled when Albert Adria imagined and created a new and unique restaurant group. Our initial goal was to dine at Tickets. I sat online at 6 pm (our time) every day for a week trying for a reservation and ultimately failing. Luckily, we scored a reservation at Enigma restaurant. Over the next couple of months, I read reviews and they were either glowing or showed dislikes. My thought process for dining at Enigma was probably different from most people. I have dined at expensive restaurants and have been beyond disappointed. I love to cook and bake all the time and I'm pretty good at it. When it came to Enigma I was more interested in the skills and Avante Garde approach to food that is rare and special. To me, Enigma is a multi-sensory experience more so than just delicious food. After reserving your spot you receive a unique code and password to enter the restaurant.
On the day of our reservation, we entered our code and password. Walking down the hall we were greeted by the staff, our coats were taken, and we were offered water. To me walking into Enigma felt like stepping into a cave with cool colors, ice, and texture.
Our menu consisted of items we were familiar with, items we weren't familiar with and items I thought I would never try. The thoughtfulness, techniques, and flow of our meal were incredible. I also appreciated how the servers and chefs explained each dish and some of their process (some information was given after you ate the dish). There were a few dishes containing dairy and I ended up taking a few Lactaid pills throughout the evening.
I could not begin to pick out a favorite dish. The combination of textures, depth of flavors, and unique ingredients were truly special. A few standouts for me were the green mandarin Kakigori (bright and fragrant), Barnacle and codium (nice texture and slight sea taste), Pea "calcots" (fresh and true pea taste), the cured Lobster (I'm a New Englander and this was the best bite of lobster I've ever had), and the Autumn salad (who knew I would enjoy Sea Anemone).
With close to 40 creations one would think we'd end up being completely full. I was happily surprised that we were content and not uncomfortable. If you are looking for wonderful service, delicious food, unique ingredients, and a new approach to dining Enigma is a must visit restaurant!
Light, warm, welcoming, special, incredible, artistic, and I could go on and on about the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia. We have been to many cathedrals across the U.S. and Europe and we have never felt so inspired before. We pre-purchased our tickets online and at the entry time found out we had to go around to the back entrance. After going through security (similar to at airports) we picked up our audio guides. Once inside the Basilica did a brief self tour before heading up in the elevator to the Passion Tower. I was expecting a type of terrace once we stepped out of the elevator but the journey down starts immediately. There are close to 400 stairs to walk down but the views and architecture make it enjoyable! Once we were back in the Basilica we continued our tour of this impressive building. We had some extra time later in the week and both agreed a 2nd visit sounded enjoyable so we purchased a couple more tickets online and as my sister says enjoyed the feeling we were being hugged by a rainbow!
When it came time to visit Park Guell we did everything wrong. We had the insane idea to just enjoy the exercise and walk from the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia to Park Guell. This is a 2.1k walk mostly uphill. The weather was 60 degrees which was enjoyable but the sun shone strongly on our backs. Once we arrived at the Park we made our way to the monumental zone thinking we would get in easily at our assigned time. Unfortunately, we found a long and winding line of people with the same assigned time.
During the time in line, I dealt with teenagers behind us almost pushing me out of the way to sit on small boulders along the way. I also had to witness a family from another country allowing their children to try to kick and throw rocks at birds. I'm thankful that my loud gasp, look of horror, and angry face stopped the little boy from throwing his rock and the mother holding her daughter on the other side of her away from the birds. Why do people continue to feel animals are beneath us?
Sadly the nature square is closed right now for repairs and with the crowds, you had to kind of fight for the views. The architecture, Trencadis style art (use of broken tiles meshed together) and natural surroundings were lovely and unique but we didn't end up staying that long.
When looking online at Casa Mila we ended up purchasing tickets to visit during the day and the night. Unfortunately, the night we were supposed to go on a tour Greg had food poisoning. The next morning he was feeling better and able to go on our self-guided tour. We entered Casa Mila and had to go through security but after a large group. The stairs were closed off when we entered so we took the elevator up. Once outside you are met with an architectural playground. Everywhere you look there are unique sculptures, angles, and views and during our visit, it never felt overly crowded. After wandering around for a while we visited the attic. Inside the attic, you will find architecture models and pieces that were used for inspiration.
After the attic, you enter one of the apartments. It was fun to see the time period pieces however it was really hot and crowded so we hurried along. The souvenir shop has a great mix of gifts for yourself, friends, and family!
The H10 Montcada Boutique Hotel is in the Sant Pere / El Born neighborhood in Barcelona. The hotel is a great combination of location, friendly staff, affordability, and amenities.
We were hopeful of an early check in but the staff reserved a particular room (chosen for its size) since we were spending 8 nights with them. No arguments from us! I appreciated the forethought. We dropped off our suitcases and ventured around the neighborhood and in search of a good place for lunch.
During our week stay we enjoyed our King Bed City View on the 8th floor. Our room offered a king bed, desk, chair, flat screen TV, English channels, closet, mini-fridge, coffee maker, safe, and bathtub/shower. The housekeeping staff always had our room clean and ready for us early in the day. Our room wasn't overly large but it worked for us. We ran into two small issues during our stay. The first was our air conditioning stopped working one night and our room was like a sauna. The front desk staff made a note to have maintenance look at it and by the time we came back to our room it was fixed. The second issue was due to other guests. The doors are a little heavy and easily slam shut. On more than one night our neighbor would leave and come back to his room multiple times always slamming the door. In addition to that he and friends spent time in the hallway outside our room chatting loudly (and I'm not exactly a light sleeper but it woke me up).
For hotel services, we enjoyed cocktails in the bar area, room service, and amazing views on the 9th-floor terrace. Every night we would go downstairs order a couple of cocktails and don our coats for the beautiful sunset views from the terrace. We spent most of our time out and about but the hotel does also offer breakfast, a hot tub, and in the warmer months a 2nd bar on the 9th-floor terrace. We both would happily stay at the H10 Montacada Boutique Hotel again and recommend it to everyone.
When booking our trip there weren't any non-stop flights available and Aer Lingus offered the best fare and schedule for our needs. I'm a terribly nervous flier so I always make sure to reserve seats (Aer Lingus was an additional fee for seats). I'm also lactose intolerant so I called customer service to request a special meal.
On the day of our flight we checked in with ease and luckily the security lines weren't too long. Aer Lingus does not participate in the TSA precheck process so keep this in mind when flying with them. At the gate, boarding was swift and easy. Our seats 14 A and C were two seats together on the left side of the plane. The plane is newer, clean, offers wifi, power outlets, and a good variety of in-flight entertainment. The seats themselves were a little on the narrow side and there was a large gap between the seat and the window that wasn't necessary. Unfortunately, the staff either gave my special meal to someone else or didn't get the notice. I'm tempted to believe that it's the first one because I did receive a special meal on the way home.
We landed in Dublin and with only an hour in between flights we made our way to our next gate. I definitely wasn't prepared to walk outside in the cold and rain and upstairs to get onto our plane but that's exactly what we did. A couple of hours later and we were in sunny Barcelona. We made it through customs and immigration easily and found our driver from Suntransfers. We booked premium taxi round trip transfers (luxury sedan) with Suntransfers and I highly recommend them. The price quoted was reasonable, their website is easy to use, the drivers were ready for us, and the cars were nice and clean.
During the middle of our vacation, I changed our pick up time with Suntransfers for our drive to the airport. The change was easy to make and I received confirmation. At 7:30 on the dot our driver arrived and helped us with our luggage. We were dropped off directly in front of the Aer Lingus counter and proceeded to check in. I tried to print our boarding passes at our hotel but failed to do so. We hit a small snag because of this but we received our boarding pass, and check our luggage through to Boston. Once we land in Dublin we'll have to stop at the connections desk and reprint our next boarding pass.
At security, we had a very short line and didn't run into any issues. After security you go through a duty-free shop, then customs and immigration, then another duty-free shop, and finally to our gate. One last bread with Jamon for breakfast before we board our plane. Our flight definitely didn't leave on time but when you have two flights landing and taking back off to Dublin and the same time one plane isn't going to be accurate. Just a couple of hours later and we landed in Dublin. In Dublin we easily found the connections desk and asked for our boarding passes to be reprinted. Next, we went through security and finally U.S. pre-clearance. I love having Global Entry! It's so nice to walk through the shortest line, scan your documents, and be on your way!
At our gate, we had a little time before boarding so we relaxed with a book. This time the plane was boarded from the front to the back so we were in the first economy section to board. We found our seats and settled in for the 7 hours to Boston. During this flight, I did receive my lactose-free meal which consisted of chicken, rice, and roasted tomatoes. It was definitely bland but I appreciated the protein. I have no idea how this happened and it was a first for us but we easily landed in Boston and our bags were the first off the plane! Score! We picked up our car and were on our way home!