One of the first things I noticed upon arriving in Barcelona, the capital of the Spanish region of Catalonia, was the contrast between the medieval, contemporary and Catalan modernist architecture which is so striking in this city of fantastic and iconic buildings. From Roman ruins to Gaudi’s spectacular works and high-tech buildings, such as the Agbar Tower, it seemed symbolic of a culture that embraces its history and its continuing progressive vibe.
We began our stay in this vivacious and bohemian city in the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter), which is in the heart of the Ciutat Vella, Barcelona’s old city. Many of the gorgeous buildings date from medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona.
The three of us walked to another part of the city to have dinner with an expat friend living in Barcelona, and soon a nice Spanish Rioja was flowing and we were feasting on a delicious spread of tapas for our fun first meal in Spain.
There is so much to see in Barcelona with all of the amazing cathedrals, museums and historical sites but we had limited time, so we had to pick and choose what we wanted to see most. Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia (Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia) was a stunning example of a medieval church built between the 13th and 15th centuries. Its intricate interior web of pillars, domes, archways and stained glass was incredible and the courtyard filled with palm trees and a pond was a beautiful little oasis.
When you arrive at any of the Gaudi sites you’ll see a crowd of people standing outside staring up at the exteriors in a collective state of awe. I certainly wouldn’t call the massive exterior of the Sagrada Família “pretty” but complex and interesting for sure. Only when you get up close can you see the detailed story that the carvings tell.
Once we stepped inside the Sagrada Família with its dazzling stained-glass windows and magnificent soaring arches, we entered into a breathtaking world where geometry and design collided in the most spectacular fashion which words could not adequately describe.
After sightseeing in Barcelona for two days, we were feeling a bit weary with the crush of tourists moving through the streets and walkways. Everywhere we went there was an endless sea of people, which became exhausting and we found ourselves yearning for a quiet nook in this big metropolis.
Reflecting on our time in Barcelona, I wish I had done more research beforehand so I would have had more of an insider’s knowledge of the city. Similar to New York, where you would rarely find my husband and me in Times Square, instead we would be in the fun and funky neighborhoods of lower Manhattan or Brooklyn where we know we can find cool and unique little restaurants and shops. In many ways, I don’t think we did Barcelona justice on this quick trip with so little time and without knowing the local’s Barcelona. This fall, my niece will be heading to the university in Barcelona for a semester abroad which gives us the perfect excuse to go back again to explore this amazing city.
We had been on the move for ten days and had visited four countries and nine cities so I think both Ric and I felt a sense of relief when we sat down on the high-speed train to Seville. What would have taken us ten hours to drive turned out to be a very relaxing and scenic five hour train ride.Once in Seville, our taxi made its way through the extremely narrow streets lined with richly colored buildings. The city had a vibrant and romantic feel to it with its Moorish accented architecture, street side cafes and the very chic international crowd.
Everywhere we looked we saw the famed Seville orange trees that gave off a heady fragrance that only added to the lovely ambiance. They lined the streets, filled courtyards and my husband was on a mission to swipe a few but they were always just out of his reach.
This was a place where the art of the paseo (evening stroll) was perfected and in full swing so we joined in by having a leisurely walk up and down the cobblestone streets of the old city before and after dinner, which in Spain, begins after eight o’clock in the evening.
Being a vegetarian in a country where meat definitely rules was a little bit of a challenge for me. While Ric scarfed up towers of meat, lets just say, I ate A LOT of potatoes in the form of patatas bravas and tortillas made with potatoes (Spanish tortillas are more quiche-like and don’t at all resemble a Mexican tortilla). Now that I am back home, I realized how much I enjoyed all of those potatoes so I decided to make this Spanish potato dish that combines potatoes with some lovely Spanish spices, roasted red peppers, onions and asparagus.
- 1 pound red potatoes
- ½ red onion, sliced thin
- 1 red pepper, roasted and julienned (I used ½ red and ½ orange pepper)
- 2 cups asparagus, cut in 1 inch lengths
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3 small cloves garlic with paper still on
- ½ cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
- 3 tablespoons vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sherry
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- Small pinch saffron
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Cut potatoes into wedges (4-8 wedges, depending on the size of the potato) and boil until just tender. Drain the potatoes and place them in a large bowl to cool until warm.
- Place the asparagus, onions and garlic cloves on a sheet pan, toss with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and roast in a 400 degree oven until tender, about 7-10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and put the veggies in the bowl with the potatoes after removing the cloves of garlic.
- Once the garlic has cooled enough to handle, squeeze out from the paper and mince very fine.
- In a small bowl, mix together the ½ cup olive oil, vinegar, sherry, oregano, smoked paprika, saffron and minced garlic. Pour the mixture over the potatoes, add the tomato halves and roasted peppers and gently toss until well coated. Season well with salt and pepper.
Next stop, the White Hill Villages of Andalusia.