Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Whirlwind Tour - Barcelona

Yesterday I met Martina Bisbe Valdes. Martina is a Day Host with SERVAS. We met at the famous Font de Canaletes on La Rambla. Tradition says that if you drink from the fountain you are sure to return to Barcelona. Martina guided me to all the the wonderful and important sites around the old section of Barcelona.

We started by sampling some famous Jamòn Ibérico. The finest is called jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn). This ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests (called dehesas) along the border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns during this last period. It is also known as jamón ibérico de Montanera. The exercise and diet have a significant impact on the flavor of the meat; the ham is cured for 36 months. The ham is sliced paper thin. It can range in price up to $96 per pound.

Martina pointed out many of the famous sites such as Gaudi’s Casa Balló and Casa Mila, remains of the Roman City, and the Picasso Museum. We roamed the narrow backstreets of Barri Gòtic (the medieval section of Barcelona).

Martina has written several fabulous children's books. You can find more information about her books by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Barcelona - May 21

I found a couple of new places in my neighborhood. The first is Nostrum. It’s owned by Narcís Jufré. It’s located at Carrer d’ Aribau, 139, Barcelona 08036. Nostrum has food like mom made ready to take out or eat in the shop. You can join their fan club for €3 and get a discount on all the offerings. We’re talking about pasta, ravioli, chicken, etc.

I’ve also discovered a bread shop with lots of organic whole grain bread. It’s called Barcelona Reykjavik ( The other day I  had some bread that had sun dried tomatoes and cheese in it. Today I bought some bread containing onions. The nice thing is you tell them how much you want and they take a slice off a loaf.

The third new place is called, P & C, Precio & Calidad. This place is fabulous. To begin with, they have wine in small barrels, red, white, etc. You just fill up a one, two or etc. liter bottle/s from the tap. I tried a red Priorat which was delicious. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about this wine region;

“Priorat is a Catalan Denominació d'Origen Qualificada (DOQ) in Catalan for wines produced in the Priorat county to the south-west of Catalonia
The DOQ covers 11 municipalities. It primarily produces powerful red wines, which came to international attention in the 1990s. The area is characterised by its unique terroir of black slate and quartz soil known as llicorella.[2]
It is one of only two wine regions in Spain to qualify as DOCa, the highest qualification level for a wine region according to Spanish wine regulations, alongside Rioja DOCa.
Priorat is the Catalan spelling, which is the one usually appearing on wine labels, while the Spanish spelling is Priorato.

P&C also has a selection of bulk spices and dried legumes such as beans and lentils.

Monday, May 19, 2014

I emptied my email In Box today

How many emails are sitting in your In Box? Today I emptied mine. I also unsubscribed from all kinds of promotions, blogs, etc. If I want to check a blog, I can go there in my browser. I've always had a bunch of different folders labeled Travel, Bills, Finance, Insurance, etc. but never seemed to get around to move the emails there from the In Box. Today was the day. It sure feels good. What did we use to do with ourselves before we wasted all this time with email?


Here's a video from inside Pakta the new restaurant opened by Ferran and Albert Adria in Barcelona.
The new place features the brother's take on Nikkei cuisine - a style of food that merges Japanese and Peruvian flavors in a unique way.
Opened in March it has quickly become one of the hottest reservations in the city and in true Adria style the brothers have released a wonderful video showing off the restaurants style and dishes.
The video finishes with a look at some of the dishes on offer at the restaurant - we promise it's food porn of the highest order.
Ferran Adria operated ElBulli which was ranked often as the best restaurant in the world!
Click here for the video.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

My First Bikini in Barcelona

Did you think I went to the beach? A Bikini in Barcelona is basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.

Barcelona - May 18

I know I’m not a big city kid. I grew up in the suburbs where the car was king. The thing I like about a big city is the ability to walk out the door and find everything you need close at hand. No driving the car, finding a place to park, etc. 

Right next door to where I live is a small Japanese store with prepared food to go. It’s called Tofu Catálan. It’s not a restaurant or a fast food joint. They have sushi and prepared meals ready to go into the microwave. The Japanese lady there always gives me a slight bow as I enter. I like the way she has two little trays at the cash register. She places my €50 bill in one tray and then places my change in the other. So civilized and polite. 

The supermarket is right around the corner. In the entrance to the market, I see all these cubby hole lockers with keys and chains. Will I be tortured if I misbehave? Is this carryover from the days of Torquemada? I watch carefully as an elderly woman approaches pulling her own little cart. She’s already been shopping else where. She places a few coins in a slot, runs a chain through the handle of her cart and continues into the store to finish her grocery shopping.

There’s no joy in Barcelona tonight as the home team Barça lost the Spanish league championship. They lost to Atlético Madrid. No rioting or hooliganism, just disappointment.

There are a few T-shirts around reading “pit i collons” which in Catalan is loosely translated as “Breast and balls” meaning to use strength and bravery to face a difficult situation.

Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium was filled with 99,000 screaming fans.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Barcelona - May 17

Barcelona is the home of the tapa. I went last night with a friend to Maitea Taberna. Maitea has a slight twist on tapas. Maitea presents their food in the Basque style known as pinxtos 

Pinxtos are similar to tapas. Pinxtos are usually served on a slice of bread and secured with a toothpick. When you get finished, they add up the number of your toothpicks and charge you accordingly.

From wikipedia:
“A pincho (Spanish: [ˈpintʃo], literally "thorn" or "spike") or pintxo (Basque: [ˈpintʃo]) is a small snack,[1] typically eaten in bars, traditional in northern Spain and especially popular in the Basque country and Navarre.[2] They are usually eaten in bars or taverns as a small snack while hanging out with friends or relatives; thus, they have a strong socializing component, and in the Basque country and Navarre they are usually regarded as a cornerstone of local culture and society. They are related to tapas, the main difference being that pinchos are usually 'spiked' with a skewer or toothpick, often to a piece of bread. They are served in individual portions and always ordered and paid for independently from the drinks. It is not impossible, however, to have the same item called "pincho" in one place and "tapa" in other.”

We arrived at 8PM to an empty restaurant. By 9:30PM, the place was jumping with locals. Most locals in Barcelona don’t start eating dinner until around 9PM. Grab your plate and help yourself to cold pinxtos in a display case with access from the bar. Hot pinxtos must be ordered from the menu. As the evening progressed, waiters came by the table with a wide selection of hot pintos.

Has The End Of The Banana Arrived?

Click here for the story.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Barcelona - May 17

I snuck up on Barcelona. One way to avoid jet lag is to take a 13 night cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona. I arrived yesterday and moved into my rental accommodation on Carrer Aribau between Carrer Rossello and Carrer Provença.

The brown door is the entrance to my building. Notice that next door is a Japanese shop that has sushi and prepared Japanese meals to go. The neighborhood is called L'Antiga Esquerra de l'Eixample or Eixample for short.

It has been a few years since I travelled extensively throughout Europe. It will take a while to get use to the big city filled with cars, scooters, and smokers.