August 25, 2014

Beautiful Barcelona

In early July after a 10 year hiatus, we found ourselves on a plane; it was time to revisit Barth-e-lona! Now, I know how much I go on about France and how amazing it is. But I have to tell you, Spain is closing in fast and hot on the heels of France in terms of the coveted "my favourite country in the world" title. Sun, sea, sand, incredible food, delicious wine and cava, history, architecture, culture, the language....

Barcelona is the perfect city break from Frankfurt. If you are craving an injection of some sun and warmer weather, its only a short two hour flight away and with several different carriers flying to Barcelona, you can pick up reasonably cheap airfares.

We had a 7am flight out of Frankfurt, meaning a 4.30am wake up call....not my finest hour as designated travel planner/booker extraordinaire. After arriving at our hotel in Eixample for a quick power nap, we hit the ground running in search of seeing some sights and finding somewhere for lunch. A friend from home who had spent some time in Barcelona came through with some fantastic local culinary recommendations, so we decided to try one down in Barceloneta for lunch.

On our way down, we walked past the Arc de Triomf and along the promenade towards Parc de la Ciutadella, where we saw lots of interesting exhibits along the way.

We found the street we were looking for, however we were a little concerned as we wandered down the desolate lane way, as almost all of the roller doors on each shop were closed. Worried that this wasn't boding well for our lunch extravaganza, we found one shop on the lane was open; La Xampanyeria! With loads of people loitering around the doorway, we realised it was a crowd favourite.

A relatively small and unassuming shop, it was almost shoulder to shoulder full of people drinking cava (€2 a glass or €10 for a bottle) and munching on tapas. As there's no seating, you will have to fight for a spot at the bar along the counter or for some bar space along the perimeter of the shop and whilst it's by no means the most salubrious place you will eat in, for the atmosphere and delicious flavours it's worth it! There's an array of local cuisine on offer, from croquettes to bocadillos to meats and cheeses. You can eat and drink like a king here for a pittance.

A rickshaw ride home was essential after too many cavas
Later that afternoon hung out around the roof top pool at our hotel and waited for Andrea and Neil to arrive from the airport to commence his birthday celebrations.

We spent the evening around Sant Pere and El Born soaking up the atmosphere by listening to some live music and enjoying alfresco drinks. We ate at a new tapas market to the area, Mercat Princesa, where we were able to try lots of little dishes from different stalls. Whilst everything was really tasty, I wouldn't be recommending it as a must visit if you only have a few days in Barcelona.

On Friday, we visited Catedral de Barcelona in the Gothic Quarter. A word to the wise if you are visiting in Summer, you should wear a knee length skirt/pants and a long sleeved top/cardigan or find yourself in a similar situation to me, where I had to buy a scarf off a touter and mummify myself to be able to go in and walk around.

We then attempted visiting some of Gaudi's most well known architecture, Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell but due to it being peak season and none of us having the foresight to pre book a slot at either, we had the option of waiting in queues of up to 2 hours or pre booking for the following day. As you can imagine, we did the latter. So a word to the wise, if you are planning a holiday to Barcelona in the summer, book your sightseeing well in advance! Probably the highlight of the trip, an insane amount of images were taken at Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell so if you'd like to read all about it please click here.

Visiting early July meant that we experienced some pretty hot temperatures. Should you be visiting Barcelona in the summer season, I recommend booking a hotel with a pool as we found ourselves needing to cool off every few hours after walking around in heat and humidity. A roof top pool area can also sub as the perfect place to spend each afternoon having sundowners.....ola jugs of sangria!

That evening we ate at Roig Robi, a restaurant we'd found some great reviews about online. Located in Gracia and specialising in Catalan cuisine, we were in for a treat. We ordered the degustation menu which was absolutely A-MAZING. We received the appetizer of the day, tomato cream with roquefort ice-cream, tartar of sea bass and prawns with trout caviar, grilled turbot with an 'ajoblanco' sauce, then a choice of either lamb or veal for the main, finishing with a yoghurt ice-cream with apricot sorbet. Food coma central.

We moved on to a cocktail bar that upon arrival we realised had closed down and through a recommendation from a friendly waiter at another local bar we found ourselves drinking in, we ended up at a very random bar where we had free pour drinks, played fuss ball and danced to Will Smith. Hilarious! Maybe you just needed to be there.....

Saturday was a crazy busy day, trying to fit in all of the sights we were unable to see the day before. We spent the morning at Sagrada Familia, then after receiving another recommendation from our friend Jimmy (thanks for the tips J-Bob!), we headed to Quimet y Quimet in Poble Sec, before heading to Parc Guell. This bodega has a similar set up to La Xampanyeria in terms of the standing and ordering arrangement, however it's a bit more civilised and up market here (and slightly more expensive). Nonetheless, the quality of the food at Quimet y Quimet is unrivalled and I would highly recommend a visit here! We grazed on prawns, croquettes, goats cheese, red capsicum, rocket and balsamic glaze open sandwiches, beef cheek with potato crisps and plenty of other tapas dishes! They also have an impressive bar with loads of different spirits and an extensive wine supply. Do yourself a favour and go there!!!

To celebrate Neil's birthday, our intention was to have sunset drinks at The W Hotel, which overlooks the beach in Barceloneta. Unfortunately, they only open the pool area to the public after 7pm but luckily for us, we were able to venture downstairs to Pez Vela, an open air terraced bar/restaurant serving bespoke cocktails with a DJ playing some very chilled summer tunes. We stayed for dinner and feasted on lobster, calamari and a paella. If you love the beach and sea views, this is another good spot to head to for sundowners and some tapas.

Wet Bar at the W Barcelona

The following day, it was time for us to head back to Frankfurt. Whilst we had 4 days there, we would love to head back to Barcelona sometime in the near future as we didn't get to see and do everything we would have liked. Chris is really keen to visit Camp Nou and I'd love to see a bit more of Gaudi's work, including the famous Casa Mila. If you are visiting for the first time, I think 5-6 days would be perfect.

Since becoming an "expat", I do look at cities in a bit of a different light to how I would if I was just on holiday from Australia. I often ask myself if this is a city I could see myself wanting to live in. Does it tick all the boxes in terms of lifestyle, standard of living, weather, cleanliness, cuisine, etc. Barcelona definitely ticks all of the above! There's just something very special about this city. When moving to a new city or country, what is important to you in terms of living?

We stayed at NH Podium in Eixample and ate at La Xampanyeria (lunch), Roig Robi (dinner), Quimet y Quimet (lunch) & Pez Vela (dinner). Whilst Chris and I didn't make it there, Mosquito (dinner) also came highly recommended. It's best to book restaurants where possible and also note opening and closing hours as some lunch sittings finish early on a Saturday. 


  1. Woooooohoooo. Awesome gg. Felt I was back there after reading that. X

  2. Thanks for your comment Jimmy! You got a couple of shout outs this post! ;) thanks again for your food tips.....wish you'd warned me how merry I'd feel after an afternoon at La Xampanyeria! Hehe. X


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