Our version of the three Graces; Yanna, myself, and Sasha in Barcelona. My new favorite photo.
13 January, Sasha sends an email: "I made a reservation at "Tickets", which is counted as the top 25 restaurant in the world. The reservation is for 4 for March 13th in Barcelona. I realize it is a long shot, but I figured I will ask, may be you and Claudio will join us for a few days here and there! Otherwise, we can go for another few years not seeing each other."
Next thing, from CH, Denmark, and the US there we all were in Barcelona. While we were planning, we added Kenan to the mix. Me posing as Dr. Kropotova's private secretary even managed to change the Tickets reservation to 5 with a single email.
Here is a side note, family vacation, what exactly is that? Since I was 10 years old my parents and I basically went on separate vacations. Nearly 40 years later I found myself on a family vacation, on accident. Living abroad for more than two decades, the concept of friends being family is real for me and this holiday was an extraordinary reminder how lucky I am to be surrounded by loved ones, globally.
Claudio and I arrived on the evening before the gang to share a day and an evening exploring Barcelona in two, my first time, his 10th. Barcelona is all it is famed to be, warm, open, lively, and full of delights. This started before our trip actually, when we choose to stay at an airbnb in the Gotic area of town. Ron, Tadaaki, and Danko (there super sweet, super loving dog) sent us a fabulous guide to where to eat, and even made some reservations for us before we came. As seen here, every one of their suggestions was fabulous and their home was spotless, warm, and welcoming. Even before we arrived, we felt at home.
Taking it a step further, we managed to meet an old friend of Claudio's, with his son, and later his wife too, for pre-dinner drinks. We went first to the coyly named Betty Ford and then to the Casa Almirall. The couple are architects, he from Ticino, she from Germany, they have been living in Barcelona for two decades and work on interesting projects, including their own apartment which they showed us before we parted. Totally new discovery, like a murphy bed, they have a stovetop that retracts to the wall so as to make extra space. Very cool!
Well watered, we went on to an original place, described by our hosts as, "for the adventurous who want home-cooked slow-cooked dishes like you’d find on a farm in Mallorca, with lovely owner-chefs and organic wines, on one of the deepest-darkest streets in Raval," Na Mindona.
It was all they promised and more, a true delight. The featured salad was a delight of flavors exploding in my mouth, complete with the subtle distinction of fresh anchovies, while I was not expecting this, it was a delicious surprise. The final touch was the first of a series of coffees with the most delightful foamy top, as pictured last below.
Featured at La Mindona center the salad of the night; top right Bunny & Bearli lounging; middle their version of bruschetta; bottom a frothy after dinner coffee.
Before we met up with the gang on Saturday we took a slow stroll through the city greeted by fresh spring blooms, a photo of which I immediately sent to Dizee, and viewed Barcelona from the top of Montjuic hill.
Left blooms for Di and left the Goddesses.
From here we took a taxi, we were hungry, to the Barceloneta where we had a luxurious lunch at El Cangrejo Loco, an enormous seafood restaurant right on the water in front of the Twin Towers, we enjoyed a spectacular paella, delicious and enormous. Only the remains can do the plate justice.
Paella at El Cangrejo Loco.
Thoroughly full and well watered, we walked along the sea to meet Kenan on the beach.
Right Barceloneta Beach; right Bunny & I joyous to welcome Kenan.
Next in a fit of delightful screeches and giggles we picked up Yana and Sasha at the hotel. Our party complete we set off for dinner at Ikki, acclaimed by our hosts as, "for people who want to have an authentic/edgy Barcelona experience, this Japanese bar is funky, cheap, and delicious," run by Daniela and Yuki. We were vastly impressed and Kenan had a ball making photos to share of all the dishes we enjoyed, one complete with waving fish flakes. We resolutely suggest this delicious, fairly priced, welcoming, fun place - Ikki is a special delight inside the magic of Barcelona's food scene.
Center right us at Ikki and all around its amazing food.
The young people were fast friends and took the chance to enjoy the true Barcelona experience, nightlife! We visited an old haunt of Claudio's and called it a night. Next day Sasha and I took the chance to meet intimately in two while the others had a lie in. I picked her up at the Barceloneta metro stop and we enjoyed the sea and girl talk until all joined us for a galavant. In fact we spent the entire day in and around the sea, ending finally at Pez Vela the other paella restaurant suggested by our hosts. Beautifully located, with excellent service, delightful wine, and delectable desserts - the paella was good, thought we personally preferred the lunch paella had at El Cangrejo Loco. Afterwards we took a walk all together and then split up, by age, with us enjoying an old haunt of Claudio's and the others to a club they had pre-registered for on our beach walk.
Center Kenan's artistic rendition of Yanna; all around various scenes of us enjoying the Barceloneta.
Monday Sasha and I shared some morning time, including a little shopping, Bunny almost got a new ride.
We met up with Claudio at the mercat de santa caterina where we marvelled over the fresh products, enjoyed a rich coffee, and even bought some lovely herbal teas. From here we wandered a bit, stumbling across the coolest local art shop, then in earnest to the days destination. Just before arriving we were desperate for a bathroom and as it happened there was a classic spot in a building from 1906, bodega del poblet. This place was all Claudio could dream of and more; vermouth, sherry, old barrels lining the walls actually full and tapas so simple and so good they defied the possibilities of such a place. The bathroom however lived up to the 1906 standard and gave us all means of opportunity to laugh then, and surely for years to come. Let us say, have a coffee at the next cafe down if you go to the poblet for its gastronomic delights.
Right center Bunny nearly got a new ride; all around scenes from our various wandering in Barcelona.
Sagrada Familia, even with the elevators closed and no chance to go to the top, the structure and its history dazzled. When we had all finally completed our individual explorations Claudio marched us along to continue the Gaudi extravaganza with the Pedrera.
Gaudi reminds us in word and image, love is the answer.
He was right to insist, it was spectacular, the views and alternative perspectives dizzying. So much so that when we finally stumbled out into the evening, we wandered along the paseig de gracia to meet up again and fell into the first place to have tapas possible, Burcu 33. Luckily it was good, two bottles of cava, an Italian waitress, and we were tied over until we got to the next place, L’Antic Bocoi del Gotic. Also suggested by our hosts for it "having all the good things a trendy Born restaurant should have: ancient stone walls exposed, nice black-shirted waiters pouring lots of wine, romantic atmosphere." We had innovative, tasty salads as well as Catalonian pizza and the wine was surely flowing and delicious. With an early morning plan to have a Dali day, we all went home to get some rest.
More Gaudi, all photos by Kenan.
First thing Tuesday we set out 08.00 to have an all day tour of Dali, the museum, Cadaques where we had a surprisingly good lunch at , and his and Gala's home at Port Lligat. The museum gave us all a surprise, none of us knew he made jewelry! The beating heart impressed me in particular and if I am honest, I nearly prefer his jewelry to his other art.
Featured center left Dali's beating heart; right three other of his most famous pieces displayed in the museum.
However, the house at Port Lligat was a stellar excursion, it brought to mind Dalyan and in particular June Haimoff. Both Kenan and I were enchanted with this extraordinary place, the intimacy, the energy of it was divine.
Photos of Dali museum and his home at Ligat with Gala. Kenan and Sasha agreed to strike a pose with me too.
Following the long journey home, we regrouped to prepare for our exit next day, and then headed off to a pre-dinner drink at La Xampanyeria, a haunt Claudio enjoyed often in his many times in Barcelona. It was crowded and fun, perfect pre-dinner. From here we took a long walk to get to the final destination, the whole reason this whole trip occurred - Tickets. Nearly an hour walk was ideal, worked up our appetite and just as we rounded the corner before the restaurant we came upon a gin bar that looked like a jewel box from the outside, Xixbar, of course we had to go in. Vavoom! Irina treated us to the most innovative of cocktails. Merrily, we went along to Tickets and the evening took off from there. Tasting menu for food and beverage, it was a wild night for all. Young people, Yana in particular after taking fine care of me, finished off the evening with another night on the town, when in Barcelona!
All photos of the tickets adventure + pre at XIX bar.
Next day was rough, departing is such sweet sorrow. Sasha and I met for a coffee and then we all met at the Picasso museum for one final cultural injection. If I am honest, one of the best moments of the entire trip happened here. Finished with the tour of the galleries, Claudio was waiting on a bench near the exit stairs and I joined him, we chatted briefly about our impressions, and nothing in particular, just there in companionable silence. Next Kenan joined us, and it was more of the same, a few minutes of marvelling and then joyous quiet together. Next came Yanna, more of the same. At a certain point Sasha passed us - she had been looking for Las Meninas for some time, we pointed her in the right direction and continued in our companionable quiet. After a while Claudio went to take care of something and then it was Yanna, Kenan, and myself. Again, we chatted, sat a bit in silence, and just as we were about to rescue her, she arrived. Contentedly we exited, caught up with Claudio to collect our things and take Kenan to the airport bus.
Goodbyes can be stressful and or sad and we had a mix of both. When Kenan was safely off we went, of course, to eat. Rounded a corner we found a seemingly hole in the wall, Mil Gritos. Innovative menu, good service, comfortable, and even with little snausages for Bearli.
Bearli and his sausage at Mil Grito's.
Below perfect pictorial summation of Barcelona, pleasant surprises around every corner, innovation; in food, art, and architecture, warmth of place and people, a place which welcomed us, where we felt at home. Thank you to all who made our visit so full of magic and beauty, this family vacation will warm my heart to my end, and I plan to return for more adventures and heart time.