Posts Tagged ‘barcelona’

So Long Barcelona, Hello Granada

April 22nd, 2008 at 4:01 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

After breakfast at the hotel – a reasonable spread – we checked out and made our way via subway and fenicular up to Mont Jouic (I probably have misspelled a bunch of things here) to visit the Fundacion Joan Miro. The Foundation is actually a museum with the world’s largest collection of works by Joan Miro, a surrealist, post-impressionist, modernist sort of artist. I have always personally seen him as an expert doodler (i.e. a person who doodles expertly, with lots of practice).

We had the portable audio tour which has been so popular at museums and exhibits everywhere of late, and got to hear more about Miro, his approach, and how individual pieces of art came to be made, all of which implies a huge amount of though and planning went into his art. But when I heard Miro describe the years of effort that had gone into drawing a solitary line on each of three canvasses I concluded he was really just a famous doodler who had gotten to the point he could sell anything her personally doodled.

Anyhow, after about three hours there – we also visited an exhibit of Chinese pop art – it was time to go. We attempted to take the Teleferique (gondola/cable car) we saw, but ended up going in a big loop (but with great views!). We finally made it back downtown, found a place for lunch, then grabbed our bags and made our way to the airport by taxi to catch a flight to Madrid, and from there to Granada (see picture above).

Tomorrow we have tickets to visit the Alhambra in Granada after which we rent a car and head into the Andalusian mountains.

 

Monday in Barcelona

April 21st, 2008 at 7:25 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Monday was a bit of a lazy day. We all slept in. I made it all the way to 8:30am, and then decided to wake the rest of the family at 11am. We didn’t make it out of the hotel until almost 1pm.

Among the good news we learned today was that both kids have officially finished their school year with flying colors, and are now ready to enter the next grade – 6th grade for Bas, 8th grade for Krystyana. And just about everything with educational value we’re doing on this current trip will count towards their educational requirements for the next school year, which will start in July for them (although we’ll be doing regular school work with them as soon as we return, and just submit what’s already been done at the start of their new grade).

Back to Barcelona. We had Tapas for lunch, perhaps the best ones yet (review forthcoming), and then went to Antoni Gaudi’s La Pedrera, also known as Casa Milà, an incredible example of modernism and organic form. La Pedrera also features an extensive Gaudi museum, so we all learned a lot more about this amazingly gifted man.

By the time we were done at La Pedrera it was almost 5pm, so after sampling some ice cream, coffee, and local hot chocolate (which is very thick and has the flavor and consistency of hot chocolate pudding – yummy!), we opted to try and spend what was left of the day at the Barcelona Zoo.

We got there at 5:30pm to find out that we only had 90 minutes left to explore it all (in contrast to our guide book’s misinformation which had suggested that we would have until 9pm), so we did a brisk walk and saw most everything as the zoo was virtually empty and we didn’t have crowds to contend with. In contrast to U.S. zoos, here we got to get a lot closer to the animals, which also provided much better photo opportunities (I’ll try to post some photos soon).

We finished up at 7pm, and then wandered about in search of diversion until restaurants opened at 8:30pm. We found some diversion at a cafe with another hot chocolate and some pastries (all very bad for my low carb diet, of course).

Finding an interesting restaurant for dinner proved to be a challenge because we had by then wandered out of the primary restaurant areas, and because Bas was over tired and grumpy. But we did find a great local place which I will write about more tomorrow as well.

In the plans for tomorrow is the Joan Miro museum and maybe the Picasso museum, all before we have to fly out to go to Granada and visit the Alhambra.

 

Barcelona Dining – Barkeno Cocina Mediterranea

April 21st, 2008 at 6:29 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

After departing Brasserie Flo after being completely ignored (see review in post preceding this one), we headed to Barkeno Cocina Mediterranea, a restaurant we had previously walked past on the way to our hotel, and one the front desk at our hotel had recommended as well.

What a difference Barkeno was from Flo. The service was very good – the only mild negative was that I had to pour my own wine and water most of the time, but that truly is mild considering how great our waiter was in all other respects.

We had an excellent meal, starting with appetizers including mussels in cream and wine sauce, tuna tartar with avocado, and whole fried small fish and baby squid. We were also treated to home-made chips (potato, sweet potato, and eggplant) and nicely marinated olives. We also had an order of Catalan Bread – lightly toasted bread onto which olive oil and tomato has been rubbed. Catalan Bread is a staple in most of the restaurants we’ve been in here, and quite fresh and tasty when done right.

For our main courses we enjoyed monkfish medallions, grilled pork with mashed sweet potatoes, and duck margrate, all of which were also excellent.

We accompanied our meal with a bottle of 2006 Ermita D’Espiells from Juve y Camps, made from a blend of Macabeu, Xarello and Parellada grapes – a wonderful recommendation from our waiter, and reasonably priced as well.

Our “postres” (the local word for desserts) featured a trio of chocolate textures, Parmesan ice cream (sounds odd, but was quite tasty), a cheese cake, and strawberries in muscat. Again, all very nicely plated and very tasty. We were also given small (thimble-sized) cups of white chocolate filled with dark chocolate mousse and hazelnuts (filberts) as a small treat to end our meal. I also discovered that Grand Marnier comes in a yellow label (versus the usual red), indicating a lemon flavor instead of Grand Marnier’s usual orange base, although my personal preference still runs to Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire or Cuvée Speciale Cent Cinquantenaire when opportunity arises.

Our meal for the four of us was about 175 Euros, plus I gave our waiter a 20 Euro tip for the service he provided. Expensive, but definitely the best meal we’ve had in Barcelona so far.

I give Barkeno an 8.5 out 10.0 on The Richter Scale.

 

Barcelona Dining – Brasserie Flo

April 21st, 2008 at 6:01 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

After lunch yesterday we parted ways with Martin and his father Arend, followed it with Gelato at a local gelataria, and went for our afternoon Aquarium excursion after some shopping. We tried to drag things out so we could make it to dinner at 8:30pm instead of facing restaurants closed for dinner prior to that time, but despite our best efforts, we found ourselves tired and hungry, strolling back towards our hotel around 8pm.

Along the way we encountered, on Jonqueres near the Urquinaona intersection, a restaurant that was open, and looked nice and quiet – Brasserie Flo. The outer vestibule teased us with a display of delicious shellfish, and the interior was formal and refined. We were promptly seated at a table for four, given menus featuring a limited but tasty looking set of items – ranging from duck foie gras to lobster and sole.

Alas, looking at the menu was as close as we actually got to the food, since we could not get even a modicum of service during the 20+ minutes we sat at our table. No offer of water, refreshments, bread, or any attempt to communicate with us, never mind taking our order. The one point at which I managed to get one of the wait staff to look at me, she responding by saying that someone would be right with us. Ten minutes later someone had yet to materialize. As by now it was 8:30pm and other dining options were now available in Barcelona, we ended up leaving the restaurant in disgust. And interestingly, not a single member of the restaurant’s staff deigned to even ask us why were were leaving. Brasserie Flo gets a big fat raspberry and a 0.0 out of a possible 10.0 on The Richter Scale. Only go here if you are a masochist who thrives on being ignored and enjoys not eating or drinking anything in a restaurant. For the rest, keep in mind that life is too short and restaurant alternatives too many to need to experience treatment like this.

 

Barcelona Dining – El Choquito Restaurante

April 21st, 2008 at 5:59 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Yesterday, after touring the Parc Guell and passing up a visit to the Miro museum (see previous posts), we ended up in Las Ramblas, a busy, touristy section of Barcelona about a 15-20 minute walk from our hotel. We picked a Tapas-oriented place at random and ended up at El Choquito Restaurante, a busy restaurant with mostly tourists as customers, although we did see some locals at the Tapas bar on the way in. Service was brusque – just a slight bit above the sort of service one would get at Dick’s Last Resort back in the U.S. – a chain which prides itself on rude servers.

Fortunately, the food was a bit better than the service, but nothing great – mediocre and expensive would be a better description. We had a blend of tapas and entrees, none of which really stood out, although the patatas bravas were pretty good.

Bas particularly enjoyed his Chicken paella, although I was a bit put out by the lack of saffron flavor and the use of frozen vegetables. However, it’s been pointed out to me that each region in Spain has its own version of paella, with different flavors – but whether that was the reason for the flavor of the paella here or not, I don’t know.

The only thing that was distinctively good was the Cava-based Sangria – Cava is Spanish sparkling wine – and normally Sangria is made with red wine, but it was close to US$35 for one liter of Sangria with Cava.

There’s no question in my mind that El Choquito was a tourist trap. Cost for lunch was about 160 Euros (about US$250) for the six of us – pricey for what we got. I give El Choquito Restaurante a 5.0 out of 10.0 on The Richter Scale.

 

Barcelona Dining, So Far… Iggy

April 21st, 2008 at 4:49 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

For dinner on our first night in Barcelona we were wandering about after having toured the Sagrada Familia, and then walked a number of miles to the Arc de Triomphe (a bit smaller than the one in Paris), which led to a long line of market stands. We then walked into the La Ribera area near the Barri Gotic. We were still early – it was only just about 8:30pm, and ended up picking the first decent looking restaurant we came upon which had already opened – the restaurant Iggy.

Iggy specialized in Italian cuisine, and had a pretty diverse menu. Our charming waitress was actually Italian herself, from the island of Sardinia. We had an excellent bottle of Priorat (a red wine which comes from a particular region of Spain) and an excellent meal. Appetizers we enjoyed included Steak Tartar, steamed shellfish, stacked Caprese salad, and goat cheese ravioli. For our main courses we had roast lamb shoulder, a tender Ossobuco, pumpkin gnocchi (the only mild disappointment as the gnocchi were not fresh and tender), ox tail, and Turkish snuff tail (a type of fish). Dessert consisted of a chocolate fondant, apple tartlets, and ice cream, along with a sweet Spanish sherry with overtones of raisins. Final bill was around 240 Euros (approximately US$380), plus a 20 Euro tip (tipping is not that common in Spain, with a tip typically consisting of rounding up the bill to the next round number) for the nice service we received. Iggy gets an 8.0 out of 10.0 on The Richter Scale.