What a beautiful city you are, all windy cobblestone streets and leafy boulevards, beachy breezes and Gaudí serpentine. You make me wish I could tan, turn a glowy caramel brown and whisper you sweet nothings in Catalan. I want to stretch out my days like you do, closing up shop for a languid siesta and sitting down to dinner at ten. And oh, Barcelona, how I love your food. I could have tapas every single day and never want for anything different.
In my pre-trip research, I was surprised to find several travel authorities insisting that Barcelona isn’t really known for its tapas. One has to travel to the Basque regions for pinxtos or up to San Sebastián’s beaches for the real thing, they sniffed. Well, I have no idea what those fools are talking about.
Everywhere we went, all over the city, we found gutsy snack-sized bites, each more flavorful than the last. We discovered amazing tapas in neighborhood joints and cool modern digs, modest mom-and-pops and chic cafés; met a few reverbs of superchef/native son Ferran Adria’s experimental gastronomy and savored rustic, traditional arrangements of the canned delicacies for which Spain is famous.
There were montaditos (snacks “mounted” on baguette) of oil-packed tuna and roasted red pepper, with a dollop of tinned sea urchin on top. Tender, sparkling-fresh squid, seared quickly a la plancha and splashed with fruity olive oil and garlic. Fluffy tortilla, wedges of Spanish omelet. Olives, olives and more olives. All manner of seafood and shellfish: mussels, crayfish, anchovy, langoustines. I fell hard for Catalan-style blood sausage (who knew?) and rekindled an old flame for Padrón peppers and jamón ibérico de bellota, the rich cured pork made from free-roaming Ibérican pigs that root on acorns.
And when we weren’t nibbling on tapas, strolling through shops and markets or wandering idly through neighborhoods, we dug into researching Catalan wines (rough work, truly), finding glittery cavas from the Penedès region; crisp, perfect-for-a-hot-afternoon whites and outstanding, velvety-full grenache (garnatxa) blends. (Oh, and we also went to the beach and museums. Saw Picassos and everything!)
And as all good things must come to an end, with feet weary from miles of walking (and a rather epic last night of dancing), feeling soul-rested and sated, we boarded our plane back home. ‘Til next time, Barcelona. Save me some jamón.